Friday 4 December 2009

Monday 16 November 2009

People Watching/Harun Farocki revisited

People Watching
QuickTime Movie, 7.1Mb 4' 17", 2007

Saturday at Tate Modern, Harun Farocki (prompted by an observation of Sophia Phoca's about how much his work examines processes in the construction of meaning in images through giving as much as possible for the viewer to work with and how, it was implied, this differed markedly from the deliberate obfuscation/alienation techniques of a structural/materialist (her characterisation) approach to deconstruction of representation that has become the default background to British experimental film practice) stated that, while he couldn't be held accountable for what different individuals from different backgrounds might or might not be able to appreciate in any given media work, he considered that he makes work that anyone viewing, whether by intention or accident, would be able to follow and understand. I was reminded that at Documenta in 2007, I captured and posted video of visitors to Farocki's installation Deep Play, which bears witness to the work's wide appeal. Drawn to the broadcast television multiple live and computer generated views of the 2006 World Cup final, the viewers become entranced by the integrity of Farocki's forensic approach to the media spectacle. The video can be viewed again here or by clicking the image above, while views of the installation screens can be seen here.

A season of 22 of Farocki's films is at Tate Modern until 6 December and an exhibition of his installations at Raven Row runs from 19 November to 7 February. From the information available it's not clear whether Deep Play will be one of the works at Raven Row.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Monday 28 September 2009


Speaker (M.Mayer) by Steven Ball, 2009, 3:20, stereo

(click image to enlarge)

Saturday 26 September 2009

Sounds Spoken podcast and playlist

Ed Pinsent's The Sound Projector Radio Show
25th September 2009

Resonance 104.4FM
Curated and co-presented by Steven Ball

Download mp3

  1. And The Native Hipsters, ‘There Goes Concorde Again’
    Heater Volume Records HVR 003 single (1980)
  2. Dajuin Yao, ‘Satisfaction of Oscillation’ (1997)
    From An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music (1992-2008), Sub Rosa SR265 CD (2008)
  3. Neil Mills, ‘Seven Number Poems’
    From Experiments in Disintegrating Language/Konkrete Canticle, Arts Council of Great Britain LP (1971)
  4. Caroline Bergvall, ‘Ride’
    From Via: Poems 1994-2004, Rockdrill #8 CD (2005)
  5. Caroline Bergvall, ‘Rapid Eye Movement, Part 2′
    From Via: Poems 1994-2004, Rockdrill #8 CD (2005)
  6. Simon Wickham-Smith, ‘Three Versions of Appreciative’
  7. Jas H Duke, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’
    From Poems of Life and Death, NMA Publications, Cassette (1989)
  8. Chris Mann, ‘Maybe if You Hit it Hard 3′
    From Maybe if You Hit it Hard, mp3 (2009)
  9. Chris Mann, ‘Maybe if You Hit it Hard 4′
    From Maybe if You Hit it Hard, mp3 (2009)
  10. Unamunos Quorum, ‘She’s Going With the Boys’
    From Strange Visitors, Unamunos Quorum CD (2006)
  11. Arf Arf, ‘Someone Said ‘
    From Clanguage, Arf Arf CD (1996)
  12. Arf Arf, ‘Bronson’
    From Clanguage, Arf Arf CD (1996)
  13. Bob Cobbing, ‘Computer Poem’ (1968)
    From The Spoken Word: Bob Cobbing Early Recordings 1965-1973, British Library NSACD 42 CD (2009)
  14. Konkrete Canticle, ‘Hymn To The Sacred Mushroom’ (1971)
    From The Spoken Word: Bob Cobbing Early Recordings 1965-1973, British Library NSACD 42 CD (2009)
  15. Furious Pig, ‘I Don’t Like Your Face’
    From I Don’t Like Your Face, Rough Trade RT064 EP (1981)
  16. AGF, ‘Letters Make No Meaning (Weapons No War Germs No Disease)’
    From Words Are Missing, AGF PRODUCKTION MDM55082 CD (2008)
  17. Augusto De Campos & Caetano Veloso, ‘Dias Dias Dias’
    From Caixa Preta, Edições Invenção single (1975)
  18. Augusto De Campos & Caetano Veloso, ‘Pulsar’
    From Caixa Preta, Edições Invenção single (1975)
  19. Peter Roehr, ‘Auf Der Tapete’
    From Tonmontagen I+II, suppose koln ISBN 3-932513-35-5 LC 10439 CD (2002)
  20. Gregory Whitehead, ‘Market Share – Mumbo Momo-All About Squid’
    From Writing Aloud, Errant Bodies Press/Ground Fault Recordings ISBN 0-9655570-3-0 book/CD (2001)

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Sounds Spoken

Presenting a collection of recordings of experimental spoken word in poetry, permutation and performance. Also contains language.

