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Creative Laboratory

May 11, 2007

 Sources set up a week of experimentation in IOU’s studio space, working with Anne Caldwell, Poet, Jack Lockhart, Visual artist, Andy Plant Visual Artist and mechanical maker and Matt Wand, sound
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The week had no performance or exhibition outcome, but was an opportunity to explore collaboration between words, image, visual arts and sound. We looked at how we could combine strands of all of our work to create an installation.
The aim of the week would be to examine our working practices together and do a showcase of this work later in June 2007. This project extends the range of what Sources can offer, and has given us a chance for the company to work with a larger creative team
 
Anne Caldwell writes:
 
Sunday 29th April 2007
 
I am cooking a meal tonight for the artists taking place in the Creative Laboratory myself and Jack have set up for this following week.  They are Matt Wand, a sound artist and Andy Plant, a visual artist and maker. The four of us are meeting up to begin the week with a chance to get to know each other and share some food.
 
It’s been quite a busy day so far.  I have written this piece of writing from my son’s point of view (who is seven years old)
 
Today I found ten millipedes, two wood lice and a garden spider with a purse of babies. There is a big orange sun in the sky and a cold wind up here on the edge of the hill.  Me and Joey play on scooters.  My mum is grating carrot forever.  We have six Easter eggs in the house and four artists including mum.  They sit down to eat and take up so much space we have to get an extra bit of the table out.  Mum says that’s called a leaf, but it doesn’t seem much like a leaf to me. My guitar is zipped up in its bag having a sleep.  The adults are going yakkity yak yak yak.  My job is to keep the cats away from my newts and fish.
 
Monday 30th April 2007
 
Here is an outline of what has taken place on the first day of the Lab:
 
The morning was taken up with each person introducing themselves and their work to the rest of the group.  Fascinating stuff.  A chance to see where we are all coming from, artistically.  Although I am aware of the fact that people are not their past, and the journey we can go on in the future can be a very different direction. In the afternoon we tried out an idea that Louise from IOU suggested – as a way that the theatre company uses to devise shows.  It involved a series of concentric circles on which to brainstorm ideas around themes. We brought in post it notes for people to write on – including ideas for objects/props, environments or settings, atmospheres and feelings. Amongst many other themes, we ended up talking about car boot sales, feral things, turbulence, lost dogs, swapping things, a poetry car wash idea, the ends of canals, flotsam and jetsam, wardrobes, containers of domestic objects, or perhaps parts of the body. A whole range of stuff really.
How useful was this exercise?  I am not sure it got us anywhere in particular. It did throw up a range of ideas. We might need a clearer structure.  Jack wants to re-instate the idea of using the week to look at projected animations onto moving screens.  For me, the idea that writing can be seen as raw material for the week, rather than something more finished is quite challenging.  Andy talking about the newness for him of doing a project that involves text and words.  Matt discussed Alan Ginsberg, French avant-garde poets and sound poetry.
We also decided that each person would lead a short session at the beginning of the rest of the days. It’s Jack’s turn tomorrow.
 
 
 
Tuesday 1st May 2007
 
The second day of the Creative Lab was led by Jack in the morning, which got everyone involved in making a short animation using a great bagful of scraps of coloured felt. It gave us a chance to have a play instead of just talk, and to do something together.
We then sat down as a group and looked at choosing the theme of turbulence for the week, and focusing on some practical techniques.  A starting point emerged of going to turbulent places.  I suggested The Strid, at Bolton Abbey that has some fantastic eddies and corkscrew currents.  We ended up going up to the Wind Farm above Blackshawhead and to Lumb Falls, rather than spend all day in the car.  Matt decided to test out the idea of recording underwater using hydrophones as well as recording up at the Wind Farm.
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Of the two locations, Lumb Falls in Crimsworth Dene seemed the most fruitful.
Jack shot some video footage of the area, Andy spent some time helping Matt record underwater, and sat with his notebook generating ideas, I did some writing.
It was a gloriously hot, sunny afternoon.  The river was low, not so turbulent than at other times of year.
 
Here is a sample of some of the poetry I wrote in response to this place:
 
The Falls
 
A young man, stripped to the waist,
chest white as candle wax,
 
plucks up his courage
to make that leap.
 
