Tuesday, September 29, 2020

4th World Congress of Psychogeography, 2020

For the second year running I submitted a proposal to participate in the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography, which is usually held at a number of venues in West Yorkshire centered around Huddersfield University. 


This year, due to the situation resulting from the COVID-19 epidemic, a version of the congress was organized in which the majority of events would be conducted and participated in online. A map of a virtual town centre was created with each location linking to the various content.

My accepted proposal was to broadcast a recording of my performance ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ which had been recorded on the Hickson Steps, Sydney, Australia. My work was found by clicking on the town University icon and the details were listed towards the bottom of the page along with a note to say that the performance was accessible at any time during the conference.


Unfortunately, however, my contribution was not listed on the main congress programme which made me worry that this would greatly limit the number of visitors to my linked performance. In fact the viewings recorded in the analytics of my Youtube Channel were disappointingly low.

I later responded to a call to participate in a post-conference interview via Zoom and spent around 30 minutes discussing the conference and the story behind my own work. 


As many of the conference events were online this year, I was fortunate to be able to see much more of the content than I had last year. The range of events and activities, from recorded performances, films, live-stream discussions was impressive and especially so given the difficulty of arranging the conference under the current circumstances. The organisers did a magnificent job.

As I shared during the interview, it is my wish that in the future I will be able to make the journey across from Asia in future years to attend the conference in person.

The Congress website can be found here.

Virtual Town Map

Conference Programme

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

A playlist of ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ performances can be viewed here.

QR Link to Recorded Performance of 
'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back', 

Hickson Steps, Sydney, Australia.

Activities accessible within the 'University' area, Part 1

Activities accessible within the 'University' area, Part 2

Recording of the performance at the Hickson Steps, Sydney, Australia

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Deveron Projects' Slow Marathon 2020

As is stated on the Deveron Projects website (https://www.deveron-projects.com/about/slow-marathon/), the Slow Marathon is "Deveron Projects' annual 42km/26 miles themed walking event, composed of a conceptually led walk, expanding upon a theme or an idea related to our curated programme, in effect taking it for a walk. It is followed by a day of talks, films, food and discussion, in relation to the chosen project. Celebrating the human pace, it is both an endurance event as well as a poetic act that brings together friendship, physical activity and the appreciation of our landscapes in their geo-political settings.

Slow Marathon began in 2012 in collaboration with Ethiopian artist Mihret Kebede who attempted to walk from her home in Addis/Ethiopia to Huntly. The Addis to Huntly and back walk, was abandoned as visa restrictions, border controls and deserts got in the way. Instead, Mihret decided to walk the total 5,850 miles distance with many people to reach the distance metaphorically".

In 2020 I decided to participate in the annual event and registered to log my walks for the duration of the project. The project has now reached completion with 319 walkers registering 40544.94 kilometres in total. I personally walked 206km, which equates to 4.9 marathons. 

I walked mostly in the morning though I also went out for several evening walks, all of which I enjoyed enormously, revelling in the opportunity to walk unhindered through the local neighbourhood meeting lizards, birds, bats, dogs, cats, chickens and a duck along the way.

For anyone who combines walking within their work, whether it forms the artwork itself or as an arena in which to generate work or even as an opportunity to formulate or clarify ideas, I would recommend becoming involved in future Slow Marathon events. 


As the walk progressed, Glasgow based artist Man Tajik conducted a related project: 'Under One Sky', https://www.deveron-projects.com/under-one-sky/

Iman intends on amassing a collection of sky photographs that were taken while out walking. Considering the many walkers participating in the Slow Marathon project around the world, the cumulative assembly of sky photographs would assist in constructing a global artwork representing the same sky that we all live under regardless of where we live in the world.

In support of Iran's project I took 20 photographs of the sky during my walks and uploaded them to his project dropbox. Below are the sky photographs I took:

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Shadow walk

Following the previous two posts regarding the changes in our observations of our immediate surroundings caused by the COVID-19 situation, I would like to present the current progress of another photographic project series.

This project grew out of noticing my own shadow as I made my way around my local area of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It occurred to me that my shadow is constantly transforming its shape, form and nature as the day progressed. Sometimes it almost disappeared as though frightened or shy while at other times it grew larger, more well-defined and sometimes it became bolder, crept along the floor and up nearby walls, looking down upon me. 

I decided to document these changes and here I would like to present the first 12 states of my shadow recorded photographically. Eventually they will also form the subject of an e-book.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

'Leaves' - A photographic Project

One effect of the recent COVID-19 crisis has been an emphasis on a much closer observation of our actions and of what is happening around us. Despite previously thinking that I was fairly good at noticing interesting and unusual occurrences happening around me, I have found that during the last few months I have been noticing small details so much more. 

