Saturday, September 14, 2019

10th International Conference on The Image

For the 10th International Conference on The Image, this year held at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK on 5-6th September, I decided to submit a conference poster for inclusion.

Being preoccupied by performative walking in recent years, I thought it would be good to compile a collection of working methods that could be engaged in and at the same time to present examples of these methods that I had personally experienced.

I titled my poster 'Strategies for Performative Walks', created in collaboration with Nina, Yiu Lai Lei (with whom I have collaborated on several recent projects) and set out to present these strategies. To fully illustrate each method I presented a representative image, short description and a QR code that would direct people to a more in-depth blog post. 

The strategies I outlined were as follows: a) Photography, b) Videography, c) Live-stream Broadcast, d) Sound recording, e) Social Media posts and f) Colour Collection.

The strategies were introduced in isolation but, of course, they could be combined to create multi-faceted projects. 

The abstract for the poster read as follows: 

Walking can be thought of as a medium just like painting, printmaking or sculpture so the crucial question is: What happens once the walk commences? There would usually be a strategy employed when approaching the walk unless the plan is to deliberately dispense with strategies. The strategy can involve observations and responses to the location the walk takes place within or, alternatively, can relate to discussions with fellow walkers or even communication with other participants walking simultaneously in remote locations. Thesis communications, along with observations of the locale, can be transmitted and/or recorded to form an archive or even the basis for a future, related piece of work. This poster outlines six strategies for approaching performative walks.

Conference banner

Conference Poster

Sunday, September 8, 2019

4th World Congress of Psychogeography, 2019

The 4th World Congress of Psychogeography was held on the first weekend in September 2019 at the following venues in West Yorkshire: Huddersfield on Friday 6th, Dewsbury on Saturday 7th and Marsden on Sunday 8th.

I have never classed myself as a true psychogeographer but it has occurred to me that many of the activities associated with psychogeography do have connections to the methods I have been drawn to in my performance work and, with walking as a primary element in my work, it seems to be the closest approach that has been defined as an area of study.

With this in mind I have been actively seeking opportunities for me to present my work whenever such appropriate opportunities arise. The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography was immediately attractive to me for a couple of reasons. First, the venues were located in my home county of Yorkshire in the UK, and secondly I noticed that a number of notable figures within the field of psychogeography were either presenting work or initiating events and activities.

I secured a time-slot between 12:00-12:30pm on Friday 6th September to present a live-stream performance to an assembled audience of around 60 people who had gathered in the Oastler Building of Huddersfield University. This was an opportunity for me to enact a new episode of my on-going saga 'No holiday', this time conducted in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam, on the wide 'walking street' Nguyễn Huệ.

Originally the Kinh Lon canal that allowed goods to be brought from the Saigon River, into the heart of the city, it was renamed the Charter Canal from around 1861. The canal was subsequently filled in in 1887 and turned into a boulevard in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The boulevard grew increasingly busy until April 2015, when it was converted into a pedestrian street.

An introduction was made to the assembled audience at Huddersfield University before the live-stream broadcast commenced and I began my walk.

Beginning at 6:00pm (Vietnam time) my walk took me down the northwestern edge of the street, walking towards the river until I reached the busy Đường Tôn Đức Thắng road at which point I turned and made my way up the centre of Nguyễn Huệ, past the joggers, the students, young couples, hawkers, tourists and street performers.

During the walk dusk arrived and the lighting on the street changed dramatically. Early in the walk it began raining but luckily despite the forecast of heavy rain, it lifted and allowed me to continue walking unencumbered by the umbrella.

The performance went well and, according to the organisers, was well received back in the UK. I always hope that audiences can relax, suspend their expectations and enjoy the meditative walk with me, wherever I happen to be in the world.

It was a great honour for me to be a participant of the Congress and I thank the organisers for allowing me to showcase my work in this way.

The Congress website can be found here.

The full conference programme can be viewed here.

A recording of the live-stream performance can be viewed here on my YouTube Channel.

A full playlist of 'No holiday' performances can be viewed here.

One-page Congress Programme

Recording of live-stream performance

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Layer Drawing Project

The development of work can be a logical process, progressing in a methodical linear way as ideas are unraveled and understood. This would continue in a similar fashion if attention is focused on the journey and what the direction of the next step should be.

My own experience, however, is a lot more chaotic, messy and unruly but no less enjoyable or, importantly, productive.

