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Connect/Exchange

Micro residency to support 2 Scottish and 2 North East-based artists access to facilities & equipment, allowing experimentation with new ideas / development of existing projects or approaches, whilst also supported by a programmed series of exhibition & studio tours and visits with curators. This is a partnership between Stills and Northern Film & Media.

BLOG POSTS

I have been considering two specific aspects of the issues raised in my previous post in relation to my ongoing investigation into the history of queer culture for my Connect/Exchange project. Firstly, I’m interested in the ways in which documentation and remaining objects can provide extended life or access points into fleeting moments from cultural history, particularly with regard to events that derives their political energy from specific objects, environments and circumstances. Whether these details are weighted through a sense of the political or personal, I am interested in approaching objects as synecdoche for wider culture. Secondly, I’d like to contemplate the ways in which communities that are perhaps more generally considered to be ‘sub’ or peripheral to the mainstream proclaim identity through means of self-documentation and regulation.

In researching the evolution of queer identity in the twentieth century I have often found conventional modes of archiving and presentation (please see my earlier post regarding the Schwules museum, Berlin) to be entirely inadequate in their reflection of particular ‘flavours’ and attitudes of the time. Museum and archiving practices as a rule overlook or disregard those aspects of modern social history that could be considered apolitical or pedestrian. Hollywood and even independent film-makers often fail to represent queer society outside of its key moments of crisis and celebration, coming out stories and AIDS driven plot lines being the most commonly used. Of course I’m not saying that these moments should go unrecognized and indeed many of the freedoms now afforded us in the 21st century are due perhaps in part to such exposure. However I can’t help but feel that the nuances and complexities of gay life are not yet fully recognisable to the wider cultural gaze. So to begin with, how does one begin to represent those aspects that are in essence non-representational in nature? The answer lies in the hands of contemporary artists of course!

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I now shift my attention to the photographs by Diane Arbus that are hung above my computer at Stills gallery, namely Identical Twins, 1967 and A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, 1966. Whilst these works have been widely discussed and criticised, most notably by Susan Sontag, for their purported voyeurism I begin to ask myself questions about how ‘successful’ they are as documents and how far they activate their subjects beyond the plain of the photograph? We understand that as an observant outsider looking inwards Arbus’ motivations towards her subjects are perhaps questionable, however I wonder what the implications would be if the work hadn’t been produced at all? In many ways I’m grateful for Arbus’ motivation to document, to capture moments that would otherwise slip away unnoticed by no more than a hand full of people, providing the opportunity of mainstream exposure and recognition for her subjects. Conversely though, how far can we assume that the aim of any marginalised community is to find representation or acceptance within the mainstream at all? If I may ask a more pertinent question, how far does ones sense of community and identity derive from ones sense of being ‘queer’?

Had Arbus given over her camera to her subjects, allowing them to take it away to document themselves then the implications would of course have been entirely different, perhaps more ethical, perhaps more irresponsible? We live in a culture where self-documentation and ‘the selfie’ are commonplace, spontaneous and disposable. Whatever the motivation behind this phenomenon its significance lies in its ability to publically represent moments that were previously considered unworthy of documentation and also to capture personal and frenetic aspects of everyday life through cohesion with wider and notably impersonal industrial processes.

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During the initial week residency at Stills I re-read Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies from 1971. In this book Banham proposes that our experience of Los Angeles should be facilitated by the industries that most heavily constitute it, however expedient – Hollywood and the automobile industry. Banham declares “I learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original”. In other words, our complicity with a mainstream culture industry does not falsify our experience of the everyday. It is possible to define our identity in relation to it, through utilisation of it even. I am reminded of the various ‘realness’ categories as shown in the drag ball sequences from Jenny Livingston’s brilliant documentary from 1990, Paris is Burning. Through the subversive quotation of hetero-normative i.e. ‘mainstream’ aesthetics and aspirations each model finds a mode of re-enactment that entirely belongs to them, an original expression of their political and personal frustrations and desires.

Ephemeral objects and styles drive these fashions forwards however, even evolving throughout the duration of the film. Queer fashions and aesthetics are changeable like any other. But how are these changes documented for posterity, for people such as myself? Is it through documentaries like Paris is Burning or in photos by Diane Arbus? Perhaps in Hollywood movies like Milk? The answer is yes, yes and yes. Perhaps methods of documentation within queer society take an alternate form, manifesting themselves in practices that are less tangible, perhaps in the lived experience? Does my day-to-day experience and freedom as a gay man in Glasgow tell me everything I need to know about gay culture? Perhaps I could examine today’s pop culture for traces of queer style in order to understand its legacy – should YouTube be my next stop? I have a feeling that what I’m looking for should not be found using conventional means of research.

Tom

Last night in Glasgow myself and fellow artist Fiona Chamber launched a show of new works in the Glasgow Project Room. It’s been an instance of serendipitous timing for me, as the opening of the show coincided with the end of the Connect Exchange residency at Stills. While managing both these projects simultaneously has been something of a challenge, it’s been real spur to finish making the work that I’d started during Connect Exchange in time to include it in the show. Although I was faced with a number of increasingly complex technical problems during the final days of preparing the works to show, it was great to take the work I’d been focusing on since early May outside of the studio.
The photoshoot earlier this month in the basement of Stills (with the patient help of Stills staff) provided me with some interesting images of the catalogue for ‘Information’, a seminal exhibition of conceptual art held in MOMA in 1970. I subsequently worked with the Centre for Advanced Textiles in Glasgow to print these photos digitally onto a fine cotton, hemming and sewing the fabric to make two A0 sized fabric hangings that were suspended from the ceiling of the Project Room space.

Showing the video that I’d been creating in Stills was somewhat more problematic, to say the least, and it remains a piece that I intend to work on for some time to come. I’ve learnt a lot in the past week about the many different ways a digital video can be rendered and encoded, and how that affects the quality of the final product and what particular piece of technology you can show it on. The process of rendering my video into a file that can simply be transferred to a USB and played on loop on flat-screen TV was far from easy. While digital technology has democratised film-making in so many ways, when you find yourself faced with seemingly incomprehensible technical problems you get pangs of nostalgia for the honest simplicity of film.

While it’s been a learning curve throughout the Connect Exchange residency, the past few days have been particularly steep! However, without the opportunities that the project has given me none of this work would have been possible at all. I feel I owe a huge amount of thanks to the staff at Stills, to Lauren at Northern Film and Media and to my fellow resident artists; Leah, Toby and Tom.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of working with Mark Bleakley, one half of Dennis Isou, who did the Connect Exchange residency in Birmingham’s A3 Project Space. We were moving the contents of a friend’s studio from Commercial Union House in Newcastle to Wasp studios at The Briggait in Glasgow.

We made light work of carrying boxes and furniture downstairs and the complex Tetris puzzle of loading it all into the van, but after lunch we ran into a few problems that delayed our departure by a few hours. Once on our journey we exchanged stories of our experiences of the residencies and future plans. It was good to hear about how the 3 week format worked for Mark and his views on Birmingham.

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In June I went down to Birmingham to see the Bill Drummond exhibition at Eastside Projects and was able to see one of his lectures where he talked about his recent defacing of a UKIP poster with his International Grey Paint.

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The following day I was able visit A3, Vivid Projects and Grand Union. Whilst there I caught up with several people I had met in Newcastle when they came up to The NewBridge Project for Connect Exchange presentations and the opening weekend of the AV Festival. I was looked after very well by Cathy Wade from A3 and Sam from Flat Pack festival who took me to a very nice pub. At Grand Union Cheryl Jones showed me round the gallery and Matt Westbrook (half a BAZ) gave me a tour of the studios and showed me a good place to have lunch in Digbeth (and pointed out places to avoid).

Talking to Mark about Birmingham made me think of Chris Paul Daniels, who did the residency at the NewBridge Project in Newcastle where I have a studio, and that I should take a trip over to Manchester to say hello.

On reflection I realised how many great people I have met as part of Connect Exchange Project outside of my residency. I’m looking forward to returning to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham, and potentially working with some of the people I have met.