He dive-bombs, legs
tucked up to his breast bone,
 
slams into that dark bowl of water
beneath The Falls.
 
His head submerges.
 
Three, five, seven seconds.
Mates stop laughing.
 
He surfaces, spluttering
like a wet dog.

 

 
River
 
You’re fishing for sound,
 
a water diviner
 
with hydrophones
 
capturing the language of Lumb Falls.
 
 
Bilberries
 
line the pathway,
 
nipple-pink fruit,
 
yet to swell and darken
 
with the heat of summer.

 
 
Light
 
snake skins
 
on the pool’s surface.
 
Concentric circles
 
intertwine
 
like lovers.
 
 
Rocks
 
Furred tongues
 
sticky with
 
spittle-water,
 
the colour of Theakston’s OP.

 
The day was positive.  It felt good to be clear about the structure and theme for the week, and the day went better due to it being task orientated. It was also useful using the tried and tested technique of going for a walk to kick start the week.  This is something Jack and I have done before in our collaborative work together. 
 
Wednesday 3rd May, 2007
 
Matt led the morning session by playing a huge range of vinyl material – for example, sound poetry by Henri Chopin, other recordings that used chants and voices from fairgrounds, auction houses, and tobacco sellers, a sound recording of Weddle seals from the Antarctic, Word Jazz from Ken Nordine.  One album included instruments that spin or whirl by Max Eastley, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell and David Toep.  One of his favorite recordings is of the Pumping Station at Shrewsbury.
Matt also go us involved in an exercise that played words like a punch card on a musical box, and projected the same words using a small light source,  An ingenious way to combine a mechanical object, projection, sound and poetry together.
In the afternoon, we shared some of the material from Lumb Falls – images, sound and poetry and Andy and Jack projected images and words onto the ceiling of the IOU gallery, onto a giant mirror and the pillars, playing with the idea of using the building and unusual screens.
 
 
Thursday 4th May 2007
 
It was Andy’s turn to lead the group this morning, and he had brought in a collection of books from home including books on architecture, design, vehicles, and art.  He led a discussion about what we may want to construct as part of the week, and here is a range of some of the ideas that emerged from looking at the books and talking with each other:
 
Chandeliers
Bird wings
Washing machines
Vibrations
Chaos
Gravel
Thought bubbles emerging from stuff
Spirals
Shadow plays as another way of animating
Cartoons mixed with reality
Containers
Crossing the celluloid divide
Mixing scales
Naff meets technology meets kitsch
 
A strong idea emerged to create the following:
A model of the building in which we find ourselves in the centre of a room that people come across.  The ceiling as a moving projection – maybe a 3d screen that turns. 
Maybe this thing is a vortex. People can see themselves in the projections when they look at the model.
We go over to IOU’s workshop in the afternoon, and Matt and I also do some resourcing in town, collecting small scale models and some whisks to use perhaps as a sound piece.
 
 
Friday 4th May 2007
 
I lead the last morning by sharing a poem that I had written the night before:
 
Turbulence
 
The aircraft stutters over water.
You are listening
for the comforting drone
of twin engines at full throttle,
checking for sick bags,
life jackets, oxygen masks,
that strip of lights on the floor. 
I’m aware of the heavy weight of metal
buckling our groins, the way your knee
presses itself against mine, braced
for impact.  
 
I also involve the group in performance piece of text – quite light hearted, but looking at how voices can be used layered on top of each other. 
 
Matt and I work during the morning using sampled words from a range of CD’s – stories, spoken word stuff etc.  Matt introduces me to the idea of using this collection as a starting point for writing.  I then write a few pieces based on the words (it was a bit like the fridge magnet poetry kit idea, only using sound). Matt then recorded me reading these pieces, and adding in another layer of sound by recording me in a lift, in a theatre space and including recordings from outside. 
 
Here are two of the pieces written very quickly using the bank of words:  
 
The garden
 
clambered in through the front door,
lost her skin.
We tried to reason with her;
 
Don’t listen to the potatoes,
the young cabbages,
the mongrel dog, for Christ’s sake!
 
