Aims and Summary:
This week, my aims are to develop on my sound experimentation from Week Two. I am going to create work in response to one of my three experimentations, to develop the idea. My ideas at this stage are to produce some auto writing and auto drawing whilst listening to my audio experimentation: ‘Birds and Boiling Rice’, from last week. I hope that by doing so, I will achieve a greater understanding of the experiment and the myriad of noises in the recordings, then transform it into something new. I will also be Researching Chantel Akerman and John Smith from Week 2’s Seminar, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Lee John Phillips from Week 3’s Seminar, alongside any further research if I find the time. This week I also hope to achieve a vague plan for the production of work in the following weeks, creating a structure for myself or rules to follow during experimentation, in the hopes to create a linear thread through of development throughout this project.
Interdisciplinary Practise Artist Studies and Research:
Chantel Akerman was a Belgian filmmaker who is considered to be one of the most important European directors of her generation. Akerman was first inspired to pursue filmmaking when she saw Pierrot le fou at age 15, leading her to the decision that she wanted to make films like Godard’s. Akerman’s first film was ‘Saute ma Ville’ (1968, 13 minutes, 35mm) which she made when she was just 18. She spent several months in a Brussels film school, INSAS, but ended up dropping out as she wasn’t allowed to immediately pursue filmmaking. Following this, Akerman felt rejected and left home for Paris for the following two years. Her first film sat in a lab for those years, due to Akerman not having the funding to claim it, until the head of the lab told her to take it away. She decided to show it to him and ask for his opinion; he liked it so much that he gave her contacts in Belgian television. The following year, Akerman produced ‘L’enfant aime’, which she saw as a complete failure and refused to allow it to be viewed, this set back leading her to leave Brussels for Ney York shortly after. Akerman lived in New York for roughly a year and a half between 1971-1974, intercepted by regular trips back to Europe. While in New York, Akerman met Babette Mangolte who immediately became her close friend, mentor, cinematographer and general gateway into the world of avant-garde film.
‘Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’ – Chantelle Akerman
(Belgium, 1975, 35mm, Colour, 200 minutes)
Chantelle Akerman’s most notable work is: ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’ (hereafter referred to as ‘Jeanne Dielman’). The film starred Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte and Henri Storck. Jeanne Dielman presents the everyday life of a widow, played by Delphine Seyrig, living with her teenage son, who prostitutes herself to make ends meet. The film portrays the everyday ‘rhythms and rites’ of life in the unique Akerman filming style; perfectly framed scenes, uncomfortably long timed shots and a darker underlying subject. It was from this point that Akerman truly made an unparallel influence on filmmaking, working with her friend Babette Mangolte who was the cinematographer for the film. Jeanne Dielman is viewed to be unconventional in its style and subject, yet an incomparable masterpiece of its time, alongside a powerful sign of a decade when feminism was born into politics and film media.
John Smith is a British filmmaker born in Walthamstow, London, in 1952. Smith studied at North-East London Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, going on to become an active member of the London filmmaker co-operative. Smith was inspired in early life by conceptual art and structural film, alongside the power of immersive narrative and spoken words. His work is often rooted in everyday life, his productions crossing the boundaries between documentary, fiction, and media. Smith has made over 60 films since 1972, alongside video and installation art pieces. John Smith continues to live and work in London and is the Professor of Fine Art at the University of East London, where he has taught part time for the past 38 years.
‘The Black Tower’ – John Smith
(1985-87, 16mm, Colour, Sound, 24 minutes)
John Smith produced a film called ‘The Black Tower’, which presents a man haunted by a tower that he believes to be following him around London. This man is presented as the main character, through exclusively narrative. Such narrative illustrates a journey from unease, to breakdown, to mysterious death. The film is embedded with puzzles, puns and jokes, making it good-humoured despite its darker content. The Black Tower is an incredible example of how language can transform scenic aspects and background into a phenomenon, simultaneously altering atmosphere and audience interpretation. The avant-garde creation is accurately described as an ‘accidental horror film’.
Lee John Phillips
Lee John Phillips is a Welsh Artist who has dedicated himself to a lifelong project of cataloguing everything in his late grandfather’s shed. Lee’s grandfather passed away when Lee was 14, but until then, the two were very close and saw each other every day, working on projects together in his grandfather’s tool shed. Lee currently lives and works as an artist in Narbeth, Pembroke. His grandfather’s passing was a significant event in his life and has permanently impacted his work; his grandfather had a passion for collecting tools and fixing things, manifested in his shed. In remembrance of his grandfather, Lee began ‘The Shed Project’, to document all items inside the shed at excruciating detail.
