Friday, 21 September 2007

Not Self

In a week's time I shall begin shooting the first elements of my set of installations for my Research Fellowship in HD. Just to say here that over three years I shall make about 10 new works in HD. I shall also interview on video the main players in HD since it's inception (this will provide an archive on the thinking that created this medium).

I'm shooting three installations: a re-shoot of The Dinner Party which has already proved popular and is currently running in Milan, a larger extension of this piece that is also inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper called In Other People's Skins and lastly, Peter's Hands, a single screen work.

When I was awarded my fellowship I was given a wage but no research money. My original proposition to the AHRC was that I would set up a programme of work over three years that examined the liminal boundary between accepted resolution (that which we can cope with seemingly physiologically, and that level of resolution that basically starts to confuse the brain/mind). I was awarded the fellowship because of a rolling programme of work. I then had to start applying to various funding bodies to obtain some money to do my projected work which then asked me to make separate projects of my overall programme. A false distinction that has a downside, that of falsely separating the various elements, and an upside: In creating a set of parameters for the work and then selecting them and organising them into a fundable proposition, I've had to think about what I was proposing in a new way - that has to be good because the creative act requires reflection at some stage.

Here's a small revue of the Dinner Party: Terry Flaxton's shrewd and paradoxical installation contributes to the deconstruction of traditional video. The restless and versatile British filmmaker refuses usual interactivity, and displays, instead of a normal screen, a laid dinner table; then invites the viewer, through a very precise projection, to try to match the virtual fellows' gestures. An unforeseeable and bewildering end follows. Techne Catalogue October 2005 - May 2006

So, next week I will remake the Dinner Party because of a simple issue: When projecting the work in standard definition (especially after it's been through the compression of Mpg on a DVD) elements on the table, like a fork for instance, on one axis one could see the prongs of the fork, and on the other axis there was simply a grey smudge. It's time to use a lesser form of HD (P2, 960 pixel shifted to 1920) to try to see more detail) and this time play back from a computer using the DVCPro HD Codec - that should improve things immeasurably and give a lead to a much higher level of HD that I shall shoot this project in once more in early 2008. Then I shall use a Dalsa Origin, Viper or D20 and capture 4 4 4.

For information on the Dinner Party, Go to:

In Other People's Skins is as follows: This is multi cultural exploration of presence and absence; In Other People's Skins: 12 chairs around a table, many races - where you can place your hands in Other People's Skins. Influenced by the engagement of the audience with the Dinner Party and inspired by Da Vinci's Last Supper I decided to bring a larger work to a series of Cathedral exhibitions... So far, Gloucester, Worcester, Winchester, Bristol and Wells Cathedrals, as well as Bath Abbey have agreed to show this work in 2008...

For information on In Other People's Skins go to:

Peter's hands on the other hand is a single screen work which I've just decided to do, which could be seen to be part of my single screen strand of my recent application for funding that I have proposed in terms of it's photographic qualities to the AHRC. I'm currently undecided whether this is a large black box single screen work or actually a work for plasma display (as opposed to LCD which I'm currently not a fan of). Plasma has a warmer feel and look than LCD. But the main issue here is of size I think in terms of its exhibition.

In my recent application for funding for both installation and single screen work I argued that single screen works will be presented in a different way from cinema. I wanted to bring the scale of the intensity of the photographic within the cinematic into a space more usually found in the gallery than the public cinema (after all, the black viewing box can be experienced at any contemporary art museum). Another similar space that is developing is the home cinema, which mimics the cinema yet can manifest some of the same qualities as the gallery black box. But primarily, this separate form of presentation where one ritualistically enters the dark space, stumbling forward as everyone has before you, as if the change from light to dark is a forced entrance through one's own senses to generate a 'special' feeling' about the work one is about to see. This sets up ones expectations In a certain way. It is a high temple of art and very often people are blinded by the ritual to the quality of the work.

