Module 101 Critical Evaluation

Introduction

At the the beginning of the course I expressed my interest in architectural glass on the basis that I had not really explored it fully as an undergraduate and felt that this was unfinished business. I also mentioned my interest in public-led art. So for my initial question I wondered if glass can be understood as a suitable material for public-engaged art..

I decided to use a live competition brief as a basis for this module. The Stevens Glass Prize is an annual architectural glass competition from The Worshipful Company of Glaziers & Painters of Glass. This year’s brief is to design and, if successful, fabricate two windows that will be situated within a dance studio at Eastbourne College. I looked at the works of architectural glass artists and I also researched contemporary dance as the space would be used primarily for this aspect of dance. This research led me to contemplate how my current research around dance interplays with the technical constraints and potential of architectural glass.

During my research into dance I looked extensively into using Labanotation which is a system of recording and analysing movement and gestures. I was also drawn to the the subcultural aspects of dance and that form of public engagement.

Creative Practitioners

As a point of departure I felt it was necessary for me to identify other creative practitioners whose work I admire which is relevant to mine and examine their work.

Brian Clarke’s glass practice runs in parallel with his canvas paintings which in turn also inform his glass work. Mark Harrison’s (1994) essay noted that the paradox of glass art is that it is inextricably linked to architecture so therefore it is ignored in the art world who view architecture as commodity capitalism. Clarke combines both roles as painter and glass artist, without compromise. There is a symbiotic relationship with both disciplines running in parallel. Before the renaissance, art wasn’t anything other than applied art, yet critics seem to have a problem with the “craft” element of stained glass. Maybe the ecclesiastical links deter serious appraisal (Harrison, 1994, p. 6-7).

Brian Clarke

Fig. 1: Brian Clarke. Roof lights for Norte Shopping Centre, Rio de Janiero, Brazil, 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Harrison’s essay led me to the possibility of combining my creative practice as an attempt to unite the design discipline of architectural glass and my interest in conceptual contemporary arts practices. However tensions have become apparent between client-led design and how I want to use glass within a socially-engaged practice. Architectural glass is usually associated with commercial, commemorative or ecclesiastic public art. Also the research that I have undertaken, particularly in dance as well as my interest in subcultures, have highlighted my reservations regarding a singular architectural glass making practice. I revised the research question and asked if I can successfully diverge this research and so that the architectural glass practice could run parallel with a multi disciplinary contemporary arts practice.

Nick Crowe’s 2006 “Operation Telic” comprised a series of twelve hand engraved panels of 2mm float glass. The panels was presented in a darkened room and each was underlit with simple LED lights. This series is based on official photographs found on the MOD website. The original images presented show British forces “winning hearts and minds” in Iraq in 2003. Godehard Janzing (2007) noted that these original images are staged with the photographer at eye level. This visual strategy forces us to participate and “conceals a complex game with exchanged and inverted standpoints” (Janzing, 2007, pp. 17-18). Crowe has re-staged the digital imagery into something tangible, the underlighting highlights the green glow of the night-viewing device of a weapon (Janzing, 2007, pp, 21-22).

 

Operation Telic - Nick Crowe copy

Fig. 2: Nick Crowe. Operation Telic, 2005-2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance Research

I also read a collection of essays about contemporary dance as this studio space will be used for this particular dance genre. Although dance is corporeal and performative, other aspects can also be investigated, for example music, rhythm and dance notation. However, I felt it was appropriate to also think about the social experience of dancing and its wider contexts.

Henri Lefebvre’s essay explored the nature of gestures or dressage. Lefebvre (1992) suggests that gestures are not innate and “these manners are acquired, are learned” (Lefebvre, 1992, p. 151). Something passes as natural when it conforms without effort to accepted models. To enter into a society or group is to accept its values, bend to its ways. Dressage is based on repetition to break-in people to perform a certain act (Lefebvre, 1992, pp. 151-152). Dance performances are the result of repetitive practices. Each individual dancer has to instinctively perform their gestures and also be aware of their position within the performance space. Whereas dance within the counter-public sphere may at first appear spontaneous, however subcultures tend to define what are accepted modes of dance expression.

