Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Scanner Daily: 11

Three elastic bands, scanned

Yesterday I attended Madlab's Interesting Monday where people give talks about whatever takes their fancy and other people listen. I gave an extremely cringeworthy last minute, hangover heady talk (I'm still hungover even today from Saturday's tea party, hence the small daily) about this blog which was definitely the least interesting part of the evening. More interesting were the talk on ants - apparently they are eusocial - they interact with consideration a bit like humans do, a Korean game a bit like blackjacks called Kunghe and how practising magic can aid digital design. Magician, Stuart Nolan, http://www.hexinduction.com/ talked generously and intensely about sleight of hand (I always want to say slight of hand) and manipulation. One of his tricks which he showed us in the pub involved elastic bands. He donated these to me for A Scanner Daily. They look extraordinary striking and almost hyperreal for three run of the mill, beige coloured elastic bands. Perhaps it is magic but I'm still not entirely sure what magic is.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Scanner Daily: 10

Art deco, hand painted sandwich plate, circa 1930s, scanned

I chose this, one of my favourite plates because this weekend we are having a tea party for my sister's birthday. I need to go there and help bake cupcakes tomorrow so I probably won't scan again until Monday. We want to have a special celebration as my sister's had a very bad year as she's been ill and she's still undergoing treatment in the form of radiotherapy - I wonder if she feels like she's a scanned object. She says it's not as bad as the chemo though. One of the reasons why I started writing The Gaps Between the Branches was because it felt so cathartic during a time of numbed anguish. It seemed like the most natural and productive thing to do when everything else seemed inaccessible and  unnecessary (I've been meaning to do a post on this for a while). However, I've noticed there are lots of sick people in my novel. This would have happened anyway as one of the protagonists is a psychic healer. I worry that there is more than the average amount of  sick, dead and dying people in my story. But surrounding the time I wrote it, people I knew saw close loved ones pass. It happens as we get older I suppose. I don't see why writers should avoid these narratives. They're not glamorous but they can be told philosophically and we can focus on the aliveness of the dead. I suppose ghosts are glamorous though and there's a few of those in my novel.

During writing a PhD many people lose family and friends to illnesses or accidental deaths. It's eerie how many. A PhD overseer at MMU said that life doesn't put itself on hold just because someone's doing a PhD. Especially as it takes at least three years. If this blog entry can be some small eulogy to those that have passed or been ill during the writing of my thesis and anti-thesis, then it shall. I hope you find some peace and some colour, like the flowers on this plate.  

Again, as the plate is 3D (more so than we'd think), it has lost some of its clarity. The painted scene is blurry in places. Some of the contours of the plate seem to disintegrate into smoky air like ghostly residues. But the colours shine through the scan.

Have a lovely birthday Anna. xxx

A Scanner Daily: 9

ceramic morph bookend, scanned

Today I wrote, swam, played with my niece then went for a slap-up meal (whatever that means) and drinks which were free because my friend was writing an advertorial for the place. It is called Electrik and it's in Chorlton. We decided that the decor was half seventies, half alpine hut bar. There was lots of wood laminate which almost looked like wood but appeared a bit more like Formica. They had those tall lamps with the light shades covered in some sort of woven, sack-like material which looks like the fabric they used to make pin boards out of. My friend found it comforting because it reminded her of visiting her grandparent's house as a child. The place hints at nostalgia but doesn't rub it in your face. The food reminded me of the potato, meat and gravyish meals my mum used to give me as a child. As soon as I discovered pasta and tomatoes I pretty much switched my daily staple cuisine from English to Italian. Today I compromised and chose a tomato crumble from the menu. It was tasty and it seemed to have all of my five a day in it. Anyhow, I'm not going to write an advertorial.

I chose morph because of the nostalgia thing, although he's more eighties than seventies. You have to ask yourself, when you visit these retro clad bars, to whose nostalgia is it appealing? A generation who were kids in the seventies and eighties. So that's the whipper snappers whom I teach at university out then. But I guess that our nostalgia became their retro and now their retro is also their nostalgia, so it's doubly nostalgic. Is it post post-modern?

Morph didn't scan well because he's a very 3D object so the scanner's lid wouldn't go down past him and the glass pane which captures the image only got his surface points clearly - his hands. The rest of his body looks dark and hazy and out of reach like if it had been caught on camera, it would have been at dusk, without a flash and with an inappropriately fast shutter speed. His body appears to morph into the lid on top of him. If the lid represents time closing in on us, morph could represent ourselves in the present, whilst the scanner is our memories, capturing our blur of existence. This is a bullshit metaphor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Scanner Daily: 8

plastic bag, scanned

Yesterday I had some meetings in the Northern Quarter so I decided to look around the shops which I used to depend on as a teenager. I hadn't been in the Vinyl Exchange for about ten years. It was like walking back into my DMs and patchwork trousers again. I remember when music was so essential to my life. That was before I had to pay bills, attend weddings and be concerned with trying to become a professional - whatever that is. I bought some DVDs as cheap birthday presents. They didn't have the DVD section when I used to go.

