Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life at the Tate Modern

Exhibition Reviews

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I have been a fan of Eliasson’s work since I first saw one of his pieces in person as part of the exhibition Light Show at the Hayward Gallery a few years ago, so naturally I had to go to his solo show at the Tate Modern.

I particularly liked how interactive some his works are, and that some of them specifically rely on audience interaction and participation in order to work- I think this kind of engagement in works of art is key for artists who wish to make their work more accessible to a wider audience. Also being able to participate and interact with the works makes them more enjoyable- you are no longer just a passive viewer but actually a part of the work and this turns it into an experience that the audience will remember.

I was also interested in the display of tests, experiments and maquettes; it is fascinating to see how these have then become full scale pieces and they are beautiful in their own right. I’m really keen on exploring the artist processes but often in exhibitions you don’t get to see any of the work, research, or processes that goes into creating the works on show, so it was inspiring and exciting to see this in such a high profile exhibition. I also liked that these took up the first room of the show as it felt like an insight into the artists’ mind and thinking/making process, before moving on to see some of these fully realised in later rooms.

There was a real sense of playfulness in a lot of the works which really spoke to me, as art displayed in galleries can often feel quite self important and frankly a bit boring- I loved being able to dance in front of the lights, walk through the tunnel of mirrors, peer through the wall at my friend on the other side as our faces became distorted, and get lost in the room full of fog (although it was quite disorientating which I want to discuss further). Art that allows for fun and silliness is always far more memorable to me, as I remember the feelings and experiences for far longer than I would probably remember a static piece of art. The way he utilises mirrors, shapes, and the manipulation of light is incredibly clever and somehow just as dazzling in person as it is in photos.

I want to talk about accessibility a little bit. Whilst most of the spaces in the gallery could be navigated by visitors in wheelchairs, or with other mobility aids, the mirror tunnel (Your Spiral View) unfortunately can only be accessed by steps, which is a shame.
A solution could be to install ramps either side instead of steps- which seems like an incredibly simple solution that I am frankly surprised they did not think of. As well as this some of the other works that are best enjoyed by looking through them are not at a height that wheelchair users could access- some of them might be difficult to replicate and have at a more accessible height, but it is definitely something to consider when creating or installing works with this kind of interaction in mind. Even though there were only a few pieces that were not fully accessible for those with mobility issues it still could affect many visitors enjoyment and experience of the exhibition as a whole. It should also be mentioned that most of the works rely heavily on vision, so those with vision impairments will not get much out of a lot of the works on display. I know that art is a predominantly visual medium but I feel that we should be working towards making art as accessible as possible, and one of the way we can do this is through engaging other senses, such as touch and sound, for example. Some of the works that use water have sound, but for the most part the works are silent, and untouchable. 

I found the fog room (Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas) quite overwhelming due to the temperature, the tight space, and not being able to see properly, so this could pose an issue for people with anxiety or sensory issues, and I found Big Bang Fountain very difficult to spend too long with, again because of sensory issues- it could also prove to be an issue for those with photosensitive epilepsy. Whilst both works are playful and fascinating I think it’s crucial to bring up these issues for discussion so that we, as artists, can consider the impact our work will have on others. I am not saying we shouldn’t make certain kinds of work, but it is imperative that we have these discussions and are aware of the impact it could have.

I was lucky enough to go on a day and time that was quieter, so I was able to experience the exhibition in a much more personal way, which was especially helpful for the works that did make me anxious and cause sensory overload, however I can imagine on a busy day that it would be incredibly overwhelming for people like myself with anxiety/sensory issues. I have been thinking about how difficult a busy day would be for not just people with these issues but again for people with other disabilities and difficulties, and how this might put a lot of people off visiting bigger art galleries and museums. I feel that it is a topic that again needs discussion, but this time not between artists and people with different needs, but between curators and managers of galleries/museums and people with different needs. Limiting entry and timed tickets is of course one way to do this, but it still feels like they oversell tickets a lot of the time to the point where the gallery space is still far too crowded. I wonder if specific days and time slots could be reserved for disabled/neurodivergent people, so that we could experience the exhibitions in our own ways, or if this would feel like we are being excluded from the space when other people are there? It is a tricky topic and something that would need research and time put into in order to come up with a solution that would work best for everyone.