Sometimes, simply to see large images - bits of the human body so many times larger than in real life, is itself impressive. Many artists have used this tactic - of enlarging life in its public representation, to make different. Claes Oldenburg and Jeff Koons spring immediately to mind.

But here, in this domain we are also involved in the kinetic. It's true that with the artists mentioned one can stand and look - but if simply remain rooted to the spot you miss the sculptural qualities, the kinetic pleasures of the work. But in the dark space, there you are remaining static again. Rooted to the spot in front of 'art'. This is mainly why my moving image installations are involved with taking the screen off the wall and putting it elsewhere which forces the viewer to enter into a kinetic and more sculptural relationship with it.

However, in the dark space, feet or bottom rooted (the inevitable bench is the welcome pew that one might rest upon) then one must stare at the images and also - and this must not be underestimated in terms of the sensorium that is the self - one is bathed in light.

Some artists also bathe their audience in time - duration - forcing them to feel both the quality of experiencing something for longer than normal and allowing other elements of experience to enter the viewers mind, but also to be bathed in just so in much light. But this physiological intimidation by the artist is dependent on the viewer acceding their autonomy - and that comes with the agreement of the viewer which is allied to their education and sense of self - sense of sensorium. Education in this sense meaning the function of social placement the self has within the society it exists within. "If I am cultured I am amongst the minority of the population that has a view on the world - therefore, I, like the artist, am special".

I realise that previously, though art occasionally came up as an issue, my blogs have been technically oriented, and this is the first time that I have had to begin to turn my mind to reflect on the process of making and presenting art.

I mentioned the photographic - that which is of the still within the moving flow. Slow motion has been a way of getting at this quality which is born of the stuff of cave paintings. The photographic is the extraordinary amidst the ordinary. It is the ordinary transformed, picked out, highlighted. Warhol exemplified this act of looking and looking again at what is around one - because art, in my view is that which unveils insight.

And here I specifically do not mean the kind of insight that comes from the thinking mind which is involved in continuous ratiocination. Art should directly speak to the not-self, as Zen practitioners would have it. The self that is un-encrusted with thinking and a sense of the ego.

To return to Peter's hands, this issue of whether to show as a much larger piece in a black box is problematic for me because art has to keep moving and there is so much that is viewed in this way and for no good reason.

My intuition tells me, in terms of exhibition, is that I should a slight enlargement in the style of Da Vinci or Rembrandt - especially around the issue of the representation of the hand which is notoriously difficult to draw. The face wears its meaning directly - what a person feels is often visible to all. With the hands, so much can be said within the actorly form - acting gestures and here the Japanese and the Indian have refined gesture into an art form, but there is also the casual gesture of the hand as it twitches, or sweeps though space, or simply stays still.

So, my intuition is to slightly enlarge this depiction. One other thought is to project an image about the same size as a 50 inch plasma screen so that people, who after all love to imitate gesture, can intercede in the beam and imitate the gestures. Here I recall so much western art where touch is prohibited, yet so much of what I want to do in art is to allow the viewer to touch the work - at least, touch the virtual representation of the work so that a simple question is raised about truth, veracity, depiction and representation.

And this turns back on my other strand of work where people gather to join in a virtual meal together, a human act of the community to join together, and to imitate prior gestures made by people now virtually represented.

In speaking to the theologians within the Cathedral Community about what In Other People's Skins might do in terms of the theological and spiritual I was a little stymied. It seemed obvious to me that this wasn't just a Christian act for a start - it was an act of empathy, to place ones hands in another's hands, to try to imagine what it might be like to be another. But then the more the artist speaks the more the mystery is destroyed. However, for the purposes of my applications for funding I have to deliver critical reflections on what I am doing and have done. I look forward also to showing this work in Islamic, Buddhist and non-religious environments.

I look forward to exhibiting these works because that is where the insights and happy accidents come, that is where people tell you what you have in fact done which is so much more than what you intended. People speak back to you that which was in the remit of your not-self, intentions which were way beyond the mind of the artist.