Flatland. A romance of many dimensions

Written by Edwin A .Abbot and first published in 1884, ‘Flatland, A romance of many dimensions’

Is a book uses the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on the hierarchy of Victorian culture, but the novella's more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions.

In Flatland, the narrator of the story known as A. Square is visited by a sphere from Spaceland which opens his eyes to the concept of 3 dimensions.

This book is quite dated in its social commentary and also the two dimensional world isn’t possible the way it is described as a thickness is needed to see and feel the sides of different shapes in order to distinguish their social hierarchy. Because of this they are 3 Dimensional.

I have previously read about the fourth dimension and the object/sphere that appears in my story is possibly a fourth dimensional hypercube.

I am currently undecided on what the object should look like. Having also studied UFO research it is interesting how people describe objects .i.e. flying saucers, cigars. The reason they say these recognisable things is because of the human mind and its limitations to describe things but only able to do so using a library of references.

Therefore I am quite interested in how an object can exist but for each individual it appears different.

I might incorporate this into my story.

I looked for the Meta version of Flatland. It is a virtual reality type experience. I’m only able to see tiny previews but it reminds me of trippy rave culture visuals in the 90’s.

Phillip Allen at the Approach Gallery, London

To get to the Approach Gallery you need to manoeuvre through a large pub on the ground floor and then proceed up some wooden stairs.

Once in the space you are greeted with a vast contemporary expanse of white dotted with approximately six Phillip Allen paintings, all fairly small in scale, maybe 30x40 cms.

The white space of the gallery walls surrounding the paintings gives them a real sense of gravitas. When you stand in front of a painting nothing else enters your field of vision so you are free to dive in and enjoy there painterly existence.

I had been a huge fan of Phillip Allen’s paintings from around 10 years ago that straddled Frank Aurbach style thick painting with more graphical signs and symbols. From my own painters perspective I had always struggled to combine these two opposing elements to create a harmonious painting and not something that looks like two different paintings. Allen’s earlier paintings were this bridge.

The new paintings on show at The Approach have had the signs and symbols removed. Having only seen these paintings previously on Instagram I was feeling a little disappointed at their lack of a more graphical content.

When I actually saw these paintings all thoughts of this lack of graphicality disappeared and I was captivated by them.

I walked round the room several times, sometimes making notes:

Treading the line of kitsch and non-kitsch (whatever non kitsch is)

Old masters studios

Thick impasto frames

A deconstruction of a classical painting into a globular collection of stuff

Seurat

Monet

Cake Icing

Bubble-gum cliché

Jeff Koons put in a blender

Painting models with Umbrol paint

Oskar Schlemmer

Oskar Schlemmer’s ballet Triadisches Ballett premiered in1922. It was the most widely performed avant garde dance at the time and toured while Schlemmer was at the Bauhaus.

Oskar Schlemmer began to conceive of the human body as a new artistic medium. He saw ballet and pantomime as free from the historical baggage of theatre and opera and thus able to present his ideas of choreographed geometry, man as dancer, transformed by costume, moving in space.

The idea of the ballet was based on the principle of the trinity. It has 3 acts, 3 participants (2 male, 1 female), 12 dances and 18 costumes. Each act had a different colour and mood. The first three scenes, against a lemon yellow background to affect a cheerful, burlesque mood; the two middle scenes, on a pink stage, festive and solemn and the final three scenes, on black, were intended to be mystical and fantastic.

He saw the movement of puppets and marionettes as aesthetically superior to that of humans, as it emphasised that the medium of every art is artificial. This artifice could be expressed through stylised movements and the abstraction of the human body. His consideration of the human form (the abstract geometry of the body e.g. a cylinder for the neck, a circle for head and eyes) led to the all important costume design, to create what he called his ‘figurine'. The music followed and finally the dance movements were decided.

‘My themes – the human figure in space, its moving and stationary functions, sitting, lying, walking, standing – are as simple as they are universally valid,’ he once said of his work. ‘They are inexhaustible’

Schlemmer’s grasp of theatricality, geometry and sheer eyecatching imagery has made him influential, with the likes of David Bowie and New Order clearly taking inspiration from his designs

Costume for “Night Shadow”: A Guest, 1945

Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern

Dorothea Tanning was an American painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet. Her early work was influenced by Surrealism.

The show at the Tate was very large and comprehensive and showed a wide range of the artist’s career including sculptures and installations to printmaking and painting. I was particular struck by a series of seven lithographs.

I found her paintings equal if not superior to the surrealist greats we all know about, Ernst, Dali, and De Chirico. In fact I preferred them to Dali’s. Tannings paintings had more mystery and softness where I often feel Dali was merely painting literal Freudian translations.

There was a very small section on her designs for costumes and plays.

