Tuesday, 25 October 2011

back to Dorset

This time last week I arrived back in Parkstone. One week and things have been easy here. The Cyanotype workshop I delivered last week was successful. The sun shone, the paper I'd treated before I left still work and the participants loved it.

Only today did I actually get around to unpacking and washing all my smoke damaged clothes, the paper, photographs and other products of my activities still retain the evidence of the upside down stove.

I feel so unproductive here. After I had unpacked and piled everything into my office/studio room I used every excuse not to act. Complete inertia. I cooked and ate. I bought chocolate. I made lists, but I did not even look at the work I had made.

I have become obsessed with the objects i left behind. The wardrobe full of paper, the squeezed forms of paper pulp that I drained from their buckets before I left. the frames I made. I feel that these are more important than the failed attempt at the mutascope. they are part of it and I have nothing to remind me of there existence but hazy memories of stew making and cleaning pots.

Tomorrow i am attending the first meeting of the 'Laptop Bashing Club' organised by Andy Walders in an attempt to get on with writing for our MA course. More than writing i feel I need to look at and document the objects i have taken back with me.

I miss my yellow room. I miss my broken tap and my upside down stove. I miss my tea pot. I miss Sandra. I miss just making work.

But now is the time to review and reflect, compile and think about what it all means, how it has evolved, where it will go, when it will be finished, when and how i will present it and to whom. Also I must think about a plan for the show Sandra asked me to curate for next years festival in August.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


When the prints dried I began the long process of cutting, folding and backing them to form the pages of the flip book. It was tedious repetitive work but I had many visitors. At lunchtime Sandra arrived and announced it was time to eat. The table which had been cover in glue, paper, knives, and acetates was now laden with salad, cheese, cakes, halva and tea cups. Jagna and her friend joined us. We ate and then as I began to get back into work the girls started their conversation about health, medicine, doctors and men (in Estonian).

Today most of the residents were getting things ready for winter, fixing pipes and windows, blocking drafts and Tanel made and attempt to figure out what is up with my stove. This caused the whole 1st floor to be engulfed in smoke and impossible for me to work in my room. At 3pm there was a workshop on papier mache. Sandra suggested that it would be good for me. I went and learned that if you hang a bag of salt need wet paper it absorbs the moisture. You can then leave the salt in a warm room and the water will drip out and you can reuse it.

We were supposed to go to the cinema at 6.30pm but we couldn't get tickets so I ended up going to Jagna's and eating again. Back at Polymer, a while later, the pages I'd attached to the spine of the book had dried to the touch so I began to sew the spine. The needles and thread I bought are rubbish and the thread broke a dozen times. When I'd finished I tried to work out how I might animate it and the thread broke again.

I am beginning to hate it so much. It's sat on the table looking at me like the evidence of failure and hopelessness. I thought about calling it IDST, if destroyed still true.

Friday, 14 October 2011


It's almost 4am. I have just cleaned up the equipment from developing the film stills. My body aches and only 3 or 4 out of the 90 images actually looks like there probably could be something happening.

To keep me company I had my media player set to 'play all' so it randomly played any sound file I have saved. From time to time it would play recordings of conversations or journeys I'd saved. A couple of months ago I was at a secondary school talking to the students about my work and university life. I recorded it for research. At the time I had made an epic mistake and destroyed something I'd been working on for 3 months. I'd switched on the yellow light in the darkroom and exposed all the paper I had masticated, macerated, formed, and coated. Strangely whilst I was in the present failing to create a recognisable image I was listening to a recording of myself and the young people taking about the value of 'failed' work; whether all the production was the art, the story or the evidence?

There was a mixed reaction from the audience. I put it to them that if they handed this object to their art teacher and told them it was 3 months work what they expect the reaction would be. For some they would be embarrassed to submit it but others felt that if they had the opportunity to explain it's value then it would be a worthwhile piece of work. Some felt I should see this as a learning curve and begin again, but others countered that I am likely to make other mistake the next time (probably not the same one). All agreed that the work was empty without the explanation I had given them. In response I asked them how they would imagine this in a gallery - as a booklet to go with the work? At this they were perplexed.