The garden was calling out,
she swallowed the kitchen,
we were dreadfully frightened.
 
 
This certainly isn’t a nice fairy tale
 
Don’t listen to the potatoes,
the young cabbages,
don’t listen to the mongrel dog, for Christ’s sake
 
Yesterday
the loaf of bread jumped up from the breakfast table
Ha Ha you can’t catch me,  it shouted,
sliced itself underneath the fence
ran off to the wood to be free.
 
The next morning
the garden swallowed herself
lost her skin
clambered in to the kitchen
on her hands and knees
 
We were
dreadfully frightened
dreadfully frightened.
We followed a trail of bits of bread
went to sit down together
under the big fir tree,
light the fire,
chew the cud together.
And that was a splendid life
 
 
Whilst Matt mixed the recording, I had a bit more time to write and came up with something I am happier with:  It shows the sampled words from other recordings:
 
Prose poem
 
The mongrel dog clambered into bed with me and my life lost her skin, her safety, her well shaped hands and knees. To speak of what happened is to talk of a swallowed sandbank, a long forgotten scarlet-fever fairy tale.
To speak of what happened is to enter the Dark Wood. That flea bitten, jumped up, rebel of a mongrel dog shouted, full of wind, oh blow, blow, for fuck’s sake, fucking light the fire, you timid girl, let’s burn the suburban garden together, scorch all the young cabbages you’ve planted in regimented rows, the dreadfully frightened cucumber frame, those potatoes, swelling fat and rich like boring bad news accountants, that big fir tree of mediocrity.
 
 
Whilst we were working on this collaboration, Jack and Andy had created an extraordinary installation next door, involving projectors, cameras, a fish tank, floating objects (including a ghekko!)  They tested out the properties of a sample of projection material from a theatrical suppliers in Halifax but at the same time came up with the most amazingly clear images of floating objects using this installation:
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 We ended the afternoon by sharing each other’s work and then doing some reflection on the week as a whole:
 
Andy Plant:
I thought Sources should have been more prescriptive at the start of this project.  However, it turned out that this vagueness was a strength. We needed freedom for new ideas to emerge.  I often feel my other work is prescriptive and often to order, and instead this week was an interesting seam of ideas, and so many more possibilities for artistic work emerged because of this lack of structure. I found it personally very useful, I found working with words stimulating, and it was great to be outside my usual tram lines. Like a virus (but in a positive way) the week was greater than the sum of its parts!
 
Matt Wand;
I felt the opposite to Andy.  At times things were closed down too quickly for me, I wish we had more time to explore ideas at the beginning.  A bit dictatorial at times.
I did enjoy going out in the field to record stuff with the hydrophones and was pleased with the results.  I feel like we did a month’s worth of work in a week! It was a new experience for me to capture the different sounds of the water itself.  This could have been refined and developed, and during the week things moved on very quickly.  I was not so sure about splitting the group and working in pairs.
 
Jack Lockhart:  
I got a hell of an amount of stuff from this week, and the luxury of time to refine and process some ideas.  We covered a large amount of areas of work.  I loved hearing the underwater recordings and can see a lot of possibilities. Working with Andy did not generate the mechanical stuff I had expected, but we worked together on a lot of technical approaches and solutions.  I enjoyed the afternoon we all spent together playing with the possibilities of what we had created.  It would have been good to stay together as a group today rather than split.
 
 
Anne Caldwell:
I felt a bit like I had been on an emotional rollercoaster this week.  Quite far out of my comfort zone.  I realised that writing perhaps was the least technical art form for the week, or the one that didn’t have a technique to solve.  I struggled to keep up with some of the discussions and ideas.  At times I felt that poetry or the use of text felt a bit like an imposition, or slightly irrelevant to the process, but this may be due to my own lack of confidence.  It was exhilarating, tiring and I am trying to absorb all the elements of the project so far.  A good starting point, if somewhat turbulent for me personally!
 
A final poem from me:
 
atmospheric eddies
tmospheric eddies
mospheric eddies
ospheric eddies
spheric eddies
pheric eddies
heric eddies
eric eddies
ric eddies
ic eddies
ceddies
eddies
ddies
dies
ies
es

 
 

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