Research: Walls 30 in 30 Days

This is a piece of work exploring the myriad different kinds of walls that confront us every day.

I want to explore trying to create work in a faster and more fluid way without allowing to myself to slow down and to stop myself perfecting things. Think of this project as more like work in a sketch book rather than a finished piece of work.

Those of you that follow my insta will have seen each video appear every evening for thirty days.

The constraint that I placed on myself was to publish each days work before midnight on the day of creation on Instagram. And this proved a challenging task as each day I had to explore a new idea, create the film, edit and publish it while trying to get a mass of other things done at the same time.

At the end of the 30 days I created a single edited film of all 30 films. If you want to see the individual films goes to my Instagram account.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty Ascends

Really don't say any more than it took the build team 4 days to get When Things Come Apart set up in the UCA main quad.

 

GunFingers

 

The Wysing Gallery commissioned Zinzi Minnott, an artist who works with dance and its relationship to politic,  to make a video. Seen through many lenses, race, queer culture, gender and class, dance is, according to Minnott, always political. In her video piece, Gun Fingers and Oblique Bullets (2017), classic jungle music plays and a series of  abstract images fade in and out of one another. An image person dancing with ‘gun fingers’ if revisited throughout the video.  Following this film, I decided to look into the concept of ‘gun fingers’ in the hope of finding where else it is referenced within music and/or dance culture.

 

The Urban Dictionary (online…. 

“to form a gun wid ur fingers, connoting holding a real gun. Used in raves when u think a lyric was hot or a tune, u get out ur gun fingers and shoot for the sky - dats tune was the shit... gun fingers..bap, bap,bap!!"

My research led me to look at gangster rap videos, where ‘gun fingers’ are used to signal a very different message. Instead of exclusively signalling their appreciation of the lyrics and music, rappers and their entourage stare out at the viewer and shoot at them with gun fingers.

There is a shift from appreciation of the music to a threat of violence yet there appears to be some referencing to child’s play, an acting out of scenarios whereby hand gestures and imaginary settings stand in for the real thing. 

 

By freeze-framing the gangster videos and capturing stills I was able to analyse the kinds of gun people were pointing at me and there were as many gun types as there were people. The videos undoubtedly came from the USA where owning a gun is legal so having access to them might have made the simulation of ‘acting as one’ easier. So I thought it might be interesting to see  what a  British persons pretend gun would look like. 

 

A series of 91 photographs were produced as a result of my standing in the Linea Gallery for the afternoon and stopping people walking past and asking them to show me their  best ‘gun fingers’. My findings are as follows. No one refused, (apart from one technician), with many asking me about the project. The types of guns people adopted seemed to run along gender lines too with not one women deciding  to be,  or have,  a machine gun, the only machine guns were from the men.  Countless women were worried about chipped nail varnish and dirty hands even though they knew they could not be identified from the photo as I was only photographing hands.  One man came back and asked if he could use his  ‘gun fingers’ to mark out a peace sign instead.

Everyone had a gun in them. 

The fetishization of guns merits further research.  

#DicktatorDon's PCP's are made in China Which Amuses Me

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I had them made right near the start of the project when the earliest designs for #DicktatorDon were taking shape. They were designed in the UK by a very talented hardware engineer and then I ordered a large number of the PCBs because the cost of repeat orders would have been expensive. I have contacts in Shenzen who can get the parts and the factory to build them at very reasonable prices.

There is an irony with the escalating trade war between China and America that this parody of Donald Trump is at his core Chinese.

 

Statue Down

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Today the dismantling of the statue took place and seeing the statue in parts is giving me ideas on how I might like to exhibit her going forward.  She was never intended to be displayed fully built but in various stages of assembly - or disassembly and so it is vital that I get opportunities like this to see what works. The materials though not too heavy as individual pieces get very weighty when pieces are joined together. The taking down of liberty signifies a collapse of ideas of liberty itself but not a collapse over time due to wear and tear - the notion of entropy; this is a willful act, a conscious dismantling. She is decapitated and yet still holding onto her flame - perhaps holding onto some semblance of hope.

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With the offer of an exhibition at Northampton University in their new Waterside campus in 2019 it is days like this allow me to play with new ideas and practical ideas around how to physically assemble such a large sculpture. Large, ambitious pieces of art require large crews and lots of planning and time. 

Blood on the Wall at SafeHouse 2

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Having had a little bit of time to reflect on this exhibition I had a few more thoughts about it and so wanted to share them.