Gesture is a common feature of the performance of rap music and breakdancing is a creative dance alternative to gang violence. Encoded gestural messages comment on other dancer’s perceived lack of skill. These “Battles” were conducted to usually settle disputes and allows a discursive basis of dance of the signifying tradition (joshing, banter) prevalent in African-American popular culture (Osumare, 2012, pp. 165-166).

The sub-cultural dimension of dance, which is performed mainly in the public domain, is beginning to inspire me to research this aspect from a sociological point of view. Visual artists have used the subject of dance sub-cultures as a source for their creative practice. For example Mark Lecky’s short film “Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore” presents a surreal timeline of British nightlife culture. Also Jeremy Deller collaborated with the Williams Fairey Brass Band fusing Acid House music with the traditional sound of a colliery brass band. “Acid Brass” (1997) is a collaboration between these music-based communities.

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Fig. 3: Jeremy Deller. History of the World, 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been familiarising myself with Labanotation which is the accepted standardised form of notation used by choreographers. This system is not particularly intuitive and I have been investigating its possible use to record and present informal dance moves. I have subsumed subcultural references to my notation with the intention of presenting dance from the public domain. I am attracted to the potential of presenting publicly an intriguing interactive puzzle which engages and frustrates in equal measure.

Craft Research

I came across an interesting section regarding problems with CAD design. Before the advent of digital design, the tactile experience of creating artist’s impressions gives the designer a greater understanding of how the finished design will appear. Rendering each brick or window would increase familiarity especially in combination with regular site visits. Subsequent redrafts increase that familiarity. Using CAD creates a disconnection between the simulation created digitally and the tactile reality of drawing (Sennett, 2009). This observation I found particularly relevant. I visited the site and the space was still being built. Despite talking to the client as well as taking photographs, it was a struggle to clearly visualise the site as a finished space. In hindsight I should have visited at a later arranged date. For a client-led commissions I would have to liaise with the client and visit the site more than once. I am starting to question how I view myself as a practitioner. Am I a designer or am I an artist?

Evaluation of Body of Work

After my initial research I began to work on ideas through sketching and used labanotation as the basis. I was drawn to this notation as it is not immediately understood. This presents an enigmatic puzzle as the symbols have a runic and hieroglyphic quality. I also devised a decryption device to aid the viewer.

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Fig. 4: Adele Retter. Decryption device pictogram, 2017-2018.

 

 

 

I researched the notation so that I could create a combination of gestures that would allude to subcultural references. Although notation can be open to interpretation, I nevertheless wanted to produce an accurate representation of these gestures. This is to ensure that when the riddle is solved, there is some kind of reward. I felt that it should at least make sense.

The gestures that I recorded were quite banal. One of the windows would refer to the derisory “big fish, little fish, cardboard box” description of ravers throwing shapes and the other will feature the semaphore arm gestures of “YMCA” from The Village People’s disco hit of the same title. I introduced perspective ito refer to the “Tomb Raider” computer game and Oskar Schlemmer’s geometric architectonic stage as a setting for a strategic abstract game (Birringer, 2013).

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Fig. 5: Adele Retter: Preliminary sketches for “Big Fish…” and “YMCA”, 2017-2018.

 

 

 

However, after a period of time-consuming engagement with the tactile drawing process, I realised that this would be unsuitable for a dance studio at a boarding school. I was forced to acknowledge the perceived expectations of the client and this has forced me to compromise my original design. The subsequent design is purely a graphic assemblage of the symbols, although a neat clean solution is nonetheless a creative concession. I have made a design decision to present a more suitable outcome, yet the time invested with familiarising myself with the notation is a disappointing outcome. This final design is devoid of any context which frustrates me as an artist.

 

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Fig. 6: Adele Retter. Cartoons of final designs, 2017-2018.

