I visited this installment of Rehearsal Room series on its last day.
On the wall opposite the window a continuous video of animated drawings easily competed for attention with three large charcoal drawings on the right and one exquisite work of art in charcoal on the left wall.
My distinct choice of nouns in the preceding sentence is deliberate. I have perceived three aesthetic norms in operation, The highly efficient, magical surfacing of drawn forms from the white nothingness of the video light felt akin to music that so effortlessly disappears in time, after staying long enough for our sight to not only register it but also translate it in to, quite insecure, yet valuable memory.
The job of the somewhat laboured descriptions of the experience of running via a sensor holding on to the invisible ephemeral movements of the running body was farmed out to a software, and then to traces of the movements caught in the charcoal one paper.
The third mode was in its own league. Hardly any recognizable connections to running, or to the sensor mapping it.
I have not understood the digital process, the characteristics of the software, nor that and how the selection of certain forms were made. Help was readily offered by both artists. I start here with Robin Price’s generous explanatory email to me:
Thanks for dropping in on Friday, it was interesting to hear your thoughts. You asked me to write to you with some technical information about the process. After meeting Sharon and discussing her interest in doing something linked to her running I suggested she use accelerometers to record her movement. I gave her a game console controller equipped with accelerometers to carry in her hand while she ran and a laptop that would log the data. After Sharon returned the laptop to me I wrote a program to visualise and animate that data in an aesthetic that was inspired by her works in charcoal and pencil and the idea of the cyclical motion of her hands while running. The program was very simple, it maps her hand’s acceleration to points in 3D space and then draws curves through these points. As it advances through the log of data it draws out the new points and deletes the older ones, creating a trail like effect.
The program allowed us to browse easily through the 30 minutes of recorded data to find sections which were visually interesting. I allowed myself to take liberties with the mapping of the data, stretching and rotating it if that led to a visually more interesting result. When we found sections that we liked we saved them and then played back these sections very slowly and in loops allowing us to explore, through the mediums of both mapping and drawing, fragments of data taken directly from Sharon’s experience of running.
If you have any more questions, please, feel free to write back to me, I have written about the project on my blog here.
I strongly recommend the reader to click on the above link. It is a veritable fountain of delights delivered in sober presentation of the four days work, both in words and images.
Sharon Kelly became involved with running as a subject of her drawings some two years ago, presenting her harvest first in Down Arts Centre, 26 September – 27 October, 2012, then at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast 25 January – 16 February, 2013. (see Sharon Kelly on http:slavkasverakova.wordpress.com). About her current exhibition at PS2 she kindly volunteered the following by email to me:
The collaboration with Robin Price came about as a chance encounter while I was creating the work for “Liminal Space of the Runner” (2012 / 13).
I was making a body of work about the experience of running and exploring the parallels with drawing experience. I had recorded a run by attaching a small camera to my arm and this had caught sound and motion-scape while on a run. However I spoke to Robin about the possibility of ‘mapping’ the run in a different way – the actual movement of my body as I ran. Robin fitted me up with an accelerometer (wii-mote), with which I ran, like a baton in the hand. I carried a netbook in a small rucksack on my back that collected the data from the running movement / wii-mote. Robin then took the data and attempted to animate the data in a style that complemented my drawing. (Robin can explain this all much better than I can!).
So the Process Lab week was an opportunity to work directly together in a shared space for a limited time. We decided to begin with my hand drawn response to chosen ‘loops’ of the visualized data animation.
I worked onto large paper using charcoal while the animation ran beside me via a projected image. I followed the loops and rhythms, at first tentatively, then with more natural rhythm.
The process became a strenuous arm action and at times got very tiring, particularly when the process evolved to include the rubbing out of the lines that I had made, mimicking the ‘traveling’ lines of the animation.
We recorded this process using a stop-motion still photograph of each stage.
The way we chose sections of the animated ‘loop’ was simply to find a sequence that felt ‘pleasing’; that was dynamic and contained interesting lines; that perhaps we could glean a sense of spatial depth. The process of rubbing out was also an attempt to enhance the feel of perspective in the loop and to vary the quality of the lines for example, the intensity of the line.
After creating a stop-motion animated drawing we tried other activities that felt too much like ‘tracing’ and too restrictive. Some were attempted on paper and some directly onto the wall itself. This particular effort, working directly on the wall, seemed to present interesting avenues in terms of the scope for the drawing itself… the charcoal actually scored the wall differently to the paper and rubbed off like powder, however each layer added something very subtle to the overall image.
Finally I left the data animation behind and responded to the instinct to ‘beat’ the drawing back and then taking an eraser to ‘carve’ back into the space. The resulting image was an ambiguous entity that suggested landscape, running, certain objects, a sense of ‘being’ in the space of the drawing itself. It evoked the imagination and the energy of the activity in a way that the other attempts had not. This gave both of us a thrill and it left us with an urge to explore the process further.
This is the final stage – a complete mutation into an abstract mass with negative drawing of shapes that insist on some approximation to goggles, as if protecting the eyes.
The initial rational mapping gives way to intuitive dynamics of expanding dark matter with light scoring pathways as its signature over it. As a map of human endeavor, both of running and drawing,this charcoal drawing addresses the seeing, the vision in both senses of the word.
Seeing in this case is not believing, it is being. The energy needed to run and the energy needed to draw both point to equivalency between the subject and how it is made visible. The question is what is equivalent to what? Running and art start offering an answer in a unisono. Perhaps indeed the excitement of both warrants that. In relation to her exhibition at the Crescent Arts Centre Sharon Kelly described to me the similarity between the two: both running and drawing allow the subject to be insecure – how far can I go? Adding the scientific approach to recording of a movement may end in a sober set of disconnected curves. Which at some stages did happen. The selection and the decision making then changed ground from objective recording to subjective aesthetic judgement. Importantly, number of projected squiggles commanded instant sensual delight without any further addition. Nevertheless, the work that crowned the four days activity was handmade, controlled by the eye and by the mind intoxicated with the evocation of experience.
For me the final drawing, regardless of more modern connotations, carries a memory of classical renaissance and its respect for a “complete human being” as thought of by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1479). The visual arts were of especial importance to him. Their function was to remind the soul of its origin in the divine world by creating, through art, resemblances to that world. It was largely through Ficino’s insistence on the importance of this art that the painter’s position in Florentine society was raised nearer to that of the poet.
Kelly and Price mirror his belief in the importance of visual art. They make visible the data collected by the accelerometer in a quiet celebration of both science and aesthetics. And then – the mute poetry somehow comes about through dedicated drawing in spite of the physical discomfort.
Another interesting aspect of this collaboration is that it forges another type of imagination: not the one which starts with a word, not the one which starts with an image. This different type of imagination is a hybrid of the real and the not known. It starts with running, with a physical activity, mapped into invisible mode via accelerometer and a software. That leads to a projected image, light on a wall, transformed into a charcoal drawing.
Reminiscent of Ficino’s remark:“In these times I don’t, in a manner of speaking, know what I want; perhaps I don’t want what I know and want what I don’t know.”
Go to this Robin Prices blog to see it in detail.