We had our open studio today. The Forest Creatures were set out on the tables and the children showed these, as well as their visual diaries, to their parents. About a dozen parents came, and we had about a dozen come in at any one time to the Ellipse studio where Forest Reflections1 was set up. I discussed the interactive art system with them. As you can see from the photos, this work uses a candle as an interface. Moving the candle would reveal parts of the screen image, interactively. Most of the image appears to be in shadow and in doing this ”revealing”, stop motion animations of the Forest Creatures (created by the children) would be ”lit up”. Moving the light also disturbs ‘leaves’ in the ‘water’, and a fluid, dynamic movement accompanies the interaction.
INTERFACE Two children would move the candle at any one time. This candle holder was kindly loaned by teacher Jackie Semple. It is normally part of the Montessori birthday ceremonies. It is a heavy glass and metal construction – perfect for the behaviour I wanted to encourage and the corresponding interactive experience. That is, being heavy and fragile, it necessitates slow, careful movement. This works better in ‘revealing’ the image. It is also consistent with the reflective experience I wanted to engender. Using interface materials that correspond to the concept behind the interactive artwork is consistent with a Constructivist aesthetic (as in the Constructivist Art movement). It also draws on the concept of Affordance, a tenet in Gibson’s theory of perception as something which is interactively constructed between the individual and their environment; i.e. the glass material has a meaning to us that is based on our lived experience of it as something heavy and fragile; thus we see frame our view of it, and our understanding of it, in these terms.
Of course my investigation of alternative interfaces is key to the way that I work. That is, I reject the paradigm of an interface as a typewriter or television – at least for the artwork I’ve done so far:) Using a candle as an interface is also consistent with the idea of spotlighting. This is walking at night with a torch to ‘spot’ nocturnal animals for viewing. Things are changing – only one girl in the class said that she’s been spotlighting 😦
CONCEPT & METHODS OF CONSTRUCTION The reference to spotlighting was an early starting point in defining this interactive artwork and the Forest Reflections project as a whole. I had it in mind right from the start. It did, however, develop and absorb some of our collaborative encounters: reflections and looking into the water as we did on our first excursion is the most particular example. Other concepts, strategies and techniques brought into the project include concepts relating to the Gestalt – where many parts combine to create a whole that is more than simply the sum of those parts; and ideas relating to perception and having a reflective experience. Techniques include the children’s use of assemblage techniques to create the Forest Creatures and stop-motion animation techniques to animate them. These animated creatures contributed to my pallette as I wove them together into the interactive artwork composition; the ‘parts’ that I combined into a ‘whole’.
During the course of making this interactive artwork I have also been investigating concepts relating to the texture of the gum trees, which children have photographed during the Perspective maps exercises; and the habitats of animals of the forest, as discussed at the educational session at Walkabout Creek yesterday. These ideas may still inform the Forest Reflections interactive artworks for our final installation on Saturday September 10.
Images shown above are from the installation of Forest Reflections during our Open Studio today.
During our second excursion to Brisbane Forest Park and the Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre, the students did more rubbings of leaves and found objects and I took them for another photography/Perspective Map exercise. They were also directly engaged with the parks rangers in a number of different activities, which they subsequently reflected on in their diaries. The activities are described by teacher Katrina Mills below:
“Again it was a wonderful day with lots of discussion, exploring and laughter. The students were kept busy with activities organised by the park rangers.
One activity included playing two outdoor games. In the first game, each child was given an animal; which they then had to try and match with the habitat it would live in. A great game and the children certainly had lots of fun.
The second game was based on a familiar school game “Clumps,” but rather than using random numbers the rangers had placed mats around the area symbolising trees in a forest. The children were then told that they were possums and had to find a ‘tree’ to live in but only two possums per tree. As ‘trees’ were removed (for development, to build homes, etc) the possums were struggling to find enough places to live. The children quickly began to realise how difficult it was for the possums to find suitable homes. This game was an innovative way of demonstrating to the children that human activity can have long term effects on wildlife and highlights that we are all responsible for looking after our environment and the animals we share it with.
Another activity was a ranger talk and an introduction to three animals – a turtle, a lizard and a possum. The final activity was a fantastic puppet show which again emphasised the importance of caring for our parks. A great success!”
PHOTOS from the artworks and excursion are forthcoming!!!
What did we learn or gain from this video? The following are some notes from Jackie’s discussion with the class about my presentation of the Andy Goldsworthy documentary video, “Rivers and Tides” [see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TWBSMc47bw]. Some are Jackie’s comments but mostly they are the children’s comments on what they learnt from the video:
- enjoyment of making art
- confidence in making art
- if you do it slowly, it gets more detailed and if you rush it won’t look as good
- inspired by the work
- That art isn’t always about having to paint it. You can use nature to do it.