Tanning’s costumes convey narratives of transformation and push the limits of the theatrical. They often feature uncanny and outlandish face masks or headdresses, like a deer’s head with jewelled antlers (Night Shadow), a tentacle octopus (The Witch) and a bird-like figure with a dramatic spray of head and tail feathers (Bayou), engulfing and transfiguring the heads of the dancers who might wear them. (WIA article 18th October 2017)

All Souls by Javier Marias

I was introduced to this book by Stephen Chambers who quotes it as his first awareness of the Kingdom of Redonda which he then developed into a series of 101 paintings entitled The Court of Redonda.

The story is set in Oxford in the late 80’s and revolves around a Spanish tutor /translator who is teaching at Oxford University and his affair with a married woman.

Although Marias did in fact teach at Oxford the book is largely fiction. Except for the descriptions of Gawlsworth the writer who was to became King of Redonda. It was from this book that Marias himself was later to become king.

Hypernormalisation

HyperNormalisation is a 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. It argues that governments, financiers, and technological utopians have, since the 1970s, given up on the complex "real world" and built a simpler "fake world" run by corporations and kept stable by politicians. The film was released on 16 October 2016

Running at nearly three hours long the film is divided up into sections.

The word hypernormalisation was coined by Alexei Yurchak, a professor of anthropology who was born in Leningrad and later went to teach in the United States. He introduced the word in his book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (2006), which describes paradoxes of life in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s. He says that everyone in the Soviet Union knew the system was failing, but no one could imagine an alternative to the status quo, and politicians and citizens alike were resigned to maintaining the pretense of a functioning society. Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the fakeness was accepted by everyone as real, an effect that Yurchak termed hypernormalisation.

This chapter begins with a montage of unidentified flying object sightings recorded by members of the public in the United States. It argues that the phenomenon surrounding UFOs in the 1990s was born out of a counter-intelligence operation designed to make the public believe that secret airborne high-technology weapons systems tested by the US military during and after the Cold War were alien visitations. Top secret memos forged by the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations were allegedly leaked to ufologists who spread the manufactured conspiracy theory of a government cover-up to the wider public. The method, called perception management, aimed to distract people from the complexities of the real world. American politics are described as having become increasingly detached from reality. Curtis uses the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s as an example of an event that took the West by surprise because reality had become less and less important. A Jane Fonda workout video is shown to illustrate that socialists had given up trying to change the real world and were instead focusing on the self and encouraging others to do the same. The video is intercut with footage of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, being executed by firing squad and buried following the Romanian Revolution in 1989.

This is a very complex film

I don’t quite know how to pick it apart.

People might describe it as a conspiracy theory but I think that term has been widely developed to deter different views and opinions of reality being expressed in order to keep the current reality we live in.

In his talk at The Serpentine gallery in 2012 Adam argues that brain washing is something that doesn’t actually exist when it comes to ‘cults’ and radically different beliefs. Again it is something that has been developed to make us feel we are a fragile creature that could quite easily be swayed to believe to most ludicrous ideas. We now live in a society that is fearful of anything that could be seen and radically different from the norm thus closing our minds and our society to alternate views and possibilities of the future that could in fact progress mankind. He argues that Christianity was a cult, Marxism and capitalism too.

Because of this assumption that aliens are a fiction the chapter in the film  regarding UFO sightings is particularly relevant. The US government is actively encouraging the belief of aliens to detract from their top secret weapon and aircraft testing. They did this by leaking top secret documents to key UFO theorists who then spread these ideas amongst the larger UFO community.

The reason this was done is an example of the Hypernormalisation, to distract people from the complexities of what was really going on. I don’t know if I believe this. Maybe part of me wants to believe in the mystery of UFOs still.

What I do draw from this is the creation of a ‘fiction’. A fiction many people want to be real and do consider fact. This blurring of fact and fiction.

Captain Eko

Captain Eko is a ‘sonographic’ novel by Professor Julian Henriques.

In his interview with Harold Offeh in Futures and Fictions he describes Captain Eko and her Sonic Warriors: Episode 1 The Clash as a ‘sonographic’ novel, as distinct from a graphic novel. The work includes a soundtrack. Also the images are projected as with a film or slideshow rather than read on a page. The images are drawings, mostly in charcoal . All the artwork was created by Heidi Sincuba.

The soundtrack was composed by Ben Hauke. The soundtrack is not in sync with the story as such; the dialogue appears on the screen between silent movies, rather than in speech bubbles.

Currently I can only find a one minute snippet of this film on Vimeo.

Henriques describes himself as a story teller before becoming an academic and how these two things can run parrale and feed into each other.

“ Also what I find is that Eko’s imaginative world gives her a lot more freedom – to have new crazy ideas- that quite inspire some of my research thinking. The two, fiction and research, work very well together for me. And so that whole way of academic research ideas being kind of informed by creative processes and vice versa was an interesting one, which I continue to persue. And as her name would suggest, Eko is a fictional interlocutor, someone who answers back. And someone I can tell my thoughts as I am writing them down..”

