The aim of my essay: I am going to explore how spirals have been used as an artistic symbol of time.
Question: How have spirals been used as a symbol of time?
The aim of my essay: I am going to explore how spirals have been used as an artistic symbol of time.
Question: How have spirals been used as a symbol of time?
There are a few ideas I experimented with before settling on the idea of a film.
I did consider making an archival website that could be an ongoing project in which I would come back and add material to.
I started to draft out a layout:
However, I decided this would become too static and like a presentation of facts rather than allow me to be truly creative with how I presented the archive.
It is still something I might come back and do in addition to the film at some point.
With a website, people could follow their own journey and focus on the areas they are interested in, which might appeal to some people viewing.
One idea I do like is to create a user guide to go alongside the film I am making. This might be in the form of a pdf or website to accompany it. This would allow me to add extra detail, not in the final film, full versions of the creative writing pieces and more images than I end up including.
As soon as I started making the website it felt like it wasn’t the right final idea for me. Since the start of this course I have been inspired by Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and the film that went alongside it. I do want to focus on film over a website.
Newgrange is a very physical process and I like the idea of collating the information digitally.
How will my archive be navigated by others?
I am going to create a documentary-type video about Newgrange. It will contain readings of creative writing pieces about the people who made it, maps, video montages, and still images set to music. I want it to be in the same style as the Spiral Jetty film that was made to accompany Robert Smithson’s creation.
People will watch the video to navigate it.
Materials in archive
|Map of Ireland showing the location||Digital image||Zooming in on the map to show where Newgrange is|
|Images of Newgrange||Digital collage||Voiceover descriptions added|
|Stories of people who made the spirals||Piece of writing||Creative writing piece – excerpts read out in the film|
|Video footage of people making the spirals||Video clips||Videos will be sourced from modern stock footage but made to look like they are the people making the spirals|
|Video of myself making spiral art||Video clips||Clips inserted of real spiral sketches|
|Myth readings and poems||Pieces of writing||Excerpts read out of myths associated with newgrange|
In making a film, the narrative is chosen by me. I can decide the order people must view the final piece. They cannot wander around the archive and decide on their own journey. It is dictated to them. It will allow me to interweave fact and fiction in a convincing way.
Event – the making of the Newgrange Spirals
I have decided to start gathering material for my archive on padlet.
Padlet link: https://padlet.com/claire5279411/spiralarchive
What types of material do you think will be in your archive?
Photographs, maps, fiction stories, timelines
Are you going to gather physical or digital items?
Digital but with some physical elements recorded digitally
Will the actual material gathered, and the way you present your archive be the same? For example, you might choose to gather fabric samples, but present them as a digital collection, or collect newspaper cuttings, but present them as/alongside creative writing.
Any physical items will be recorded digitally
Will your archive be solely factual, fictional, or a bit of both?
Both. I like the idea of extrapolating the factual into fictional stories too.
Will you acknowledge your own subjectivity as the creator of this archive?
Yes, as this period is so unknown, there is always going to be a degree of subjectivity.
Who will this archive be for? Is it to be used as a research site for others? Is it artwork? Is it for personal use?
I like the idea of it being a jumping point for other people’s research but also a chance to do some creative writing and exploring ideas personally.
Raad’s archival practice follows this idea of fictionalisation and raises questions about what is fact and what is fiction when looking at archives and records of past events. Born in Lebanon, Raad’s practice often focuses on the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), and is a good example of how a creative practice can archive an event. Raad often presents his work as ‘research projects’ by ‘The Atlas Group’, and the work often adopts the form of documentary film and photography, literary artefacts, conference presentations or lectures, and archival dossiers. All of Raad’s work is rich with examples of how a creative practice might use or invent archival material.OCA website
Walid Raad often makes work concerned with the representation of traumatic events. Base don his past of growing up in Lebanon and having to move to the USA in 1983 due to conflict in Beirut.
The Atlas Group is a fictional foundation that he created to accommodate and contextualise his growing output of works documenting the civil wars. It addresses issues around infrastructure, and societal and psychic devastation wrought by the wars, which he then re-dates and attributes to an array of invented figures. All of his work is processed digitally.
