It seems to me your "pathways" map out the process of ideas, with elements of note taking, documentation and experimentation. I really like how it is a physical thing that represents our collaboration/exploration. Interested in this idea, I wanted to make something mirrored this, but represented the majority of my practice throughout this residency, in the virtual. The complete opposite state of being to the physicality of your images. I began experimenting with linking my imagery (or truths) together - breaking out of the confines of the Instagram image box - and linking with others. This led me to create this (below); a series of 3 images which when viewed on instagram link together.
Wanting to create almost a kind of summary that brings together all my explorations throughout the last two weeks I layered my "instagrammable truths" collages with other found imagery and materials. Sort of mapping out my pathway through the last two weeks, with the background and the framework of the chain running behind it.
I feel the last two weeks have been a really positive experience, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and discuss ideas with another artist. It has definitely taught me to "get out of my head" and just experiment to uncover new processes. It has also taught me a lot about my own practice and particularly how it is markedly different, but also very similar to yours James. I hope the conversations will continue past the confines of the residency and I look forward to meeting the person behind the words/images at the symposium!
I will leave you with the culminative "chain" of the last two weeks.
Hi Ben, sorry you've been ill, I've not been that great myself, but I'm really glad you decided to share these GIFs.
I enjoy the movement in them, the way the windows move forwards like footsteps. I also see what I think you were suggesting, the way we have each linked separate images/blocks, me through the paper pathway that I pieced together from past instagram posts and took for a walk, and you by linking images across the instagram divide.
The GIFs also frustrate me - they suggest the lack of control I feel when a computer is denying me access and I don't know what to do about it, and the speed at which they move reminds me of an anxiety I feel when overloaded with information.
I have made work before exploring different layers of my identity and the different aspects of myself that I show to people, from a biological body to a private, personal and public persona. I guess we all use different selves in different situations? Thanks for the observation, I'll ponder that one and I'm sure it will continue to inform future work.
With this being our last day of the residency I can't see myself getting much more done in terms of making (although I still plan to document the outcome of my most recent experiments in my kitchen), but the noticing and layering, the thinking and hopefully our conversations will continue.
It's been really interesting for me to explore the relationship of my work to yours, and how that relates to our explorations of who we are in terms of sexuality and identity, access, belonging etc. I am left thinking in particular about your focus on the found imagery and spaces of the virtual world and mine on the material world, and how that relates to inside/outside. I'm also looking forward to meeting you in the flesh at the Symposium in Winchester.
The images here show what I have been up to since my last blog post. By taking the printed images of previous #BlockChainDissentArt Instagram posts out for a walk, as a line of stepping stones/a pathway, I felt like I was back on home ground. Once home from that walk I continued in my kitchen. I made quite a lot of artwork in my home after we adopted our little boy, out of necessity more than anything, and it's been good to reclaim that as part of what I do.
Overall it has been great to use Instagram in a more open, playful way, and other apps to manipulate and collage together different found images, especially at those points when I didn't have the time or space to get out of the house by myself (Half Term, illness etc). But ultimately I feel that I am better placed to use digital media in order to re-present found images and made objects, as documents of my experiences and thinking. One thing I have particularly enjoyed is videoing elements of my working process, and that's something I'm going to develop further.
I've really enjoy seeing and hearing about your work, and feel I have a lot to learn about what different media can offer me, and I've also learned that I need to get out of my head, off my phone and away from the computer regularly in order to feel connected and 'me'. I'd be really interested to hear if you decide to take yourself and your work into the 'wild' of the outdoors a little more, and what that looks and feels like... maybe our work might start to meet in the middle?
PS. I wasn't going to try and sum up what I've learned or exactly what it is we've been exploring as I believe it's still emerging and is evident through our documentation of that the process here and on Instagram, but then I posted a tweet to share this blog post, and it captured it nicely from my perspective - 'Recognising authenticity and vulnerability as a form of dissent. Using art to notice boundaries, and experience connection beyond the binary'
Having had difficulty finding time to make work between being ill in bed and at work, I wanted to share two animated GIFs I produced closer to the beginning of the block. I was exploring themes of public/private and freedom of information, however I was apprehensive to share them. I share these now as I feel they are particularly relevant with some of the recent imagery you have been creating.