I have developed an approach in which, at almost every stage, there are multiple possibilities, possible directions, appropriate decisions and therefore solutions. There is, of course, a central element that does progress, develop and arrive a resolution but in addition to these multiple starting points or as I see them, possible 'threads' that can be returned to in the future and then investigated more thoroughly.

The most efficient way to keep track of all these possible threads is to have notebooks around in which to record the alternative ideas so that they may be taken up later. Without these notes many of the additional ideas may be forgotten and never taken up. What waste that is.

When initiating a series of drawings as participation in the Drawing Dialogue 2 project, I started 4 drawings by covering part of a sheet off paper in marks that resembled either 'scribbles' or unknown calligraphic characters, depending on one's attitude. Theses drawings of mine were then worked on by two other partners in the project until a final resolution was reached.

Later, I thought back to these initiatory drawings as I wished to investigate the method a little further than I had at the time. I began laying down these proto calligraphic marks using a light HB pencil and then worked on top of them with a darker pencil, B or perhaps 2B. I was attracted to the effect of having multiple layers of marks of varying intensity and boldness. The resulting image resembled a kind of palimpsest in which marks from the different layers could be read intermittently through the various layers. I tried making some drawings in one of my notebooks, initially as a solid block of marks but then trying leave part of the drawing with some of the marks but with not all the layers superimposed one on another. With each drawing the section that was not covered by all the layers was laid out formally so the number of layers put down could be easily detected simply by counting them as they were revealed in the more open section. For convenience, and for want of a better term I simply called these works 'Layer Drawings'.

It is important to remember that this was not my primary project and so the work on the drawings was done sporadically, whenever I had some free time and whenever I remembered to return to the drawings. I was also working on a journal article, a conference poster, several performances, a photographic project and a sculpture. I juggled these projects according to relevant deadlines and so some of these projects are still unfinished (especially the ones without a firm deadline).

Up to this moment (17 August 2019) there are 5 configurations of the 'Layer Drawing' approach recorded in my notebooks and one that has been realised on a slightly larger sheet of paper that was made to investigate how the drawn marks, and the experience of making them, change as the scale is increased.

In future I shall post further updates to this project which runs in the background to my other work.

First, the 5 A5 notebook images:

July 2018

August 2018

September 2018

September 2018

August 2019

...and here is the slightly larger (43cm(h) x 32.5cm(w)) experiment:

October 2018

Saturday, July 20, 2019

International Drawing Dialogue Phase 3 - 2019-20

The third episode of the International Drawing Dialogue begins and this time I have been partnered with two artists who are based in the UK: Skye Williams and Andrea Thoma.

As with previous episodes, each artist initiates four A2 size drawings before sending them to the next artist to work on. These drawings are then forwarded to the final artist, ending up with 12 drawings that each display contributions by all 3 three artists.

For the four drawings I initiated, I looked to some of the work I have previously been working on. In preparation for 3 of my previous 'No holiday' walking performances I had created maps as I explored the possible routes for the walk. These maps became the basis for the current set of drawings, two relating to the walk in the Dorsoduro district of Venice, Italy, one relating to the walk on Cheung Chau Island in Hong Kong and the fourth relating to the recent walk conducted in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The configuration of the maps were modified slightly as they 'found' their position within the paper surface and therefore took the first step towards their new life, existing independently of the original reference. I also only took the images far enough to make a start without finalising anything or rendering anything too difficult to modify. It can be tricky finding the balance with this, initiating some kind of image without determining the direction too much so the next contributor has fewer options when working. I tried to ensure that if the subsequent contributors wanted to render some of the marks more concrete, they could, but if they decided to erase any part of the image, then this could be achieved without too much trouble.

Now, I wait in anticipation of the first set of drawings arriving here in Saigon. 

Below are some of the original references used, followed by the 4 drawings I made:

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The 12th Online Performance Art Festival

For the 12th edition of the Online Performance Art Festival I decided to conduct a second version of my recent performance piece 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back', which I had created and recorded at Sewerby, Bridlington in the UK. I have already written about the motivation for the piece here.

