Monthly Archives: May 2010

Funny how thing’s turn out…

27 May 2010

The last few months have been exciting, stimulating and frustrating. I invested so much time and research into my crib piece that some version of it would have to be my degree show exhibit.  Yet as deadlines crept ever closer it seemed that a resolution moved further out of reach. For weeks I felt  close to…something…that I could not quite grasp.  Like a word on the tip of your tongue or the lingering edges of a dream when you first wake up. With each construction my understanding of what it was I wanted to articulate became clearer but the means of doing so continually eluded me.

I had, up until this point, been working with the disassembled parts of the crib.  Now I began to look at methods of assembly. Experimenting with found domestic materials as substitutes for the missing nuts and bolts,  I was still thinking of the finished product in terms of  an installation or sculptural object.  Pleased with the appearance and the way  string, tape and wool, amongst other things seemed to echo the way family connections are made and held together in a haphazard, whatever is necessary way, I wrote my proposal. Ignoring the nagging reservations at the back of my mind.

almost2A last minute tutorial with a new (to me) tutor brought my anxieties to the surface and helped me to put words to some vague thoughts that had been chasing around my mind. I began to consider adding a video to the installation. The video would be a recording of the crib being assembled. The more I thought about it the more I came to realise that it was the act of putting it together that was central rather than the object.

I wrote the video into the final proposal, still imagining that it would be a small addition that would lead the viewer to the main piece – the crib – which would be presented in a dark space lit with one spotlight.

My mobility restrictions meant that I could not film until I had arranged some help. This worked well as Geoff Berrow not only carried equipment and helped to rig the set, but as an experienced camera operator and video maker was able to offer invaluable advice.

I decided to film in a dark space with one fixed camera.  The scene was back lit with some fill being provided from the side.

As soon as the camera began to roll and I began to construct the crib my plans for the degree show changed. I immediately realised that it was the activity of construction that was the work, not the object. Performance was able to provide the means of expressing my thoughts in a way that my previous installation  attempts had failed to do. A look at the raw footage confirmed my thoughts.

I Image8

The final version was edited very little. This was not intended to be video art, but a straight record of  a performance. If I had had the time to experiment I would have used  two cameras and edited the footage together to give a more varied view of the action.

I am not altogether happy with presenting my work as a video for assesment and the degree show as the static nature of the medium does not fully express my intentions.  However I failed to get the required permission to present it as a performance piece. I do intend to look for opportunities to perform It’s not a bit like The Walton’s (and it’s not like Eastender’s, either) after graduation.

One of the unintended consequences of moving from a sculptural installation to a recorded performance at such a late stage is that my I now hate the photograph that I chose to illustrate my work in the degree show catalogue. It represents a version that had yet to evolve into something more although I did not know it at the time.

If you would like to read more about the work I am now exhibiting and to see stills taken during the performance check out my portfolio or go straight here

It’s not a bit like The Walton’s (it’s not like Eastender’s, either)

27 May 2010
It’s not a bit like the Walton’s (it’s not like Eastender’s either), a performance (2010) brings together many of these concerns though an exploration of the tension between the Ideal  Family that is still promoted by both state and media  and our lived experience of the complexity and diversity of human relationships.

As so often with my work, the idea grew out of personal experience. My own family is typical, with blood ties, adoptions, divorce, step families and live in partners complicating the somehow still expected two parents, 2.4 children and various grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (though even the Ideal Family is a far from a simple organism).  All of us bound together by an assortment of emotions from love and friendship to habit and shared experience.

The crib, in which my own children had once slept, relegated to the back of a garage and with its various screws and bolts missing, struck me as an interesting metaphor for the way we try to build family connections and then work to keep them together. In a rich and diverse culture nothing can be taken for granted.  Couples are male and female in any combination as are parents. Children are adopted, fostered or created with or without the intervention of medical technology. Siblings are full, half or step related and all these variations and more I haven’t mentioned, come together as families that love and fight and hate and forgive. No, family is definitely not a bit like The Walton’s!

Beginning as an installation the work has evolved over time as my research helped to mature and clarify my thoughts. The political promise to reward marriage through taxation drew my attention to the way the establishment continued to support a kind of Platonic Ideal that is no longer the only viable pattern. In a society that promotes consumer choice, it seems that not all choices have equal value. Working through several variations I finally realised that just as family building is an activity that happens in real time, I needed to express my ideas through an active rather than a static medium.

During the performance of It’s not a bit like The Walton’s…, the artist is seen sitting amongst various domestic items and crib components. Instructions, a template for what the crib should look like when completed and how it should be built is close at hand. As she begins to assemble the various parts it soon becomes obvious that there are items missing and that she must find substitutes or improvise new ways of making connections. Several times the construction falls apart and she must start again. Finally, she has a stable crib of sorts. Gently checking that the structure is more or less stable, she sits back, content until the moment when it will be necessary to begin again or make repairs or replace a fraying element.

An interesting and important quality of performance is the difficulty of repeating the same action in an identical manner to arrive at an identical result. Each time a performance is given the end result will be something subtly or even markedly different, even though the performer begins with the same template and the same materials.

Just like families.

(i) Still from performance - May 2010

(i) Still from performance - May 2010

(ii) Still from performance - May 2010

(ii) Still from performance - May 2010

(iii) Still from performance - May 2010

(iii) Still from performance - May 2010

(iv) Still from performance - May 2010

(iv) Still from performance - May 2010