Papuans removed birds' feet but kept the plumage in tact
They used them as currency
The explorers didn't know this.
Footless birds were born,
in the developed world:
Birds of Paradise.
What could be more other?
The re-prepared bird had been taxidermied.
It was cocky, cocksure:
An embodiment of museum culture
The taxidermist and I removed its feet, and made a blueprint photogram of their ghostly absence
The legs on the wallpaper rotate clockwise and anticlockwise
Between falling and flight
A gap, a translation, a mistranslation.
(based on Zac Langdon-Pole's introduction to the discussion in the video above)
Image below: Installation view of Zac Langdon-Pole at Ars-Viva-2018, Ghent
How do you make a lacquered space?
How do you make a lacquered image inside a space?
It almost makes organic forms by itself, an image without tension
The process created its own image
Like the first human mark makers in stone, in a cave
I sanded away - like geology
Creating stone realism - from lacquer
(Based on Phi Phi Oanh's introduction to the discussion in the video above)
Image: Phi Phi Oanh, Specula, 2009
In considering how the identified aims and objectives relate to a methodology, and to a theoretical framework, I've gone back to the proposal and made some clarifications, in order to edit and refine for KARST and beyond, as well as beginning to think about shaping the report.
Project proposal aims
- To practically and conceptually develop a chapter of the Ghost Box project to the point of readiness for exhibition
- To research and develop a set of thinking, making, showing and documentation strategies and skills that can represent the layered complexity of the Ghost Box as a point of departure, prompt or impetus for art making
- To contextualise this chapter in a larger context of art works and writings that draw on:
the archive and memory, narrative, dissemination and expansion
Key objectives and theoretical approaches/theorists/artists identified for research
- Obtain an overview of contemporary artists’ use of archive and found objects/memories/moments/materials (including Christian Boltanski, Louisa Fairclough, Christina Mackie, Katrina Palmer, Sophie Calle, Tricia Donnelly, Laura Reeves and Andrea Buckland)
(Mark's advice: "Think of the differences among these as much as the overlaps")
- To obtain an overview of the current thinking on the role of the archive in theoretical terms (initially using the essays in the Whitechapel publication The Archive (2006), Ghosting (2006) published by Picture This in Bristol and Van Alphen’s Staging the Archive (2014). However, I need to remain conscious that what theory may call the archive may be significantly different from someone's saved memories or souvenirs, or the act of hoarding or hiding something so as not to preserve it.
- To understand in more depth what is meant by archaeology of knowledge (Foucault) and archaeology of media (Parikka, Huhtamo), and to think about who the archaeologist is in the context of the Ghost Box.
- To begin looking at feminist theory and l’ecriture feminine, after reading Huhtamo's statement that female artists have been particularly active in the field of media archaeology, perhaps due to “the parallels between media archaeology, feminist theory, and women's history”. I will start with Laughing with Medusa (2008) for an overview. The archaeologist is not a neutral or non-person, they are embodied, they have a story and desires.
- To find a vocabulary around the role of narrative in the work, initially using Barthes’ Image Music Text (1977), Yorke’s Into the Woods (2013) and Bal’s Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (1997). Recent feedback for the work Tin Reflection mentioned materiality vs immateriality and the narratives within it, and I will need a wider vocabulary for thinking about narrative in order to make use of this comment. In addition, I will need to specify who the storyteller is - myself, or the viewer, whoever assembled the box, whoever put the box in the place where I found it...
- To continue to seek out, encounter, collect, intervene, interpose, juxtapose and edit found objects and images which might be used in the making and showing of the work, employing a similar strategy to that which led me to the box (or it to me)
- To frame or limit this chapter so that it has a level of coherence on its own and within the larger ongoing project
The methodologies these aims & objectives call for include:
Possible discourse styles or modes:
When writing the project proposal, it seemed impossible to talk about the objectives separately from the theoretical framework that surrounds them, so I combined them under the title Objectives, and how they might inform the defining of a critical framework for Ghost Box. I’ve done the same above, and I think the report needs to be approached in the same way, using theory as part of the vocabulary that describes the work. As a result, I expect the writing to make extensive use of embedded citations that weave theory among my own words. This will echo the temporal and spatial incongruity of the Box itself, the anachronism of the objects I’m currently using to explore it, and act as an additional witness to the scavenging and treasure-hunting approach the work entails.
To further highlight the narrative strands within the project, it might be interesting to use 'chapters' in the writing as well as the making, or to use a layout that is more reminiscent of fiction than of academic writing (below). Additionally, I will look into including passages of relevant found writing, and/or some of my own image poems.
Also, I am considering making an essay film which would be an effective way of communicating the tangential nature of the project, though I doubt there’ll be time to do it for the course deadlines, so I’m thinking of it as a strategically disseminatable thing to work on after the course finishes. I imagine this as a looped film, with no identifiable beginning or ending, as “the exact parameters of the period in time that Ghost Box can be said to refer to is impossible to be sure of, but the dates on some of the contents place certain documents in a span of a few months in 1972, an evident loop of a moment which defies chronological continuation” (from my proposal)
The wedding card song is such a key aspect of the installation. In order to do its job within the whole, it needs to be melodic yet unnerving, apparently unfinished yet professional-sounding, somewhere between a jingle and a nightmare. The first recording (here) was made using a melody composed from remembered snippets of nursery rhymes and hymns, which I recorded as a single track and then played into my headphones to improvise some harmonies. I made around 12 tracks of possible harmonies, and chose two of these to layer over the original melody, using a process of trialling combinations.