SafeHouse 2 is an interesting exhibition space, part of a larger complex of buildings all used to display art. It is a two up, two down, terraced house that has been stripped to the brick walls, more building site than art gallery.

It is a perfect space for a certain kind of art. Bold, rough or with strong colours to pull itself out from the the background. Lighting also posed a challenge as the provided lighting was non existent to extremely minimal.

I was initially very excited by the space I had within SafeHouse 2, it being a long clear wall upstairs that was well lit by natural light from two windows. The wall itself was plastered but heavily pock marked. It looked like someone has been firing guns into the wall and shooting off the plaster where the rounds had hit. This seemed an ideal backdrop for my Ascent of Man piece.

Accent of Man, inspired by work that I have been doing around gun culture and crimes, is a series of individual pieces constructed from laser cut gun pieces that were put together almost like an animal or creature. Each piece got a bit bigger or more involved than its predecessor evolving closer and closer to a gun but never really getting there.

Their original working title was Blood Guns because they were constructed with lasercut acetate and stuck together with a custom made fake blood. This gave them a strangely evocative and haunting effect. But the individual pieces went through several iterations to try and convey the feeling of their evolution or struggle to realize themselves in some way.

When they came to be attached to the wall the lighting quickly became an issue. One could not really appreciate the translucent and haunting effect of the pieces. I found a couple of side illumination halogens were very effective in restoring that feel to them although it would have been better if the lighting was more polished and less harsh.

During the private view it became apparent that, rather than helping to tell their story, the background wall with it's 'pock marks' was hindering peoples ability to really see the pieces and from a distance they were at times missed.

The lesson learnt here was both to think more carefully about the position of pieces, the lighting and to their background, which sadly in this setting distracted from pieces that represented weapons of destruction and death but were themselves rather beautiful.

 

3d guns Designs legalized in USA

The Independent newpaper today reports that the Administration is allowing the distribution of the designs of 3D printed guns to go ahead.

This directly relates to my work Liberated, which was shown at Safehouse 2. Indeed the plans are of that very gun. The Independent article explains the events behind the publishing of the build plans for the gun.

It seems that the government decided not to try and enforce their export laws to prohibit the export of controlled intellectual property. While the legal arguments may have been complex around the balancing of First Amendment rights to free speech in written form (software being considered writing) against the laws that prohibit the export of controlled items, it is clear that while these designs were accessible on the dark web they will now be far more accessible.

The consequences of this are yet to be understood. While such guns are very hard to trace they represent a real risk to the user of the gun as much as the person fired at. With the very wide availability of normal guns in the US there may not be that much demand for so risky a weapon. However in other countries where obtaining guns is a serious challenge criminals will be much more encouraged to use the designs.

Ironically the gun manufacturers might not be so enthusiastic as the designs will inevitably be improved upon, reducing the risks to the shooter.

 

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Dissemination of work: Chelsea Clinton (+others) receives a #DicktatorDon

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Getting anywhere near Chelsea Clinton was hard work. She was surrounded by aids who whisked the #DicktatorDon off her once I presented it to her at the book signing. Not to mention the armed guards that were to the side of her. I gave her an extra #DicktatorDon and asked her to give it to her mum, Hilary Clinton.

Talk: Invited to talk at TECHnique Create Hub, IBM, London.

A few weeks back now,  TECHnique Create Hub asked if I would give a talk at  IBM’s Head office, Southbank, London about ‘city data’ and how, as an artist, I have used data sets in my work and the importance of involving the public in my work in some way.   The talk was focused around an art piece commissioned by Quay Arts gallery on the Isle of Wight earlier this year but is now installed at IMB’s head office of the Southbank. London.  If you would like to know more about the piece itself then I wrote something about it here.

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Before the talk I met with various members of IBM IX team and we chatted about how artists and the work they produce can often help explain concepts more easily than verbal or written communication can. Hopefully our informal chat will lead to further talks with them.  Andy Stanford Clark whom I collaborated with on the project also talked,  as too did artist Marcin Ignac.  Although the focus of his talk was on the work he did for TFL I was familiar with a work he produced called  Tatelets an artwork based on data-sets generated from Tate Modern’s collection project so  worth looking at if you want to see some great data visualization.  

 

 Clockwise from top left: Samuel Fry, Marcin Ignac, Dd Davies, Andy Stanford-Clark

Clockwise from top left: Samuel Fry, Marcin Ignac, Dd Davies, Andy Stanford-Clark

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#StopTrump March sAW #DicktatorDon getting out and about more than POTUS

The #STOPTRUMP march was a truly incredible day. We spent the day working as marshals for the march. Less than 100 marshals had to shepherd of 250,000 protesters down the route of the march. Apparently this march had more first time protesters than any march before and had the largest crowd ever to protest a visit of a foreign leader.

