AFTER SANS TERRE

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Okay, one more post. I’m now (perhaps inevitably) making a drawing of an image I took of the final installation. It will match the style of my other ‘4×4’ drawings. As the images get made, I’ll update the image above. Each panel is 25cm x 25cm, building up to a 1 metre x 1 metre piece.

Making this drawing is a way of thinking about – through being present with – a work that no longer exists, except as memory and documentation. So far all the drawings I have made have been of works made by others and though Sans Terre / + was a collaboration between me and Chris Graham, it does feel like I’m making a drawing of my work rather than that of someone else. I am aware, when making the panels, that the detail is hard to read. For example I didn’t realise that the bottom right of panel ten (if number one is the top left and sixteen, bottom right) which appeared to be spots on a white surface was actually backlit bottles of urine. Only when assembling the piece did that become clear. Part of that is because I’ve not been certain of the orientation of some of the panels while I’ve been making them.

What does become clear is the fragmented and layered nature of the piece. That was apparent to anyone that entered the space during the last week or so, but when it’s re-presented on a confined flat surface the impression is heightened.

This has led to a reinforcing of something I found fascinating during the making of Sans Terre / +. In panel nine it’s possible to make out a cloud like structure. The original is a very pixellated image taken from a website that. I made it even more lo-res by zooming in on the image and capturing a screen image before it became more resolved in Photoshop. It’s of a drone strike victim’s abdomen which has been blown out, and it’s pretty nasty. When making the installation we had this image (and another section from the same photograph that was made unclear in just the same way), hung up in various places. I started taking photographs of things with this in the background. What’s strange is that when seen in one of these pictures it becomes an out of focus element and sets up a tension with the in-focus surface of the picture. Often, though, if seen from a distance the pixellated print out resolved and could be read. Close-up it became abstract and hard to see.

If we extrapolate this then it could be taken to mean that when you haven’t got much information, it’s much easier to see what’s going on at a distance then close up. That seems paradoxical, but it does make sense. It’s a version of objectivity. When we don’t know much about a situation, it’s easy to pass judgement, not just because there’s little or no come back (we’re not present with the thing, so not really at risk or implicated), but because it seems much clearer. When close up, the detail and caveats can overwhelm us, creating a kind of moral and physical paralysis.

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THE END OF SANS TERRE / +

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The installation that Chris Graham and I have worked on for the past six weeks or so – SANS TERRE / + – is no more. We took it down yesterday afternoon. We had thought about taking lots of photographs but once we got going it was hard to stop. I took a few as you can see, and a film, but basically we packed it up. Much of it went in the bin.

What have I learnt from the project? Mostly, that saying ‘yes’ is the most important thing when collaborating. You can always edit stuff out afterwards. If you haven’t made it, it’s not there to be discussed. We had all sorts of plans that never came to fruition – some were thought about before the exhibition started and some were cooked up during it. But it doesn’t matter. They were overtaken by better or more practicable ideas.

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Another thing that was interesting is that we rarely worked together on any single element except when finessing the room. Pretty much all the components were either mine or Chris’s, but that doesn’t really matter. The collaboration was conceptual and / or collegiate. We egged each other on, encouraging outlandish ideas and using each other as sounding boards to test ideas. A lot of what happened was spontaneous. Chris and I are both extremely talkative and the actual conversation ran parallel with the material conversation and interaction.

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I read somewhere that the key to a successful marriage was finding someone with the same standard of cleanliness as yourself. Working with a collaborator on a complex art work requires, I think, having someone with a similar work ethic and also, and this is the hard part, the same brain-speed. Chris and I jump to conclusions and passed ideas back and forth like a hand grenade with the pin out. That speed of thought can be intimidating at times and occasionally I felt like I was clinging on. Chris has said – several times – that on one occasion he sat dumbfounded as I made some cardboard lumps and attached them to the pallet that would serve as the raft in the centre of the room (see picture above). I wasn’t thinking about anything much, just responding to the way the double-walled corrugated cardboard wanted to move and then twisting it. I then – unaware that he was just watching – wrapped the forms in clingfilm and tape before covering them with some gold mylar that Chris had brought. My idea had been that the raft would have tumours on it with the blobby shapes would help break down the angularity of the pallet. Chris saw so much more and encouraged me to keep going. When it was completed the raft looked – in the flashing light that illuminated the installation when it was finished – like a fleshy rack of body parts. We were constantly referring back the the Géricault painting, and so this seemed appropriate. A combination of thinking, doing, and looking came together. I don’t think I could have made anything like this on my own, and Chris has said the same.

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I’m exhausted and exhilarated by the whole experience. Chris and I are particularly grateful to the artists and friends who came down to see what we were up to and for sharing their thoughts about the work. We learned a lot from hearing you speak I only hope you enjoyed listening to us.

We should single out Richard Bolam for special thanks as he came three times and spent as much time engaged in the project as any spectator. He photographed and filmed us and was encouraging and wise in his comments. He also dragged a few others down and raised the profile of both the show and our work.

I can’t wait until next time.

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COLLABORATIVE DRAWING

 

gridded image - work in progress

A couple of weeks ago I asked (on my Facebook page) if anyone wanted to take part in a collaborative project. Lots of people signed up and I sent them a couple of square images to draw. As they get returned to me I’m assembling the image here (a bit like the Translation Games I was involved in earlier in the year).