For this performance I needed to find a suitable stretch of steps and this proved to be quite difficult in Ho Chi Minh City. I eventually found an appropriate location, quite close to where I had filmed the District 7 version of 'No holiday'. The height of the steps was much shallower than the steps in Sewerby but the environment was particularly engaging, with a background forming a geometric concrete grid and an overall pale beige aspect.
In Sewerby the focus seemed to be on the distance travelled from the top to the bottom and the inexorable journey away from the intended destination. Here in Ho Chi Minh City, as the run of steps was much shallower, I found the focus shifted more towards the thought process and the decision to take a step up each time even after this action had resulted in moving two steps further down. The performance lasted just under 8 minutes.

Initially there were some problems with 'Cameleon' - the chosen app for the live-streaming. These issues delayed the performance for around 10-15 minutes and was only resolved by restarting the iPhone I was using. Once filming commenced everything fell into place and I was very pleased with the end result.

Dragan Strunjas handled communications and monitored the streaming. His calm manner helped Nina and I to steer through the technical problems and contributed to the successful performance.

Once again it was a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to participate in this Festival. The only way to develop performative work is to perform it and the Festival provides this crucial platform for me to develop my work from concept to realisation.

The recording of the performance can be viewed on the Festival website here.

...or on my YouTube Channel here.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

'No holiday' - York, UK

A recent visit back to the UK to see my parents gave me an opportunity to take my 'No holiday' performance on a further episode, this time in the historic city of York.

The trip to York spanned two days, which didn't give me much flexibility if the weather was not favourable and up to that point on my trip it had not been too good. In fact the first day in York was marred by heavy rain and so filming was postponed until the following day. If the rain persisted, then it would be necessary to film with the aid of umbrellas etc. Luckily, however, the next day opened to bright sunshine and blue sky.

The performance followed the route of the old walls of the city beginning on Lendal Bridge and passing close to the Multi-angular Tower and Yorkshire Museum before mounting the walls themselves at Bootham Bar. The walk then continued clockwise via Monk Bar, Jewbury, The Red Tower, Walmgate Barbican and Fishergate Bar to the Fishergate Postern Tower after which both the Foss and Ouse rivers were crossed before the walls were remounted at Skeldergate.
The route then continued via Victoria Bar and Micklegate Bar before crossing over the roads near to the railway station and descending to the gardens on Station Road where the walk began at Lendal Bridge.

The weather was magnificent for most of the walk and only became cloudy, threatening rain, towards the end. Passing behind York Minster, just after Bootham Bar, I was fortunate enough to be greeted by the Sunday morning peal of bells which enlivened the walk somewhat on this bright Sunday morning.

Besides the expected groups of students on field trips it was also great to see many people out walking the walls and even 4 or 5 energetic runners circumnavigating the old city at a brisk pace.

The recording of the walk can be viewed via the embedded video below or by visiting my YouTube link here.

Friday, June 21, 2019

'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back' - 6.6.2019

I had been considering the potential elements for a new performance within the pages of one of my notebooks and it was earlier this month during a trip to see my parents in the UK that the opportunity came to bring this piece to completion.

The world today seems to be fraught with so many problems that appear to have no current answer. Since the Second World War there had been a vague but nevertheless inexorable move in support of what we could for convenience sake call 'progress'. This development has been hardly ideal but for sure things were improving and we could have been confident that at some time in the future the world would be a fairer and safer place.

However, in more recent years, many of the positive gains made since the war have begun to evaporate or to be more accurate, have begun to be deliberately unravelled. Hatred and conflict have increased in intensity and hurtful intentions towards certain sectors of our societies have reemerged from their hiding places. These hiding places, it seems, were not so deep or remote after all.

On a more personal level, everyone faces challenges and usually we can face those challenges and in many cases overcome them, or if not overcome then at least come to terms with them. Sometimes though the challenges seem to arrive quicker than we can deal with them.

In this new performance I take on the role of another Sisyphean character attempting to scale a flight of stairs. Unfortunately, and frustratingly for him, with each step he takes towards the summit he must take two further steps away leaving him further back than when he made the initial progress. Sisyphus was not a man to give up easily so this new character persists with the task again and again until finally arriving against his wishes at the bottom of the flight of stairs.

Sisyphus was able to enjoy a brief respite from his labours during the short period as the rock rolled back down the hill and he was able to walk down unencumbered by the load, and so our new character takes some time out at the bottom of the stairs to look out at the ocean, finding a moment of calm before possibly beginning again.

The performance was conducted on the steps between the cliff tops and the beach at Sewerby near Bridlington in East Yorkshire, UK on 6th June 2019.