Books & reading, Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Notes, Project 1: The Shape of Time, Research & Reflection

When I looked into the Spiral Jetty and reflected on why I was drawn to it, part of that intrigue is from it being a spiral itself. Spirals to me are fascinating on all sorts of levels. Give a young child a pencil and one of the first things he or she is likely to draw is a spiral. They are simple shapes, and perhaps one of the first we learn to draw, but they often have much deeper meanings. I am very interested in the ancient Celts, and a lot of their art and symbols are based on spirals, but also they appear across the ancient world. This to me, gives them an even more symbolic and mythological status. Artists through time have been drawn to the spiral too and I want to explore more of the meaning behind this and look at more examples of where they have been used.

What is a Spiral?

In simple mathematical terms, a spiral is a curve that moves further away from the centre point as it revolves. Spirals can be 2D or 3D and there are many types.

Archimedean Spiral: The distance between the spiral arms remains constant, it is like a curve of parallel lines. These are important in geometry as they are what Archimedes used in 225 BC to square the circle and Archimedes wrote a whole treatise on these called ‘On Spirals’ showing their significance to ancient knowledge.

Fermat’s Spiral: Fermat’s spirals are interesting. They are similar to Archimedean spirals, but the distance between the arms does not remain constant. Instead, it is the area between neighbouring arcs that is constant which effectively makes the spiral come closer together as it expands outwards.

In mature flower discs (phyllotaxis) such as in sunflowers and daisies, the shape of the spirals is that of a Fermat spiral. This is a concept explored by John Edmark who makes some incredible pieces of art using spirals.

The Logarithmic spiral: This is a spiral that often appears in nature. It differs from the archimedean spiral by the fact that the distances between the arms increase each time. These spirals are throughout nature. Hawks use them to approach their prey, the arms of spiral galaxies are often this shape, shells follow this pattern, hurricanes, nerves of the cornea also follow this shape.

A special case of the logarithmic spiral is the Fibonacci Spiral: Fibonacci spirals are also called the Golden spiral as it is one where the growth factor of the spiral is exactly equal to the golden ratio.

Triskeles are ancient motifs consisting of a triple spiral. These are found across neolithic artefacts and continue into the iron age and the beginning of the classical period.

Ancient Spirals

Spirals are ubiquitous throughout periods of history. They have been found as decorative motifs as far back as 10,000 BCE. We have more examples of them as Neolithic symbols throughout Europe.

One of the most famous examples is a prehistoric monument with a grand passage tomb built around 3200 BC at Newgrange in Ireland. We don’t know for sure what the site was used for, but it is believed to have huge religious significance and keeping time was important to the people as many of the tombs are aligned with solstices and equinoxes. Various archaeologists have speculated as to the meaning of the spiral designs, some think them to be purely decorative, whereas some hypothesise due to the placement of them, think they are much more symbolic. Many of the spirals are placed where they wouldn’t be visible which negates some of the theory that they are purely for decoration.

Newgrange, Ireland.

When you look into the Irish myths, there are other explanations for the meaning behind the symbols at Newgrange. Newgrange is described as a portal to the Otherworld, which is the ancient Irish underworld dwelling of the divine.

I find this an interesting link to the Spiral Jetty which also has roots in local mythology as a place of being a portal to another world.

In the Irish case, the link to time is even more apparent. One of the Irish Gods, the Dagda, has the ability to make time stand still by stopping the Sun. It has been suggested that the tale represents the Winter Solstice illumination of Newgrange. (Hensey, Robert. Re-discovering the winter solstice alignment at Newgrange, in The Oxford Handbook of Light in Archaeology. Oxford University Press, 2017. pp.11-13)

As well as in Ireland, spirals are found throughout the world. They are throughout pre-Columbian art in Latin and Central America, in rock carvings in Mexico, Peru as universal petroglyphs. Across Asia too where they are often interpreted as solar symbols.

Modern Spirals

The spiral has inspired artists for generations. Robert Smithson is one example but there are dozens of other examples too. In modern animation and anime, spirals are often present, one example is in the anime Gurren Lagann where the spiral represents a philosophy of life.

Spiral – Art Collective

When I was researching spirals in art, I came across it being used as a name of a New York-based African American collective that was formed in 1963 with the aim of addressing how African American artists should respond to America’s changing political and cultural landscape.

Romare Bearden Blue Shade 1972

What I find interesting about this, is that it is from a similar era to Smithson and many of the artists with the group were abstract expressionists, like Smithson started as. The Land Art movement in which Smithson was part of was motivated by the political climate and a desire to get away from the gallery centred art. The Spiral group of artists were also “ignored by many of the proponents of abstract expressionism, like the critic Clement Greenberg; who said their art was too autobiographical to be considered.”

Spirals: the whirled image in twentieth-century literature and art – Nico Israel

As part of my research into Spirals, I read this book.

I hadn’t considered the role of Spirals in literature as much as those in visual art. This book made me contemplate many more examples.