My previous post detailed a project I started that documented plants and trees that had shattered their pots and planters in their effort to expand and grow. In this post I would like to present another of these projects, initiated by the same circumstances.

This project I have named, simply, 'Leaves'. During my local walks I had observed many such leaves lying on the ground and as I felt that they had an intrinsic beauty that was being ignored I took it upon myself to archive them. Once I have located a particularly interesting leaf I do not touch it, adjust it or edit the surrounding scene in any way. I only photograph the leaf if I am completely happy about the setting. If something seems to be spoiling the frame of the shot, I abandon the exercise rather than 'cleaning up' the arrangement before me. It has to be a totally natural shot otherwise I continue walking and looking.

As with the 'Breakout' project, I will continue to collect and archive the photographs long after this post and my aim is to present many of the photographs later in an e-book. Once these e-books have been compiled I will present them on my website and provide a note and link here in a subsequent blog post.

Here are the first 8 of the leaf photographs:

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Breakout - nature escaping confinement

During the last few months, due to the restrictions caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus,  everyone's attention has been redirected inward. Our travel, our plans, our expectations have all been reduced along with our horizons. With my own attention being focused more upon what lay around me, close by, I found myself discovering surprising and wonderful situations that had previously gone almost unnoticed. I was driven to record some of the situations I was noticing and the results of these observations are beginning to accumulate and as they do I can take an overview and assess this growing body of data.

For the moment I see these as photographic notes but there is a possibility that I may rework each of the themes into a book / ebook in the future. 
I began collecting observations according to various themes: nature breaking free, fallen leaves, my own shadow...

The first theme I would like to present here I have called 'Breakout'. Nature is all-powerful, unstoppable and knows no bounds. For our own pleasure we habitually attempt to harness and control nature, but this control is short-lived. As I walked around the city I noticed many examples of nature breaking free from the artificial shackles that have held it temporarily secure. I tried to capture the moments when plants, trees or bushes decided enough was enough and broke out from their imprisonment. The examples you see below are the first few I captured photographically. I will continue the collection, posting on my Instagram account and post again here later once the book / ebook has been created.

Friday, June 19, 2020

International Drawing Dialogue Phase 3 - 2019-20 (Third Stage)

The third stage of the drawing dialogue project now draws to a close. This is the final exchange of the current iteration of the project and the four drawings I have just completed will head off to Europe, to the eventual exhibition venue(s).

For this stage I was responding to drawings initiated by Skye Williams in the UK and subsequently worked on by Andrea Thoma. As the third partner of this project it was my role to find a way to respond to what was happening within the drawings and to provide some kind of resolution as I would be the last artist to work on them. 

I had laid out the drawings so they could unroll and begin to suggest the way forward. The two layers worked well together but I could sense that something was needed to 'thread' the two approaches together. This plan became literal as I used gold pained paper thread to stitch the patches of black ink into the composition. To prevent the paper tearing I attached card 'washers' to the back surface and the paper thread was then inserted through these and glued to the paper support. 

Once I had stitched a number of these inked areas I felt that something else was required, similar in nature but not so physical. In this case I decided upon virtual threads of gold paint that performed a similar function to the main ones but in a lighter, more reserved way. The combination of real and virtual threads worked well I thought.

Work on the drawings had been held up for some time as Ho Chi Minh City entered a lock-down due to the COVID-19 situation. I had previously collected a variety of materials with which to experiment and, unfortunately, once I had worked out which combination of technique and material would be the most successful I discovered that the shops supplying these items had already closed. Public transport also ceased, meaning I had to bide my time until things started moving again in the city before resuming work. 

The drawings will now be sent to the UK to join all the other assembled work in this year's drawing dialogue project. Together with the other artists participating in the project I am hopeful that an exhibition venue can be found soon. Despite the interruptions to the creative process, I enjoyed working on these drawings very much and I look forward to seeing what the other participants have come up with.

Drawing 1: Skye / Skye + Andrea / Skye + Andrea + Patrick

Drawing 2: Skye / Skye + Andrea / Skye + Andrea + Patrick

Drawing 3: Skye / Skye + Andrea / Skye + Andrea + Patrick 

Drawing 4: Skye / Skye + Andrea / Skye + Andrea + Patrick

Once the exhibition venues have been confirmed I will post again with details of these and I also plan to post an overview of the entire Drawing Dialogue 3 project. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Teaching Online

In the past I had sought out a number of paths towards studying online and had enrolled onto short programs organised under the 'Coursera' banner. These courses were written and taught by lecturers at institutions around the world and in structure were quite similar.

