My Modersohn-Becker track “Properly Wrong” is featured, along with an absolutely huge selection of various other DIY musical delights by others, on a compilation of Wabi-Sabi music over at Pimpmelon Records.
“Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese aesthetic of finding the beauty in imperfections. One of the untapped subjects of this aesthetic is the music world – until now!
Throughout musical history, over time we’ve grown to accept many aspects of Wabi-Sabi into our listening. Things like Free Jazz, Improvisational, Spoken Word, Poetry, Glitch, and more. Not only in genre, the aspects are also present in things like unfinished symphonies, alternate/unfinished/or unmastered mixes, as well as live tracks that go awry.
This compilation album collects all of these aspects and more, ranging a tonne of genres, recording styles, methods, etc. It is the biggest free collection of “imperfect” music to date, hopefully one that will help many people appreciate this style of music. “
For the fourth year in a row I have been invited to take part in Supernormal, the arts and music festival, which takes place from the 9th to the 11th of August at Brazier’s Park in Oxfordshire.
This year, rather than perform as part of improvising musical ensembles as in past editions of the festival, I will be showing two new artworks: a performative piece and a video work.
Stay tuned for more news.
I have resuscitated Modersohn-Becker and would like to regularly begin posting new DIY tracks. Originally I wanted to make this a weekly occurrence, as an exercise, so that I would have to keep creating tracks rapidly and simply without dwelling too much on my insecurities or seeking perfection. Unfortunately, knowing myself, being tied down to a weekly schedule might make this endeavour become more a source of stress than liberation or pleasure… so I would rather call this a “regular” occurrence than a weekly one. This way there won’t be any “musts” or “shoulds”. I will do my best to post regular, “imperfect” tracks, though.
Here’s a track I made for an upcoming free compilation of music by artists employing ‘the art of Wabi-sabi, that is, “the art in imperfection”‘ and who find ‘the beauty in broken things’ (how very M-B!).
It’s called “Properly Wrong”.
Despite having several gigs and performances under my belt (too many to list or even remember – I lost count many years ago), I haven’t been making music nor performing live as a musician or vocalist for that long (unless you count playing clarinet in a small town’s marching band when I was 12-14 years old). Before 2007 I had only participated in a handful of performances, and was disappointed with pretty much all of them. To others, what I did in those performances looked and sounded “fine”, but to me… it felt like a prison, I felt I wasn’t being me.
I was very depressed at the time, and isolated, and had this desperate need to express myself, to make contact in some way with the world. I felt music could be my outlet, my way to reach out and connect. What I had done in the handful of times I had performed felt wrong to me… I felt trapped, I felt as If I were enacting someone’s idea of what a girl singing in a band (I was only singing, then) should sound like and do. I desperately tried to sing melodies, my voice choking up with anxiety and my breath drying out… verse, chorus, verse, chorus, repeat, repeat, repeat (…is the song long enough? Should I keep going?) and end (and breathe).
After each performance I didn’t feel relieved, I felt ANGRY. Angry at myself for wasting an opportunity, for feeling so close to it, yet being unable to just… let go, to do something that others might laugh at, something that might be weird, off tune, ridiculous, wrong. It wasn’t fear of doing something different that scared me… it was fear of not being able to do it in a way that would make others accept it –for example if I tried to vocalise in a certain way but would not be able to control my voice the way I wanted due to lack of “talent” (that mythical, hateful beast) or training and that something else would come out instead, something “wrong”. I felt that in order to be able to do what I wanted I had to first prove that I was doing it intentionally, and not just because it was all I could do (even though I might like the results either way). I felt I had to prove I could do the “right” thing in order to be “allowed” to do the “wrong” thing. I wanted to show my inner self, but I wanted for it to be accepted, I didn’t want to be dismissed. So I felt I needed to find a way of justify whatever I might do, to get “permission” to do it. Therefore… I found it very hard to do anything.
