Posts Tagged 'debate'

Funeral Procession for the Death of Public Services Manchester Mule Article

After my talk at the funeral, I was interviewed by Manchester Mule (click for the full article). This is an exerpt:

Louise Woodcock, a local artist speaking at the event, said to MULE that the cuts show that the government “doesn’t value art, and are just focusing on things that make money, rather than things that might be meaningful and valuable in other ways.

“We need more meaningful activities and more meaningful forms of communication to make sense of the world, especially when things are difficult – art is how we do that, so at a time like this it’s an essential thing to have in our lives.”

Rosanne Robertson, organiser of the Manchester Artists Bonfire, said the purpose of the event had been partly to bring together artists and other groups of people fighting against the cuts, saying that their concerns “all tie into the same thing: we’re not happy with the way things are and we need an orchestrated response.”

My talk focused on broad ideas about funding for the arts. I discussed the Coalition proposition that we are to accept that the arts should be one of the first things to be cut and that we all have to tighten our belts in this time of recession. I discussed the fact that we are being asked to believe that it’s our responsibility, the people on the street, to make sacrifices to help the ruined economy, not the people who caused the damage. I discussed how the Roosevelt government during the Great Depression in the US during the 1930’s poured money into the arts and other public services. I talked about how the American art establishment and economy is still reaping the benefits of movements like Abstract Expressionism which could not have thrived without early support from the ‘New Deal‘ strategy. I discussed the fact that Orson Welles Macbeth, featuring black actors in lead roles from Harlem would not have happened. I discussed the need for art in our lives especially at a time when we have little resources and feel an urgent need to communicate and to express ourselves, to make sense of the world.

Rosanne Robertson’s talk focused more on the local issues around the cuts especially to the Greenroom and the Castlefield Gallery who are both about to lose all their arts council funding. Rosanne also discussed the need we have for art in a broad sense as well as locally.

Womb performed after Rosanne and I spoke. We used Indian Singing Bowls, used the coffins as percussion and wailed. This was Rosannes first performance with us. Rosanne played the stylaphone. The mood felt sombre but celebratory. There was a definite feeling of positivity, of not of giving up. Someone joined in on a trumpet playing the Funeral March and people clapped along with us.

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Funeral Procession for the Death of Public Services

There will be a funeral precession for the death of our public services on the day of the Royal Wedding, Friday 29th April at 12.30pm. Rosanne Robertson and I will be giving a talk about the cuts to the arts from our own perspectives. Please RSVP to the Facebook event. You must wear funeral attire as a symbolic gesture.

Bury ‘Wakes’ Performance with Jennifer McDonald

The highlight was when this guy started joining in at the end…

The performance clip is around 6 minutes in. A 10 minute video will be uploaded soon.

It was a novel experience performing on a Saturday afternoon in a grand and echoey Victorian art gallery… A bit of a difference to our last performance in a room above a boozy cafe on a Thursday evening.

The layout of the event was like a market with stalls along both sides and artists groups plying their wares. Some were present, some just appearing on small lonely screens on big wooden tables. The cold light of day and the fluidity of people coming in and out and walking around the huge space meant we didn’t feel like we had an audience in the same way as at Fuel. It felt looser. We decided to take our time and play for around half an hour, which we did.

It’s an odd experience performing improvised music/sound as your concept of time changes vastly. It almost feels strained to take your time. You feel you want to throw yourself into it. You do want this to happen, but if it happens too quickly, you don’t explore the sounds enough. You have to have some restraint to get the most out of your playing. I think the Victorian vibe helped keep the wolf from the door. This is sometimes not as enjoyable as just going ‘mental’ but the recordings always prove it pays off. I don’t care too much about the audience as you’ll never please everyone, especially if you try to, but you want to do your best and get the most out of the performance when you do it. That is also for the audiences benefit. I suppose if you please yourself, you can’t not please some. Performance is about playing for me. Art making is about playing. It was great at the end of the performance we got a young chap joining in smashing the bits up and really getting into it. We thought we might have really annoyed the staff at Bury but they were really good about it.

Magnus Quaife made a video that shows a gathering of sorts, although I didn’t really notice much at the time. The video is really well shot and I really want to get it on youtube but I’m a little inept at video technology. I’ll get it done soon.

Performance with Jennifer McDonald – Counting Backwards

Here’s part of a lovely review from the Other Room:

The evening began with Jennifer McDonald and Louise Woodcock. Aside from their performance, which I will talk about in a moment, they were visually brilliant, wearing identically cut dresses, Louise’s blue, Jennifer’s green. Side by side, they looked like panels from a Mondrian painting or a technicolour version of the twins from The Shining. Their performance was centred on two large, white semi-ovoid structures, one held by each woman. These were beautiful objects, like the hatched eggs of the roc, the giant bird from the tales of Marco Polo and Sinbad. These structures were brushed with fingers, scraped with what looked like a bone, drawn on with pencil in a way which suggested automatic or spirit writing and otherwise manipulated until, in a Gustav Metzger style peak of frenzy, they were shattered. The sounds were remarkable, suggesting themselves, shifting, mutating and layering and drifting away before they could be fully identified. I heard the creaking of haunted timbers, the wailing of a Poltergeist, primal simian howls. The fragments were then allowed to fall and this too was beautiful: the tinkle of glass, the slip of skree. The structures were then partially re-assembled with masking tape, held to microphones to create feedback and destroyed again. At the end of the performance, as the two women stood amongst the fragments, the loft-like upstairs space of Fuel became a Francesca Woodman photograph. Then they swept up.