Sounds Spoken

Steven Ball and Ed Pinsent
The Sound Projector Radio Show
Friday 25 September, 5:30 - 7:00pm
Resonance 104.4 FM

Live from London on radio and webstream.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Sub Zero Degrees

Musing about the sometimes held misunderstanding between 'structuralism' in British experimental film and the same name given to post-existentialist French philosophy, I was excited to see that Sam Renseiw had appropriated Say Zero, positing an intriguing suggestion of what French Structuralism applied to a moving image work can produce. Refining his text, I attend to the grain of the voice, on the distinction between jouissance and identification in illusion.

Monday 14 September 2009

Sunday 13 September 2009

Saturday 12 September 2009

Friday 11 September 2009

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Free Speech

The sound pieces that I am posting this week were made in response to a project initiated by as part of The Free Cinema School. Based at The Centre for Possible Studies on Edgware Road, London for a good part of August and September, has been making a film from moving image and sound material created for the project by anyone interested in participating. I became interested in Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, a short distance from Edgware Road, as a site for gathering material for spoken word sound works. I spent a fascinating afternoon recording some of the speakers and have been experimenting with ways of developing, re-performing and reworking both the sound and the spoken text. The sound pieces being posted here represent the first results of this work, I have donated them and their source recordings to for working into the film however seems appropriate. I’m looking forward to seeing the results and how the sound is contextualized when the film is screened this coming Friday 11 September at the Park Nights screening in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

Name One Goddess

Thursday 13 August 2009

Unspoken Word

I’m currently starting to develop a couple of small projects and to each of them, in one way or another, spoken word is central. That is to say, each will, in one way or another, be a setting of recordings of spoken words. Whether the setting consists of being placed in a context, involving simple editing or more complex manipulation, will depend in degree on the parameters of the project, much of which has yet to be decided let alone realised. Some of the outcomes will be posted here.

I have been thinking about ways in which the spoken word has been used in sound poetry and sound art as well as in pop, experimental and electronic music. I have also been trawling through some old work and remembering how I have experimented with the sound of speech in the past. I thought it might be interesting to compile four pieces I made around ten years ago into a little downloadable collection, a ‘mini-album’, if you like. They are all rather rudimentary and rough experiments with digital sound editing and collage, and it’s interesting, while perhaps not unsurprising how throughout they play within the time-honoured avant concrete conventions of the aesthetics of repetition and the logic of fragmentation. I’m not so sure that’s how the new work will proceed, but we shall see. Or rather, we shall hear.

Click the cover image above to download a zipped file (59.6Mb) of the 'mini-album' (
320kpbs mp3 files) or play below.

Track info:
1. Say Zero (5:14, 2000)

This track came out of experiments with a CD containing demos of recordings of actors’ produced by a voice-over agency. The actors’ performances conformed to the conventions for advertisements, information films, radio announcements and so on. They were by turn upbeat, sing-songy, serious, conversational, exactly what you might expect. As this was Australia, they also had that informal casual Australian chumminess. I broke the voices down to phonemes, cut, pasted and created insistent, breathy, stammers of rhythm; some sounded disturbed, quietly obsessed or climactic. This is an extended version of the one minute piece made for Colin Fallows’s Audio Research Editions CD Zero. More about that here.

2. I Was Bugging (4:10, 1998)

Going around the internet at this time was an audio file that purported to be an answering machine message relating a first person account of an episode of casual sex with a stranger, in some detail. At that time such revelations were more rare than they have now become, at a time before people felt it necessary to regale the world with their most intimate thoughts on the web. What was most interesting about the recording though, was not so much the sordid details but the excited relish of the person divulging the event, apparently breathless with gossip about themselves! A slightly slowed down (to obfuscate the gender) and channel separated version of the recording starts the piece, followed by a squelchy spanking rhythmic track made entirely from samples of the recording.