Not only was I frustrated with my inability to let go and be myself in performance, but I also desperately wanted to create my own music, independently of others, rather than guesting in other people’s bands. Once again I felt that because I couldn’t play what others might consider a “song-writing instrument” (like a guitar, or a piano, for example), or even use music software, that there was no way for me to create music. It’s hard to explain my frame of mind at the time… but basically I felt completely stuck and helpless… I didn’t know where to start, or that I could ever learn to do any of the things that might allow me to create my own recordings. Every time I would try and learn I would come to a hurdle, and think that there was something inherently wrong with me for not being able to already know how to do things.
But then things in my life got even worse, and the need to have some sort of outlet overshadowed my feeling that I had “no right” to do anything, that I would never learn, that I did not know how to do things “the right way”.
So starting from approximately 2005 I began secretly creating tracks as Modersohn-Becker. These were incredibly lo-fi affairs: I had no knowledge of music technology or software, and hardly any equipment was available to me. I felt incredibly self-conscious about recording, so I would create my tracks sneakily, in a couple of hours, when I was sure I was alone in the house. I just had a desperate need to express myself… somehow. At first these tracks were made just for myself, as a way to relieve my frustration, but then I gradually and anxiously began uploading some of these to social networking sites in order to get over my insecurity. Because in the end what I wanted was to make a connection with the outside, to know that I existed.
For most of these early M-B tracks, I used Windows Recorder and a decrepit, taped-together old plastic microphone (later on I tentatively began using free Evolution software, but I had no idea what I was doing as I had never used any music-making technology before). I recorded mostly acappella and in one take, without editing the results as I had no way to do so. I had no mixing facilities, and mostly no effects available to me (bar some reverb on later tracks, when I discovered it was available, and how to apply it). All I did was record myself with Windows recorder, then open and play the recorded file whilst recording myself again in another Windows recorder window, so as to create a new recording. These “takes” would end up blended into one single mono track, which could then not be split into its parts again. I would keep repeating this process of playing/recording over the played file until I created several layers of voice. These recordings were the computer-user equivalent of a child playing with two tape recorders, making layers by playing from one whilst recording to the other.
I still have a copy of my first ever track, a cover of the Virgin Prunes’ “Theme For Thought”:
I remember how frustrated I was with the end product. I had no way to correct mistakes once the track was done other than starting from scratch, and I had too little time to finish it all in (I was alone in the house for only a couple of hours), so all mistakes stayed in the recordings. Now I kind of love this stuff…
Oh yes, and because on these early tracks I did not know how to create loops or edit, the background of this track consists of me going: “boom-boom, boom-boom” whilst shaking an egg-shaker non-stop at approximately the same pace (approximately – here too there many mistakes!) for the entire duration of the song…
Here’s more from the same era. This one is called “Stupid Fuck”:
Another track from the same pre-looping batch of the first two, this one called “Justice Jane”:
“All The Same”, my first experiment using a simple loop (in the background):
This was from a little later. I had some software, but I still didn’t know what I was doing. It’s called “Stain”:
Lastly, here I had also started figuring out how to use some software, but I was still incompetent in my use. The track is called “Hairy Nipples”:
Here are some more M-B tracks, from various periods:
“Song Of Tears”
“Here’s My First Number”
“First Time I Played With Myself”
Here are some mp3s of some of the tracks above, should you wish to own your very own copy.
The reason I am posting all the above is that I love this stuff (yes, I finally said it!). And I still make it (although far too sporadically now). And I STILL do not quite know what I am doing, even after graduate and post-graduate qualifications in sound-related (though non-technical!) fields. This is me at my purest, in a way. This is what comes out.
In early 2007, at around the same time I had begun posting my M-B tracks online, I also started to regularly meet up with my friend Smike Bardwell, who had been recording as Earth Creature for several years with intermittent collaborators. Now on his own again, he had wanted a vocalist to join up and we had hit it off musically after a first improvised gig (my first time completely improvising!). Other than my improvising, that first gig felt no different to all the other gigs I had taken part in before – I felt constricted by my fear of doing something “wrong”. But I stuck around because Smike was my friend, and I liked what he was doing, and I felt accepted by him, that he wouldn’t freak out if I experimented a little, and that I could perhaps begin to let go.
