Wave as Tool

A performance lecture, given at Central St. Martin’s, UAL, 29/11/2019 for Sensingsite.

Wave-shaped Text

This performance lecture, incorporating film and read text, explored how a material, social and entangled ‘art apparatus’ demonstrates shapes of change, and started to consider what constitutes that apparatus. It proceeded from a swimming/filming practice that looks at conditions within the sea. It then expanded to trace sea-like movement in the tools used to make work about the sea, and further, to reference the discourse around the work, which in its turn, also performs wave-like change incorporating emergence and collapse.

The talk accompanying the film consisted of re-ordered text, which built in the form a wave. Starting with single words and small phrases the text slowly grew in length. Lines were followed by longer sentences explaining the practice and its context, then paragraphs of the most developed comments. This process then reversed and receded with the text blocks collapsing into smaller length (see image insert).

The film extract I showed was made on an obsolete mobile phone attached to a swimmers arm. This is a method of filming that disrupts the normal spatial and temporal presentation of showing the sea and its dependency on expert mediation. The resultant films present a re-structured marine perception, neither a landscape of space extending before a viewer, nor a seascape where that viewer faces from land towards a horizon over the sea. Instead we see a churn of underwater views, turbulent surf and bubbles, rocking colours and light. The normal spatial immediacy is reconfigured as the tools engaging with this domain (discarded camera phones) are also in a state of breakdown.

Repurposed technology

Tuning in to these varied speeds, rhythms and disjunctions, you become aware of changes in the equipment used to make the film. Screens crack, memory gliches. And no longer cutting edge, the social and economic currency of the consumer device is ebbing too. Equally the accompanying text has its own periodicity, approaching and retreating from multiple stacked and nested ideas. Ripples of recognition sit on top of waves of material process, within the swell of discourse… on top of tides of wider cultural context. The work feels for the movement of the arts practice, consisting of material and social dynamics. The tug and ebb of creative and academic conditions… and the buoyancy afforded by changing markets and economies also make themselves evident through this entangled arts apparatus. As the artist/researcher is rolled and crashed by the sea (the estate-as-medium), the movements and changes of object of enquiry become inseparable from those of the enquirer. The investigator is part of the world under investigation, and changed by their investigation.

The presentation aimed to address questions of creative practice and the dynamic processes within which it is embedded. How does immersion within a location such as the sea (re)arrange our perceptions? How is practice and research changed as a result?