English Summer


Today is the last official day of summer holidays and what a lovely time I have had. The sun has been shining, the days have been warm and the evenings long. I have spent time with loved ones, danced the night away under the stars, eaten a crop of home grown berries, built a new wardrobe, enjoyed evenings in London and swung in the hammock. The new greenhouse is filled with beautiful green sprouts and cuttings, the garden make-over is completed, my shed is clean and tidy and ready for the next round of creative endeavours. Just as a summer ought to be…work starts in earnest next week.


Blooming geraniums in my new greenhouse.


Striking rosemary cuttings for a new mini-hedge in front of the shed.


The 2014 red current crop.


Richard relaxing.


Richard building the new raised vegetable bed from Australian jarrah sleepers (not so relaxing).


Standon Calling Festival, Hertfordshire.


A well deserved gin & tonic.


Chuck D and Flavor Flav hip hip hip at Standon Calling Festival.


Ron and Richard at Downham Market Cricket Club.


Ryoji Ikeda, Spectra, London.


Moths in the light, Ryoji Ikeda, Spectra, London.


Super Raspberry at Woody’s Cafe. Perfect.

Running Away with the Circus


After six months of intensive animation, I have had the satisfaction of seeing the live performance of Circa’s Carnival of the Animals. This circus spectacular combines extraordinary live performance with animated moving image in a 40 minute show for children. The work premiered this week at the Out of the Box Festival at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane. The set designs work beautifully, the projection is balanced perfectly with Jason Organ’s lighting design and the performers are genuinely astounding.

carnival_15
Thanks to the Circa team for inviting me to join them on this adventure. And thanks also to Charlie Taylor, Jean-louis Pêcheur and James Baker for their inventive and idiosyncratic contributions to the work. Director Yaron Lifschitz declared this project never promised any sanity and there were definitely moments of madness along the way but ultimately Carnival of the Animals is a beautiful piece of work which deserves a long and prosperous life.

See a full portfolio of images from the performance here.

Beautiful Mornings

The reality of running away with the circus means many long hours animating in my studio. But since the clocks changed to summer-time I have been walking along the River Lee at 6am after leaving Richard at the train station. It is exquisite. The mornings are quiet and still and beautiful. Every day the world unfolds in slightly different ways. The swan swimming down river with its wings extended like an ice sculpture, mother duck with her brood of 15 tiny fluff-ball babies, the heron flying low and purposeful, the muntjac grazing unconcerned at the water’s edge, the conjunction of the rising sun and the setting moon, the hammering of a woodpecker and in the last two days, the first cuckoo of spring calling out to celebrate the morning. Perfection.

Days in the Shed

January and February have mostly been spent working on projects in the shed with selected days out for lecturing and socialising. After the creative development with Circa in Berlin over new year, the Carnival of the Amazing Animals circus projection animation is underway. Circa will be performing Opus at the Barbican in London next week, so there will be a few days of discussion and rehearsal while they are here. I have been working on the Lil’ Red music video with Stephen Lenman from Skopje. It’s a bleak little tale but highly appropriate content for animating through the dark, wet winter…hoping to complete and launch at the end of February. My PhD research continues with the ongoing development of Two Places I Call Home and A Collected History of Light. Discussions are also underway with Alison Gazzard about our next co-authored paper investigating light, maps, time and rhythm.


A still from the Lil’ Red music video currently in production for Skopje.


Rain dripping from the eaves of the shed is a daily feature in my view of the garden.


Image of the day is randomly selected from my library. Today’s image is from photographer Uta Barth’s book ‘In Between Places’.


A rare sunny morning and a perfect place to sit. 

Creative Development

In Berlin this week to develop a new show with Circa. I am creating video projections which are a blend of circus, carnival and a travelogue of extraordinary creatures in exotic locations. We had preliminary discussions yesterday before watching Circa’s current show Beyond at the Chamaleon Theatre in the evening. This morning we designed a set and plotted basic the ideas for the first half of the show. In my mind, it is already a journey of wonder and amazement which happily fulfils childhood dreams of running away with the circus.