The more we met up, the more I began to experiment, but I was still afraid of the public, and I still tried to sound “right”. Until our second gig, which I consider my first, real gig. I sang the first song, playing the role of singer, then I hummed, made some vocal sounds, still tying to find my place. Inside, I was sad and angry at myself. I had all these feelings I wanted to get out, these feelings I had to keep hidden in my personal life… and here was the only place I could let them out and turn them into something that might be interesting as well as liberating… and I just… couldn’t… let… go. It went on for a few minutes like that, until a voice inside me just cried out: “this is YOUR time, this is THE ONLY PLACE where you can be yourself… and you are wasting it! I am NOT GOING TO WASTE IT”… and then THIS happened, I finally let go at this precise moment:
That was the first of many EC gigs. Smike and I have been a due since then, though things have changed a lot and as well as providing vocals, these days I play a variety of things (contact mics, polystyrene, theremin, saw, mixer and pedals, anything or anyone at hand…) and Smike has taken to using a bass in live performances, on top of his usual electronics and samples and bits and bobs, but in the future things may change again.
Here are some more videos. Sadly we stopped filming years ago, so there isn’t much video documentation of certain phases in our playing:
[I have a lot of EC audio files, mainly gig recordings, so as soon as I have managed to go through all of these, I will post some.]
Since that 2007 gig I have played countless gigs with countless different outfits in countless different situations. I taught myself to play the theremin, and have become adept at free improvisation. EC led me to live performance and improvisation, and M-B led me to go to university to study Sound Art.
Part of me, after several years of academic study in a sonic field, feels that I should hide my DIY music-making, because it’s too instinctive, too imperfect, laughable, because it displays my technical shortcomings… but this music is ALSO me, and I now refuse to regress and hide again, so here it is, because this too is my practice. And you know what? I love its imperfection, its instinctiveness, its silliness, and its lo-fi aesthetic. And since now I have a little bit more time, there will be more – watch this space.
You are cordially invited to join us at our final show:
(photography by Benedetta Ubezio)
“… on the boundary of sound…”
Sajid Akbar | Hannibal Eric Andersen | Andrej Bako | Alison Ballard | Tim Bamber | David Agudelo Bernal | Russell Ackermann-Callow | Giuseppe Cantelmo | David Degos | Nathan Fustec | D
aniel Grossman | Julie Groves | Jack Harris | Lotte Rose Kjær Skau | Artur Matamoro Vidal | Greta Pistaceci | Anna Raimondo | Achint Singh
The Nursery Gallery
London College of Communication
Elephant & Castle SE1 6SB
Opening reception: Monday 19th November 6-9pm
Symposium: Saturday 24th November from 11-3pm
Presenting new works by eighteen contemporary artists, “… on the boundary of sound…” offers an in-depth enquiry into the diversity of sound in the arts.
Whether we embrace sound or try to block it out, in the cacophony of the contemporary world there is barely a corner of our lives that sound doesn’t reach. In an age in which media appears inseparable from culture, politics and social interaction, this exhibition presents a crucial survey of the ways in which sound informs our presence and the space around us, as well as suggesting its intangible authority on our daily lives.
All of the artists presented have been studying on the Postgraduate Sound Arts program at the London College of Communication. It is evident, perhaps due to the contemporary social and political landscape, that many of the works demonstrate a marked interest in political and social tensions amongst emerging sound art practitioners. This is perhaps most evident in the works of Bamber, Raimondo and Bako. However even where other emphasise other concerns, such as proximity, physicality and human relations (Groves), aesthetics (Bernal), or a concern with the environments of art exhibition (Matamoro Vidal) and sound’s relationship with architecture and form (Ballard, Degos and Kjær Skau), degrees of social-political context are still very much evident. Other works draw on the propensity for sound to convey definitions of community, nostalgia and memory (Fustec and Akbar), sound’s relationship to the other senses (Cantelmo and Grossman) or sound as a catalyst for practice and exchange (Singh, Harris and Andersen). There is also a concern with definition, documentation and truth in art, such as that found in the works of Ackermann-Callow and Pistaceci, which underpins the investigatory nature of this exhibition.
