Rosslynd Piggott -Tremor

Attentive Looking at Rosslynd Piggott: I sense you but I cannot see you, National Gallery of Victoria.

2019-07-12 19.34.04

Rosslynd Piggott

Odd angles
Slice of reflections
Reflections of reflections
Glass bubbles like a spirit level
Weighed down, bolted down
Would / could those wire (?) ties loosen?
The glass bubbles would float
Twisting effect of angles
Looks like sliding around
2019-07-12 19.35.34

Fragmented me

Constantly responding (mirror shaft), not a captured moment of motion
Motion right now – from reflection, from me
Transparency and reflection – glass, high gloss of black
See, hide, reveal
Hard to stand steady – tipping one way or another
Gap could widen and we’d fall through – through the floor of the gallery, through the foundations and earth and mysterious network of pipes. The abyss.
The blackness of the chasm, reflecting but could change, start absorbing, at any moment
Watch my step, don’t want to tip it
Reflecting me and my unsteadiness, instability. Fractured.
Now feels dangerous – edge of the cliff
I’m part of it.
Not trapped, but moving in it, moving it.
Displayed in a quiet corner. Does that amplify the danger?
Is it near a supporting column? Would that feel safer?
But more exciting, exhilarating, than scarey
The maroon colour of one weight, of what I’m wearing. Increases sense of personal involvement
It’s closer to the edge than the other. Is it sliding?

I found this process – standing there, forcing myself to stay with it, think, notice, focus, scribbling away – absorbing and energising.
The link to un-balance is clear. Reflections, making the viewer part of ongoing motion… How can I introduce that?

Later I read the signage. Some correspondence, some significant differences. Harsh to say, but it’s not relevant to my purpose.

Robert Rauschenberg – Dylaby

Attentive Looking involves engaging with a work, unpacking one’s own response. Not external information, not that “answer” on the label on the wall (or at your fingertips with the O device at MONA). Looking. Seeing what is happening, an event where the work meets or affects you. Mining that experience, the points of attraction or impact on you, how you could use those as a new starting point in your own investigations, in your own terrain.

This week I went to AGNSW, to the area in the Contemporary galleries just outside the Duchamp exhibition. What collection works would the curators have chosen to respond to that?

One work in particular called to me straight away.

Robert Rauschenberg

I stood there, trying to figure out why. I scrawled notes.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby (detail)

Scale – not too big. Garage or shed or maybe farmyard detritus.
Found objects with history, materiality.
Echoes of past use, but not loud or forceful.

Timber and rubber. Good, solid, known, functional, familiar, materials. Complement each other. Natural, but formed by human.
Texture – the grain of the wood, the tread and molding of the tyre, the gaps and joins, the runs of paint.
Components match in size as well as complementary material.

Double headed arrow. Asking me questions.
Strong geometric shapes. Circle, rectangle, the triangle of the arrowheads.
Repetition of shapes and levels of detail. Rectangles within and across rectangles. Circular molding on tyre as well as the major edges.

Limited, neutral, colours. Cream paint, brown of timber, black of tyre and paint, deeper black of glimpsed interior.

Interior / external play.
Unified. Balanced. Coherent.
Self-assured. Self-contained, but not trapped.

Chosen to be together. Linked by found status, by random marking in cream paint – but not “matched”. I suspect the doublehead of the arrow was a modification by the artist. Another sign of choice, of the conscious eye and hand of the artist.

Definitely an object (a current area of interest and research).

I think the biggest challenge to me in my own work, the question asked, is in materiality. I’ve been reading in that area. Ruth Hadlow has challenged me in that area. I can feel an internal resistance. Part of that is practical. The found objects most available to me are domestic, and it feels hackneyed. That was the major reason for the “tip of the tongue” theme I haven’t written about yet. There’s a lot of junk in the house, which we’re currently clearing out. None of it is particularly evocative. And if it were, there’s the storage consideration. More thought required.

