The Story of Art School and the Red Tape

With the degree show just over the hill and everyone around me starting to get tense I find myself dealing with institutionalized red tape (a-fucking-gain). Why do we student artists have to deal with so many barriers when all we are trying to achieve is some form of conclusion to the past four years of blood, sweat, and tears.

Let me put this in context for you. I, for my degree show, have proposed to exhibit four works, two instillations, one photographic/sound piece, and one performance. Originally I proposed to hold most of these within the building at Grays (excluding one of the instillations), but later decided to adapt one of the works so that it could be held outside so not to take up space unnecessarily for a one-off performance. Personally I thought I was being considerate, doing both the school and my fellow students a favour. But all I have seemed to have encountered after proposing this is a massive pile of the proverbial ‘red tape’. Their response was this…

“Anything between both buildings for the duration of the show is problematic – power, security, equipment left outside overnight etc etc…. The quad is a more controllable and safe area but it’s starting to get busy in there.”

I really think they failed to understand the whole notion of this being a ‘one-off’ performance. I only plan to do the performance once… I say again once. Not for the “duration of the show”. And I am now being encouraged not to do the work, something I have spent a long time researching, organizing, and developing so that it could be accommodated. Their main concerns seem to be power, equipment, and that ultimate failure of legislation, health and safety (the legislation of common sense). And I am still unsure as to what major health and safety issues I will encounter. Someone tripping on the cables? Someone eating a cable? Both seems as likely to me. For me it seems to be a waste of both my time and my energy to put so much into this for it to be cancelled just because their worried someone might cause themself a ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moment.

The next problem was the suggestion to hold it in the quad. As I explained in both my proposals is that this performance is extremely loud and would therefore impose on the other work being held there, another reason I considered and the main reason I asked to do it outside the Grays building.

Basically I think the only thing that is causing any problems with this work is the school seeming inability to both understand what I am proposing and they’re lack of encouragement. They clearly have ‘better’ things to deal with. All I want is to feel I achieved something with my time at Grays, and to be able to share that with the public (the whole point in making art, no?)

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Bridge of Dee Flood Tunnels

This is the first in a series of works I have started where I go to public spaces, some obvious some obscure, and create a piece of music using the objects and natural resonations of the chosen spaces that I feel represent each individual space and my experience of it.

I chose the flood tunnels underneath the Bridge of Dee because it has always intrigued me as a space, the long damp chambers interconnecting, twisting, a labyrinth hidden under the foundations of Aberdeen city. As with all spaces of this nature it remains unoccupied: both humans and animals aware of the dangers when the rivers tide is high. Yet it still has an aura of activity, a life not of the conventional city scape, a calm activity, a soft touch. The tunnels had a fluid ambience, the echos drifting through the space subtlety caressing the hard walls always dwindling before escaping from the cold caverns.

Bridge of Dee Flood Tunnels

And Here It Comes… The Degree Show

Well it’s that time with the big end of degree show looming its ugly, but very exciting, head. I believe it  is costumery for 4th years to begin to freak out at this point, or at least start worrying that everything they’ve done is not good enough, or that they’ll never get everything finished in time, or that they’ll have to compromise their work too much to accommodate their fellow students, etcetera etcetera. So why is it I do not feel worried? Even though I’m just back from holiday where I done no practical work, though my workbook is filling up nicely, and still have a fair amount to do?

I think reasons for my calm state are that I am one of the lucky 4th years who has a clear idea of where they are, what they are doing, and what they need to do to get there. I don’t want to seem over confident because I am considering the worries listed in the previous paragraph and understand that my work may have to go through some drastic changes due to the issue of space, but I think that if I started to freak out now I wouldn’t use my time nearly as efficiently as I should be at this point. I still have quite a bit to do, but, I used my time away to look at where I was from an outsiders point of view and began to grasp the extent of what lay in front of me, both practically and conceptually. And for the first time in my life I saw the advantages of lists. Lists allow you to see the volume of what you have left to do, they convert the magnitude of tasks into easily categorized chunks which you can then set about organising into the most practical plan of action. Praise be to the list!

The only issue I find myself dealing with is that I keep having more and more ideas for works that I want to do for the degree show. But can I really achieve all of them? I guess its a matter of prioritising the ones that are both achievable and fit in with the work I have already been creating. It would be nonsensical of me to start giving up my time to works that are so fresh and out of context to the works I am currently trying to ‘resolve’, as I have been trained to call it. But I do feel it would be a waste not to at least try them out. I don’t want to give up on an idea which could grow into something striking. But I know for a fact that I am not the first, or the last, 4th year art student who has, or is, having this dilemma. All I can actively do is give the ideas a small, but fair, go and from this determine the best course of action.