Your mention of your skin as the "permeable boundary" sounds like the boundary between public (the outside world) and the private (the inner workings of the body and mind). Maybe this is something you can experiment with further? I look forward to seeing your outcome!
For the remaining days of the block I want to go back and explore the concepts of public and private (the commons) some more, and the relationship with the binaries; afterall public/private are all societal constructs in the same way as male/female. Maybe I need to get out into the wild too? Notice more?
Hi Ben, I like the phrase 'Instagrammable Truths' - it interests me how your appropriation feeds mainly from the internet, while mine comes mainly from the material world. Just as your sense of self was partly formed by finding a 'tribe' online, whereas I looked to the outdoors. In this work I recognise my need to see the material behind the image (e.g in the mismatched lettering on an old wall), and to feel a connection with my environment through my senses - to let it speak to me through my body.
These last few days have been tricky in terms of trying to make work, but interesting nonethless. I had an idea of what my work would be like, but it being Half Term, with a busy boy and a poorly dog, has meant that my time has been squeezed. I have found myself turning to apps on my phone more and more, to combine images of mine, yours, and Karen's from Block II. I've also found that I've had to make the most of the little windows of time that I had, so photos of me wearing imagery are more spontaneous and shot where I happened to be, with the help of my son, rather than planned out and more carefully 'curated'.
I've enjoyed the immediacy, the playfulness, and the learning that has come from it and the exchanges that have followed. It's led to me remembering that work which explores my place within my family and my home is just as important and valuable as that which heads out into the 'wilds' of Wiltshire. But I have missed getting more hands-on. I have involved my body through combining it with other imagery, but not in such an active, full bodied way.
Today I have printed off a selection of images from the last week and a half and am going to have a play with them, both inside and outside. I see them forming both a book and a path. Pages and stepping stones.
I continue to explore my skin as a permeable boundary, alongside the idea of The Commons, and the potential to move 'Beyond The Binary' through noticing and responding - reflection on the self through identifying what one notices and why.
I could write lots more but I want to keep things shorter this time, and focus more on the images. I feel the need to let other 'voices' in by being playful and intuitive and opening up my noticing for further layers of noticing and response (i.e I'm taking the images back out to further respond to what I notice, layered over the top of the first set). I guess in this way I am mirroring your returning of gathered and re-presented imagery 'plastered onto the streets of the internet'.
I'll let you know how it goes.
For the first half of this week I have been experimenting with creating/appropriating visual collages from my "noticings" and the ideas behind them. Using found images and icons profiles on the internet, through a process appropriation/arrangement/re-contextualisation they now communicate these deep seated issues in the form of neatly packaged Instagram sized images; bringing them to the forefront of the viewers' minds. While Will Coles' bee plaques are installed on the street, these reminders re placed throughout the "streets" of the internet; social media. I am interested in using ironic and almost comical semiotic signs that have recognisable meanings to the individual. Are the truths sufficiently revealed through this method? While not explicit, do they have relevance in their own way?
Taking on some of your thoughts James, I then went on to experiment with more immediate and improvised appropriations. In a similar way to your wearing of words and images on your body in order to interact with them, I realise that I interact by rearranging, remixing and altering various materials to better suit my way of viewing things, if that makes sense? This process may, find new characteristics in, or completely re-contextualise the original material.
This led me to visually reflect on some of your words; along with words from Karen's collaboration with Ashok from block II; this is something I believe I am going to continue reflecting on for the remainder of block. "Instagrammable truths" to plaster around the streets of the internet.
In response to your last past James, it raises a lot of interesting questions that I will attempt to address here. Over the weekend I have been thinking more about what I notice, both the actual images I take, and what they represent in my mind, be it the environmental destruction you mention, or the hollowness of our profit-driven society. I agree in the "noticing" that our practices have concurrent themes such as these. I am most interested now, in working with the noticings to produce imagery that brings truth to the forefront our minds.
For me, "getting out of our heads" relates to clarity, be it mental or emotional. Having clarity in my thought process, releasing myself from getting too caught up in what things mean, and actually just creating things without too much thought, which I feel can hinder the creative process.