His work blurs the lines between fiction and reality. He often says different things at different times about the collective. Sometimes saying they were formed in 1967, other times in 1999. To build on this idea of fiction v reality.
My neck is thinner than a hair: Engines explores some of the thousands of car bomb explosions that occurred in Lebanon during its wars. Raad presents photographs from newspaper archives of the engines that were blasted out of the exploded cars. Though the engines rarely served as evidence in investigations of the violence, he notes that politicians often posed next to them to suggest that they were doing everything in their power to solve the crimes. In probing some of the lesser-explored aspects of the wars in Lebanon, he highlights our readiness to accept as facts the photographs and official narratives that are presented to us.
In Let’s be honest, the weather helped, he shares his perceptive, critical, politically engaged, and often playful perspective of the complexities of the Lebanese wars and the current boom of contemporary art in the Middle East. Raad works in a wide variety of visual media, complemented by performances and essays.
What I really like about Walid Raad’s approach that I want to use in my own archive is that he takes a real event like the Lebanese War and tells the story in a thought-provoking way but uses fiction and creativity to do so. We are left questioning, what is real and what is added on. Is the reality better or worse than the vision Raad shows us. It asks us to look at news reports in a critical way as particularly during wars they are fictionalised too to promote the propaganda of whichever perspective they are telling the story from.
Grrr.nl (2019). Walid Raad – Let’s be honest, the weather helped. [online] http://www.stedelijk.nl. Available at: https://www.stedelijk.nl/en/news/lets-be-honest-weather-helped.
MoMA (n.d.). MoMA | The Atlas Group/Walid Raad. My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines. 1996–2004. [online] http://www.moma.org. Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/walid-raad-my-neck-is-thinner-than-a-hair-engines-1996-2004/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].
Poetic Fragments from the Irritating Archive is a multimodal text by Karenjit Sandhu which brings together poetry, found language, objects, sound and performance.
What do you notice about the form of the work and how it evolves across the fragments?
There is a general theme of irritation and feeling uncomfortable across all the fragments. The fragments are put together in such a way that they induce this feeling of panic and irritation in the viewer which seems counterproductive to what an artist would normally want to do. Historically art was made to make us feel comfortable, have an aesthetic pleasure and something that people would want to spend time around. This is different.
At which point in the work do you find yourself irritated? Or do you experience another type of feeling?
I’d say my overall feeling is one of uncomfortable and unease rather than irritation.
Does your experience of the work change as you are led through the fragments?
My experience just builds as the fragments progress. I want the piece to end as I feel like I could be spending my time doing something better. I don’t enjoy the feeling that this is frustrating and I want to do something else. I am confused as to why an artist would want people to want to leave their piece of work.
How do my research methods inform your own creative practice?
I think for me, the main takeaway of this is to explore ideas that I would normally be uncomfortable with. Art doesn’t have to be pleasing or induce any sort of pleasure. Maybe sometimes the most powerful pieces are those that make us question why we feel uncomfortable.
In what way have my practice methods shaped your thinking on archival practice?
My thinking on archival practice has changed considerably. Initially, I was in the mindset of it being a collection of objects, like a museum archive. That they would be prettily displayed with information that was engaging and educational to the audience. This piece has made me think about the different ways that an archive could be collated and presented. It doesn’t have to be historical or around a physical theme, this is around a feeling which is an interesting perspective to take.
What bearing does the fictionalisation of the archive have on the themes of ‘Time’ and ‘Place’?
This is perhaps the most exciting element for me. That an archive can have a huge creative license. It doesn’t have to be grounded in truth or reality. We can explore alternative worlds, alternative timelines and ideas that are based in fiction and creativity instead.
A new plan of action as I have five days before I need to submit my final Assignment 10 and due to being ill again, I am behind.
I very much want to complete everything and get it submitted to move on to 1.2 and so I am going to just focus on my final submission and tie in parts of Assignments 8, 9 and 10.
Having looked at them, this will work as Assignment 8 is the first step in creating my final archive which I have already started to plan based on the feedback I got from my tutor on assignments 5, 6 and 7.