I actually enrolled onto these courses to learn how such courses are organised, administered and what kind of experience learners may receive.
On reflection, the experience was mixed to say the least. Some of the courses were ridiculously easy and yet others demanded a number of hours of dedicated study in order to complete. When I first began my investigation the courses were free and I automatically received a digital certificate stating that I had successfully completed the course along with a type of transcript which stated the exact % of my overall 'grade', a kind of GPA I guess. Later, these statements were removed unless a fee was paid. However, it was still possible to audit the course for free, but no certificate was provided for this.
Apart from the huge fluctuation in the level of difficulty in the courses I took, the most annoying aspect was the peer assessment (the only assessment). I assume it was possible to partake in the assignments for free as many participants did not take the assignments seriously and submitted silly pieces of work as their submission. I did smile when I opened an assignment that had been designated for me to grade, only to find a single sentence that called into question President Trump's sanity, but I wondered how much attention my own assignment was receiving, considering I had spent two evenings putting it together.
I came away from this 'fieldwork' with a mixed opinion of online learning.

I didn't expect that, as we moved into 2020, I myself would become caught up in online teaching in a much more involved way. The COVID 19 virus spread around the globe and eventually caught up with me here in Vietnam.
As we began our usual 12 week semester, I only met the students once face-to-face in the classroom before the government announced the closure of schools and universities country-wide as part of the lockdown that was ultimately successful in its attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

In contrast I had to watch as my home country, the UK, dithered and procrastinated while the virus spread about the population. At one stage the UK Prime Minister considered doing nothing, allowing the virus to 'move through' the population, as though if everyone stayed still and quiet the virus would slip through without noticing the people around it, and without infecting them. Later this was changed to 'of course, many of our loved ones may die', and eventually to the knowledge that if nothing was done there was a strong possibility of a terrifying death toll. The result of this lack of action means the UK now has the highest death toll in Europe while Vietnam, early adopters of the lock-down approach, have none.

The move to online teaching was not easy or without problems. This is to be expected. Entire courses that had been designed specifically for face-to-face delivery now had to be adapted instantly to online/virtual mode. Some courses could not adapt. Courses that required specialist equipment based on campus were impossible to run virtually. However, most courses found a way to move forward and most of them thrived. This success was down to the energy and education of the teaching staff. The ingenuity, imagination and resourcefulness of my colleagues has been astonishing.

For my part, I was teaching an art/design history based course relating developments in art & design to developments in materials and technology and also the changing attitudes of society set against developments in history. This means looking at a lot of case-studies and getting through a lot of material in class. Usually this has been achieved successfully via class discussion. As each topic was opened out a discussion was provoked that explored the various aspects relevant in each case without it being presented in a boring list-type format. The most difficult part of this process to replicate online was the spontaneity of the discussions and the most enjoyable aspect for me as a teacher was the unpredictable direction of the discussions. There was no script to follow so I would tend to analyze and deconstruct each issue as they arose, quite exciting. Hopefully this helped to demonstrate to the students that these issues are not pre-scripted and it is essential for them to look at each case carefully and respectfully before constructing a personal opinion, later backed up and supported by evidence.

The main platform I I had to us for my online teaching was 'Collaborate Ultra' and I had up to 25 students online at the same time during my sessions. I would upload a prepared lecture for the students to read through beforehand. This would give them time to become familiar with the proposed topics, names, dates, terms and would allow them the opportunity to conduct some research prior to the session (an approach adopted from flipped learning).

During the actual session I would begin by reviewing the previous session in order to set the scene for the current one. Then I would choose some of the slides to discuss in more detail, encouraging the students to comment on certain aspects. In the beginning I had one or two students using the microphone to speak but it quickly changed to typed comments and questions in the chat box. One reason for this was the bandwidth. Although the students could be hosted together, if all our videos were active, people speaking and slides being shared at the same time, the system stuttered a little. I did initially try to break the students into groups but the task of duplicating the session and repeating everything several times was ridiculous. This meant the spontaneity that had been so successful in class was almost impossible. However, it was possible to work through the sessions, clarify issues, answer questions and check that the topics had been understood. I was flexible with the time, prolonging the session until I felt everyone was satisfied and confident to move on with the assignment.
Following the online session I uploaded more background information to the topics covered online and posted a couple of videos along with provocative questions that acted as a catalyst for a more leisurely conversation in the discussion board.

Besides the extra time needed to cover these approaches, I also received almost double the usual number of emails from students. At first I feared these emails may have been written due to something lacking from my delivery of information online but it turned out that the majority were seeking reviews of their assignment drafts. If students are actively seeking to improve the depth and refinement of their assignments then I consider this as a positive sign.

Other teachers found alternative ways of adapting to online teaching, depending on the nature of their course and their personal teaching style. I feel it is important for teachers to be individuals, for students to feel a noticeable change in the rhythm and character of the classroom when they enter a different class. This is a reminder that each teacher has different experiences, background, often comes from a different culture. All of these differences help to enrich the students' learning and that, I feel, is our goal.

It was a new and rewarding experience but I have to say, hand on heart, I look forward to meeting students face-to-face in future.