Which brings me to another dilemma. I feel that visual art should stand alone visually and that text if there is any should serve to enhance the work. The other evening I joked with Ernest about curating a show called CONtext where we'd write lots of interesting stuff about the show and tell everyone about what they might see but when they get to the venue there are no objects just text.

When I think of what I have been producing this past year - making images on paper of making paper it hasn't been a success in as far as another machine could produce and more coherent series of images. So why do i persist? The processes I am using are outdated because better technology has replaced it. Making paper by hand went out almost as soon as it arrived in the industrial world. Making photographic images using film and enlargers and chemical is a scientific process, exclusively for the neat and conscientious worker; not for someone like me who just wants to play with the ideas.

Is what I am making art? Is it about the process? If so how do you present this work? Maybe I make a film, like Sandra's stand up shows? Present the two beside each other?

New Schedule

I slept on it - the 87 sheets to 280 images. Another problem I haven't mentioned is that although I spend 6 hours putting numbers onto the stills before taking them to be printed no numbers now appear on the images so I have no idea what order they go in.

Okay so maybe I just take every second one and try to print it that way I have extra sheets for errors etc. It's almost 2pm now and I'm just back from Prisma where I got everything on the list.

Friday 14th

2pm coat paper with PVA solution ( 87 x 3mins = 251minutes = 4 hours 11 minutes)
6.15pm finish, break
7pm (it will be dark) coat paper with liquid light (87 x 1 minute = 87mins = 1 hour 27mins)
8.30pm mix developer
8.45pm start making prints (5- 10 mins per print so should get 15 done)
11pm break
11.15pm continue making prints (another 10-15)
1pm finish (watch a movie - chill)


10am get up and start making prints (10-15)
12.30pm break
1pm continue with prints (20-30)
5.15pm finish
6pm exhibition opening
9pm arrive back
9.15pm finish making prints
11pm should be done!!


I suspect there is some sort of event this day where we all have to get involved. The prints will have time to dry I guess.


Make machine
Tidy Up


back to Parkstone

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Breakthrough - I hope

For days I've been failing to make a print from the stills. Today I dozed until lunchtime and contemplated how I would resolve this problem. The rest served me well.

I have resolved to make prints using liquid light. It was kind of obvious. I'd brought a bottle with me for the purpose, I'd made a darkroom and I even got chemicals from Ernest. Why I had decided against this process I do not know, maybe it was some sort of self sabotage.

Tomorrow I will get up early, get protective gloves so I don't poison myself and thick black bags so that I can block out the window and use the whole room to coat the paper. Then it will be a case of making 140 prints. Exposure is 6 seconds, developing, about 3 minutes and fix for another 2 mins or so. I have resolved not to rinse them and accept the consequences (stickiness and smudging, so far it is not a problem).

Technically I can make 10 prints in one hour, so that's two lots of 7 hours.

Coating the paper and waiting for it to dry is a whole other problem. It takes about 1.5mins to do each side then hang up so I have to leave 3minutes. That's 20 per hour so it will take 7 hours. And then a few hours to dry. Then coating it with liquid light - about 30 seconds but again quite some time to dry. It's cold here, I have an unreliable fan heater which should speed up the process.

Show the schedule:

Thursday 13th

2am write schedule
2.30am go to bed

Friday 14th (thankfully not 13th)

8am wake up, shower
8.30am go to Prisma (have a list)
9.30am return and coat the paper with PVA solution
12.30am break
1pm make room dark
1.30pm continue to coat paper with PVA solution
5.30pm break
6pm start to coat with liquid light
11pm finish

Saturday 15th

8am wake, shower
8.30pm start to make prints
12.30pm break
1pm continue making prints
6pm break
6.30pm coat remainder of sheets with liquid light

interruption - one slight problem I just counted the paper and there are 87 sheets left

Back to the drawing board.