 

 

 

A lot of time was spent learning the system for presenting something deliberately facile and I also feel that working on two briefs has meant that I have been unable to dedicate fully to either. This failure of time management has created problems for me. This also hampered my research as I struggled to establish a coherent theoretical framework.

I now feel compelled to re-establish my direction on this course. It has become clear to me that the “unfinished business” of my architectural glass exploration probably should have remained unfinished as I now feel that this should have been confirmed prior to this module. Additionally there are many technical considerations of this discipline as well as the expected creative compromises. Glass is beautiful and this is what attracted me to it, yet my familiarity and persistence with this material has meant that usually only see glass as the final outcome.

 

Plans for Module 201

Originally I was planning to liaise with architectural glass fabricators Proto Studios with a view to observing their work practices and potentially making the finished windows. However, the research question has now evolved to reflect the re-evaluation of my research.

“How will my future research into dance, notation and subcultures be realised within the context of a socially-engaged contemporary arts practice?”.

I have always tried to frame my work conceptually where the idea has as much importance as the final outcome. I believe this approach can be fully realised within a multi-disciplinary contemporary art context. The research that I have undertaken about dance confirms my belief that this is the direction that I will want to take forward.

However I still want to explore glass but within the context of a counter-public sphere. Grant Kestor’s essays “The Sound of Breaking Glass” would be an interesting starting point to examine how subcultures use glass as a canvas for their expressions of identity and to challenge dominant hegemonies. I would also like to attend this year’s Social Making conference. The last conference was very interesting and I feel that now I will have a better understanding of my own intentions regarding my socially-engaged practice.

The research I have undertaken has inspired me to look further into dance in the public domain, particularly the subcultural aspects. The performative nature of dance and the dancer’s agency can be investigated. Which would lead me to ask for example is it competitive one-upmanship? Is it about the identity of the individual representing a particular subculture? Is being “lost in music” a transcendental state?

I want to present a body of work for the Plymouth Art Weekender. The body of work would be a collection of visual artifacts that I have produced to reflect the research I have done. Or alternatively an installation around the theme of dance, music and subcultures.

 

Appendix 1 – Bibliography

Harrison, M. (1994). Eloquence from intractability. In: Brian Clarke Architectural Artist . Academy Editions, pp.6-7.

Janzing G. (2007). This is Propaganda. In: Huffman K, ed., Nick Crowe: Commemorative Glass, pp. 17-23. Manchester: Cornerhouse.

Lefebvre, H. (2012). Dressage//1992. In: A. Lepecki, ed., Dance Documents of Contemporary Art , 1st ed. London, Cambridge: Whitechapel Gallery, MIT Press, pp.151-152.

Osumare, H. (2012). Global Breakdancing and the Intercultural Body//2002. In: A. Lepecki, ed., Dance Documents of Contemporary Art , 1st ed. London, Cambridge: Whitechapel Gallery, MIT Press, pp.165-166.

Sennett, R. (2009). The craftsman . London: Penguin Books.

Birringer, J. (2013). Bauhaus, Constructivism, Performance. PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art , pp.39-52.

Appendix 2 – Further Reading

Clarke B. (1994). Drawing on Architecture. In: Brian Clarke Architectural Artist, pp.18-19. Academy Editions,

Powell K. (1994). Architectural Artist. In: Brian Clarke Architectural Artist, pp.12-17. Academy Editions,

Van Imschoot, M. (2012). Rest in Pieces: Scores, Notation, and the Trance in Dance//2005. In: A. Lepecki, ed., Dance – Documents of Contemporary Art , 1st ed. London, Cambridge: Whitechapel Gallery, MIT Press, pp.216-217.

Pye D. (1968). The workmanship of risk and the workmanship of certainty. In: The Nature and Art of Workmanship , pp. 20-37, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Finlay A. (2002). Labanotation: The Archie Gemmill Goal. Edinburgh: Morning Star Publications. Kandinsky W. (1947). Point and Line to Plane . New York: The Soloman R. Guggenheim Foundation. Gropius W, ed. (1961). The Theater of the Bauhaus . Middleton: Wesleyan University Press.
Kipling Brown A. (2008). Labanotation for Beginners. Alton: Dance Books Ltd.