This bag scans really well. I think it's the best yet. The beam of the scanner has captured the shadows and light in the creases effectively and the hole where the handle goes is void like. It's one hell of a sexy bag.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Scanner Daily: 7

Some Sunday Sketches in the garden in Timperley, fountain pen on notepad

Still finding it hard to get definition with a thick clotting fountain pen. I was attracted to the bark on the tree - the more I looked at it the crustier and crazier it appeared. I couldn't face drawing all the leaves though. My cat, Chomsky, wouldn't sit still and I followed him round the garden all day but I could never get a good, prolonged eyeful. On the bottom right picture I had to make up his eyes and his left one looks human as a consequence. The jeans on the line caught my eye as they looked a bit comical, the left pair being my Dad's and the right pair - more pear shaped, being my own, but I couldn't get the shading right with the pen. I was hoping a bird would land on the washing line but it didn't. Bird outlines are cool at the moment and I have a necklace with a generic bird-shaped bird on it in maroon PVC, sitting on a silver twig.

I had other plans for Sunday. I wasn't very productive but at least I did something.

A Scanner Daily: 6

Used ticket for Wordfest's Summer Prose Formation Team and flyer for accompanying performer, Jess Rose, Friday 9th July, 2010

Excellent writer/readers: Nicola Mostyn, Maria Roberts and Emma Unsworth and singer/songwriter Jess Rose - like a cross between Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith and PJ Harvey. It cost five pounds and included plenty of wine and fruit so it was a splendid way to spend a summer eve.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Scanner Daily: 5

Swimming pool receipt, scanned

I like swimming. It's cool. It's quite an expensive passtime for a doley though. Apparently I can get 40 pence off the price if I fill in a form and get a passport photo done. It should be free really. What about the obesity crisis? Poorer people tend to be fatter because filling food is often cheap and fattening, like a portion of chips.

Thanks to Kurt Nunes for serving me. Kurt doesn't sound like a woman's name though but I swear it was a woman. I like the receipt this size. It looks self important. Why does everything look so ethereal when scanned? Is it because it is a little paler?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Scanner Daily: 4

Basil plant, fountain pen ink on notepad, scanned.

Yesterday my new flatmate bought a basil herb plant. As a result of this I tidied up the pile of useless administrative papers which were hanging out clumsily on my windowsill. I had been meaning to sort these out for a while and now I had to make room for the herb plant. The windowsill sits over the desk where I work in my living room. If you walk down the road I live on you can see the window and some books piled behind it (but no longer any messy papers) and now you will be able to see a basil plant. They don't tend to live long though. They also tend to get eaten up for salads and pasta dishes.

I drew the plant today. The leaves you see are only a fraction of what was really there. If I had drawn them all, it would have taken me as long as the day and also the leaves would have jumbled together into a shady mass of indistinguishable forms. I don't have the skill to distinguish them. Although basil leaves look plain on the eye initially, when you come to draw them they get much more complex. Engaging with their complexity becomes therapeutic. I have always liked to draw something which lives. I'm a little rusty as I haven't drawn for a while. Also, I decided to use a fountain pen rather than a drawing ink pen. It meant I had to hold it at an angle. It was also difficult to achieve definition as the ink flows out thickly and quite of its own accord. I couldn't make the lines and cross hatching as elegant as I would usually. It was a challenge which perhaps I didn't need as I am out of practise.

Nevertheless, at least I have put more effort into today's scan. It is less conceptual art and more traditional art I think.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Scanner Daily: day three

A piece of Bread, wholemeal, scanned

Today I bring you a piece of bread. A piece of daily bread because I eat it daily. I can afford it on job seeker's allowance. It is my staple and it keeps me stable. It is very cheap and versatile. You can have it with sweet conserves and honey (which is good for viruses) or you can have it with savoury options such as houmous (which I now home make), marmite, peanut butter or beans. You can also mix sweet and savoury, such as peanutbutter and jam. I prefer peanut butter with avocado. Try it, it works. Sometimes I buy a loaf on offer from the fresh section of Asda for around 40p and somtimes I put it in the freezer and just take out the slices when I need to toast them. However, I find that sometimes it breaks like a thrown snowball when you try to get it out of the packet. Bread is cheap enough really to not have to keep it this way.