To coincide with the exhibition CRiSAP (Centre for Creative Research in Sound Arts Practice) will be hosting a symposium at the gallery on the relationship between sound arts practice and sound research. Entrance to the exhibition, performances and symposium is free. “… on the boundary of sound…” is curated by Mark Jackson, supported by London College of Communication and CRiSAP, and presents the final work of the MA Sound Arts graduates of London College of Communication.
Exhibition opening times
Tuesday | Wednesday: 10am-7.30pm
Thursday | Friday: 10am-6pm with evening
performances until 8pm
Here you can listen to a radio programme (part of a 4-episode series on the theme of “sound as reviews and texts as sound”) that was created by myself, Julie Groves, David Agudelo Bernal, Giuseppe Cantelmo and Achint Singh and broadcast last week on Resonance FM:
Here is a video of my MA class’ interim show, “Jack Harris: a retrospective”, which I curated (I was not responsible for the title which was voted in before I assumed curatorial duties… but I worked with it!):
[thanks: Julie for her assistance in the earliest stages of co-curatorial planning before she got too busy to be involved, Alison for her lighting help and general awesomeness, Nathan for his amazing tech skills, Saj for the beautiful flyer, Daniel and Jack for writing the press release, Leila for filming, and thanks to those who helped with grunt work setting up and taking down the show!]
DAVID AGUDELO BERNAL // SAJID AKBAR// HANNIBAL ERIC ANDERSEN// ANDREJ BAKO // ALISON BALLARD // TIM BAMBER // RUSSELL CALLOW // GIUSEPPE CANTELMO // DAVID DEGOS // NATHAN FUSTEC // DANIEL GROSSMAN // JULIE GROVES // JACK HARRIS // TERRY PENG // GRETA PISTACECI // ANNA RAIMONDO // LOTTE ROSE KJÆR SKAU // ACHINT SINGH // ARTUR VIDAL
An evening of performances, showings and diffusions of work from the students of the MA Sound Arts at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.
Mid-way through their year of study, the artists will be presenting a range of work and experiments resulting from their activity during the course. Expect explorations of the aural reconstruction of the NASA space program, deep-bass low-fi cultural-collage, the perfection of party political vocal propaganda, and music that is so quiet (and loud) you’ll never listen to traffic noise in the same way again.
Doors open at 6pm, followed by programs of showings, screenings and performances throughout the evening with opportunities to socialise, speak to the artists, and view show reels and exhibited works.
Here is some writing I did as part of course homework about my MA coursemate Julie‘s piece, Chromesthetic Solo. Much like my own videos, which I recently blogged about, this was her first venture into audiovisual work (and with limited means), and as such a bit of an experiment, but I think it’s interesting and has potential.
In Julie Groves’ brief audiovisual piece, Chromesthetic Solo, we are presented with a continuous shot of the artist filmed from her shoulders up, staring straight into the camera, a gentle breeze running through her hair and the foliage behind her. The film begins as black and white, and some breathing sounds can be heard – but no ambient sound. Then music begins to play – a flute performance of Telemann’s Fantasia in F sharp minor – and the image turns to colour as the artist’s face becomes animated, anticipating and accompanying each musical phrase with her expressions. Flashes of colour in the image, as well as other visual effects, punctuate salient points in the performance. The expressions on the artist’s face are those of a classical musician in performance, and the artist herself is in fact the performer of the piece we can hear.
The idea of sound causing the visuals is hinted at in piece’s title. Sound quite literally precedes visuals in Chromesthetic Solo: it was recorded before the visuals, and the visuals are a real-time documentation of the artist’s response to listening to the recorded sound. However, although the visuals could be read as a mere reaction to the sound, the relationship here between image and sound is much more complex than a simple reaction/response.
This is because the facial expressions we see are those of a performer, not just a listener; they are informed by knowledge of the written score and physical memory of the performance of the piece. They are also a result of cultural mediation, as these are the facial responses of a western classical musician, rather than just any musician.
