Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Hippo Shoot

Make shift photo shoot in the seminar room - they were really working it in front of the camera.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Hippo Brief - Idea

Interactive 'hippo trail' through Armley.

Nothing hung on the walls, visitors each get a screen printed map of Armley with highlighted locations on it and hippo-related explanations for why the landscape is the way it is: eg. Viaduct bridge - used to be one solid wall, the arches you see are the result of a high-speed attack from giant hippos.
  • Interactive piece that provokes a response from the community - I can turn the negative aspects of Armley (such as the boarded up buildings etc.) into more light-hearted things
  • Changes the way people react to the space around them
  • Maps would be simple to produce yet have high impact
  • Problems - how do I encourage people to actually do it? Have the majority of locations close to Town St? People might discard them as rubbish or even flyers? Is the idea childish?

Hippo Brief - Artist Research

Just found out from Jane that one of the artists (not sure which one) is producing Grayson Perry style pots. Lovely.

Hippo Brief - Research

Urban Interventions: Personal Projects In Public Spaces

Incredible book - definitely on my wish list! Just filled with genius idea after genius idea.

Manipulation of existing signage and imagery, creating a new spin on taken-for-granted visuals.

Personifying the marks left by humans in a given space - turning potentially detrimental objects into relatable characters.

Incorporating light - the sun's changing position throughout the day creates a unique experiene for every viewer.

Playing upon society's instinct to rebel - covering boarded up windows and doors with brick-like paper to entice graffiti, then peeling it of and using the sheets in a commercial art exhibition.

Chaining objects to their surroundings, taking things out of context.

Creating a new narrative for ordinary and mundane surroundings.

Braille Graffiti! Cartering for otherwise excluded members of society.

Hippo Brief - Research

Off Limits - 40 Artangel Projects

Artangel is a London based organisation that offers artists the chance to realise dreams of mind-boggling public art.

Each new project evolves from a singular commissioning process, born from an open-ended conversation with an artist offered the opportunity to imagine something extraordinary. Artangel’s work is powered by the belief that artists are capable of creating visionary works which impact upon the way we view our world, our times and ourselves in unusual and enduring ways.

The majority of work in this book, whilst being incredible, is way too aspirational for this project, I feel. Having said that they are all examples of how to alter perception of any given space, through the use of foreign and found objects and human interaction. It would be much easier to scale down an overly optimistic idea than to try and build up an idea with limited potential.

Stephan Balkenhol: Figure on a Buoy/Head of a Man

Absolutely love this piece. It tackles the issue of meaninglessness within art and the public's inability to cope with out justification and reason. Through placing a figure on a floating buoy in the Thames Balkenhol managed to cause unparalleled levels of controversy and confusion as police and rescue services received a two week long surge of emergency calls from concerned onlookers wanting to help the man. This is a perfect example of how a minimal change can turn the atmosphere of given environment completely on its head.

Rachel Whiteread: House

I've always been fascinated with this. I can't really explain it, I just think it's amazing. Removing things from the landscape and leaving ghost in its place. Lovely.

This was just a page I photographed because I liked the idea of using the geography of a place to engage the audience. Creating your own narrative of a particular area through a journey on a map.

Hippo Brief - Idea

Through emailing Jane I have now learnt that these pieces are not going in the street as I had first assumed, but in shop fronts/windows. She is also trying to acquire 2 or 3 empty shops for more space - but that sort of crushes my original idea, which did in fact require pavement...

So back to the drawing board, and this is my next suggestion:

Since I was forced to discard the small screen printing project due to lack of time why don't I try and incorporate printing into this?
Manipulate images of the industrial landscape to include hippos.
  • A set of large CMYK screen prints to be hung on a wall/in a window, along with single colour printed postcards for visitors to take away
  • Providing something people can take away creates more interest - people ask questions, remember things better, get more involved.
  • Problems - potential to look cheap/unprofessional

Armley Site Visit

So today I took a walk into Armley centre to have a gander at Town Street, the proposed location of the finished hippo commissions. I don't really know how to describe this in a diplomatic way.. but I was genuinely scared.

The area is pretty run-down, a lot of the shops and pubs are boarded up and the people seem quite aggressive - I know it's wrong to generalise a whole community like that but, like I said, I was genuinely scared. I sat down on a bench for 5 minutes tops, and in that short time I was harassed by two homeless people, kicked in the shins by the small child of what can only be described as some sort of eastern-European mafia henchman, and 4 separate suspect characters came and scrabbled through all 3 phone booths in the hope of a forgotten coin.

I took some pictures but they're not very good - I didn't want to attract attention to myself through persistent photo taking; I didn't want strangers to think I was taking candid photos of them and subsequently kill me, and I also didn't want to seem like a tourist (or worse, an art student) and give people an excuse to mug me. Discretion, apparently, does not warrant the most helpful of photographs..

