Notes & Links from Tutorials:
Notes & Links from Tutorials:
So this weekend I’ve been brainstorming some new ideas for an fmp, having felt pretty low after the tutorials this week. I’m so happy I finally feel excited about something again! I just decided to quit all the overthinking and just think of “something that would be really cool” to do in the space I have. Instead on focusing on ticking exactly all the boxes of the perfect concept I realised I need as much time as possible in the actual making of the installation. I’m planning to present two new ideas tomorrow, the beginnings of which I’ve started to research.
The first idea is still a play on the idea of dislocation through looking at living spaces all over the world. I’ve come across some statistics indicating how much space each individual has on average and the results are quite interesting. Spatially illustrating this data would allow me to tackle something that is globally relevant, as well as my interest for space & identity. I imagine inviting a viewer to stand at the centre of a space surrounded by a circle of light, which could either be a circular projection from the ceiling or a ring of fluorescent tubes. When a country is selected (somehow), the ring expands and contracts to indicate the average living space of the country in question. This could potentially use sound as well?
A different iteration of the same idea would be focusing more on personal space across different countries, which could be interesting if I use binaural sound to test the comfort zones of my audience. The space would be resolved similarly, but with headphones hanging from the ceiling at the centre of the space. The first example is more focused on light I would say, the second gives more attention to sound.
A completely separate idea I’ve had is still playing with changing dimensions but this time with auxetic structures, which I’ve been fascinated by since I was a child. Basically they are materials whose structure enables them to increase in length and in width when stretched, instead of increasing in length and shrinking in width.
I’ve been thinking about creating a large structure using this method, something you can walk into, like a dome. It could be really interesting if I managed to get the dome moving, shrinking and expanding around you. It would be really interesting if I managed to sync the movement to the viewers heart beat or breathing.
I’m not sure how this could be done but someone recommended that coding with MAX would be a good place to start.
Examining the movement of the sphere, even in the simple plastic toy pictured below, I notice that the midpoint of the dome always remains at the same point. Effectively, one would only require a driving motor moving one of the sides in and away from the central point, and the rest of the structure would follow. Definitely ambitious but doable? This idea wouldn’t need darkness or soundproofing, just incredible precision in the making and some knowledge of coding.
I’ve found some other people who are working with similar concepts:
Yesterday I went to see The Flipside, a multi-sensory exhibition that one of my favourite studios, T-E-M, worked on. Held at The Old Selfridges Hotel near Bond Street, I had no idea what to really expect from it. For some reason, I booked a tour organised by Google Pixel, which turned out to be an individual tour of the space with a guide who basically tried to get you to fall in love with the Pixel Phone rather than tell you much about the exhibition. I got to use the phone to take the pictures below, but otherwise, I would have much rather taken my time on my own to explore the space. It’s hard to concentrate on understanding things when you’re being watched by someone. So, unless you’re a phone nerd, don’t do the tour. It kind of ruined the exploration of the installations for me. There was enough information for the to do it on my own, the tour didn’t provide much else, it was just clearly an advertising plot, which I understand but also wasn’t in the mood for at all. I wanted to know more about the work and the artists, but I could only find out the resolution of the panorama camera feature… I admit it was my fault for booking, but I like to go to exhibitions to get away from phones, not look at them more, I do that plenty already.
That being said, the space was beautiful. The whole thing was structured around these different circular pods that had been given to different studios/artists to work with, each exploring in their own way the idea of luxury. A few of them, like the one of the water company Byredo, was also clearly meant to be just advertising the brand, only having a thin concept stuck to it as an afterthought. Rather than that luxury interpretations themselves, I was more interested and impressed with how the space came together as a whole, with beautiful lighting and materials. The whole thing was stylish and atmospheric, just how I like it. It fit beautifully in the concrete space that housed it.
I will definitely be keeping this in mind when thinking about my spatial approach to my final major project. In fact, my initial ideas were very close to the installation I saw here by Gareth Pugh, who made a short one-shot film of a beach he remembered as a child and playing it on two opposite screens that envelop the viewer. I particularly like the fact that he used sand on the floor, to make it that extra bit more believable & immersive.
Tuesday I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate an important day at the Barbican by watching the much anticipated Complicitè piece The Encounter, lead by Complicitè founder Simon McBurney. I only learnt about Complicitè last year after I’d coincidentally been to the Barbican, this time to see Robert Lepage’s 887, a performance that has definitely left its mark on me. After not being incredibly blown away by the Stockhausen show at the Barbican (it was good, just not as good!), I didn’t think my expectations would be exceeded this much.