These may well be responses to sound, but they are also more than that. Indeed, the changes in facial expressions often anticipate what we then hear in the film’s recorded score rather than simply reacting to it. They are a response to the memory of performing, to prior knowledge of the written score and of how the entire performed piece sounds – a memory and anticipation that is, however, at least triggered by listening to the recorded performance.
Furthermore, though the facial expressions appear to be caused by emotional responses to the sounds heard, they do in fact largely anticipate them, are a manifestation of a memory of the emotions that the musician imbued her performance and the resulting music with. These physical changes are a re-enactment of the thing that gave the sound its emotional shape. In their visual enactment they give the visual an emotional shape, influencing the audience’s listening experience of the music and emotional response to it.
In a way, here the performer is imbuing us with emotions, guiding us in our listening by providing a visual guide to the emotional response to be had. The visuals are a sort of score – this is what western classical music looks like. The chromatic changes and visual effects, coupled with the changes in the performer’s expressions, suggest to us a particular emotional response. Without the visuals, maybe the spectator’s response to the music would not be the same. The visuals open up a new dimension, they give us a window into how performers hear and guide our emotional response.
Finally, while the facial expressions anticipate the sound, the “chromesthetic” flashes of colour accompany/react to it, further complicating the causal relationship between visuals and sound in the piece.
Listen is a 3-minute audiovisual piece filmed in a single shot, presenting a close-up of a speaking mouth, which occupies most of the screen-space.
In Listen, the speaker promises to reveal intimate secrets – and this intimacy is accentuated by the closeness of the mouth and by the un-effected voice recording, and simultaneously contrasted by the anonymity of the speaker’s face, which lies beyond reach.
As the speaker begins her revelations, a disruptive and constant, extraneous sound comes in to obliterate her message, rendering it unintelligible by making her voice barely audible, while the visuals remain unaltered.
At irregular intervals the obstructive sound relents and fragments of the spoken sentences are brought to the fore and become audible, while simultaneously the image blurs.
Towards the end of the piece, both visuals and speech are disrupted by blurring and by the extraneous sound respectively, and the mouth and the speech’s message become clearly defined again only at the very end, where it becomes apparent that the revelations have ended, and where the speaker thanks us for listening.
As Michel Chion points out in Audio-Vision (1994:5-6), human beings (and the filmic medium) are “vococentric” and “verbocentric”, so when listening to a sound film, our ears tend to seek and notice voice first, and specifically messages conveyed by any words being uttered.
In Listen, disruption is introduced to put the message just out of reach. Because the voice can be faintly heard in the barrage of extraneous sound, the audience’s vococentric/verbocentric ears naturally seek it and strain, but fail to pick out the all-important message being conveyed by the obstructed words.
Speech is visible in the speaking mouth’s movements, but barely audible, and is unintelligible, so our eyes then try to compensate, to fill in by lip-reading.
When fragments of spoken sentences are occasionally brought to the fore to titillate our ears and maintain our interest in the unreachable conversation, the image blurs, forcing the audience to readjust from focusing on the lips’ movements to purely listening. The repetition of this coupling of blurred visuals with decipherable voice is then itself disrupted when both the image of the mouth and its speaking are simultaneously interfered with, forcing the audience to readjust and strain once more, before the film ends.
This continuous disruption of audibility and visibility forces constant readjustment in the audience, and this makes them take notice and reflect on the relationship between sound and visuals and their degree of interdependency on a more conscious level by encouraging them to switch between leaning on one and then the other in an attempt to get to the message, thus taking neither for granted.
CHION, M. (1990/1994) Audio-Vision. New York: Columbia University Press
Here’s a little experiment I made. It’s called Screamer.
I would like to keep working on it if I find the time, but for now this is my piece! It’s part of a series of experiments I made exploring themes of perfection/perfecting, failure, imperfection, and in this case muting. More to be posted. Also, when I feel a little less tired I might say a bit more about this piece and its sister pieces.