Two items of note amongst this incredibly monochromatic landscape were the picturesque little library building at the very top of the street, and also a little mural of a compass containing map of Armley set in concrete on the ground at about the half way point.

Something that became very evident as I scaled the pavements, was the fact that there is little to no excess floor space.. Since I have been toying with the idea of creating a sculptural piece, as opposed to something for a window or wall, I sense this will be problematic. I've emailed Jane with a few questions and hopefully she'll clear things up. If I am going to produce a piece to stand alone in the street there is also the small matter of bolting it down so that it doesn't get stolen, because believe me, it WILL be stolen.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Hippo Brief - Possible Idea

Hippo emerging from pavement - in the same way they pop the tops of their heads out of water.
  • references the discovery of the hippo under the town
  • manipulates existing environment whilst being flexible with exact location
  • production problems? - materials, glass vs. perspex (safety issues and dexterity), how to make it look professional, weighting it down (if it's outside, damage/theft?)

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Public Art Research - Starting Point

First things first - What sort of public art is out there? How are people manipulating public spaces? Site specific? Stand alone pieces? Performance art? Street Theatre?

Research existing projects - See what entices me - Go from there.

Friday, 21 May 2010


It's only taken two years, but I've finally realised that by sticking a calendar in my sketchbook I can actually plan my time effectively. I know, genius. After completing said task it has came to my attention that I HAVE NO TIME. None at all.

I have two months before I go away and so much to try and fit in before hand. My main focus at the minute though is this hippo commission for Jane - the deadline for which is June 28th. Bearing in mind that I am going to a festival for a week, and also have a scheduled family visit (I figure I pretty much have to see the 'rents before galavanting off to the 3rd world..) and I've cut down a potential 5 week period to a measly 3 (with a couple of days excess to cater for any drastic problem solving which I will undoubtedly need). That's right. THREE weeks.

Considering that in this time I need to come up with AND execute an idea I'm pretty screwed. I've decided that I really can't get distracted by this poster/screen printing brief, even though I was quite excited to just do something for myself.. But knowing how to prioritise is important and since Jane is actually paying me for this hippo commission I think it's only fair that I focus all my efforts on that for the time being.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Information about the Hippo Trail has now been published on the I Love West Leeds website, along with a picture of my design and full credit to me! Wonderful.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Platform2 Placement

I got accepted!! Summer = sorted.

Things to do now:
  • withdraw application from Camp America
  • cancel my stewarding placed at Leeds Festival and Bestival
  • find out what I need to do about enrollment next year (seeing as I wont be here for the start of term)
  • sort out my many many vaccinations
  • finally - Stop. Stressing. Out.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Prep for Final Crit

Final Solution (as complete as possible):

So far as part of this brief I have produced:
  • Postcard sets - book fair brief (I can bring an actual set to the crit)
  • D&AD response (evidenced through images on my blog)
  • Artivism contribution, resulting in final exhibition (evidenced through images on my blog)
  • Hippo molds for I Love West Leeds festival brief -still in progress but due to finish any day now (I have numerous hippo models to show in the crit, but as the molds have all been sent to Jane already they will be evidenced through my blog)
Still to produce:
  • Larger commissioned hippo piece for I Love West Leeds festival (deadline not until 28th June - long after Live Brief deadine so a final solution is just not feasible in that time)
  • Screen printed poster based on the Black Dogs 'How To' card brief (not actually a live brief, simply for personal gain as something to put in my portfolio)

"it should enable the crit group to respond to your project with no explanation from you"

Because my live brief has incorporated a number of projects, all of which are extremely varied, I'm struggling to write my rationale that effectively explains them all. Am I meant to have a rationale for each brief? I don't quite understand. Am I meant to write it as though this is what I'm planning to do - sort of like a statement of intent? Or is it meant to be a basic outline of what I have done?? It's beyond me. This is my attempt:

Throughout this module my aim is to further develop a variety of skills in order to gain a better understanding of my place as a practitioner. Initially I will work towards a submission for the Leeds International Book Fair with the intent of producing multiple sets of hand-embossed post cards based on the 3D wall piece I created as part of the previous brief. I will also complete my entry for the D&AD illustration competition, focusing on conceptual thinking. This will demonstrate my ability to apply myself in a more provocative manner by taking the theme of 'resistance' and using it to unpick the competition brief itself. Meanwhile I will be partaking in a community arts program, 'Artivism', at Armley Mills each Monday afternoon. This will culminate in a small exhibition. The project overall will aid me with my understanding of working within the community and also give me experience of intergenerational work and experience working alongside established local artists. As a result of communicating with Jane Earnshaw regarding the Artivism project, I have also been given a live brief within the I Love West Leeds festival, which she organises. The end result must be approx 200 model hippos to be sent into primary schools for children to decorate as part of the festival. This is clearly a massive task that will test not only my practical skills but my ability to organise, delegate and manage my time effectively.