“Spirals have a curious centrality in some of the best-known and most significant twentieth-century literature and visual art. Consider the writings of W. B. Yeats, whose Vision was entranced by a system of widening and narrowing gyres; Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, whose poetry traced Dantesque helical journeys into and out of the modern urban inferno; and James Joyce, whose Ulysses navigated between the Scylla of Aristotelianism and the Charybdis of Platonism, ultimately casting both into the Wake of a thunderous Viconian “gyrotundo.” Or think, later in the century, of Samuel Beckett’s obsessive circuitry and abortive spiral journeys or of W. G. Sebald, for whom spiral rings signaled the vertiginous emanations of historical trauma.”

In the introduction to this book, we find the author Nico Israel was inspired to write the whole book after visiting the Spiral Jetty in Utah. When he returned to New York, he read more about Smithson’s project and found how inspired Smithson was by literature and not other pieces of visual art. Smithson had handwritten, under the title “A Metamorphoses of Spirals,” a series of quotations of short passages from some twenty-one texts.

I am going to write up this book in a different post to collate the notes together.

Spiral Jetty

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 1: The Shape of Time

Spiral Jetty is a 1970 piece of land art made in Salt Lake, Utah, by Robert Smithson. As well as making the land art itself, Smithson produced a film to document the work. I was drawn to the spiral jetty in Doug Burton’s introductory lecture. I’m not sure what exactly inspired me so much from seeing the Spiral Jetty in the presentation. On reflection, it was a combination of the scale of the piece, the connection with the land and the spiral itself. Previously, I have read a lot into the Ancient Celts and the Spiral is a very predominant feature of their monuments and artwork, so perhaps it was this connection that intrigued me. I aim to explore the artwork here in more depth than in my initial lecture write up.

Before researching the background of the Spiral Jetty, I wanted to watch Smithson’s own film about his work so that I could view his movie with no preconceptions. The film itself is a piece of creative art and would tell a story without the sculpture. Throughout parts of the film, you hear this almost metronomic sound in the background, possibly someone using a hammer-like tool. This draws you into the concept of labour, industry and timekeeping. It could be this idea of someone keeping time whilst others work, or it could be to highlight the industry of the area that Smithson chose for the location. It is certainly atmospheric, in an almost sinister way.

Throughout the film, there are symbols and items that give clues as to what Smithson would like the land art to represent. For example, there is a pile of books of which The Lost World by Doyle is one, as well as a book on Mazes and Labyrinths. To me, these indicate that Smithson is pointing to the Spiral Jetty being a nod to the ancient world, of being mystical and fantastical. Spirals are closely associated with labyrinths and this idea of being able to get lost in his artwork. There are also multiple images of dinosaurs and mentions of the Jurassic era through his use of the map. Again, this emphasises that Smithson is trying to root his Spiral Jetty in a much more ancient time, time where geological changes are continually occurring. There is a direct mention of this in the film when Smithson talks about the old popular local myth that the lake was connected to the ocean by a subterranean channel that was opened by a whirlpool portal.

The industrial nature of the area is a feature of the film and is shown in a few ways. There are shots of a truck driving around amongst oil rigs disturbing the dust of the Earth as it does. The footage of the trucks driving almost becomes hypnotic, in the same way that our destruction of the Earth can at times be mindless. There are times when the film flips between two clips: footage of man-made construction which is very noisy and more peaceful recordings of nature such as water lapping. It cycles between these two for some time. To me, this is highlighting the way that we destroy and then want to repair, only for someone else or another group to destroy. Time is cyclical like this with periods of destruction and regeneration. Again linking to the spiral nature of time. At one point the phrase “Just because things don’t change, doesn’t mean they never will” is used in the voiceover, reminding us of this constant change of time.

After watching the film and spending some time watching aerial footage of the Spiral Jetty, I researched Smithson and the Jetty. Spiral Jetty was Smithson’s second major land art project and tragically the last one that he completed before his death in a plane crash at age 35. In some ways, this helps to give the Spiral Jetty an even more mythical status as it was created by an artist who was a pioneer in his field just before his very unexpected death.

The time when the Spiral Jetty was created is interesting in terms of a cultural perspective. Mankind was exploring space and 1968 brought the famous Earth Rise photo. The emergence of this photo showed the world in a way it had probably not been viewed previously, like an oasis in a dark place and it inevitably changed humans’ perception of the planet. 1968 was a very turbulent year, it saw the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy which sparked large scale protests. In response to the political activism and alongside the emerging environmental movement, land art sprung into life.

A group of New York artists including Robert Smithson, his soon to be wife Nancy Holt, and Michael Heizer started to question what art is for. Does art have to be in a museum or gallery? Does art have to be sellable? In response to what they saw as over commercialism in galleries, they started moving West to the desert lands of the US to make more elemental art. Rather than painting landscapes to sell, they used the land itself to create the art. Of course, land art has existed for centuries and is one of the oldest forms of art. Throughout the ancient world, constructions like Stonehenge were made, there is footage of Smithson and Holt visiting these in the 1960s alongside industrial quarries of the UK so they were obviously inspired by some of these much older creations. Smithson’s role in the land art movement is pivotal. Alongside his art, Smithson was a great writer and his writings gave land art a voice.

