Cosmophone : Poetics of (Outer) Space is a proposal for a large-scale multi-channel sound installation by Caroline Devine that transforms a building into a 'giant musical box' and presents a way to listen to the natural resonances of one hundred stars that have been measured by the NASA Kepler mission over the past three years.
On the site of the former Curzon St railway station in Birmingham, stands an extraordinary cube-shaped grade I listed building. Built in 1838, this former railway station entrance is the world's oldest surviving piece of monumental railway architecture. For "Cosmophone", it is transformed into a giant sounding object from which a multi-channel composition emanates as if from a huge musical box. The installation consists of a microtonal composition diffused through one hundred speakers that make the 'sounds of stars' audible in the form of an immersive field of stellar resonances that can be experienced by walking through the disused open space around the building.
The composition is made from data that has been collected over the past three years by the NASA Kepler mission and provided to Caroline by the BiSON research team at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, who collect and study the data two miles from the site. All the tones within the work are direct transpositions of waves detected on the surface of stars and are diffused from speakers sited on a scaffold construction around the building. The installation relies on an effective distribution of a low intensity of sound over a large number of channels, rather than a high volume so that a diffuse field of sound 'colours' and transforms the space around the building. This is a work for the winter months that would emerge gradually from the fabric of its surrounding acoustic environment after dark. The composition would be non-teleological with no formal ‘beginning’ or 'end': a slowly evolving cluster of tones and textures exploring the relationships and acoustic phenomena revealed by the data, rather than a more formal musical construct. The composition would last around half an hour and could be experienced at any point throughout its duration. It would then fade gradually back into the sonic environment of the city.
Large flat panels of acoustically transparent fabric hide the speakers from view while allowing the sound to pass through. This fabric provides a cube-shaped structure around the building onto which a spectrogram of the composition is projected. The spectrogram would provide a gently animated visual representation of the work, highlighting the particular frequencies that have been detected in the stars as they are heard and making the site of the work visible from passing trains and other vantage points in the city. Once installed, the work could stay in place and be programmed to play each night for half an hour after nightfall for a period of time.
Caroline's practice exists at the boundary between sound and music, investigating sounds and signals that are inaudible, ignored or in some way absent. She is fascinated by the asteroseismological research data as it provides information about inaudible acoustic waves that are trapped in the interior of stars. Her recent works examine the strange and poetic tonal relationships that exist within stars and are exposed by this data. Caroline has collaborated with the BiSON research team over the past year, using helioseismological data for 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun, an eight channel outdoor sound installation supported by Arts Council England and MK Gallery and for Oscillate, a piece commissioned by ICA, London as part of the Soundworks exhibition. These minimalist works investigate microtonal relationships in non-teleological compositions that explore a 'hovering' sense of time and an altered perception of space. Caroline also used BiSON data in her compositions for Space Ham, Between the Ears on BBC Radio 3 that investigated the relationship between radio amateurs and space exploration. The research team currently has data available on over 100 stars detected by the Kepler mission and Cosmophone would be diffused through 100 channels, each relating to one of the stars in the Kepler array. The piece would start almost imperceptibly after dark and build slowly to a cluster of tones. An exploded, slow motion version of the overtone structures of one hundred stars, would chime and resonate throughout the space allowing a visitor to walk through the harmonic structure - a slowly evolving sonic palette unfolding and revealing new tonal relationships and acoustic phenomena along the way.
Not far from the Curzon Street site, the University of Birmingham is home to the BiSON research team that uses data on the resonances trapped in the interior of stars, observed by the Kepler Spacecraft. The study of the 'music of the stars' is called helioseismology (for the Sun) and asteroseismology (for other stars) and it provides unique insights into the structure and evolution of stars. By observation of their natural acoustic resonances, asteroseismology provides a way to understand more about the structures of the stars themselves. Stars resonate at particular frequencies and these resonances manifest as gentle oscillations on the stellar surface that can be measured. By 'speeding up' the data on the very slow waves detected in the interior of stars and transforming them to sound, we can hear strange and poetic tonal relationships that are an inherent part of the stellar overtone structure. In a musical instrument, it is the overtone structure that dictates the overall timbre of that instrument. This data on the overtone structures of stars goes some way towards a realisation of how the stars themselves might sound if we could hear them.
Prior to moving to London five years ago, I always lived in cities that can (and often do in films) stand for other cities. Toronto often plays Chicago or New York, Vancouver stands in for San Francisco or LA, Prague is cast as Vienna or Berlin. Despite London’s influx of people from all over the world I haven’t found in it a place that cannot be immediately identified as London. London’s naked-brick walls, red mailboxes and telephone booths, Belisha beacons and ‘look right’ signs are omnipresent.
I would like to create a place in London that does not feel like London. I would employ a location scout to find a place that has the potential to stand in for somewhere else. I would then enhance the aspects of the place that look like the city the location evokes and obliterate the parts that make it unmistakably London. This might entail for example replacing the paving stones and installing street furniture from the other city. Finally, I would record sound from the foreign location and create an acoustic installation to be played back using my iPhone app described below.
In response to the Artangel call, I developed an iPhone application that uses 3D sound and the user’s GPS location and heading to augment the soundscapes of specific sites. The platform allows me to place sounds in virtual space that layer on top of a physical location, mingling with its existing acoustic landscape.
The effect of the installation should be quite subtle. While walking through the city people would briefly encounter a slice of Berlin or Paris or Delhi. This would be a permanent installation that could be experienced quite casually without having to queue up or buy tickets.
oh my God, can my house take that
Five large natural boulders will be attached, each hanging high at the edge of the roof on a building, on five House on five sites in the UK and get the name of five Girls.
The Sky is everywhere. The Sky is the backdrop or shifting canvas for the stones.
The onlooker will have to look up to discover.
The Stones are found natural boulders, millions of years, three – eight tons each. They are from North Cumbria, Pink Shap granite, Cemex. I will bring them by truck to the five sites. They will be lifted up, in chains, hanging onto the edge of the roof, on the five Houses.
The Houses will be buildings in different sites anywhere in the UK. They will have different heights and qualities. Townhouse, Contemporary building in the City , Cottage, Towerblock, Castle or Mansion. Attached to the top of the roof or attic, the stone is hanging in an ordinary visible chain used for transport of stones. Size and weight of the stone will relate to the construction of the house or building.
The Girls will be five girls from the five sites, not necessary from the house. Each girl has a name. Each girl has a voice. The title of each installation will be named after the girl. (Jane, Anna, Aicha etc)
The Voices. Each stone has a voice. Each girl has a voice A sound work with the five girls and their voices will be developed. Voices will explore the quality of sound as a potent signifier of many things, such as corporeal and temporal presence, emotional as well as informational meaning, the acute experience of spatial presence and absence, harmony or dissent amongst human beings, as well as of the passage of time.
The sound work Five Girls 2013 will be based on simple words repeated and put on top of each other. (Ref my twenty-two-minute sound work for two voices, John Giorno and mine. Title: JA as long as I can. A piece for radio – Deutschlandradio Kultur).
This new Sound Portrait of five girls might sum up like one untuned sound – like the sound of one untuned bell - (ref my work Out of Tune, Folkestone). The work Five Girls 2013 will be for radio. Further concept to be developed. An idea is, length max one minute. The piece can be repeatedly broadcasted in five weeks, like a drop of sound placed at certain times of the day (sunrise, mid-day, sunset), in agreement with BBC Radio 4. It might as well interrupt a program. Five girls interrupt.
We are all part of the universe – what does the stone think up there?
We all have a right to a voice. One of the most important ways to have a voice is the right to vote. What if nature could have the right to vote?
In 2013, Norway celebrates 100 years since women got voting equality with men. In 2028, the UK will be able to celebrate the same thing.
As Norwegian artist, I came to the UK sixteen years ago. Lived four years in the village, Lechlade, in Gloucestershire and now my home, which is also my studio, is in London. The work is based on my view both from inside and outside, living in the UK. Open seems like a wonderful opportunity to develop the impossible – making it possible – with a team. This is about collaboration. I know where the stones are, I know the people who own the stones, I need to find the girls, the voices, I need to find the houses, the sites, I need a practical/technical team to work with. I need dialogue with historians. I have experience with working with the sky and pushing limits.
I would be happy to develop this work each girl has a voice.
In 2007 we made an installation for the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton – King Tat. Our joint interest in archeology gave rise to the concept of a tomb installation. This was divided into two sections, an antechamber packed with grave goods and a burial chamber housing an imaginary deceased, King Tat. Our discovery that a facsimile of Tutankhamen’s tomb was made for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley gave the project an extra dimension and King Tat also explored the public’s interest in such events and how such opportunities are exploited for their political and commercial value.
King Tat, as in the 1924 facsimile, led visitors past an antechamber of objects. In our version, these were household goods mainly from discount stores and charity shops. Already cheap at the point of purchase they were rendered worthless by their redundancy within the tomb. A corridor led visitors onwards past a burial chamber where chest freezers suggested some DIY attempt at cryogenics and surrounding murals from a local housing estate gave an ambiguous moral overtone, suggesting that the occupant had enjoyed pleasures in life not restricted by the law.
The overall feeling of King Ta’ was that here was a recluse of low social status who had pre-empted his own death. Hedging his bets in terms of faith he had gathered together a survival kit for the afterlife in the firm belief that he was about to embark on a journey to a better place.
In its first incarnation, the project was a great success but despite this, the concept has remained with us and after some years of reflection, we feel that aspects of the installation could be carried far further. It was the speech given at the Artangel Open Platform event, in particular, those phrases relating to a sense of place that brought a vision of a mine to us;
Place can be seen as a fantasy of embedded histories, present realities, and future possibilities; it can involve patterns of use and the participation of distinct and diverse communities of interest. It can provoke a situation as much as provide a site…
This phrase alone dug up from the depths of my own memory (SD) the final scenes from Gunter Grass’s Dog Years:
The cage gate is closed. The trammer signals ‘ready’ with three strokes, ‘go’ with five strokes, and Brauxel says "Every hell has its climate. The dog will have to get used to it."
And now the last daylight has been left upstairs. The descent from the platform (a hundred feet above the earth’s surface) to the fill level on the pit bottom (twenty-eight hundred feet under the earth’s surface) marks the beginning of the official tour of inspection, intended to give the stranger Walter Mater on-the-spot instruction.” Here then, down a mine, is the cultural storeroom, not of an individual as in King Tat, but of a state.
Historical precedents for this installation include the event that inspired Grass himself – the discovery of Nazi loot stored in the salt mine near the German village of Merkers in 1945 (see images). In Britain as well during WWII, art treasures were removed from major institutions and stored in the secretive Manod Slate Quarry near Blaenau Ffestiniog. The quarry was requisitioned and brick rooms were built within the larger caverns that had their own electricity and humidity control. The Cold War ensured that this facility remained active until 1983 when, after a lawsuit, the owner finally evicted the Department of the Environment.
Our installation, Dog Years would see the visitor walking through the ground level mining buildings before descending into the mine workings. Emerging from the cage, they are led towards vaulted caverns, hot and humid. A narrow gauge railway track with cars is seen. Here in the broader tunnels, brick structures house an antechamber of treasures. Fabricated like stage props, the contents both describe real artifacts and stand as metaphors for ideas deemed worthy of saving, exposing the symbolic potential of apparently mundane artifacts – grave goods for a state in crisis.
This bunkering, storing, interring would seem the very opposite of what a public artwork should be – an opening, a revealing, a displaying, but this internment serves a purpose – to expose the psychological value of culture, the impulse to preserve and self-preserve and to keep what is the essence of a state’s identity.