We started the day by watching TrumpBaby get his visit to Parliament in. He got nearer to Parliament than Trump did...

 

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Trump in copter...

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TrumpBaby is another example of British artists ridiculing the Orange One. It has managed to capture the imagination of both the press and the people. There is something incredibly effective about the image of a huge Donald Trump in nothing but a nappy.

Then we started talking to the worlds press:

 Alexandra Topping from the Guardian

Alexandra Topping from the Guardian

 Rai from Italy, then LBC, MSNBC, and a few others.  And finally...

Rai from Italy, then LBC, MSNBC, and a few others.  And finally...

 a view from the stage at Trafalgar Square - first time on the steps of Nelson's Column.

a view from the stage at Trafalgar Square - first time on the steps of Nelson's Column.

Real Matchstick art at the Koestler Foundation

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Today I volunteered to give feedback on artworks made whilst in detention by offenders, detainees and secure patients. Every year, the  Koestler Foundation, invite volunteers who have an interest in the arts to come for a few hours on a weekday and give written feedback on the artworks sent in. They then invite a well known artist to select pieces for a summer exhibiton that takes place in London each year. Judges have included artist Jeremy Deller, Grayson Perry, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, representatives from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Council, the National Theatre, the British Film Institute, Louise Galvin, Speech Debelle and Hot Chip.

It was an opportunity to do some depth research into matchstick art but also gave me an opportunity to give back. It is an initiative of the Koestler Foundation and is part of the annual Koestler Awards. 

“We’re the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We’ve been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 55 years.

Our awards receive over 8,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work for achievement and transform their lives. Our national exhibition attracts 20,000 visitors – showing the public the talent and potential of offenders and people in secure settings.

We have no endowment or capital – our work depends entirely on donations.”

Housed in a building next to Wormwood Scrubs, every room on both the ground and the first floor were full of racks, every shelf packed with artworks send in from all around the UK.  I learned that that they split the artworks into 51 categories ranging from ceramics to sculpture, fashion to soap carving, painting to paper cutting and of course matchstick art.

The opportunity to do this kind of research was invaluable as the history of matchstick appears  to have its roots in art made by prisoners,  matchsticks being a cheap, versatile and readily available material.

Directed to be encouraging at all times we were also encouraged to apply some critical theory to the work, explaining why we liked it and why.  Suggestions of how people might make different choices next time and if appropriate other artitsts work they might like to look at. I was very focused on saying positive things, (and there is not a lot of space to write much) but I do feel I was able to  offer some construction feedback. It is something I will definitely do next year. 

“Feedback from experienced artists/writers is very valuable because it’s genuine, practical and focused. It’s not sugar-coated or a platitude. In many ways it’s the best thing about the scheme.” https://www.koestlertrust.org.uk/koestler-awards/  Koestler Awards Entrant

Time featured a lot in the work by way of clocks, many of which worked but had had the batteries taken out of them. Some of the entries came with supporting documents stating what had motivated them to make what they had made.  Reasons were driven by fantasy of what it woud like to own that boat, that car, that these represented  freedom. One entitled Rebirth used well understood symbols of an egg and a butterfly and another Keyhole showed great use of colour, the outside world, the world through the keyhole appearing in technicolour. The one that struck me the most and almost certainly because of its connection to my work was a jewellery box, but not the box itself it was the supporting document that interested me a small booklet that explains his interest in matchstick art. 

Promotion: Talk on my work on 'city data'

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Come see me talk about Ferry Lights, an interactive sculpture that visualises a communities data on the Isle of Wight, UK.

Description

How are artists using live data feeds of cities to create art? Find out at the latest TECHnique talk.

Our cities are increasingly becoming digitised. From London's Oyster Cards, to self-service checkouts and social methods of engaging with government the ways that we are engaging with our cities is changing. Plus, with every transaction a data trail is created, ready for someone to use.

At TECHnique, 3 artists from different fields will tell their stories, explain their choices and the lessons that they have learned when creating digital art linked to cities.
Schedule
6pm - Arrival
6.20pm - Marcin Ignac, Variable.io
6.40pm - Dd Davies
7.00pm - Andy Stanford-Clark
7.30pm - Ends

Date and Time: Wed 18 July 2018, 18:00 – 20:00 BST
Location: Fleming Room, Client Centre, IBM, 76/78 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PZ

View Map


For more information, visit technique.create-hub.com. This event is organised by www.create-hub.com.