3. The Shape That Has Held Me (5:21, 2000)

Australian visual poet and super 8 filmmaker pete spence sent me a copy of a poem, which surprised me for being a sort of gently surreal existential piece. Surprising because pete’s work is usually characterised by elegant cut-up image-text visual poetry. But this is no straight forward nihilism of being that spence has penned, there is great humour in word play in lines such as "I am a notion I search always to find, like a small lantern of fur sleeping at the foot of my bed, which I carefully avoid waking when I enter the immense collapse of my room". In retrospect my reading of it is rather earnest. Like Say Zero it is mostly rhythmic fractured fragments of the sound of my voice, which has a certain squelchy vivacity, occasionally it breaks into legibility.

4. At Five in the Afternoon - with Lee Smith (13:29, 1999)

This was a collaboration with Lee Smith and it is his very distinctive voice that introduces and sets the tone for this setting of a poem by Federico García Lorca. It was made for a film by Lee that took the poem’s title and we experimented with a number of editing techniques to produce a musical cadence from his reading, and used recording techniques such as shouting from the other side of the room. There are long sections of the sound of traffic, recorded outside the front door of my house (Victoria Street in Footscray could get busy), and the voices from Say Zero make another appearance. I had started to work with Lee on a few sound/music pieces. As well as making wonderful experimental super 8 and 16mm films, Lee was also a guitarist and had a passion for all kinds of music. We were at one point working on a bizarre version of Donovan’s song Season of the Witch, which is alas destined to remain unfinished as I left Australia in 2000 and Lee sadly died this time last year. This is for him.

** Update: now available on SoundCloud

Monday 22 June 2009

The Fly Art of Fine Tipping

Brut Smog's exhibition survey of British flytipping ended yesterday.
If you're wandering the streets of Hastings today you might find yourself a nice hardly worn pair of boots, or perhaps a clothes airer, or maybe some old, but still perfectly functioning TVs, or if you're really lucky a whole new installation, just as these two likely lads found this rather fine sofa installed at a bus stop not far from the gallery.

Saturday 23 May 2009

Cities Methodologies - Aroundabout: Second Person Present

CitiesMethodologies is an interdisciplinary event on innovative methodologies across the arts and humanities, exploring the city and its multi-faceted realities, showcasing concrete examples that push the boundaries of urban research with exhibits, installations, films and workshops for exchanging ideas.

For CitiesMethodologies I will be presenting Aroundabout: Second Person Present. Aroundabout is an occasional placeblog of hyperlocal ambulations around public spaces along the south-eastern section of the inner-London ring road, using a combination of text, image and video to reflect upon specificities of each location. Aroundabout: Second Person Present will consist of installation and expanded performance presentations based on Aroundabout, by way of an elaboration of the blog, reiterating extant material while adding a performative layer to create an enhanced interpretive context for questions around how subjectivity in place is articulated through a convergence of multiple media.

Other participants in CitiesMethodologies:
Jelena Calic | Ben Campkin | Laura Cerasi | Ayona Datta | John Dickie | Nick Dines | Ger Duijzings | John Foot | David Forgacs | Matthew Gandy | Stephen Hart | Nicole Hewitt | Woon Jung | Margareta Kern | Malgorzata Litwinowitz | London in Motion | Anthony Luvera | Deepa Naik | Rastko Novakovic | Trenton Oldfield | Nathaniel Rackowe | Joanna Rajkowska | Daniel Sayer | Transtango | Eva Weber | Tony White | Huang Xiaopeng

UCL Slade Research Centre

Woburn Square
London WC1H 0NS
Thursday 28 - Friday 29 May 2009

Private view 18.00-20.00 Wednesday 27 May
Download the private view invitation

Friday 22 May 2009

After Lethaby performance documentation

After Lethaby video performance by
Martin Blažíček and Steven Ball, Lethaby Gallery, Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London, 20 May 2009.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

After Lethaby

audio-visual performance
Steven Ball and Martin Blažíček
6pm, Wednesday 20 May
Lethaby Gallery
Central St Martins College of Art and Design
Southampton Row
London WC1B 4AP
Beginning on Saturday, Martin and I will capture images and audio around and about Central St Martins’s Lethaby building, interrogating spatial, historical and other phenomena of the space and its use. This will be developed into a one-off live audio-visual performance conceived specifically for the building's gallery. The development of the work will be documented over the days preceding the performance at

The performance is part of the expanded cinema seminar series organized by Duncan White for British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection and follows the Expanded Cartography and the New Live Cinema
symposium which runs from 10am – 5pm in G12 Conference Room. For more information see the Study Collection website.

