With artistsandmakers.com in Brixton Village

February 7, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to spend a few days drawing Granville Arcade/Brixton Village, on the first leg of artistsandmakers.com Empty Shops Network Tour to six towns across England, created by artist Dan Thompson.

I joined Dan, Jan Williams (Caravan Gallery)Steve Bomford and podcaster Richard Vobes, for lively discussion and to create new work on site for an all day event on the Saturday, you can hear Richard Vobes podcasts of about the project here.

Its been a while since I had the chance to stay in one place for a few days drawing, talking to stallholders and getting to scratch a little below the surface, seeing the flows of life. This year we’ve (Proboscis) been involved in several projects that have looked at the issue of common space and how its changing alongside the implications of huge shopping malls, department stores and the privatisation of public space.  It was a real pleasure to be in a place where the character of it is created by the people using it to trade and to socialise. There was an almost constant sound of conversation, laughter and music and the smells of all the food being cooked or sold.

Exploring empty shops is about celebrating local distinctiveness and the project will also show local communities how to use empty shops for meanwhile projects. Each project will last less than a week from start to finish and Dan makes a very open space for artists to follow their interests. Each week will involve public meetings, informal training for local artists, and showcase the tools needed to run empty shops projects.

The tour has been organised by the Empty Shops Network, with the first event happening just a week after the project was conceived at a meeting of organisations involved in bringing empty shops and spaces into meanwhile use.

The tour is supported by the Meanwhile Project, and the Brixton event is using a space provided by the Space Makers Agency. After Brixton, the Empty Shops Network project will visit five further towns, with dates in Shoreham by Sea, Coventry, Cumbria and Durham to be confirmed in coming weeks. See artistandmakers.com for details.

You can see more images from the Brixton week here.

Jan, Dan and Steve.

Steve and Terry – the butcher – in front of the pictures Steve and Jan took during the week.

Birmingham Total Place

January 29, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

A series of drawings as part of our work on a part of the Total Place initiative in Birmingham. In January and Feburary we were asked to undertake a small commission to produce some StoryCubes for the Total Place summit to provoke conversations about issues to do with childrens’ services, support for young people and parents in Birmingham. We were asked to work on the Early Intervention strand so Orlagh and I went to meet some parents and workers to understand a some of the issues facing them in terms of  at how various services and networks come together to support families and children under 10.  These drawings are based on the conversations. (Total Place is a new government initiative that looks at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services).

Over the last year we have been involved in several projects where we’ve aimed to intervene creatively in the planning process, opening up avenues for the voices of individuals and communities to be heard. In this project several quotes and conversations will be represented on the cubes which are to be used to provoke conversations at the Be Birmingham summit will be taking place on  3 February  where the main focus will be to generate new ways of thinking and collaboration.  Anything to do with children can be an emotive, sometimes inspiring and sometimes heart wrenching area and  in the short time we worked on this it was so clear that so many lives are affected by the availability of support,  whether intervention becomes interference and how if people are not heard or listened to it can have a huge impact on their lives.

Drawing

January 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

In the background to a lot of the work we all do at Proboscis is an underlying interest in the handmade and in particular in drawing. Many people know us for our work with technology but there is a strong undercurrent in our practice of drawing as part of design, illustration or installation.

The interest dates right back to Proboscis first project, Coil Journal of the Moving Image, which included drawing and illustration commissions by artists, film-makers and illustrators. I’ve begun a process of looking back on and gathering together images of work by us and the other artists we have worked with over the years and this is the first of a series of posts exploring the presence of drawing in our work.

Recently, for With Our Ears to the Ground Proboscis were commissioned by Green Heart Partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to explore peoples ideas about community and create an artists book/publication. Orlagh and I spent several days driving around the County to run events and meet people but at the same time the journeys we took were important in our understanding of live in the county. As part of that I’ve been making the sketches that appear on this page and and on our flickr page to investigate the ideas of flow and movement of people in the county. Some of these appear in the final publication but for the most part the process was about gaining another level of understanding beyond the events, interviews and workshops we did.

Snout: A carnival of the everyday

November 7, 2009 by · Comments Off on Snout: A carnival of the everyday 

Orlagh and I are just finishing a short video, inspired by our Snout project, which will have its first outing at the upcoming Mobilefest Festival in Sao Paulo Brazil.  A single screen video work – it draws together line animation, visualisation of sensor data and video footage of a live event featuring European carnival characters  Mr Punch and The Plague Doctor as they cavort around London in costumes instrumented with environmental sensors.  It reminded me that Snout was featured in 2008 in  Zona 2; signs in the city, a supplement to the Italian architecture and design magazine Abitaire. So to accompany the video here is the short essay and my drawings from Zona about the project:

A theatre of the everyday

Carnival is a time when everyday life is suspended – a time when the fool becomes king for a day, when social hierarchies are inverted and the pavement becomes the stage, a time when everyone is equal. There is no audience at a carnival, only carnival-goers.


