BLOG Summer Semester 2015 research & writing

Reflections on Summer Practice 2015 Alison McFadden MA Fine Art (2)
Molecular Movement Material

I used movement and imprint into clay. For my Becoming work for an exhibition in London, called Dis Ruption, part 1. I used the structure and the Gym Rings as well as free improvised movement, such as rolling, walking and dancing on the clay. My fitness outfit and a dumbbell I used to imprint with also. From the clay moulds I took box shaped plaster casts. I exhibited these Impact Trace Objects in the exhibition, presenting them on the floor to reference how they were made.

Through the Summer I have worked further, using my body. Training in boxing and working out at the gym, eating clean and then using various kinds of movements in the studio.

‘The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities’ (Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus) How we relate to and are connected to space intrigues me.

‘Bodies themselves generate space, which are produced by and for their gestures.’ (Lefebvre, Oxford UK & Cambridge USA:216)

In the studio, I have used appendages and apparatus, such as gym rings. I made a boxing, training ring, so that I could train – boxing to the centre to learn to land the punches well. I used dumbbells, wrist supports and boxing bandages. Gradually the studio became a space for testing out my central research question.

How does an art work communicate; the molecular energy exchange that takes place ,at the meeting point, on the surfaces where a body in movement meets a material?
I aimed, in my practice, to test out materials and movement, to see what happened at the meeting point between their surfaces and in three shows trailed different ways of exhibiting the work. As issues of what to reveal and how to show the performative process of my practice are inherent in the work.
‘These intervals – fed by the pre acceleration that is the movement to come – are the virtual nodes through which each initiated movement becomes the invitation of a step. In the interval, the direction we’ve chosen gains a texture that encourages the step to fold through movement moving…’ (Erin Manning, Relationscapes, MIT, 2009 p.31)

Manning perhaps describes something of what I was testing when I was working to capture it in form. An inherent opposite in the art works, movement into stillness. I was interested to see what it communicated of its origins.

So I boxed different clays. Terracotta, wet clay (stoneware porcelain) and air dry clay. I also tested lead. Making a punch bag, using a proper punch bag bracket and chain so the lead would swing and move as a punch bag does. The weight would help the movement be authentic.
Being new to boxing to try out new moves was exciting. A very different feel to the dance inspired moves used previously. It felt good to be moving in a new way.

‘When we begin to learn a new skill, new equipment often mediates between our bodies and the world, and the loop of perception through action may take a detour through physical phenomena that are quite alien to the natural human body. I that case, we find ourselves returned to the condition of being like a toddler, figuring out how to manoeuvre ourselves through the world.’ (Crawford, 2015:53)

Learning to go from what Lefebvre refers to as, Inarticulated movements to Articulated movements. Absorbing the codes of boxing. Perhaps aiming for ‘semi-articulated movements’. The beginning of a process.

‘What shall we say of the human hand? It certainly seems no less complex or ‘rich’ that the eye, or than language. The hand can feel, caress, grasp, brutalise, hit, kill. The sense of touch is the discoverer of matter. Thanks to tools – which are separate from nature and responsible for severing from nature whatever they impinge upon, but which are nevertheless extensions of the body and its rhythms (for instance, the hammer with its linear and repetitive action, or the potters’ wheel with its circular and continuous one) – the hand modifies materials. Muscular effort can mobilise energies of a massive kind, and often in enormous quantities, to support repetitive gestures such as those associated with labour (but also those called by games).’ (Oxford UK & Cambridge USA:213)

The punch of the Box series, a blow to harm, a violent and aggressive movement of strength and skill. Boxing the clay had a definite aggressive/passive opposition. The lead had more fight back. The swing and the weight did mimic a punch bag. I had to get out of the way, dodge a bit. Although ultimately I was the victor.
The materials responses had different properties. The terracotta held the imprint of movement well. The wet clay was hard to manoeuvre and was very sticky and messy. The weight of each piece of work was around body weight, a bit under with the lead a bit over with the air dry clay. The air dry clay held a good imprint and it was a good material to leave to dry out in the Performative Exhibition space.

Filming the Performative processes in the big white space of the studio worked well, with the plinths referencing sculpture. The debate around plinths – a thread through the upright plinth being as a free for a 3D art work, like a painting in its frame. Then clay spreading to overwhelm the edges and then finally toppling to the ground. The first time this happened it was a surprise. And leaving the air dried clay there when the studio became the gallery space. Curatorial decisions being made about which pieces to leave and how to present them.

‘By contrast, the search for information about things through skin contact, through feeling, through caresses, relies on the use of subtle energies.’ (Oxford UK & Cambridge USA:213)

Although the skin did contact the material in the Box series the movements cannot be described as ‘subtle’, some of the marks are perhaps wave like and flowing rather in contrast to the wallop that made them. The depth of some of the imprints hints at the force of the body part which made them. When the boxing bandages were used on clay int eh air dry clay Box (4) piece the fabric leaves a trace.

The Gym (1) work was made using liquid chalk on a low ‘stage or bed like’ plinth, painted with black board paint. The movements here were a more sensuous improvised moves using the gym rings at times. The energy did feel lighter, more sensual and subtle. Drawing more from within, as in a dance. The boxing movement relying more on technique and power.

With the Performative Aftermath Sculptures made I then worked on the curatorial decision making process, as to what and how to include in my installation-Molecular Movement Material. I had to overcome Health and Safety issues with the Box (3) lead punchbag piece. The resultant plinth with a clear acrylic top which I purpose built was far more protection than was necessary but I felt it was a good addition as it emphasised the toxicity and therefore the risk element in the work.

I uploaded all the films on to my artists website. And decided to work on the terracotta and work towards a red jesonmite cast. i layered silicon onto the raw clay. The effect was so interesting I decided to leave it there as a sculptural art work in itself. The use of a tall, narrow plinth helped emphasise, balance and tension. Referencing the topple in the performative process. Looking at it you feel like it could topple over.

The wet clay was arduous to work with and box. Sticky and messy, really tricky to pick up, gloopy. The aftermath created an interesting affect. I decided,as the clay was drying out, to remove this piece and keep some relics of the performance aftermath.

The two films I chose for the show were Box (3) lead punch bag and Box (4) air dry clay. I also had an exhibition of these two films during the same week as the MA show, in London. Part of Dis Rupture part 2. I had a very positive response to the work.

I plan to continue both Box and Gym series. I want to make that red, jesonmite cast of a terracotta Box Performative Aftermath sculpture. And in the mean time will keep developing my training which will influence the working practice.


Potential Topple

I am thinking more about space, objects in a space, sculptures and sculptural objects relating to space.  Surfaces, edges, squeezing into space, balance, plinths being too small, tensions…

The Box (1) terracotta with silicone, post performative sculpture was placed on a tall, narrow plinth for the MA show.  It spread over the edge.  Especially to one side.  The flow of movement energy, captured in the piece, cascades leftwards.  I emphasised this by placement on and by thinking carefully about the scale of the plinth magnifying the sense of tension and drawing focus to balance.  Thus creating, in the presentation of the art work, a sense of Potential Topple.



Performance film using lead by Richard Serra.  I am contemplating using lead for a performative process aftermath piece…

29th June 2015

Thinking about progressing work.  Researching artists Eddy Peake, William Cobbing and Gabriel o’Rozco.  Eddy peake’s spray painting and slogan painting inspired a rebellious streak in me.  ‘It’s insulting’ would be my first slogan painting.

2nd June 2015

Thinking about identity, stretch, visibility and becoming…underpinned by emotion and desire. Reading Freud, Lacan, Nietzsche & Copjec.


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