To explore that panic induced moment of irrationality when one goes out of one's way to save an apparently worthless object instead of something useful.
Coming from Stoke-on-Trent (SD) I grew up surrounded by coal mines. After their closure in the 1980s, one or two became museums. It’s in a place like this, or perhaps in a slate or in an open cast (salt?) mine that we envisage our project. Very often the mine was the reason for the existence of the town above ground. All the local community will have been involved in its use in some degree or other. The knowledge that a huge part of the city / town’s heritage lies underground will not have been forgotten. In places like Stoke, Nottingham, Oldham etc. part of the place’s psychological identity is underground. For that reason we’d like to take the public to that incredible place and to build an installation that speaks of an attempt at security in a time of national crisis; a journey underground to a storeroom that will be like a psychoanalytical journey into the workings of a nation’s mind.
It was a very recent visit to the Belgian Consulate that finally crystallized the idea for Dog Years. Here, in a basement storeroom was rack after rack of bizarre artifacts. Dozens of elephant skulls and taxidermy from the Congo, footstools, and coats of arms, mineral samples stored next to clothing and crate after crate of artworks. Assembled without plan, without real purpose, this fascinating insight into a nation’s psyche was open to the public for only a matter of days before being locked away again, buried from sight.
The city speaks in tongues.
London Talking is a continuous live performance work for radio broadcast lasting one week - 168 hours - without pause. Conceived as a marathon speech act, the performance creates and broadcasts a portrait of London assembled from its own textual residues and detritus – a fluid, tangled space of words good, bad and indifferent, in which the city dreams, speaks, yells and whispers of itself.
Research for the project will gather a multitude of texts on or about London from diverse sources – from obsolete planning permission manuals and tourist guides to small ads, legal notices and criminal charge sheets; from suburban railway timetables and bus routes to business directories and plans for emergency evacuation of public buildings; from history books, diaries and scholarly correspondence about the capital to texts transcribed specially for the project via overheard conversations, twitter traffic, mobile phone calls, radio phone-ins and graffiti. Examined and cross-sectioned in this way, the city emerges as a machine for describing and multiplying itself in language.
The 168-hour performance of London Talking – staged in a central London theatre, its stage remade as a temporary broadcast studio – is a delirious but carefully structured seven-day collaged composition, part fixed score, and part improvisational experiment, through which the landscape and experience of the city are summoned. London is presented in its own words, in a rush and drift of voices, through its alphabet traces and speech-act pragmatics, temporarily embodied, spoken into being through live performance and radio broadcast.
Inside the theatre, there is only performers and audience. Onstage the performers have some material items – equipment, papers, pragmatic stuff. The audience, for their part, have coats, handbags and the contents of their pockets. But that’s all. The whole of the rest of the world – its physical locations and landscapes, the city and its entire population, its complete set of objects and its unfolding events – is here as always, outside, emphatically absent. Performance then must always be the summoning of presence in the context of absence; a bringing in of the world.
Night follows day through the 168 hours of London Talking as a core team of 15 performers work shifts, moving from mischievous call-and-response readings to shared unison choral sections and solo spots. These performers are both readers and improvising rewriters – mixing and re-making texts as they go, steering the microstructure of the piece from moment to moment. The performers’ decisions shape the piece, their journey through the textual material of the city is what, as listeners, we experience as the work moves between sharp intelligent commentary, playful babble, institutional monotones and intimate whispers. At irregular intervals, the core performers are joined by guests whose voices further diversify the different textures of accent, language, class, race and age.
London Talking mashes texts together, removing material from context, looping, re-sequencing and repurposing everything in its path. The source texts – which exist initially as conversation, information and opinion, history, speculation and daydream - become through the work a kind of poetry. Sentences recur and repeat, shedding old meanings, gaining new ones. The city speaks in tongues.
London Talking is experienced by an audience present in the theatre and by a larger, geographically dispersed audience, tuned to the continuous broadcast. Each of these publics ebbs and flows on its own rhythms – arriving and falling away through the days and nights of the work’s duration.
The 168 hours of London Talking are structured loosely through temporary and provisional counterpoints of the capital – some using familiar pairings of terms, concepts or categories; others constructed from unexpected juxtapositions of material: the roads and the river, the schools and the prisons, past and present, hospitals and parks, building sites and underground system, law and liberty, suburbs and monarchy, politics and holidays. Voices from the margins – from the underclass, economic migrants, the mentally ill, children and the very old – take their place alongside those of the rich and the powerful, movers and shakers. The living and the dead speak side by side, the sensible and the lunatic, the collective, the corporate and the individual.
The space of radio allows different listeners (near, far and very far, dispersed geographically and in different time zones) to conjure London, picturing it newly, vividly and strangely though the rolling babble, insistence and clarity of its voices. London Talking becomes an echo chamber version of the city, its twin essence, its amplified background noise made tangible, its speech become music, its unruly unconscious. It’s the city people walk in, visit, or know, but different; re-imagined, re-assembled. London and Not London.
The desire to make London Talking arises from a number of separate strands in my practice. Across many artforms I have approached the idea and reality of urban space, from guided bus tours of Sheffield, to virtual cities made in Quicktime and text works describing cities in states of constant change. I’ve also pursued contradictory aspects of language – the speed, clarity and vividness with which it communicates narrative, ideas and images, and at the same time its amazing propensity to create confusion, delirium and ambiguity. Improvised language, live processes of writing and rewriting-in-speech, as well as game structures and systematic approaches to language have all been important strands of my work. Durational performances have also been significant, most recently the 24 Hour Quizoola! with Forced Entertainment at Barbican, London (also webcast) in April 2013, as well as through the many previous durational works I’ve made with Forced Entertainment since the early 90s. Lasting six to twenty-four hours, many of these projects have focused on language improvisation and on the effects of duration (exhaustion, delirium) on both performers and audience over time. The recent experience of 24 Hour Quizoola! in particular has strengthened my belief that this is the time to do something very long, with broadcast / remote distribution as a frame – the sense of double community (one gathered in the room, the other distant and dispersed but often still connected through social media) is something London Talking would build on and develop enormously.
On 10 December 1513, five hundred years ago this year, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in a letter to his friend Francesco Vettori that he had
composed a short study, De Principatibus, in which I delve as deeply as I can into the ideas concerning this topic, discussing the definition of princedom, the categories of princedoms, how they are acquired, how they are retained and why are lost. And if ever any whimsy of mine has given you pleasure, this one should not displease you.
Machiavelli wrote this “little study of mine”, which we now know as The Prince, in the summer and autumn of 1513. He continued “fattening and currying it”, “enlarging and polishing it” into 1514.
It wasn’t new to write recommendations to a prince, whether real or imaginary. They were a kind of genre writing called “mirrors for princes” and included, at the time of Machiavelli, Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier and Erasmus’ Education of a Christian Prince as but two examples. But the “mirror” that we know of in our culture, the “mirror” that trips off our collective, cultural tongues is Machiavelli’s The Prince. Certainly, his surname has entered our vocabulary, a Machiavel, Machiavellian. It is used as shorthand -- for duplicitous, deceitful, cunning and/or scheming. Even his first name has taken on metaphorical meaning: the English pseudonym for the Devil, Old Nick, is associated with Machiavelli.
Aside from the stock cliché, even more intriguing is how, as writers (Shakespeare very much included) tried to make sense of the man and his works, “Niccolo has become a sort of amoebic being: an Imperialist; a proto-libertarian; an atheist; a neo-pagan; a committed Christian, a freedom-loving Republican; a tutor to despots; a military genius; an armchair strategist; a realist; an idealist; and the shady founder of modern political science.” Not to mention, in today’s canon, tips for the effective business manager.
Here – for Machiavelli, Interpreted – we wonder which of these (and other) interpretations, or combinations thereof, would each of us say, yes, right, that’s how I see it, people, persons, power, that’s what I think, that’s what I believe, that’s how I think it works. Then, our questions turned to: is it about him, his context, his ideas and/or is it more about us? Does biography or autobiography, his and ours, enter the scene? How much are our views based on what we imagine, and if we interpret, what do we interpret from? Could Machiavelli and The Prince say more about ourselves than him?
From these questions, we moved to our working premise, namely, what if we consider Machiavelli and The Prince as mirrors for ourselves? And perhaps a further distinction -- mirrors of ourselves and mirrors for ourselves. The former could be thought of as mirrors of what we reveal (or are revealed as) publicly, a looking from the outside in, while the latter, the mirrors for ourselves, could allow us to search ourselves, from the inside out, our private rendering of how we regard ‘the public political’. And so Machiavelli, Interpreted uncovers ourselves and a wider Machiavelli than we think we know.
Machiavelli, Interpreted would be a curated exhibition/event. Our aim is to launch the first of the curated projects on the 500-anniversary date of the Machiavelli’s famous letter to his friend – 10 December, and extending well into 2014.
We set out to cross art forms and investigate what different audiences respond to, the questions they ask about Machiavelli the person, context, ideas and what they imagine. Thus far:
Partly because of playwrights (Marlowe, Shakespeare etc) and due to the political upheavals from Henry VIII and separation of the church from Rome, which overlapped with Machiavelli’s time period, the English engagement with Machiavelli has been huge.
A journey to the exact centre of nowhere
Zero Planet is a global-scale intervention that consists of live video transmitted from the 0ºW, 0ºN point on the planet - a location 600Km off the coast of West Africa. The four empty seascapes depicted in the video streams will be relayed back to London where they will be displayed twice amongst the fabric of the city. The four streams of the views North, East, South and West will be displayed on cubes of large billboard-sized video screens. The first will be in the sedate calm of the Queen’s House beneath the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (the home of the Prime Meridian) and the second amid the visual noise and traffic of Piccadilly Circus. The four views looking out from the point where the Greenwich Meridian crosses the Equator will demonstrate the motion of the planet spinning in space – the sun rising, the seascape lightening and eventually growing dark again with the approaching shadow of dusk. In Piccadilly Circus, the cube of video screens will insert 24 hours of empty nothingness from the exact centre of nowhere into the visual overload and excess at the heart of the city.
The artist will travel on a ship that departs from Greenwich Pier in London. The ship will travel south crossing the Greenwich Meridian in the English Chanel, follow the coast of Africa and finally reach the point where the arbitrary line of 0º longitude meets the 0º line of latitude (or the Equator – 600Km south of Accra in Ghana).
From 0ºW, 0ºN point the ship will then transmit 4 video streams, via a satellite up-link, out to the world. At the top of the mask will be a gimbal arrangement that allows four cameras to remain pointing due North, due East, due South and due West. For the duration of the transmission (a minimum of 24hours) the ship will remain at the zero point of the planet and the four cameras will transmit the ocean seascape day in, day out. The images will essentially be empty, open water and sky – live moving seascapes that slowly lighten with daybreak and gradually darken again towards dusk and nightfall.
These four video streams will be broadcast via the web but also transmitted back to Greenwich and Piccadilly. In each case, they will be displayed on a large cube of screens suspended above head-height by means of a scaffold. In Greenwich, the installation will be created with back-projection screens whose form will reflect the cube-shaped central hall of Queen’s House. In Piccadilly, the sculpture will be manifest by a cube of bright LED screens that will insert an incongruous calm and emptiness amongst the frenetic adverts and traffic. At both locations, a spiral staircase ascending into the cube will allow a single visitor at a time to experience the view from the exact centre of the planet.