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A couple of years ago I was working for the estate of British artist Barry Flanagan in London. During this time I was lucky enough to be asked to access various public archives and private collections in order to develop a body of research surrounding the origins of conceptual art in Britain, a movement with which Flanagan was closely associated. The materials I investigated included exhibition catalogues, installation photographs of exhibitions, handwritten notes as well as print editions and working sketches. However, when investigating ‘happenings’ and performances from the period I often found locating adequate and accurate documentation to be somewhat problematic. The power and motivation behind these ephemeral practices and spaces was more often than not derived precisely from their sense of urgency and impermanence. Oral accounts, self produced handouts and occasionally press reviews became the only source of documentation.

In response to more conservative value systems in place within the fine art industry at that time many conceptual works ardently defied documentation all together or implemented methods of self-documentation. As a result our task in the Flanagan office was, in essence, to compile a database and archive of events that actively rejected conventional notions of historicization and concretization. Within the context of contemporary museum practices and art galleries, any material residue produced as a result of these ‘happenings’ are now catalogued and presented in the absence of the live event, valued not only as a reference point to the original work but perhaps somewhat contradictorily as an extension of it. Compiled and kept according to the logic of each piece, they are kept as a reminder of the political and conceptual significance of these works and as a document of the communities that produced them.

Seth Siegelaub’s One Month, 1969 and Lucy Lippard’s Numbers shows, 1969 -1974 are perhaps prime examples of such practices, predominantly drawing upon materials and structures that were hidden either by their mundane functions within the day-to-day or by their marginalization from it. The documents consist of a series of notes and memos written by each artist at the time of their contribution. Hand or type(writer) written onto a uniform set of cards each statement gave insight or descriptions of the performances that had taken place. In their use of ‘everyday’ materials these documents actively, if not deliberately tied themselves to the period of time in which they were produced. We are orientated further by the title of each work which locates the documents within their specific time and place of production. Siegelaub titled according to the date and Lippard according to each city’s given population.

Beyond the technologies and aesthetics of the conceptual art movementsimilar processes of dematerialisation and communication are in evidence within art and sociological practices of the 21st century, in part thanks to the bravery of practitioners such as Lippard and Siebelaub and of publications such as Studio International.

Tom

 

Friday was my last trip to Edinburgh for the residency at Stills. I have really enjoyed my time here and have been able to make some good headway with several projects. My main problem has been which one to focus on.

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It was adapt that AXIS emailed to inform me that Toby Lloyd’s artist profile had been reactivated on their new(ish) website, as I spent a lot of time googling his name. During this process I learnt that this activity is known as Egosurfing (according to google). Other Toby Lloyds’ include the Head of Policy at Shelter (the homeless charity), a fourteen year old swimmer and a young lad on youtube who just loves making videos and talks to himself a lot (sounds familiar).

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All this searching enabled me to build on a script I have been thinking about a lot in the last few days and has started to take shape.

More soon, Toby

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The past fortnight I been spent most of my days, and many of my evenings, in the Digital Lab at Stills editing the film work which I began at the start of the Connect/Exchange project earlier this year. The work has changed and grown to become a far more complex and more ambitious work than I had anticipated when I first arrived in Edinburgh, tentatively getting to grips with a digital drawing and animation. Where I started with a modest flash animation of a travel alarm clock, I now have a 12 minute digitally-animated film collage.

It’s quite difficult to identify a clear point of transition where my initial experiments and ideas began to crystallize into a clearly formed work, but somehow my encounter with the story of Oblomov was significant. I came to this novel in a strange and circuitous way, through my research into the uses and abuses of time- how we might use the language of time and time measurement to define and measure our productivity or our slothfulness. I was (and remain) fascinated by the introduction of a standardized, widespread clock time during the industrial revolution, and the prevailing concept of time as a finite quantity is ‘spent’, rather than passed through or experienced. Prudent use of time became nothing less than a moral standard. Benjamin Franklin- notable as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States as well as a skilled clockmaker and polymath- encapsulated this attitude towards time neatly when he wrote;

“Since our Time is reduced to a Standard, and the Bullion of the Day minted out into Hours, the Industrious know how to employ every Piece of Time ‘ to a real Advantage in their different Professions: And he that is prodigal of his Hours, is, in effect, a Squanderer of Money.”

Time, in a very real way, was currency. The person who wastes time is profligate, idle, shiftless, sluggish. There is one character in literature who, above all others, seems to exemplify these traits. He is Ilya Ilitch Oblomov, hero of the eponymous novel by Ivan Goncharev, first published in Russia in 1857. Oblomov is a young Russian nobleman, sweet-natured and gentle-hearted but terminally frustrated in life and love by his incapacity for action. Oblomov seems to conduct his life entirely from his bed, and indeed it is not until chapter four that he eventually rises from it. He suffers from a fatal sloth- Oblomovitis. No-one could better embody Franklin’s squanderer of time.

The novel was taken by contemporaries as a satire on the idle rich of the Russian nobility, yet it seems to have a ongoing relevance to contemporary thought. Oblomovitis is not a disease exclusive to the 19th century Russian elite, rather it is a tendency that can steal over anyone, at any time. It is a deeply funny and desperately sad story, as there is something universally recognizable about Oblomov’s paralysis, his endless procrastination, his deep love for his slippers and dressing gown.

Thus, it seemed obvious that the story of Oblomov should become the framing device for the work that I had been developing at Stills, and from that, the modest animation with which I began grew into a much bigger project.

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This is the last day of my residency at Stills, and it seems like a good point at which to reflect on the last few months, which have brought changes I never anticipated.  Time working in Edinburgh has meant a chance to concentrate on my own practice, but also opened my eyes to what might lie ahead, and I believe as a result I have made choices I might not have been brave enough to take otherwise.

During the last two months, I have met so many people in Scotland who have been welcoming, supportive and at times inspirational.   I have started to work with Screen Bandita, and am looking forward to taking to the road with Lydia in September, destination Dunoon Film Festival.  A collaboration with Laura Edbrook for the Annuale 2014 edition of Alex Hetherington’s Modern Edinburgh Film School comes off the presses in the next few days, which should be available at Embassy Gallery by the end of the week.

My own film has benefited hugely from the facilities I have had at my disposal here.  I have cut my teeth on Final Cut Pro, using it to piece together archive footage which when screened will be shown in sequence with my own 16mm camera-less animation and film footage.  I’ve been wandering round recording sounds of the city, and collating this with interview footage and audio recordings of text and poetry.  Back in Newcastle, I’ve been shooting and reshooting, playing and printing, to come up with my own short responses to the archive footage I obtained.

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And from this big whirling mass I will extricate a film.  There is still a way to go, so its good to have a clear idea of my direction, and to know what gaps still need to be filled.  It is also terrifying to be nearly at the endpoint, what before was all possibility has now become concrete and is moving towards realisation.  I don’t feel that I have ever had this sense before.   A friend who is in a similar position with a film (except that now he is at the point in his career where he gets a crew to help him!) described the feeling thus: “up until now, I’ve been on my own in an inflatable dingy, pottering along.  Now I’m at the helm of a huge ship, with lots of other people on it, and I haven’t quite worked out how to steer yet.”

With this in mind, I decided to spend my last day doing what I love.  I whiled away this morning taking pictures on Craigmillar estate, chatting and enjoying the sunshine, and this afternoon in the darkroom at Stills, processing the results.

I’m leaving Edinburgh with a real sense that this is somewhere I will come back to, and I look forward to continuing collaborations with some of the artists I have met during my time here.  My thanks to Evan, Ben, Cheryl, Claire, David and all at Stills, to the team at Northern Film Media, to Mat Fleming for encouraging me to apply in the first place.

About a month ago I visited Berlin. This was intended partly as a holiday but mostly, to the annoyance of my flat mate who accompanied me, as a research trip. My main port of call was the Schwules Museum, an institution dedicated to researching, archiving and communicating the history of GLBTIQ communities. Located just west of Kreuzberg the museum features an extensive library, archive and exhibition space, providing an important space for the development and dissemination of knowledge about queer culture into the wider community.

Please follow the link for further details – http://www.schwulesmuseum.de/en/exhibitions/

As part of my research into the history of queer culture for the Connect/Exchange project I’ve been interested in the processes through which ‘sub’ or counter-culture can be documented for posterity, particularly those aspects that occur day-to-day, not deemed news worthy or historically interesting. In other words how best can we present or survey aspects of culture that are almost entirely social or non-representational in nature, especially twenty, thirty or even forty years after the moment has past?