I think I will have to sleep on it.


Last year when I was artist in residence at Polymer I rarely left the factory and never when outside Tallinn, so this time I promised I would get out there. The trip to Tartu and the culture factories in the south was disappointingly postponed so Sandra suggested we hitchhike to Parnu the holiday capital of Estonia.

In the morning I did another workshop with the students from the university. This time we tried out cyanotypes and I got a lend of a blow heater so that we could dry the treated paper and use t immediately. There was still not much sun so it would still take a few hours to expose. In the meantime we made paper and discussed photography.

After 12 Sandra turned up so I got ready and we headed out on the road. It was raining but our outlook was positive and we saw this as being an advantage for us; in that drivers would feel sorry for us. We took a trolley bus to freedom square, got some tea and then caught the 18 to the edge of the city. It took about an hour but as we drove the sun came up and it stopped raining.

We were only on the road for 5 minutes when a camper van stopped. He only had one seat and wasn't going very far so we politely declined the offer of a lift. A couple of minutes later a brand new Lexus pulled over. He was going all the way to Parnu - result!!

We drove in silence, listening to cheesy 90 love songs on the radio. We stopped briefly for coffee and got back on the road. The countryside was so pretty in the sun reflecting off the rain soaked roads. On either side miles of natural forest (with bears I'm told).

We arrived in Parnu after 3 and our driver dropped us off outside the gallery were Sandra currently has an exhibition.

Our driver agreed to be documented!

Sandra's exhibition included her series of stand-up shows and caramel sculptures of a giant tongue which seems to have been captured in the act of eating meting sugar brains. In one of her stand-up shows Sandra talks about being a hypochondriact. One she had convinced herself she had diabetes, and although she feared seeing a doctor eventually she went and was told she was fine. Although the results of the test show the facts Sandra seems to doubt this.

After the show we went across the road to a really cute cafe and I had a giant piece of cake with my coffee. I couldn't eat it all so after her soup Sandra ate the rest of it. We browsed some magazines and after some time decided we would walk to the beach. It was a terrible idea because as we walked the rain got heavier and it was almost impossible to see anything. We gave up and decided to browse the shops before going to the opening of Mina Balti's show at the Town Hall.

The cafe was featured in and interior design magazine.

At the show after the speeches most people went up to the artist with flowers, chocolates or wine. It seemed like such a lovely gesture, maybe I will start to do this when I go to openings - start a trend.
The artist had been on a 7 month trip at sea and made the painting in response to this experience. The sailors had brought rum so as well as the beautiful display of fruit punch, traditional Estonian open sandwich/cake and fruit bowl there was a bunch of people in one room necking rum. As I floated from room to room all around was the sound of live folk music. It was a very sensual experience.

After cocktails at a trendy bar Sandra and I disappeared into the night...

Monday, 10 October 2011


This morning I went to bed at 2.30am and sat up writing a plan for the workshop in the morning with the students from Tallinn University of Film. I got up again at 6.30am to prepare and everything went to plan except for the sun.

The students were working on an assignment about mass production and were using the printing facilities at polymer. Not all of them could be involved so Ernest brought about 6 of them to my studio at 10am to work on cyanotypes.

During the demo it became clear we did not have enough UV light from the sun to expose the work so instead we made a paper making and glass cleaning factory in my studio. Thankfully I was the only one injured by the glass.

I was sorry that the students did not see the process but we had some time to talk about the process and why an individual would carry out this process when a machine had already completed the task without hinderance.

At 4pm Sandra banged on my door so I made her tea and she showed me her TV show and we talked about other TV shows in Estonia. At 5.50pm we left for her flat because she had a slave coming around to clean it. Two of her friends came around who were planning an exhibition at Srt Container - maybe in January. It was all very full on, but entertaining.




I am tired now and the slave has served me a lot of champange so I must sleep.