This is genuinely the best I could come up with at this moment in time.

Summarising Image and Text:

Since I have such varied final pieces as part of this module it's difficult to decide which image to include as an overall representation. Do I go for the project that I have spent the most time on, the one that I have prioritised over the others? The hippo brief has been by far the most time consuming and required the most effort. Or do I go for the most successful? I sold all of the sets of postcards I submitted to the book fair. Or do I choose the brief that I feel best represents the way that I operate as a practitioner? Although the D&AD brief was unsuccessful (shock, I know) I felt most at home when I was challenging something and asking incomprehensible questions.

Even though I've spent a lot of time and effort on the hippos, and they have been my largest brief to date, I don't want them to define me as a practitioner. This is simply a brief set by an outside party that I have undertaken. It is not a representation of my thoughts and the way my brain works. For that reason I have chosen to be represented by my fully annotated competition brief. I was on the verge of choosing the image depicting my 3D box made from that very brief, but I feel that it loses a lot of it's impact when taken out of context and I don't want to seem like too much of a pretentious prick.

Now for 100 words "describing how your project fits into your future plans as a practitioner". Fantastic. We're digging up this touchy subject again. Thanks guys, I love remembering that I have no real direction and am currently headed towards an empty life compiled of a string of randomly selected briefs that require no real focused skill or drive. Love it.

So yeah, not knowing exactly what my future plans as a practitioner are I am finding it unquestionably difficult to find even one word to describe this.

The above image has been taken from my D&AD entry and depicts the original competition brief complete with my personal annotations. Within this I have raised questions, cemented definitions and picked apart any contradictions. This piece represents my natural instinct to question that which is placed in front of me. Although I do not have a specialist subject area I feel that there is a common thread of antagonism running throughout my work. As a practitioner I like to push boundaries and find a way round any given limitation and for me this project epitomises the theme of ‘resistance’.

I'm not a massive fan of that description but 100 words is particularly restricting.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Hippo Brief - Artist Research

Steven James, Naomi Williams & Michelle Duxbury

Try as I might I haven't been able to find any info on the remaining 3 artists so no more insight there I'm afraid. I did find Duxbury's twitter page but there was less about art and more about Glee so I didn't deem it all that relevant.

Next time I see Jane I'll be sure to ask.

Hippo Brief - Artist Research

Lou Sumray

The second artist detailed in Jane's email is Bradford based painter, Lou Sumray. It's difficult to tell from her portfolio of work the kind of piece she is likely to produce for Armely town centre as she is primarily a figurative painter and this project doesn't exactly scream 'traditional art'. But she does do a lot of workshops and community projects ranging from conventional drawing techniques to float decoration and kite making so perhaps her hippo piece will draw upon these more practical skills.

Hippo Brief - Artist Research

Fabric Lenny

The first of the commissioned artists I've looked at. His (I'm assuming it's a he?) website alone didn't give a great range of work - at first it looked as though it it was just prints. But tracking down his Flickr site gave a much better idea of the overall range.

As well as paintings and prints Fabric Lenny produces more unconventional pieces. Applying his recognisable character designs to reworked postcards. By far the most interesting application of his work in relation to my current hippo model project is his custom 3d figures. When commissioned, Fabric Lenny takes a particular painting, print or drawing, identifies the key patterns and colours and replicates them on a wooden character.

It is undeniable that Fabric Lenny has a signature style and no doubt it will be reflected in his piece for Armley town centre.

Hippo Brief - Artist Commission.

It looks as though I will definitely be in the UK at the time of the I Love West Leeds Festival this summer and consequently will be able to take up Jane's offer of the artist commission brief in Armley. I've emailed Jane about it and she is happy for me to be involved. This is part of her response:

Ive reconsidered the idea of spreading the artist commissions across
the whole west, i think they may get a bit isolated and lose impact so
i am going to concentrate the project into armley itself and try to
get local shop owners to feature them in their window displays, and
have them all over the library, which is on the main street too.
Siting your work on Town St too.

The fee for each of you is £500 flat inc everything. Send me an
invoice and i will sort payment out, if you need some of the fee up
front for materials then just let me know.

The deadline for finished work is week beginning mon 28 June.
My print deadline for the festival brochure is on 19th May, so if you
have a rough outline of what your work will be by then that would be
The festival press officer will also be working to get press coverage
so we might request a photocall with you and your work/work in
progress. If you are producing work for a specific site on town st
rather than something that could go anywhere then let me know asap in
order for me to sort the relevant permissions as experience tells me
this can take for ever.
So it doesn't actually seem as though there is a concrete, scripted brief; from what I gather I simply have to take the theme of 'hippos' and create a site specific piece for Town St in Armley - ideally relating to the discovery of the prehistoric hippo in 1851 in some way. Jane mentioned that one of the artists is doing a giant comic strip, I'm not sure what the others are doing but it seems as though I pretty much have free reign. 