Hutchinson Guest A. (2005). Labanotation: The System for Analysing and Recording Movement. New York: Routledge.

Bowlt J. (2014), Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution & Design, pp. 263-294 . London: Nick Hern Books Ltd.

Davies P. ((2007). Glass North East, pp. 56-90 . Sunderland: Art Editions North.

Appendix 2 – List of Images

Fig. 1: Rooflights for Norte Shopping Centre, Rio de Janiero, Brazil, 1996. Available From: http://www.brianclarke.co.uk/work/works/item/133/5 [Accessed on 27th March 2018, at 15:45].

Fig. 2: Nick Crowe. Operation Telic, 2005-2006. Available from: http://www.nickcrowe.net/online/operationtelic/operationtelic.html [Accessed on 27th March 2018, at 16:08]

Fig. 3: Jeremy Deller. History of the World, 1996. Available form : http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/deller-the-history-of-the-world-p78412 [Accessed on 27th March 2018, at 16:21]

Fig. 4: Adele Retter. Decryption device pictogram, 2017-2018. Available from: http://adeleretterglass.co.uk/2018/01/my-creative-process-sketchbook/ [Access on 27th March 2018, at 16:33]

Fig. 5: Adele Retter: Preliminary sketches for “Big Fish…” and “YMCA”, 2017-2018. Available from: http://adeleretterglass.co.uk/2018/01/my-creative-process-sketchbook/ [Accessed on 27th March 2018, at 16:38]

Fig. 6: Adele Retter. Cartoons of final designs, 2017-2018. Available from: http://adeleretterglass.co.uk/2018/02/final-design/ [Accessed on 27th March 2018, at 16:49]

Technical Journal – Screen-printing Coloured Glass Powder

For this test I have borrowed a textile screen which is a coarser 43T. I’m don’t know what the thread count is per inch but I will only pull the powder through 4 times.

The Optul colours that I am using are:

Chrome Green (FF 0076/0)      Red (FF-BF 1015/0)

Orange (FF-BF 1025/0)            Light Green (FF 0072/0)

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I have decided to use the same firing schedule, 825ºC for 15 minutes. I have also ensured that I am printing on the non-tinned side.

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Again the result are a bit underwhelming. The light green is almost invisible and the red is more of an orange but it is a nice deep orange. The chrome green and the orange fired okay. The high temperature has caused devitrification. The previous firing was cloudy but i presumed it was picking up the bat wash from the kiln shelf.

 

To conclude, the Optul colours seem too muted for my liking. I was hoping for more vibrant colours. Also I was expecting a greater range of coloured powders as transparent enamels are only available in blues, greens, yellows and pinky violets.

I am considering laminating strips of fusing glass onto the back of the windows, or creating each symbol with fusing glass and laminating each symbol to the windows. This would mean that the edges of these constructed symbols would be visible through the sandblasted window.

However I was happy with the results of the enamels test, but I wanted more variety of colours. Alternatively I could just use a nice bright yellow as this could contrast with the cool sandblasted background.

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I covered the back of a sandblasted version with resist, then removed the resist from behind non-sandblasted area with a scalpel. Then I applied mixed enamel into the cut out areas.

 

I received an email answering my query regarding the silkscreens and the screens used in the printmaking workshop use imperial threads per inch. So the 120 screen is within the accepted threshold.

Technical Journal ­ Results of Screen­-printing Powder

After firing the powder in the kiln I was underwhelmed with the results. The Brilliant Schwarz was not so brilliant. I was expecting an opaque black, the result was grey. Also due to the high temperature the float glass picked up the texture of the kiln shelf.

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However the images were surprisingly sharp around the edges. The middle example on the left was the best and that was 6 runs through the screen.