Image from the Museum and Contemporary Collection at Central Saint Martins

Sunday 10 May 2009

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Over The Borough Island

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Burham Quarry Tunnel: report on the first investigation, 16 March 2009

The goal today was to find the entrance to the tunnel photographed here by Jack Hill:
marked by a red circle on this map:

Walking from Aylesford via Eccles, the village just visible in the southwest of the map, I arrive at the junction and turn left towards Burham.

Immediately the road turns quite steeply down a hill and round a sharp bend. According to the map the path that leads to the tunnel entrance is somewhere around here, but there are no accessible paths from the road opposite Little Culand, Culand Farm and Petts Farm. There is a fence beyond which is a dense overgrown thicket and beyond that what appear to be paddocks. There is no footpath along either side of the road and cars appear quickly around the bend making it impossible to stop anywhere to take photographs. Around the corner on the right there is a bus stop and a byway leading off the road up a slight hill, shown as a green line with cross lines on the map.

A little way on the right is a bridle path, shown on the map as a broken green line, which I take. It runs along the edge of a field
. After a while I reach a short but steep incline to the right of which is a wooded area. With farther exploration I find that the dense thicket here comes to an edge and then a drop of about 20 metres.

This, according to the map, is immediately above the tunnel entrance, however looking down I can see no sign of it. From the original photograph it would appear to be set back into the cutting, which might explain why it is not visible from above. Turning left to follow the bridle path it is possible to reach the disused quarry that the tunnel is supposed to lead to, and a strange and interesting landscape it is. I walk a treacherous path around its edge.

Future action: return visit on a quieter day with less traffic and investigate a possible connection with this place:

Saturday 21 February 2009


Around More London [1] people are behaving photographically in front of views of City Hall/Tower Bridge.

They are tourist-behaviour-photographers.

One man [2] is in the artistic-behaviour-photographer mode, photographing objects close-up, including a bronze sculptural-relief-model-map of the area, complete with rough hewn bronze models of City Hall and Tower Bridge, River Thames, More London... upon which someone has placed a small pair of children’s spectacles with pink frames.

I, of course, am in observational-note-taking-behaviour mode, scratching in my notebook, music on headphones [3].

Weather’s fine.

[1] Taking a walk on the way home with my bag of shopping

[2] The man is dressed in black leather jacket, black jeans, he is olive skinned with dark hair and unshaven, he looks intense, a determined expression.

[3] ‘Repercussions’ by Distance

[1a] One organic white tin loaf from Flour Power City bakery; 500g of Balmaadi Estate coffee, ground for cafetiere from Monmouth Coffee; a chunk of Keen’s Cheddar cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy; two bottles Marqués de Cáceres 2007 Rioja Rosé (£2 off when you buy two bottles from Majestic Wines).

Tuesday 10 February 2009

The Ground, the Sky, and the Island

This video reworks photographs, super 8 film, sound and anecdotal text from a series of bush and outback locations across Australia during the 1990s. It takes the form of extracts from an imagined first person journal, layered over extruded experiments with composition and movement constructing a synthetic shifting landscape. Moving through discrete but related sections, the abstracted view shifts vertically through 90 degrees between the closeness of the local, the ground, and the claustrophobia of the distant colonizing horizon. As it travels east from the South Australian desert, through bush, tablelands and rocky range, the video becomes a subjective essayistic meditation, in absentia, on being in the landscape, the problem of attempting to reproduce these landscapes and the uncertainty of their representation. At its inconclusion we arrive on K'gari (Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland) where we reach the edge of the known world, a space being made in an open future.

