It’s been a busy few weeks since the last time we blogged. The exhibition is now open, and we’re both really pleased with how its looking at mac birmingham. It runs until 13th January – please do check it out if you’re in Birmingham over the next few months.
A quick visit to Birmingham’s premier drive-thru cardboard company resulted in 25 cardboard boxes ready to be whittled, an army of makers would have been handy at this point – but still, two days later and we’ve got a pretty atmospheric city – just waiting to be populated by 3mm high people and illuminated by fairy lights – we hope to start shooting this afternoon.
We are planning not to tinker much in post production (photoshop!), so are taking a lot of care in setting up the shot… we have no control over the aperture using the pinhole camera, shutter speed is how we create the shot… there have been a few 20 second pauses as the picture takes!
Colour has been important and we’ve been placing different gels in front of the pinhole – different sections are taken in different hues and we hope to use a subtle colour arc across the story. Each day a couple of images out of the hundreds we have shot make it up to the wall to make a part of the sequence. It builds gradually and the visual story is beginning to form.
This morning, the scalpels were out again. Becky was putting the finishing touches to a rather brutalist apartment block, and I was making a fence out of strips of cardboard.
Cardboard’s a brilliant material to work with, especially if you want to make something quickly and cheaply, and you’re more interested in the general shape than the perfection of the finish. Working quickly is especially fun with a cheap material: it doesn’t matter so much if things go wrong.
One of the themes of this project – for me, at least – is that excitiment and liberation which I was feeling as I worked this morning, scalpel flying, glue gun at the ready beside me. Working fast and dirty, with minimal risk (apart from the scalpel blade, of course) but a big reward as my work took shape before me.
It’s something I should do more of – make a regular practise of fast dirty experimentation. Low risk, but with the chance of a big reward. And maybe not just in cardboard, but transferred to other media and making too. The reward might just be that the thing I’ve made, or written, or whatever… or it might be the discovery of an idea for something else. Exciting.
We’ve got a bit of a pattern emerging for our days this week. Coffee, review of yesterdays work, and then the rest of the morning making and preparing new stuff. Then in the afternoon, the digital pin-hole cameras appear, and we start making images.
Working with low-fi techniques like this is kind of where the magic lies. The simplicity of the pin-hole camera takes away a lot of the control that a regular camera offers, but at the same time, it gives us serendipity. We’re never quite sure how an image will turn out until we’ve taken it, but, then eventually (with patience, luck, experimentationm skill) we find the serendipitous image that somehow works, and it feels great.
But, let’s be clear, trying to engender serendipity several times a day feels a lot like hard work!
Back in the studio for the final burst of making. There’s lots to do, but following our previous development work, we’re feeling good and have a clear sense of what we’re aiming for.
The scalpels are flying. The cardboard’s taking the brunt of it.
I’ve just been writing copy about the project for the mac brochure. I find that it’s always difficult to write about your own work, so I’ve been trying to keep focussed on the project itself. Whilst I was at it, I’ve been reflecting upon progress so far.
We’re about halfway through the process, and its going well, I think. We’ve definitely found a shared aesthetic, and we’ve made some pretty decent initial work.
One of the hardest things for me is keeping it all contained. One idea leads to another, and another, and it would be easy for the project to expand out of all proportion. This is excited but also frustrating – especially when some of the bigger, crazier, further-from-the-initial-premise ideas seem so compelling, and are least able to be squeezed back into the frame of this piece of work.
But I’m trying not to get too frustrated, and to find the positive in this: part of the intention of this project was to allow Becky and I an opportunity to begin to take the lead in making our own work, and to give us time to develop our practices as individual artists. From my perspective half-way through this process, it’s bloody brilliant that we can’t fit all our ideas into this one box!
Next time, perhaps we can cut the box up and see if people want to make things from it.
Today we’ve been making pictures again. Playing with a digital pinhole camera that we fixed up by taking the lens off the SLR, adding a bit of black wrap foil and a tiny hole.It’s been a break through – adding another low-fi element to our toolbox. The hazy photos seem to add a helpful layer to our visual interpretation of the story… playing a little with the sharpness of reality accentuates the atmosphere of the cityscapes scenes we’re creating. This lead to lots of test shots – experimentation with numbers of holes in the “lens”– which adds a shadowy double exposure quality to the pictures, playing with different sizes of hole, and different gels to add a colour element to the images. It will be interesting crafting a flow and variety between the images in order to create a whole. It’s good to be hands on again after a period of discussion figuring out the shape of the project. We had such multiple ideas for the outcome of the project, getting back to basics and getting excited about the image making again allows the work to take the fore and hopefully the form of the exhibition will bubble up from that.
[This post was written by Becky, but technology defeated us both, so it ended up being posted by Ben, eventually.]
More talking today.
After a fuzzy meeting in the morning, our heads weren’t quite in the right place to focus when we got up to the studio. So we left the building, walked across the park to a cafe, and encountered a moment of clarity. And some goslings.
Suddenly the multiple strands of the project began to make sense together – and began to look like coherent layers of connected work. And, fingers crossed, it feels like that work might be both playful and strong.
Homework for the weekend – writing the story of the project, so that we can tell it in a way that other people “get” it. Keep watching this space, to find out how we do…
Today Becky and I were back in the studio to continue the development of the project.
We shared some exciting bits of homework which we’ve each been working on since December.
Including this tangle of paper tape.
We also did lots of talking: there’s some decisions to make before we get back into a phase of intensive making, so we tangled ourselves in different ideas and discussed possible directions.
A productive day, but more to interrogate (and untangle) tomorrow…
Inspired by the arrival of a vast and beautiful book of possible source material, we had a fruitful morning in the studio today, creating another series of test images.
Making test images doesn’t always lead to great material – sometimes things misfire or just inexplicably don’t work – but looking back and reflecting on these images often leads to something we might not otherwise have found.
Luckily, a lot of our test material is looking exciting, and sometimes reflecting on the good stuff leads to new finds, too. At this stage, at least, it’s all about the process, innit.