Here’s the instructions that each participant was sent along with the two images:

Thanks for volunteering to take part in this experiment. In addition to this sheet is a PDF of the two images that I want you to draw. You can use any style / technique you like (line, tone, or a combination of the two) but I would like you to stick to the limitations specified in the list below. This will allow your drawing to integrate more easily with the others.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this. Initially it’s a digital project, so the drawings will stay in your possession and I’ll display it on my Facebook artist’s page and on my blog: https://bryaneccleshall.wordpress.com/.

If I end up assembling it in the real world we can talk about it.

  • Each drawing should be 12 inches x 12 inches. This will make the final piece eight feet by six feet.
  • I have added a white 6 x 6 grid to help you transfer the image across. It’s the method I use to make my own work. The grid is not part of the image that you’re drawing. There’s a Youtube tutorial on using a grid to transfer an image. I’m sure you’ve done this before, but here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LJF8OTG3N4
  • Use whatever paper you like but I’d like the drawing bit to be monochrome. Pencil, charcoal, graphite, chalk, black and white pastel, or paint. That sort of thing.
  • You’ve got two images to draw, that’s because part of the drawing has some boring sections, so I’ve paired ‘boring’ with ‘interesting’. The bits you’ve got could belong to any part of the master drawing so make sure they’re on separate bits of paper.
  • When you’ve completed the drawings take a good photograph/scan of it and send it to my email address (redacted). Please send it at a reasonably high resolution.
  • Please don’t send anything physical to me until I get in touch.
  • If for some reason you can’t complete the work, let me know so that I can re-assign the work.
  • There’s no deadline, but it would be lovely to see work rolling during September / October.

Any questions, feel free to drop me a line.

Thanks for taking part,

Bryan

SANS TERRE / + : AN UPDATE

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We’re getting close to the end of the SANS TERRE / + project at Bank Street Arts and I thought I’d add some up to date images and a link to a film that was made by Richard Bolam.

Click the screenshot to got to Richard’s VIMEO page.

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Scroll down to read a bit about the premise and so on. It’s an impossible task to document such a dense and disorienting space so each photograph or film (or even visit) is a snapshot of the experience. but in no way replaces the visceral experience of being in the space. Especially if Chris and I are there too.

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SANS TERRE / +

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For about a month Chris Graham and I have been working together for a few days a week on a project for Bank Street Arts Work In Progress show. It’s an evolving work that yesterday, just as we were packing up for the day, took a more concrete form.

We’ve taken Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa as a starting point for thinking about the current horrific refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. Without wanting to imply that the work we’re making can be solved or decoded in any simple way, there are a few things that have become really important touchstones for us.

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The story behind Géricault’s painting is reasonably well known and is summarised on the painting’s Wikipedia page:

“(the) painting depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off the coast of today’s Mauritania on July 2, 1816. On July 5, 1816 at least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation and dehydration and practiced cannibalism. The event became an international scandal, in part because its cause was widely attributed to the incompetence of the French captain perceived to be acting under the authority of the recently restored French monarchy. In reality, King Louis XVIII had no say in the captain’s appointment, since monarchs were not directly involved in appointments made to vessels like a naval frigate. The appointment of the vicomte de Chaumareys as captain of the Méduse would have been a routine naval appointment, made within the Ministry of the Navy”

Although Louis XVIII may not have been to blame, the painting became a symbol for incompetence through aristocratic privilege and when the painting was shown in the Salon of 1819 Géricault’s message was clear and his reputation was made.

medsThe Medusa was, of course, the most notorious Gorgon in Greek mythology. It struck us that a lot of Greek tales are based on nautical meanderings in the Mediterranean. Further digging revealed that the original Gorgons might have been more like dreadlocked Warrior-Princesses from North Africa. It seems that we Europeans might have been demonising these women for a lot longer than even the Greeks thought.

To consider the presence of US and NATO troops in an around the Middle East / North Africa as well as US/UK/EU/NATO backing for uprisings with little or no thought for the consequences as malign or at least ill-thought out is not a novel position. Personally, I don’t have a clue what the solution is in that part of the world, but I’m guessing that invading countries and imposing half-baked versions of democracy might not be helping. Click here to be taken to another blog that looks into this in much more depth.

The US have developed a drone called, would you believe, Gorgon Stare. According to Wikipedia “The system is capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city, which can then be analysed by humans or an artificial intelligence”. A further enhancement of the system is described on the same Wikipedia page as follows:

“On 1 July 2014, Sierra Nevada Corporation revealed that the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod had achieved initial operating capability (IOC) earlier in the year. While the Increment 1 system, first fielded in March 2011, could cover an area of 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi), the incorporation of the ARGUS-IS expands that coverage area to 100 km2 (39 sq mi). The system has 368 cameras capable of capturing 5 million pixels each to create an image of about 1.8 billion pixels. Video is collected at 12 frames per second, producing several terabytes of data per minute.

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Argus was the name of the ship that rescued the survivors of the Medusa from their raft. Art History / Classics students get everywhere, even into the arms industry.

As artists we are fascinated by things that look or are looked at and surveillance has become an important issue for everyone. Our work – SANS TERRE (WITHOUT LAND) – picks at the wounds and connections that this research has uncovered. At the time of writing this blogpost it is not complete and it is not likely to be conclusive.

Some images of the elements that make up the installation:

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Drawing: Translation and Craft – A film about my work

A few months ago I was interviewed by SIX. A film me of pontificating on my 365drawings project and extrapolating some thoughts from there has been made from the encounter and you can view it on VIMEO.

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I will try and embed a version of the film here, but for now, click on the link above and you’ll be taken to VIMEO to watch it.