During the journey to the ‘middle of nowhere’, the artist will document the minutiae and tedium of life at sea. The weeks of this journey across the surface of the planet will be described in a series of daily digital drawings dispatched out to the world by e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and a website. In Queen’s House in Greenwich, these drawings will appear daily as physical etchings – laser etched into wooden panels. As the days of the journey go by, the walls of Queen’s House will slowly fill with sketches from an epic journey south. As a way of building interest in the forthcoming transmission, the artist will also make sporadic entries in an online journal also transmitted out to the world and displayed in the Maritime Museum.
Relevant Previous Works:
My practice has been described as an attempt to measure the planet as a sculptural object - to try to understand the scale of this sphere and to attempt to communicate back to the world one person’s idiosyncratic and subjective viewpoint. My investigations have often taken the form of journeys and given the amount of water on the planet, have often involved long explorations at sea. In 2005, I joined an expedition to Antarctica on board the RSS Shackleton (with the British Antarctic Survey) and in 2008, I crossed the Atlantic on a container ship for my Liverpool-to-Liverpool project (a major public work for the city of Liverpool, UK). At other times in my practice, this sense of exploration has been continued with the help of unmanned surrogates such as my 2004 transmission project 'Escape Vehicle no.6' which sent back live footage from the journey of a domestic chair as it travelled from the earth to the edge of space beneath a weather balloon.
The project that could be seen as a precursor to Zero Planet is the video work 0º00 Navigation. The 55min film presents a deranged journey exactly along the Greenwich Meridian – a figure first swims out the sea and then climbs over, crawls under or wades through whatever obstacles he encounters until he has crossed the complete landmass of England and returns to the sea.
Future projects will involve the sinking of a ship to form an artificial reef off the south coast of Britain, a residency with the Science Museum London and a project to locate a drawing of my brain housed somewhere amongst the data of a server farm in Iceland.
Night Of Burning Paper is a life-sized replica of the artist's mother's living room, reconstructed from memory by the artist and built entirely inside a glass box. It is a reconstruction of the room in which the artist's mother - Esmat - suffered a fatal stroke in August of 2011, and in which she spent the last years of her life: immobile, drunk, depressed, suffering from dementia and possibly schizophrenia.
Esmat's room is recreated using only the artist's imperfect memories of the placement of furniture, books, appliances, etc. The furniture is built by hand by Egyptian carpenters from Cairo's famous Mohammad Ali street.
The interior of the room is consumed by flames and the glass box glows 24 hours a day for the duration of the installation. But nothing inside the room is destroyed because everything is entirely made of fire-proof material. An alcove, also surrounded by glass, is cut into one of the walls allowing one visitor at a time to sit inside the room, feeling the heat but without being burned by the flames. The alcove is very hot but safe. The visitor sits on one half of the sofa in which Esmat suffered her stroke. The other half is behind the glass. The alcove is carpeted with the same rug that decorates the room.
Visitors are invited to contribute to the fire by bringing their own pieces of paper that they would like to destroy. The airflow in the room is carefully designed so that the burning paper floats up to the high ceiling and swirls around, re-creating the great Cairo Fire of January 26, 1952 – Egypt's first revolution – during which rioters torched hundreds of foreign-owned businesses and the offices of the British mandate. Legend has it that burning embers of paper from these offices filled the skies above Cairo that night and lit up the darkness. It is an event that Esmat always claimed she could vividly remember watching from the balcony of her family home, though she was only two years old at the time. The artist always doubted his mother's memory was real.
The room will be built in the footprint of a demolished house, but surrounded by other houses still standing and inhabited. Ideally, the room will be installed near East Sheen where the artist's mother lived her last years. The location should still bear the familiar marks, structures and layout of an ordinary suburban street.
Fires defined the beginning and the end of Esmat's life. She always claimed the Cairo Fire of 1952 was one of her earliest memories, and the events of that day - a defining moment in the Egyptian revolution from which her family never recovered - defined the trajectory of her life, and her children's lives, ever since. And in the last years of Esmat's life, she often fell asleep on that couch, smoking cigarettes and watching television. Doctor reports found after her death detail the fact that she suffered burns on her back from falling asleep on those cigarettes as they set fire to the couch. There was a serous fear that she would accidentally kill herself in a house fire.
Night Of Burning Paper references the imperfect creation, and incomplete destruction of memories. It examines how trauma - both personal and historical - becomes a constructive as well as destructive force, and how traumatic events are integrated into a national and personal narrative. The installation asks viewers to become actively involved in the creation and destruction of their own memories, the memories of the artist and of a nation. They are simultaneously complicit in the burning of the house and the re-enactment of a semi-fictional historical event, an event seminal to the lives of the artist's family but relatively unknown to the general British public.
The installation also links the personal experiences of the artist with historical and current events in Egypt, where the artist spent much of his life, and where his mother was born and grew up. By relying only on his flawed memory to re-construct the room, the artist also raises questions about our perceptions of safe, domestic spaces and how those perceptions are altered by our psychologies and emotional experiences.
This project is not based at a single location, but expands the notion of site to the entire planet, focussing here on the UK. An heroic, epic event/installation, invisible to most unless specifically journeyed to (independently, or as part of an organised coach trip). Well documented, it becomes a tale dispersed across the internet, radio and other media.
A series of devices are located at specific locations, plotting-manifesting a form in, above and through the planet. Linking together, these devices produce a vast, inferred entity of undefined (malevolent/benevolent) qualities. Each device is held in an exact, GPS-defined position using its own complex, engineered mechanism. Air-based devices are sited using tethered balloons which also use drone technologies (please refer to Blessor (2010), in which I made my own quadracopter-drone using engineered aluminium and open-source electronics). Ground-based structures again are engineered, gently referencing Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International (see Whum (2012), my recent project in the Tate Modern Tanks which involved complex engineering to create a slowly spinning, field-generating apparatus). Devices below ground will be buried (and subsequently viewed) using drilling/coring technologies.
The device located by each technological platform will be an obtuse and impenetrable, emanating and attractive, sculptural entity (reference my pan-dimensional creation, In Terms of Cognition, Pan-Dimensionality Is Not Best Accessed Through Mathematics (2010), or the device in Wheel, which was set up in eight different locations in Ecuador (2007)). The locations of the devices will be mapped out using 3D and GIS (Geographic Information Software) (reference projects such as Common Star (2005), in which an enormous, non-physical object was located above Whitehall, or Cuboid (2004) which plotted the exact orientation of a 10000km cuboid passing through the planet. Also worth referencing is Radiance (2011), which involved a group of women, in locations across London, being hypnotised by walkie-talkie).
I am aware that this may seem like a massive undertaking, even compared to your usual projects, with a lot of engineering and new technology, and a lot of negotiation required in terms of siting the works. All of this is part of the work - the networks, the collaborations, the permissions and the sheer effort involved for such a peculiar, possibly dysfunctional occurrence are a very important part of the work. I hope that, as you look through the examples of my work submitted with this application, and others available online, you will see that the execution of this project is within my/our abilities. The negotiations related to the siting of the work relate to earlier works such as Guard (2010), in which a real mercenary was posted outside a gallery holding a replica machine gun - which involved quite a lot of negotiation not just with the gallery but also with the local police; CLa (2003), in which companies in offices along a line passing through London were cold-called by volunteers over several months to attempt to get permission to install plaques in the offices, marking the line, and Arc (2004), in which large cream cakes were simultaneously delivered to nine different offices in a line across Birmingham city centre. Many of my previous projects have substantial technological and engineering aspects, and as well as developing a lot of skills and experience in this area I have a network of collaborators and consultants that I work with. While Blessor, the quadracopter project, was quite complex in terms of engineering and technology, perhaps the best and most current example of this type of work is the Tate Tanks project Whum (2012), which involved a lot of complex engineering.
I hope that my description of the project is already suggestive of the discourses it initiates - it is important for me that my work can act on its own to get the public thinking. Overall, the project, as well as my practice as a whole, locates around the use of contemporary, high-end/military materials and technologies, combined with the nonsensical and the new-age-magical, as a gesture towards a more broader sense of freedom and empowerment. My work could perhaps be described as a kind of de-romanticised thriller/sci-fi, actuated and real, existing in the world of viewer. It is purposely obtuse, requiring the initiative of the person encountering it for it to be to be at all understood. The investment inherent in such an initiative leads to a more heightened, more integrated experience. I am also interested in multiplicity - an artwork existing in more than one paradigm, making it complicate and hover, as opposed to resolve. I am also interested in mentalism - going beyond, past what is acceptable in terms of what an artwork is and how it operates.
Uncovering the compelling story of how a small amateur dramatic theatre company struggles to keep afloat in austere times. The panto this year is appropriately the rags to riches tale of Puss in Boots.
In the age of smart phones, on demand broadcasting and YouTube starlets, what is it about Pantomime that is so enduring? What keeps audiences coming back year on year?
The Nottingham Arts Theatre is a rather ramshackle building, a former poor house, it has battled recession and is just about keeping its head above water – remaining afloat in all its shabby glory.
The marquee signage advertises upcoming attractions – The Boyfriend… Macbeth – but none can match the jewel in its crown – The annual glitter-fest that is The Pantomime.
British pantomime has deep roots, drawing on the 15th century Commedia del Arte it takes familiar fairytales - Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Snow White - and injects a bit of music hall sensibility, a smattering of contemporary references and a big dollop of audience participation to create a raucous, noisy entertainment that's aimed at the whole family. It is as much a part of a traditional British Christmas as mince pies, the Queen’s speech and Doctor Who.
In some theatres the pantomime is a cash cow that sustains the theatre through the leaner Summer months. Not so at the Nottingham Arts Theatre. A community theatre run as a charity, it’s the cheapest panto on offer in the city and everyone on stage puts their heart and soul – as well as their own money - to keep it going. In recession ravaged Britain the panto this year is appropriately the rags to riches tale of Puss in Boots. Staging the production is a theatrical marathon of Herculean proportions.
All the audience plays their part and it’s gloriously irony free - clapping along, cheering the hero, booing the villain and joining in the catch phrases. It doesn’t matter which pantomime it is, the traditions are reliably familiar and as comforting as mashed potato.
When the theatre was threatened with closure a decade ago, generous donations from members helped to keep the place alive. Now these people feel they should have a say in its future. Now, more than ever the pantomime needs to be a financial success. Tough decisions have had to be made to survive in the current climate – and not everyone is happy about it…
As in my previous work SOUND IT OUT we meet an eclectic ensemble of unique characters who all contribute to a satisfying portrait of a vital place. We get to know the cast both on and off stage.
Drawing on material gathered over six months, Pantomime interweaves observational filming with intimate interviews and Go Pro footage worn by the actors. We see the rivalry and competition of the open auditions, rehearsals, costume fittings and the micro dramas behind the curtain. We learn about the challenge of approaching the role of dame as a method actor and that Christmas can be very tough when you don't see your children. Our Puss in Boots goes into mourning when the applause ends and the lead girl is in am-dram as she believes she's too fat to go professional.
Collectively our cast is a microcosm of contemporary pantomime – one foot in the present, one foot in the past, taking place in theatres up and down the land. By focusing on the very specific goings-on in one small theatre we are able to hold a (magic) mirror to tell the bigger story of why Pantomime has endured and the struggles at play keeping this quintessentially British culture alive.
I will work in partnership with curator Jennie Syson in order to transform the theatre and the filmed material into an immersive experience for the audience. We will develop innovative ways to secrete the projection methods into the theatre so that the technology used is almost invisible. We will bring in shop fitting/AV experts to advise on how to best achieve this goal. I hope to bring together all aspects of my practice by drawing on my experience as an artist making feature documentaries and to build on my practice in immersive video installation, as seen in Home-Maker. I hope that Pantomime will be a new step for me as an artist.