Whilst on the topic of accessibility I feel I have to mention the cost- at £18 per person for a standard ticket, or £17 for concessions, this exhibition is NOT for people on a budget. Children under 12 go free- but when the adults accompanying them are paying so much it really is not affordable for many people. If we truly want the art world to be more accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford it, we need to make exhibitions like this cheaper (or ideally free). I won a Tate Pass for a year as part of my work with the society I set up and ran at uni and if it wasn’t for that myself and my friend who accompanied me would not have been able to afford to go. We are lucky here in England that the main collections of many art galleries and museums are free to visit, but a lot of working class and disabled people do not see themselves represented in the older works of art shown or find them engaging. If we want more people to engage with the arts the works shown In Real Life at the Tate are crucial- as they can expand people’s ideas of what art is and should be- but when exhibition entry fees are so high this prices a huge group of people out who would otherwise really enjoy it and get a lot from it.

So, in conclusion- not at all accessible in terms of cost, and some of the works are particularly inaccessible for the groups of people I have mentioned. Is it beautifully curated and full of stunning work? Absolutely. Is it perfect? No. British art institutions letting down working class and disabled people, as usual.

Arebyte Gallery: VR Workshop with Studio Above and Below

Workshops

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This weekend as part of the London City Island Open Studios event I assisted with running a virtual reality workshop at Arebyte Gallery with Studio Above and Below ! This workshop was designed for local children to engage with their surroundings in a new way by Studio Above and Below, and I was there to assist and make sure the workshop ran smoothly. We introduced the children to the concept of Virtual Reality, and using the maps SA&B had already made of the island we encouraged them to draw and add to the maps to use later. We installed the VR application onto their mobile phones, and then took the children out on a walk around the island to photograph interesting textures and colours on their phones- these were then uploaded into the application! We then went back outside to try out our new textures and shapes, using the maps and the app to make our drawings and textures come to life as VR sculptures on our phone screens! This was my first time working with VR and it was really fascinating assisting and learning more about how VR works and can be utilised to engage people in art and the world around them!

(Video clips to follow, I still need to edit them and upload to Vimeo/Youtube)

T-Shirt Printing Workshop at The Playground

Residency at The Playground, Workshops

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I was asked to pitch two workshops as part of my artist residency at The Playground- one of these was a t-shirt printing workshop based on the one I ran earlier in the month at 3rd Rail Print Space. It was for adults accessing the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) mental health services nearby at Maudsley Hospital on Denmark Hill. This was the first time I have ran a workshop for an older audience, but it went really well!

We asked each participant to come up with a drawing on paper to then turn into a paper stencil using a craft knife. I assisted with this when needed, then demonstrated how to use the paper stencil and a silkscreen to print onto a t-shirt using the inks provided- we encouraged them to help each other during this process, and also encouraged experimenting with marbling the inks on the surface of the screen. One of the resulting prints is shown above (God is the world photo).

Overall I was really pleased with how this workshop went, especially given it was my first time working with adults! Everyone seemed pleased with the t-shirts they made, and I think it ended on a really positive note. Engaging the local community in the arts like this is something I am really passionate about and hope to develop further in the future- not just with children but with teenagers, vulnerable adults, and adults who might have an interest in art but no experience. If we want the art world to truly be more accessible to everyone then workshops like this are really crucial, and I hope to keep doing work like this.

Research Into Creating For Wider Audiences

Accessibility Project, Internship at 3rd Rail

Dyslexia Friendly 

Key Points:

  • choose a more legible font- i.e. Arial, Comic Sans, Calibri, Open Sans (Sans Serifs preferable)
  • High contrast between text and background
  • larger font sizes and slightly bigger spaces between letters and words, and between lines of text (kearning/tracking/leading)
  • Off white neutral backgrounds with minimal patterns or pictures work best
  • Avoid uppercase/all caps/italics/underline, use bold if emphasis is needed
  • avoid green and red/pink as these are difficult for people with colour blindness
  • matt paper

Braille

Key Points:

  • tactile reading and writing system for visually impaired, blind, or deaf blind people
  • Braille symbols are formed with a matrix of up to six dots called a cell- a cell can be an individual letter, punctuation, number, or a whole word
  • uncontracted Braille- every letter is individually spelled out
  • contracted Braille- is like a form of shorthand Braille used for faster reading and to save paper
  • https://www.brailletranslator.org/

https://www.livingpaintings.org/
– These are books made for blind and visually impaired people, with the illustrations raised so that they can be touched and felt

https://thepurposelab.com/2014/09/5-tips-to-make-your-print-design-more-accessible/
– a helpful breakdown of the basics

Conductive ink
– could screenprint in conductive ink, creating an electrical circuit- this could be used to make my prints “speak” or something else?
https://www.bareconductive.com/news/make-sound-interactive-mural/
https://www.wired.com/2013/10/conductive-ink-turns-paper-into-musical-instruments/

Things I could try/consider for future print based works

  • could try printing and applying different textures to my work- flocking, foiling, or using puff binder? This would mean my prints are more tactile
  • print on off white paper and be mindful of colours used
  • print in Braille?
  • choose fonts that are easier to read
  • making larger scale prints than I normally would, to aid legibility

This is just some research to lay the ground work for the project, but I think it’s a good start and there is already a lot to think about and potentially experiment with!