In order to care, to bring it to the forefront of people's minds, repetition can be key. Repetition in noticing, even only subconsciously, can have an effect on what people believe to be true. The more a person hears or views something, the more likely they are to believe it. I think repetition is something Will Coles is attempting to experiment with his bee plaques in this area, reminding me, at least twice on my walk into the studios alone, that our environment is in a dire situation.
I enjoyed reading the excerpt from your article, I feel it is very insightful to the way you think. I feel growing up in a different time period to you, there was somewhat more positive representation of individuals with the gay label. While this is something to be considerably grateful for, I still could not find any true representations of how I actually felt, but rather how one group of people who had this gay label stereotypically felt. It seems in the same way you fled to the woods, I found solace in communities of like-minded people on the internet who actually shared some of my values. In the same way a society built by straight people had little to offer to queer people, communities on the internet actually built by LGBTQ+ individuals who were more like me had something for me to offer, a place where wasn't trying to fit into the conventional gay label.
Growing up in this way seems to have had an impact on my practice, I put a lot of emphasis on creating artwork that is different, and has elements that reflect my experience in viewing the internet as a safe haven. It has certainly taught me to not take things at face value, just like the title of your post I try to live beyond the binary categorisations of our world, just as sexuality and gender are a spectrum; they cannot be associated with singular binary terms; thinking beyond the label frees the mind to think more creatively and experimentally.
At the start of this week I plan to experiment with producing imagery inspired by the ideas behind my noticings; blending visual aspects and text that brings truth to the forefront our minds.
Since my last post I have been working with the words and thoughts that you drew out of your own head Ben, printing them off, making them material and exploring their physicality with my own body - washing or cutting them away. I have also taken some photos of some of the things I've noticed, as a reply to your images, and started to explore the beauty in rubbish and the discarded/domestic (it's Half Term now and my residency will run alongside keeping my boy entertained). But as I wake up today, I've got lots more thoughts in my head again, and am going to try and link a few things up. So here goes...
I liked getting a glimpse into what you've been noticing, through your post, and via Instagram. Although our work may seem quite different in media and appearance, it seems we share a lot of interests and concerns. What you describe as the 'backdrop of environmental destruction' is a constant in my work. I was interested when you described the Will Coles plaques (imagery of bees with the words 'you need us more than we need you'), as forcing the issue of environmental destruction from the background 'to the forefront of my mind'.
An immediate thought, in connection with our discussions and imagery so far is 'what is Mind?'. We have talked about 'getting out of our heads' but what do we really mean? For me it might be connecting perceptually with the 'natural' environment (two words there that actually reinforce division into human/nature, individual/environment). How about You? Going beyond the boundaries set up and accepted by our predecessors?
Is this about reaction and rejection, as some might associate with the word Dissent, or is it about going deeper? Knowing beyond barriers? What is necessary in order for us to experience unity/connection on a daily basis? What would allow us to perceive and care about the impact we have on bees and every other being we share the world with, not as a niggling background worry, but as an innate ongoing ability?
This is turning out to be a post of questions rather than answers!! But I think you answered this last one yourself in your post when you talked about 'revealing truths...into the commons to make them accessible'. So how do we do that?
A few years back I wrote an article for Earthlines Magazine, about my arts practice, from the perspective of a Gay man (I don't like the Gay label either, but can leave that one until another time) working with people and places. I wrote about how when I was growing up, and into early adulthood I could find no representations of how I felt or who I thought I was, and how I turned to the 'more-than-human world' for a sense of belonging. A society built by and for straight people didn't value me or what I had to offer, but the woods didn't ask questions, and didn't exclude anyone.
Here's a small section as it feels relevant:
"Time in 'nature' has always shown me that I am wanted and valued. That in a wider sense I belong. And my practice as an artist has enabled me to develop ways of maintaining a life-affirming dialogue between my body, mind and environment, feeding its messages back to society. Bridging the gap between two worlds and weaving them back together....
For me, the value of using artful ways to explore and come to know the world, is that they can enable each of us to experience ourselves through relationship with that world, whatever gender or sexuality. We can use our senses, imaginations and emotions to see beyond the blinkers of inherited ways of being, and binary models of male/female, gay/straight. By paying attention to what we are called upon to notice, and responding in ways appropriate to our own creativity, we come home to the joy and beauty of who we really are."
You wrote on Instagram that the things you noticed and photographed were '...out of place; at odds with their surroundings'. I think this ability to see what is different, what is unplanned, to see value in the unexpected is hugely important. I can't quite put into words why as yet, but it's a rich source of inspiration and research and is something to do with seeing beyond what we are taught to, noticing change, having alternative values.
I can't speak for you, and I hope that your childhood and adolescence was a more positive experience than mine, in terms of finding positive LGBT role models, and less negative associations, but I wonder what place you think your sexuality has on the way you see the world, and so on your arts practice? For me, growing up 'different' forced me to to develop my own ways of being and seeing, that weren't the same as those people around me. When the values and ways of seeing the world of those people close to you don't fit, and go against what you feel to be true, it's difficult and disorientating, but I think if you come through it can prove a real gift.
Which brings me to Queer perspectives (Timothy Morton's writing on Queer and Dark Ecologies really interest me, although I've really only dipped into his writing), and the role of the artist as someone who sees/lives between worlds (something else that my tutors at Uni weren't keen on me exploring, with its new-age associations). What if from being excluded and seen as 'other' we come to be leaders - valued for our different ways of seeing things - needed to 'reveal truths...into the commons making them accessible'?
I don't expect you to answer or respond to all of this Ben, but its helpful for me to write and start to make sense of it all. Looking forward to whatever may come next!
(I've stopped and taken time to photograph or draw animals killed on the road for a while now, and I'd like to make use of these images in this work - it's another related subject that is ignored/edited out of what we notice. Why do we not grieve for these animals? Why do we rush by and not recognise the beauty?)
Hi James, I find the way you look at the environment surrounding us very interesting. Reading what you have written makes me think about the separation in my head between my practice and things I witness and experience. Maybe to continue the process of "getting out of my head" I need to start thinking more about what I notice, and engage with it rather than passively viewing.
Now in remembering my walk to the studios this morning, I realise there are very minor, but specific, things in the environment that I notice and remember. For instance, the date a bridge was constructed, an oddly shaped dent in a car and a new Will Coles "you need us more than we need you" plaque I hadn't noticed before. These plaques have been cropping up all over Bristol for a while now and bring the backdrop of environmental destruction we face to the front of my mind - something that is always in the back of my mind when walking anywhere and viewing human constructions. These plaques by Coles bring into the limelight underlying truths that we often forget in subtle ways; a little reminder.
The fog that filled my mind seems to be lifting, as the words uncover I find clarity in my ideas again. This idea of revealing truths seems fitting, revealing them into the commons, making them accessible...
Thanks Ben, I really enjoyed reading your posts and getting a sense of where our interests/experiences connect.
The image of your words and the mention of a 'muddled' interior of your head reminded me of a worksheet a counsellor once gave me - to get dominant, judgemental thoughts 'out' and onto a page so they could be challenged. I might play with the worksheet imagery later.
I, like you, and interested in the concept of The Commons - both from the angle of historic access to the land, and perceptual access to an experience of one-ness (of ourselves as Nature) - blurring boundaries between human/nature, masculine/feminine, gay/straight etc.
Yesterday I was out getting playful with the snow, melting it with my hands and feet, making racks and prints. I am very interested in Play as Research - Research that is done with the whole person, rather than a detached, intellectualised way of knowing. When I am touching the snow, or feeling the sun on my eyelids I am exploring where (if) I stop and my 'environment' begins.
Much of my work is about noticing what is around me - what my 'environment' (really don't like that word) wants to show me - whether on a walk or bike ride. By noticing what I notice I start to get to know myself for myself, replacing inherited ideas of who/what I am (including some negative internalised ones) with direct knowledge.
It makes me wonder what you notice? You mentioned a walk around Bristol, thinking about this work - what did you see/hear/smell/feel?
Today I want to work directly with some of your imagery - borrowed rather than appropriated or thieved? I want to explore the relationship between the digital and the physical, between something I can access only with my eyes, and something I can change with my hands.