The audience will be taken around the theatre on a back stage tour. As they walk around they will encounter glimpses into the pantomime where they were filmed - some will be observational; the dame applying make up in his dressing room,the fairy checking her blackberry, a hedgehog and a ladybird wandering down a corridor. In some moments the cast will address the camera directly, and in some sound from the intimate interviews will be layered over the observational footage. The experience will be unpredictable and unique for each visitor.
It is commonly recognized in financial markets that investments chosen at random often outperform those chosen by seasoned market professionals, thus putting the lie to the idea that the pros have any real idea what they are doing.
The occasional experiment has been conducted to see how, for example, a monkey picking investments by throwing a dart at the newspaper might do compared to the professional stock pickers. These have provided amusing stories in newspapers, but have remained merely theoretical exercises.
What would happen if this idea were really put to the test in a real-world environment, with real capital at stake?
To answer this, I propose structuring an actual hedge fund that will be co-managed by me and a rhesus macaque monkey named Mr. Bojangles.
The fund will seek growth of capital over a time frame of one or several months. The monkey will ultimately control all investment decisions through a specially-designed computer trading platform.
The fund will seek a minimum of £100,000 in working capital to invest. This will be raised through institutional sources such as Artangel, and through a private placement process making the investment open to individual investors, both large and small.
Funds will be locked in for the term of the investment, and at the end of the investment period, the pool of capital will be liquidated and investors may select one of two options. They may be returned their funds at the current market value, net any agreed upon fees and administrative costs, or may chose to receive an original commemorative artwork in place of financial remuneration.
The possibility exists for complete loss of invested capital. In the event of such a loss, the artist may terminate the project at his sole discretion, without any further compensation due to the original investors.
Likewise, the possibility exists for Artangel to profit handsomely from its investment, generating capital returns that can be used to finance other initiatives.
That is to say, the project may well cost Artangel very little, or nothing, to produce.
By inverting the relationship between artists and the financial system, and paring down the artwork to an act of speculation, the project pokes fun at serious issues in the production and consumption of culture, and the dependence of our society on an extremely dubious financial framework. Given the current state of distrust of the financial sector in the UK, such an investigation would be all the more timely, and be sure to resonate widely.
Doug Fishbone, Artist and Co-Manager
A graduate of Amherst College and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Fishbone was trained as a financial advisor in the United States. He worked at American Express Financial Advisors in the 1990s prior to his decision to become a full-time artist. He was at the time of his employment licensed to sell securities and life insurance in the State of New York.
Mr. Bojangles, Monkey and Co-manager
A rhesus macaque monkey, Mr. Bojangles will be trained to operate a be-spoke trading platform that will allow his actions ultimately to determine the investment performance of the fund. Mr. Bojangles will be trained and overseen by professional handlers and treated with great respect at all times.
Board of Advisers:
Fishbone will convene a special board of advisors to help steer the investment decisions. This board will consist of financial professionals from some of the leading hedge funds and brokerage firms in the industry in both the UK and abroad.
Many of the investments will be generated by chance, with a computer system capable of triggering the buying and selling of securities controlled by the random behavior of Mr. Bojangles. For instance, hitting a button on a console of colored lights will trigger a buy or sell action in the portfolio. Fishbone will also where fitting identify specific financial opportunities with the board of advisers, and present these as choices to Mr. Bojangles, allowing for the possibility of combining expert advice with randomness to create an advantage over competitors.
Fishbone will be compensated with the standard 2-20 hedge fund compensation arrangement, of 2% management fee and 20% of any investment returns over a specific target return. Also, management will consider the possibility of bonus, and a front-end load may be necessary to account for the considerable costs of doing business.
Administrative expenses would be unusually high for the industry, due to the cost of training and paying for the monkey, and designing and implementing the appropriate trading platform.
At the end of the investment period:
At the end of the investment period, clients may chose to receive their investment back, net any appropriate performance fees and administrative costs, or plus any investment gains that may have been earned.
They may also chose to convert their stake in the fund into a piece of work – such as a limited edition of prints, in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bonds, or a group of tombstone statues commemorating their participation in a financial enterprise, as received by underwriters and participants in fund raising deals on Wall Street.
If they do chose to convert the investment into an art work, Fishbone will keep the remaining money in their unit investment account, as the proceeds of a traditional artist sale. Mr. Bojangles would receive an appropriate portion of this windfall towards his comfortable upkeep, as a bonus.
The project will be occupy office space in a financial building in the City of London, or in a street level store-front space. Primary concern will be for the welfare and comfort of Mr. Bojangles, and his needs after hours.
The project will be documented on video and in photographs, and a website will be established for people to follow the progress of the investments.
Given the potential for strong global interest in the project, professional public relations advice will be sought to maximize media opportunities.
A documentary film will be produced about the project.
(I have consulted with numerous experts and this is viable).
In 1989 my dad recited a quote from the experimental American composer John Cage and handed me a Walkman, ‘If we could only learn to use our ears there would be no need for music.’ Soon after three o’clock on the afternoon of April 22nd 1973, a 35-year-old architect named Robert Maitland was driving down the high-speed exit lane of the Westway interchange in central London. Six hundred yards from the junction with the newly built spur of the M4 motorway, when the Jaguar had already passed the 70 m.p.h. speed limit, a blow-out collapsed the front nearside tyre. – J.G. Ballard, The Concrete Island
Tsz Tsz Tsz is a sculpture modeled on the lightweight aluminum headphones that came with the first Sony Walkmans. The fine curved line of the headband that peaks above the soaring concrete crash barriers of the A40, gives away monumental ambition while bypassing the solidity that is associated with commemorative sculpture.
Seen head on it suggests a contemporary triumphal arch. The enormous arc of the headband operates as an aperture. With the height determined by the overpass it is tall enough to frame all the different aspects of the Westway. In this way it engages with the entire location, and the wider city beyond.
Like Cage's most famous composition 4′ 33″ (where a musician sits at a piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds without playing and the audience finds the “music” by paying attention to the acoustic quality of the sounds that occur in the concert hall – coughing, shuffling feet, traffic outside) the absence of any recorded music emanating from the headphone speakers of Tsz Tsz Tsz effects a similar response. Headphones that produce no sound enjoy an absurdity that draws attention to the ambient noises that animate the overpass:
The morning rush-hour was underway, thousands of vehicles pouring back into central London. Horns sounded above the guttural roar of diesel engines and the unbroken boom of cars passing through the overpass tunnel – J.G. Ballard
Tsz Tsz Tsz’s giant ear pads grip a solid concrete cube, appearing to be held in tension from the tensile pressure of the metal headband. Unlike a sculpture, which might use the plinth as a simple pedestal for display, the plinth is integrated into its design and reflects the municipal concrete architecture of the flyover itself.
Painted in both acid and natural tones the bands of colour bleed into one another to appear as if quickly spray-painted in a spirit of exuberance. After night fall, hundreds of bright lights hidden in the surface of the arch light up creating a dramatic, UFO like, curve of light.
Headphones are paradoxical in that they both obscure and concentrate the auditory sense. The Walkman provides the flâneur with a personal soundtrack by which she may well see the city in a new light. Cut off on the one hand, yet heightened on the other, the headset-wearing individual becomes a castaway of sorts.
Tsz Tsz Tsz was conceived after reading J.G. Ballard’s 1974 novel Concrete Island (an adaption of Robinson Crusoe that introduces us to Maitland, a successful architect who becomes stranded on an island between two arteries of the Westway junction) and the mise-en-scène of the story provided the site. The title is a phonetic description of an imagined hi-hat cymbal beat heard second-hand, emanating from a fellow city dweller’s headset.
Tsz Tsz Tsz is an inverted monument, reflecting back to the viewer and opening up the impressive overpass to new audible and visual experiences.
Law is a man’s world built by men, whether we like it or not.
All-female company FoxedUP Theatre are currently are in the early stages of development for a new original play; ‘Contempt’ - a contemporary drama set in and around a courtroom, which will focus on the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of the UK’s youngest ever female judge. Audience members are cast as participants in - and witnesses to - the unravelling of a fictional court case and the subsequent trial-by-media of this high profile judge.
FoxedUP Theatre is an all-female company of performers, committed to creating pertinent new work that will increase the number of strong credible roles and engaging stories for women in theatre. FoxedUP is unusual in the sense that company members play a part in devising, producing, writing and directing the work that they also perform. The company has worked predominantly in site specific spaces, creating performances for venues such as The Old Vic Tunnels, The V&A Museum and Theatre Delicatessen’s ‘Theatre Souk’ at Picton Place. FoxedUP likes to experiment with style and genre, and we often incorporate audio-visual elements into our work. Our most recent production, ‘The Cat’s Mother’, received Arts Council funding last Autumn: “…wonderfully imaginative and innovative piece” (★★★★★ Broadway Baby).
The company’s current project is an original new play which focuses on the fictional story of the youngest ever female judge in the UK, which we intend to use as a springboard for debate about women in power. There is a huge gender bias within the top echelons of law in the UK: female judges make up just 23% of the total number in England and Wales - the fourth lowest in Europe. Our play asks whether the lack of female voices in the judicial system has a deeper significance in our society, as well as revealing the social, political and moral implications of perpetuating the notion that women cannot successfully fulfil a role traditionally filled by a man.
As an all-female theatre company, we are intrigued to explore the concept of women being judged on a daily basis. We wish to examine the suffocating effect of the media gaze on women in the public eye, whether or not they subject themselves to this gaze intentionally. Magazine spreads are regularly dedicated to the wardrobes and lifestyles of female politicians and royalty, but rarely their male counterparts. Our story explores how social and print media can simultaneously build up and destroy individuals, with particular reference to the new trend of ‘trial-by-media’: In the last decade high profile cases such as Mick Philpott, Oscar Pistorius and Amanda Knox have provoked unprecedented public interest, whereby parties have been found guilty by the general public long before actual court proceedings take place.
By setting our piece within the world of a courtroom – as grand and dramatic as they are imposing and inescapable – the theme of judgement and the idea of being on trial will pervade. Our audiences will not be passive observers, but will instead be directly addressed as jury, public gallery and press. They will be asked to confront their own preconceptions and consider uncomfortable truths, as well as enjoying moments of dark comedy. We envisage the experience to be be fast-paced, exhilarating and hard-hitting.
Over the past three years, FoxedUP has developed a loyal base of supporters, and has carefully nurtured links with other practitioners and theatre companies it has met and worked with in London theatre, meaning that there is an expanding network of theatre-goers who are exposed to the company’s work. We have a significant web presence and are extremely active on social media - accruing over 1500 (and counting) followers on Twitter and Facebook. Formal and anecdotal feedback has informed us that our audiences enjoy the unexpected, ‘dangerous’ quality of our work. They also respond well to the social issues we address.
We are always keen to hear from other practitioners – both male and female – who may be interested in being involved in our current and future projects.
Half the city is built on these mistakes is a new work that uses immersive installation, sound, light, and text as an environment in which to stage a contemporary opera exploring debt, sacrifice, and our uncertain path into a precarious future. A high street entrance leads into a warren of dark corridors inhabited by voice and text and haunted by the fragments of economic crisis, lost futures, and the confusions of a labyrinthine financial system.
