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matthew hulse – week 2

– continuation from last week –

From last week’s feedback I noticed some holes in my explanation of how I conjured my idea for Van Gogh as my protagonist in the short story. My inspiration behind choosing this artist and not any other, is because I visited Paris this September and among all the museums and exhibitions I saw, only one stood out.

On the top floor of the Musée d’Orsay was a space dedicated to Van Gogh and two other artists. From the moment I walked in I saw his portrait and a wave of sorrow, sentimentality– time stood still as I saw his life’s work on the walls around me. I think me response to his work is actually a result of an episode of Doctor Who! (as seen above) This episode fully realised Vincent and I suppose there’s also a massive nostalgia anchor, weighing me down to this episode as I was quite young when I watched it. The raw emotional reaction I had to this one man’s art solidified for me the idea that I would like to make something regarding his life and work.

– streams of everyday consciousness –

I am not particularly drawn to… drawing anymore and I think this is reflected in my recent ‘streams of consciousness’ from the last few terms. This term is not different. I am more interested in depiction through words. I don’t have much to say about this point of the lesson as I feel all my ideas are written down on the images above; words constantly flooding my mind, trying to topple each other.

The presentation began with a slide stating ‘this presentation is very boring’; honestly some pieces were quite yawn-inspiring whilst others created a sense of anxiety and discomfort. One such piece was John Smith’s ‘Girl Chewing Gum‘ (1972).

  • Film consists of two camera shots
  • First part takes up the majority of the film and is set in an intersection in Hackney, London.
  • The artist narrates as the film progresses almost like a mise-en-scène type of rehearsal.
  • Voiceover later reveals that artist is in a different location 15 miles away from the image the viewers are seeing.
  • Viewer is unable to see what is being described to them.
  • The film does not dramatise or glorify the street scene, it is an objective description of the everyday.
  • Smith questions the authority of image and word both as objective document and as recorded narrative.
  • There is … a fascination with language here, in the way that description of a scene can be changed into a series of commands to the things in that scene by adding certain words to a descriptive sentence.

While watching the 12 minute film I felt a sense of existential dread? Everything was seemingly orchestrated, no free will, no motivations, almost like ‘God’s sandbox’. The orchestration of the scene also could be read as a screen test for a show or film, but I prefer looking into the more obscure and sinister side which rears its head slowly (in my mind). The way the narrator describes the scene as if they are ordering everything from people, to birds to clocks makes reframes everyday actions that no-one would question; hearing them being given out like commands completely defamiliarises the viewer and makes them question all they know about a normal street and anything happening on it.

– strangeness everywhere –

Ostranenie is the Russian term for defamiliarisation which was introduced by writer Victor Shklovsky. It means to see strangeness. To see in strangeness is to participate in an illusion that is more real than real.

A great example of ostranenie is Craig Raine’s 1979 poem, ‘A Martian Sends a Postcard Home.’

– neglecting commodity –

Michael Landy’s “Nourishment” (2002) is a collection of a series of detailed etchings depicting plants found in London, which he collected, potted and subsequently meticulously studied their structures which are visible in his life-sized studies. Landy calls them ‘street flowers’ […] ‘they are marvellous, optimistic things that you find in inner London … They occupy an urban landscape which is very hostile and they have to be adaptable and find little bits of soil to prosper.’ These ‘street flowers’ grow between sidewalks, latching onto any piece of soil and absorb any water they can to survive, yet they are overlooked by those who walk past them.

Landy had begun these etchings in the late 90s but during another project of his, named Break Down (2001), he destroyed the etchings he had previously made along with thousands of other personal belongings. It is only in late 2001 that he returned to the Nourishment collection and added more etchings to it.

I identified with this series of etchings as I tend to disassociate when I walk outside and turn my attention to what’s on the sidewalk or on the street instead of focusing on getting to my destination (often gets me in dangerous situations…). Noticing the little things helps me appreciate the greater place I am surrounded by. I find this to be the case with other trivial information as well, so I am unsurprised when it comes to me taking in smaller, arguably unimportant objects or lifeforms.

This was also reflected in the small exercise at the beginning of the lesson where we were asked to pick a mundane, everyday object, observe it, and give a description of it from an outsider’s perspective; much like the Martian from Raine’s poem. I picked up the small tomato. After inspecting it I saw small vascular-looking structures under its skin- it felt like it was about to start beating like a heart at any second. It felt secretive, protective and consequently alone to me, as it had been displaced from the stem it was growing on and now sits in someone’s fridge, or bowl on a kitchen table. Is it still alive? Did it hurt when it was pierced by the toothpick? Does it feel welcome around all the other mundane objects? Is it cold? Does it hunger? Does it smell the tea bag?

– progress on my I.P. –
quick audio-journal of what happened in the past week regarding my project.

Currently feeling a bit lost and adrift in terms of what to move forward with… must think more on this…

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