Adroitly redirecting attention, going to external sources of information gave a different view. This “combine” is one of very few items still existing from an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1962 of the same name. It’s an abbreviated form of “Dynamic Labyrinth”. I can’t do justice to it here, it sounds totally crazy – see for example A total contrast to the galleries in which I saw the Rauschenberg work. (I was going to write about the cool and calm gallery, but AGNSW has its noisy, colourful, crazy moments too.)

It’s good to have that contrast, that reminder. My experience of the work was very different – quiet, personal, contemplative. A work can be different in every encounter.

Momentary (un)balance

It’s been a while since I posted. This is going to be a bit of a ramble. Glancing to past, present, and future. I chose a title that might give a bit of space for reflection. For exploration. To challenge. To be challenged. Who am I? What am I doing here? That sort of stuff. Well, hopefully not too much of that final stuff – too tedious for anyone, including me, and the answers will be different in a day or hour or next thought.

After all balance, or not, is a moment by moment thing.
And could one say there is more fun in un- ?

In the interregnum there was the second group session with Ruth Hadlow in Hobart. How to show the activity of my glossary and energizing objects investigations? With just a few days to go I thought of the balancing act of a house of cards, and quickly printed out material from the blog.

Un-balance House of Cards

Results were poor as a presentation device. While talking I was unable to get beyond two cards before the anticipated collapse eventuated.

For communication? Mixed response. People seemed to enjoy passing them around for a look, and it was probably easier than a laptop showing the blog. However to an extent the cards were interpreted as a work in their own right, and from that perspective there was a lot of refinement to be done.

It led to the suggestion of looking at documentation and research as forms of creative practice.

It also led to some discussion of the use of a blog. Not necessarily polished writing and presentation. Not private, unrestrained “thinking writing”. Mine is an uneasy balance – some warts showing, but not all. And I quite see that the viewer of an artwork might not want their response to be directed or narrowed by my titles, and might prefer some mystery and wonder rather than be told the balance was actually easy (15-Apr-2019).

Ready for lift-off

Then there are the actual objects. For me a weaving shuttle plus red chopsticks from a local cafe have meaning beyond the balance. For others those materials are most likely unrecognised, mute. Even more so my trusty annealed tie wire, or threads in resin, or corrugated copper foil, or …

A towering thirst

Can I add to my work in my choice of materials? One point of resistance is that these materials are already meaningful to me. How much to I want to vary my standard, selfish, focus? Plus the obvious thing is to go household/domestic, but I’m wary of being obvious. Which led me to the idea of “on the tip of the tongue”. If I choose to take this path, can I disguise the objects so people have to reach for recognition? To me that stretching, vibrating feeling of trying to pin down a reference is very close to the rapidly variation adjustments trying to keep balance. I need to learn more about material approaches.

Then there was the surprising (to me) realisation that all my samples were very literal illustrations of balance. That was set up in the briefs for each investigation, but still… Over the days of the session there was some mention of my strong literal, analytical, pedantic aspects. Something to challenge?

Growing pondering list:

  • Types or aspects of creative practice: research / documentation / sampling / polished (“worked”) work…
  • Intended audience. Myself / peer group / wider world
  • Materiality. Potential for enrichment, complexity, layers of meaning…
  • Types of writing. Narrative / authoritative / propositional / thinking / notes / poetic articulation. Audience, level of re-working…
  • The analytical etc. Something to challenge? Or aspects to reframe, reposition, harness as strengths, or at least with positive potential.

    The Essential Duchamp exhibition at AGNSW is well timed for me.

    Marcel Duchamp
    Nude descending a staircase (no 2)

    Nude descending a staircase (no 2) depicts a body in motion. From the catalogue by Matthew Affron: “a marionette-like figure decomposed into repeating linear elements that serve as an abstract, graphical record of its movement.” It mentions the lines and planes of the changing position in space, and also “small dotted lines indicate the swinging motion of the figure’s visible hip and legs”. There was inspiration from motion photography.


    An extra step for me could be to work further with my photographs, abstract from them, use them as a base for development, say brush and ink drawing or maybe monoprinting.