In Italo Calvino’s story Numbers in the Dark, a small boy accompanies his mother to her night job cleaning an office building. Whilst emptying the bins he meets an accountant who takes the boy to see the oldest accounting ledger, stored deep in the vaults. There he shows him a minor accounting error, which only he has noticed. Over time, this error has multiplied, persisting into the present day computerized system, a miscalculation beneath the all the numbers, right at the core. He swears the boy to secrecy and tells him “the company has grown big, huge, with thousands of shareholders, hundreds of subsidiaries, endless overseas agencies, and all of them grinding out nothing but wrong figures, there's not a grain of truth in any of their accounts. Half the city is built on these mistakes!”
We are living in the aftermath of a magnified error. We perceive the financial system as a labyrinthine mystery. This work invites its audience to enter into this space of complexity, a dark space inhabited by calculations and laments of loss. Like the children of Athens, fed to the Minotaur as repayments, we have been handed down debts and forced to make sacrifices. Half the city is built on these mistakes plays on these resonances and asks: where have the errors come from? What beast is in the centre of the machine?
Half the city is built on these mistakes is a development of and departure from an earlier test of concept project undertaken by CJ Mahony, Georgie Grace and Cheryl Frances-Hoad with Arts Council England funding in 2012. Entitled Momentarily Lost, it staged a newly composed score for a voice within a labyrinthine performance space with the aim of bringing new audiences to both opera and visual arts. Whilst Momentarily Lost drew explicitly on the story of Theseus and Ariadne in the labyrinth, Half the city is built on these mistakes develops themes of sacrifice and inherited debt, and suggests that the hybrid that stalks the darkness and determines our fates may not be human-animal but human-machine, at the point where its calculating capacity outstrips understanding and responsibility.
You are writing a Word document. You look at the digital clock in the corner of your screen, is it time for lunch yet? A colleague IMs you, have you finished? Coffee later? It’s only 1,000 words but it’s nowhere near ready. An e-mail alert interrupts, RE: RE: Re: Update, cc: you and 12 other people. Your phone buzzes, notification of an invitation, tonight 8:00. A calendar reminder flashes on screen, meeting at 2.30. Your phone beeps, meet at the station? What’s taking so long?
An atomic clock will neither lose nor gain 1 second in 1 million years and you have no time. You look for an antidote to the constraints of measured time, a place to escape. It is Pure Land, a place to experience timelessness away from the beat of ever connected ever shortening increments of clock time.
Pure Land is a circular structure set on tidal mudflats on the Prime Meridian close to Grimsby. Its outside is coated in polished steel panels, reflecting the flats, the fields, the moving tides and your approach. You enter Pure Land using mechanical lifts from a raised pontoon. Inside is a soundproofed seamless circular corridor. Its walls and ceiling are made of white scrim through which warm diffuse light glows, fading to darkness at floor level.
You walk. The floor is thickly carpeted and your barefoot feet pad almost silently. With every step you take your view remains identical. There is no break in the corridor, no mark you could use to measure your distance travelled or laps completed.
In the outside world you understand that to reach a place you must follow a path. Outside there are no places without paths along which you depart and arrive. Outside there are no paths without places of departure and arrival. Inside Pure Land every step is at once a place and a path, an arrival, a departure and a journey. With nothing to count, there is no time that can be counted. This is your escape from measured time into timelessness. You are free to enjoy Pure Land until you wish to leave.
You carry a small remote control with two buttons. You press the green button to leave Pure Land. A coloured light shines through the scrim as the closest exit to you opens. You press the red button in case of emergency. The corridor becomes fully lit. Every exit opens and an attendant comes to help you.
Each of Pure Land’s internal measurements has been chosen as a nod to a standard measure of time: The circuit you walk is 365.2 metres in circumference, 1 metre for each day of the year. The corridor is 7 metres wide, 1 metre for each day of the week. The light you walk through dims along a vertical axis from the brightest noon to the darkest night recalling 24 hours of a day but in the seamless environment of Pure Land there are no delineated blocks to count. The light is warm, diffuse and constant and cannot be used to reckon hours. The ingrained measures of everyday life are cast aside as you enjoy a freedom from controlled counting rarely afforded to you in your daily race through time.
The polished steel surface of Pure Land makes its own temporality tangible as it rusts. Reflecting a landscape regulated by both industrial and natural time, it is deliberately sited to make the lack of fixed temporality inside palpably clear. It sits at a longitude of 00° 00’ 00”, the ground zero of time that separates the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It is in relation to this Prime Meridian that mariners set chronometers to calculate their relative longitude until eventually Greenwich Mean Time was being used worldwide as a reference time independent of location. This measured time was seen as liberating maritime workers from the uneven measures of natural time under which they had been obliged to attend the ebb and flow of the tides at all hours.
Your experience inside Pure Land can only be understood in relation to outside and to difference. The place outside is a sensory map. The wind and the sun in the sky position you. The smell of mud and salt, field and fertiliser, colour your position. The place inside offers no such anchor. Any shift, any scent, can only be you at the revelation of a perfect and unchanging place. Outside is a world of distinct temporal objects while inside invites you to an experience beyond any form of measure.
You begin your journey to Pure Land by train or bus or car. You leave your office or home. Time starts to shift for you. Instead of counting up and down the minutes of your task list, you check your route. What connection at what time. How many miles per hour. Still counting time. If you could see your cuts through time, they might look something like this:
|||| | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
That long interval is your chance in Pure Land, your chance to be excused from your timeline of habit and enter time as a playground. As you walk its seamless circular corridor, your natural instinct may be to count your footsteps, to insist on a touchstone to your way of understanding the world. Let this fall away and in the place of counting quantity, open up to a quality of time you may not have experienced since birth. Pure Land asks you not to report the passage of time; it is a place for enjoying time as you feel it.
Why would you want this timeless experience? You go to a gig, you’re down the front and your favourite song comes on. You hit the red button and hold up your screen, watching through your recording. Your live experience is already a mediated past to be enjoyed in an imagined future. How much of your time is pre-packaged for you? How many experiences do you pre-digest? In this place where time cannot be measured, there is nothing to produce, nothing that has to be done, there is just pure perception.
Can Pure Land guarantee this experience? Its single corridor is far from empty. It is filled with you, your thoughts, your feelings, your sensations. It offers you a point of entry but the rest is up to you. You may find a sense of contentment or insight into yourself, you may struggle or fight, you may feel bored and long for the outside. Primed by your experience, you decide how you will carry this other place as you return to your known reality. There is no right or wrong. Pure Land exists only for you for as long as you want it to.
Pure Land’s positioning of another reality inside reality forms part of a spiritual and artistic legacy. Its form is the simplest rendering of a labyrinth whose single contemplative path takes you on a journey to enlightenment while its name evokes a pure abode accessible through experiential meditation. It draws on the writings of French philosopher Henri Bergson who saw a desire for another reality in every perceived reality and recalls the ‘void’ works of John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Nam June Paik that aimed to foster the direct perception of duration. Whereas these works remained limited by being only planar or audio, the experience of Pure Land is fully immersive and the reality it offers is tangible.
Plans developed with Architectural Designer Tom Sykes
David Bowie is invited to make a large-scale installation – Under Pressure – in Milton Keynes Bowl, as homage to the 1982 performance where he was expected to duet with Freddie Mercury and Queen, but didn’t. The song resonates with intimate, personal loss and also loss on a global scale.
In 1981 David Bowie duetted with Freddie Mercury on the anthemic Queen song Under Pressure, reaching No. 1 in the UK charts.
Both were, and still are, two of the most iconic and respected artists in rock and pop, despite Freddie Mercury dying some twenty years ago – and Bowie’s disappearance from public view for some seven years until 2013.
The original video for Under Pressure, made by director David Mallet, does not show the artists. Instead, it highlights the pressure-cooker mentality of a culture willing to wage war against political machines, destruction, and mass movement, and at the same time wanting to share love and have fun.
In 1982, Queen played live at Milton Keynes Bowl and it was widely anticipated that Bowie would appear live for Under Pressure. He didn’t. He later played live for three nights at the Bowl in 1983 as part of the Serious Moonlight tour.
This and other gigs by world artists are an important part of what is now the heritage of shared experience for Milton Keynes.
Under Pressure continued to be played in Queen’s repertoire. Bowie didn’t play it live until the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 when he duetted with Annie Lennox. However, after this, it became a firm favourite of his, with him often performing the duet with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey (who has performed regularly at The Stables).
IF: Milton Keynes International Festival proposes to work with Artangel to invite David Bowie to create a large-scale installation – Under Pressure – in the Milton Keynes Bowl. Not a re-working of the song, but a reframing of its impact and messages for today’s global audience and contemporary culture, thereby finally reuniting Bowie and Queen at the bowl in an entirely new way.
The song also relates to the most intimate and personal loss as well as global loss: themes which remain current and which Bowie has picked up on in his most recent work, including The Next Day.
The installation would be unrestricted in terms of its creative output – Bowie would be free to create the work, be it sound-based, physical or visual. IF: Milton Keynes International Festival would produce the project under the guidance of Artangel, who would lead on the relationship with the artist.
Engaging with people across all platforms, the public would come to the Milton Keynes Bowl to pay homage to the song, its meaning, and two iconic artists, or they would access the work online and digitally. It is imagined that a fascinating documentary could be commissioned to reveal the process of making and presenting the work.
The Festival recognises that this project poses a hugely ambitious invitation question to ask and has agreed that if Bowie is not involved, the project will not progress any further. The commission would be the original work of David Bowie. The Festival’s Creative Director, Bill Gee, has developed the concept proposed here.
The Festival team, and in particular the Creative Director, have extensive experience of producing and presenting major outdoor commissions and performances. The production team is led by Simon Byford who has worked on major venues and outdoor events over the past forty years, including Artangel’s project The Influence Machine with Tony Ousler (2000), Ousler co-incidentally being the Director of Bowie’s Where Are We Now music video.
Underpinning this project is IF: Milton Keynes International Festival’s theme for 2014 which explores the cityscape and parklands, the built environment and nature’s elements, the sacred and the secular, war and peace, discord and harmony, dissonance and resolution. Through large-scale spectacles and intimate experiences the Festival will encourage people to discover what divides us and what unites us.
The Milton Keynes Bowl is currently managed by Milton Keynes Council who are funders and partners with IF: Milton Keynes International Festival. The Bowl seats 65,000 and came to prominence in the 1980s, hosting acts such as David Bowie, Queen, U2 and Simple Minds. An ex-claypit, the Bowl is so called as its gradual slopes afford an excellent view for the crowd present.
IF: Milton Keynes International Festival was founded in 2010 and plays a strategic role in Milton Keynes’ cultural life as well as raising the city’s profile nationally and internationally.
Produced by world-class music organisation The Stables, the Festival has a distinct brand of its own, and through a programme of high quality, international contemporary work seeks to engage people with music and sound in surprising ways. The multi-arts programme includes large-scale events, concerts, theatre, dance, music, visual arts installations and new commissions and is presented in unusual locations across Central Milton Keynes.
Festivals to date have included The Magical Menagerie (Le Manège Carré Senárt, 2010), La Compagnie Carabosse’s Fire Gardens (2012) and As The World Tipped (2012) in addition to installations including Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege and The Lone Twin Boat Project for London 2012. The programme also includes intimate events with artists such as Fred Frith and Dame Evelyn Glennie (The Stables Honorary Patron).
The Festival takes place every two years over ten days, with an audience reach in excess of 90,000 and delivering £4.5 million of economic benefit for the Milton Keynes area. It core-funded by Arts Council England and Milton Keynes Council, with other funds raised by the Festival.