The Ground, the Sky, and the Island was made for Figuring Landscapes

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Figuring Landscapes

Artists’ film and video on themes of landscape from Australia and the UK

This weekend at Tate Modern:

Monday 2 February 2009

explicate this process

Beginning eight days ago
some men began
to erect scaffolding around the adjacent block.
Built in 1975 of light ochre bricks, it now has an exoskeletal form,
but not quite a shell.

Beginning in 1971
six designers and many other men
spent six years erecting a building in Paris.
15,000 tonnes of steel exoskeletal form,
something like a shell.

In 1942
a French poet spends some time pursuing the challenge
that objects offer to language.
A revelation drives his repeated attempts to to explicate this process,
something of an exoskeleton of revision and frustrated refinement
of phenomena of the everyday sublime.

Things that I am not in writing this concerned with:
the revelatory,
the sublime,
the spectacular,
the phenomenal,
the extraordinary,
the allegorical, or
the ineffable.

But then it snowed.

Monday 26 January 2009

15,000 tonnes

Some men have
(over the past three days)
erected scaffolding around the block of flats adjacent to where I live.
This block,
(in 1975)
from light ochre bricks,
seems now
(in 2009)
to have exoskeletal form,
not quite a shell.

It took six designers
six years
(from 1971 to 1977)
to build
(in Paris)
another building with apparently skeletal shell,
(external support or protection?)
of 15,000 tonnes of steel.

Sunday 25 January 2009


The scaffolding went up on the block next door.
Well, when I say,
or rather write,
“...went up...”,
what I mean is that several men
(I omitted to count them)
spent some hours
(how many?)
erecting the scaffolding.

When I write “...the block next door...”
it would be more accurate to write “...the adjacent block of flats”.

I may be alone in finding this scaffolding rather interesting, almost attractive.
It is as though the building,
a rather unremarkable 1970s
(I would guess)
block of flats,
built from a light ochre coloured brick,
has grown an external skeleton, an exoskeleton.

A zoomorphic metaphor perhaps,
but what animal looks like this?

Monday 19 January 2009

Around the Nature Colour Cycle

Abstraction, landscape, colour, and information.

This is an extended version of an essay originally written for the catalogue for the exhibition To Look and To Look by Raul Gomez Valverde

Spring: abstraction
The spring of the twentieth century: high times for modernism, colour and abstraction. This abstraction wants us to think of the sublime while standing in awe in front of a painting, in the presence of ‘pure’ abstraction, as though in common with other non-pictorial forms like, let’s say, music, abstraction has the means to elicit a direct response, bypassing language. Is there not though a semiotics of colour and shape just as there is of music? Can abstraction really resist the organising imperative of language inscribed as it is within a cultural context and the history of the abstract in that context, in culture?

As new and radical pure colour and abstraction might have seemed in the future-heading motor-driven early twentieth century, one of its exemplars in Rothko’s practice was informed as much by age-old mythopoeia, symbols, rituals and like Greek tragedy, driven more to redemption, intending to fill a supposed modern spiritual emptiness.

Away from such neo-religious impulses we find a more secular form of abstraction: first in Malevich, then Mondrian and the De Stijl group where essentials of pure form, line, shape and colour in design were ends in themselves, not just beyond the pictorial but through to the other side of abstracted
representation. Malevich’s Suprematism was a grammar based on fundamental geometric semiotics, in particular the square and the circle, suggesting that such abstraction could lead to “a fourth dimension or a Fourth Way beyond the three to which our ordinary senses have access” (Mel Gooding, Abstract Art, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001). For Mondrian the non-pictorial was the only way to move beyond the tragic into the world of the synthetic and the un-natural; eschewing the metaphysics of Malevich’s bold colours his work became self-sufficient, painted surfaces appearing to stretch far beyond their borders as though skilfully cut from a landscape. In fact the painting was the landscape. This was considered by De Stijl to be a new utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order, pure abstraction and the reduction to the essentials of form and colour became metaphysical.

But if we look at a Mondrian painting today do we see universal spiritual harmony? Is our emptiness banished in the presence of a Rothko? Or are these more likely to be seen as signs along the road of twentieth century art history, no less impressive for it but offering little redemption for the contemporary soul? What is the use of abstraction?