Click for the rest.

Sonic Arts Forum – Presentation

I will be presenting and discussing my work this Saturday 22nd May as part of the University of Huddersfield’s Week of Speakers event.

The purpose of this event is to draw upon a wide range of expertise and discuss how the use of sound (and technology) is changing the nature of practice across several different disciplines within the arts.

This is a great opportunity for me to discuss my work with other artists interested in working with sound from a range of backgrounds. I am excited about discussing my work with Sonia Paco-Roochia who comes from a classical musical background.  I am very fond of her work. She uses technology (Max MSP) that is mind boggling to me, but in a very intimate and subtle way, not a big blokey wankfest as is so often the case with such technology.

Crochet Placenta

I am attempting to make a large crochet object using red acrylic inspired by the placenta and other body organs. I’m interested in why we see these objects as so disgusting when they serve such wonderful functions. I am especially interested in the placenta as my work is concerned with childbirth and motherhood currently and the fears and anxieties I associate with these ideas. I want to make something grotesque using a traditionally ‘feminine’ craft.

I noticed some of these images are actually conventionally pretty (see above) and I wondered whether or not to make a delicate work. I decided this wouldn’t work as this is not what we see as a placenta usually and I wanted to explore the abject in brutal form.

After a long process of freeform crochet, I eventually made a tube with biomorphic sacks at different intervals along it and of a variety of shapes and sizes. I decided to use an ‘unnantural’ red colour rather than a blood red which draws attention to the synthetic nature of the material and the question of whether an organic object be hand made. I thought of the object being in a giant bird cage. I decided that a meat hook and rusty chain would be effective and not detract from the form too much.

The shapes I made depended greatly on my mood and environment as the whole process took over two months. I made decisions about the intervals between sacks, how loose or tight the tube was and how long it would be which changed on an hourly basis. Sometimes from minute to minute.

I knew I wanted to make a large bulbous sac at the end of the tube which would represent the birth sac for me. I also decided I would like veins to run through it. I tried blue and grey but in the end I found brown to be the most appropriate colour for the piece. At first, I tried to stitch single lengths of wool on with very thin fishing wire but this was lengthy, fiddly and not secure enough. I asked an expert (Sue Debney at University of Salford) and she showed me how to crochet lines into the piece. This was much more effective.

As I was making the object, I imagined sounds that would work with it. I imagined pigs squealing at first. I thought of possibly getting sound from an abattoir. I then thought that actually would be too brutal. I then thought of a baby crying. The piece was intended to be about motherhood in some way and I decided this would fit. I may still use the pig idea for a future piece.

A friend had recently had a baby, Ivy. I asked if I could record Ivy and luckily for me she was teething so was really vocal! Not very lucky for poor Ivy. I edited the best parts from the recording, there was a lot of background noise etc. The sound on it’s own still didn’t seem right. I played around with changing the pitch and that was it! It was perfect. It wasn’t too much of a shift but it made the recording sound like an adult and sometimes like an animal.

I used an installation room at Salford to test out different ways of hanging the object and placing the sound. I used sound forge to edit the sound. It was lower quality than I expected as I had not set the Zoom recorder that I used correctly. I decided that playing it through a tape recorder may be an effective method. It would change the meaning and connotations of the sound a great deal. I decided to place the speakers in an adjacent space next to the room. It made it seem like the voice was from another room and created a different sense of narrative. It placed the viewer between the sound and the object which seemed to make the viewer more active.

I decided that a meathook would be effective as a hanging device for the object. I made a wooden beam and got a length of chain from B&Q. The chain would have looked better rusty. I later made that adaptation.

At first I tried the chain hanging low (see above). I decided against it.

You can see the end wasn’t finished when I began to try out ways of hanging the piece. I wanted to put an inflated balloon to keep the bulbous parts shape. This was unnecessary I found later.

The first time I showed the piece, I played the sound very loudly as I thought people may not hear it or they might miss it because it was a quiet part when they walked in. I asked people to write comments and on the loud day, they all said things like ‘terrifying’ and ‘someone being murdered’. After advice from Helmut Lemke, my tutor at the time, I played the sound very subtly. That day, instead of running out of the room screaming, people came out very sombre and contemplative. Some said it reminded them of Guantanemo Bay victims. Some said it was like a man giving birth. Some said the sound seemed like an elderly woman in death throws. I was immensely pleased with these reactions. It seemed to become more real and not like a horror film with just a change of volume. Now we’ve become desensitised to images I feel there is a need to re-connect with the reality of these horrors. I hope I can achieve something similar again.

Click to see the final piece and hear the sound.


Louise Woodcock

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