The urgency and demand by members of GLBTIQ communities to be represented historically has surged in recent decades, with the Schwules museum opening in 1985 only then receiving its first pot of public money in 2009. My feeling is that whilst of course in a broader historical sense key political moments within the community’s history should be in evidence we should consider more carefully how the more personal and day-to-day aspects of the culture can be represented. These elements provide a foundation for the culture, becoming political in the ways in which they showcase the personal to future generations, examples of lives lived both in private and in public.

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In its permanent exhibition the Schwules museums opts for a combination of approaches including framed photographs and drawings of key gay figures from the 20th century, garments and outfits hung on shop dummies, also drawings and paintings featuring homoerotic imagery ranging from the pre-Raphaelites to pre-Nazi Germany. Many of the pre-twentieth century figures that are referenced in the exhibition are described as either bi-sexual or ‘suspected’ homosexuals. These artifacts are very effectively contextualized through wall-mounted texts offering critical analysis together with written biographies.

I was keen to explore elements of Berlin’s own queer history however and so I headed deeper into the district of Shönenberg to visit Christopher Isherwood’s old neighborhood, also David Bowie’s place of residents during the ‘Berlin years’. Having re-read Goodbye to Berlin on the flight over from Glasgow I was able to recall specific streets and episodes from the novel. With help from a tourist guide, and once again to the annoyance of my flat mate, I managed to find Isherwood’s old house. Given Isherwood’s well-documented public persona as a sort of wealthy flaneur and his detailed descriptions of the area I was not surprised to find Shönenberg to be a relatively well-to–do part of town, littered with grand town houses and coffee shops, remarkably unchanged since the nineteen twenties.

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Whilst I admit that my reasons for visiting the site were totally non-academic, experiencing the area first hand re-surfaced underlying concerns and questions I’ve had regarding various propositions from cultural theorists such as Slavoj Zizek, Richard Dyer and Vicki Karaminas, whereby homosexuality itself can be read historically as a symptom or by-product of the rise of the middle classes in the mid-twentieth century, in as much as being queer in the everyday deviated from established norms of dress and sexual behaviour. Trying to figure out whether or not these questions are of immediate concern to my project is an ongoing endeavor, however perhaps a more pertinent question lies in the GLBTIQ’s status as queer in relation to the mainstream? In the light of recent cultural and legal acceptability and representation, how does queer culture retain its ‘queerness?’ In gaining mainstream representation does the culture lose its transgressive beguilement? How will this affect established modes of style and self-representation? Something for me to think about on the flight back to Glasgow…

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Following my collaboration with Alexander Storey Gordon on Animation in Context I have been photographing the current show at the Pipe Factory in Glasgow. Alex is a co-founder of the gallery. Once I’ve finished editing them, the pictures will hopefully be available on the Pipe Factory website.

 

The Pipe Factory is an important space within the Scottish art scene, providing affordable spaces for artists to work and opportunities to experiment and exhibit. We visited the Pipe Factory during our tour of the Glasgow International Festival with Stills Director Ben Harman during our initial week of the residency at Stills.

 

Please find a link to the current show below

http://www.thepipefactory.co.uk/programme/

 

Tom

After reading “How to read: Wittgenstein” on the train up to Edinburgh, my head was swimming with lots of new ideas and a need to re-approach my work on the residency.

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The digital lab upstairs was a good place to sit down and consolidate all the notes written on scraps of paper I have been working on over the last two months since that first week at Stills. During the day I suffered a crisis of confidence several time but at the end of the day I managed to emerge with a strong grasp on the idea.

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As I walked downstairs I entered a jubilant atmosphere and was getting with smiling faces and cold beer. It was a leaving party for the interns who have been working at Stills during my residency. I was really pleased that I could celebrate with them.

It was also really nice to find out that Ben, Director of Stills, is a fellow Fall fan.

Toby

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In the weeks that have followed the residency at Stills I have curated an evening of film screenings and talks as part of the LUX Critical Forum in Glasgow. Working alongside three other artists from the group, namely Kit Mead, Pheobe Amis and Alex Storey Gordon, the focus of the event was to explore the medium of animation within moving image practices.  Animation in context, as it came to be known, was collaboratively funded by the Norman McLaren 2014 project and took place on the 7th of June at Glasgow’s CCA.

Here’s a copy of the running order for your perusal.

 

2pm – Intro

2.05pm – David Theobald, Workers Playtime (4 mins)

2.10pm – Sarah Dobai – Nettlecombe (8 mins)

2.20pm – Response by Tom Walker

2.25pm – Mary Reid Kelley - Priapus Agonistes (15 mins)

2.40pm – Ian Cheng – Thousand Islands, Thousand Laws (2:21 mins)

2.45pm – Recording of response by Rebecca Wilcox

2.55pm – Savinder Buel – Train, loop, (1 min)

 

3pm – BREAK

 

3.15pm – Text by Aideen Doran, read by Carrie Skinner

3.30pm – Katy Dove, Meaning in Action (4 mins)

3.35pm – Response by Kit Mead

3.40pm – Response by Phoebe Amis

3.45pm Hito Steyerl – HOW NOT TO BE SEEN A Fucking Didactic Educational (14mins)

 

4pm – BREAK

 

4.15pm –  Jonny Long, I THINK I (3 mins)

4.20pm – Response by Sarah Rose

4.30pm – Oliver Laric – Versions – (6 mins)

4.40pm – Response by Dominic Paterson and questions

5pm – END

 

Move to Saramago Terrace bar for drinks and further discussion

 

6pm – Screening of Benjamin Nuel, Hotel, 60 mins

Trailer – Michael Owen in Dubai

All information from the handout will shortly be available online at the LUX Critical Forum blog. For a digital copy of the handout please don’t hesitate to contact me at tomj_walker@hotmail.com.

As part of the programme we commissioned texts from other members of the group, one of which was kindly provided by fellow Stills resident Aideen Doran, read by Glasgow based artist Carrie Skinner. Aideen’s texts discussed a number of themes and ideas prevalent within the screened works, providing a critical and very personal insight into the nature of animation and what it means to animate. The rustling of trees in Sarah Dobai’s Nettlecombe became the symptom of passing Helicopters from a childhood spent in a militarised Northern Ireland for example.

The event was also attended by another Still’s resident, Leah Millar, who travelled all the way up from Newcastle for the event. It was lovely to see her, discussions of work and Stills ensued.

Long may the legacy of Connect/Exchange continue…

Tom

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While the bright sunshine and blistering heat of summer may be a rare and welcome treat to most people in Scotland yesterday, it was really no t so welcome as I worked through the evening on a photo-shoot at Stills, with the generous help of Stills technical manager Evan. The warm weather combined with the heat from the lights raised the temperatures in the temporary studio to tropical levels. We set up a Canon 7D DSLR camera on a Manfrotto tripod, setting the camera horizontal at a 90 degree angle to the surface we were photographing- this made the camera set up more than a little complicated as accessing the viewfinder from that particular height and angle was nearly impossible.

I was photographing a exhibition catalog from 1970 titled ‘Information’, a rare book that it took several weeks to track down, searching in several academic libraries across the UK. It is the document of one of the first institutional surveys of Conceptual Art, taking place at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and showed many works that have gone on to become iconic images of modern art, such as Joseph Kosuth’s ‘One and Three Chairs’. All the artists submitted their own catalog entry- some photos, some short texts, some just a blank page or a single typed word. Lucy Lippard, one of the artists in the show, contributed an index for the catalog rather than a document of her work per se.

One and Three Chairs, Joseph Kosuth, 1965.

More than anything, I was interested in photographing the book as a document or a museuological object of some kind. I could quite easily have taken a high quality scan of some of the images in the book, but the image and it’s effect would have been quite different, squashed up against glass.

Today, another unusually hot Scottish summer day, the sunny weather is making reviewing and editing yesterday’s images even more tricky than usual. I’ve resorted to blacking out my studio windows temporarily with some spare dark fabric, to better be able to judge the colour and contrast of the photographs. Summer weather may be good news for most people, but sadly not for artists working on screens.

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The initial weeklong residency at Stills gallery, Edinburgh has proven to be an invaluable opportunity both professionally and socially. The connections and friendships forged during the residency have continued on, spawning collaborations with my fellow residents and entering us all into an ongoing dialogue with each other surrounding each of our practices. The research I carried out during my time there has led me to an array of exciting places, all of which I look forwards to sharing with you in future posts.

