Since November I’ve been a Fellow at Birmingham Open Media aka BOM. On the most prosaic level it means by working there I help inform the direction this new space develops in. There are 10 of us, from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, and this two month show sees us shake out why we’re here and what we can do together in a public forum.
My initial contribution will be documentation of Sitting In Stagram which ties together a number of my interests and reached at least 750,000 people over the last 10 days, which is insane. This will be on show from March 9th. Following this, a month later, will be an installation which tries to take this from Instagram and into the gallery space while attempting to retain what makes it interesting by collaborating with my fellow Fellows and others.
Miniature Camera Obscuras for Flatpack Festival 20th/21st March Info
While the Kickstarter-funded Birmingham Camera Obscura is being constructed by professionals, Jenny and I will be making our first outing of the year, hanging mini camera obscuras in the window of Home Cafe Deli on Church St as part of the Flatpack Film Festival. The idea is these devices will show miniature movies directly sourced from outside the cafe, and we’ll be running workshops where people can make their own from cardboard and tracing paper. Ours will be rather splendid, though, and we hope you’ll enjoy them.
Cross City Walks for Flatpack Festival 27th – 29th March Info
On the second weekend of Flatpack I’ll be showing the fruits of a different collaboration in a completely different venue. Upstairs from the lovely Polish Expats centre Centrala I’ll be installing a screen showing the timelapse photos taken on Andy Howlett and my Cross City Walks where we walk across Birmingham is as straight a line as possible. In front of the screen will be treadmill which controls the speed of the film. But run too fast and things might take a strange turn.
Our initial four walks will be on show along with copious information about this project which we plan to develop over the next year in collaboration with others. The installation is part of the Video Strolls strand of Flatpack, curated by Andy.
More info about all three to come as I inevitably document the process.
“Between 1969 and 1974 Mary Lucier made a series of slide projection works titled Polaroid Image Series, begun as a collaboration with the composer Alvin Lucier and based on the structure of his composition for voice and tape, I am sitting in a room. In this sound work, Alvin Lucier recorded himself reading a text describing the making of the work. The recording was played back into the room repeatedly, rerecorded each time, until the original statement became unintelligible as a representational form, leaving only the resonant frequencies of the room and the rhythm of speech. Following the same structure, Mary Lucier introduced an original Polaroid photograph through a Polaroid copier, thus beginning a sequence of 50 images in which each subsequent generation becomes itself a copy of the one before it. As in Alvin Lucier’s sound work, small errors that occurred during the process were incorporated into the work and amplified as it progressed. The resulting 50 black and white slides were projected sequentially, along with the original thirteen-minute audio work.”
An experiment to see how common Photoshop filters might effect a piece of music when applied to its spectrograph.
The first 80 seconds of audio from Beethoven’s Fifth was ripped from YouTube and fed into the ANS synth. This produced a spectrogram which was exported and edited in Photoshop using tools in the Filter menu. The resulting manipulated spectrogram was then played back, and recorded, in the ANS synth.
Original in ANS
Find Edges filter
Polar Stretch filter
Note 1: Vimeo is my preferred video hosting service but they rejected two of the videos due to copyright infringement. I had assumed a composition by someone who’s been dead for 188 years would be out of copyright, but I forgot that performances are copyrighted too. Thanks, Royal Philharmonic. YouTube is happy to host the videos because it’ll put ads next to them, which is why I pay to use Vimeo because YouTube’s ads are obnoxious and intrusive. So it goes.
But this is actually really interesting. When does my manipulation of the music stop it being recognised, and how far after that point does it continue to be recognisable? The Crystalised filter is probably in that zone.
I think the next stage would be to repeat this for a massive number of effects and chop and slice between them somehow. And to not use a recording in the copyright ID database…
On Sunday I was one of the artists presenting their work at If Wet, a salon-style gathering of sound artists and experimental musicians in a village hall in deepest Worcestershire. This was the culmination of a year or so’s work exploring slit-scan photography, performance photography, sonification of images and many other disparate things that I’ve been able to bring together through the framework of “being an artist”. You would not believe the freedom that gives you.
It’s also the start of something and is very much at the prototyping stage. One of the purposes of presenting at If Wet was to put a call out for collaborators who would like to work with the sounds I’m producing to make something nice, or at least interesting, out of them. I’m very aware that it currently sounds like a sonogram but, as I say repeatedly, I am not a musician and this is way out of my comfort zone. Collaboration is the way forward.
The presentation is about 25 minutes long with 10 minutes of intro, 10 minutes of demo and 5 minutes of Q&A. Thanks to Sam Underwood and David Morton for hosting.
Somewhat annoyingly I won’t have any time to develop this over the next 6-9 months because the Camera Obscura project is stepping up a gear very shortly, but I hope to come back to it in the autumn of 2015 and am really interested in finding a collaborator along the way. In the meanwhile I hope it’s inspiring and enjoyable!
Over the last few months I’ve been slowly getting my head around what happened last year when I applied for, and received, my first Arts Council grant to run some photo walks in Birmingham. I went in to the process as someone who was probably capable of being an artist but didn’t have the confidence to call themselves an artist. I came out of the process as someone who, when asked by the registrar what to put in the occupation box on his wedding certificate last month, said Artist.
In March I half-joked that I’d got so much stuff in my head that I needed to write a book to get it straight. And then I looked at the sketchy notes I’d written and realised there was a book there. So I wrote it.
The book is called Collective Photography and it’s free to read/download in various ebook formats from Leanpub. (You can pay for it if you like but there’s no obligation).
The meat of the book is 10,000 words long, which isn’t that bad, and I’ve tried to keep it light and readable. It’s not the evaluation report, though I did need to write the book to get my thoughts straight for it.
The rest is a huge slab of appendices including blog posts, the funding application, questionnaire answers and a couple of interviews. You don’t need to read these unless they’re of interest.
Amongst other things I’m hoping this book is useful to other people like me who might not come from an art-school background and want to see how the Grant for the Arts process could work for them.
Please note that it isn’t 100% finished. I will be taking on board some feedback and tweaking the text in places, as well as adding some images and the evaluation over the next few weeks. I might even ask someone to do a not-shite cover! But if you go through the Leanpub process you’ll be notified when updates are available. I’ll also extract some of the newer pieces for this blog.
Please do let me know what you think of it and, for the next few weeks anyway, any comments on improving bits.