Summer: landscape
Landscape, of course, is not the natural world but an idealised, pictorial version of nature. The word comes from the Dutch word
landschap, from land (directly equivalent to the English word land) and the suffix -schap, corresponding to the English suffix -ship. The word was brought into English when Dutch artists were on the verge of becoming masters of the landscape genre.

In the early
nineteenth century Marylebone Park in London was renamed The Regent's Park and John Nash landscaped a huge circular area for the Prince Regent with a lake and a canal. From the terraces of the new royal residence the vista appeared to be that of a country park. The Regent’s Park is an idealised, pictorial version of nature, a representation, a construction following the practice established in the eighteenth century (most famously through the work of the likes of 'Capability' Brown) of remodelling the great estate parks of the English gentry to resemble a tidied up version of nature. The Regent’s Park is an artwork sharing the aims of landscape painting, its romantic appeal to the sublime and human reconciliation with nature.

For structural filmmakers like Chris Welsby and William Raban in the 1970s, questions about how landscape images were produced and the relationship of the viewer and maker to those images became more important than any lingering romantic reconciliation with nature. The form of the films would be determined by the systems of nature, forces in the natural environment. In Welsby’s work the wind, the course of a stream, the position of the sun, played as much a direct role in factors such as the direction or movement of the camera, duration of shot and the overall structure or shape of a film, as any of the direct actions of the filmmaker. In the photochemical moving image practice, landscape representation shrugged off its historical metaphysical imperative and became existential, as much a model of time as space. In Raban’s film Colours of This Time the change in the colour of the natura
l light of a park from sunrise to sunset is captured continuously, exaggerated by using time-lapse, with an open shutter compressing the day into 3 minutes.

Autumn: colour
Photography does not represent or reproduce an image of the natural world but constructs an idealised pictorial version of it, the simulacrum of photo-realism has come to be considered to contain the most verisimilitude as an image of the world. Photographic realism itself is based on a set of assumptions around Euclidean perspective, idealisations of what the world should look like developed from painting. Cinema, being predominantly lens-based and photochemical, inherited this as an early example of remediation, not the least in landscape images. Now we find that the most prized goal of digital moving imaging is definition and resolution, its zenith being to equal and then to surpass film and cinema in appearing more real than real climbing to dizzy heights of super-realism. Whether photo-realistic or synthetic, the aim is for it to be highly pictorially representational and of course in High Definition. How did this happen when computational imaging has such vast potential for sophisticated and complex interpretation of visual input? The essence of digital imaging is not the indexical trace but information processing and so pictorial imaging is but one of many possible options (For a more thorough discussion of the relationship between cinema, digital imaging, graphism and pictorialism see The Virtual Life of Film, D. N. Rodowick, Harvard University Press, 2007, pp.102 – 105.).

Some artists however have worked with abstraction within digital moving image to highly original effect, like the Austrian duo reMI or Dutch artist Bas van Koolwijk, but while the joyous, delinquently noisy and jarring effect of their work is of a different nature to, let’s say, Rothko, they also work pretty much purely on the level of affect as an immediate response to dynamic abstraction. But digital media, with information processing at its very core, also has the potential to work at conceptual and cognitive levels.

Philip Sanderson’s video Fleshtones, while ostensibly concerned with an integral relationship between colour and musical tonality produced an interesting side issue. The piece used pixellated pornography among its source material to provide its eponymous colour palette. The presence of porn survived in the key words Sanderson used on YouTube, resulting in a vastly greater number of hits than one might usually expect for an experimental video work. This as abstraction is as far away from the visual affect/effect of pornography as one can imagine, however much the tonal values and variations might remain, to the search engines it’s still pornography, perhaps much as it might be to visual recognition software; this may be non-figurative abstraction but there representation remains at the level of metadata.

Susan Collins’s Fenlandia and Glenlandia projects abstract through process into non-idealised pictorial representations of landscape A webcam transmitted images from a fixed view of a rural location via the internet, harvesting pixels by the second, each generated image accumulated from top to bottom, left to right in coloured horizontal bands throughout the day. The resulting slowly changing ima
ges are like pixellated digital pointillism, representations of several hours of a view in one continuously changing image. Already we can see how the paradigms might have changed from conventional pictorialism when we can talk of multi-temporality and an image that changes continuously but isn’t a moving image in the cinematic spectacular sense.