I have just been given permission by pianist Noriko Ogawa and her record label BIS  to use her recordings of Eric Satie for the film 100 Drawings/100 Minutes. I will be adding them soon. 19/05/19

Image copyright Martin Lijinsky

Aurora

Aurora is a new opera by a young composer called Noah Mosely.

I saw it at a small venue in Surrey called Bury Court Opera.

Based on an Italian folk story and set in the Dolomite mountains, the libretto tells the tale of King Doleda whose daughter is withering before his eyes as she suffers from a terrible illness of the night which also killed her mother.  He is desperate to save her, and when the King encounters a charismatic Wise Woman in the woods, the Princess journey of self-knowledge, spiritual awakening, sacrifice and love is set in motion. The powerful story deeply resonates with our modern times. Aurora is the second opera BCO has commissioned from Noah Mosley. 

I enjoyed the opera and I was very inspired by the simplicity of sets and costumes. There were also two counter tenors. I have heard a counter tenor in Damon Albarn’s album ‘Dr Dee’ and I was fascinated by it.

During the Romantic period, the popularity of the countertenor voice waned and few compositions were written with that voice type in mind.

In the second half of the 20th century, there was great interest in and renewed popularity of the countertenor voice, partly due to pioneers such as Alfred Deller, as well as the increased popularity of Baroque opera and the need of male singers to replace the castrati roles in such works. Although the voice has been considered largely an early music phenomenon, there is a growing modern repertoire.

I am hoping to include two counter tenors in a future film.

Plastique Fantastique at IMT Gallery, London

THere was a performance that coincided with the opening of this exhibition. Annoyingly I couldnbt make it due to underground closures.  I have seen video clips of it so I feel I have only experienced half of the show. In the performance they are seen singing, chanting, making looped electronic music. 

When you enter the gallery you are greeted with a series of large scale printed boards possibly referencing Tarot Cards. The images are taken and adapted from two films that are playing in the other room of the gallery.  Some of the boards have holes cut into them and pieces of rope coming out with lights and feathers attached.  There is a feel of intentional 'naffness' about the whole thing. The videos are quite basic in there construction and put you in mind of the film booths you could go in years ago at the Trocadero Centre London and be in your favourite pop video. 

The exhibition Shonky at Bury Art Museum explores the nature of visual awkwardness through the work of artists and architects.

Shonky is a slang term meaning corrupt or bent, shoddy or unreliable, standing here for a particular type of visual aesthetic that is hand-made, deliberately clumsy and lo-fi, against the slick production values of much contemporary art.

The exhibition proposes a more celebratory definition of ‘shonkiness’ and showing how it can be used for critical purposes in the visual arts to explore issues including gender, identity, beauty and the body. By drawing together artists and architects whose work has not previously been exhibited together or discussed within the same context, Shonky allows for new ways of thinking that privilege shonkiness over other aesthetic forms that have dominated recent visual culture.

In a series of conceptual rooms, Shonky explores this aesthetic across a range of media including paintings, sculpture, video, architecture and performance.

Shonky:
 

Fiction as Method and Futures and Fiction

Chicago Imagists. Goldsmiths University 15th March-29th May 2019

The Chicago imagists were a group of artists in the 1960s and 70s. Using a mash up of comic book art, psychedelia, folk art and popular culture.  At the same time as pop art was taking the New York art world by storm the Chicago imagists were developing their own unique style free from the fine art hierarchy. The artists all studied together at The Chicago Art Institute, an institute that housed modern and classical art. Along with trips to the Oriental Institute and field trips to study natural history and anthropology these all helped to inform and influence their work.

The show at Goldsmiths contained a large collection of these works ranging from drawings to paintings to sculptures and prints.

It seems like there is a direct link between the Chicago imagists and also the more contemporary world of Shonkiness that could be explored more in depth.

'In outer space there is no painting or sculpture'. David Burrows

David Burrows is a British artist whose work consists of drawings, paint splattered installations which will may then be filmed and overlaid with a soundtrack.  His research focuses on aftermaths of events and utopian narratives. He collaborates with Plastique Fantastique.

Stuart Middleton Exhibition view, Kunsterlaus, Halle fur Kunst and Medien, Graz, 2018

Stuart Middleton is a multi-disciplined artist working. His practice includes works on paper, video, sculpture and animation. There is a ‘Shonky’ feel to his work that I find very accessible. He also makes a lot of stop motion animations and this is something I want to develop in the future.

He is also a writer and recently performed a piece of fiction at the ICA.

La Jetee film poster

La Jetée is a 1962 French science fiction film by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. It is 28 minutes long and shot in black and white.

I found it very subtle science fiction film but it has influenced so many Hollywood blockbuster movies with its storyline and concept. These include 12 Monkeys and the Terminator series.

Because it was shot as a series of stills apart from one scene where the female lead blinks it had a graphic novel style to it. Its narration put me in mind of the London Trilogy by Patrick Keiller. Although with Keiller’s work there is a complete absence of people.

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