On 10 April 2007 the Snout ‘carnival’ performance and public forum (featuring Mr Punch and The Plague Doctor instrumented with environmental sensors) drew together artists, producers, performers and computer programmers to explore how wearable technologies with environmental sensors can combine with Internet sharing technologies to map the invisible gases in our everyday environment. The project by Proboscis, inIVA  and researchers from Birkbeck College also explored how communities can use this evidence to initiate local action.

For Proboscis public space is a focus for convening conversation and dialogue. It gives context to shared issues such as pollution, the environment, and our personal and communal relationships to them. In Snout, we sought to meld the problem of measuring pollution in public space with ways to begin a conversation between local people that can inspire a path to change; not just frighten people with statistics.

Our world is increasingly affected by human behaviour and industry – there is awareness of pollution in public spaces but we rarely have access to actual data. What is the local air quality of our street like? What ground toxins are present? The participatory sensing concept seeks to put the science and technologies of environmental sensing into the hands of local people to gather and visualise evidence about their environment.

We chose Mr Punch as an allegory of Western consumer culture. Punch is the fool, the trickster, an anti-authoritarian figure – challenging social structures, yet never taking responsibility for his actions. In the traditional Punch story – The Tragical Comedy, Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch, he defeats authority, but at the same time kills all the people close and dear to him. Ultimately he is left alone. We also chose the Plague Doctor because of his ambiguous relationship to technology. The doctor’s outfit is a kind of seventeenth century HazMat suit, but is he a real doctor or is he a quack hiding behind the cultural and hygienic prophylactic of the costume? With both the characters we are questioning the social and cultural role not only of technologies but also of those who use them, and why.

The data collected by the sensors in the Snout costumes are the ingredients for a feast of conversation; a recipe that includes various ingredients (sensor data, statistics culled from official websites and local knowledge shared by the community) to cook up local feasts of conversation. In addition to the data picked up by the sensors on the Snout costumes (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, noise, solvent vapours etc), other sources were aggregated such as local health statistics, local education and the ‘deprivation’ index.

Consumerism drives a headlong scramble of production, underpinned our concept of individual freedom and choice. Our desire to have technologies which ‘free’ us, enable greater communication and ability to travel are also ones which contribute to accelerating ecological damage. The technologies we manipulate to help us make sense of these issues are also part of the problem. The question then becomes, how do we take responsibility for the impact of our desires upon the environments we live in, and their effects on the environments of others? How can we shift our perceptions of what can happen on the street, in public space, to create the context to begin conversations?

City as Material

September 7, 2009 by · 7 Comments 

City As Material, 1st Walk

Exploring GF Watts Commemoration of Heroic Sacrifice, Postman's Park London

This week we begin teaching a course on the city as material for artistic practice with students from Vassar College‘s International Program in London. We’ve planned it as a co-creative course, intending to act as facilitators and guides to the students in devising and conducting their own investigations of the city and creating their own interventions. The students will be creating a blog to document their activities, as well as publishing eBooks about their individual projects.

The course is fortnightly (from early September to the beginning of December 2009), based in our studio in Clerkenwell, from where we’ll engage in walks, watching, making, drawing, discussing and eating.

From our course introduction (eBook A4 | US Letter PDF 240Kb),

The focus for this class will be in considering the role of the city as material for artistic experimentation and creation. Only inadequately understood as “public art,” urban interventions produce public space where it does not exist, foster new modes of urban citizenship and participation, render legible the force of political and financial power shaping the global city, expose the mutability of “public” and “private” entailed by new media transformations of social space, create alliances between varied urban stakeholders, challenge the zero-tolerance policies of the increasingly securitized city, and broaden the repertoire of political resistance and direct action. In addition to contemporary practice the course will consider the rich histories of urban intervention by artists in London and elsewhere.

At The Waters Edge: Grand River Sketches

December 3, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

At The Waters Edge: Grand River Sketches

As part of Proboscis ongoing creative research partnership with Waterloo, Canada based RENDER, Alice was commissioned to develop a new work specifically for the atrium of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Cambridge. Combining new media and traditional methods, the project reflects the Proboscis strategy of engaging the social, cultural and natural histories of specific sites and territories. Alice brought interest in rivers as life-lines, connectors and definers of place that has grown out of her long term work on Topographies and Tales.