‘The Shed Project’ – Lee John Phillips
(Ongoing, illustration and documentation)
‘The Shed Project’ is a lifelong project that Lee has undertaken in remembrance of his late grandfather. He illustrates every item, tool, object, material, etc in his grandfather’s shed, and to this day has documented over 8,500, but estimates the total to be well over 100,000. Lee John Phillips produces work for this project under a set of rules:
- 1: If the item can be picked up and doesn’t crumble if rubbed – draw it.
- 2: If the packet/container has been opened, empty it, draw items, replace them, draw container full.
- 3: If the packet/container has not been opened, it will not be, and drawn as found.
- 4: If there are multiples of the same items – draw them all.
Lee notes that the project has had an incredible toll on him, both physically and psychologically; the work creates immense strain on his hands, and his mind. Despite this, Lee also notes that he has never felt more artistically fulfilled than when producing work towards this emotional and driven project.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles
Mierle Laderman Ukeles is an artist born 1939 in Denver, Colorado, who works regularly in New York City. She is well-known for being an artist in residence for 39 years (unpaid) at New York City’s Department of Sanitation. Mierle began her artistic career in 1962, at Pratt Institute, making abstract sculptural works. These pieces unsettled the school administrators, which lead to her dropping out and enrolling in an Art Education program at the University of Denver. A pivotal and influential moment in her life was her marriage in 1962, followed by the birth of her first child two years later. Motherhood became a full-time job for her, alongside being a full-time artist, and she found herself both mentally and physically divided between the two demands. This divide led her to write a manifesto: ‘Manifesto for Maintenance 1969!’; a three-and-a-half-page document that carefully distinguishes between the two categories of work and life, development and maintenance. Following the production of this text, Mierle went on to begin maintenance themed performance Art and attempt a balance between work and home life. This was seen as radically feminist, as she was transforming domestic life and motherhood, directly involving it into her artwork.
‘Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Outside’ – Mierle Laderman Ukeles
(Performance Art, 1973)
‘Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Outside’ was a n incredible Performance Art piece that focused entirely on maintenance. The performance was documented in a set of iconic black-and-white photographs, such as the one presented here. The performance lasted eight hours long – the length of a usual workday – and involved Mierle washing the steps of the Wadsworth Atheneum. She used her mop as a paintbrush and water as her paint, alongside hand scrubbing with a rag. The piece debates feminism, labour and the value of work, truly embodying the movements surrounding Mierle at the time. I think that it is interesting how she made behind-the-scenes work a focus point at the Museum, bringing attention to maintenance as an art form in itself.
Musique Concrete as a term was coined in the 1940’s by a Paris-based engineer, Pierre Schaeffer, who was also a composer and ‘sonic experimentalist’. Musique Concrete is classified as music composed of recorded sound as source material, rather than the involvement of musical instruments. This revolution is said to have been inspired by futurist composer Luigi Russolo, previously researched, and avant-garde expressionist Arnold Schoenburg, alongside the fascination of involving technology into music and composing techniques. Pierre Shaeffer explored the idea of using field recordings as instruments, going on to establish his own Studio d’Essai in Paris, where he produced his 1948 Cinq etudes de bruites (Five studies of Noises) which is arguably the foundation of Musique Concrete.
My Experimentation this week is going to be centred around auto drawing and auto writing in response to my experiment ‘Birds and Boiling Rice’ from last week. We have been using these practises in the past few Interdisciplinary Seminars, in response to media being presented on screen, and I think that it is a good way to transform information into something new, and therefore will be using this medium to transform my experiment.
Autowriting and Autodrawing – Experimentation Response
I produced a piece of auto writing and auto drawing whilst listening to my experiment from last week: ‘Birds and Boiling Rice’ on a loop. The auto writing surprised me as a lot of words and topics seemingly unrelated appeared in response to listening to the audio, so I will have to try and achieve a greater understanding of this by looking at it next week. The auto drawing was interesting as your hand reacts to the noise fluctuation in the audio, and the result appears similar to the soundwave shape of an audio recording. I’m not particularly pleased with this development, so I want to further it in the following week and try to create something better and more developed, more complete. I created a small photoshop piece by overlaying the auto writing and drawing and editing the opacities, contrasts and levels of both images to combine them into a new image that represents my unconscious interpretation of the sound experiment.