Smithson saw art as a mediator between industry and ecology and you see this through his choice of location for the Spiral Jetty. The Great Salt Lake is a terminal lake meaning it has no outlet to the sea and it is in a historically industrial area. He was fascinated by man’s imprint on the natural landscape. We see this hinted at in the film but it is also obvious when you consider where he placed the Jetty and how it was constructed.

Smithson chose a site that is four times saltier than the sea, it is a harsh environment where not much survives. The one creature that seems to thrive is a shrimp, which in Autumn shed their bright red shells. These shells alongside algae and bacteria provide the lake with a whole spectrum of colours from deep red to orange and pink tones. This pigmentation appealed to Smithson as a natural palette of colours but also as it invokes images of the primordial seas where early life emerged.

The Jetty itself is enormous, I would love to visit it one day and see and experience it for myself. The scale of it adds to the mythological status as it makes you wonder about the construction and how it got there. In the way that we look at ancient monuments like the Great Pyramids and wonder how they were made. It is a 1500 foot spiral and people report that their senses are heightened when interacting with it due to its scale. What is even more incredible in some ways, is that the whole thing only took 4 weeks from design to completion, and that included a rebuild at one point!

The Spiral was constructed using local Black Basalt and Limestone that was moved by huge trucks onto the spiral. Water is between the arms of the spiral to give a mirrored look, highlighting a chance to reflect on our place within the natural world. The whole structure changes with time, it evolves like a natural wonder. Mud and salt crystals form on the rocks changing the overall look of the spiral as if nature is taking over the piece. On an even more dramatic level, the whole structure gets submerged when the water levels rise. It was constructed during a period of low water levels and then only a couple of years after it was completed, the whole spiral was hidden by water. It only briefly emerged again in the 1980s before being hidden again. It then re-emerged in 2002 covered in snow like white salt crystals. If there was ever a symbol of climate change and how it impacts our world it is this Jetty. In the future, the whole structure will be destroyed by the world around it. Giving it a sense of impermanence, just like our lives, time ultimately wins. Land Artists embrace this entropy and natural decay, part of the creativity is letting the land take the piece into its own hands. A sense of unpredictable change.

Spiral Jetty is amongst one of the most recognisable pieces of land art that emerged in the early 1970s, but it is not alone. In 1968 was the pioneering Earthworks New York Show. There are also creations such as Michael Heizer’s Double Negative in Nevada 1969 that were part of this movement.

Smithson himself wasn’t only a Land Artist. He started as an abstract expressionist painter and then created works in the minimalist style before embracing land art. Spirals feature a lot in his work, such as in the Feet of Christ.

Spirals were an obvious inspiration, one that seems to have been important to Smithson is Untitled by Frank Stella. This is an area I want to look at more.I was drawn to Spiral Jetty as soon as I saw it in Doug’s presentation. It has made me look much more into Land Art and the time in which it emerged, the politics of the time and the world events that preceded it. I am also interested in the people behind the movement, Smithson, Holt and Heizer seem to have rejected the very traditional gallery approach to art and returned to a much more ancient, natural way of creating but at the same time highlighted an issue that is very predominant today – climate change.

I am also intrigued by the way that Smithson took inspiration from a whole range of areas. He was inspired by ancient local folklore like the Jetty being a portal to an ancient universe but also inspired by very modern science fiction ideas. His Earthworks show was even named after a Sci-fi book by Brain Aldis.

Although Spiral Jetty was made in 1970, so many of the ideas and issues which it highlights are still so relevant today. We still seem to be fighting political activism, climate change, commercialism and the destructive nature of humans. I wonder what Smithson would think of the modern world if he were here today?

The Shape of Time Lecture

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 1: The Shape of Time

The Shape of Time is a lecture by Doug Burton that explores a range of works from across the Creative Arts disciplines. The commonality is that they all use Time as either a subject or material.

Overall, I found the lecture extremely stimulating. I came away with a sense of wonder and desire to explore a lot of the works in more detail. It made me realise there are so many pieces to do with Time I have never explored or even been aware of. I hope these notes are just a springboard for a much more detailed and focused study.

Summary of Works Mentioned

Throughout the lecture, a huge range of works was covered. Although part of me wants to, I cannot possibly explore all of them in detail now. What follows is a very brief summary of each so that I can come back to any later on.

Spear-thrower Reindeer Antler

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Image from British Museum

This is a piece of Reindeer antler that was carved as a mammoth about 14,000 to 10,000 years ago. Doug saw this as part of the British Museum’s exhibit on Ice-Age art. There is a very physical connection between the available materials around people and the art they produce. Whoever made this 10,000 years ago was influenced by the place they inhabited and the creatures they saw.

It is a reminder that time connects us, this is a link from us to the people who lived 10,000 years ago.

George Kubler – The Shape of Time

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George Kubler’s book is a philosophical look at time and art. In it, he states the connection of everything made today to art like the reindeer antler above. The example he uses is that there is a continuous series that runs from the stone tools of early man to the things created today. His view is that everything made now is a replica or a variant of what has been made previously. That there is a connection in time that must also contain lesser divisions.