I’m still attempting to catch up with my back-log of posts, and somehow this had escaped me. When I was in Athens (to complete marathon No. 2!) last November I made a little detour to add to my Tapescapes blog. Here it is. And here are all the other posts should you want to check the rest of my blog out!
A couple of months ago my Sound Art master class took part in a sort of “exchange” workshop with Poetic Practice master students. For the day of the workshop, we were each asked to bring in a “page-based piece of writing” narrating a journey between two points, which we might then use as a starting point for our work on the day. Here’s what I produced (click on picture for larger version):
I’m becoming rather interested in using text and handwriting in my current work, as you’ll see in my upcoming posts, as I work through my back-log of updates. This was not a planned direction that I took but rather I have suddenly found myself working in this way with several pieces, as different projects that started out as non-text-based seem to have naturally progressed in that direction.
I will be performing as part of a 14-piece ensemble at Tate Modern on the 3rd of May. The performance is part of the 3-day Symposium “Her Noise – Feminisms and the Sonic” which is organised by Electra and Crisap with Tate. We will perform Pauline Oliveros’ 1970 piece ” To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation” as part of a day dedicated to Oliveros, at which the composer will also be performing solo and giving a talk
I have not had a chance to update this blog for a while – so maybe I should make good use of the moment’s respite I am afforded right now and quickly write down all of the things I have been wanting to post here for a while. I have been very busy since the start of my MA in January. The course is amazing, as I expected, but hectic. It’s full-time, but spans 12 continuous calendar months rather than being stretched out over 2 years as many full-time MAs are. Meanwhile I am working part-time and had been training for my third marathon until recently – sadly I had to give up my training in order to focus on my studies, as it was all getting a bit too much for me to handle. I am happy to say, though, that I have survived the 1st phase of the MA and am now entering the 2nd! Exciting and stressful things are ahead, no doubt!
So many things have taken place in the past few months, and I have wanted to post my new work and experiments on here as they happened, but having been unable to, I am now struggling with recollecting and retrospectively writing about everything, so please bear with me.
But no more excuses… I will get started. Watch this space.
Variations is a series of investigations of the common ground between therapy and art. The work aims to remain open, an origin for further and continued exploration and interpretations, by its creator and others, in ways perhaps unforeseen by its author.
At its core is a collection of event scores consisting of therapy exercises culled –with as little alteration as possible – from various forms of therapy and self-help literature. Presented here are some of the ways in which the artist has chosen to explore this material.
Not only do event scores and therapy exercises, upon reading, present similarities in appearance, but their aims also intersect: both event scores and therapy exercises seek to, through their reading or execution, elicit thought and create awareness, to invite both the spectator (and the interpreter) to consider and experience things differently. Event scores have an effect on the performer and audience just as therapy exercises do, and therapy exercises can be as theatrical, contemplative or poetic as event scores are. The greatest difference between the exercises collected for Variations and event scores like those of George Brecht or Yoko Ono is in fact context. And as shown by Duchamp’s urinal, the way it is presented (its context) is what renders an object a work of art.
The therapy exercises thus become scores by being presented as such: they are collected in a handmade workbook and as cards in a box inspired by Brecht’s Water Yam. They are presented as literature and as an art object, imitating in both cases traditional ways to display event scores.
Some of the scores thus created were then chosen by the artist for their particular sound-eliciting potential and properties and were interpreted as sound recordings. For these sonic performances, the artist has chosen to execute the exercises in as precise and literal a way as possible, as would a therapy patient, attempting to feel their benefits as a patient would. Though executed in real time as much as possible as therapeutic exercises, they are also presented as sound art, and selected for their sonic potential. The artist feels the benefit, and the listener experiences sonic performance art.
I have not been particularly good at updating this blog, in the last few months. This is because I have been rather busy meeting deadlines –building and showing my installation, finishing and handing in my dissertation, and running a marathon. I have also been working on a new project, which I shall reveal shortly. Here are some pictures of a couple of objects I have built relating to the aforementioned project. I’m particularly proud of the book, as I have built it from scratch (well… almost from scratch: I have used a printer and I have not made the paper, though I did cut each page by hand and perforate it individually!) without any prior knowledge of book-binding and pretty much making it up as I went along. Trial and error produced some pretty nice results, don’t you think?