The impressive spectrum of talks and gallery visits squeezed in by Ben and Cheryl were extremely educational, engaging and not to mention successful in their efforts to connect us with a wider community of artists and galleries. As a Glasgow based artist, the opportunity to network with artists based in Edinburgh and Newcastle was by far one of the most valuable aspects of the programme. Stephen Sutcliffe, Alex Hetherington, Rachel Maclean and Mother Tongue gave impressively long and intimate presentations to the group, the likes of which we would never have encountered in any other environment. It felt like such an indulgence and I think we all took a lot away from each presentation. Having free-reign on Stephen Sutcliffe’s back catalogue via his own personal laptop was definitely a highlight for me given how difficult his work is to view online.

As for the initial residency period, with only two full days studio time scheduled there wasn’t much time to develop work in any real depth and as a result I’ve found that most of the work I’ve carried out on my original proposal has occurred in the weeks that have followed. Of course it would have been nice to have more allocated studio time with in our week at Stills gallery however the extension time we’ve kindly been offered has more than made up for this. I look forward to telling you all about my progress in the next few weeks. In the mean time and to wet your appetite please find a still posted above from a video I’ve been working on as a result of the Connect/Exchange residency, featuring Glasgow based artist Jamie Crewe.

However, the aspects I personally deem to be the most worthwhile were of course the connections I made with Leah, Aideen and Toby. Three brilliant artists that I was luckily enough to be placed with, friends that I’ve been in contact with frequently in the months that have followed and hope to work with again in the future. I’ve already worked with Aideen as part of an evening of screenings that I co-curate as part of the Norman McLaren 2014 project. Full details to come in a future post.

In conclusion, the successes of the Connect/Exchange residency can indeed be measured in terms of the connections it has facilitated and the exchanges that have ensued. I have to admit that whilst I initially had my reservations about how flat sharing with the other residents would work practically it proved to be one of the key binding elements of the group. Although this could have easily have been disastrous had the group not been chosen as well, a sense of community was achieved through this process, one that remains firmly in place over a month later. From exchanges of ideas and phone numbers to offerings of sofas and pints, I can’t wait to see the work that everyone produces as a result.

I highly recommend that the Connect/Exchange programme be expanded and offered to other artists in the future. To Cheryl, Ben, Lauren at NFM and of course to all the other lovely people at Stills, thank you so much! I look forwards to seeing you all soon.

Last week I had a brief but extremely productive trip to Edinburgh. I had two sessions in the Stills Darkroom. It’s been a while since I’ve printed any black and white pictures but I soon got the hang of it again and managed to get a lot done.

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It was great using the excellent facilities at Stills and seeing the images as physical prints instead of digital scans.

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On the evening between the printing sessions I travelled up to Glasgow to see a talk by Mark Fisher in the new Glasgow School of Art building. A very thought provoking lecture with some unintentionally humours moments. The lights went out on us three times due to the smart room energy saving feature kicking in because we weren’t moving around enough. The image above is from the promo for the lecture, not of the lecture theatre itself.

I’m looking forward to getting back up to Stills in the next few days.

Toby

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I was delighted to house Toby Phips Lloyd, one of my fellow Stills residents, during his weekend visit to Glasgow. Toby has been performing a piece called ‘Wet your Whistle’ as part of Ms B presents Twin Peaks at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. With nowhere else to stay I took pity on the poor chap and provided him with a plush leather two-seater sofa for the duration of his stay. I was very kindly bought breakfast in return.

The event is one of a series curated by Glasgow based artist Claire Biddles (aka Ms B) that explores the nature of fandom and its implication for pop culture. In a   tripadvisor-esque tone Toby gave us an in depth review of the bar featured in the Twin Peaks television series, even making a point of reviewing the toilets.  Consisting of a pre-recorded speech by Toby delivered through a Dictaphone in time to a Power Point presentation. The piece showed us multiple images of the bar acquired by taking screen shots from the original TV series. Toby had impressively managed to track down images of the bar without any actors in them, completing the illusion and undeniably sucking me into the magical world of Toby Phips Lloyd. To read Toby’s account of the event please follow the link, http://www.connectexchange.org/author/toby-phips-lloyd/.

As I made my way to the upstairs bar of the Old Hairdressers I could already hear Toby’s unmistakable tones. I realised immediately that the performance had already started and that I was late, as always. As I entered the packed out performance space I found Toby sat quietly at the back, holding a Dictaphone up to a handheld microphone as a Power Point presentation played on the front wall. As the disembodied voice ran through its review, Toby nudged on each stage of the presentation in accordance with his prompts. The moment I walked through the door Toby looked up from his laptop screen and cheerfully gave me a wave, completely forgetting about the performance in hand. In taking the time to greet me he’d accidentally let his Power Point presentation fall behind its narrator. Realising what had happened Toby gave me a panicked look and instantly returned to nudging his slides along, ever so slightly quicker than planned until both image and voice were back in sync once again. At the end of the performance Toby stood up from his seat and blew triumphantly into a ceramic whistle mounted on the handle of a beer tankard. This marked the end of his performance. The startled audience hastily turned around to face him before erupting into applause.

It was truly great to see and to somehow be apart of Toby’s work outside of Stills gallery. Developing connections and friendships far beyond the initial residency period was one of the goals of the programme. Based on the evidence of that weekend and hopefully of many weekends to come, I’d say that Connect/Exchange has really been a success for all of us.

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Although the initial week of the Connect/Exchange programme has come to an end I’ve been busy enjoying the friendships and connections I made during the residency period.

Firstly, following on from our studio to visit to Rachel Maclean’s studio with Stills director Ben Harman I’ve been working away assisting Rachel with some of the post-production on her latest exhibition ‘Please Sir’ at Glasgow’s CCA. By combining regular visits to her studio with a concentrated period working at my home computer I was able to help Rachel deliver her film on time and hopefully with satisfactory results. I’ve leave you to decide for yourselves, the exhibition runs until the 13th July!!! (www.cca-glasgow.com/programme/52f268ec1cd9e3674b000004)

Almost all of Rachel’s films are shot on green-screen backgrounds and feature Rachel playing every character. With her distinctively psychedelic style each scene can feature up to nine versions of Rachel, all of them interacting.

Working alongside Rachel I have been keying in the characters onto their backgrounds, hopefully creating a believable illusion. ‘Please Sir’ consists of two screens projected in sync at opposite ends of the CCA’s main exhibition space and so the amount of work we had to do was at first daunting. I’d already had some experience using After Effects but had not worked on a project quite as large in scale. Rachel’s easy going manner made the whole process thoroughly enjoyable though, even giving me the plug ins and software I needed so that I could complete the work in my own time.

Whilst I’d known Rachel in a social capacity before the Connect/Exchange studio visit, the residency gave me the opportunity to enter into a professional dialogue with her and has hopefully led to a much longer and sustained working relationship on future projects.

Tom

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I returned to the digital lab in Stills this week, for the first time since our residency ended in late April. It’s been an exceptionally busy few months for me, packed with professional, academic and personal commitments all of which have left me with little time to devote to my project at Stills. However, this week I was finally able to assign some concentrated time to my Connect Exchange project. My return to the editing suite was eased by some untypically pleasant weather and the company of my fellow residency, Toby Lloyd and Leah Miller, both traveling this week from Newcastle to work on their projects.

It’s been an intense few days in the digital lab, where I’ve been working to complete the animation I started back in April. It’s been a serious crash-course in using Adobe Flash, and I’ve managed to get to grips somewhat with this new programme even if the finer points of action script continue to elude me. Since our intensive week of residency in April, I’ve had the opportunity to write about what animation might means as an tool of expression. Very recently, I contributed a paper to the Animation in Context event organised by the Lux Critical Forum and CCA Glasgow. It was presented alongside texts from fellow Glasgow based artists Sarah Rose and Rebecca Wilcox, with the aim of reflecting upon a programme of films by contemporary artists that broadly address the idea of animation.

One thing that seemed particularly important to me were the ways in which animation can create a complete illusion of life from inanimate things, the ‘animism’ at the heart of animation. As a medium it is a labour intensive, time consuming business and typically that effort becomes invisible in a final product which aims to immerse the viewer in a fantastic illusion. An example from the earliest days of animation is Walt Disney’s ‘The Skeleton Dance’ from 1929, in which three cartoon skeletons emerge from their graves at midnight to perform a danse macabre, playing music with their own bones used for percussion and as makeshift xylophone. Their forms seem completely amorphic, constantly changing with the music, at one point becoming a monstrous twelve legged skeleton. The film was made long before the days of any labour saving innovations in animation, and must have been back breaking work.

These reflections seemed particularly poignant as I was toiling frame by frame over the details of my animation, checking and double checking transition points and key frame positions, imagining the level of commitment and vision it must have required to have completed even a three minute animation in 1929.

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My visit to Edinburgh has serendipitously been in time to take in the best of McLaren2014, a series of events, screenings and exhibitions across Scotland to mark the centenary of Norman McLaren’s birth.

McLaren was a visionary artist film-maker, whose work is representative of both contemporary and historical practice in the Moving Image.  In a 1940 edition of Documentary Film News, he is quoted as follows: “I get a distinct pleasure from making a film out of as little as possible in the way of money, equipment and time. …Limited means…stimulate the imagination to new directions of thinking and film making.”   Not surprisingly, this strikes a chord with me, and as someone who often works directly with film stock and scratch chemistry (out of a desire to have direct contact with a process and admitted economic necessity), it is thrilling to see such inventive work conducted on similar principles.

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An exhibition in the Talbot Rice Gallery has been timed to complement the centenary.  ’Hand-Made Cinema: Norman McLaren’ is a method centred look at McLaren’s films, and is partnered with a show of recent works by Jason Dee.   I very much recommend a visit to both.  The Talbot Rice Gallery and University of Edinburgh are curating workshops, roundtables and symposia to complement McLaren2014.  I attended the first, a  event entitled “The Eye Hears, the Ear Sees” Symposium: Music, Animation, and Experimental Film.  Four speakers presented a range of viewpoints from which to discuss McLaren’s work – it has been food for thought, and I’m working on a written response at the moment.

This weekend I went across to Glasgow to attend another McLaren2014 event, co-curated by CCA and LUX Critical forum, “Animation in Context: Screening and discussion”.  My Connect-Exchange colleague Tom Walker worked very hard in the organisation of the day, which was pretty impressive, presenting a varied program of work and genuinely pushing the boundaries of my understanding of animation.  It was great to catch-up with him, and also see a solo exhibition of cinematic works by Rachel McLean currently at CCA.   We were lucky enough to see one of these (‘Please, Sir…’) in progress when we visited Rachel in her studio back in April, but it was fairly mind-blowing to see the scale and detail of the finished result.  ’Happy and Glorious’ runs until Sunday 13th July, and is highly recommended!

I’m here in Stills for most of June, editing archive footage and working on the sequencing of my film.  Back in Newcastle, my animation and 16mm film segments have been progressing, but I haven’t developed the film yet (it’s ‘in the can’) so I’m keeping mum about that until I see what I’ve got!

On Saturday I was able to return to Stills for the first time since the residency in April. I received a warm welcome from the gallery staff and after a catch up I started scanning the negatives that Tom Whittle shot for me when I was here last.

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It was good to be back in the city and have the time and space to re-familiarise myself with the project and do more work on the script for the film.

When Stills closed for the evening I had a walk around the city then got the train to Glasgow to meet Tom Walker who was on the residency with me in April. It was good to catch up and discuss what we had both been working on since we had last seen each other.

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On Sunday night I performed a new piece of work, Wet Your Whistle, as part of Ms. B Presents… Twin Peaks, which was curated by Claire Biddles. I met Claire in Glasgow during the Stills residency at a Scotish Contemporary Art Network event. It was great to work with her and I really enjoyed the rest of the performances on the night.

Now back in Newcastle, I am continuing work on my Stills project and looking forward to getting back to Scotland.

- Toby Phips Lloyd

I’ve been in the studio for a few days, making contact print strips for a short 16mm animation.  It’s quite a slow process, and working on an extremely small scale, (I have to take regular breaks or else it’s migraine inducing!) but ultimately satisfying.   This work has also revealed the fact that I need a new spectacle prescription – when I started everything was a bit blurry and headachy.

This will then be exposed over strips of acetate which I have painted with a handmade photosensitive emulsion.  I can add colour and overlay transparent textures at this point as well.

Making a template from which to contact print a 16mm animation sequence

I make my own developing chemicals (cheaper and I like to have my elbows in each step of the process).  I’m hoping I will have something I can work with by the end of the week, as on June 1st I am moving up to Edinburgh to start editing at Stills.

About 120 frames, roughly 5 seconds of film

About 120 frames, roughly 5 seconds of film

 

This Sunday (25th May) I will be performing a new work, Wet Your Whistle: a guide to drinking in Twin Peaks at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. More details about the event can be found here

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I’m back at Stills after a few days spent trawling through archive footage in Belfast.  I’ve been mainly looking at images shot in the 60s and 70s, and was lucky enough to come away feeling quite hopeful.  Archive is a misleadingly simple term for what can sometimes feel like an impenetrable world.  The ownership and origin of material determines whether you can view, let alone use it, and navigation and exploration demands a certain degree of tenacity and tact.   The treasure-hunter in me takes real delight in this soft-soled chase, but there are lots of dead ends, and eventual costs can mean that you have to leave the treasure where you find it.

That being said, I was lucky enough to be invited into the vaults of Ulster Television at UTV HQ, which houses a vast collection of news footage gathered from the launch of the station in 1959.

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Huge wheel operated shelves fill the room (you actually have to move the shelves in order to find the door out!) and a bank of monitors, a Steenbeck and a friendly archivist where there to help me in my search.  I was looking for images of social housing construction, the people who were involved in that, and the people who came to live in them.  One famous development, Divis ( described as providing the worse housing conditions in Western Europe), seemed to dominate the content, but after some digging I started to find bits of interesting ephemera, rushes and test shots which were more what I was looking for.  Truthfully, I could have happily spent days there, and kept having to drag myself back to my point of focus after being diverted off course by a wealth of curiosities.

I’m still in the process of deciding what to use, and talking with UTV about how it will be used, but hopefully something good will come from that.

I also visited Belfast Exposed Archive, which maintains a substantial collection of negatives and slides in trust for the community. The collection has been compiled over the past 30 years through contributions from professional and amateur photographers and communities and represents a valuable historical document recording political, cultural and social change in Northern Ireland.  Again, the staff were welcoming and helpful, and I ended up spending far longer than intended working through the wealth of material.

I was lucky though, and having a clear idea of what I am looking for and how it will work in the film has enabled me to be selective, not disappearing too far down the rabbit hole!

Many more sources of archive exist than you might think, from car boot sales to family albums, you just need find your starting point I think.  Sometimes the most exciting finds can be the most unexpected.

Since leaving Edinburgh I have been kept busy with a series of trips – up and down the country on a baby visiting mission, into the wilds of Northumberland, and finally, a mile down the road and up four flights of stairs into my new studio, at the NewBridge Project in the centre of Newcastle. This was perhaps the most strenuous and daunting, involving a crash course in DIY, (resulting in slightly wonky shelves) and numerous journeys carting my possessions across town. I am now I the process of making this new workspace mine, adding books and equipment, accepting kind donations (a shelf here, a chair there) from friends and those who happen to be de-junking at a similar time. One man’s trash is another small artist’s treasure, or rather, the tools to make her a functioning studio.

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One of the new additions to this space is a plant, species Pelargonium, gifted to me by a man called John, who lives in a tower block on the outskirts of Gateshead. He kindly allowed me to interview him a few days ago in his flat. The rooms are tiny, crammed with boxes and furniture, and flooded with light. On shelves and windowsills in the living room, John is raising a sizeable family: geraniums, chilli plants, cacti and Pelargoniums, jungly cheese plants and spider plants. They stand in serried ranks, straining towards the light, turning a dingy box into a world of green. These plants are destined for the Green Festival, where they will be sold and used to teach people the rudiments of horticulture. I had mentioned my new studio, and how I was trying to make it a friendly place in which to work and experiment, how out of my comfort zone I sometimes feel, at odds with the city around me. So he wrapped up a plant in newspaper, instructed me on its care, and now here it sits upon my windowsill, keeping me company and reminding me of the stories and lives that are the central point of this film.

John never expected to live in a tower block, but life, and the sink holes it throws up, ensured that this is where he has ended up. Sitting by the window with the noise of the motorway below thrumming behind him, he describes the experience of the last few years as a resident, finally explaining why he has chosen to leave.

The one bedroom flat smells of damp, and brown patches flower across the ceiling and walls. We can hear his neighbours in the homes around him, but he says he rarely sees them, and feels no spirit of community despite the close proximity in which they are housed. The inhabitants of the block are largely transient, and the friendly concierge at the entrance has been gone for about ten months, the service scrapped by the management company in favour of cutting running costs. Communal areas are limited to the dingy corridors, the area around the bins and the locked up community centre, which is used sporadically for a lunch club for elderly residents, and little else.

John broke his foot earlier this year, and as a result had to live with a friend for a month or so – the lift in his building didn’t work, and he couldn’t get up the stairs.

Outside, the view of the flats is pleasant, trees in blossom skirt the base, it is quiet bar the sounds of the road behind. But this is a lonely place, no one stops to chat, residents hurry past if I meet them in the halls.

There is no evidence of the anti-social activity that John feared he would encounter here, but neither is there any sense of neighbourliness, the taxi driver who picks me up shudders, and proclaims the blocks “places without souls”.

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Modern Edinburgh Film School

Modern Edinburgh Film School

 

Sorting through my collected notes, publications, press releases and documents from my week on residency at Stills, I’ve been particularly enjoying poring over the collected publications of Modern Edinburgh Film School (aka Alex Hetherington), gifted to us by Alex after his talk on the 16th of April. The activities undertaken under the name of Edinburgh Modern Film School traverse the boundaries of several disciplines: film-making, writing, curating, live-action. In the most recent Edinburgh Modern Film School publication, ‘The National Review of Live Art’, published as part of Atelier Public at GOMA in April 2014, he describes his practice;

“My work surrounds moving image and its ideas and often implies the possibility of film without making any, and to place on a horizontal plane activities in film and sculpture, writing, curating and conversations with artists to find a space between us where a new work might happen. And to a method for me to work, that means I am in a way disguised.”

To me, this approach to art-practice seems to chime with my own reflections on the relationships between practice, method and medium, as I’ve been developing them in the wake of our intense week of what can be usefully described as research and production. The art-historical model of understanding art (as I came to know it as a young person through the UK education system), is one in which the artwork is a repository of determinate meanings, a kind of binary model of illusion (the artistic image) and truth (the interpretations hung upon it). However, more and more as a practitioner it is clear that this is an obsolete model of understanding, as art and method now connect in ways that have shifted the emphasis of practice away from producing singular artworks towards more open-ended processes of experimentation. Research and experimentation as an artist is now typically open-ended, avowedly non-empirical, and seeks out the specific in knowledge rather than the general. This model of research and practice seems to be made visual in the Modern Edinburgh Film School publications. Each work/publication develops from another in a rhizomatic fashion. References, images and materials are reiterated and the separate sheets of paper are nested together in an inter-locking puzzle. Other artist’s works are prominent in the publications, and collaboration and dialogue seem to be vital aspect of the method of Modern Edinburgh Film School. They are tools to resist a hierarchy of discourses in a practice that spans so many different types of medium and forms of practice.

This raises a questions that I’m curious to explore, as to whether the visual languages developed by artists are differently constituted by their use of different media. Is it the media or the method that dominates artistic modes of expression? As an artist who has always been interesting in practice as a laboratory of experimentation, rather than a linear process that outputs artworks at its endpoint, I have worked across media throughout my career and have only recently begun to describe myself as a ‘moving-image’ artist. Having been experimenting with digital drawing and animation throughout the residency, questions of medium and method have arisen as I’ve considered what limitations to expression certain mediums may impose, and how these may be subverted in some way- do I adopt a visual grammar of special effects and computer animation because of the method of my practice, or because that is the form of expression that the programme demands? It’s not something that can be easily answered. Practice, and researching as an art practitioner, is fluid, divergent, in a process of continual flux- a perpetual work in progress.

Northern Film & Media and Stills are pleased to announce that the Scotland / NE strand of Connect/Exchange will be extended throughout May and June 2014. This will provide artists Leah Millar, Toby Phips Lloyd, Aideen Doran and Thomas Walker additional access to facilities at Stills throughout these months, allowing them to continue the development of their projects and to build on the connections made during the initial week’s intense residency.

Throughout this time, the artists will continue blogging about their experiences on the Connect/Exchange site, and updates will be posted on twitter – follow #connectexchange to keep up to date.

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20/04/14

 

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m on the Edinburgh Waverley train back to Glasgow Queen street (QST). Having said my goodbyes to my fellow artists in residence Leah, Toby and Aideen I’m left to reflect on the past week.

The second half of the week has once again thrown us into a jam-packed programme of events and discussions. These have included attending the Glasgow International curators breakfast held at Glasgow’s South Block, two full days of studio time at Stills and the opening of Mother Tongue’s A Thousand of Him Scattered: Relative Newcomers In Diaspora.

Whilst only a week long, the friendships and professional relationships that have been forged not only amongst us artists in residence but also with visiting artists and the ever accommodating people at Stills, I know and hope will carry on beyond their allotted time period. Indeed, the opportunity to develop these relationships and the lucrative dialogue we have begun together has very generously been awarded to us by Northern Film and Media. With access to the facilities at Stills throughout May and June I hope that we can begin to unpack our ideas more comprehensively. Perhaps through influence of each other we will end up in unexpected places.

 

Having moved my life and practice up to Scotland from London 18 months ago I’ve been unsure as to how my presence as a practicing artist within the Scottish art scenes would be received and more practically how my practice would function outside of my known network of friends and professional acquaintances. The reassurance I’ve gained in my decision to migrate across the border through selection for the connect/exchange programme is invaluable, the connections that have been initiated will hopefully mark the evolution of a new professional network and of course an ever expanding circle of friends in the north. The residency’s modus operandi i.e to connect us to a wider sphere of influence and operation through exchange of environment and ideas has truly been successful. I hope that following our experience and positive feedback that the programme will be expanded and offered to an increasingly diverse array of practitioners. With this in mind i feel it’s essential that I use this blog space to thank Ben Harman and Cheryl Connell of Stills and Lauren Healey at Northern Film and Media for taking a chance on an unknown entity in the Glasgow art scene. Their open mindedness and enthusiasm to use the connect/exchange residency as a platform to support unknown and emerging practices is a rare and precious gesture and one that shouldn’t go unrecognized. On behalf of ‘high risk’ artists everywhere, thank you!

 

Tom

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One week since I left Edinburgh and I am able to reflect on my time there. It was a great opportunity to be able to think and work away from my usual routine in Newcastle as well as meeting new people and forging working relationships and friendships. It was an extremely productive week as I started work on my Film Noir project and also had an idea for another film which sparked from a conversation I had with someone at Stills.

Now I am lucky enough to find myself in Berlin where I have been developing the idea and shooting video to be used in the film. Because I know that I can return to Stills over the next two months I feel that my momentum can continue and I’ll be able to achieve much more than I originally thought.

See you again soon.

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Dan Graham, New Space for Showing Videos, 1996 (Installation view at the Walker Art Centre, 2000)

We, the Connect Exchange residents returned to our separate cities on Sunday afternoon after our intensive week in Edinburgh. It was not without some degree of sadness, as within the week of our being in Edinburgh several new friendships and creative relationships were formed, and interesting new connections made with the visiting artists and speakers. While Connect Exchange has been one of the shortest residencies I’ve participated in thus far, it’s also been one of the most intense and has the potential to, over time, greatly change the way all of us approach our moving image practices. I’ve absorbed a huge amount over the course of the week, through the exhibition visits to Glasgow International and Inverleith House and through my conversations with my fellow resident artists, with Ben Harman from Stills and Lauren Healey from Northern Film and Media and from all our visiting artists.

It’s going to take a much longer time to process everything that I’ve absorbed during the week, which is one of the reasons why I’m very grateful that Stills  and Northern Film and Media have agreed to extend the project until the end of June 2014. While we’ll not be permanently based in Edinburgh, we will have continuing access to the resources at Stills and hopefully further opportunities to meet as a group and discuss how our projects have progressed. I’m hoping to apply some of the ideas and methods that I’ve encountered during the residency to the work that I’ve begun to develop in the digital lab, a series of digital animations exploring the mediation of time. One of the most recurring thoughts from last week was around the experience of moving image work in the gallery- hence the image of Dan Graham’s ‘New Space for Showing Videos’ from 1996. I’m be going back to Edinburgh tomorrow to get started on this next phase of the project in the digital lab at Stills. It may or may not involve bean-bags.

I spent yesterday evening in the company of an old friend, who also happens to be a new resident of Glasgow.  It made me think again about that relationship between people and place.   This project really started with a curiosity about what our surroundings do to us.  How much space does a human being need?  Why do we form emotional attachments to some places and not others – and why has social housing so often seemed to consider few or none of these factors?  It was one of those rare warm, sunny evenings  and was a lovely way to wind down after a spirited morning discussing and debating the crossovers between artists and curators.  The event was organised by the Scottish Contemporary Art Network and was an opportunity to chat to people who see curation as an important part of their practice.  A topic I don’t often consider if I’m honest, but as someone who collects bits and pieces from time to time, and maintains a small archive, I suppose it’s quite an integral part of my practice. So, food for thought on several counts.

I’m back working in Stills today, on the sound edit. This has been more time consuming than I had anticipated, but I’ve been plugging away and am quite pleased with how it has allowed me to condense my floaty ideas into a solid structure and a more realisable aim for the visuals. I have lots of bits of cut up film on the desk beside me, which I’ve been moving around and imagining as shabby towers, still standing but a little the worse for wear.  The  remains of the Red Row in Glasgow have been spared for the time being.

People still care about the places they’ve lived, no matter how grim they might look or how many of the lifts are broken.  We form attachments, build communities, put down roots.  Even if we didn’t have much choice in our situation at first.  Reminding us about this lack of choice, and reaffirming it with a wrecking ball seems like the worst kind of social care.

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Yesterday began with a re-immersion in my film.  I spent an hour looking through my own footage and some archive material in the morning to get my brain into the right mode.   I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to discuss how to approach archive with several different artists this week, who have given me tips and shared sources with me.  It isn’t hard for me to get drawn deep into it though, so I try to be careful to set myself time limits!

I’ve realised that my film has a definite rhythm when I think of it, and have come to think of this as a form on which to structure the sequence.  I like to give things familiar names, so am calling this structure a ‘film poem’.  The interwoven segments will form the stanzas, so that even a non-linear arrangement can be mapped out in my head.

I’m seeing echoes of tower and block shapes everywhere I look, and have decided to include this in the work.

In order to give me a skeleton with which to frame the film, I am editing my audio first, a time-consumming process, but one which makes good use of the excellent facilities I have here at my disposal in Stills.

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Screen grab of work in progress, 18th April 2014

Aideen Doran

It’s been a busy week since my arrival in Edinburgh on Monday. In the course of the past few days, my fellow artists-in-residence and I have toured Glasgow International and Corin Sworn’s solo show at Inverleith House, visited the studio of Rachel Maclean and have had visits and group discussions with Stephen SutcliffeAlex Hetherington (Modern Edinburgh Film School) and curatorial collective Mother Tongue. The diversity of moving image practices and curatorial approaches over the past few days has been huge, and the process of digesting all that we’ve seen, heard and talked about is only just beginning.

The studio time that we’ve had available to us today and yesterday has been, for me, a restful intermission and a chance to play around with new programmes and tools in the Digital Lab at Stills. It’s been both deeply enjoyable and hugely frustrating getting to grips with new technologies like digital drawing and animation, as is the process of learning to use any new media. I’ve been happy experiment quite a bit with the work I’m developing as I’m discovering the possibilities of programmes like Flash and After Effects.

The studio at Stills has been quiet today, not with inactivity but with intense concentration as my fellow artists and I become absorbed in our own projects. There have been regular points of punctuation for much needed coffee and tea breaks. Tomorrow promises to be another active day as we travel to Glasgow for the last weekend of the GI festival, but in the meantime I’m enjoying these few reflective days.

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Our first days have passed in a flurry of activity. Between gallery tours, studio visits and artist talks, we have been privileged to be introduced to some of the most exciting moving image work happening in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Now seems a good point to reflect on that, as we shift gear towards concentrating on our own practice.

Toby and I arrived on Sunday and were met by Cheryl Connell, Programme Manager at Stills, who immediately made us feel welcome and showed us our new home for the next 7 days.

A lucky coincidence meant that we were in town just in time for a gig at The Wee Red Bar, inside Edinburgh College of Art, so our first night was spent soaking up some improv from Flower-Corsano Duo, meeting up with old friends and readying ourselves for the week ahead.

We met Tom later on Sunday, and Aideen arrived at Stills on Monday, where we spent the morning introducing ourselves and our current work, and getting to grips with the facilities at our disposal.

We are all at slightly different stages in our practice, but I’ve been struck by a quick sense of ease between the group, and a generosity of spirit. We are inquisitive about each other’s work, and the cleverly curated programme of talks and visits from Stills has allowed us room to ask questions and share ideas. Right away, Aideen showed me some examples of archive she had accessed previously, while Tom nipped home to his flat in Glasgow at one point to grab a magazine article he thought I should read. Small gestures perhaps, but beautifully illustrative of the supportive atmosphere I am experiencing.

On Tuesday, Ben Harman met us in Glasgow for a tour around Glasgow International 2014 and a studio visit with recent Margaret Tait award winner, Rachel MacLean. Ben took on his post as Director of Stills relatively recently, and together with Cheryl has carefully thought out a programme of talks and visits in terms of relevancy to our practice and the residency, despite the intense workload they both seem to breeze through on a day to day basis.

It was great to have a guide through the expansive programme of GI, not to mention the streets of Glasgow! A curatorial CV that includes study in Art History and a previous post at GOMA means that Ben is both inquisitive and informed about a range of art practices. His affable nature and attention to details like biscuits meant that the day was genuinely good fun.

Over tea and the aforementioned biccies, Rachel MacLean talked to us about her practice, and the work she has been doing in preparation for her upcoming show at CCA in Glasgow. Being invited into an artist’s private workspace is a rare experience, but Rachel was very welcoming, offering frank insight into her process, so that we were soon discussing shared loves (you tube, how to videos), and hates (navigating copyright law and cold studios)!

It was particularly interesting to me as I have recently taken the plunge and set up my own dedicated work space, so I’m pretty fascinated to look at how that works for another artist.

My GI highlights so far have been two shows at Tramway – Michael Smith and Bedwyr William Echt and the group exhibition at Wasps Artists’ Studios, Reclaimed – The Second Life of Sculpture. I was also really intrigued by the treatment of a found film displayed at Transmission, in an exhibition by Beatriz Santiago Munoz.

After returning to Edinburgh and a well earned sleep, we started Wednesday with an artist talk delivered by Stephen Sutcliffe. Stephen’s unassuming nature and recurrent themes and use of literature strike a real chord, so that it felt like the morning had been arranged especially for me by a filmic fairy godmother.

After a personal tour of Corin Sworn’s exhibition by Paul Nesbitt (Director and Curator of Inverleith House), we spent a wonderful afternoon in the company of Alex Hetherington of The Modern Edinburgh Film School. Alex’s practice, and insight into the role of an artist as a curator and consumer of film is both illuminating and humbling. I’m not quite sure how to explain this, but I felt like having met a kindred spirit, who despite an enviable CV as an artist, curator and writer, maintains a sense of wonder and love for the medium of film.

We were then joined by the Mother Tongue curators Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden, two refreshingly natural women whose impressive research-led practice presents Stills’ latest exhibition, “A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora” which opens this friday.

The day ended over dinner across the street, with exchange of emails and inspired thoughts, swirling through sleep to a new morning today, refreshed and ready to turn towards my own work.

I have had a good stay in Edinburgh, meet some great people and seen some great art and music. Everyone at Stills has made me feel welcome and have been extremely generous with their time, especially as they are in the middle of an exhibition install.

Highlights have included: Flower-Corsano Duo at Wee Red Bar; Bedwyr William and Michael Smith exhibitions at Tramway; Studio visit with Rachel Maclean; Sessions with Stephen Sutcliffe, Alex Hetherington and the curating duo Mother Tongue.

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Today I have been followed around various parts of Edinburgh and photographed by Thomas Whittle as for my Connect Exchange project which has been inspired by James Hog’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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So here we are at the half way point of the Connect-Exchange residency. The week so far has been jam-packed with gallery visits, artist talks, group discussions (both sober and drunken) and a general acclimatising to our new surroundings and flat mates. On Monday I, and the other artists in residence rather nervously introduced ourselves and gave short but revealing presentations of our practices. At the end of which we discussed our plans for the week ahead. We were then treated to a tour of the gallery by Stills Technician Evan and inducted into the numerous facilities now at our disposal. We were then left to our own devices and the tentative processes of ‘making work’ had somehow begun. Naturally, unsure of where to start I began to check my emails.

Tuesday saw Aideen, Toby, Leah and myself travel to Glasgow to visit the studio of recent Margeret Tait award winner Rachel Maclean. Rachel generously made us all a cup of tea and served us biscuits before giving us an insight into her processes of thinking and making work. Rachel’s descriptions were made all the more tangible by the fact that we were surrounded by walls filled with a collage of her research material. Adobe Premiere Pro was open on the computer screen behind her as she discussed her Margaret Tait entry A Whole New World, in which we could see her current film being edited. Throughout our meeting the time-line on Rachel’s screen was fronted by the all too familiar RENDERING bar, which quickly became a point of shared frustration.

We were then given a personalised tour of some of the exhibitions on display as part of the current Glasgow International Festival by Stills director Ben Harman. As a graduate in Art History Ben’s insights into many of the buildings and spaces provided those of us that had previously seen the shows with a renewed context for the work.

Yesterday saw wall-to-wall presentations and gallery visits. Beginning with artist Stephen Sutcliffe in the morning, we drank coffee to the strains of Morrissey singing ‘Please, please, please let me get what I want’ from his 2001 film of the same name. He then discussed his ongoing work for the LUX/BBC Scotland Artist and Archive programme. He addressed recurring themes of self-doubt in his work and so I requested that he show us the work that he felt most doubtful of. He graciously obliged, I feel it’s only fair to keep what film he showed us a secret though. As an artist whose influence can be read quite overtly in my work it was exciting to have him presenting his practice to us in such an intimate and personalised setting, feeling at times as if we’d somehow been given access to our very own artist jukebox.

This immediately followed by a trip to Inverleith House to view the current exhibition of work by Corin Sworn. Curator Paul Nesbitt gave us insightful and incredibly personalised tour, speaking emphatically about the processes with which the work was made, connecting it thematically and topographically to the surrounding Royal Botanic Gardens.

Upon arrival back to Stills we swiftly grabbed some lunch and launched straight into an informative presentation by Alex Hetherington (Modern Edinburgh Film School) addressing his practice as artist/curator. He very generously gave us each an expensive pack of hand outs featuring numourous posters and articles from previous shows. I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of an upcoming series of events in collaboration with Atelier Public in which he described a need to raise the temperature of the gallery in preparation for a gang of live cats that would be running through the space.

Next up, and overlapping with Alex were Mother Tongue. Taking a break from curating the show currently being installed at Stills A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora (opening tomorrow evening) Tiffany and Jessica discussed some of the ideas and over arching themes in their work, anecdotally describing the moment they began their collaboration. We were then all whisked off for a slap up meal at neighbouring restaurant, and sponsors of A Thousand of Him, The Devil’s Advocate, all secretly hoping that we wouldn’t sleep in on our first full day of making work at Stills.

 

To be continued…

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The Hamilton Pulsar watch
“The world’s first solid state wrist time computer”, circa 1970

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We are now four days into Connect Exchange at Stills, and are marking the halfway point between beginning and end of our intense week-long residency. The first three days have passed with surprising speed, and the hours left to make research and make work seem vanishingly short. To address this passing and marking of time is particularly important to me, as the project that I’m developing here at Stills concerns how the experience of time is mediated through technology. I’ve been researching horology, the art and science of measuring time, in the development of a video work that speculates on how the experience of time might change in future environment in which all things are radically mediated by technology.

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Desktop screen grab, 17th April 2014

Today, I’m working on a series of animations of clocks and watches. The variations over different time periods of the basic design elements of a clock face are particularly fascinating, the evolution of the digital clock faces even more so.  Stanley Kubrick approached the watch company Hamilton to design a futuristic digital clock for his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The prop created for the film led to the launch of the worlds first digital LED wrist watch. It was named the ‘Pulsar’ and marketed by Hamilton as a Time Computer.
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I’m gathering my thoughts and belongings together in preparation for next week’s residency at Stills Gallery.

It feels odd to be writing at this stage, when there are a lot of unknowns, but if the interview and application process has taught me anything it is that thinking regularly about my work in a quiet, structured and reflective way can help to crystallize ideas and drive it forward.

My plan is to make a film based around the move in the second half of the twentieth century to rehouse families from areas labelled as slums into modern, economically produced social housing schemes. These often centred around a new trend towards high-rise living. The creation of the welfare state shifted the emphasis towards “comfort for the many, rather than luxury for the few”. New, machine-made materials and modern industrial techniques fast-fowarded this change, with the result that the rehoused found themselves living in very different surroundings with little opportunity for adjustment. The effects on community and the successes and failures of individual schemes are my points of focus, the intention being to make sound recordings, and combine these with archive footage and hand made film.

I’ve been spending much of my time in the darkroom for the last month, experimenting with chemical compositions to create a photosensitive emulsion that will form the basis of my hand made film. I wanted this background to look organic, and somehow alive, so I have been playing around with its constituents and crystal size in order to try and achieve this. I’ve also been working on a technique to make a stop motion animation via contact printing onto this medium. It isn’t something I have tried out before, but luckily the results have been much as I envisaged. The aim is to create short animated sequences that will link together pieces of archive footage, in which I am using very analogue and hand made methods to mirror and respond to images of tower blocks made to a brutalist aesthetic out of stone and other man made materials. Recordings made with residents of these buildings will form the basis of the sound to the film.

The project started out from personal experience – living in Belfast, and then Newcastle, tower blocks are always visible on the skyline, and have important social and political connotations in each city.

Their presence is hard to ignore, yet sparked different feelings for me in Newcastle – I became more inquisitive about them, and the people living inside. I started to film, and then to record discussions with residents, and decided that I wanted to document an experience of a tower in cities with strong socio-economic parallels, but different population and political demographics.

I did have an idea of addressing Glasgow and perhaps Edinburgh, but it did not seem feasible. I’m particularly excited about the Stills residency as it may afford me exactly the opportunity I was looking for.

Still more noteworthy and coincidental is the announcement that the demolition of 5 Glasgow tower blocks is to form part of a spectacle to mark the opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Already the decision is inciting nationwide debate, and presents an interesting viewpoint and an admission that in the eyes of the government the tower block is a failed ideal. I would like to explore the possibility of including this in my film, and to contact local residency groups during my time in Glasgow.

But right now I am sitting in Newcastle, and I have yet to start my residency. Who knows what the next week will bring, the carefully put together programme of talks, studio visits and exhibitions looks to be inspiring and exciting.

Thomas Walker -  Happy Hour, solo exhibition, Home Gallery, London, 23/01/2011 Installation, 2011

Thomas Walker – Happy Hour, solo exhibition, Home Gallery, London, 23/01/2011 Installation, 2011

Toby Phips Lloyd, Aideen Doran, Leah Millar and Thomas Walker are the artists confirmed to undertake digital and moving projects through Connect/Exchange’s new Scotland to North East strand.

Northern Film & Media are working in partnership with Stills, Edinburgh to host an intensive week of initial research and development residencies.  In addition, artists will be supported to expand professional networks through a series of gallery visits and studio crits.

Toby Phips Lloyd will undertake research for a new Film Noir project currently titled, Is Toby Lloyd a Zombie? The work involves Lloyd playing a detective investigating an artist called Toby Lloyd, who is suspected of attempting to take control of other people via astral projection.

Leah Millar intends to frame and create animated footage of tower blocks using analogue ‘home made’ cameraless film techniques, in combination with sound recordings she has been making with residents of social housing schemes.

Aideen Doran will use footage gathered from a recent residency in Dhaka, Bangladesh to develop her on-going research into the subtle shifts between production and non-production in the information economy and the rhythms of labour it produces.

Thomas Walker’s practice is primarily focused on documentary film making as a means of depicting differing modes of organisation and performance at work within given sub-cultures. For Connect/Exchange he will research approaches to gay culture, examining political and aesthetic responses in both times of crisis and celebration.

This is the second strand of the pilot version of Connect/Exchange. The programme supports artists in the initial research and development of new moving image / digital projects, whilst simultaneously facilitating relevant networking and professional development opportunities.

Exchanges take place between 14th and 20th April 2014. Connect/Exchange is supported by Creative Scotland’s Creative Future’s Programme, Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts, The European Regional Development Fund, and a-n The Artists Information Company.

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