For this project she, and RENDER Director and artist Andrew Hunter, explored the Grand River from its mouth at Port Maitland on Lake Erie to Elora. By bicycle, car, foot and kayak, they wandered through and around the numerous cities, towns, villages, communities, farm fields and industrial sites the river penetrates, defines and skirts, making focussed stops along the way at Chiefswood National Historic Site, Paris, Galt and Kitchener. Alice’s inquiries have also taken her to libraries, museums and archives and into conversations with numerous individuals whose lives have been touched by the river. The resulting work is a personal and poetic reflection on a significant body of water whose role as a critical thread through the region is often forgotten or obscured by more recent grids of development, pathways of transportation and community boundaries. As with her other work At The Waters Edge: Grand River Sketches maps a dialogue between the artist and place emphasizing a process of inquiry.

At the heart of RENDER’s ongoing collaboration with Proboscis is creative research grounded in local history and the built environment. Past collaborative projects have included Anarchaeology and The Accidental Menagerie. At the Water’s Edge will be further developed into a publication and Proboscis will play a central role in RENDER’s upcoming GROUNDWORK community garden project at rare.

Proboscis and RENDER would like to thank Robert McNair (UW School of Architecture), Paula Whitlowe (Chiefswood National Historic Site) and Joyce Majiski and Tuktu Studio in Whitehorse (where Alice spent a week working on At The Water’s Edge) for their support of, and contributions to, this project.

Photographs by Robert McNair 2008

Topographies & Tales

November 3, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

Topographies & Tales is about the relationship between people, language, identity and place, revealing personal stories against the larger picture of how our concept of space and environment is shaped by “belonging” and “nationhood”, and how boundaries, barriers and borders come to be formed.

It has included short films, essays, nine Diffusion eBooks, a Creative Lab in London and events in Dawson City, Canada and is underpinning a new body of work exploring peoples relationship to water called At The Waters Edge.

Topographies and Tales is based around a body of work that Alice Angus has been creating in collaboration with Joyce Majiski exploring the perceptions of landscape and of the North.  It is driven by interests in ideas of proximity and remoteness, technology and presence, and the concept of ‘wilderness’ against the lived experience of a place. The works are a personal exploration of the intimate way people form relationships with their environments. They are underpinned by an exploration of how the technologies of travel and communication impact on a sense of time, from the coming of the railroad to the ‘new’ world of data and communications: our perceptions of geography are affected not just by knowledge, but by the way it is mediated. Beginning in the winter of 2001 Alice took the railroad across Canada, from east to west, against the historic flow, creating the film, Near Real Time. Then, in 2003, Alice participated in the first Parks Canada residency in Ivvavik National Park in the Northern Yukon. She began a collaboration there with guide Joyce Majiski which took them to Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms, Scotland in 2004 and Klondike Institute for Art and Culture in Dawson City, Canada in 2005 for their short film Topographies and Tales 2009.

Films:

Topographies and Tales 2009 (12.52 min)
Topographies and Tales, 2009 (excerpts 5.30min)

Using music, oral recordings, drawing, animation and storytelling to playfully unearth local and personal stories, memories and myths against a picture of how concepts of space and environment are shaped by ideas of belonging and home. A personal exploration of the intimate way people form relationships with their environments combining animation and live documentary footage, Topographies and Tales takes a meandering journey through the myths and perceptions the filmmakers encountered on their journeys in the west of Scotland and the Yukon.

Near Real Time: Sketch of a Journey, 2002 (4min)
In the winter of 2001 Alice took the railroad across Canada, from east to west, against the historic flow.

Writings:
Near Real Time By Alice Angus, following the railroad East to West across Canada
Landscapes in Dialogue by Alice Angus, thoughts inspired by the Artists in the Park residency, Ivvavik National Park, Yukon

A Diffusion eBook series, Topographies and Tales, contains nine eBooks by Alice Angus and Joyce Majiski created as a result of the project.

At The Waters Edge with Joyce Majiski and Alice Angus
The first in a new a series of eBooks growing out of Topographies and Tales. At The Waters Edge are water based investigations exploring different perspectives of what it means to care for the environment and how it can affect the way in which water environments are managed and cared for.

Topographies and Tales website.

Team: Alice Angus, Giles Lane, Orlagh Woods (2004-09).

Diffusion Residency – Matt Huynh

August 25, 2008 by · Comments Off on Diffusion Residency – Matt Huynh 

Comic artist and illustrator Matt Huynh from Sydney Australia was resident at Proboscis studio in August 2008, playing with the Diffusion formats and creating several eBooks. Matt won the inaugural Design NSW Travelling Scholarship in 2008.

Read more about Matt’s Residency here.

Lattice::Sydney – Drawing Conclusions

May 15, 2008 by · Comments Off on Lattice::Sydney – Drawing Conclusions 


Lattice: Drawing Conclusions from Proboscis on Vimeo.

A short film of Matt Huynh and Tina Tran of Popperbox drawing conclusions from the Lattice forum. Music by Reg Kehoe and his Marimba Queens. (May 2008).

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