This concept is interesting to me and seems to correlate with other ideas I have read for example Jung’s archetypes. That deep within us is a connection to the past and the people who have gone before us.

It does make me question what happens with less permanent forms of art, oral storytelling, art that is designed to last only a fleeting moment etc. Do these just result in a dead-end of the great art timeline?

Is time just confined to human memory and a sense of permanence?

Kubler’s book is definitely one I want to read more of.

Part 1

Robert Smithson – Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is in Utah, USA. It is a physical manifestation of time that can be experienced. It is as though time is embedded in the landscape. Smithson stated that he wanted to create a sense of pre-history in a modern era and connect disciplines together in a sense of timelessness.

This work is perhaps the most fascinating to me from the whole lecture and one I am definitely going to research more into. I am also drawn to his written work: Quasi Infinities and the Waning of Space in which he refers to Kubler. Doug made an emphasis on his use of the term actuality; a hidden void, an infinity; a frame of reference to a hidden void within a work. Again, this is something that interests me and I will come back to it in deeper research.

I think I am drawn to his work through the use of the spiral. Spirals are hugely significant in Celtic mythology and art, an area I am interested in. I would like to spend more time exploring the connection of spirals to time and their role in wider creative arts.

William Kentridge

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Felix in Exile 1994 William Kentridge born 1955 Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1998 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07479

William Kentridge is a South African artist who connects time and drawings. He makes animations that transform as he creates them. Interestingly, he uses no storyboard, he just has the idea of the key images and all other rethinking is done as he makes the work. He uses charcoal as its tonal range is good for photos and is easy to change and erase. The camera is always fours paces away from paper and this process of walking gives him time to think, making it a physical process. The way he makes his work means that he only ever sees the present, he never looks at what the camera is producing until the very end of the process. His way of working, allows his ideas to evolve through the process of making. A lot of his work deals with the issues in his local South Africa, linking time very much to the place in which he is working.

With Kentridge, I am interested in his process. Making an animation this way using charcoal and erasing the images as I go is something I am drawn to trying out during this course.

On Kawara – One Million Years

On Kawara made One Million Years in 1999. It is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of time as a thing in this series of works. It is a book of dates where each page records 500 years. There have been performances where people have read out dates which Doug describes in the lecture as being quiet and unnerving. It very much places time within a human context as people can relate to their own lifespan being such a short period out of the million years in the book. Again, it is a link to this actuality that Kubler talks about, this void that is trying to be filled.

El Anatsui

El Anatsui is an African artist who transforms recycled materials such as hammered tin cans and bottle tops into abstract art. It is truly a representation of the labour related to time as some of the artworks are enormous in scale. The works have a link to Africa in the way the materials are all from African towns and cities. The works look like abstract paintings at a first glance but when you look closer you can see the painstaking use of materials to create them.

This is another technique I am interested in trying.

Katie Patterson – Future Library

Katie Patterson’s Future Library is a very intriguing and emotional piece of work. It is a forest planted in 2014 with 1000 saplings that will grow between 2014 and 2114. Each year for the hundred years, an original piece of writing will be produced and locked away until the forest is ready to be felled, then the works will be printed. The choice of 100 years gives the piece a human scale, it is just out of reach of most people’s lives but short enough to not to be too far in the future. It is a wonderful public art piece where people are encouraged to walk amongst the trees and the art transforms with time. I love the ecological impact, the link to science and this is definitely one I want to research more.

Christian Marclay – LOOK 2019

Christian Marclay’s LOOK from 2019 appears simple and mundane at first glance. It is a celebration of the overlooked, things we pass every day without paying too much attention. We realise that time is passing through us and we can never stop it. It is a series of photographs and short movies which are collaged together to make longer pieces.

James Turrell – Roden Crater

James Turrell’s Roden Crater is in Northern Arizona. He is aiming to produce the world’s largest piece of land art. He is almost bending time using the gravity and geography around him.

Part 2

Aldo Tambellini – Retracing Black

Aldo Tambellini pioneered interdisciplinarity in the arts. In his work, he focused on the colour black. The substance is black – the colour, the pigment, the space, the black of culture all interwoven together. He made drawings scratched into 32 mm film that was static and animated. He connected media and concepts such as painting film to focus on black as a thing in itself. It really does feel like they come from the beginning of time.

Robert Macfarlane – Underland

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Robert Macfarlane’s book ‘Underland’ is about the things we take for granted as we go over the surface of the planet. It is about the connection between people and the material of the earth and how they combine over time to create the narrative of the book. It provides the sense that we are part of the legacy of time and we always have an impact on what lies beneath us.

What I find most interesting about Doug including this book in this lecture is that the book is a non-fiction piece of writing, it is about the ecology and geography of the planet. At first glance, I wouldn’t expect this in an art lecture which makes me want to read it to find out more about the style of the writing.

Katrina Palmer – The Loss Adjusters

The Loss Adjusters by Katrina Palmer was an Artangel commission piece about the story of Portland Stone. Katrina got inspired by looking at a stone alcove and was writing a story based on it when she started wondering where the stone came from to make it. She ended up visiting the island where the stone was quarried and found it to be a treasure island full of objects left from the removal of stuff. As she walked around she thought of stories of all the pieces and this was built into a narrative.

