Minecraft

Me and my mam sit side by side on the bed with lots of pillows propping us up. This is how we play Minecraft most of the time. It’s an almost endless game where you can do various things from build structures, to go mining, to farming. There are various game modes but we almost always play survival; you can die but you can re-spawn – just you’ve lost your items and progress. Something that is very frustrating but only motivates you more to be more careful!

I’ve played it since 2012 on an off but only recently have I understood it better than ever and enjoyed the outcomes of playing it. I often build structures and go mining for materials where my mam cultivates the land, farms and collects materials and animals. I remember there was a time my mam obsessively played it, I was the one who got her into it, and couldn’t understand why, but I was in the same position just a few months ago where I couldn’t stop thinking about playing!

Me and my mam share a world or a ‘realm’, where we can play together in the same world. It allows us to share resources, housing and more. We had played together before and I had thought nothing of it, as well as not enjoying it as much, but now as my work takes the turn of exploring the landscape and being in the landscape in my situation, as well as reflecting on my living situation such as sharing a bed with my mam, I feel it very important to pay attention and document this. I also enjoy it more as I take more care building structures and making it more immersive and realistic experience, so rather than just putting blocks across a mountain I take care to build a bridge structure that looks like it’s supporting itself (see images below).

Documenting, however, has proven a challenge; the screenshots do not do the immersive environment justice, as well as a video, can’t capture the endlessness feeling while playing. I have thought about how I would show this if it were a piece of art, something I’m unsure of if it is art or not – whether there’s a performative aspect, but I do know that a more immersive show for the audience, whether that be a tour or letting them into this world, is the way forward.

We’re world-building, and we’re world-building at a time when we have so little space in the real world. I think that’s why I need to inspect and pay attention to playing this, maybe its looking more closely at how we play, as we will often have play fights about the world and we will talk about what we’re doing whilst sat next to each other. Virtually, we have structures, houses, farms and villages to name a few and counting. I would say this world is quite freeing and it could be seen as escapism. Me and my mam have been drawn to world building games, my mam more so than me, with games like The Sims and Animal Crossing, as well as both having an interesting in fantasy and sci-fi; video games and films for me where as books more for my mam.

I do find it quite funny the flack Minecraft gets. I watch a lot of youtube gamers and a lot of the time they either do Minecraft videos or take the piss out of Minecraft players. As with all video game communities, Minecraft is quite male dominated, so for me and my mam; two women, a mother and a daughter, making our own private world just for the two of us is very prominent, in a world where we are equals as it is just the two of us, something so contrasting to the real world.

My next big thing in this world is to build a massive castle. I’ve been taking inspiration from real life castles and tutorials. It will require a lot of materials and time, and it is something I am excited to commit myself to!

See below some screenshots of the world we share:

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Posted in art

She doesn’t like having her photo taken.

My mam has never liked having her photo taken and probably never will. It was a trait I didn’t want to have inherited but it seems I have. However, she allowed more pictures than normal, allowing me to document the Scotland trip even more.

So here are a few pictures of my Mam from Scotland:

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Scotland (Barlett Scholarship 2017)

When applying for the Bartlett Scholarship 2017 my idea was very vague but I knew there was a very big opportunity to explore and expand my practice in quite an early stage, considering I was only in second year at the time. For the most part of second year I was trying out new things and exploring ideas I liked but never knew how to approach them with my art. I have always been interested in photography, both my own and other peoples, and by using old photographs to create new work for myself was a great place to start and jump into this project.

As mentioned before I had some old photographs I had bought off of eBay [figure 1] and I was interesting exploring those through a narrative. At first I thought a narrative would have to include me making up a story but I wasn’t sure how I could do that but then it became very clear that that was not what I wanted to do. I played around with how the images spoke with each other and pairing them together in books but I felt that I was just hitting a certain limitation to the images and where they could go. It wasn’t until I started looking at the image itself very closely and realising they all had something in common; they all shared a nature background.

My relationship to nature is something that is interesting to me. My mum has always had a green thumb and likes her plants and I share that with her but for a while I went ‘off’ nature. I think I got so frustrated because for the most part of my life all I have known is countryside, the north of England has vast amounts of nature but seeing the same green fields over and over gets very tiring. I think it has only been over the past couple of years that my appreciation for nature has come back, which I think has to do with studying in a city and so getting back into nature is something nice and I think also quite simply I really like all the greens.