    On the left above, a view within the gallery. Various readymades, most of them replicas of the originals. The choice of the objects was (allegedly?) made with visual indifference, although the first, Fountain, was definitely provocative. An alternative perspective on materiality. What currently particularly interests me is on the right, effectively a display case compendium of around 69 works. Miniature replicas, print reproductions, all in a case that closes to 40.6 x 37.5 x 10.8 cm. Lots of different ways to see this, but to me one is to regard it as documentation.

    Marcel Duchamp
    The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Batchelors, Even (The Green Box)

    It becomes clearer in The Green Box, containing 94 facsimile documents – manuscript notes, drawings, photographs. An accompaniment to The Large Glass, objects in their own right, artefacts of Duchamps process, a guidebook, a literary form… and documentation.

    Tentative conclusions so far:

  • I want to keep Un-balance as a focus. Without going into complexities of a multitude of recent resonances, a simple example of how un-balance is pursuing me. One of the recently weekly lectures at AGNSW was given by Mark Ledbury, on Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Towards the end Mark showed us a couple of Géricault’s portraits of the insane – The Monomania of Envy and Portrait of a Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Command. The very next day a book purchase arrived, recommended by Ruth as an example of a creative practice in documentation and research – Fiona Tan’s 10 Madnesses. Focused on the same portraits by Géricault.
  • I want to learn more about research and documentation as forms of creative practice. So far it feels like a good fit for me.
  • I’m attempting to bring some of my day-job analytical skills and data visualisation techniques into play. So far that means building up some data. It will take some time to develop.
  • I’m back here blogging. Not everything. Watching what works for me, how it fits with other aspects of what I’m doing. But it’s just too valuable to give up. It’s an index; an archive; an opportunity for communication, interaction; a means of organising thoughts; a reminder to look back, maybe synthesize, not keep rushing on to the next experiment; showing research and work in progress, rarely if ever polished presentation of finished work.
  • In practice all this means I’m am reading up a storm and producing copious notes. Not much in the way of making, but I’m confident that will come.

    I’m sure there was more I was going to include. If it’s important it will come back to me. I hope 🙂

    Glossary investigation – Teeter

    Unbalance: Teeter

    1867 James Russell Lowell Biglow Papers Series II

        An’ I tell you you’ve gut to larn thet War ain’t one long teeter
        Betwixt I wan’ to an’ ‘Twun’t du


    Notes: Lowell wrote this long poem in response to or inspired by the American Civil War. In this and other writing he attempted to emulate the true Yankee accent in the dialogue of his characters. See – a search for “teeter” in the document will bring you to the passage.

    I find it next to impossible to read. What language were others using at that time? Using around twenty quotes about the Civil War, written at that time, I selected key words and ordered them by count of occurrences and then alphabetically to create the accompanying list.

    Materials used: Galvanised steel wire, fishing weights, wooden block. Photographic documentation continues to be unsatisfying, so I have made an initial experiment with video. One of the delightful things about this piece is how much it teeters, while still requiring surprising effort to dislodge. The balance point is a vertical wire sharpened to a point, on which sits a horizontal 1.57 mm wire that has been hammered flat and given a pockmark. The fact that it can fail, can fall, seems important and appropriate.

    More glossary entries
    Structure based on lists

    Glossary as a list of words connected with unbalance

  • Oxford English Dictionary used as source of quotations, not definitions
  • Making, motion, and photo documentation in response to quote
  • Text response in a list
  • Process notes
  • Energizing objects investigation – 6

    Potential for play

    Mum let us each invite a neighbourhood friend to the Friday Craft Club. We cast and painted plaster models. We carved soap (Peter-from-next-door rubbed his eyes, causing stinging, causing crying, causing rubbing of eyes…). We made papier-mâché heads for hand puppets, then wrote and presented plays. Even in those days I was keen on projects like the costumes, involving stitching. Potato prints. Flip books. French knitting using wooden thread spools and some crooked nails.

