Monday, 30 July 2012

Intelligent Trouble at the Olympics

Intelligent Trouble's Podia Project at the Horninam Museum

Last week three members of Intelligent Trouble got together at the Horniman Museum, on the occasion of the Olympic torch passing through Lewisham, and made their contribution to the Podia ProjectDavid Gates, Katy Hackney and myself asked visitors to write down sporting memories and personal accounts of winning and loosing. These messages were then attached to helium filled balloons, secured to the ground, to create podia of different heights on a high spot in the museum’s grounds overlooking South London. 

It was a bright and breezy day, and all went according to plan as the balloons were swept this way and that, making the podia levels indistinguishable from one from another and reaffirming the message shared by most of the participants that it’s not all about winning but simply taking part. 

The inflatable display had many stop and pause over the course of the day, looking at the panoramic view over London, and generally made the most of one of the first sunny days we’ve had in London this summer.  Releasing the balloons at the end of the day and have the messages carried up and away across the city would have been great, but our thoughts went out to the turtles out at sea who fatally mistake remnants of latex balloons floating out at sea for jelly fish, as well as other sea life, and did the environmentally sensible thing by handing them out to the visitors on their way out of the park.  A win-win situation all round.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

make bindweed a bonus

for information on twining and other basketry techniques using hedgerow
and recycled materials, see Practical Basketry Techniques

I made a basket last week using bindweed, the parasitic plant that is the bane of gardeners. I had no idea what it would be like to weave with, but once stripped of its leaves, dried and soaked again, it proved ideal to work with. I posted what I made on dailymades and twitter and this prompted such interest from makers and gardeners alike, I collected more to experiment with.

The basket above drew inspiration from a twining project included Practical Basketry Techniques. I next use a bunch of coffee stirrers and bindweed to twine with, inspired by a recent 3D doodle also posted on dailymades.

Experimenting directly with the materials and allowing for their physical characteristics to determine the  shape and pattern of the objects I made was a real adventure. Seeing the Thomas Heatherwick show at the Victoria and Albert Museum at the time I was making these also framed my thinking. As written in the exhibition literature, Heatherwick Studio 'investigate the physical behaviour of materials and celebrate the creative potential of an action or a single moment'. Their ‘creative process becomes one of choosing rather than designing’. So, it is no longer a matter of ‘form over function’ or 'function over form', as material now also has to be thrown into the equation!  Hmmm...

Now for the science bit.  If you are interested in working with bindweed, here are a couple of essential tips:

1. Allow the bindweed to mellow for a day also before stripping the leaves.  The plant material will have softened by then reducing the amount of breakage as you strip. 

2. Coil the stems and allow to dry for 2/3 days before using.  Simply soak in water for a couple of hours before weaving.  NB: Using hot/warm water will reduce the soaking time and bring out the colour in the bindweed.

So, all that's left to say is best with your weeding and weaving...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

walking piece

I’ve worked myself up into a state of excited anticipation sending out a group email recently with details of Matthias Sperling’s Walking Piece, which I’m performing at Siobhan Davies Studios as part of the Footfall event tomorrow.  Walking Piece is an installation performance where a diverse group of performers come together to create a single-file loop that continuously circumnavigates the building, passing through a score of playful performative tasks along the way.

I got involved in the project for various reasons.  I was intrigued by its title. Walking is such an ordinary thing, most of us do it, usually without thinking about it. But when you do start thinking about it, it does become rather extraordinary. Walking is not just about moving, it is also about thinking, making a connection with place and site, and also communicating in a social context.

The other reason for getting involved is I recently created a site specific installation at the studios.  A group of three dancers walked up and down the staircase using the metal framework as a device to weave on (click here of details and see previous posts on this blog). I also used the outdoor staircase during the project, so the parallels with Matthias’ piece intrigued me. I am interested in the performance of craft, site responsive approaches to making and developing work and participation, so was curious to get an insight into his way of working. 

Ready Steady Stitch (bobbin lace) #3
Siobhan Davies Studios architectural plan for
staircase, thread & pins on foam
It’s my first time doing anything of this kind.  I did take off all my clothes for one of Spencer Tunick’s human installation a few years back, accompanied by 1000 other people, but it hardly compares.  It’s also been a while since I’ve taken a dance class. After 10+ rehearsals, Walking Piece does feel very familiar.  However, each time we’ve run through it at rehearsal, it feels like it is being reinvented.  This comes from having to perform tasks rather than remember sequences of actions and movements as we walk through the building. The meaning is in the moment, acting in the present rather than re enacting the past. It is a live exchange between the building, the performers and the audience, and I very much look forward to the ‘reinvention’ of the work happening tomorrow.  Performing Walking Piece throughout the day will be like performing it for the first time again, and again, and again…

This is a radical approach for a maker, and I love it!  It resonates with my own practice where I consider the process as much as product, and prompt social interaction through making rather than simply looking at art.  In Walking Piece, the social dimension of the work is essential.  The tasks become meaningless without interaction from others and become almost impossible to perform.

It’s been fascinating to see Matthias at work, and see how he has shaped the piece over the few weeks of rehearsals, responding to how we performed the tasks and then tweaking his instructions to us on what our intentions might be when performing these.  Much food for thought…  I’ve truly taken my head as well as my feet for a walk, and gained trim legs in the process!

Desire Line #3, 2011
jute twine
site specific installation piece in Fermynwoods, 2011