The nature in the background of the images and my relationship with nature is what came together to form the foundation for this exploration. When I had a tutorial and brought this up and said where I could go I immediately thought Scotland. Scotland has a rich and lush history of nature, of woods, waterfalls, lakes and lochs and I knew that was the place to go. It wasn’t about finding the exact location in the images but more about making new connections forming new relationships and contextualising them for me. I also have a relationship to Scotland as I have always been told I have family from there, who I don’t know, so I’ve always had this very odd connection to Scotland.

I then thought logistics. I couldn’t and still can’t drive, and this trip was about finding and seeing lots of different locations across Scotland not just staying in one place so I would need someone to drive me, that’s where my mum comes in. I thought of leaving out that detail because it seemed a bit embarrassing or unnecessary but it wasn’t until speaking with peers and tutors that this was actually an integral part to the work and it has completely opened a new part of my practice for me more recently.

My relationship with my mum is very interesting and this has made me realise this is something I want to explore further because while I don’t think anything of it, it is quite interesting. All my life it has been just me and my mum and because of that we’re very close. My family is very small and consists just of my auntie, my cousin and my gran and grandad. For the first 16 years of my life my and my mum lived in a house in the middle of a council estate and while my mum had a very good paying job we could never move up and out. We never really fit in with people in our estate, not many people were university educated, my mum being the first and only one before me to go to university, we didn’t really have much in common with our neighbours and people in our street.

At the time of applying for the scholarship my mum had recently lost her job for the second time, we were living in a rented house in a very bad estate and things were quite dull, and at the time of the trip my mum was coming up to starting a new job but we were both living at my gran and grandads. This was a key part of the project that I had not expected to become part of it but definitively enhanced it. Me and my mum were sharing a bedroom in my gran and grandad’s house and the space is very limited and to share that space is very intrusive and being so close we can irritate each other so going on this trip at this time was a very weird one because we were going to be even more on our own, no gran or grandad, and sharing the space of the car for long periods of time and I had not expected it to be that intense when I had applied for the scholarship.

I had planned on doing the trip in the Easter break but because my mum was unemployed she was going to interviews and we had to postpone the trip. I had intended on presenting my work in one of my crits and had been talking about it with my tutor. So when I knew I wasn’t going to have any work I made a ‘prequel’ of sorts. I took lots of photos around where I live, documenting the streets, the area, the house, the bedroom that me and my mum share. I took these all on disposables to get that grain effect and also because I needed to use them up so it was one less thing taking up space. I didn’t really know what to do with the images but when I started talking about them in my crit it became like a performance I was describing the images more but I was also talking about the memory of the place. It wasn’t until then that I really knew what I was going to do with my work when I came back from Scotland but then I realised I could do a performance/talk where I talk less about the images and more about the experience and bring them together. I also did some writing to accompany the images and prompt me, which is why I thought about perusing writing and text more in my practice and using it for this trip.

The actual trip began early in the morning, something both me and my mum weren’t accustomed to at the time with not having to get up early for anything. We travelled up the motorway for a long while, using siri to guide us to the first location as before we got to Scotland there was lots of roads and ways to go but once we were in Scotland I noticed there were less roads and ways to go and we didn’t have to use maps. I mention siri because it became a running joke how funny the voice was and couldn’t say things properly. Reading over my notes of the trip everything seems so small and not worth mentioning such as:

“I enjoyed having cereal”

“Seat rail?”

“CEREAL!”

but writing that made me laugh because at the time it was so funny. There is also me falling backwards and properly falling over to get one picture (because I had to climb a wet mossy tree trunk) – so even though the photo doesn’t seem that significant the moment was [figure 2]. I think when it comes to exhibiting the work, talking about those things with the images will really make the whole thing come together and understand the trip and my relationship with my mum.

The trip pretty much consisted of being with nature and in the landscape [figures 3 – 10], we avoided towns and cities and only visited touristy villages [figure 11] that were part of the nature spots we were visiting. I loved and miss the lochs and how vast and breathtaking they were and how we stayed in one place where it overlooked a loch and to have that would be absolutely amazing. There was a lot of funny interactions at the beginning of our trip when we were in a very touristy spot called Luss. There were lots of American tourists and they were very into it and it was so busy and probably the worst thing to experience but we then went back when it was quiet and it was completely different and a much better experience but I think that’s also reflective of me and my mum’s personalities of keeping to ourselves.

