Crit: Tom & Julian 12th March

A thorough discussion with Tom & Julian about progress so far generated many ideas. What I enjoy about these sessions is the injection of artists, ideas, thinkers and concepts often removed from art itself but still perfectly relevant to fine tuning my ideas. This session was also a lesson in standing back from my work and not racing forwards too quickly.

Some points/words in relation to the current tutorial: interruption of river flow, water as ice, steam, water wheels, bridges, music box, Walter de Maria, “Lightning Field”, beavers, dams, wood, glass, hosepipes, Bill Viola, Garden centre water fountain motor mechanisms, electricity, fridge freezer powered by water wheel – blocks of ice float downstream. A film on Netflix called “The Dig”. Gills, freshwater snails, Piaget, suction, pumps, tubes, weights, boats, rafts, coracles, drawing proposals on maps, HS2, politics and the land, environmental law, ownership, borders – a book – need to find the author for you.

– Julian Woodcock

Julian’s comments above encouraged me to think laterally as ever. As well as plenty of mechanical ideas for experimentation I was interested to explore the artist Walter de Maria that Julian mentioned. His work The Lightning Field below was a grid of 400 steel poles installed in a perfect grid. Each pole was 20 feet high and was pointed. They were not meant to be lightning conductors but we cannot fail to make a connection between earth and the heavens. This unseen connection between earth and an unseen force is significant and I can see how this adds significantly to the spirituality of the experience. It was a sculpture to be walked through as well as viewed but most importantly it was a sculpture to be experienced over an extended period of time.

For my own work I can see the importance of ‘intent’ in this work – the precision of the arrangement against the rough natural landscape is an important contrast. The materials and layout ‘are’ the art and I will take this on board to think about how my own engineered outcome needs to consider this – the engineered structure I create is equally important as the words on the paddles, they must work as a unit and enhance each other. I’m starting to think that the engineered structure I create is not something to hide as making it intentionally visible a nod to the industrial heritage as well as follow a Bauhaus line of exposed architecture, which I very much enjoy.

Walter De Maria – The Lightning Field, 1977

I’m also interested in exploring the ideas of thinkers such as Piaget, as Julian mentioned, into the project. In my last project the philosophers I studied added significant gravitas to the outcome and increased my own understanding of the philosophy of language. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children move through four different stages of mental development. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge but also on understanding the nature of intelligence. Of particular interest would be Piaget’s ideas on learning from experience, which are still used today, as well as the morality and compassion that develop as the brain develops.

A final idea that came to mind when Julian mentioned the film The Dig was the unrelated song by Billy Bragg about the Diggers, called The World Turned Upside Down. The Diggers (also known as the True Levellers) were a radical ‘anarchistic’ group formed in 1649 by George Winstanley who tried to occupy and farm common land. Winstanley wrote the Diggers’ Song as a protest and many musicians, including Bragg, have adapted it. The ideas of the Diggers still resonate today. My idea of a ‘guerrilla’ interruption makes me think of a modern day occupation in the way of HS2 – the common man is still in the way of progress by the powerful elite. So this is another line of research to explore.

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