Please note that we will sign you up for the Create Hub newsletter if you register; however, you can always unsubscribe using the link on our emails.

 

Research into Matchstick Art: Koestler Trust

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“We’re the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We’ve been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 55 years. Our awards receive over 8,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work for achievement and transform their lives. Our national exhibition attracts 20,000 visitors – showing the public the talent and potential of offenders and people in secure settings. We have no endowment or capital – our work depends entirely on donations.”

Every year, the Koestler Trust invite volunteers who have an interest in the arts to come in for a few hours on a weekday over the summer  and give written feedback on the artworks sent in.  They then invite a well-known artists to select pieces for a summer exhibition that takes place in London each year. Judges have included artist Jeremy Deller, Grayson Perry, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, representatives from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Council.

My piece referencing the Stature of Liberty entitled When Things Come Apart is based on matchstick model kit  and following my research into the history of matchstick model making having its roots in art produced by prisoners I came across an organization called the Koestler Trust. I had never heard of them before  I started my project though I did know that model making was a pastime of inmates.  I had initially emailed them in the hope they could help with my research yet their email back to me suggested I come in and volunteer to give feedback on the art work that had been sent into them. On their website, they describe themselves as:

Volunteering today not only gave me an opportunity to do some depth research into matchstick art but also gave me an opportunity to give back.

Housed in a building next to Wormwood Scrubs, every room on both the ground and the first floor were full of racks with every shelf packed with artworks sent in from all around the UK.  I learned that that they split the artworks into 51 categories ranging from ceramics to sculpture, fashion to soap carving, painting to paper cutting and of course matchstick art.

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I spent the day reviewing the matchstick art though I could have chosen any category I had wanted. The opportunity to do this kind of research was invaluable as the history of matchstick appears  its  roots in art made by prisoners was because,  matchsticks are cheap, versatile and are a readily available material.Directed to be encouraging at all times we were also encouraged to apply some critical theory when evaluating the work, explaining what we had observed about the work. Suggestions on how people might make different choices next time, and if appropriate,  suggesting other artists work they might like to look at to help broaden their ability to be critical about their own work going forward.

“Feedback from experienced artists/writers is very valuable because it’s genuine, practical and focused. It’s not sugar-coated or a platitude. In many ways it’s the best thing about the scheme.”
— https://www.koestlertrust.org.uk/koestler-awards/ Koestler Awards Entrant.

I was very focused on saying positive things, (and there is not a lot of space to write much at all) but I do feel I was able to  offer some constructive feedback.

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There were many observations I made about the work I saw that day. Time featured a lot in the work by way of clocks, many of which worked but had had the batteries taken out of them. Some of the entries came with supporting documents stating what had motivated them to make what they had made.  Reasons were driven by fantasy of what it might be like to own that boat, that car, that truck. The objects chosen often represented freedom. One entitled Rebirth understood symbols of an egg and a butterfly and another Keyhole showed great use of colour, with the outside world, the world viewed through the keyhole appearing in technicolor.

 

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Yet the one that struck me the most and almost certainly because of its connection to my work was a jewellery box, but not the box itself it was the supporting document that came with the box and explained how it had come to be. The booklet it came with written by the prisoner told of how his wife had bought him a  Matchitecture kit of a motorbike kit. It was by building this model that  his understanding of how to make things from matchsticks began and had resulted in the jewellery box he gave his wife made with the skills he had honed by making the matchstick motorbike kit.

It is something I will definitely do next year. The summer exhibition takes place in London at the Royal Festival Hall from mid September to early November. More information here.

 


 

 

Thought piece: Affiliate Exhibition

Ascent of Man

I exhibited two pieces of my work at Affiliate, a group show of MA students studying Fine Art at UCA, Farnham in Hampshire. It was a four day exhibition with many of us only seeing the venue for the first time when we arrived on the Tuesday for set up. The venue hire is cheap for London and as exhibiting is vital for artists it was a great exericise in getting your work out there, getting over the fear of being seen, honing installation of work skills but more importantly learning about how your work sits in a 'gallery' setting.

The work is a line of eight small sculptures that grow in size resulting in a scupture that is recognizable as a gun. My laser cutting parts of guns and then building them up as they stretched across the wall I was emulating the Ascent of Man picture showing the evolution of man. The Ascent of Man has been a device used my many to depict the evolution of not just man but of working practices often to comic effect.