The Stables produces IF: Milton Keynes International Festival. It was founded by Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine in 1970 and is now one of the UK’s top 100 music venues, ranked 6th by the Performing Rights Society. The Stables is a registered charity (Wavendon Allmusic Plan Ltd, number 261645) and presents over 350 concerts and 250 education events annually.
Bill Gee: Creative Director, IF: Milton Keynes International Festival
Bill has worked in a variety of roles, art forms, and contexts for the past twnety years, most recently as a creative producer and festival director working with a range of practices for diverse audiences, particularly in outdoor and public realm contexts.
Bill is the Creative Director of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival and Co-Artistic Director of Inside Out Dorset. Last year (2012) saw the successful delivery of a £1million+ programme Secrets: Hidden London, a series of commissions developed for less well-known London outdoor locations such as canals and lidos from organisations such as the Royal Opera House, English National Ballet, and the Natural History Museum.
Previously Bill has run festivals and programmes for the Mayor of London, De La Warr Pavilion, Canary Wharf Group Plc, Nottingham Dance and Nottinghamshire County Council. He has produced work nationally and internationally by artists including Metis Arts, Jyll Bradley, Dries Verhoeven and Gob Squad. He was the inaugural co-ordinator of ISAN and played a key national strategic role in developing the profile, engagement and public investment in outdoor arts.
Bill is the Chair of In Between Time Productions and recently stood down as the Chair of ISAN, the national organisation for the development of outdoor arts. He sits on the board of Rachel Davies Film and is a Regional Council member for Arts Council England (East Midlands).
A Bridge, An Island is an installation piece proposed to be installed at Inchgarvie Island and the Forth Rail Bridge. The bridge links North Queensferry in Fife with South Queensferry in Lothian, passing over Inchgarvie Island. Located 17km north of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The formal aspect of the project would consist of tethering red lifting slings to buildings on the island and physically connecting them to the two highest points on the middle cantilever of the Forth Rail Bridge. By doing this we aim to create a visible and vivid tension between Inchgarvie and the bridge, using red both to mirror the distinctive and iconic colour of the bridge, and for visual impact.
The project was first conceptualised from our interest in urban decay, relics and ruination. After considering several sites around Edinburgh, wastelands and urban voids both within and out of the city, Inchgarvie Island and the Forth Rail Bridge seemed to bring together a number of interesting possibilities and conditions appropriate for the project.
Inchgarvie is a small island of around 90,000sq ft., which lies in the Firth of Forth, almost directly beneath the Forth Rail Bridge. It was originally intended to be used as part of the foundations for the bridge before the architect was disgraced in the aftermath of the Tay Bridge Disaster and the foundations were laid elsewhere, but the bridge and the island are still very much connected. Stones from the 15th Century castle built on the island by James IV were used to build parts of the foundations of the bridge, and bridge builders were housed in buildings on the island that had served as a prison in the 16/17th Centuries. The more we researched the island and the buildings on it, the more interested we became in the connection between the island and the bridge. Physically, the bridge doesn’t actually touch Inchgarvie, but historically they are weaved together.
Since the formation of Translating Spaces we have been interested in working with the landscape. We are interested the idea of a landscape as a space beyond possibilities, a space that cannot be contained by a single individual, and as the site where the relation between the environment and us takes place. All these concepts were very much contained in the site we chose for the project; therefore we decided to start observing what actually happens in this space (or in this in-between space, between the island and the bridge).
The island and the bridge are spaces between minds where a series of interlocking systems collide. Time systems such as the past and the future coexist simultaneously; we experience the tension of the perpetual and the change, the contrast between ruins and progress and the romantic ideas of isolation and connection are substantiated in the site.
By drawing lines between the bridge and the island we want to define a new space, to highlight the tensions existent on the site and to create a new spatial sensation of the landscape. Since the conception of the project we decided to take some critical distance from the idea of monumentality by focusing and drawing attention to what is latent but not evident in the space. Rather than adding something external to the site, we have decided to work with the experience of the space and the space itself.
By this spatial drawing we aim to confront the spectator (in this case the people who use the Rail Bridge on daily basis, as well as visitors and inhabitants of North and South Queensferry) with a change in the landscape that will make them question the symbiotic relation between the bridge and the island and how this space might be thought of as a scenery of coexistence between man and nature and between distance and proximity.
As space unfolds in time, it is developed, repeated and transformed; some places still function in the limits of opposed forces, encouraging us to think about what lies beneath the evident and trigger us to question and reinterpret the spaces around us.
The Grunt and the Whack is an entirely new groundbreaking site specific project that aims to push the genre of puppetry into new creative areas.
It is a collaboration between the worlds of puppetry,performance, visual art and stock car racing.
The Grunt and the Whack aims to reach new audiences and to be presented in a space that is not habitually used for the arts.
All the thrill of stock-car destruction with art beauty poignancy thrown in.
Set in Arlington Stadium East Sussex, The Grunt and the Whack is a luscious and decrepit performative event featuring purpose built stock cars merged with sculptural puppets. The performance will be staged combining stock car smash-ups with animation projections, soundscapes and choreographed puppetry.
The idea of the piece is to work in a venue not naturally associated with the arts and to combine the drama and ritual of a stock car event with the visual splendour of puppetry and LiveArt. The work aims to merge theatrical rituals and rites of passages incorporating large scale puppets, lilting musicians with display, parade and demolition of a stock car meeting.
Amongst smoke, steam, rubber and the squeal of tyres vehicles arrive transformed into archetypal and anarchic characters such as Admirals, Holymen, Fools and mythic monsters. They congregate for one last parade steeped in pathos and showmanship. From battle weary ships to decrepit Admirals the assembled limp their way round the stadium to the piped warped sounds of 'Mouldy Old Dough' by Lieutenant Pigeon before firing up for one last battle ....
'The imagination is moved to awe and instilled with a degree of horror by what is "dark, uncertain, and confused.' Edmund Burke
The Grunt and the Whack reflects on the fall of established regimes and impermanence of man and materials.
Yet behind the signs of epic human frailty and failure, it will also be sympathetic and uplifting, conjuring a sense of awe and wonderment revealing half-remembered dreams and a desire for utopia.
From strange transmogrified creatures and giants The Grunt and the Whack explores the balancing point where expectation hangs between meaning and meaninglessness. A cosmic cultural adventure, a cocktail of myth, folklore and religion. a moment of transition between mortals and gods, the material world and the supernatural, or perhaps between ludicrous conflicts and the restless antics of the fool.
Referencing British eccentricity and comedic pathos this proposal will also include animated projection onto the puppets through video mapping, evocative soundscapes to heighten the drama of the event and headlamp shadow puppetry.
Sources of inspiration will draw from Jean Tinguely's sculptures, Archaos Circus and Paul McCarthy's performances with references to British Folklore parades and festivals.
Taking the artwork of The Baron Gilvan as a starting point the piece will convert the rich visual imagery of his drawings and paintings to create sculptural puppet vehicles which will collide and interact with each other.
Parts of the piece will have an improvisational aspect as in many rituals and banger events its not always clear who will remain as the last car standing.
Who will make it happen?
About the participants:
Grist to the Mill (Isobel Smith) – puppetry
Using puppets, found objects and installation to produce powerful contemporary theatre.
Crossing forms of sculpture, puppetry and object theatre to explore duality and contrasts:
ordinary / extraordinarytruth / fantasybeauty / horrormovement / non movementpuppet / objectdead / un-deadreal / fakehuman / animaland time, deterioration, death, filth, cycles and essences
Chris Gilvan-Cartwright aka The Baron Gilvan – Fine Art visuals
A contemporary painter and performer foolish romantic. An Admiral aboard a sunken galleon. clobberfool,day dreamer,wonky inside outsider,playing and hanging in the balance.A compliment.Anywhere between human and landscape.’
Foz Foster – music and soundscapes
(born 1960) is a composer and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known as the lead guitarist in the art-rock band, David Devant and His Spirit Wife, and in the 1983-5 incarnation of The Monochrome Set. Foster also plays guitar, musical saw and vibraslap in the house band of Karaoke Circus and occasional saw in Martin White's Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra. He plays ukulele and other instruments as part of the double-act, Foster&Gilvan, and is also musical director of Sawchestra - a band of musical saw players who perform Foster's compositions to accompany silent films.
Alex Saunders-AJS - technical and set construction
Set up AFX “Engineering for the Arts” In 2003 and continues to produce Sets, Stage Rigs and bike based technology from his Blackstone based workshop. Over the last few years he has worked for many street theatre companies including Periplum, The Carnival collective, The World Famous Fireworkers, Three Monkey Productions & The Bureau of Silly Ideas ( BOSi)
Paul Harrison – Set construction and special effects
Over 25 years experience in specialist painting, prop making, trompe l'oeil, murals, customised lighting, club and restaurant decor. Paul's versatility and vision are instrumental in the conception and implementation of powerful and eye-catching decorative designs and original artworks. In 1997, Paul invented and designed the original Flamelight lighting range.
His concept and designs have received widespread acclaim, winning various Decorative Lighting Award. Clients are additionally offered the unique opportunity to combine Flamelight illumination with original decorative art to create a truly individual ambience for restaurant, hotel, bar, retail premises, club or domestic interior. Past clients include: Walt Disney, Royal Opera House, Goodwood House, Hilton Hotel Group & MTV.
Alex May – video projection
A digital artist exploring the 'digital' from the perspective of 30 years programming experience
Paul Barritt 1927 theatre company – animation
1927 is the award winning theatre company behind the critically acclaimed shows: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and The Animals and Children took to the Streets.
Mixing live music, storytelling and performance with animation
Two wall drawings will be made, linked by fifty six miles of coastline. These graphite drawings will be on existing walls. One drawing will be on a wall in a chapel attached to the medieval church of Llaneilian on Anglesey. The other drawing will be on a wall in a former optical telegraph station on Hilbre Island, Wirral. Both buildings face the sea to the west.
Each wall will be transformed from white to dense and reflective black, the size and shape of each drawing being decided in relation to the wall's proportions and position, and the degree to which the balance of the room is changed by the black graphite. One drawing will be circumscribed by a medieval wall and addresses the ancient. The other will be on an industrial nineteenth century wall. Both are connected by the limitless sea, and are inescapably with us here and now.
Llaneilian and Hilbre are linked by the optical telegraph system that relayed messages from ships in the Irish Sea to their owners in Liverpool. Established in 1824 and coming to an end in 1861, eleven telegraph stations were strung along the North Wales coast, each manned by a Keeper with signals and a telescope, the first in Holyhead looking out to sea, the rest watching through their telescopes the signalling gantry of the station to their west. First flags were used, then semaphore and finally radio. After sighting a ship, its message could be in Liverpool in less than five minutes, the record being twenty-three seconds. The title of the proposed work is derived from signal number 1062 from Lord's Telegraphic Vocabulary.
One of these stations was at Point Lynas in the parish of Llaneilian. Inside its twelfth century church a fifteenth century rood screen painted with a representation of Death frames the altar, 'the sting of death is sin' it tells us on its scythe. To its right a low door leads to the small fourteenth century chapel of St. Eilian. Stripped of its decoration in the Reformation, the room is plain with white walls, soft with light from the plain leaded windows. Hilbre also had a medieval church, part of a monastery that was on the island. Reached at low tide by foot, the island provided the separation from secular life that was needed by those following the religious life. Its telegraph station is a small building, chapel-size, with one big curved window at its west end, it looks out to sea and across the Dee to Wales. Four of its windowpanes are fitted with gimbals to hold a telescope.