By far the best place we visited was Mull [figure 12-15] and it was just something completely different to anything I’d ever been to before. When I had presented my proposal I had said I wanted to go to the island but I ended up booking the wrong boat so instead of the island mentioned in my proposal I ended up going to Mull. The prices were about the same and next time I go to Scotland I will be going to both islands but I am grateful for going to Mull. We hadn’t realised the size of the island; we had thought it was a small island that we’d get the ferry over to, drive around then chill for the day. What ended up happening was driving around and not having enough time to go the whole of the island. But being on an island where the landscape was so vast and rolling it felt otherworldly and I hope to be able to spend more time on the island next time I visit.

On the trip me and my mum had to share a bed so it wasn’t much different to how it is at home [figure 16] and I think thats quite an odd thing because usually you would share a bed on a trip [figure 17-21] that and then come back and its back to your own spaces but because we were sharing space on this trip as well as at home it was quite full on and then on top of that we were in the car if not in a room so we were never apart. Surprisingly we didn’t get on each others nerves that much, we usually do after a while because we have such similar personalities but I really do think because it was somewhere different there was so much going on that that really helped with it.

By the time it was time to come home I did want to come back but there was such a longing for the landscape because you could tell the landscape was becoming a bit more flat and there were more houses appearing together where as in Scotland there was just so much green and land and interesting things to look at where as England felt very bleak, which is ironic because all throughout our trip it had rained and when we returned to England it was bright sun and warm. [figure 22]

To document the trip I used a few mediums; note taking, photography and sending postcards daily. On the trip I made sure to carry a notebook with me no matter where we were and writing down almost everything, even something that seemed irrelevant. I found it really helped because if not for the note taking I would most definitively forget something that seemed small at the time but looking back may have been much bigger. It also helps me because I want to start exploring text and writing more and this is just another way of doing so. As well as note taking, I wrote a diary entry every night when we were in the b’n’b or the hotel. Sometimes I was very tired and did not want to but I made sure to write what had happened and it was a contrast to the note taking as the note taking was very small sentences and short bursts of thoughts whereas the diary was more thought out and selective.

Photography was the main medium that this trip was based on with the initial proposal based around found photographs. I took both my mums dslr and 2 analog cameras. I took about 10 rolls of film with me, most being 36 exposures and the rest 24. I favour analog over digital for some instants, with analog being more soft and grainy giving that memory effect, what I was looking for in this body of work. However the cost of developing and buying film frustrates me as it does just keep rising in price as it is less common and it does have rewarding qualities. What I don’t like about some digital photography is that it is too sharp and crisp, you lose that quality of memory and becomes more sterile, to me at least. However it does have its bonuses such as more detail, something I was a bit disappointed by with my images from the trip. It also lets you compose an image better and I find I put in a bit more time to composing a shot with digital than I do analog even though you only get one chance with analog where as you have more chances with digital.

A part of this trip I had not anticipated but loved is sending postcards to my gran and grandad everyday. [figure 23-26] I wrote the postcard usually on the night, usually before or after writing my diary entry. It was really nice to write these postcards, especially seeing as me and my mum were living at my grans, being away from them it was nice to connect with them whilst being away. I liked the way they all looked and again it’s another way to explore text as well as archiving my experience in a physical form. A funny thing that happened that felt like the worst thing at the time was sending a postcard, realising that I had forgotten to put a stamp on it, on the postcard from Mull, which was my favourite day and best postcard. Luckily, the postcard came to the house and we just had to pay postage! Archiving the experience through something physical and something I have thought about making into a booklet is something I’m very happy about as bookmaking is something I have experimented with in my practice and usually as an extension of what work I am doing at the time.

When I planned and presented this trip I feel now that my practice was all over the place; I was experimenting with lots of mediums with not a lot of work that I could show/exhibit. At the time I was thinking a multi-media installation made up of audio, video, photography and archiving. The work has definitely changed from that and is much stronger and is still made up of photography and archiving but focusing less on audio and video but they will feature in the exhibition/talk. As previously mentioned I have begun exploring performance through talks and using photography and text to meet somewhere, doesn’t have to be the middle but they both have a job and meet somewhere. Photography is doing one thing, illustrating the experience, giving a sense of what it was like, text is bolding a bigger environment that the picture can’t capture such as space like the vastness of space or what it is like to share a space in that moment.