 

My conclusions are that screen printing dry powder seems to be successful. The images were pretty sharp around the edges and holds the image well. The choice of colour Brilliant Schwarz didn’t “strike” to a darker colour black and was a little too grey. Fusing at 825ºC caused the back of the panel to pick up the texture of the kiln shelf. This could be resolved by firing on to fine ceramic paper. I will continue this test using coloured powder. I will also try a coarser screen to pull the powder through.

 

Sandblasting and Painting on Glass – Technical

Sandblasting

I am using a scaled-down (1:5) image of the designs that I produced for making samples and maquettes. I traced the design onto a sheet of sticky-backed plastic and then stuck it onto a sheet of greenhouse glass, ensuring there was no bubbles. Using a sharp scalpel I cut out the traced design and removed the sections that I want to sandblast.

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Painting Colour Swatches on Glass

For this test I have been using Degussa transparent enamels as these were available to hand.

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Although I have been using greenhouse glass, the final piece will be rendered on 6mm toughened float glass. As there will probably be a different result for these different types of window glass I thought it would be necessary to apply paint onto float glass. The reason I use greenhouse glass is that it does not have a “tinned” side, unlike float glass, so it is ideal for painting. The tinned side of a piece of float glass can cause problems when applying paint, so you need to determine which is the tinned side so you can use the other non-tinned side. The best way to determine this is to used a tinned-side detector, which is a UV light that you shine through the pane. If the light is very dim, then that is the tinned side facing you, if the light is more visible and has more of a glow then the non-tinned side is facing you.

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To mix up the enamels I sandblasted a spare sheet of glass to make a mixing palette.

I masked off the offcut of float glass and then I mixed the enamel with some water and gum arabic.

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I blended the wet paint using a badger brush, sweeping gently holding the brush perpendicular to the glass, so that the tips of the hairs are just in contact with the enamel on the glass.

However I was not happy with the result as the masking tape prevented the badger brush from sweeping cleanly. So I removed the masking tape.

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This is my first attempt and the results are much better without the masking tape. However you do need to do this when the paint is still wet. If you continue to “badger” the enamel as it drys, it will scratch into the surface leaving it streaky.

Final Design?

After recent tutorials and looking at the labanotation that I created of the simple hand/arm gestures, I felt that there was no need to actually used these as they have no relevance to the site and the client.

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So I have decided to use the notation as a graphic assemblage of the signs and symbols.

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Both designs still use the “staff” in perspective to add dynamism and movement, whereas the supporting symbols are flat 2D. I have played with the scale of the symbols so small symbols appear larger than they normal, and visa versa for the larger signs.
The layout suggests that these symbols and signs should be annotated in some way, rather like in a page layout in a “How to Do” book. I managed to create vector drawings of both windows to full size so that I can print out a full size cartoon of each design.

left_window right_window

There is still the potential to tweak these but I feel I need to get these designs onto glass where I can finally experiment with colour and texture.

Tutorial with Alan Morris 24/1/18 and Kim Charnley 30/1/18

Tutorial – 24/01/3018 – Alan Morris

We discussed my reservations about the designs that I created and we both agreed that a more conservative approach to the aesthetic would be more suitable. We discussed the logistics of creating large-scale architectural glass and the resources available at college and I pointed out that most artists do not fabricate their own work due to the scale of these types of projects. Alan pointed out that my practice is probably design led and the making is in the form of samples and maquettes.

 

Tutorial – 30/1/18 – Kim Charnley

We discussed the background research that I have undertaken and the interesting directions that I have attempted to adapt to the design, which may form the basis of other projects. Kim agreed that I was right to think about the suitability of my designs in relation to the client. We discussed developing designs to scale and how this will be realised in glass with colour, texture etc. Kim suggests that I think in parallel to this and look at glass in an interdisciplinary context as a way of exploring the background research that I have undertaken, for example subculture. This module might include more than one line of examination around architectural glass. Contemporary art includes glass, eg vitrines etc. Kim thought it would be interesting to separate my enquiry into a design and contemporary art context, exploring the same research.

Refining the Design

I decided to produce scaled-up sketches of both windows, from 1/10th to 1/5th, to get a better idea of how the imagery works.

