FABRIC, Platform Arts, Belfast, October 3-10, 2013

Curated by dr Angela Halliday, the dedicated organizer and leader of Digital Arts Studios and talented artist, the exhibition called Fabric brought together work by current artists in residence.

Stephen Bleakney installed Music, Technology and Indolence,2013, a sound map of the studios work space.  A natural choice for a sound artist and musical critic, who wrote:

For the exhibition Fabric at Platform, I have chosen to exhibit four long form digital sound pieces. These are respectively based on the music of Nine Inch Nails, the films of David Lynch, the games of Suda 51 (director, Killer7, No More Heroes) and the music of Masato Nakamura (composer, Sonic the Hedgehog). Audio from each is plainly but radically altered digitally and represented. These pieces represent some of my simplest work (one of them was made by changing a single digit number in an .ini file), but I feel that they resist the potential ugliness of minimalism to impart meaning.  (http://digitalartsstudios.com/news/fabric-press-release )

The dark mute mass of  his installation lied opposite almost phosphorescence blue of Glass Curtain, 2013, a silent digital video loop by Grace Kim (www.grace-kim.com).

Grace Kim, Glass Curtain, silent digital video loop, 2013

Glass Curtain is a meditation on time, memory, and the loss of innocence of childhood. In 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected along the street Bernauerstrasse along the center of the city. The apartment buildings that lined the street became part of the structure itself – so that the front entrance faced the East while the back windows faced the West. Many people jumped out of their windows to freedom, and many lost their lives in their attempt. In this appropriated news footage from that time, a child watches the drama, crying as her father tries to comfort her.( http://digitalartsstudios.com/news/fabric-press-release)


Katrina Sheena Smyth delivered a performance on the evening of the opening   and placed a text on the wall at the entrance.


I have not seen the performance by Katrina Sheena Smyth and have not listened to the full range of taped sounds by Stephen Bleakney.  Hence this is not a review of the whole exhibition. Occupying the far end of the exhibition three videos, i.e. moving pictures, dominated the viewing axis, each having its own segment of space and direction. En face, left and right.

Moving pictures…those words evoke an old memory. When I lectured on the art of the 20th C in an eastern university, which did not have a slide collection. I was allowed to order short films on art from the state hiring service. The then  Dean ruled that an older employee was to bring  them to me and return them. The man was never late, conscientiously did this for years.  Once, as he delivered an order, he asked whether it is true that there are moving people on the tapes.  I invited him to watch. He refused. There was strong fear in his eyes and gesture.  Reminiscent of the classical Indian saying to be fearful of an image of a tiger because its image cannot be killed. The episode made me aware of the power of the cultural context.

My curiosity about the power of the mute, visual force, stayed with me ever since.

Julie McGowan playful soap bubbles were instantly bringing playful invention and demands for order. She chose a circle to house the multicoloured bubbles. It could have been a lightweight piece of art, like Lehar’s operetta, had it not been for its determination to challenge to art and nature at the same time.

Julie McGowan, Membrane form the Wet Lands Series, 2013

The work under development is based on bubble structures and their observation. Changing environmental conditions, lighting and structural adjustments have made the process a very hands-on experience of experimenting, learning and recording. The ongoing observation and filming has had several far-reaching unexpected outcomes and indicate the beginning of the bringing together of a long-conceived notion of a way of working through digital media, installation and time.( http://digitalartsstudios.com/news/fabric-press-release)

And then finding both to rest together.

Julie McGowan, Membrane from the wet Lands Series, 2013

The tunnel vision that created illusion of bigger space where in reality the back wall was, rehearsed the baroque obsession with optical illusion. In all shades of grey, the depth reached another street, or a huge glass wall broken by reflections.   Janine Davidson turned the idea of an urban vista inside out, literary the interiors are allowed to fill out the whole rectangle.

Janine Davidson, Underground Overview, 2013

Underground Overview was filmed in Belfast as part of my residency at the Digital Arts Studios. The recordings are filmed in disused car parks in the city centre interspersed with views of the city’s Victorian architecture reflected through the modern facades of buildings that now dominate the landscape. Intermittent and simultaneous projections of the recorded images at times mirror the Gallery space in particular the central columns.  This work incorporates double exposures and the use of two projections further explores notions of duality. (http://digitalartsstudios.com/news/fabric-press-release )


Jiann Hughes deals with such a bind between an image and reality in her Membrane.

 She makes body responsive installations provoking perceptual inquiries  social interactions and experiences of embodied exploration. These installations are like playful laboratories, relying on the magical qualities of novel new technologies. Biofeedback technology is often used to project the body’s most intimate responses, which in turn affect sound, video and light. Her work has engaged with a breadth of issues, from pervasive surveillance culture to the quantified self -movement, from boxing coaching to carbon emission solutions…

…Membrane is an interactive bio-sensing installation exploring affective vibrations, inter -subjectivity and the permeability of our barriers. It subverts the materiality of instruments of measurement and amplification, to project intimate bodily responses into the public sphere. Membrane places the curious centre stage, turns the spotlight on affect and locates the passer-by as witness and collaborator. .(http://digitalartsstudios.com/news/fabric-press-release)

Jiann Hughes, Membrane before the sensory input

Hughes told me that it was the software that triggered the change in the blue grid, once the sensory data of the viewer’s face or hand were recognized by it.

Jiann Hughes, Membrane after the recognition

I would not have known just by looking at the elegant grid of light and the little box at one end. There was a perfect circle cut out through which the sensory data traveled from the person near it onto the hidden computer. Play? Yes a little. Strange? Yes, a little.  Art and science holding the line of beauty? Yes.

To sum up – this was a worthwhile harvest – all artists determined to stay above the average. I came away optimistic, that the collaboration of the brain, hand, eye and machines, still will have ability not to kill the mute poetry. Even if the words of statements seem to.

All images courtesy Digital Arts Studios.

About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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