Until the ‘prequel’ [figure 27] to the trip I was very unsure about what to do with my work but now I am confident that it will be a performance but I am unsure as to where yet. I have done a performance in the lecture theatre but I think the space is too big and because it won’t be filled it isn’t a very intimate space so I think something like the seminar room might be better as theres more room for experimenting too as people could sit in rows of chairs or could sit on the floor or round tables where as the lecture theatre is a set space with little to change in how the audience can interact with it. I also see the photographs being work by themselves and could be displayed in a book or on the wall. However displaying photography I always find myself struggling with because it an often be quite sterile in frames or without a frame it could look sloppy but I think it’s just up to experimenting to find what works best. I could have a slideshow of the images left to play, which ties back into the talk experience but maybe I don’t need to display them and only have the talk and that is it but, again, something to experiment with.

In a dream scenario I would love to have a talk held on Mull. So what would happen is people would have to travel the same way I had, to then get on the ferry and then drive around until they reached where the talk is held. I think Mull because it was an experience like no other, for me it was the first time being on a ferry and it was the first day it wasn’t raining so it completely uplifted the experience but it is integral to this trip for me. Then being on Mull was so lovely it was both my mum’s and my favourite day, the scenery was lovely, the driving was great and it just felt so other worldly and sadly we only got to spend about 6 hours on the island so we couldn’t go all the way round or go to a specific place.

At the time and still do I play minecraft with my mum. We share a world together on minecraft and and we build houses and I noticed within the landscape in Scotland that I was noticing things that would be in the game such as dirt and rocks and how a mountain was formed. [figure 28-29] The game is a game that generates a world and is very big and vast, much like Scotland. I think that is something I am going to experiment with further both in regards to this trip and my practice as it is world building something I felt that I was doing when I was in Scotland especially as we were so isolated in ourselves. And it is also very juxtaposing to compare the situations; we usually play the game sat on the bed we share and in the world we have houses and farms and mountains and just large scale areas, the complete opposite to the real world.

I thought about it on the trip and if I am to apply for the Bartlett travel scholarship again I am leaning very much towards Japan. And at first that could seem quite bizarre from Scotland to Japan but I think Japan has such gorgeous landscapes and somewhere to get lost in and I think it is very comparable to Scotland. Japan seems very harmonious with itself and the landscape. Theres lots of open land once you are out of the city and mountains and I even took a picture that reminds me of Japan [figure 30]. To me I can imagine it being very serene and quiet much like Scotland. I think if I continue exploring my relationship with my mum it’s even more relevant because she is very enamoured by Japan, as am I, and to go somewhere that is so similar yet so different and on the other side of the world to Scotland, would be very exciting and very relevant.

See figures in order of being mentioned:

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Posted in art

Exploring Performance​

For the best part of second year of uni I had felt very lost and confused as to what work I wanted to be doing. I know I wanted to explore different mediums, see what feels right, what works for me, but everything felt very on the surface. I know I have an interest in textiles and ceramics through my mam and a keen interest in photography in general, but displaying photography is something I find quite difficult to get right. It wasn’t until the last few weeks of semester two that I felt that I had a breakthrough in my work; combining photography with spoken word in the form a performance/talk.

I had intended to go to Scotland in the Easter break with my mam with money from the Bartlett scholarship but my mam was unemployed and going for job interviews so it had to be postponed. I felt that I needed some work for after the break especially after not going to Scotland so I took some images on a disposable and called it a ‘prequel’ to the Scotland trip, making up for the lack of work. When it came to talking about these images I found that talking about them was quite natural and that the photograph told one thing while I told another and we met in the middle. I was explaining the photographs just for the purpose of the crit but the idea of a performance came up and it went from there!