In both of these buildings people sent messages and waited for replies. The prayers at Llaneilian were, and are, set within a long tradition in Christianity of using the sea as a metaphor for the struggle towards grace. The Old English poem The Seafarer describes the spiritual desolation of the winter voyage, 'a hunger tears from within / the sea-weary soul', and the nineteenth century hymn Eternal Father praying for intercession for 'those in peril on the sea'. Celtic saints often arrive by sea, St. Eilian landing from Rome in the small bay beneath this church, St. Bridget riding the sea from Ireland on a sod of turf before coming ashore at Conwy, St. Patrick being shipwrecked on Ynys Badrig just north of Llaneilian and leaving his footprint in the rocky path up from the shore.
The mercantile messages and warnings of danger that the telegraph keeper looked out for were, of course, completely secular, but the men and women who gazed, solitary, across the sea to the next cell-like station must have known much of the contemplative experience to be had from concentrated seeking. The Neo-platonic insights of the sixth century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius could be as relevant to the watcher of the sea as to the person praying in the church, his 'Mystical Theology' examining the nature and effects of contemplative prayer and the abandonment of senses and intelligible forms in preparation for the immediate experience of 'light from the divine darkness'.
Two drawings are needed to link these places, the wall drawings entering into a correspondence with each other. The sea divides and connects them to each other and is tacked by the ships that sailed through the Irish Sea, drawings of which are scratched into the vestry door at Llaneilian. Calling and responding to each other, these buildings touch both the medieval and the cusp of the age of communication. Each wall is known completely through the making of the drawing, but each drawing is abstract and so moves into the mode of being unknown again, the viewer coming to occupy the place of the watcher, who accepts and waits.
The dense and burnished graphite drawings act like dark mirrors within each room, reflecting the rest of the space, the modulating light from the windows and also the viewer in a Claude glass-like obscurity. Through its reflectiveness, each drawing embraces the three dimensional space of its room, becoming conceptually sculptural. A person standing inside sees herself mirrored in the graphite, set within the apparent depth and stratification of the wall. Early photography is also invoked, the polished silver surface of the Daguerreotype depending upon light and dark for the capturing, and the viewing, of its image. These qualities of light, dark and reflectivity connect with the history and use of the chapel and telegraph station. Out of the darkness comes revelation and enlightenment, and from across the grey sea comes the returning ship, messenger of human endeavour. The blackness of the graphite drawing gives weight to the wall, though this is made paradoxical through the light giving properties of its shining surface. Darkness and light, weight and insubstantiality - all existing at once, somatically experienced in the body and mind of the viewer.
About three years ago I wrote to a prisoner on Death Row in San Quentin called Tony who was about my age. He was convicted of being a Mexican Mafia hitman and I offered to buy him art materials in return for drawings of his tattoos that I could embroider. I went to visit him and bought letters from women that he had romantic encounters with, including a female prison guard who got 19 years for her involvement with him. I stayed with his parents and went shooting with his Dad who tattooed me with a design by Tony.
The letters and idea of prison romances became central to the work. I appropriated some of the letters and sold a hoax story pretending to be in love with him to a women's magazine called Pick Me Up, which they published last Christmas. I approached and was commissioned by Channel 4 to produce a three minute opera based on the letters for Random Acts. I wrote to another high profile prisoner Charles Bronson and received some drawings from him.
At many points along the way I have had to think about issues of exploitation, manipulation, the glamorization of violence and fantasy relationships. To understand my motivations better, I got a job teaching art in a Category D prison in Durham. I found that my interest is not only in celebrity or high profile criminals but in mentoring criminals in general and providing a space within the jail where they can think and act creatively. Whilst at work, I saw a message on the board saying that Jeremy Deller was looking for drawings from prisoners who were ex-servicemen and I wrote to him to ask if he would mentor me in the art work I want to make - we are meeting in June when he comes back from Venice.
My proposal for Artangel at first glance seems very simple in its execution, but is actually borderline impossible due to the conservative nature of English prisons and the attitude towards criminals. The idea to choreograph a performance at all comes from watching the legendary CPDRC Dancing Inmates videos on Youtube that are staged performances of Michael Jacksons songs in Cebu province in the Phillipines. Byron F. Garcia is the Warden who had the idea to do this and he has been accused of exploitation and working the prisoners to exhaustion. It reminded me of the dance marathons of the 1920's, the Mass Games of North Korea and the film Blazing Saddles. Deep down however, I knew that the prisoners I am teaching would love to do it. The question I have is whether or not it could happen in an English prison?
The idea to choreograph a dance for female prisoners is based upon another realisation. Women are not taught art in the education sector of the prison service that I am now part of. I do not know what they are taught instead but the course I teach is male only. For this reason, and because the CPDRC dances are all male, I would like to work in a female prison to do this work.
I choose the Britney Spears song 'Criminal' for its femininity and romanticism of criminals. I would like Jeremy Deller to mentor me on this work if selected.
Their Land is Our Country: An un definitive map, explores ideas around public and private space. It is inspired by The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which introduced a "cut off" date of 2026, by which time all public rights of way over footpaths and bridleways which have not been not recorded on definitive maps will be extinguished. The contemporary nomadic tapestry will map the footpaths and bridleways of England yet to be on, or have been excluded from the definitive map. Working nationally with weavers and embroiderers, the final tapestry will come together and take the form of a giant processional banner.
Wealthy landowners historically commissioned tapestries, their portability meant they could be moved from one residence to another. They often depicted scenes from history, or were maps of the land, freezing a moment and viewpoint in time. Their Land is Our Country takes a contemporary viewpoint of mapping as not just a tool to transverse space, but a way of knowing and thinking; the act of journeying outwards is a voyage inwards.
The content of the tapestry will draw upon several strands of material including, mapping data, photographs, drawings and texts. This material will be collected during a period of research, in which I wish to work alongside the Ramblers Association, Open Spaces Society, Natural England, regional footpath societies and also the Rights of Way and Access teams within England’s 49 councils. It is also through these networks and existing media outlets that I hope to gain access to members of the public collecting information, knowledge and narratives of these footpaths.
It is crucial that the tapestry is a distinctive piece of contemporary art. The tapestry will be designed by myself, and will be based upon the material I have collected, combining information with illusion.
I aim for the tapestry to be produced by weavers and embroiderers around the UK. It will be constructed in 49 different parts representing the 49 different councils. Once individual parts have been woven they will be all joined together forming one image.
I have broken the project down into several phases, to help charter the tapestries development:
Phase one will be a period of developing networks and collating material. In this initial phase I aim to establish contacts with national and regional walking associations to advertise and collect material regarding lost footpaths.
With the assistance of Artangel, I will through various media networks make a call out for weavers and embroiderers, who would be interested in participating in this project. I also anticipate employing a lead weaver/seamstress to help advise and oversee the technical side of the tapestry.
Phase two will be the creative and technical design of the tapestry, including the final structure from which it will hang. Once the material has been collated I will design the final image. Working alongside the lead weaver my design will be translated and produced into a technical drawing/document and then broken down into parts for individuals to weave/embroider. At this stage we will also work out quantities of materials needed, and create weaving packs for the individuals.
Phase three will be holding meetings with groups of weavers and embroiderers discussing the project in detail and distributing materials.
Phase four involves joining the individual tapestry segments together, and overseeing the production of the tapestry support structure.
As an artist my practice explores site, history and social politics. I often use the medium of documentary and performance to question and engage with spaces. I like obscure historical footnotes to be the starting point through which I explore hidden narratives that blur boundaries between fact and fiction, and investigate ideas around superstition, rituals and histories.
In this work, 300 women will lay chicken eggs from their vaginas from the top of The Gerkin onto the street below, adorned in wings, and singing along to Britney Spears' Oops!... I did It Again in unison, which is playing around the building and street.
I imagine the piece will occur over the span of three hours as the women take shifts laying eggs. I imagine a constant circle of women in wings surrounding the building towards the top, which would require some element of scaffolding and/or rigging.
This idea comes from an image in my stage-based piece How 2 Become 1 (2010), in which I attempted to become an ‘independent woman’ and a ‘dependent woman’ simultaneously by turning myself into a mother hen/free-flying bird. My persona, The famous, is at the center of the work– a raunchy pop starr who constantly fails to achieve well-rounded ‘womanhood’. The Famous sets herself impossible tasks that literalize culturally coded metaphors around femininity, such as the mother hen/free-flying bird, revealing the failure of these constructs as she fails to become the pop star, pornstar, mother, wife, victim, etc.
In this work, I propose to transform these 300 women into (a version of) The Famous over a series of workshops prior to the event/performance.
Current technology can appear to respect no defining boundary - no sense of place. Able to connect to anywhere, what is the value of being where we are. Excited by digitally emancipated possibilities, we are also anxious about how we are viewed by a digital realm which ‘locates’ us at every turn. Land of Song aims to intercept energy from this unresolved situation, to stand up for the value of the individual voice, sensations of connection, place and subjectivity.
In 2014, his centenary year, Dylan Thomasʼ poem Under Milk Wood will be 60. This 'play for voices' imagined the inner lives of people living in a Welsh village, in monologues connected by a narration made famous by Richard Burton in a radio broadcast.
Thomas’ village was virtual. As he created it he drew a map - a throwaway sketch to keep his world coherent, - streets, pubs, characters' houses in relation to each other (Image 1.) This artefact also suggested a direction - to imagine and map inner life now.
Thomas’ voices connected with audiences who loved his art, and with many who never thought they would. He understood that all communities and audiences contain unseen intensity. Using a contemporary medium, he made listeners into neighbours, wherever they were.
Inspired by this I want to make through collaboration a new lyric ʻplay for voices', using poetry, prose and music to make songs that tell stories - ballads, choruses, arias – brought together in a large scale operatic work defined by the inner lives of locations. The work builds on spaces new technology creates for opera, in terms of form, channels of involvement, and physical experience.
This envisages using different media throughout development.
1) An online context, hosting public participation in the work’s creation and related material
2) A site-specific performance, comprising live music theatre scenes at 10 different locations, audio-visual feeds between them, and video mapping to project the presence of one site into another. Audiences experience these scenes in two ways:
- as witnesses of events at their own location, observing other locations, and being observed
- as animators of locations, using mobile digital devices
The aim is to evoke a state of magical communication between separate places, making a momentary village of them all, asserting and contesting sensations of location and connection. As a multidisciplinary piece each element will depend on collaborations, still to be found, across words, music, online, and performance. For the moment, these constituents are imagined as follows:
Thomas' piece championed unnoticed beauty. Land of Song imagines an online platform to bring unknown writers to light, towards a new libretto. Writers submit short lyric texts, inspired by where they are, how they imagine the inner lives of those around them. These might be inspired by Thomasʼ poem, or not - the aim is to make space to take wing.
Supported by WNO, submissions may come particularly from areas they visit: Cardiff, Swansea, Liverpool, Birmingham, Southampton, Bristol, Milton Keynes, including the possibility of submissions in different languages. Writers develop in partnership with established writing artists, towards 10 lyric texts for scenes of 5 - 8 minutes each - the heart of the opera. A leading writer collaborator helps frame the creative process, and write a new narration / structure - a unifying vantage point connecting the material.
10 lyrics are partnered with a different composer to create 10 short lyric theatre episodes – ballads, arias, duets –combining with narration to make a 90-minute opera. Local texts are matched with local composers, or with composers artistically concerned with location.
The form intends to support contrasting compositional approaches, apparent cultural registers and sound worlds, which illuminate each other and their audiences, eg practitioners in contemporary classical idioms, sonic arts, folk, rock. Modes of performance follow this: eg opera singers perform operatic submissions; other kinds of performer or composer/performers present other material. Echoing Burton, a Welsh performer could be a linking voice.
