These images are from a performance entitled “The hand tends to return by a shorter path” that ran for six days in September 2016. The machine works based on feeding 10m of calico fabric in a loop through a hand built vertical screen printing press. The machine is built to the artist’s physical dimensions at full extension (2m x 2m) which deliberately makes it a struggle to print manually. In addition, the ‘snap’ (the distance between the screen and the fabric] of the machine is set to exacerbate the vulnerability of the print to changes in pressure. Over the course of the performance marks build up on the fabric in process yellow, magenta and cyan. As the colours are overlaid, the fabric records the success (or failure) in maintaining sufficient pressure on the screen.
This performance is about the print process itself: both making use of its iterative nature but also rendering this capacity for reproduction pointless by the cyclical nature of the machine and the inability to create the same mark more than once. The performance is very long (6 days 9-5) so the relationship between the body and the machine changes over time – at some points it is a struggle to even make a mark, at others the body falls into perfect rhythm.
Somatic methodology talks about the body’s capacity to ‘learn’ and to create knowledge – this is very evident in the connectivity between the human labour and mechanised process. “The hand tends to return by a shorter path” as the body ‘learns’ what successfully makes marks on the fabric and adjusts to the rhythm of the machine.
Here is a short video that gives a sense of the performance:
Milling Line is a site-specific performance that took place as part of Rhod 2012. A dance was choreographed in response to specific architectural elements of the site.
‘Traces’ was a limited edition boxset of four prints created by four artists (Elaine Elcoat, Mimi Tobot, Susanne Ballinger and Elizabeth Tomos) who were involved in a research trip to Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium. The full work from the trip is due to be published in an artists’ book in late 2016/early 2017 and will be launched at the University of Northampton. The original copy will be housed in the TATE collection and fifty digital copies will go to various other institutions and a few will be for sale! The ‘traces’ boxset was sold to raise funds for the full publication and all forty limited edition boxsets sold. Thank you to all who bought a set!
This body of work started as part of a week’s residency at Frans Masereel Centrum Belgium. During the week I recorded all my movements in the screen-printing area and gradually formalised the movements so that eventually I had a choreographed process where my body moved in the same way each time. I placed markers on the floor and for all my tools so that in the same way that a printmaker ‘registers’ the image and paper they are working with, my body became ‘registered’ into the process. I used a CMYK process which involves printing the same image four times over the top of each other in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The colours merge to build up the image. This particular image was of the back of a screen stripping machine. I always use images that come from the print room so that the image itself points back to the process it has emerged from. I was interested in how slight changes in pressure or movement could radically alter the layering of the colours. As a result I started to deliberately exaggerate mis-registration of the image and increased the ‘snap’ of the screen bed in order that it became increasingly vulnerable to the movements of my body.
When exhibiting the prints I showed a film of an entire day in the print studio speed up to fill approximately 10 minutes in order to show the repetitive movements. As viewers came up to the work to watch it I would tape around their feet to ‘register’ them into the viewing space.
- Avenue Gallery, Northampton: 1 x A1 CMYK screen print accurately registered, x 3 A4 deliberately mis-registered CMYK screen-print, x 1 A4 Text screen print, 11 minute film, registration marks from audience members feet.
- NN Gallery, Northampton: x 1 A1 CMYK screen print accurately registered, x3 A4 deliberately mis-registered four colour separation, A4 Text screen print.
- Double Elephant Workshop, Exeter: x 5 A1 CMYK screen prints showing variation of bodily pressure, x 6 a4 misregistered CMYK prints.
This body of work all transpired as part of experimenting with developing print imagery from the tools and machinery found in the print room. These prints were used as the basis for a ‘score’ that directed choreographic movements.
As part of a three week residency in Roath, Cardiff for Milkfloat Projects I walked the boundaries old and new of the Parish of Roath – photographing, sketching and recording conversations with locals. On return to my mobile studio I would translate the photographs into stitch drawings and stitched maps. I would type up the stories shared with me by locals on a typewriter. All the ephemera collected was then exhibited and audience members could take anything they liked as long as they exchanged it for an image or text of their own. The final ‘collection’ was then published as a small artists’ book.
This project started as a residency for Rhod, an outdoor exhibition, in 2012. I was able to spend a month on site and in local archival records exploring its history and making observations. This site is particularly unusual because it is one of the only corn, rather than woollen mills, in this area. Peculiarly given its geographical location in the very heart of rural Wales, one owner tried to make it into a miniature exotic aviary in the early part of the 20th Century. Not perhaps surprisingly the venture failed and the exotic birds were sold on. The cages however, remain. In my photographs you can see the cage for the Nanday Conure Parrots. The demise of this venture proved to be fortuitous because a little later a fire ripped through the area decimating the land. The damage is still visible on many of the now empty and degrading cages.
For the residency I sat for many days inside the parrot cage, drawing and observing the current bird life that had acquired the site as their own. It was impossible not to imagine the chatter of exotic birds when they were all on the site and the chaos that would have ensued had they been there a matter of days later when the fire raged. At the time I rewatched the film ‘The Birds’ and was reading Tenessee Williams ‘Eccentricities of a Nightingale’ and so the imagery (ritual religious practices, as metaphor for mental health concerns, as emblem of both fear and hope) began to mingle with my experiences of the site itself.
I created a range of drawings that overlayed popular cultural imagery with my own on site drawings and photographs. From which, three were selected to be turned into signage designed to look like information boards seen in nature reserves. Each sign, rather than information, had a line for Tenessee Williams play that for me captured some of both the history and sensibility of the place. A chair was also left near the cage as if keeper or guide was momentarily absent to further emphasise the surreal ‘Marie Celeste’ nature of the site; as if suspended in time, or some awful aftermath of a tragedy.
Later a performance based on this work formed part of a solo show at Kings Street Gallery. In the performance I read from Tenessee Williams “Eccentricities of a nightingale” and sang ancient Welsh and Scottish folk songs into handmade bird boxes made from drawings taken on site at Rhod.
‘I thought it only concerned me & the birds’ © 2012 Ode to Tenessee Williams’ play ‘Eccentricities of a Nightingale’ Performance & Installation Photograph courtesy of Ken Day © 2012
‘I thought it only concerned me & the birds’ © 2012
Ode to Tennessee Williams’ play ‘Eccentricities of a Nightingale’
Performance & Installation
Photograph courtesy of Ken Day © 2012