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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

12/06/22 - Pod Build

Wilderness Pod Build: Mock Up

Wed 27th April 2022

Acts of Practice: An intimate and amplified sensory experience.

This is the blog post in which I finally have a conversation with myself about me making artwork. After the many months of walking in wilderness’, collecting imagery, sounds and experiences of remoteness, I am now at a stage where I can interpret and direct this varying ‘data’ into a composition that is of an artistic substance.

To be frank and honest, I had no idea what I was going to do with the ‘data’ I collected from those journeys. I suppose no artist really has a solid idea of what they are going to do with the materials in front of them and it is quite a daunting task trying to figure this artistic equation out. As you will have read from my previous blog posts, I have been thinking about manipulating photographs and sound into formations that reside on the notion of otherness. I have always had a fascination towards this concept, and it has been evidenced within the research proposal but overtime (and as expected), concepts and interests develop. Through practice-lead research and investigative inquiries my thoughts on compositional landscape models have brought me back to earlier stages of my practice. Just to confirm, myself reviewing previous work is a panic move but more of a going back to the point of the research origin. It is easy to get lost in developmental stages and those original interests and ideas can become quite easily entangled in the research stages. This is not a negative issue no, I thought it right for me to step out of the cluster and look to reflect on earlier forms of outcomes.

The earlier stages of my practice relied heavily on installation art, but clinical and fitting for any white cube gallery. My thoughts were and are considering the gallery space and how could a remote landscape find its way into such a setting. Before my landscapes were represented in an abstract form, attempting to push audience notions of what a landscape could be. There is still a clear drive for me to achieve these notions but what if I was to just tone down these forms of the abstract and the alterity, and what if the landscape was experienced much clearer, how could I create a ‘simpler’ outcome?

There is collective thought here of the simple and experience. This is not me talking about the audience experience but of my experience and what they were when with the landscape. These experiences were not shared (unless you have been reading my blog entries), these were intimate and personal, no other human lived through what I was a part of. Therefore, how have I evidenced intimacy? Sound has been one of these evidenced materials. I think about the headphones and their relationship with oneself. I cordon off my external sounds and give over my ears to the internal playback of collected recordings from the landscapes I visited. That form of sound experience is highly personal, and it is that idea of creating a piece of work for a singular being, who can be removed from the rest of the gallery is where my thoughts lie.

Let’s refer to earlier outcomes of mine. If we look at ‘Close’ (2015) and ‘A Moment’ (2014-2019), I invited audiences to find a willingness in themselves which engaged them with the work on a personal level. Audience members had to physically move themselves through the work, and with ‘Close’ a bending of the body was needed to dive under the initial installation to appear within the body of the work. My thoughts lie within this idea of the audience members engaging physically with the work, but this new work does not have to be created on a large scale and be that of a clinical nature, it just needs to resonate that sense of intimacy. It must have that idea of the headphones and the removal of a body from the rest of the gallery and so, can a sculptural installation do just that?

Where am I now then with this current concept? Without skipping too far ahead and talking about the build, I started sketching up ideas on intimacy. I took the confinement of ‘A Moment’ (2014-2019) and drew sculptural towers that restricted the viewers movement but allowed them to cascade their view upwards, a connection one would have when in the forest, looking up at the treetops. Keeping in line with the forest, and once again something I have previously discussed is this idea of bending and crawling through the entrance to the forest, something experienced with ‘Close’ (2015). My sketches evolved into a headspace pod, suspended from the ceiling in which the sculpture vertically drives down to around waist height of an adult human. A physical action of bending and coming up from the bend and into the sculpture must be initiated to engage within the piece. For me, I have just designed my intimate headphone space, my removal from others, and my skeleton framework for the sculptural installation.

The following paragraphs discuss my thoughts on each individual material use and their purpose within the sculptural installation.

Branches – I have collected a bag full of fallen tree branches from Over Silton when on one of my day trip residencies. I thought that bringing a physical part of the landscape into the work could allow for a more tangible experience between object and subject. Again, I do not want this piece of work to be as clinical as previous works and so, using the ‘real’ landscape materials I can create a direct recognition for the viewer when they enter the pod and look up. The viewer will see a forest roof top from the internal perception of a forest and not as an aerial perception.

The branches criss-cross the pods negative space from either side to give the effect of branches moving from their trunks. Using nail pins, they have been stuck into place.

Light – The light fitting used is an LED ceiling panel with a warm light and a soft defuser, to distribute the light evenly. The light fits equally to the pods shape, meaning that the square fitting is perfectly placed on the roof of the pod, distributing light evenly around the inner space as well as giving a full light coverage of the roof, for when viewers look up.

The notion to landscape with the use of light is that simple connection to the sun. When in the forest and when we look up, we see that daylight. It evolves and adapts and changes frequently and although this light does not change it still plays an integral part to the work. It is that sky but with the quantity of branches added to the insides, only small pockets of light can be seen, although the luminosity does illuminate the internal pod space.

Mirror – The mirror used is a self-adhesive mirror roll which applies finely onto the inner wooden surfaces. I wanted to use mirror to amplify and emphasize the branches. I wanted the branches to echo through the space and as the mirror lines each side, an infinity effect will occur, creating further space within an already claustrophobic space. With ‘Close’ when the audience navigated the tighter space, they were forced into a restricted element of the work, but once they were through that section the work then opened into a much larger space. I see the mirror as a tool that can create that form of space.

Haze/smoke – This material I have used as counter reaction to the mirror but also to adjust perception for the viewer. Smoke within my work has always been a tool to distort the viewer experience by adjusting their sense of perception. I talked recently about being lost in the forest and that panic that sets in when not knowing where you are. Although the viewer will clearly know where they are when in the pod, the smoke can just spark that little concept of lostness. Each material works together and when I discuss sound you will hopefully understand the collaborative use of materials.

Sound – The viewer who enters the work will wear a set of wireless headphones. The headphones will play recordings I have collected from my residencies. They will be of natural landscape sounds and give the viewer a ‘live’ recording of nature. The sound is an immersive projection of the real landscape, it connects the viewer to nature and nature that is liveable and has been experienced by me. It is the point of transition, though the viewer remains within the pod, amongst the collaborative materials, they can perceive and recognise the miniature landscape pod, but the sound playback cuts them off from the gallery space.

Future images to follow from exhibitions*

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