Roadside Picnic – Strugarsky

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Roadside Picnic by Strugarsky is a science fiction book that also inspired the movie Stalker. It is based in Soviet Russia and incorporates the politics of the place and how time and reality are subverted according to the West.

I am very much interested in reading the book and watching the movie adaptation to see how time is covered and used in the book and film.

Tacita Dean – The Green Ray

Tacita Dean’s The Green Ray is a 2001 film about the ‘Green Ray’. This is the last ray of sun to refract below the horizon during sunset and it can look green. The ray has importance to sailors and not everyone sees it. It is this sense of expectation of a moment of time that is the theme of this short film. There is also a vivid description in the narrative of the memory and place for viewing the ray. The Green ray is elusive but gives us a glimpse into our own experience of the world around us.

Tacita Dean is also of importance to this course as she co-authors the required reading ‘Place’.

This short film is one that I very much want to research more into. The sense of expectation and waiting appeals to me.

Richard McGuire – ‘Here’

Here is a graphic novel by Richard McGuire that focuses on a room in a house. It holds our attention on one spot and in doing so it reveals moments in time. It is the same spot throughout the book just with a different scene. It allows cultures and time to pass before our eyes and there is a deep connection through time. It is a book you can dip in and out and find something new each time.

Jenn Nkiru – Hub Tones

Hub Tones is a 2018 film by Jenn Nkiru which bridges the intersection between time, culture and place. It is full of cross-cultural themes.


Artists engage with Time in many different ways. It has definitely given me a lot to go away and look at and so many pieces of work and artists that I have never engaged with before. It is difficult to know where to start as I want to look at so many in-depth. What will follow are posts focusing on the ones that have interested me the most and the research that have come out of looking at them in more detail.

Research Task: Note Taking Skills

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Notes, Project 1: The Shape of Time, Research & Reflection

There are many ways to take notes, some more effective than others. One of the worst ways is to copy out word for word what has been said or what you are reading. I have seen students that I have taught spend hours doing this but it has little benefit. To learn from notes, the brain needs to be engaged on a deeper level than just copying.

The different techniques that I have come across are:

  • The outline method
  • Mind-mapping
  • Cornell method
  • Feynman method

The outline method can be useful. It is a way of summarising what has been said and organising it into a hierarchy where you can start linking ideas together. This forming of connections between ideas and the ability to summarise can lead to deeper learning. I often use this when I am jotting down ideas from a lecture or book or going through sections of a book I have highlighted.

Mind-mapping can be useful for forming connections between ideas and for brainstorming all that you know about a topic. I don’t tend to do this when I’m taking initial notes from another source. Instead, I will use it as a way of either brainstorming what I know about a topic before I start working on it. One example I have already done in this course was when I was thinking about my time reflection.

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Here I used it to build up a picture of what I wanted to talk about in the reflection and doing this before I started writing allowed me to think about those connections between the topics. The other time I will use mind-maps is when it comes to revising any topic as a test of what I can recall.

The Cornell Method is one I have heard about before but as I’m not too familiar with it, I did some more research into it. I found this great video from Cornell University to explain it.

The Cornell method is active learning, as it makes you question what you write which helps recall and memory. It makes you think about what is being said in a lecture or a book in terms of the meaning, rather than just the content. By summarising at the end, it makes you link this piece of learning to the big picture which we know from educational research is important for deep learning.

The Feynman method is a new one to me, and so again I did some initial research and found this video to explain it:

In essence that the Feynman technique does is make you question how deeply you understand something as you write notes on it. People often cover up their weak understanding by using technical jargon that they have copied or heard from someone else. The theory is that if you can’t explain something simply so that a child can understand it then you don’t truly understand it yourself. Although I haven’t used this technique in terms of it being called the Feynman method, it is something I used a lot whilst teaching. It is obviously true that you can’t teach something if you don’t understand it fully yourself. So I would test my understanding by the level to which I could explain it. This is what the Feynman method of notes does too.

You start with your chosen topic and study it. You then write notes as if you were explaining it to someone like a child who knows nothing about the topic. The idea is to use very simple language and diagrams. By doing this, you identify your own gaps in understanding which you can then do more reading into until you feel like you understand it well enough to explain it.

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(Image from https://www.safalniveshak.com/wall/)

Generally, I use a combination of both analogue and digital to take notes. My system tends to be that if I’m reading a book online or on kindle then I highlight digitally as I go through, I can then review these notes online and transfer them to notion which I use for digital notes. On notion I have set up templates for recording what I have read, artists I have looked at, course notes, my calendar and notebooks for random ideas. This way I can keep everything organised and linked together. There are times however when I’m reading a physical book or am brainstorming that I use paper. I seem to think better on paper, so will use this when I want to do deep learning.