I don't agree with no carb diets, such as the Atkins plan, because bread itself is very low in fat and it provides a good source of energy. As long as you're not coeliac and you don't get really bloated when eating it, it should be OK as a diet food. I have known people to live on it and keep really skinny. It's what you put on it which can be the problem. I opt for wholemeal because it works as daily fibre. It also has B vitamins in it this way.

I am afraid to eat this piece of bread now that it has been scanned. It might be radioactive. It is a good job I have had my breakfast - one piece of toast with honey and one with marmalade. I think I have some left for lunch to have with houmous.

Relevant Links:

Thanks to Jo and Gary for drawing my attention to these links.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Scanner Daily: day two

Looking For Work record, started 13th May 2010

This is my first week's JSA paperwork which evidences that I look for work - and which I have to show the job centre each time I sign on. I do look for work and I also apply for work and I write down that I am looking and applying for work but I rarely get responses from employers. The man at the job centre says I am more active at looking for work than the other people he sees. He now no longer asks to look at this record. But I still do it, in case of that one time when he does and if I hadn't done it he may tell me off and I may be reprimanded by the state. I may have my £65 a week taken away. I don't think he would tell the state though. I think he would just 'let me off' that once but tell me not to do it again - not to not write down the jobs for which I'm applying but not getting, and from which I'm not getting a response from employers.

P.S. the other pages to follow at some point.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Scanner Daily: day one

TOP BANANA, annotated by a Manchester curator, banana, scanned by Beccy K, 5 July 2010

I am taking on a summer task of scanning objects on a daily basis. They may be significant to my everyday life or they may be random. The challenge will come in continually finding objects in my everyday existence which somehow relate to the everyday. Then, also, in retrospect, trying to designate these objects some meaning. It's conceptual art, I think.

This is a top banana. Last Thursday I attended the ATM11 curatorial lab where curators, intellectuals and artists discuss the issues surrounding the idea of the next Asian art triennial in Manchester. During the discussion, as food and drink ran freely, one of the curators of the Chinese Arts Centre, decided to decorate the bananas. The intellectual property right probably belongs to her, but the banana belongs to me because she kindly said I could take it home. As I am currently on job seeker's allowance I seized the opportunity for some free fruit, which is so expensive these days. I was also offered some more calorific sweets but I declined for the reasons that I shouldn't be encouraged to contribute towards Britain's obesity crisis (and I'm not far off from that category myself at present.) In a way, this gifted banana is symbolic. Now you have to work out how. That's conceptual art isn't it?

Why scan an object? Well, further to my 'My Felt Darlek' post, and even further to when my sister scanned her boyfriend's favourite teddy bear with an empty packet of crisps, I have noticed that scanning objects gives them a rather ethereal quality. The 3Dness of objects means that they don't scan / photocopy like a piece of paper with text on it does. They lose some of their robustness due to the fact that they are trapped between a lid and a piece of glass which is only really meant to capture flat objects. They get a little hazy or out of focus around the edges and this blurriness suggest their volume but at the same time it begins to erase it. And because they don't fit the surface area of A4 or A3, the absent bits around their shape comes out black. I am not sure why they don't come out as absent. Black is a colour. There will be a technical reason for this which I am possibly not technically minded enough to understand. And there is no such thing as absence anyway, not really.

I will put the teddy bear and crisp packet up on a day which feels right. I will acknowledge the author - my sister - when I do. I will try not to consider what to put up until the day I put it up. I will try to do it everyday until the end of July (provisionally) or the end of August (possibly). Should there be any other rules? Any comments would be most appreciated.

P.S. I like 'A Scanner Darkly' lots but it's not really anything to do with that.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My Felt Darlek

This is my felt Darlek. I captured him under the lid of my scanner so he looks a bit squashed. He has also picked up specks of dust and and other useless flecks of minutiae which have stuck to his felt skin over the years. A friend made him for me twelve years ago for a Christmas present. In those days, Doctor Who had not reinvented itself. I used to read second hand Doctor Who books written in the 1960s and watch videos (how vintage) of John Pertwee being challenged by wobbly Darleks on even wobblier sets which looked like they were being filmed in the same studio room as Playschool. When I was a kid growing up I thought Darleks were equally scary and fascinating. I decided that if one ever came near me, I would play dead. I did this in dreams when they were chasing me in random, dark caves. I wondered why other characters didn't just play dead. Shut their eyes and lie still. Could the Darleks smell life I wondered?