I will be playing on the 19th of February from 3.15pm to 4.45pm as part of the London Theremin Group, during the workshops section of the E.A.R electronic arts revue . Other members of the group, for this performance, will be Gordon Charlton, Leila Dear, Mike Buffington.
Many, many thanks to the amazing Gordon Charlton (aka Beat Frequency) for inviting me to play despite my being unable to attend the last two rehearsals of the group due to my academic engagements.
I don’t usually post about events I am taking part in anywhere except on private pages, but I thought I should maybe start doing so on this blog, so that I can tentatively begin to build a list of events I have taken part in, for archiving reasons, and so that I can see what I have done. I perform very frequently but have so far not kept a record of my performances with others — these are so frequent I do not tend to bother, and they vary wildly in seriousness, quality and amount of my involvement, though maybe I should begin documenting them, even if just out of curiosity, as I have noticed that most people I know document all of their performances in some way.
[edit: I did not take part in this particular event, in the end, due to it conflicting with other deadlines, but I still wonder whether I should begin documenting performances]
I am told I should not mix the personal with my work… but my work is personal. I also do not want this blog to just be self-promotion or merely a research notebook.
I feel that what I am about to say is relevant, because it relates to how I am and work… and I really want to write this all down and share it, so that I can see it again and again on this page and be reminded of how I felt today, and not forget the conclusions I came to.
For my entire adult life, with everything I’ve done I’ve felt I had to prove myself in some way, that I had to gain approval. Well, that has kept me from living fully, and from finding out what I can actually do. I have not felt very smart, compared to others, I always felt I lacked something. This has meant that when faced with a task to carry out, I would be paralised with fear at the thought of people judging me and individuating this lack.
I have always sabotaged myself with fear of not being good enough. Paralised, because I knew from the start that there were so many people smarter, better than me. Well, today I had a bit of a revelation, whilst running my 10 miles for training: I am doing alright, with my studies, despite this self-sabotage… but have been doing nothing but suffer through every assignment on my course, a course that I adore and have chosen, because I always felt flawed, “less than”. I have left things until the last minute again and again, too scared to let the world know that I was not as good as they imagined me to be.
Well, I am doing alright.
So now, I wonder… I wonder what would happen if I didn’t sabotage myself. I wonder what would happen if I didn’t worry that the people I admire and like found out that maybe I am not that clever or that great. I wonder how much more I could do. I wonder how much more I would enjoy my course, how much more I would enjoy my life. I wonder what I could do, then. I wonder what things I would be capable of. I wonder how much genuine passion I would feel, how much excitement.
Well, I am finally really curious to find out what I can do, what I am actually capable of.
I have realised that I can only do my best. If I am not clever enough, talented enough, pretty enough, funny enough, wise enough, good as other people are, then that’s that, I can do nothing about that. All I can do is my best.
What I have realised, is that I have absolutely no idea of what “my best” truly is, because I have always tried to do someone else’s best. Now I really want to find out, I really want to actually enjoy finding out. And as for my worrying about others judging me and deeming me not “good enough” for them… if my best is not good enough for them, then they can go (please forgive my language) fuck themelves. There, I said it. Now to stick by it.
I really should update the blog with more sound files and info, but I haven’t had the time, this past week. On top of that, I am about to take a small hiatus from my projects in order to focus on my dissertation for a while, so I’m not sure if I will get a chance to post more “proper” updates before next week.
Yesterday I presented my research so far on my alarm clocks project, now titled “In The Moment”, and lately I feel that my idea has really come together, so I will share some of my decisions and plans relating to that on here as soon as I get a chance to (and as soon as I regain function of my brain: I feel utterly drained!).
I will comment on each as soon as I have the time to (as I mentioned, at the moment I am rather busy!).