Collages (Prep for Zine Making Workshop)

Residency at The Playground, Workshops

I’m running a drop in zine making workshop for young people as part of my artist residency at The Playground next week, so I bought some newspapers last week to make an example zine to show at the workshop. This is the result so far! These collages will be made into the zine (hopefully).

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The above collage is a poem called “What Happens Next?”

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This collage is called “Jacob Memes Mogg, or We Won’t Take This Lying Down”20190911_175957

This one is called “Cheeky Homophobia”

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And finally the “Nigel Farage Poem” (not the most creative title but it does what it says on the tin!)

I think given the current political climate this is an apt piece of work, and the zine will possibly called “Dangerous Men” or something along those lines, because although these men are often the subject of memes and jokes they are in fact very dangerous men. I’m actually really pleased with these so far, it was my first chance to be properly creative in a few weeks and I knocked these out in a couple of hours! Life is stressful after uni, but it’s moments of creativity like this that make it worth it.

Paper Stencil Kids Workshops

Internship at 3rd Rail, Workshops

 

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Today I ran two back to back kids workshops at 3rd Rail Printspace (where I am currently interning). Both workshops had the same format, with the same end goal- every child drawing and cutting their own paper stencil design to then print their own t-shirt with.

They both went as follows:

  • Introduction to the task
  • showing the children a paper stencil in progress (i.e. some of the drawing still visible, some of it cut out already)
  • Getting the children to draw their own designs, assisting with the cutting out with a craft knife or scissors where needed (children were only to use safety scissors provided, not the knives)
  • doing a print demonstration using one of the children’s artworks- placing the t-shirt onto the carousel (already prepped with adhesive), taping the paper stencil to the shirt, putting the screen down onto the shirt, getting the child to choose the colours they wanted, blobbing the ink directly onto the screens using a paint brush, then pulling the ink across the screens with a squeegee
  • leading the printing, and pulling the ink if the child didn’t feel confident doing it and cleaning screens between children with rags and water
  • supervising the children blow drying their designs with a hair dryer

Prep done before the workshops:

  • mixing the pigments with binder (making the inks up basically)
  • applying adhesive to the t-shirt carousel board
  • stripping, cleaning and degreasing the 3 screens used
  • taping up the screens
  • cutting rags
  • drawing a rough stencil design and partially cutting it as an example
  • checking numbers and getting the correct amount and sizes of t-shirts out ready
  • setting out cutting mats, paper, scissors, erasers and pencils for the children
  • setting out t-shirt examples from previous workshops

Overall I am really pleased with how they both went! The first group was comprised of 12 11 year olds, and the second of 10 13 year olds, which are larger groups than I am used to leading an activity for, but I think I handled it really well- all the kids seemed to really enjoy it and were happy with their t-shirts! Both of them ran over time a bit, but I think with a bit more prep work and now having the experience I can keep them within the time limits in future.

 

Residency at The Playground week 1

Accessibility Project, Internship at 3rd Rail, Residency at The Playground, Weekly Summaries

“The Playground is offering a 2-month summer residency for ten 2019 graduates from Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon. This is a socially engaged residency and we invite creatives to be resident one to two days a week. The residency involves an exchange of four hours towards working with local communities in a public programme. This could include working towards a showcase of local peoples’ art, assisting at a public event, or contributing curation skills. The residency and the public programme will be coordinated by The Playground staff. As part of the summer residency graduates will get: • The opportunity to curate and exchange skills and creative practices with the local community through activities and events.
• Access to studio space at The Playground Monday-Friday 10am-6pm.
• Practice development through Careers and Employability and training on working with community groups.
• Kitchen access (free tea and coffee).
• The opportunity to be part of a pool of workshop leaders and assistants for further paid work.

About the Playground: The Playground is a space for us all to meet, hosted by Camberwell College of Arts, to share our interests and find ways to achieve new things together. In the coming months we aim to make things happen in this space for all ages through multi-arts events, showcasing opportunities, workshops and open access to lo-tech making and digital technologies.”

