Afternoon Dust

Climate change and the Infrastructure Bill

Prompted by this article, I recently emailed my Member of Parliament with a few queries regarding the Infrastructure Bill which at time of writing is currently before the UK House of Commons. I have posted the text here for anyone who wishes to ask the same questions of their MP.

“Dear <Member of Parliament>,

Marcia Farquhar — Larger Than Life

My only previous encounter with the work of Marcia Farquhar was an exuberant performance in Margate in 2012, replete with live band and dancing oysters. Larger Than Life, the title of her current show at Birmingham’s Grand Union, therefore struck me as being very appropriate. Installed in the gallery space are two projections of the artist’s head: one is an almost wall-high video of extreme close-ups; the second rests atop a crude mannequin leaning in the corner, slowly turning to grin at visitors. My first impression was one of a performer revelling in the act of performing, almost to the point of narcissism.

Yvonne Rainer — Dance Works

The day after seeing Grace Schwindt’s film at Eastside Projects, I took the slow train to London to catch an exhibition devoted to the choreographic work of Yvonne Rainer at Raven Row. As well as a large number of photos, videos, drawings and texts, a daily schedule of live performances in the gallery presented a rare opportunity to see some seminal dance works by the US artist. The exhibition focused on Rainer’s work from the 1960s and early ’70s, when she was most active as a choreographer; at this time, she and her colleagues in the Judson Dance Theater group were preoccupied with much the same radical critique of power as Schwindt’s interlocutor in West Germany.

Grace Schwindt - Only A Free Individual Can Create A Free Society

When I discovered, on a flying visit before an event elsewhere, that Eastside Projects were screening a film featuring dance, I knew I had to come back for a proper look. The film in question was Grace Schwindt’s Only A Free Individual Can Create A Free Society, a recent commission that takes an interview recorded between Schwindt and a left-wing activist as a kind of score for an elaborately staged choreography performed by eleven dancers. The interview explores the interviewee’s experiences of radical left-wing movements in 1960s and ’70s West Germany, before moving on to how his own views on the nature and practice of freedom have developed and found expression since that time.

Sunset-Sunrise, part 1

Sunset, 9 July is a piece of music programmed by me and performed by the sunset on 9th July 2014. The sunset used a light sensor to interface with software synthesizers and modify some of their variables in real-time. This was enabled using code from my previous SuperCollider post.

Yara El-Sherbini — The Current Situation

Yara El-Sherbini is one of a generation of artists associated with the Live Art scene that blossomed around the middle of the last decade. Her work often humourously adopts forms common to popular culture, such as the pub quiz, the newspaper crossword, and the board game. This has been described by many commentators in terms of taking art out from the art world to where ‘the people’ are to be found, but El-Sherbini’s appropriation of popular forms is in no way driven by the current cultural-political agenda of inclusiveness and accessibility; rather, the games and pastimes are used to channel a sharply intelligent political critique. And perhaps, sometimes, a little frustration, a hint of rage. Take this question from one of her pub quizzes, for example:

Forest, silence: Katie Paterson's Future Library

There’s two things I love about pine forests, more than anything else: the smell, and the sound. The smell is of a thousand Christmases rolled into one, or being locked in a warehouse full of pine-scented car fresheners — no, fresher, cleaner than that. The sound is of silence. Densely packed trees and meshes of needles make for a very effective acoustic dampening material. Any noises that are heard are clearer, nearer, and stop dead in their tracks, no reverberation time at all.

Katie Paterson’s new work is about time, among other things. Pine trees have been planted in a forest near Oslo; every year for the next hundred years, a text will be written by a different author to be held in trust until the hundred years are up, at which point the trees will be felled and turned into paper for publishing an anthology of the texts.

Controlling SuperCollider using an Arduino sensor

I’ve been experimenting with controlling SuperCollider using Arduino sensors, and since it was hard to find accurate documentation of this on the web I decided to write up some of my own.

The sad news is that I could only get this procedure to work on a Linux system, though Mac users should also be able to make use of it. The code relies on the SerialPort class, which currently seems to have trouble recognising Windows serial port addresses.

Here’s what you will need:

  • SuperCollider running on Mac OSX or Linux (I used version 3.6)
  • The ArduinoSMS quark
  • Arduino board with suitable analogue sensor

For the process of installing quarks in SuperCollider, refer to the documentation. For setting up your Arduino board and sensor, see the ‘Basics > AnalogSerialRead’ and ‘Analog > Calibration’ examples included with the Arduino software.

Recent exhibitions at Grand Union

There seems to be something of a curtain theme going on at Birmingham art space Grand Union at the moment. First there was Maia Conran’s video projection Trace, a loop of swelling and falling lines that was inspired by curtains lifted by a breeze, but in its wall-length proportions came to resemble an abstract breathing architecture. Calming and hypnotic, the work’s expansion out from the wall was aided by the tendency of human perception to infer a three-dimensional space from the most tenuous of cues, a visual habit Conran also explored in her film performance Deep within the mirror we perceive a faint line. Whereas the latter work focused on the uncanniness of the spatial illusion, however, Trace retained the intimacy and the quietness of the situation that inspired it.

Jeremy Millar — XDO XOL

I wrote about Jeremy Millar’s film Daphne before, but his new work, showing as part of Whitstable Biennale 2014, feels bolder and more substantial. It features a flat, fog-covered landscape, a bog or fen, clay formations covered in shrubs. The only human presence is that of a solitary man, who sits quietly by a stream or shelters inside a derelict, abandoned concrete building. The film ruminates on the landscape and upon the actions of the man, which range from passive contemplation to patient, focused activity.