One thing I would like to point out now, though, because Emin’s bed has come up a few times when I have spoken of my idea to others, is that although the initial thought of using the bed in my installation came from a personal place and I am interested in how time relates to us personally, I do not wish to put a figurative name-tag on the bed. Although it happens to have my experience as its inspiration, it is definitely not “Greta’s bed”, and the audience does not even necessarily have to connect the whole thing to me. That is, it concerns itself with time in relation to the personal, and starts from a personal place for me, but I don’t necessarily want it to be obvious in that way or about me.
One of the things that become evident when looking at other works making use of beds and the themes these explore is that beds are used in these works because they evoke privacy, vulnerability (because the private is exposed), sex, peace.
By using a bed I wish to make one feel in a personal place, maybe, but I don’t think I want it to be my personal place.
There is so much I would like to write, at the moment, but unfortunately I do not have much time to do so: I have a presentation to give on my research so far, in less than a week, so I need to focus my energies on that, for the time being.
However, I would like to briefly talk about some of the difficulties I have come up against so far, and an important decision I have taken regarding the alarm clocks piece.
First of all, and most importantly, I have realised that maybe I am trying to say too much in one work, and that it would be good for me to decide on one thing that I would like my alarm clocks piece to explore, and then just seek ways to emphasize that chosen aspect. I don’t have to make sure I say everything with every work I create. One small thing is enough. Simpler is better.
I do feel that time and its associations are an interesting field to explore further, but maybe I do not need to do it all right now. This does not need to be my masterpiece (nor could it be!), this can just be one of many pieces exploring certain concepts or using these materials. After all, I have the clocks now (and I have just recently bought 200 more, bringing my total to 252, now!), so I can use them again for future works exploring other ideas relating to time, or for future versions of the piece. “Accept that everything is a draft”, says the Cult of Done manifesto. This is only one piece. One of many to come.
This decision was painfully brought on by realising that my presentation is coming up and that, in the longer term, I have only so many weeks to devote to each project before I am scheduled to show the finished work. I cannot still be making my mind up about what I am going to do; I need to be doing!
Even if it’s a matter of just picking something, I need to make a decision. I confess that actively choosing one thing over another has always been a great struggle, for me… which is why forcing myself to make a choice now and sticking to it would be a great departure for me, and I feel would help me inmensurably (I feel anxious just typing the word “choice”). Making a choice and sticking by it. It may not be the “right” choice… but it will be my choice.
So, I have decided that my piece will focus on the idea I have hinted at in recent posts, but with a slight twist: I want it to be cathartic, I would like it to turn a potentially anxiety-provoking situation into its opposite, or to offer a safe place to release and be exorcised from that anxiety. One would lie down to listen to the sound of time’s passing (tick tick tick… I can’t sleep because I keep thinking about my life), and to the urgent sound of duty calling (ring ring ring must do must not waste time) , and one would be continuously reminded of the time (as in Marclay’s The Clock); one would find oneself in a replica of a situation in which one is usually reminded of time, finding this situation amplified, and could then potentially let oneself experience the full strength of this anxiety, exorcising it, if you will … or because of the very different context in which these time-reminding elements come together (as a piece of art to be experienced and listened to), one could just lie down and experience the sounds as a piece, thus allowing oneself to be in the moment, neutralising the past and future, regret and duty, being for once at peace with time (as I was in the Dream House)…
I have just found this video of La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela’s Dream House, which I have mentioned a couple of times in previous posts. I thought I would share it:
Sadly I have no video or pictures of my visit there because I respected the rules forbidding all recording, photography or videotaping. Looks like some other people were not so respectful, as I found several videos on YouTube. In a way, though, I am kind of glad, because watching these reminds me of what it was like. Though to watch these without having been there cannot in any accurate way convey what the work is or does or how it feels to be there.
I remember I found a spot right in one of the corner of the smaller room (which is on the other side of the corridor and is not shown in this video or any of the other videos I have found on YouTube) where the sound waves were bouncing off and different tones could be heard to the rest of the room, despite there being no speakers in that room. I stood in the semi-darkness with my face against the wall for quite a while… until I managed to startle and freak out the volunteer who was guarding the installation as he suddenly walked in and saw my figure ominously standing in that way!