The Encounter was a wonderful multi-sensory storytelling of a journey of a man into the Amazon. I really don’t know how to otherwise define it. It was funny, and serious, at the right times, and Simon McBurney, the only actor in the whole piece, was personable and excellent all around. McBurney didn’t just write an play but he created a theatrical experience that was incredibly engaging and innovative. The key technique that was used throughout is what’s called Binaural Sound, which enabled the audience members to have a direct experience of the story, experiencing it first hand through hundreds of sets of headphones fixed to the seats. Binaural recordings retain a spatial quality to them that allows the listeners to hear the sounds as if they’re coming from a specific location around them in space, which is totally fictional. This technique was extremely appropriate in The Encounter since the whole show played with the themes of reality and fiction, often blurring the line between the two.
However I try to describe the experience, it’s not going to do it justice whatsoever. I would recommend to anyone to go experience it themselves, and be ready to have their mind blown. I was incredibly inspired, and my understanding of sound phenomena and storytelling has definitely been enriched. I’m now thinking of playing with sound techniques like this myself, maybe in my final major project or otherwise in the future at some point.
A current project by TEM Studio which I’ll be visiting this Friday at the Old Selfridges Hotel: “Whether using polished metal surfaces or clear glass, human beings have enjoyed admiring their reflections for centuries. In this episode, Josh and Chuck reflect on the types, mind-melting physics, superstitions and rather interesting history of mirrors.”
The BBC has released a whole library of sounds for personal non-commercial projects. Check them out here: http://www.factmag.com/2018/04/20/bbc-sound-effects-archive-download/
I found an interesting new studio in Barcelona called Ells Studio. Not quite sure how to define them:
I’ve still been investigating the ethics of war and conflict, attempting to somehow make sense of what’s going on in the world. It’s a huge thing to try and tackle, but I see it very much as a personal investigation: I’m trying to understand why things are the way they are in the world. I’ve never really thought about politics or war very much, other than passively absorbing the news like most people. I’ve recently have felt a need to try to understand the driving forces of conflict, by posing questions from a philosophical standpoint. I’m not sure if this will end up being part of my final project somehow, but for sure I think the project should be true to me and my interests. I could never do a project that’s completely separate of what’s going on with me as a human being, although I fear I will reach a point where my work will become too closely linked with what’s going through my head. I feel a need to share my curiosity with other people, I want to build connections with people based on a mutual sense of wonder for what surrounds us and the absurd phenomena of the world. Yet I fear I will reach a point when I will realise that my work maybe can’t make up for my social shortcomings.
I found a nice quote by A.C. Grayling in the book I’m reading, The Challenge of Things:
“… if there is one thing we can know with certainty it is that we must keep thinking and discussing … We have to have the courage to keep thinking in the face of all that confuses and disconcerts us.” That is kind of the ethos of my final project. I invite people to join me in questioning. Questioning what? Well, I’ve still gotta figure out that part.
Grayling, A. (2016). The Challenge of Things. 2nd ed. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Also, I’ve checked out We Chose to Speak of War and Strife by John Simpson, a book all about the lives of foreign correspondents. I found the section on the Vietnam War particularly insightful and thought-provoking, to say the least. A recommended read.
Simpson, J. (2016). We chose to speak of war and strife. 1st ed. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
I listened to this quick programme on BBC 3 on Saturday that coincidentally brought together some of my more niche interests, if I can even call them that. I have always been fascinated by Japanese and oriental culture in general, which the programme combined with an investigation into Design and Sound, two things that seem to be occupying about 90% of my mental space these days. The starting point for the conversation was the short philosophical book entitled In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, which I read a few years ago all in one go one afternoon. It was a nice little read about the importance of time and imperfections, which manifest themselves differently in the West as they do in Eastern cultures. I encourage you to listen to this 30 min programme, just as a nice little introduction but also as a sort of expansion of Tanizaki’s literary project.
One of the key points the programme tackles is the idea of the MA , a sort of meaningful silence that is part of the essence of Japanese minimalism. Minimalism that isn’t just a way of designing as we usually think of it, but rather a totally encompassing way of life and philosophy. It is this MA that creates meaning and emotion, that adds contrast to words and presence. The silence outlines the sound so that it can be understood. Tanizaki is one of the many who believes, quite rightly in my opinion, that this concept doesn’t exists in Western culture. The presenter explains that, in a way, Western music is predictable in the way that each note clearly precedes the next, creating a sense of expectation in the listener that is quickly fulfilled. This idea is at the heart of Japanese minimalism, which clearly has its effects on musical compositions, which to a Western audience will appear overly abstract and unpredictable. Experimental composers such as Morton Feldman, Erik Satie, John Cage, Philip Glass, Steve Reich among many others, have brought these ideas over to the west in their music, although they are seen as somewhat sporadic outliers.
One of the most pleasant surprises to come out of the BBC programme was the voice of experimental sound artist Naomi Kashiwagi, who I’d never come across before but who I now really admire in her hands-on open-ended approach to music. This is her website: