I created a sketchbook after the Liverpool Trip as a record of my visit to the Liverpool Biennale.
On Tuesday 11th October 2016, I visited the Liverpool Biennale and also went to see the John Moore’s Painting Prize Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. The following pieces were of inspiration.
Walker Art Gallery
We first visited the Walker Art Gallery where I wanted to see Zoo Logic by Mark Leckey and also the John Moore’s Painting Prize.
Zoo Logic is one of two installations displayed at the Walker Art Gallery by Mark Leckey, a ten-metre high inflatable Felix the Cat dominates the upper entrance hallway. Mark Leckey has a specific interest in Felix the Cat who when sat on a Gramophone was the first picture to be transmitted on TV in America in 1928.
The shape of the dome represents the shape of Felix’s head while amplifying the sound of the film inside. I found the video to be quite fascinating and the use of dual screens to create a video where the footage on each screen worked together.
“I liked that it was a two dimensional cartoon that became a three dimensional doll, that then became this electronic entity that got broadcast out into the ether. For me, Felix symbolises the way in which technology blends the real and virtual worlds.”
Inside the Video Dome plays two video’s where Mark Leckey is transformed into Felix the Cat inspired by the Disney character Mickey Mouse.
John Moore’s Painting Prize
Also located at the Walker Art Gallery, I was surprised how little information there was about the Winner, given that our visit was in October and the winner had been announced earlier in the year. I found the exhibits to be particularly inspiring and came away with plenty of food for thought. In particular I wanted to view the short listed pieces and also the winning piece.
The winner of this year’s John Moores Painting Prize and the recipient of £25,000, is Michael Simpson with his painting ‘Squint (19)’.
One of the judges, the Turner Prize-shortlisted artist Gillian Carnegie, said: “I felt slightly uncomfortable looking at the cold, austere painting of Michael Simpson. As a painter and as a viewer this is a feeling that greatly inspires me. The painting has an elegance that is timeless. For me it was the clear prize winner.”
Simpson, who shared a room with David Hockney when they studied at the Royal College of Art in the early 1960s, won for a painting called Leper Squint 19, depicting a ladder underneath a “leper squint” – a medieval church window that allowed people with leprosy, and other “undesirables”, a chance to watch sermons below.
Another of the judges, the artist Ansel Krut, called it a “wonderfully understated, conceptually elegant work” which recalled the church interiors painted by the 17th-century Dutch artist Pieter Saenredam.
Krut said: “The painting uses an almost minimal vocabulary to open up a world of great sympathetic imagination. It touches on the nature of silence, on distance and on exclusion. But most importantly, it touches on the privileges of looking.”
This painting made me feel very cold and isolated with a deep sense of unease in the pit of my stomach, almost that sense of not being able to make any noise. On reading the connection that this piece has with the church, this perhaps justifies the sense of unease that I felt.
Talar Aghbasihian – Untitled
A Lebanese Armenian painter who did his Master of Fine Art (MFA), Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and lives and works in London.
A persistent memory of a disproportionate, ill-sculpted arm of a statue of an assassinated politician, a memory of the toppling down of another statue seen on news footage, and scenes of destruction of historical monuments, converged into an emblem of a hand, as if from another world. Painting landscapes came to me after I first visited the ancient city of Palmyra six years ago. It has revealed itself in different interrelated themes ever since.
I use photo print outs, and project them onto my already heavily built up or thoroughly sanded down canvases. As I work, a painting’s alchemical make up, and the substance and process, is reflected in sync with my ideas and experiences. It forms in layers: some remain transparent, others dense; some blur, expand and shrink, get wiped, ever evolve and coexist.
The paintings are eerie, and haunted by a sense of unease. It is important that they are not exaggerated and that they look convincing. Left ambiguous, they are open to interpretation. They respond to our times, in which reality is continuously manufactured in our everyday, throughout the news and media.
The monochrome surrealist theme is continued in Talar Aghbashian’s Untitled, 2015: an oil painting echoing the classical references found in the work of Giorgio de Chirico. It depicts a large hand, which we impute is perhaps part of a larger figure, or a rock face in a surrealist world where size is subverted. It is rather reminiscent of Chirico’s painting The Song of Love, 1914, which displays a large, pink glove attached to the side of a building. By emphasising the hand shape, it references the sculptor’s art or the iconoclast’s destructive rage.
I didn’t actually see this piece in person, however, it suggests to me a painting of part of a much larger sculpture rather than that of a real hand. i find the contrasting neutral colours very appealing, albeit somewhat cold and emotionless.
Gabriella Lloyd – Birthyard
My works, which consist mainly of oil paintings on canvas, revolve around the merging of private and public spaces.
I build up paintings of imagined locations in stages, often allowing purely formal considerations of colour and line to determine their direction. It is through this process that figures emerge. Psychological states become theatrically realised as characters’ inner and outer realities blur and shift.
Working from photographs, drawings and recalled social observations, I try to depict fleeting interactions or moments of failed intimacy.
I get the sense of the production line of babies, however, the colour palette appears somewhat confusing to me. When I first saw this piece, the colour gave me a sense of people sunbathing, however on closer inspection, it began to dawn on me that this indeed was not the case and then it seemed that the colour was even more at odds with the subject. I can imagine though the warmth due to the temperature in such hospital wards.
The other prize winner, Gabriella Boyd, introduces some figures, though we can’t see their heads because this painting isn’t about differentiation and the targeted focus is lower in the body. Her oil painting Birthyard, 2015, shocks with its title, invoking as it does an industrial workplace. With its repeated motif of bent knees, this is a birthing production line of babies waiting to be born from prone figures. The warmth of the colour palette contrasts oddly with the rather clinical idea and the babies are not anatomically in the right position. Nor are there any medical staff. Again, it’s all rather surreal. I would place it as firmly in the realm of the surreal as in the category of social comment.
This picture gives me the sense of when you have glue or sticky stuff stuck to your fingers – decidedly gooey and messy – completely messes with my OCD’ness related to clean hands.
The biomorphic forms created in oil, distemper, wax and charcoal in Benjamin Jamie’s Dissolver, 2015, are perhaps more evocative of the surreal paintings of Yves Tanguy. Their linear configuration skilfully expresses a distended, sticky, tension.
My paintings are meticulously rendered through soft films of transparent oil so that imagery looks drawn or printed.
Central to my invented vocabulary are: the frame, flatness, surface, transparency, trompe l’oeil illusion, repetition (with variation and displacement), and bands and units of isolated colour. In my interrogations of the technical problems of the medium, I frequently conceive of painting as a two-dimensional stage space that curtails fictive distance as it represents it.
Photographic reproductions of abstract painting often include the contextual space of the gallery. ‘One, The Side-ness of In-Out’ draws on this convention to place abstract shapes in a ‘room’. By way of a horizon line, two versions of the ‘same’ shape illustrate the two divergent spatial organisations accredited to painting: abstract (freely floating) or figurative (beholden to gravity). In turn, we can see each shape as either a painting or a sculpture. The repetition asks which is the referent and which the art, while the narrative considers painting’s form as inclusive of, and reliant upon, the architecture of its surroundings.
I find this picture almost hypnotic as my eyes are constantly trying to make sense of what they see and almost re-arrange into a logical form.
Selma Parlour’s oil painting One, the Side-ness of In-Out, 2015, painted on linen, also echoes the surrealists: Magritte’s strange interiors; Chirico’s blue/orange contrasts, for example. It is fairly uncomfortable to look at, being small and a bit cluttered and it engages the analytical mind, as Squint 19 does, in a futile attempt to make sense of our perception: the mismatching sides; the folding in at the bottom right hand side; the in-outness. Our edgy attempt to impose perceptual equanimity is hereby challenged.
I make intricate paintings that contain fragments of images from a wide variety of sources. I playfully combine and compress disparate collections of images to the point of overloading the picture plane.
This ‘kaleidoscope’ of glistening surfaces becomes a vehicle for my interest in mixing fantastical imagery and ambiguous narratives.
Central to my practice is the use of a wide variety of media and processes to create the source imagery for my paintings.
These include rapidly made drawings, sculptures anddigital collages. I transform images from these sources through a protracted and slow process of painting, often taking more than a year to complete each piece. In so doing, I try to imbue these initial ‘sketches’ with something jewel-like and precious.
It took me a few seconds to realize that this piece represented a cave of crystals, instantly intrigued I spent a long time looking at all the intricacies of this piece, which is actually only very small.
My favourite in the meticulous detail category is Donal Moloney’s acrylic painting Cave Floor, 2015, which has the detailed intricacy one finds in Islamic decoration and in the mediaeval miniaturist tradition. The artist uses a palette you wouldn’t associate with a cave: amongst the deep and muted colours are jewel colours, bright colours, pastel colours, subtle colours. There is a proliferation of images: flowers, jewels, rocks, repeated arches in rainbow colours, all piled in there, creating a magical place.
Other Entries of Interest in John Moore’s Painting Prize
Duncan Swann – I choose the child
Swann’s work encompasses painting, collage, photography, installation and writing. Recurrent themes include power relationships, the mask, time, systems of belief, and confrontations with ‘the other.’ Recent work has included a large number of works on paper. Painted in black acrylic on white, the paintings are quickly rendered to give only the necessary amount of information for an image
…and the commodified people chillingly represented in Duncan Swann’s oil painting, I choose the child, 2015. These are shown as goods to be appraised: a sort of labour market, with people on plinths and numerals above. One figure has a restraint round his neck, which reminds us of the slave market. Another, a child, has been ringed. Chosen.
The subject of this painting seemed quite dark to me, perhaps because it represents something that we don’t like to acknowledge as happening in our society. It also makes me feel quite sick to even consider this could happen to a child that I know or even my own child. I could see that people with no children may have a slightly distanced opinion of this piece.
Bernard Charnley – When the stars threw down their spears
The first painting (to the left, as you enter) is Bernard Charnley’s ‘When the stars threw down their spears’: a swathe of orangey-yellow paint sweeps across an abstracted landscape of red, blue and green.
The painting (titled with a Blake quotation) felt a fitting start to the show: abstract expressionism has happened, but the pre-20th century past still has influence.
I particularly liked the swathe of colour in this picture and understandd the reference to painterly expressionism. Beginning to realise that my love of bright colours and black and white – images with lots of contrast may have a lot to do with my dodgy eyesight.
Painterly preoccupations are exemplified in Enzo Marra’s strongly textured Invigilator (John Virtue), 2015, in Bernard Charnley’s colour-exuberant When the stars threw down their spears, 2015, and in the graphic skills of Tim Renshaw and others.
“Totem is one of a series of paintings exploring notions of population growth and societal shift. The compositions of earlier pieces were often determined by hard population data; more recent paintings have expanded into more conceptually abstracted areas, adapting visual metaphors of construction hoardings, beams and scaffolds to document the urban experience and to denote the boundaries of the individual.
The pared-down palette of black and luminous red is a frequent presence in my work. A field of vertical columns is formed entirely by a stark network of marks which vary in speed, intensity, weight and trajectory. The result is an abstract calligraphic language, reminiscent of cave painting, graffiti, even barcodes and digital coding. The urgency of mark-making is pivotal and reflects a fast-paced environment glowing from the residual evidence of a transient population.”
I felt instantly sucked into this piece, almost like I was standing there amid all these domineering columns which rise upwards like sky Scrapers. They almost feel like they exist in an alternate universe somewhere like in a sci-fi movie.
Continuing the experiential theme, Alex Rennie’s oil painting Totem, 2015, has a dominating power produced by fresh and loose stacked images in red and black: geological striations interspersed with volcanic heat. If you entered this smouldering temple of columns you would be stifled and overwhelmed by the heat and density.
‘Him & Her’ is a work about a couple’s turbulent relationship. I would like the viewer to feel this turbulence when they look at the work. I am trying to convey the intangible emotions and complexities of this relationship via the tangible medium of paint.
The piece, Les Non Reclamies (The Unclaimed) by Steph Goodger really had a huge emotional clout, probably because of my work on this module, it was particularly poignant to imagine all these people not claimed by their families at the end of their lives. I was particularly moved by this piece, given the closeness to my own work of the subject matter.
Perhaps the most figurative work is Steph Goodger’s 3.6m long painting ‘Les Non-Réclamés (The Unclaimed)’, but here the bodies in coffins are largely faceless – blurred in death. I found this shift away from portraiture interesting given that the last three John Moores prizewinning paintings have had faces in them – works by Rose Wylie, Sarah Pickstone and Keith Coventry.
A way to express myself without fear of confrontation or judgement. Escapism into my own reality of the world around me.
John Moore’s Painting Prize – China 2016
The five winners of this year’s John Moores Painting Prize China have just opened their new exhibition of work at the John Lennon Art and Design Building, featuring work produced in Liverpool during a three week residency at LJMU.
In ‘Fundamental Tool’ the trace of the shovel where Shuilong once laid it flat on the linen creates an almost indecipherable ghostly-void in the centre of this work; you are not sure at first glance that it may even be a tool, it almost looks completely abstract. The shovel’s absence is defined as an outline by the dust that has settled around it from the building-site where it was created. Shilong’s intervention is to then use a paintbrush to wipe the dust back off the linen canvas, “hoping that art will be able to undo nature, and creating a painting that sits between control and chance”. The whole piece is a very subtle and both traces of the artist’s brush and tool are the only structural elements to be seen.
Very interested in the use of dust to create this picture.
In Gallery 1, we present works by Krzysztof Wodiczko, who uses technology and prosthetics to explore themes of immigration and displacement, as in the immersive installation Guests. Lucy Beech’s new film Pharmakon (in Gallery 2), co commissioned by Liverpool Biennial and FACT is an interpersonal drama that explores health anxiety and self diagnosis in an era of mass communication. And in the foyer, Yin-Ju Chen’s Extrastellar Evaluations considers humanity from an extraterrestrial point of view.
For Krzysztof Wodiczko, a flashback means traumatic re-emergence of memories from the past, characterised by psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This presentation brings together exhibits from over 40 years spent working in collaboration with marginalised communities such as war veterans and the homeless.
“How to find a provocative, creative and useful place for oneself as an artist – that’s the question I ask myself.”
Artist Krzysztof Wodiczko reflects on over 40 years spent working in collaboration with marginalised communities such as war veterans and the homeless. Wodiczko is well known for large-scale public projections and interactive instruments and vehicles, created in order to empower individuals and give light to societal injustices. His presentation at FACT for Liverpool Biennial 2016 brings together exhibits such as Homeless Vehicle Project (1988-89), The Guests(2011) and Veteran Helmet (2015).
The piece Guests, 2009 by Krzystof Wodiczko addresses the issues of illegal immigrants living in Poland and Italy and refers to the immigrants as people on the outside of society. Interested again to see how the projection had been set up, given my interest in projecting from multiple sources and to be able to see work that is current and based on a similar subject to that I am working on at the moment.
Wodiczko’s large-scale installation Guests (2011), originally commissioned for the 53rd Venice Biennale, forms a central part of the exhibition, reflecting in this context on the current migratory crisis and debates around immigration.
Much of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s work is located at the junction between art and engineering, a factor that ensures the socio-political characteristics common to the artist’s work are a constant, and visible, feature. This work is the photographic and film documentation of Homeless VehicleProject. Featured in this film is the prototype developed by the artist in 1988-1989 in New York, and the record of consultation with the homeless in the United States during the artist’s stay there. The multifunctional vehicle designed by Wodiczko was a response to a practical demand; to make it easier for the homeless to meet their fundamental needs, to assist positively in their everyday struggle for survival, and to improve the quality of their lives.
Homeless VehicleProject was not only a tool to improve everyday existence on the street, but also to allow for a coming into existence, for an “appearance” in public space. As the artist explains: “All of my works, both Public Projections and the current work Homeless Vehicle Project, feature the continuation of my work on strategies of communication, the use of public space, and the conditions of a non-autocratic system”.
Fascinated by this piece and it’s real world use – a really good example of how Art can influence peoples lives directly.
As part of Liverpool Biennial 2016, Krzysztof Wodiczko’s installations, instruments and vehicles in FACT’s Gallery 1 explore themes of migration and displacement. One of the works showcasing Wodiczko’s continuing work with military veterans is the prototype device Veteran Helmet (2015), created to aid veterans to share their experiences with civilians. Words by Jay Bell.
Again fascinating, this seems to really help veterans communicate ver difficult emotions and issues to the civilian population.
The land of Lemuria sank into the ocean thousands of years ago, but its natives have been living invisibly amongst us ever since. In the 1960s, some of them re-emerged, using the identities of conceptual artists such as Donald Judd, Robert Smithson and Carl Andre. Yin-Ju Chen’s work, Extrastellar Evaluations, part of the Flashback episode, brings together evidence of Lemurian presence on earth, and considers the impact of the 1960s as a defining era for humans and Lemurians alike. For humans, civil-rights struggles, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam shook the status quo, but for Lemurians, the era was characterised by severe weather events that disrupted their communication with their motherland. As a result, they were pushed to invent extreme methods of transmission that involved the creation of large-scale geometric devices, understood by humans as conceptual artworks.
I didn’t actually see this piece, though very interested in the subject matter.
Lucy Beech – Pharmakon
Lucy Beech’s new film for Liverpool Biennial 2016, Pharmakon, is an interpersonal drama that explores how disease operates in an era of mass communication. The film focuses on female group dynamics, and how support networks can care for the individual whilst conversely intensifying symptoms. It examines how connectivity in this context can be both illness and remedy, and how diagnosis is dependent on our ability to impose particular narratives on the body. Shot and produced in sites across Liverpool, the screenplay has been developed through the artist’s active engagement with therapy groups, advocacy websites, patient forums, and interviews with clinicians working within the field of delusional infestation. The film is part of the Flashback and Software episodes.
I briefly spent time in this installation, however was completely overwhelmed, think the subject matter was a bit too close to home for me to see at the moment.
I was particularly interested in Mark Leckey’s piece to see how he incorporates found footage from online into his film work. Very Inspiring, a piece with huge impact. Particularly interesting I noted that he had used an old projector and old speakers, not up to date technology which combined with the video work made for a somewhat nostalgic piece.
In an old factory in what used to be the industrial heartland of Liverpool, Mark Leckey is installing his latest artwork, Dream English Kid. Like all his best artworks, it’s a video montage of found footage, plundered from the Internet, which conjures up the poignant ambience of lost youth. Like a box of faded postcards, it’s intensely atmospheric. As we move into the digital age, this is a foretaste of what fine art will become.
“I set out to make my memoirs using found footage”
In 1979, Eric’s nightclub in Liverpool hosted a gig by Joy Division that Mark Leckey attended in his youth. Recently, the artist located amateur footage of the event on YouTube. Realising that many of the personal memories we have can be found online, Leckey began to assemble a film. ‘Dream English Kid 1964 – 1999AD’ uses archival material from television shows, advertisements and music, to recreate a record of all the significant events in his life from the 1970s until the 1990s. The film is presented as part of Liverpool Biennial 2016 and is on show at Blade Factory in Camp and Furnace until 16 October.
Mark Leckey (b. 1964, Birkenhead, UK) lives in London, UK, and won the Turner Prize in 2008. He uses a variety of media – including film, sculpture, sound and performance, and has an ongoing fascination with the affective power of images, music and technology.
New Contemporaries is recognised nationally and internationally as a reliable barometer of future trends in art. Since 1949, New Contemporaries has profiled emerging talent from the UK’s art schools through an annual open submission exhibition. Past exhibitors include Ed Atkins, Helen Chadwick, David Hockney, Chris Ofili and Simon Starling.
At Bluecoat, Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 features 46 artists chosen by guest selectors Anya Gallaccio, Alan Kane and Haroon Mirza. From Richie Moment’s high octane, satirical videos to Michael Cox’s detailed paintings of urban architecture, Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 shows the diverse approaches of emerging artists working today. Social, cultural and environmental changes to the world around us are represented in the show, with artists reflecting on geo-political turmoil, cultural legacies and environmental concerns. The exhibition will travel to the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, in November. 2016 marks 30 years since Bluecoat last hosted New Contemporaries.
I was surprised to learn that the artists in this exhibition were established, I really thought they were newly out of university. Some of the pieces I found to be quite interesting, these are listed below.
With machine vision, technological acceleration and the increasing pace of life, time seems to flow ever faster, making our relationships to images and the land fluid and problematic. At the core of my practice lies a concern for the surface and skin of the image through which I attempt to channel affect and a more embodied type of visuality, positing the surface as a site of mediation, transfer and transformation. Through the haptic nature of the work, I examine humans’ relationship with the digital and seek to connect with and to slow down our experience of images, calling on lost lore and old forms of knowledge to negotiate technology and scientific advancement.
I found this piece to be particularly hypnotic and I’m really interested in Kate’s practice and ethos in general.
Rodrigo Red Sandoval
Utopía es una isla que no existe. Pese a esto, mide 200 kilómetros de largo y sus costas se encuentran rodeadas por el agua de un lago pacífico; tiene 54 ciudades, todas imaginarias, donde sus habitantes ficticios viven en un estado continuo de perfección. A nadie le hace falta nada y ninguno posee más de lo que necesita; no hay lugar más próspero ni más feliz. Si bien Utopía no existe siempre está presente, pues su falta de lugar en el mundo no ha impedido que deviniera en uno de los conceptos más inagotables en la historia de la humanidad.
Utopia is an island that does not exist. Despite this, it is 200 kilometers long and its coasts are surrounded by the water of a peaceful lake; Has 54 cities, all imaginary, where its fictitious inhabitants live in a continuous state of perfection. No one needs anything and no one has more than he needs; There is no place more prosperous or happier. Although Utopia does not exist, it is always present, because its lack of place in the world has not prevented it from becoming one of the most inexhaustible concepts in the history of humanity.
Born in 1980 Bergen, Norway. Lives and work in Oslo, Norway. Margreta Stolen with her sharp skill, large scale and subject matter make her the one to watch of her generation. She describes herself as a visual storyteller, and make dystopian and fragmented stories told through drawing. The darker sides of our culture have always fascinated her. Black Metal and horror movies often influence Margreta Stolens work, but she twists the imagery around to portray contemporary feminist view on female identity. Educated at Central St. Martins, London, (2004 – 2007), and Goldsmith College, London, (2015 – 2017). Margreta Stolens work has been exhibited in the U.K., Germany, and had numerous solo exhibitions in Norway. She has received National Exhibition Funding from the Norwegian Arts Council in 2013 and 2014.
Omega, “Purr”, 2016 Canvas, acrylic paint, marker, fur, brass bullet belts, UV print, wool yarn, LED lights, sound 200 x 300 x 30 cm
I just really liked all the different textures in this piece.
Anna Bunting-Branch is an artist and researcher based in London. Current work explores feminist science fiction as a material culture and a methodology through painting, moving image and writing. Science fictional tropes, from parallel universes to alien encounters and future worlds, inform ongoing attempts to express different relations to feminism and its histories.
W.I.T.C.H., 2015 Acrylic and oil paint on 3 folded aluminium sheets
Really interested in working with Aluminium to continue from the photo etching that I had done in printing.
Sebastian Jefford works in painting, sculpture, photography and digital platforms and has exhibited work in both Britain, Germany and USA. Amongst other things his work deals with visual perceptions of groups of objects, that in many cases are staged by him.
A nutritious yet horrid morsel, 2015 Plasticine, acrylic, permanent marker, silicone, timber, netting, nails 136 x 85 x 7cm
Plasticine – Fantastic!
I am an Irish artist living and working in Ireland and have been fortunate to have lived the last forty years of my life as an artist. The main vision I had for my life was to bring the rich and colourful history and legends of Ireland to life through my art. I started my Celtic Irish artworks in the early 1970s at a time when very little attention was paid to our distinctive and unique ancient histories, myths and legends, and they were certainly not cool. Now they are well-known and cherished, due to the efforts of myself and many others, all of us indebted to the great and learned scholars from the turn of the century to the present and I’m happy they are.
The King, 2015 Wax, polyurethane foam, steel, MDF, paint, circuit board, electrical components and audio 233 x 116 x 140 cm
This has to be my favourite piece in this exhibition, I spent a long time trying to work out how all the component parts were put together. Interested in this also because it reflects my desire to include PC components in some of my work as a reference to my life long career in the software industry.
Recently I met Kate Roberts, a student from Chester University who is completing an MA in Creative Processes and I agreed to be interviewed by her whilst driving my car, so as to produce some video material that can help her with her remit on Creative Flow.
I could envisage this being an ideal opportunity to reflect on my own creative practice with someone else who has a similar background in the Creative World.
On the 5th November 2016 we embarked upon our journey in the car, with a dash cam that I had set up recording our conversation on Creative Flow, snippets of this conversation are to be included in this blog, along with the final 2 minute video clip that I produced for Kate.
We began our discussion by talking briefly about Autoethnography and it’s relation to the Creative process and the Creative Flow that each creative individual experiences.
Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act. A researcher uses tenets of autobiography and ethnography to do and write Autoethnography. Thus, as a method, Autoethnography is both process and product.
I can see how we experience Autoethnography when we complete our blog entries and our research of supporting material to use with our artwork. The process of continual reflection using our blogs provides us with the method or process of Autoethnography by the simple act of writing our blogs and also the product of Autoethnography, the finished blog itself.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pronounced (Cheek-Sent-Me-High) is a Hungarian Psychologist who recognised the concept of Flow, that state of concentration that exists when a creative individual is “in the zone”, experiencing a highly focused state of concentration.
Csikszentmihalyi is noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity, but is best known as the architect of the notion of flow and for his years of research and writing on the topic.
Csikszentimihalyi suggests that people are at their happiest when they are in a state of flow, completely absorbed in the task in hand in a state of complete concentration, being so involved that nothing else seems to matter or exist.
However, at times we all find it difficult to get into the zone or become completely immersed in the task in hand. It appears that this can be because a balance needs to be achieved between the challenge that the task provides and the skill of the creative individual.
Csikszentmihalyi characterized nine component states of achieving flow including “challenge-skill balance,
Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according to Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model.merging of action and awareness, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task at hand, paradox of control, transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and autotelic experience.”
To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results.
From personal experience I can say that I know only to well when I am experiencing Creative Flow and also when that flow seems difficult to achieve, and indeed sometimes I can feel indifference to the task in hand.
For me, that feeling of being in the state of flow is akin to the state of meditation.
Having a background in Yoga and Meditation, as a precursor to meditation, concentration can be developed when you concentrate on an object until you begin to find that place where only you and the object exist at that point in time, where the rest of the world ceases to exist and you become completely absorbed in the object of your attention.
Patanjali describes this in his Yoga Sutra’s 1.17 – 1.18
Stages: Building upon practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya) (1.12-1.16), the meditator systematically moves inward, through four levels or stages of concentration on an object (1.17), and then progresses to the stage of objectless concentration (1.18).
Discrimination: Developing a razor sharp discrimination from such concentration is the purpose of the eight rungs of Yoga (2.26-2.29), and forms the finer tool for introspection (3.4-3.6).
All objects are in one of four stages: Virtually all types, styles, methods, or objects of meditation are included in one of these four stages, levels, or categories (1.17). The specific objects within those four stages are discussed in later sutras. (See also the articles, Five Stages of Meditation and Types Versus Stages of Meditation.)
Savitarka/Gross: relates to concentration on any gross object while still accompanied with other activities of the mind, including meditation on sensory awareness, visualized objects, the gross level of breath, attitudes, syllables of mantra, or streams of conscious thought.
Savichara/Subtle: relates to subtle objects, after the gross have been left behind; the subtleties of matter, energy, senses, and the mind are, themselves, the objects of meditation, inquiry, and non-attachment.
Sananda/Bliss: emphasizes the still subtler state of bliss in meditation. In this state, the concentration is free from the gross and subtle impressions that were at the previous levels.
Sasmita/I-ness: focuses on I-ness, which is even subtler, as it relates to the I that is behind, or witness to all of the other experiences.
Objectless concentration: The four stages (above) all have an object to which attention is directed (samprajnata). Beyond these four is objectless concentration (1.18), where all four categories of objects have been released from attention (asamprajnata).
The right set of circumstances or variables need to exist for creativity to take place. If any of the variables are not quite right, this can lead to anxiety and stress which can then block the flow of creativity.
Flow at its best is demonstrated when creativity is in action, when all of the variables are correct for the creative individual to experience the correct environment to experience creative flow.
I reflected upon the time when I taught Yoga to children and that I would create games that enabled the children to express themselves through physical movement, for example acting out the actions of their favourite animal to understand the concentration required for a Yoga pose and to connect Yoga poses to the actions of their chosen animal. However these games would have another impetus, that is to help the children to clear their bodies of the excess excitement and energy. As a class would progress the games would be more geared toward concentration, for example moving a set of singing bells without ringing them needing the child to concentrate both on their coordination and movement. Finally at the end of a Yoga class the children would be able to “concentrate” for a minute or two before returning back to their classrooms in a state of heightened mental focus ready for their studies.
This also reminds me of the article I read recently where a school had replaced traditional detention with meditation classes in a room specially made for meditation.
The meditation room was created as a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that runs other programs as well. For more than 10 years the foundation has been offering the after-school program Holistic Me, where kids from pre-K through the fifth grade practice mindfulness exercises and yoga.
“It’s amazing,” said Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.”
Considering the learning theory of Constructivism where the learner draws from past experiences to discover facts, relationships and new truths. We then discussed the philosophers, John Dewey and Kurt Lewin, who both believes in the four sequences to learning – do observe, think and plan.
John Dewey, a believer in what he called “the audacity of imagination,” was one of the first national figures in education policy. He rejected the notion that schools should focus on repetitive, rote memorisation.
Instead he proposed a method of “directed living” in which students would engage in real-world, practical workshops in which they would demonstrate their knowledge through creativity and collaboration. Students should be provided with opportunities to think from themselves and articulate their thoughts.
Directed Living or Experiential Learning reminded me of the previously gained knowledge that all individuals learn in a very different way. Some people will learn from reading books, some from writing the knowledge down, some people need to be given the knowledge through the spoken word and some people only learning by doing.
Kurt Lewin: groups, experiential learning and action research. Kurt Lewin was a seminal theorist who deepened our understanding of groups, experiential learning, and action research.
David Kolb developed an experiential learning theory that has a four stage learning cycle and four learning styles where knowledge is created through transformation of experience.
David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from which he developed his learning style inventory.
Kolb’s experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles. Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.
Kolb states that learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations. In Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).
We reflected upon the fact that in the mainstream school system today they simply do not have the resources to cater for each individual’s preferred method of learning and generally everyone will be given the same method to learn, usually by reading or writing. It is here that creative individuals can fall by the wayside when they cannot gain the knowledge required through their preferred method of learning.
We briefly touched on Montessori Education as an alternative approach to mainstream schooling and the use of constructivist theory or discovery learning in this education system which enables each student to learn from their own experience rather than using a prescriptive method of education.
Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori based on her extensive research with “phrenasthenic” or “special needs” children and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Although a range of practices exists under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:
Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old are by far the most common
Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours
A constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators
Having discussed the constructivist approach to education, we then discussed discovery learning originally started by Jerome Bruner in the 1960’s.
Discovery learning is a technique of inquiry-based learning and is considered a constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seymour Papert. Although this form of instruction has great popularity, there is some debate in the literature concerning its efficacy (Mayer, 2004).
Jerome Bruner is often credited with originating discovery learning in the 1960s, but his ideas are very similar to those of earlier writers (e.g. John Dewey). Bruner argues that “Practice in discovering for oneself teaches one to acquire information in a way that makes that information more readily viable in problem solving” (Bruner, 1961, p. 26). This philosophy later became the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. The mantra of this philosophical movement suggests that we should ‘learn by doing’
After reviewing the Dash Cam footage it became apparent that the sound quality of the dash cam was very poor indeed, and to date I have not managed to improve it. I was aware that I would probably need a directional microphone for this task.
I have researched this issue and it is quite a common issue and widely discussed on various forums on the internet. I have included one of the videos as an example of the sound quality that I am dealing with.
The actual editing of the footage proved to be a significant effort in time to edit and improve.
I decided to put this part of the work on hold until I have more time available to edit the video and I have also decided that until I get a directional microphone, I’m not going to record any dash cam footage with audio.
This experience has certainly made me reflect on my own creative practice and the ways in which I achieve the creative flow.
I also recognise that when I am in the state of creative flow, I experience less of the symptoms related to my health issues and I feel a deeper sense of peace, calm and satisfaction as a result.
Actively seeking to establish the correct environment and variables so as to experience creative flow more frequently will definitely become a more conscious part of my creative practice.
Below is the final video that I prepared on behalf of Kate, which proved to be a resounding success when she presented this on Friday 18th November 2016.