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I feel that the imagery is unsuitable for the site. There is too much emphasis on the subcultural which would probably work in a club in Ibiza, not a dance studio at boarding school. The labanotation on the floor of each corridor will refer to gestures alluding to the subcultural references, so the smiley face and mirrorball are unnecessary as I want these gestures and moves to be discovered by the viewer. The corridor in perspective refers to the architectonic stage of Schlemmer and Gropius, there is also a suggestion of computer games such as Tomb Raider. The architectonic stage is illustrated by Oskar Schlemmer’s Figur und Raumlineatur below.

Figur und Raumlineatur

Figur und Raumlineatur

I have decided to simplify the imagery so that the labanotation is the focal point. The sketches show that the notation is fighting with all the other images; the corridor and the subcultural signs and signifiers are battling for attention. I have decided to retain the perspective as this added movement and dynamism to the previous design. This is a rough sketch of the revised design.

sketch

After a lot of time consuming research into labanotation I have finally completed the notation for these windows that I want to present.

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There are four gestures for each. The top is quite complicated as I had to include the positions of the palms of the hands. The bottom “staff” is mainly arm gestures spelling four letters. I will probably create digital versions of my notation so that they can be manipulated to create a perspective view. then I can finally experiment with glass and look at colour and texture.

Tutorial – Gayle Matthias – 8/1/2018

Gayle pointed out that I should focus on the client and look at the history of the college, its alumni whether anyone went on to gain any recognition with any particular piece of music, choreography etc that you could reference. I did some research and the only connection to music and dance was a couple of ex-pupils formed rock bands. 

As suggested by Gayle I looked graphic design, particularly Saul Bass and Neville Brody and Rodschenko. She noted that the windows look a bit like bookends and I have considered the large expanse of mirror between both windows.  

I have looked at the school and its relationship with contemporary dance and it has hosted performances and workshops from significant contemporary dance companies, such as Rambert and hosting Experiential’s “Bridging the Void”

My impression is that Eastbourne College, although a traditional boarding school, is keen to promote and engage with contemporary dance and the building of a new dance studio attests to the enthusiasm in engaging with contemporary dance.

My Creative Process – Sketchbook

Initial scribblings

I was exploring the dancing form using stylised figures. The "big fish..." idea was starting to become a common feature.

I was exploring the dancing form using stylised figures. The “big fish…” idea was starting to become a common feature.

The feature of dance studios is a large expanse of mirror, in this instance it it between the two windows. During a recent tutorial with Gayle, it was noted that the windows appear as bookends and the spines of books could be a source of inspiration. The disco mirrorball and a labanotation symbol were a possible solution.

The feature of dance studios is a large expanse of mirror, in this instance it it between the two windows. During a recent tutorial with Gayle, it was noted that the windows appear as bookends and the spines of books could be a source of inspiration. The disco mirrorball and a labanotation symbol were a possible solution.

 

The influence of Labanotation was starting to inform the composition.

The influence of Labanotation was starting to inform the composition.

Gestures/Dressage

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During my research I looked into gestural expressions of the hands, which are an important feature of hip hop performance. Accompanies the verbal dexterity of African American working class "signifying" tradition of "dissing" your opponent during rap battles.

During my research I looked into gestural expressions of the hands, which are an important feature of hip hop performance. Accompanies the verbal dexterity of African American working class “signifying” tradition of “dissing” your opponent during rap battles.

Labanotation

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These pages shows the translation of movement and gestures into notational form

These pages shows the translation of movement and gestures into notational form.

 

These sketches indicate how these may appear. I used black paper and light coloured pencils to replicate the highlights, as opposed to the lowlight of shadow. The problem with these compositions is that the relationship between movement and notation is too apparent.

These sketches indicate how these may appear. I used black paper and light coloured pencils to replicate the highlights, as opposed to the lowlight of shadow.
The problem with these compositions is that the relationship between movement and notation is too apparent.

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“Rosetta Stone”

Creating a cypher that the audience and use to explain the notation and follow the movements within the composition.