For this course, I intend on keeping using my combination of analogue and digital. I have my notion pages set up, including a new Cornell notes template to try out. I will also make use of my learning log for project work, research, assignments and notes. When I am wanting to create or do something on paper, I have an A3 sketchbook which I have set aside just for this course.

I am aiming to try and use the Cornell system for making notes on any lectures or readings. When it comes to reviewing any work, I am going to try formally using the Feynman method to test my understanding.

Ma(r)king Time – My Attempt

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 1: The Shape of Time, Research & Reflection, Sketchbook

This is a page from my sketchbook where I have experimented with the punching holes to make a text technique that was used in Ma(r)king Time.

It gave me a deeper appreciation of the original piece and the technique they used to create the poster.

I first had to experiment with some different paper types and tools. I tried screwdrivers, pens, and drawing pins to try and make the holes. I found the drawing pin was the easiest to get neat holes but was difficult to hold, so I made up a contraption using a straw to hold it! The ideal paper was drawing paper with a slightly heavier weight to it than regular printing paper. The printing paper was easiest to make the holes but the impact of the texture was much stronger with slightly heavier paper.

As you can see my first attempts were very weak. It was surprisingly difficult to get an impactful outline to the letters, especially with the round letters. I also noticed my hand would fatigue pretty quickly, giving me a new appreciation of the artists working for 40 hours on their piece.

I also experimented with which way I made the letters, doing them in reverse was trickier but it gave the final texture I was looking for.

My final ‘TIME’ I think gives the result I was looking for. The letters are well-formed, easy to read, clear, neat and all the same size. There is a recognisable font and form to them.

I loved the texture this produces and its something I will continue to experiment with and try to incorporate into pieces.

Ma(r)king Time

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Project 1: The Shape of Time

Ma(r)king Time (2014) is a piece of work by two Dutch artists Milou van Ham and Moniek Driesse. It is intriguing as it is certainly a piece of work with many layers to it and one that has made me consider different aspects of time and how we spend our time. On one level, it is a paper poster made up of punched holes. Its style reminds me in a loose way of Georges Seurat’s pointillism where a piece of work is built up from smaller dots and together very small pieces of information build up the piece of art, however, this is in monochrome and does not utilise the colour Seurat does.

The time scale in which it was created is significant. It was over what is a typical traditional working week, 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday over the usual 40-hours that people work for. The significance of forty is emphasised too in that the piece is split into forty parts. It makes me think of routine jobs I have had in the past where the hours go incredibly slowly but then suddenly it is Friday and there is two days reprieve before beginning again at 9 am Monday morning. It could be highlighting the aspect of time that is down to the human perception of it. Where when something we enjoy seems to go faster than when doing something we dislike. Or how when we are busy time seems to fly. There has been recent criticism of the 40-hour working week, particularly during the pandemic when people started to realise that working from home on a more flexible schedule suits people. The 40-hour week really is a byproduct of the early labour movement where the concept of a weekend was introduced. People were once grateful for that, now we seem to be ungrateful for it.

This seemingly mundane task of punching holes in a piece of paper is interesting. Einstein famously came up with his theories of relativity which threw the understanding of time out when he was doing a 9-5 job at a patent office. Perhaps it is a nod to the fact that sometimes to make truly creative discoveries we need to do a simpler task to allow ourselves to enter that meditative state of flow where creative thinking can occur. Having tried to recreate some hole punching to create art to try out this technique for myself, I will say a great deal of concentration is needed, to begin with, especially to create the straight lines of the font they have used. So, what seems on a surface level to be mundane, is much more involved once you try it. I think this helps to highlight one aspect of work where people are very judgemental about how other people choose to spend their time and it is only by actually doing the same activity you get a true appreciation of it.

I think this mundane nature is emphasised by the lack of colour, the plain background, the fact the same font is used. Although the font choice is somewhat significant, on research I found it is all done in Nobel font which is a very iconic Dutch font, perhaps a compliment to the artists’ heritage. On one level, the piece of work is made interesting through its lack of traditional interesting features such as colour, image and change of font.

There is also the aspect of time being about recording change that this piece alludes to. Time can be thought of as small events being pieced together, events that are in a constant state of flux. This piece would have been constantly evolving through the week and I’m sure there were times when it felt like little progress was being made. There is also a sense of direction too. This piece had a past, a blank piece of paper, it is one-directional, we can’t reverse it back once the holes are punched. Just like every small thing that happens, has some kind of lasting impact.

When you look at the two artists’ other pieces of work, this piece forms part of an even bigger message. Milou van Ham makes pieces that focus on language, communication, and interaction and she aims to describe reality and often uses holes in paper as the basis of her work. Moniek Driesse works on projects that visualise socio-cultural imaginaries that often go unnoticed in everyday life. Marking Time merges these two ideas. There is clearly some form of interaction needed between the people making the holes, a way to coordinate the project and the amount of sheer effort, skill and concentration involved in creating this could easily go unnoticed by a first glance and assumption of “it is just holes in paper”.