In reflection, I’m not very pleased with the extent of my development this week, and have been lacking in motivation and inspiration, which I feel is evident in my work. However, I produced what I could and must further from such, rather than dwelling on something I am not entirely pleased with. My plans for next week include producing another sound experiment, then producing more complex auto drawings and auto writings in response, alongside perhaps another photoshop piece or transforming those experiments into something different again. I would also like to construct a set of rules to work within to keep my work linear and focused. I have also been taking a lot of photos and videos alongside these audio recordings, and would like to develop those into something too, or involve them into my existing work.
Open Culture. 2022. John Cage Performs Water Walk on “I’ve Got a Secret” (1960). [online] Available at: <https://openculture.com/2011/12/john_cage_performs_iwater_walki_on_ive_got_a_secret_1960_.html> [Accessed 9 October 2022].
Tate. 2022. John Cage 1912-1992| Tate. [online] Available at: <https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/john-cage-845> [Accessed 9 October 2022].
Water Walk. 1960. Directed by J. Cage. New York City: CBS Game Show : ‘I’ve Got a Secret’. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXOIkT1-QWY&t=1s> [Accessed 9 October 2022]
Gosetti-Ferencei, J., 2007. The Ecstatic Quotidian. 1st ed. Penn State University Press, Chapter 1 : The Quotidian and Literary-Phenomenological Departures from Everydayness (pp. 13-40).
Enger, R., 2016. Luigi Russolo. [online] Obelisk Art History. Available at: <https://arthistoryproject.com/artists/luigi-russolo/> [Accessed 12 October 2022].
Estorickcollection.com. 2022. Luigi Russolo – Estorick Collection. [online] Available at: <https://www.estorickcollection.com/the-collection/luigi-russolo> [Accessed 12 October 2022].
Bergstrom, J. (2021) Keeping a distance: Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, BFI. BFI. Available at: https://www.bfi.org.uk/sight-and-sound/features/keeping-distance-chantal-akerman-jeanne-dielman (Accessed: October 19, 2022).
The Black Tower (no date) The Black Tower | John Smith Films. Available at: http://johnsmithfilms.com/selected-works/the-black-tower/ (Accessed: October 20, 2022).
boigraphy/filmography (no date) John Smith Films. John Smith Films 2022. Available at: http://johnsmithfilms.com/biography-filmography/ (Accessed: October 20, 2022).
Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (no date) Chantal Akerman Foundation. The Foundation Chantal Akerman in collaboration with CINEMATEK. Available at: https://chantalakerman.foundation/works/jeanne-dielman-23-rue-du-commerce-1080-bruxelles/ (Accessed: October 19, 2022).
Kentish, B. (2016) Lee John Phillips: The Shed Project: Art interview, Buzz Magazine. Buzz Magazine. Available at: https://www.buzzmag.co.uk/shed-project-interview-lee-john-phillips/ (Accessed: October 20, 2022).
Music, F. (2020) Everything you need to know about: Musique concrète, MusicRadar. MusicRadar. Available at: https://www.musicradar.com/news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-musique-concrete (Accessed: October 21, 2022).
On May 14, 1975, with the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival of Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, film history took a sudden, unexpected turn. (no date) Chantal Akerman Foundation. The Foundation Chantal Akerman in collaboration with CINEMATEK. Available at: https://chantalakerman.foundation/ (Accessed: October 19, 2022).
Phillips, L.J. (no date) Lee John Phillips, LEE JOHN PHILLIPS. Available at: https://www.leejohnphillips.co.uk/ (Accessed: October 20, 2022).
Steinhauer, J. (2017) How Mierle Laderman Ukeles turned maintenance work into art, Hyperallergic. Available at: https://hyperallergic.com/355255/how-mierle-laderman-ukeles-turned-maintenance-work-into-art/ (Accessed: October 21, 2022).
Wetzler, R. (2016) Meet the artist who called out a museum by scrubbing the floor for hours, Timeline. Timeline. Available at: https://timeline.com/mierle-ukeles-cleaning-museum-64d274a0a19c (Accessed: October 21, 2022).