Creating a cypher that the audience and use to explain the notation and follow the movements within the composition. There are 3 element to the system, the “staff” where the notation is presented; the parts of the body and their associated symbols and the kinesphere which indicates positions of gestures and movement within the personal space of the performer.

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This is a sketch of a pictogram illustrating how the system works. I am keen that this should be an interactive experience where the viewer gleans the information from the "Rosetta Stone" and follow the notation within the composition.

This is a sketch of a pictogram illustrating how the system works. I am keen that this should be an interactive experience where the viewer gleans the information from the “Rosetta Stone” and follow the notation within the composition.

Window Compositions

I researched Oskar Schlemmer which led me to look at the Russian avant garde, particularly Constructivism and Suprematism for inspiration. I wasn't particularly happy with my attempts/

I researched Oskar Schlemmer which led me to look at the Russian avant garde, particularly Constructivism and Suprematism for inspiration. I wasn’t particularly happy with my attempts.

 

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My previous attempts were too flat and two-dimensional. Adding single-point perspective seemed to add dynamism.

My previous attempts were too flat and two-dimensional. Adding single-point perspective seemed to add dynamism.

 

Here is a colour rendering of both windows. the corridor effect leading to the "key" explaining the notation on the floor of the corridor, like hieroglyphs. The mirrorball and Smiley offer more clues to the dance genre that the notation indicates.

Here is a colour rendering of both windows. the corridor effect leading to the “key” explaining the notation on the floor of the corridor, like hieroglyphs. The mirrorball and Smiley offer more clues to the dance genre that the notation indicates.

Problems with CAD – Designing Before Making

 

Reading – The Craftsman – Richard Sennett

Since the late nineteenth century, the blueprint was equivalent to a lawyer’s contract where the complete design concept has been presented as finished before it has been constructed. For architectural projects Computer-Aided Design is an invaluable tool for designing and presenting these large projects. However there is a disconnection between head and hand design when using CAD. Even before the advent of digital design, the design process was a combination of drawing artist’s impressions and making models. The tactile experience using pencils and pens gives the designer a greater understanding of how the finished design will appear and also greater familiarity with each brick or window that is rendered. The materiality of the bricks and the site becomes ingrained and with each site visit, you redo the drawings again. This circular metamorphosis can be eliminated with CAD and large scale, complex architectural projects could not have been made by a group of architects working by hand.

There are three failures that impede good design when using CAD

  1. Disconnect between simulation and reality
  2. Disables a relational understanding
  3. Over-determination

 

Peachtree Center, Atlanta (2004)

Richard Sennett has observed these three failures using CAD for an architectural project. The first issue is that the “disconnection between simulation and reality” highlighted the daily life of the environment where the building is situated. The lack of tactile experience on the part of the designer did not take into account that the summer temperature from late morning until early evening. The streets lined with cafes were not full of people enjoying al fresco drinks as the temperature for most of the daylight hours can be too hot to enjoy the ambient cafe experience.

Secondly, the ability to change the viewpoint to disguise or conceal an eyesore, for example hotel rooms overlooking an ugly car park can be presented as a minor detail and that changing the scene to something more flattering “disables a relational understanding” of the site. Disguising these issues using flattering viewpoints merely hides the problem, not eradicate them.

Sanitised “overdetermination” presents a false impression of how the building will work. The ideal rationality of CAD designed totality does not present the predictable wear and tear of the life of a building or the informality of street life and old neighbourhoods. The “crinkled fabric of buildings” allow small businesses to occupy cheap tatty spaces and the impersonal cool rationality of CAD does little to present this aspect of the evolving urban space.

The tactile act of drawing and the abuses of CAD shows that when there is a disconnect between head and hand are separate, relational understanding suffers if computers do this learning. Solutions to problems can usually be resolved on site through improvisation of the plan through “embodied knowledge” where builders use their experience and physical knowledge of the site and its problems. These manual workers did not sit in the design sessions from the start so therefore unable to point out these design issues. The separation of head and hand in this instance is not simply an intellectual issue but a social division.