Having listened to that original three-layer sketch upwards of 30 times now, I know two vital things, the first of which is that my singing voice is weak. While that may be a quality that could be exploited for other purposes, this recording needs to sound professional if it is to create the illusion of a remembered fragment that keeps returning, like an earworm. So, on the 24th I have five capable female singers meeting me to record a version. I may not need as many layers as that, but it will be good to have the choice. Secondly, the melody resolves too neatly at the end. The feeling of the song should be that it is part of something larger which has been fragmented, which does not happen when it ties up like this. So, I've spent the morning with Tom listening to him talk about why the song currently sounds like it resolves, watching him instantly find all the parts that I improvised firstly on his guitar, then translated onto a keyboard so that he could play two at a time, and working out together how to make the song end in an open way, so that the listener feels it hasn't quite completed without actually cutting off mid-phrase. As a result, I now have several versions of each vocal part to trial on the 24th. These are currently in the form of rough recordings of the keyboard, which I will translate into voice in order to communicate to the singers, as I'm not able to write musical notation. When the recordings are made, and the files layered up to create the song, I'll take the finished audio file to the engineer who is going to show me how to use the audio to lathe cut a vinyl record. The machine we'll be using is a lathe that 'hears' audio and translates it into a cut, so it is vital that the audio file is right before we start. Unlike commercial processes, where a metal template is made which many records can be pressed from, this machine will make a unique disc. Incidentally, in my talks with the people involved in getting access to the lathe, I've learnt that 'ghosting' is a term used for when the lathe 'hears' something unintended and cuts an extra sound into the vinyl. I'm sorting of hoping it will happen.
Repeat constructed from features of documents and digitally scanned negatives from the box, combined with Google Earth images.
Repeats constructed from features of Google Earth images (left and right) and one of the negatives in the box, digitally developed (left and centre)
Notes from tutorial with Josie Cockram
I felt like it was duplicitous, like you'd tricked me with that marketing footage made atmospheric
I wanted a flicker, like when a prop falls down and you realise it's just a prop.
This cyber creepiness,
This relationship you're having with someone else's memories,
Perving over them,
Results in residues, three or six times removed.
You haven't been there and neither have I. Are you going to? I kind of like that you haven't.
These traces are intangible,
As images made of light through slides are intangible.
And yet they can't be lost, we've documented everything. It's all still out there.
What if these traces were felt rather than shown?
What if a filing cabinet went from floor to ceiling,
Not even a filing cabinet but an image of a filing cabinet, from floor to ceiling,
Not even floor to ceiling but through the ceiling and onwards?
What if this flatness is next to a more living object that breathes into it by association?
Simplicity creates space for the viewer, you can trust a viewer, you can enact the feeling of stolen images viewed at a distance,
And creepiness and nostalgia and endless tangents.
How do you put everything in the space without putting everything in the space?
Nostlagia and Digital Retro Photography
I have a garage full of old furniture. Some has been given to me, some found next to wheelie bins in access lanes around the city, some bought from Ebay and Facebook marketplace and collected or delivered in various vehicles. The majority of it is brown, of course, though some of that brown is wood and some only pretending to be. I have collected stories along with these things, like the claim that one of the desks was constructed for use on a ship, and that's why it comes apart. She may be right, as it isn't a design that you would expect to come apart. Or the house in Paignton, through a gate and up three steep flights of steps, where a woman lived until she was 96, carrying her shopping up the steps that made me pant, just a little. They didn't want to take all her things to a car boot sale. It was a difficult enough time as it was, without all that. I saw the sea from her window, sparkling in the distance. Or the dark green storage-container-cum-junk-shop on a trading estate I've driven past countless times without noticing it, where the woman was holding the fort for the owner. She met him years ago now. He's hoping to get it going as a proper little shop; he's having a sign made. You wouldn't believe the things he's got back there.
When I am ready to dismember, disconnect, drill into, saw, repair, adapt and/or combine these items, I will be thinking about the Ghost Box and its layers of possibility. Each of these cabinets and cupboards and tables has similar layers, a "web of significance"* that could be considered interpretive, as Geertz has said of culture more generally, and to which I would add allegorical, discursive, hermeneutic, illustrative, suggestive; as are those stories I have collected that will haunt the furniture they came with, along with the stories that will be interpreted and references that will be found in their forms by others. And to their palimpsests I will add my interpretations of the Ghost Box, pulling their large woody bodies into the modest paper scope of the box, allowing those father/daughter materials to reconnect, and making niches for my expansions of the box to nestle within, "assembling and encountering as (a) method... of discovering... human socio-psychological processes around memory, persistence, repetition, return... a dialectic of time, space and the archive."** As Simon Starling says, objects can be used to "generate fragmentary narratives"^, and this narrative I am working with is itself a fragment and a mystery ("a little theatrical machine that manufactures analogy",^^ as well as being both expanded and fragmented by my investigations.
* Geertz, C. (1973). Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture
** Pollock, G. (2007) Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive
^ Starling,S. (2013) cited in Green, A. (2018) When Artists Curate
^^ Ranciere, J (2009) cited in Green, A. (2018) When Artists Curate