Each scene relates to a location (the choice dependent on writers’ submissions.) Scenes are performed in context, large/small, outdoors/indoors, domestic or public, depending on the vision of each episode and its spatial interpretation. Imagine 10 sites around the country - anywhere you can gather people and access digital infrastructure to connect locations. Each location presents one of the 10 scenes live, as a musical and visual performance, and receives the others in sequence via projected relays.
Depending on location, audiences would have one of two kinds of experience:
a) they see and are seen as part of an epic local group, occupying a distinctive vantage point at a location, where projections use architectural or other surfaces to show episodes from other places: eg, a shopping centre onto Cardiff Castle, a country house onto a garage in Milton Keynes, the Bodleian Library onto a Gasometer, a bus stop in one place onto a bus stop elsewhere.
b) an audience attends the location, listens on headphones and watches a recorded exploration/interpretation of the place on a mobile screen while simultaneously navigating the same terrain the recording displays (image4.) The live element here is the activity of the audience itself, who become animators of the work. Connection between this experience and other locations is achieved by a single camera placing remote viewers among the navigators.
The project as a whole builds on PromsMusicWalk, [devised Hopkins/BBC Proms 2012] where sensations of connection with place were accented by listening on headphones to music at locations which inspired it.
The proposed idea is to construct a folly to inhabit a hillside or prominently visible position in an open landscape that suggests a building has been plucked from its original habitat and tossed across the land to rest point first into a hillside. A church is my current point of reference, as the (sunken)spire could be the point of contact with the ground, piercing the hillside. There is something appropriate about the construction of a chapel on a hillside as a point of pilgrimage.
The suggestion of the building having been thrown across the landscape The proposal for this work is to suggest an impossibly enchanted proposition, whilst bringing to mind the tiny acts of anonymous bravado that litter the suburban and inner city landscape (tyres on lamposts, shoes in trees etc).It might also be a suggestion of fly tipping in the countryside. Why go to the local tip when you can have a day in the country and leave your old sofa / mattress by a roadside on a country lane?
No exact location is in mind as such, but i feel that proximity to an A road or motorway would provide an audience whilst still allowing the work to be in a place that feels isolated enough from a residential area. Also anecdotally, most shows i have worked on have been devised to some extent whilst driving the route from London to the midlands, which was an all too frequent routine for us for the best part of ten years.
The construction is also a bit of an unknown for me, but an exciting proposition to work out how such an object might be designed, engineered and installed. Whilst looking convincingly of a certain age and condition.
Having grown up in the neglected post industrial and sometimes decaying landscape of the West Midlands in the 1980s I approach the best intentions of modernist urban planners through a dark (or more often murky) filter. Turf is universally precious and even the least desirable areas of our environs are literally criss crossed by manmade marks and markers, evidence that someone was there.
At times my aim is to build a gentle commentary on collective states of being, such as the group experiences found in any subculture; kids finding empty lots or spaces to claim, groups of people (sometimes gangs) demarcating territory and demonstrating acts of anonymous bravado and one- upmanship. Decay, decadence and the detumescence of post war utopian social visions are the vectors that transverse what has become an essentially sculptural practice.
Casting from (and engaging with) the decrepit, discarded and failing have become a mainstay for me. Drawing inspiration from the seemingly banal objects of daily life, my sculptural and installation based works reflect upon instances of the everyday, whilst investing them with a more formal clarity that casts these pieces as proximal extras in a delapidated fictional other reality. Derelict buildings and street furniture, single shoes and stained bedding, the sad, the lost, the lame and the undesirable are reconstructed as the ruins of teen nostalgia. The transformation into meticulously crafted sculptures may seem deliberately at odds with their rancid or pubescent subject matter but engaging in a process of illusion and artifice is a strategy that continually plays upon our sense of order, knowledge, and perception. And a certain irony within this rigorously handmade work and its close attention to the faithful reconstruction of industrial objects that seem to have fallen apart is not lost on me. In contrast to the traditions of the readymade and arte povera movements that may share a family resemblence, these objects could never successfully return to the real world of things. It may be referred to as a trompe l'oeil trash aesthetic, as i direct attention to the destiny of these objects and the inescapable poetics of our everyday narratives.
However, this bleak outlook isn't simply negative. Against this backdrop of creeping crapness are moments of enchantment, diamonds in the dirt and shoots of new life finding a way amongst the cracks. The run-down can offer a place for contemplative inner explorations and romantic glimpses of the sublime. The organic begins to take back the night from the industrial realm, and in doing so new hope is granted to crushed hopes and dreams. Hope finds a way through humour, and the erosion of the commonplace forms its own wry, urban poetry.
The future is on its way and we want to build its arrival board.
A giant split flap display board, looms large and high in the landscape, in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors. RAF Fylingdales, the UK early defence warning system sits as a backdrop to the work.
The giant arrival board is in a constant state of activity, on its face illuminated letters regularly change, shuffling and spelling out sentences, declarations, speculations and bold statements about the future. Each sentence looks ahead, an attempt to predict what the next 1000 years of history will hold for mankind. Distant and epic global events, the type that change the shape of continents, through to small details, weddings taking place next year, the names of far-away imagined great great great grandchildren; each of the board’s forecasts will be taken from a crowdsourced version of the future, created by us with 1000 people over the course of a year. Primary school children, scientists, futurologists, science fiction writers, archeologists, everyday people on the street, together we will write the next 1000 years of human history (the period of time that Stephen Hawkins predicts mankind has left on earth), a continuous timeline of events, written one day at a time, filled with our communal and singular hopes and dreams, ambitions, fears and warnings, the things we don’t want to forget, the things we want to hold onto and preserve, the narratives that we collectively think will unfold through the next millennia. A timeline distilled down into a series of single phrases, then broadcast large, high up on the board, a series of journeys yet to be undertaken either by individuals or all of us. The board will display the stories one at a time, jumping around in the chronology, each phrase presented as a countdown XXX amount of seconds until it takes place, ticking down one second at a time until the whole face shuffles and displays another phrase.
The board is evocative of both arrivals and departures, signifying transit, a reminder of the journeys undertaken to get to this point and those that we are all yet to undertake. They are highly tactile and physical displays, aesthetically striking and emitting an almost constant haunting sound as they change and click down the seconds.
As a mechanical object the board is destined to eventually fail, and after a fixed period of time it will be allowed to do so, the letters that no longer turn will be left stuck until the board spells out a final phrase to be randomly determined by time, the countdown eventually hitting zero and the display allowed to become a permanent relic, a decaying monument to our future ambitions.
In a time where we are aesthetically and fondly fixated on the past we want to look forward, to encourage others to think ahead to what we want to be and achieve. The board will stand tall in the sparse wilderness, with the RAF Fylingdale as its backdrop. The base is the famous home of the UK’s early warning system and now also used to track orbital objects, it is designed to warn us and act as a line of defence against apocalyptic events, built in a time when the end of the world felt like a real possibility the base is a spectre over our relative fragility. Stood in its shadow our giant board acts as a reminder both of our own individual temporality and a reminder to look forward. The phrases themselves will be provocations, poetic, sometimes charming, occasionally funny, musings and predictions. Part doomsday clock part giant magic eight ball, the board brings the urgency of our future into the present allowing us to consider how we live now and our time past, presenting our lives as one continuous timeline, an imagined future and an illusionary past that is ticking away one second at a time up on the board. Perhaps in collectively considering the future, we can consider our own lives, where we are now, where we have been and where we go from here.
The project aims at opening a temporary museum of dustology. Dustology is a fictional research discipline which concerns the study of dust from artistic, social, political and ethnographic perspectives. The museum will collect and display a wide range of dust while strategically deploying a convention of classifying, ordering and showcasing natural history specimens. With the help of local communities dust will be collected from various locations in Southampton. This part of the project follows the work of Mark Dion on natural history museum collections.
The museum encourages audiences to interfere with the production of knowledge about dust rather than simply letting them absorb information. In order to achieve this the museum will have two major “attractions”. Firstly I, as a “chief dustologist”, will plan and build a gigantic dust machine, which collects and produces dust. The machine will let the process of collecting and producing dust visible and transparent to audiences.
The second attraction in the museum will be known as “the control room” which is a replica of a control room, of a nuclear power station, covered with dust. This installation will be an image from the future in which a disused nuclear power station can be accessed without the risk of exposure to nuclear radiation. Needless to say, this is a reflection on the nuclear disasters in Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan and the work adds to the legacy of Chris Marker’s influential and yet haunting science fiction film La Jetée, Andrei Tarkovsky’s apocalyptic film Sacrifice, Isao Hashimoto’s measured and shocking study of the history of the nuclear explosions since 1945 entitled The Video Map of the Nuclear Explosions and finally the Otolith Group’s film The Radiant about the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011.
As a “proper” museum, it will organise an “international” conference on dustology. A selection of natural scientists, artists and social scientists, human rights activists are invited to have a panel discussion. This goes beyond the performative aspect of creating a fictional discipline, dustology, and will take on the issues of ultrafine industrial metal dust inhalation, nanotechnology and nuclear radiation.
Among the range of works about dust in modern art history Marcel Duchamp’s Dust Breeding is the obvious point of reference in which dust was used as a medium. More recently Cornelia Parker’s pair of earplugs which is made out of dust from the Whisper Gallery in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London is another well-known one. They both approach dust in such a humorous manner, and yet, they lack a political dimension. Although not explicitly using dust, Ilya Kabakov's The Man Who Never Threw Anything, and Miele Laderman Ukele's Maintenance Art intervene more profoundly into the areas of the overlooked. Though it is regarded as minute and useless I would like to introduce dust as a theme and a medium to a wider public as a means to explore the potentiality of it as a catalyst which enables us to generate important discussions about a range of social and political issues. By letting visible the duration of time which needs for dust to settle on the disused nuclear power station I would like to generate discussions about the connection between energy production and consumption. Theoretically I have been inspired by the evocative writings on dust by Jacques Derrida and Carolyn Steedman as well as Karen Barad’s comprehensive introduction to the physicist Niels Bohr’s quantum physics.
The project, first of all, attempts to illuminate the work of dust in the overlooked aspects of everyday life. The project does not stop there but it will significantly interfere with the discourse of energy policies and will generate a meaningful junctures between scientific and artistic discourses by involving a wider public.
Dust is egalitarian as a variety of material residues of organic and inorganic matters are observed as equally dust. However, dust conveys and carries memories of what it used to belong to. In this regard, dust as matter is a carrier of significations which is about to become invisible (non-)matter.
By collecting, classifying, displaying and producing a museum with the local residents of Southampton, and building on the collection of dust, the work illuminates the aspect of production of knowledge and its political power. At the same time as it is a fictional discipline, it demonstrates the power of imagination. As a temporary museum of dust, it will collect the future in the sense of producing a situational installation in which a disaster tourist can enter a control room covered with dust in a disused nuclear power station assuming years have passed since the power station had been decommissioned.
Southampton was severely bombed during the Second World War. The tragedies, in Chernobyl and Fukushima are perhaps not comparable to the post war recovery in Southampton. And yet, it is a city with a scar and the wound is not yet healed. The local residents of Southampton and the neighbouring areas are keenly aware of the potentiality of art in society but they have never been offered an engaging opportunity to take advantage of the currency of contemporary approaches in art. I would like to let dust emerge from obscurity of everyday. In turn, I would like the local residents to emerge empowered as they discover dust as a signification of an egalitarian and Utopian force which resides in every corner of the city.