Now I have a pretty negative opinion on where I currently live at my grans, and before moving out of my first home for 16 years I lived 2 minutes away from theirs, because of it being a council estate. I have always envied my friends when I would visit their houses and wish I didn’t live in such a run down and depressing place. My mum and I intended of moving somewhere nicer; we had always felt a little out of place, with my mum being very clever with a good job and I was more educated than others that I encountered where I lived and ha no friends where I lived. When talking about this in the performance it is quite odd as to what I can and can’t say because as feeling like an outsider to say anything negative is it being demeaning? It is an interesting feeling to explore because I am not part of the community to myself but to an outsider I am. The subject of council estates actually came up in a tutorial and the extremes that exist of people either going in to ‘fix’ communities without understanding it is such a deep rooted problem or bringing in film crews just for the entertainment of others, but to also bring out the divide of classes even further with anger for how dare people claim benefits, without understanding why people are actually like this and that there is no easy fix.

I had never considered myself doing anything performative but understood that performance is a broad medium that could be whatever you wanted, but a talk is something that could be argued not performative in one sense as it is so every day. Then the legendary artist Holly Hughes came and did a talk for our visiting artist program and her performance/talk was exactly what I was interested in for this work and hopefully, works to come. I organised a tutorial with her the next day and we talked about both my images and writing, capturing my current situation, and pointing out the little things that I don’t notice because for me I have seen or heard it plenty of times but to an outsider, it is something quite significant. I began paying attention a bit more on my visits ‘home’ (my gran and grandad’s house in the middle of a council estate), something I did quite frequently as I live quite near to uni, right in the middle of Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle.

I also do not consider myself a very good writer, I do alright with essays but never something I stand out in but again, speaking with Holly Hughes made me realise that my writing is something important and especially something in this kind of practice very much a part of the process and the outcome. I intend to start writing a diary from now on (but as I write this I know I have forgotten to write some entries but maybe that’s part of it… (maybe that’s just an excuse)) and document everything as the every day is something I have been interested in for a very long time but never knew how to actually document it either.

As I had never done anything like a performance before, aside from strands in first year, I had nothing to go off of so I saw this first performance more of a practice than anything, but I had to admit, I did book out and film the performance for assessment, sorry review and feedback, purposes. I invited Carys and Milly from my year to watch the performance and get a bit of feedback. Even though I am quite close to both of them I felt quite apprehensive to do my talk, not because of the subject but because it seemed so formal and daunting.

Me and my very expressive hands doing the performance/talk:

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The performance lasted for 30 minutes. I spoke about the images going between describing the images and whats ‘behind’ the image, what story does it tell. On review of the work it was agreed that describing the image doesn’t work, telling the story does; it’s putting trust in the audience that they can see and read the image and I fill in everything else, like how cramped a room is, or me bumping into a corner, stuff you can’t see but can imagine once I put words into your head. At first, I read from the computer screen, I had prepared long sentences of what to say in case I forgot; another thing that didn’t work. I had a tutorial afterward to talk about the performance and it was suggested bullet pointing topics and stories that I already know rather than being stiff and uncomfortable, almost reading from a script and feeling pressured by it. As the performance went on I relied less on the text I had prepared and it become more natural and I became more comfortable.

One of my fears of doing the performance/talk is that what worked for these talks is around 30 minutes, which when doing the performance doesn’t seem a long time, but for someone in the audience that can be. I also become increasingly aware of my voice and fear it is too monotone and drones on and that once someone has sat down for a performance they can’t leave even if they are sat there bored out of their skull. Maybe having it somewhere where they can feel comfortable to leave would be good for both them and myself but maybe I have to just suck it up and have confidence in my work and not everyone will enjoy it but they knew what they were in for.

I think in the future I’d like to explore size and scale of the room I do the talks in, because the lecture theatre could have a different feeling being a bit more full or the seminar room, which is more bright and airy and a bit more intimate. Even in my home is an interesting concept because that is where the work is about and it goes for future work, what they’re about and where they are based could be where I perform them as well. For instance, for my travel scholarship work outcome I have considered doing a performance in one of the locations such as on an island I visited, which would include the act of going on the ferry over to an island, adding to the performance and making it feel more special and immersive, or maybe it’s a bit extravagant and unnecessary!

I also think the lastingness of the performance is something to consider. I intend for these performances to be in the moment such as my living situation, a trip away or a moment in time. So for these to be done over and over even when they are been and gone seems that they could be irrelevant to myself, that I am not fully into them. So it could be limiting the number of performances or it could be doing them until something changes ie moving house, again, something to consider and play around with.

All in all I felt like I learnt a lot from doing the performance and it is most definitively a structure I feel confident in exploring further and continue of images, talk, and spoken word.

See below images featured in the performance/talk.

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