- “what about Permanency – does it have to last forever?” No…
- Time in nature itself. “Although he looked at his watch, he was also using the tides of nature, the time of nature, to challenge him”
- “It was good to see adults getting challenged. Learnt about perseverance.” Adults never get challenged “- yes we do! “
- Didn’t use tools to do it. Use nature to make it. And all the elements… as shown in the whiteboard snapshot above..
This post aims to provide some theoretical background to the art and landscape activities undertaken during the residency – collaboration. Much of this material was presented on day 7 of the residency. As the project progresses its influence and implications for learning and art will become more explicit.
Becher & Becher
Typologies are a conceptual art technique pursued by contemporary photographers the Bechers. The Bechers are a husband-and-wife team of artists who have influenced an entire generation of German photographers. The reference material below includes illustrations from their Water towers series.
This exemplifies their ‘typological approach’ where a single archetypal subject (the water tower) is described through an accumulation of diverse examples. When objects of a single ‘type’ are seen ‘en masse’ a new understanding of those objects also becomes apparent; that is a ‘whole’ emerges that is greater than the sum of the parts. This is the definition of a ‘Gestalt’, a key conceptual strategy in the Forest Reflections project.
Stop-motion animation involves changing the subject matter (e.g. forest creature) slightly for every camera frame. Here it is done by the children with the artist’s guidance. Surrealist animator Jan Švankmajer will be discussed as he used stop-motion techniques with everyday objects. Some of his work can also be seen to relate to the ideas of Gestalt. This is sequences from the animation Dimensions of Dialogue where many parts (broccoli, carrot, etc) are combined to become a picture of a face (see reference material on the DVD for still images from this). These ‘Arcimboldo’-like heads gradually reduce each other to bland copies. Arcimboldo is also of interest and his painting ‘Summer’ is shown above. Švankmajer’s Dimensions of Dialogue won the “Golden Bear” Berlin 1983, prize for best animated film in Melbourne 1983, and in 1990 was awarded a prize for “the best film of all the years of the festival” at Annecy International Animation Festival. See a clip from this film online here.
The work of landscape installation artist Andy Goldsworthy will also be discussed as he often uses many similar elements to make up a whole composition; and the similarity between this technique and other Gestalt efforts; as well as his use of natural found objects and Assemblage make his work highly relevant to our project. The materials used in Andy Goldsworthy’s art often include brightly-coloured flowers, icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, snow, stone, twigs, and thorns. For his ephemeral works, Goldsworthy often uses only his bare hands, teeth, and found tools to prepare and arrange the materials; however, for his permanent sculptures he has also employed machine tools. In the course of the project the children will be shown excerpts from “Rivers and Tides” a documentary of Goldsworthy’s work. Photographs of his work are shown above and a clip can be watched here.
Švankmajer and Goldsworthy also relate to our interest in Assemblage, an art process which consists of making a three-dimensional artistic composition from putting together found objects.
Artists such as Arcimboldo, Svankmajer, Goldsworthy and the Bechers will be discussed throughout the project. Photography, Assemblage and stop-motion animation as well as other visual arts techniques and computer interaction will be explored. Typological approaches and Gestalt theory will combine to inform the creation of Perspective Maps as both an exercise in seeing and as a conceptual technique to facilitate (and teach) abstract thinking. Assemblage will also be explored as a conceptual mechanism. These efforts will parallel our ongoing poetic interpretation and reinterpretation of the landscape.
Jen Seevinck Lastly I am also showing examples of my own work and process as it brings together these concepts of Gestalt theory, abstraction from landscape using typological studies, extracting visual forms, reflecting using visual diaries and finally creating interactive artwork. This is especially the case with my art work +-now which uses sand as an interface and real-time computer generated imagery. It was installed at Beta_Space in the Sydney Powerhouse Museum in 2008 and developed from landscape studies made as early as 2003. The work is shown below. More information can be found on my website and publications (Jen Seevinck. “Tracing Moments.” Leonardo 43.3 (2010): 312-313. The MIT Press.)
Our full day excursion to walkabout creek involved doing rubbings of found objects, doing tai-chi and studying the wildlife. It also involved a visit to the wildlife centre.
Our excursion also involved going for a walk in the forest. We went part-way along the Aracuria track. Many different things were observed during this walk and we reflected on these and our wildlife centre experiences in our visual diaries.
Some of the animals encountered, things we saw or experienced are shown below. Many more images are on page 2.
(Left) Child working on Perspective Map 1.
The culminating show at the end of our project has now been confirmed to happen on Saturday 10 September 2011! This will be at Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre on Mount Nebo Rd in The Gap. More details will follow, but essentially the show will include an installation of the interactive art work “Forest Reflections” and the children’s visual diaries.
This embodies our project’s philosophy of ‘beginning in the forest and ending in the forest’