Let’s focus and go!
I have already started to post some initial ideas here.
I would like to incorporate spirals into the archive somewhere as they are a motif I keep returning to. I would like to explore how they have been interpreted over time, but also how they represent time itself too. There are links there to the Spiral Jetty, Celtic symbology, geometry, astronomy that I would like to tie together somehow.
Then earlier in the course I did get into looking at desk, work and the history of the office. This is something that could be fascinating to archive and particularly linked to the recent global pandemic which made more people work from home and that boundary between work and home became more blurred. Expanding on that, maybe an archive of the pandemic itself as it was a hugely significant period in our recent history. I feel like I would do something very specific though as the pandemic itself is huge.
Then of course there is my love of the ancient Druids and linking it to Mnemosyne and creating a similar Atlas style but with Druid gods and goddesses and how they have been interpreted over time. Perhaps creating ‘fake’ photos to create their heritage.
I need to think on these and come back.
Warburg’s attempt to ‘map the afterlife of antiquity’, focused on the renaissance. He chose Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the muses, as the patron saint of his project. Warburg created large black panels onto which he attached black and white images in a kind of grid. The photographs grouped together showed various appropriations of art objects and things such as developments in the representation of Mars over time.
It is a map of how images of great symbolic, intellectual, and emotional power emerge in Western antiquity and then reappear and are reanimated in the art and cosmology of later times and places, from Alexandrian Greece to Weimar Germany. Focusing especially on the Renaissance, the historical period where he found the struggle between the forces of reason and unreason to be most palpable, Warburg hoped that the Mnemosyne Atlas would allow its spectators to experience for themselves the “polarities” that riddle culture and thought. Warburg believed that these symbolic images, when juxtaposed and then placed in sequence, could foster immediate, synoptic insights.
The Atlas functions cartographically, too, as it explores how meanings are constituted by the movement of themes and styles between East and West, North and South.
In its “last version,” the Mnemosyne Atlas consisted of sixty-three panels. Using wooden boards, measuring approximately 150 x 200 cm and covered with black cloth, Warburg arranged and rearranged, in a lengthy combinatory process of addition and subtraction, black and white photographs of art-historical and cosmographical images. Here and there he also included photographs of maps, manuscript pages, and contemporary images drawn from newspapers and magazines. The individual panels, in turn, were then numbered and ordered to create still larger thematic sequences.
The actual panels of the “last version” are no longer extant; only black and white photographs (18 x 24 cm) of them remain, held in the archives of the Warburg Institute.
This piece absolutely fascinates me. From a cultural, historical and emotional point of view. I find it incredibly interesting to see someone think about the Renaissance and links to the classical period like this, Greek myths are a huge interest of mine and I am always interested in how the Renaissance took some of these images. It goes back to an earlier thought I had in the course about doing something similar but with Celtic mythology. What fascinates me about the Celts is their almost been forgotten unlike the Greek and Roman Gods. Why is this? What would a Renaissance reimagining of Celtic gods look like?
Johnson, C. (n.d.). About the Mnemosyne Atlas | Mnemosyne. [online] warburg.library.cornell.edu. Available at: https://warburg.library.cornell.edu/about.
Johnson, C. (n.d.). Aby Warburg | Mnemosyne. [online] warburg.library.cornell.edu. Available at: https://warburg.library.cornell.edu/about/aby-warburg [Accessed 31 Jul. 2022].
ZKM (n.d.). Aby Warburg. Mnemosyne Bilderatlas (English) | 2016 | ZKM. [online] zkm.de. Available at: https://zkm.de/en/publication/aby-warburg-mnemosyne-bilderatlas-english [Accessed 31 Jul. 2022].
Witness is a sound installation, but also an archive. The installation consists of 350 speakers suspended from the ceiling, in a darkened room, lit by artificial blue lights. Each speaker plays different audio recordings of people from all over the world recounting their experience of witnessing a UFO or similarly unexplained phenomena. The recordings are in multiple languages, and create a cacophony of voices, at times going quiet and allowing just one voice to speak. The work was initially shown in an abandoned Baptist chapel in London and has since been exhibited at multiple national and international museums and festivals. The stories, though some are read by actors where written accounts have been found or provided, are not presented with any bias from Hiller, or with extra dramatisation added for effect; they create an almost factual, documentary account.