My afternoon was spent wandering the streets of Berlin and included the purchase of a petite but very lovely mid-century sewing box. Out for tapas this evening and then back to the theatre for a second viewing of Beyond.

Making a Collected History of Light

A Collected History of Light is currently on show in the Nostalgias Exhibition at the Pie Factory Gallery in Margate from Nov 1 -12. It is a beautiful and engaging exhibition, curated by Monica Takvam and Sam Vale to coincide with the Nostalgias Conference which will take place at the Winter Gardens in Margate Nov 9-10.

It has been a very busy few weeks in the lead up to the exhibition, but the work is now successfully installed. I have carried the idea of A Collected History of Light around with me for a long time and it is very satisfying to see the work come to life at last.

I had made a prototype of the light drawers earlier in year using optic fibre and a range of display technologies but none of them worked particularly well. I needed to resolve the light source in the drawers to make the piece work as I had imagined.

To achieve this I undertook a number of experiments, starting by hacking existing lcd screens and adding led arrays. This was interesting but did not bring enough focused light into the archive. Next, I explored the possibility of using barco led tiles (used I believe on the last U2 and Pink Floyd tours). They were great and intensely powerful and I would love to work with them in future but there was just too much kit for the scale of this installation. Finally, I decided to use a collection of pico projectors. I have been waiting my whole life for projectors to shrink to this tiny size. The luminance levels are beautiful in the drawers and they work very well when focused through the optic fibre.

I also did my first laser cutting, which makes so many future ideas a possibility. I modified the retro archive cabinet, loomed cables, cut optic fibre bundles with a hot blade, folded and shaped black wrap, built custom projector housings and visualised light data into viewable looping sequences.

The resulting art work is poetic, ephemeral and lyrical which rather belies the very matter of fact and persistent problem solving that was required throughout its creation. It was hard work and stressful at times but so very satisfying to see the completed piece being enjoyed by its audience.

A very big thank you to everyone who has supported me in my somewhat mad process. Sending a shout out to Richard Godbold, David Tree, Allie Gazzard, Sam Vale, Peter Brownhill, Justin Rhyme, Paul Wood, Victor Crew, Yaron Lifschitz and Peter Barwick.

Two Places – work in progress

Over the last month Two Places I Call Home has been developed to a working prototype. The work in progress was presented last week at the ISEA2013 conference in Sydney, Australia and at the Working Wonder conference at Newcastle University, UK.

Two Places I Call Home is an artwork which maps global rhythms through the real-time observation of changes in light. The relatively slow rate of change in the artwork offers an insight into the immensity of global scale and acts as a counterpoint to the fixation with speed we encounter in contemporary networked life.

The work uses two Arduino micro-computers to collect data via light sensors which record ambient light in RGB and Lux. Luminance values are sent to an online database where they are converted to hex colour. The system records real-world changes in luminance every minute and translates the values to a visual output on screen. One sensor is currently setup in Hatfield UK and the other was recording in Sydney last week. The project worked well but the code needs to be adjusted to capture a broader luminance range and the translation to hex colour needs further refinement.

The sensors will record a full year of changing light in order to capture the annual rhythm of global turning. My next task whilst I am in Australia is to find a more permanent place to house the southern hemisphere sensor. The work will be live again when the Southern sensor is in place.

Books

After nearly eight months with my head buried in a large stack of books and three weeks of writing in the shed, today I have completed the second draft of my PhD proposal about wonder and light. I don’t I have a lot left to say, so I am handing over to Jerome A. Miller because he has summed up my experience perfectly.

“For in wondering about wonder, as in wonder itself, there is no closure. Indeed, the whole point is not to close the opening but to open it, to live in that openness, to be the unconditional questioner”.