I think my biggest take-away from this in relation to what the phrase “ma(r)king time” means is that it is so different for different people and we shouldn’t make judgements or assumptions about what that feels like to people. Time is incredibly subjective, what seems a menial task for one may be a deep meditative journey for someone else. What seems like a long day to someone, may pass very quickly for others. Time is something we can’t control in the aspect of how much time we get to live, all we can do is choose how to spend our time and how to mark that in a way that makes us thrive.

Research for the Reflection on Time

Books & reading, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Notes, Project 1: The Shape of Time, Research & Reflection, Sketchbook

Farthing, S. and Cork, R. (2018). Art: The whole story. London Thames & Hudson.

Gish, N.K. (1981). Time in the poetry of T.S. Eliot : a study in structure and theme. London: Macmillan.

Markosian, N. (2002). Time (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). [online] Stanford.edu. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time/.

Pressing, J. (1993). Relations between musical and scientific properties of time. Contemporary Music Review, 7(2), pp.105–122.

Rovelli, C. (2019). The Order Of Time. Penguin.

The Royal Institution (2018). The Physics and Philosophy of Time – with Carlo Rovelli. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6rWqJhDv7M.

Turner, F. and Pöppel, E. (1983). The Neural Lyre: Poetic Meter, the Brain, and Time. Poetry, [online] 142(5), pp.277–309. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20599567

A Reflection on Time

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 1: The Shape of Time

Time remains a mystery to us. From the dawn of humans, it seems to have fascinated us, and humans of all eras seem to have been occupied with marking its passing but we still don’t understand it or can be even sure if it exists. Through science, philosophy, and the creative arts, we can explore time and what it means to us but any true definition still eludes us. On many levels, it appears to be a purely human construct that comes about from the experience of change, sensory or otherwise. Perhaps it is the mysterious nature and our lack of fundamental understanding that leads it to be a source of inspiration across the creative arts? Will exploration in this creative way lead us any closer to what time actually is? This reflection takes a look at how the sciences, philosophy, literature, film, art, and music engage with or use time to explore our understanding and experience of it.

When I think about what time is, my first thoughts take me back to learning about time as a young child. From an early age, we are taught to “tell the time” on a clock and the concept of time is broken down for us into units of seconds, hours, years. We mark the passing of time by learning about seasons and expectedly count down the days to birthdays and Christmas. All through high school science, we treat time as a fundamental measurement, we use equations with t in them to calculate the time in the standard unit of seconds. We use it to measure the speed of something, how much an object accelerates, and other basic calculations. Then, when we get to a certain level of science learning, we discover Einstein and how he blew the notion of time to pieces. Through his work on special and general relativity, we know that there is no absolute time. Time is not constant like we intuitively assume. There are mind-boggling ideas of time being slowed down by mass and it changes depending on how fast an object is moving. That in fact time is linked to space through the concept of ‘spacetime’. The more we learn, the less we seem to understand and we yearn for those simpler days of moving hands on a clock to learn how to tell the time. 

As Carlo Rovelli talks about in The Order of Time (2019) and his Royal Institution lecture, time’s properties mean very strange things occur, such that our head ages at a faster rate than our feet! Scientists now are pretty unanimous that there is no actual concept of “now”; what we consider now is actually not now on a distant planet lightyears away. Just take that as an idea, the fact that we are measuring a distance using a time measure of a year shows how intricately linked space and time are. We also know that the only equation in the whole of the body of science that even considers time to have a direction is the second law of thermodynamics. For everything else, we can seemingly work with time that does not need to flow from the past to the present to the future. It is only through our understanding of entropy needing to flow from the past of order to the future of randomness that we consider time to have this directional nature. The more we discover in science, especially on the quantum level, the more our intuitions about time are proved wrong. Is it this when we turn to other disciplines outside of science?

There is no question that science must work alongside philosophy especially when dealing with time. Time is one of those bones of contention that has been argued about for centuries. In the Hellenic period, there was a split between those who saw the world as a static place (e.g. Archimedes) and those who saw it as essentially flux (e.g. Aristotle). Aristotle was a great thinker about time, it is from him that this idea of time being the counting of change started and science has come back to this model of time. Philosophers have battled to find the answer to the question “what is time?” and like the scientists, no definitive answer has arisen. Plotinus considered the nature of time and stated “Time is the moving image of eternity” and “time is not something separate from soul, not the same as soul; it is the energy of the soul”. This Neoplatonic view has heavily influenced many in the creative arts such as T.S. Eliot who I will consider later in this reflection.

Various religions have their interpretations of time and how it was created by whom. Some see time as a linear process with a creator God starting time and that we follow a line from His creation along the timeline that He has mapped out for us. Other religions see time as a more circular path. In Buddhism, the idea of time and as a result, impermanence is what results in suffering. Ancient religions such as the Celtic Druids held time as important, the root of many festivals still celebrated today, was in the marking of time, with huge structures such as Stonehenge built to mark the seasons and the wheel of the year.

Literature has always tried to explore time. The most famous literary novel exploration is probably Prousts’ In Search of Lost Time which is a fictional piece of work heavily influenced by thoughts of philosophy of time. Other pieces of work such as Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude explore how time feels to pass. Children’s literature too such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland explores time more fantastically with some of the best-known quotes about time.