Susan Hiller’s Witness has many archival elements. It consists of a large number of different audio recordings and is presented not just as a playlist but in a constructed way to add to the meaning of the clips. They have a common theme around UFO stories. The archive tells a very specific curated story. The room it places the archive in a context, the room is dark with artificial blue lights to add to the atmosphere of UFOs and otherworldly experiences. The way in which the clips are presented also adds to this, they aren’t just one at a time but there are multiple languages being spoken at once, with periods of silence. This adds to the chaos and slightly spooky unsettling feeling.
By presenting this work as audio rather than text, it places the people behind the stories at the root. This is about the people as much as the stories they tell. By having the recordings by people or actors we get that human element.
The work is multilingual to show the global impact of these stories, I think it helps to unite humanity as one against UFOs. It acts as a unifier as it doesn’t matter what language you are speaking, it shows these stories span cultures and nationalities. Another example of how we often have more in common than differences. I think it also adds to the sense of chaos, that it is difficult to pick out just one character, as you listen you flit between people, accents and languages. We are encouraged to listen to the overall hum and not the individuals.
Exhibiting in a chapel builds a sense of atmosphere. There is a strange effect of having the piece at the top of a spiral staircase in a chapel. Almost like you are descending to the UFOs themselves. The space also allows shadows to play a role. Of course, it being a chapel evokes religious and spiritual feelings, are these UFOs or a calling from the heavens? In Jonathan Jones’s piece in the Guardian about the experience, he describes that “a babble of voices talk at once, muttering like the voices of the dead or the legion of the damned” (Jones, 2000).
I don’t think the work is trying to make us believe in UFOs. Rather telling the stories of those who have had an experience. There is a certain conviction in the number of stories, that how can this happen to so many people if UFOs aren’t real? However, I think this is an unbiased piece that allows us to make our own judgement.
This is different from a documentary as there is little of the artist’s own views in there. There is no narrative to go along with, just the pure experiences of the voices and the atmosphere. We aren’t informed, we are left to make a judgement.
Work was made to accompany a feature-length film by Duny called The Watermelon Woman. The film follows Dunye trying to find out about the life of a black actress who has an unrecognised or uncredited role in a film called Plantation Memories, and is referred to only as ‘the watermelon woman’. Dunye’s film follows the fictional life of Fae Richards, an African American lesbian blues singer and actress, who Dunye images as the person that played the watermelon woman. This fictional film is used to highlight the fact that next to no archival information about black actresses (and no information at all about black lesbian actresses) was kept or recorded in archives, and so the artists created their own archive, The Fae Richards Photo Archive, in lieu of any actual archival findings. The work consists of 82 black and white photos that have been staged and enacted by Dunye, Leonard and other actors, alongside a cast list, and photo captions that were typed on a type-writer to give them an authentic appearance.
The archive was made to give a voice to a marginalised group of people. That no information about black lesbian actresses was kept meant that this was imagined.
It is made to look like an old archive to give it a sense of realism that this is to represent those voices that have been lost. The idea that these could have been real photos and text lifted from a real person from history.
In making this as a film, a book and an installation it helped to spread the word of this story. Like a real person from history may be celebrated in many ways, this gives them dimension. As though you could look up the different media to corroborate the story and make them seem more real.
There are still clues that this is fictional and that is important. As it highlights that this has had to be faked due to no real images or even knowledge of who these actresses were.
This work is both a piece of creative writing and an installation. The text was written in 1977, and was used to accompany an exhibition in 1988 of the same name, though it’s also known as The Garbage Man. The installation is in a small, narrow room, which, apart from a small bed, looks like a kind of museum with glass cases, cabinets and shelves filled with jars which all contain items that would usually be thrown away, like buttons, tin cans, old boots etc. Each item has a label on it with a catalogue number and a description.