Collins’s and Sanderson’s art projects might be seen to bring concern with colour and abstraction into the world of information, leaving the affect behind and moving towards an art of data and information, asking questions about the relationship between the abstract and the pictorial.

Winter: information
Generally speaking graphical information is represented in colour and abstract form. Information design ‘guru’ Edward Tufte, refers to information design as ‘cognitive art’(Envisioning Information, Edward R. Tufte, Graphics Press LLC, 1990, p.9.). His emphasis is on the clarity of reading “colour’s great dominion” and he writes of the diminishing returns involved in using too much colour, too much information. In his world colour is semantic and not naturalistic unless it’s used to distinguish information: to label (colour as noun), to measure (as quantity), to represent or imitate reality (as representation), and to enliven or decode (as beauty)(ibid. p.81.). Tufte’s idea of information design is based on utilitarian principles and the imperatives of communication, as such it is teleological and deterministic, unable to conceive of a graphical form that can be concerned with anything but the transmission of information. It is a formulation that limits the imagination of design and ultimately how design might imagine itself.

Spring: full cycle and change

So how might abstraction be liberated from the competing imperatives of the informational on the one hand and the abstract affective on the other? How might the cognitive, the conceptual and the social qualities of information design drive an art practice that escapes a modernist preoccupation with the abstract idealisation of being? How can an open and generative form of address that employs moving image media, colour and abstraction, not for random effect and the immediacy of affect be forged as a continuous measure of the world without recourse to the purely pictorial? Can the abstraction of integral informational forms resist reduction to reflexive closed loop feedback while being simultaneously temporal and spatial? These are questions that arise from considerations around the Nature Colour Cycle, considerations that might entertain other questions about what visual art is for, if it is not to make us think about the way we see things, the way things are represented visually, the space between those two points and what this relationship means.

Can we conceive of information design that is abstract but doesn’t serve commerce or the information industry? Perhaps beyond modernism on one hand and the commercial infosphere on another, we can conceive of an abstraction of information that is relational, that speaks directly to the experience of space and the (re)-writing of place as a generative and iterative process, while investigating new possibilities in both perceptual and cognitive representation of what we might have once called landscape, through a hybrid of what we might once have called Fine Art and Information Design.

With Nature Colour Cycle Raul Gomez Valverde has gone some way towards realising the possibilities of such a project.
This chromatic animation is based on weather conditions and seasonal changes of The Regent's Park, the circular proportions are those of the original scene photographed in the park at solstices, equinoxes and moon phases throughout a year, transformed into a concentric colour wheel colour changes that graduate chronologically through the seasons.
Projected on the floor in the gallery space in his exhibition To Look and to Look, Nature Colour Cycle forms a perfect circle: dark in the middle shading to lighter on the periphery, it might be said to resemble an eye and we might think of ourselves as being slowly drawn into a mildly hypnogagic state as we look, and to look is to be pulled into the pool of this singular staring pupil with its singular viewpoint. As a visualisation of an environment in which process over time reveals spatial patterns however, it repurposes abstraction beyond abstraction as a means to its own ends. In exhibition Nature Colour Cycle is clearly part of a larger system, surrounded as it is by a variety of descriptions and illustrations of the process and offered as one of a number of possible ways of presenting environment and landscape. By hybridising conventionally distinct disciplines this variety of visual information becomes an experimental art practice that is driven by form and process, but being specific in the context, object and subject of its investigation, it is not allowed to become subsumed by process, reduced only to abstraction or dominated by formalism, rather it suggests the potential for an open-ended process of exploration and interpretation.

To Look and To Look
Del Sol St Art Gallery
Santander, Spain
10 January - 14 February 2009

Thursday 8 January 2009

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Monday 5 January 2009


A walk in Queen’s Wood near Highgate on Sunday afternoon.

We hear drumming.

A Woodpecker, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.


It flies from tree to tree.

It seems to choose different thicknesses of trunk or branch to tune the sound.

“The drumming sound often heard is the Woodpecker trying to attract a mate by vibrating its bill against a branch.”

Could the Woodpecker's percussive communication be a rare, or perhaps the only, example of non-human communication using a musical instrument?