Poetry too not only explores time and the human perception such as the famous line ‘Stop all the clocks’ by WH Auden, but perhaps in a more direct way than longer pieces of prose, they use time as a poetic method.TS Eliot is one poet who, as mentioned earlier, due to his philosophical background contemplates the nature of time, and many of his poems reflect this. Some emphasise the individual experience of time such as his earlier ‘Prufrock and Other Observations’ and the experience of timelessness, others look at the fundamental nature of time, particularly in his later poems, the question of time is increasingly religious such as in ‘A Song for Simeon’. There is a lot of evidence in the poems that Eliot is influenced by Plotinus’ view of time. In his earlier poems, there is a consistent emphasis on daily routine, the cycle of the morning, afternoons and evenings and this comparison of the external world of time passing and the human consciousness of time.

 “And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.” (TS Eliot)

There is a sense of preoccupation with time and its control but also patterned by the cycle of seasons. It leads back to this human conflict between us wanting to be in control of something and understand something that seems to just pass us by and nothing we can do can alter that. In Four Quartets memory becomes a far more powerful key, retaining in time, timeless moments. This links to the idea that Rovelli talks about in his Royal Institute Lecture, that it is really our brains that are the ultimate time machine of deciphering what is past, present and future.

There is a strong exploration of the concept of time in art and photography. Both in terms of exploring the nature of time and using time to help portray the meaning behind the picture. We use time to date art, such is our need as humans to categorise things due to the time in which they were made. We can do this in art by looking at the materials used but also the style and techniques that were used at the time of the creation. For example, we can look at a cave painting and know it was from a different era to an impressionist piece. On the next level, we can help deduce from a painting, what time of year or even time of day a painting is portraying. For example, in Canaletto’s View of Venice with St Mark’s (1735) he conveys that it is late afternoon by painting long shadows that stretch across the square. It is this linking to a certain time of day that helps give Canaletto’s work a strong sense of place as time is such an important theme to portray. A piece that isn’t linked to a time would not appear to have as strong of a connection to the real place. However, Van Gogh subverts this and deliberately paints the night sky in Café Terrace at Night in vibrant blues, violets and greens which seems to highlight the concept of the time of day being night even more. As well as time being used to indicate the time of day in paintings, there are examples of symbols that are used to discuss the idea of time. One such symbol is the skull which is used to indicate the time of passing into death. One interesting use of this is in Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassador (1533) which has a large distorted skull in the foreground. Could this be an early sign of the ambiguity of time? More traditional symbols appear in Vanitas paintings. We see skulls, candles, hourglasses to indicate time throughout still life compositions. In Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott (1888) three candles appear on the boat with her to show the passing of time on her journey.

The bizarreness of time has been explored in art too. The most famous example is probably Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) which is said to have been influenced by Einstein’s work of a similar time on relativity and the nature of time. Einstein described how time bends due to gravity and Dali made the step to showing if time bends, do watches too?

Photographs too often are set up with the premise of capturing “a moment in time”. By the very nature of them, in contrast to moving film, a photograph is a snapshot of time. However, there have been cases of photographs not necessarily portraying the moment in time the viewer is led to believe. One example is Capa’s The Falling Soldier (1936) an early war photograph that depicts a soldier falling backwards after being shot and is said to depict the moment of his death. However, the image is controversial as it has been suggested it was staged and that it is instead a posed photo. Another example perhaps of time not always being what we think it is!

The use of special effects play with time. In the media of film, we can view things faster or slower than we perceive them normally. With super slow motion cameras, we can slow events that happen in milliseconds right down to see in more detail than ever before the mechanisms of things such as explosions.

Few would disagree with the idea that music has a special relationship with time. This time connection is not without parallel in other expressive arts; drama, film, dance and performance art all involve time performances. We know that the ear is a better device than other sensory organs for extracting many types of temporal nuance from perceptions. Music parallels science in that musical events have a unique time ordering. One is that musical time, except that, found measured out in the metronome markings of scores, has a subjective, experienced, psychological component. This much-discussed subjective impression of time is affected by various qualities of the musical texture, notably activity level, and to a lesser extent, timbre, pitch, etc. This dichotomy between clock or objective time and experienced or subjective time has had considerable discussion in music. Musical time is designed by the composer and articulated by the performer, not empirically received by the listener as the result of natural processes governed by physical laws. Some composers have subverted this, such as John Cage’s Piano Concert (1957) where the order and inclusion of parts are at the performer’s discretion. Music also continues to show this fascination we have as humans as marking the passing of time. The classic example is Vivaldi’s popular ‘The Four Seasons’ which honours similarly that the ancients did the passing of the seasons and the magic which is the wheel of the year.

Through this rather jumbled reflection of some of the ways, humans interact with the concept of time has confirmed to me the wonder of the human mind. We can take something that on one level seems so intuitive to us and expand our knowledge radially to the point where we realise that we don’t understand anything at all. Time is truly an interdisciplinary topic that shows the importance of all disciplines working together to form collective knowledge. We can never truly understand anything if we narrow our focus on one academic subject. At the same time, do we ever truly understand anything?