– info taken from The Playground Summer Residency application form

I applied for this residency and got it! As part of this I have given myself a project further exploring accessibility in the arts and the gallery space, leading on from my river project that I worked on during the MA. As I also have the internship at 3rd Rail Print Space I have decided to focus on accessibility in print. Print based work can be quite inaccessible for those with visual impairments, and reading and comprehension difficulties, such as dyslexia- so I want to challenge this and explore how we can make print based works more inclusive.

Here is a photo of my wall space behind my desk at The Playground, and a photo of what I’ve written up so far about this project:

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The pink sheet was taken from a current exhibition at the Wellcome Collection that I visited two weeks ago, and I think it helps to set the focus for this project.

Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic

Accessibility Project, Exhibition Reviews, Residency at The Playground

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” Explore how our biases affect our perception and whether our senses can be hacked. Discover spirit photography, magic props and psychology experiments to see how magic works on – and in – the mind of the spectator.

Artefacts on display from the world of magic include the head of the gorilla costume worn by Derren Brown, Harry Houdini’s ‘Bell Box’, Tommy Cooper’s fez, and Paul Daniels’s sawing-in-half box. ”
– Taken from the webpage

This exhibition is currently on at The Wellcome Collection, exploring the psychology of  magic tricks and illusions, examining modern and historical tricks through a scientific lens. I found it very fascinating, as like most people I was very fascinated with magic as a child, although it does spoil the fun a little to learn how it is done! I particularly enjoyed the video content in the booths (as shown in the photos) labelled Perception, Reasoning, and Memory as it explained the three aspects to magic tricks that utilise the flaws in our brains to make tricks seem believable. Each one broke down a different trick into its base components and it was actually super fascinating. I also really loved the old newspaper clippings and posters for magic acts- really aesthetically pleasing and I wish more art and advertising would hark back to this style and era. (Examples below)

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The older films and photosets of tricks being broken down, shown, or disproved were also fascinating to see- it just goes to show how human beings interest in the unknown in universal, and I found it really curious how people who were well known for being supposedly rational were willing to suspend disbelief for magic and psychics. People such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, well known for his detective novels about the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, were believers in the supernatural and mysterious- something that seems strange when you consider the quest for logic and scientific reasoning present in his books.

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In terms of accessibility the exhibition had lots of engaging content, all with subtitles, was well laid out for wheelchair users and those with mobility aids to get around (although more seating would have been nice), and there were large format guide books available. There were plenty of videos that could be listened to for those with visual impairments, however nothing was available for visitors to touch, and as magic and illusory tricks are very visual by nature I think visitors with visual impairments might struggle to get as much from the exhibition as those without visual impairments. As someone who gets easily over stimulated by sound I found the exhibition manageable as some video pieces had headphones available, and none of the videos had audio that was overwhelmingly loud. I also found the subtitles on the videos very helpful. In terms of lighting it was quite dim all the way through, which might be to preserve the older photographs, and print based works, but it made it tricky to read some of the descriptions and might not be comfortable for people who struggle in low light conditions.

 

Pigment Samples Project

Internship at 3rd Rail, Weekly Summaries

Second week of my internship at 3rd Rail Print Space and I have been given a project to work on, which is super exciting!

I’ve been tasked with creating a set of pigment sample swatches on fabric to make into a book of swatches for clients, and also to scan and digitize these for the website.

What I’ve done so far:

  • Made a file of 10cm × 10cm squares, each with a 3cm border of blank space around them on Photoshop, which I then printed onto film
  • Coated and exposed a 48 silkscreen for fabric with the 6 square design
  • Mixed half of the pigments up with transparent fabric binder, ready to be printed with and made note of which ones I had and hadn’t mixed yet
  • Ratio of 6g of pigment to 100g of binder
  • Printed 6 of these colours onto the fabric (pinned and ironed out first)
  • Ran those 6 through the baker machine

I think one of them (fluoro orange) will need to be done again as it has a mark, but I am happy with the other five. I am concerned that the other fluoro colours aren’t as bright as I think they should be, but I followed the ratios correctly, and they match the booklet from the company, so I’ll check with my manager when I’m back in on Thursday. This is an ongoing project that I’ll be working on whenever it’s quiet during the 9-5 of my internship, until I have all 19 colours printed, scanned, edited and uploaded online as well as physically to do be made into a swatch book. This is a really good way for me to learn all the stages of the process, so I’m really pleased to have been given this to do!