One of the things which made Doctor Who particularly macabre as a child was its very amateurism in terms of the use of cheap materials such as rubber (and possibly felt?) which made up the monster costumes. I can't be sure if I was more scared of the rubber and the hauntingly inadequate sound fx and 'trick photography' - the idea of people behind the set putting all their energies into trying to make something scary from limited resources - or the notion of the obdurate Darlek itself. They aren't just relentlessly deadly, they're also sociopathic and their disassociated tone of voice and absent eyes reinforces this, so you don't know where you are with them. Anyhow, I was a big fan as a child. I particularly liked the once yearly episodes when all the doctors got together and had one big adventure, sometimes on a boat.

I tried to watch the Christopher Eccleston ones, but I thought he was too macho, trendy and young for a Doctor Who. Then I tried to watch the David Tennant ones, but he was too hammy, irritating and young to be a Doctor Who (I couldn't bear to look at his frantically fidgety eyes). And now Matt Smith, well he's got the Doctor Who kooky-clever thing going on but, he's definitely too young, I think. So why do I assume that Doctor Whos have to be old? Well it could just be that now I am quite old and I remember watching it when I was quite young, I can't face the idea that Doctor Who is not older than me. However, I think it's more to do with the fact that part of Doctor Who's charm was the fact that he came across as a wise, pastoral and unquestionably a-sexual man, or lord. His assistants may have been attractive but that was for the benefit of the viewers, not the Doctor, who surely had better things to think about. When Billie Piper kissed David Tennant in Doctor Who that time, they stamped on the graves of all the Doctor Whos who had come before and I had to stop watching. It lost some of the necessary naivety of its premise.

But I'm considering watching again because I think Matt Smith is bringing some of the old Doctor to life, assuming they renew him for the 2011 season. He may not have maturity on his side, but what is maturity to a Time lord? His unusual looks will hopefully stop him from becoming a major sex symbol. His slightly fey mannerisms and believable intellectual yet distracted quality can be comparable to some of the earlier Doctors, such as Tom Baker. His bow tie doesn't go amiss either. Perhaps, Tim Wonnacott could do the job; his knowledge of antiquities would come in useful for the time travel. But I wonder why Doctor Who chooses to dress in 20th or 21st century attire, not medieval or stone age or Regency? I need to browse second hand sci fi book shops and try and find the first book to see if it provides his birth date. I'm not sure I have the time though. I need to whistle a tardis.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Asia Triennial Manchester 2011 and the Curatorial Labs

I worked on Asia Triennial 2008, a pioneering international art event set in Manchester. Here is a link which describes it a little:

I also gave a paper about the ontology of Biennials and Triennials (and even quadennials), let's just call them 'ennials, at Manchester Metropolitan University's 2007 conference, Everyday Life in the Global City.http://www.misst.mmu.ac.uk/events/everyday-life/Everyday_Life_Conference_Schedule.pdf Here I asked whether the host cities of 'ennials work to convey art talent from around the world on a global scale or whether the city itself contains the event within the parameters of its own art institutions, attracting often local visitors. When the visitors are international, do 'ennials work to sell the city more than the art works. How important is the host of the 'ennial? Should the works of art submitted be customised, glocalised to corroborate their temporary location? If art is to be viewed globally, then surely it needs to be viewed form multi-site locations? We are currently asking ourselves questions like these in the discursive curatorial labs leading up to the next Asia Triennial Manchester next year. The labs are not just for curators, but for local academics, artists and the organising and marketing bodies surrounding the triennial, such as Shisha, the Asian art arts agency http://www.shisha.net/

Another question which arose in the last lab was, what do we mean by 'Asia' and why do we mean it? Whose Asia is it? When we speak of Asia is the 'we' the West? Is it we and them? Fifty years after the collapse of the British Empire, is our language still orientated to think like a centre peering upon a periphery. Contemporary art in South Korea, India and China is leading the rest of the world, arguably, - and these countries also host famous 'ennials. Is Europe the periphery now? Perhaps it is not necessary to divide the globe into two hemispheres - East, West or North, South and certainly not Orient, Occident. Is it better to talk of nations than continents or hemispheres, or is it best to simply talk of localities, like Manchester, Kwangju and Tapei? The world is brimming with localities and they are all different from each other but their difference perhaps doesn't have to be political. Each locale contains a multiplicity of cultural identities. Each place and, hence, each host is like a chunk of sedimentary rock. Slice a piece off and examine its layers.

Gwon Osang, from Deodorant Types, seen in Manchester Art Gallery at ATM08. Overlayered photos stuck to styrofoam, life sized molds.