I've been having a look at the other artists that are getting involved, to get an idea of the type of work they produce and the typical feel that their work has. In fear of overloading this post, research is to follow.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Arts Jobs Mailing List

I've been signed up to receive the Arts Council's email since the beginning of the academic year and so far nothing of any real relevance has been brought to my attention. In this weeks mail I came across this call for 'Volunteer Gallery Assistants'.

This sort of thing would be ideal to have down on a CV. Even though it isn't directly relevant to my current practice I can relate it to my involvement in the curation of our 129 Exhibition and this sort of thing would look great on a CV - evidencing knowledge and understanding of the commercial side of the creative industry.

Reading over it initially was simply hypothetical, the position is located in 'North-East' and I don't have any time to commit indefinitely because of uni work and uncertain summer plans. But then I did a bit of research into Globe Gallery. It turns out that Globe is located in North Shields - funny coincidence that I happen to reside in South Shields - and this isn't the only volunteering opportunity available, they offer a range of voluntary programs ranging from a few hours to a few months, focusing on "contemporary art as a means to stimulate socially engaging, challenging responses from young people from all backgrounds".

This is definitely something I will be following up, it seems way to ideal that this should crop up on my doorstep out of absolutely nowhere!

Camp America Placement

Received an email back from Cedar Lodge to say that they have opted for someone with more experience and age - which is fair enough. I had momentarily gotten my hopes up about Camp America again and had I been offered the place I would have jumped at the chance, but now that I'm back to square one I realise that the fact that I'm not more upset suggests that my heart probably wouldn't have been in it and I was secretly still pinning all my hopes on Platform2.

Speaking of which, I called up today to see if they could tell me roughly when I will find out.. The 3 week estimate that my interviewer gave was, ummm, optimistic to say the least. The woman on the phone said that they're still waiting to receive all of the interview reports, then they have to go through all 200 of them and shortlist people. At the very latest it will be mid-June. Gargh.

Poster Brief

I've decided that it would be such a shame to waste the Black Dogs 'how to' card brief. So even though it won't be a live project I'm going to take it on anyway - simply as portfolio work. Obviously the context of the brief has changed; since I no longer have to consider the Tate as a platform I can apply a more personal approach. I do not need to adhere to the limitations of A4 dimensions anymore if I don't want to, and I can choose to produce it in any medium I wish. I'm still not completely certain of the content yet but I want to do some more screen printing, perhaps a more complex colour separation to demonstrate some skill.

I need to come up with a concept that I want to address. At the minute I'm toying with the idea of raising the question 'what exactly is art?' by producing a 'how to be an art connoisseur' poster depicting a guy pondering appreciatively over something trivial and mundane like a fire exit sign or a telephone box. But I can't quite pin down the message that I'm trying to get across and I've hit a massive wall.

I haven't done anything along these lines in so long and I think the main problem I'm having is a complete lack of self-confidence. I'm not an illustrator so I don't know where to begin illustrating it. I'm not a graphic designer so the typography will inevitably pose an issue. And who am I to say what art is anyway? However I know that voicing these concerns will simply be met with a 'get over yourself and fucking do it' type response from the tutors so I thought I'd skip the middleman and self-diagnose my confidence issues.

Probs gunna brain storm some shit or summit...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Artivism Exhibition

Yesturday was the final exhibition of our Artivism project - the grand finale! And despite it probably being the strangest collection of work I've ever seen, it went really well!

It was set up actually in the Industrial Museum, which in itself made the whole thing a bit surreal but the sheer variety of the characters and stories we had created was pretty astonishing. The space was quite small so I couldn't get a good enough photo of the whole thing, but above the scene of crafted figures there was a video projected on the sloping ceiling. Shari has put together a moving image piece using all of the information we have provided her about ourselves, our lives and our past. The collection as a whole has been titled 'Mingling Memories' and Shari's video combines the memories of each individual in the group to create one solitary distorted narrative. It really is lovely.

Probably the strangest project I've ever worked on, but ultimately worth it. From it I've gained confidence working in groups and a better understanding of the way artists and practitioners engage with a particular group of people. Not to mention the fact that the entirety of my hippo work has came off the back of this project - so I owe A LOT to Kevin, Shari and Jane!

Below is my contribution to the collection. I envisaged my character of the old man as a ticket collector on an old fashioned train, and so adorned his housing with discarded tickets and things collected on my travels. Shari has incorporated this idea into the video below through the repetitive use of train track imagery and sounds (although the audio on the clip below is of poor quality)