So onwards and upwards to the finale of my educational life.

Something Profound I Wrote About Sound

“There exists a universal truth about sound, one that no creature can escape, one that will always accompany us throughout our lives: an archetypal unity elevated above the plain of awareness. Sound penetrates where no other sense will dare, it occupies space and time ubiquitously, its presence illusive yet monumental in its emotive proficiency.  Sound is fundamental to both how we experience the world and how the world familiarizes ourselves. Sound exists as language and noise, as harmony and cacophony, even as information and sensation.”

The Organism of Art Practice

I’ve been looking at the patterns within my work recently, at rhythms within the themes and purposes, and I have come to see one recurring desire that I have input but never taken full notice of. The desire to create a living space. Work where all the elements, be them sculptural, video, audio or performed (including the involvement of the audience) are, for me, genomes within the molecular structure of the work. Each piece consists of a series of patterns, like a DNA sequence, a system that is somewhat self-organized by the experience of the work itself, or in genetic terms ‘external stimuli.’ I try to use bodies as the separate nucleotide within the DNA molecule, each standing as it’s own complex system whilst becoming a singular part of a greater complexity as well, each consciousness a trigger in the greater complexity of the work, much as each nucleotide is a trigger for the greater structure of the DNA molecule. To simplify I want my work to be alive, or at least have the essence of life.

But how does one create the billions of years of evolution that gave birth to the cell within the constraints of art? My approach has always been to use the senses as the structure of the cell, as if, say, the sculptural element (touch/spacial awareness) is the cell wall, the video (sight) the nucleus and the sound (audible) as the enzymes, and to see what happens when one or more of these parts is limited, distorted or turned of all together, much as scientists do literally. With this in mind my latest work in progress will try to capture these notions and processes, and will be created to work with the patterns and structures formed by the different senses, to mutate and evolve to suit its environment.

Art for me is life, a coherent and conscious entity formed from the thoughts and actions of creative man.

Delusions of Direction

I have come to a point in my practice, and life, where I’m questioning the point in my contempory practice ‘what is the goal?’, ‘is this really what I want to do with my life?’, etcetera ecetera. It comes after an unexpected resit of the last semester of year 3 on my course over summer in which I had many hours to discuss internally about where I felt my desires and creativity really fell, in art or in music?

Now at the beginning of 4th year, ‘the big one’, I am still unsure as to where I am seriously going with my practice, and in some ways don’t know if I’ll ever be sure. How can any creative person be sure of their goal when creativity is such a subjective and wholly temporal state? Writers have ‘writers block’, as artists have a form of ‘creative block’, and I assume all creative people fall prey to this lack of inspiration. I find the difference for me is my personal block comes willingly… well not willingly, but because of my own decisions to question the nature of my practice.

After a lengthy talk with one of my tutors, who in many ways is in the same situation (for lack of a better word) as me in that they are both a working art practitioner and a working musician, I still have no idea where to go, only that the possibility of a merging, a synthesis of my interests and skills, is both inspiring and intrinsic to finding my direction, or just a direction for my practice.

Honestly Channel 4 Is Truely Fucked Up!

Channel 4 have started a new educational series recently about the inner workings of some of the worlds largest animals. ‘Inside Natures Giants’ seems to be a bog-standard labotamy show, where the presenter, Mark Evans, talks you through the live disection of one large animal, describing what is being done and what purpose of the organ ect. is and any unique propperties they may have evolved considering the animals lifestyle.

But what sruck me the most about the show was the dual irony that seemed to posses so much of the editing and general visual language of the documentary, something I’m truely shocked the producers didn’t pick up. For example at the start of each episode we open with a shot of an animals corpse lain on the opperating table(s), the animal is covered by a white sheet, a respectful and senier gesture we often give to the dead and so steriotypical of modern T.V. language, though when thought about it is a strange anthramophic gesture to commit considering the inentions of the cast… to dismember and paraid the animals intestines for our viewing pleasure. Not only this, while the animal is covered and the show is introduced generaly by pressenter Evans, a projection of that animal living in the wild is cast upon the ironically covered corpse, almost mocking the dead beast going ‘look at what fun living is, this is what you’ll never do again.’

Maybe its just me but find this a rather large decoding to miss before the show is aired, or maybe I’m just looking far too into it? All i know is that Channel 4 appear to enjoy the mocking and parading of dead wild animals.