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Advert: Group Exhibition: London 27th June 2018

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My work will be in a group show alongside other MA students studying at UCA and offers a great opportunity for us to consolidate ideas and themes ready for our degree show in August 2018. Although I have already decided that When Things Come Apart will be in my final degree show I am excited that this exhibition gives me the opportunity to work on developing one of my other other projects. For a while now I have been working with the theme of gun violence and am concerned  and intrigued by the fetishization of guns. There are many youtube videos where you can make guns that fire rubber  bands and paper bullets that are made in the style of real guns, AK47's and Derrigers to name but two. 

WHAT KIND OF WORK WILL I SEE AT SAFEHOUSE?  The work is broad in its topic in a wide variety of mediums from film, sculpture, painting and photography, found objects and made objects. There is a even a performance piece from artist Chris Horner.

GETTING THERE: If you want to come, the nearest train station is Peckham with a 7 minute walk to venue. There good parking around that area too, you need to pay for it but for London there are a surprising number of spaces available. A great app that shows details of the show and other art show in London is ArtRabbit and is worth downloading and putting on your phone as not only does it give details of what is one where but it has a great built in map and shows you what else is on in the area. Details of our show on ArtRabbit are here.

Artists Websites:
Sara Jayne Harris
Nerys Joseph
Chris Horner
Bianca Hendicott
Kaiqi Guo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing #DicktatorDon at Hay

I was fortunate enough to go to Hay Festival this year and I was able to give some speakers, who seemed like they might have needed them, #DicktatorDons.

I went to hear Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature & Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London talk about her new book: Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream.

I learnt quite a lot about the history of Fascist movement in the USA in the postbellum southern USA and all the way into the 1940s. I was amazed to hear that Donald Trumps father was one of 7 fascists arrested after a riot in Brocklyn in the 1920s. How did that fact not make the press before he was elected as president?

After her talk I went back stage and presented her with her very own #DicktatorDon and she was very kind to tweet a response:

 

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Press: Ferry Lights move to IBM

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Great article in publication On The Wight about my artwork Ferry Lights and its move from Quay Arts, art gallery to IBMs Head Office where it is on show in their Client Office on the Southbank, London.

It was a commissioned piece from Quay Arts and I worked in collaboration with Andy Stanford_Clark, CTO of IBM, UK and N.Ireland. For more information see here

 

 

Exhibition: From Contemporary to Corporate

 Ferry Lights in the foyer of IBM's Head Office, Southbank. London, UK

Ferry Lights in the foyer of IBM's Head Office, Southbank. London, UK

I am very proud that an interactive sculpture I made, in collaboration with IBM’s CTO for UK and N.Ireland, Andy Stanford Clark,   has gone on display in the Head Office of IBM, Southbank, London. Not the usual audience for my work but one I am very happy about. The work had been commissioned and exhibited in a contemporary art gallery, Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight before it was installed at IBM on Wednesday. Quay Arts in conjunction with Arts Council England ran a series called Hidden Heroes on the Isle of Wight and Andy was one of the Islands heroes they decided to represent. The work not only shows a little of the technology that Andy’s has invented (he has invented a lot!) but also reflects themes within my work. Much of my work involves the public, whereby I  encourage the viewer to participate and interact with the work. There is a sense of community and connectedness about it.  Ferry Lights shows the position of the ferries as they traverse the Solent in real-time, mapping out their location with LEDs,  as they make their journeys between the mainland and the Isle of Wight where Andy Stanford-Clark lives.

To extend the theme of connectedness and community, we decided that the LEDs around the circumference of the sculpture were to be connected to Cheerlights, an Internet of Things project created by Hans Scharler, By tweeting “#cheerlights red (or whatever colour you like) your tweet changes the colour of the LED’s thus changing the colour of the sculpture. But as Cheerlights is a connected community, not only does your tweet change the colour of Ferry Lights but it also changes the colour of Cheerlights all over the world. There is something very exciting, empowering perhaps about standing in front of a sculpture and not just being able to change its state with one written instruction but knowing that hundreds of other lights in the world have changed state too, thus connecting physical things with a shared social networking experience. I must say I am also enjoying the fact that people outside the gallery setting, and/or the corporate environment, have some say over what colour the sculpture on the wall is going to be. At IBM’s Head Office today someone outside of the corporate setting is going to decide on what colour the sculpture on the wall outside the Franklin meeting room is going to be.   There is something joyful about being able to change the colours on the wall and affect the environment in a space you are not physically in and ‘interacting’ with people you have never met –perhaps someone’s day might be slightly nicer if the sculpture switched to blue, - their favourite colour.