    I keep remembering more. Carving foam with a heated wire. People would move too fast, breaking the wire. Weaving mats with strips of paper (yes, my hand goes up again). Splatter painting with toothbrush on wire mesh, creating soft silhouettes of leaves. All sorts of constructions with paddlepop sticks and pipe cleaners and balsa wood. A bag of clay from the local pottery works became lumpen pigs and doorstop ashtrays. Not that anyone in the house smoked, so that was odd. In any case they all had unpredictable wobbles. Not well balanced.

    Alternate version

    Notes: I decided to limit myself to objects on my worktable. It’s not as visually dynamic as I hoped. The V formation looks balanced. Perhaps the earlier, simpler version is more effective.

    More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption
  • Glossary investigation: Disequilibrated

    Unbalanced: Disequilibrated

    1891 Jean-Marie Guyau Education and heredity. A study in sociology

        Obviously, then, there is no possible remedy for this common disease called neurasthenia, to which all criminals, poets, visionaries, the insane, hysterical women – in fact, all whose mental equilibrium is disturbed – are subject; races simultaneously descend the scale of life and morality, and there is no ascent. The disequilibrated are for ever lost to humanity; if they do propagate their kind for a longer or shorter period, it is all the worse for them.
    initial quote from dictionary in bold above



        Whose humanity is lost?

    Notes: It seems an investigation of unbalance returns repeatedly to “hysterical women”. The quote above is from the preface of a book.

    Skim reading shows Guyau was discussing the powers attributed by some to heredity, only to challenge and dismiss them. The actual focus of the book is on the role and types of education and Guyau’s vision of reforming education with proper attention to moral, physical and intellectual development – lifelong education. Long hours of studying to pass an exam and then forget all is rejected. Skipping to the chapter dedicated to education for women, it’s not clear to me if Guyau disagrees with the logical outcome of prevailing principles that “… the disequilibration produced in the woman by intellectual work will therefore necessarily be greater than in the case of the man” (p. 260). He does appear to agree with the assumption of a girl or woman’s primary role as future mother. Given the precise direction of her future is uncertain, given vagaries of husband and family, “it should be clearly understood that we have not to teach her everything, but to fit her to learn everything, by giving her a taste for study and an interest in every subject” (p.270). Skipping ahead we find: “Inspire children, and especially young girls, with a taste for reading, study, works of art, and elevated amusements; this taste will be worth far more than all knowledge, strictly so called, artificially implanted in them; instead of a mind furnished with lifeless knowledge, you will have a mind at once living, moving, and progressive” (p. 274).

    A 1891 NY Times review of the book I found annoying and confusing in tone.

    A side note – the treatment of Guyau’s mother in various wikipedia references. The Guyau entry highlights the influence of “his stepfather, the noted French philosopher Alfred Fouillée”, while the mother, Augustine Tuillerie, gets a brief mention as author of a book and a link that doesn’t work. Her book gets an entry. There is also a french language entry for Augustine under her pseudonym G.Bruno. I’d like to know more.

    Balancing the mobile was particularly challenging as the upright spikes flipped at the slightest change. Also challenging was photography for this entry. The composite photo is static.

    Individual photos give some idea of the shapes made.

    More glossary entries
    Structure based on lists

    • Glossary as a list of words connected with unbalance
    • Oxford English Dictionary used as source of quotations, not definitions
    • Making, motion, and photo documentation in response to quote
    • Text response in a list
    • Process notes

    Glossary investigation: Pendulum

    Unbalance: Pendulum

    1818 Lord Byron Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

          Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear

          Mood swings

    Pendulum still

    Notes: Inspiration for this came from seeing Alexander Calder’s 1936 work Tightrope at the National Gallery of Victoria. My gallery photos didn’t come out well – better to look on the Calder Foundation website

    More glossary entries

    Structure based on lists

  • Glossary as a list of words connected with unbalance
  • Oxford English Dictionary used as source of quotations, not definitions
  • Making, motion, and photo documentation in response to quote
  • Text response in a list
  • Process notes

  • Calendar of Posts

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