Reconstituted Plantscapes

Monochrome Study No. 1 - Black.jpg

Monochrome Study No. 1: Black

Monochrome Study No. 2 - White.jpg

Monochrome Study No. 2: White

I created the photo-collage studies above as part of a birthday card for my sister earlier this year by re-positioning portions of black and white photos taken by photographer Steve Mulligan.

Jasper Johns’ Something Resembling Truth is currently on display at the Royal Academy of Arts near London Piccadilly, featuring works which explore the inherent visual form of familiar icons and symbols such as numbers and the US flag through repetition and decontextualisation.

https://willhowarthmusic.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/afe97-threeflags28195829byjasperjohns.jpg?w=410&h=282https://willhowarthmusic.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/fe248-jm-aa_08_11-1.jpg?w=250&h=333

In many ways, Johns’ work represents a visual analogue to the output of Musique Concrète composers like Pierre Schaeffer. These artists developed a philosophy around acousmatic listening – appreciating the timbral qualities of every-day sounds independent of expectations prompted by our contextual understanding of them. One of the earliest examples of this is Schaeffer’s Étude aux Chemins de Fer, a sonic collage of sounds produced by trains.

I am also reminded of a literary equivalent to this concept, that of the cut-up technique outlined by French-Romanian poet and performance artist Tristan Tsara in the Dada Manifesto:

TO MAKE A DADAIST POEM
Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.

Again, the creative process produces a new work from familiar material, obscuring its original meaning and subverting it through decontextualisation. Since April I have been writing nonsense poetry using a modified form of Tsara’s process, reassembling messages I have sent and received via Facebook. I will be posting samples of this in an upcoming blog post. I wrote about American writer William S. Burroughs’ use of cut-up technique in a previous blog post here.

https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/58eae5a92c00002600ff31c0.jpg?ops=crop_0_0_460_469,scalefit_820_noupscaleSpeaking of Dada, I would be remiss in not mentioning French artist Marcel Duchamp and his seminal 1917 piece Fountain in which he invites the observer to find beauty and artistic value in the shape and form of a urinal, much like Johns’ numbers and flags. It is also on display at the Royal Academy of Arts as part of an exhibition of Duchamp and Salvador Dali’s work.

Their message is reminiscent of Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s writings on the relationship between visual perception and our understanding of what we are seeing. McLuhan argued that the balance of the prevalence of our senses is profoundly affected by the media and technologies we consume. He believed that prior to Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th Century and the subsequent spread of literacy, people were far more ear-oriented than today, their primary means of conveying and receiving communication being oral. Ironically this meant that their level of visual acuity was better than our own. Without the influence of internally-stored standardised imagery – such as typefaces or mass-produced iconography – they had only the actual visual light input from their surroundings from which to construct an image in the mind’s eye.

Afflictor.com · Marshall McLuhan

For us, a glance at Fountain is enough to inform us we are observing a urinal. At this point, memory-based expectation takes over and the actual image we have perceived becomes entangled with the retinal imprints of every other urinal we have ever seen, leaving us with a stylised, cartoon-ish impression of the actual object. In McLuhan’s words, we ‘attempt to read our surroundings’, seeking uniformity. Duchamp urges us to bypass this obscuring of our perceptions and observe the form, the curvature, the ruts, grooves and circular motifs of the object. A urinal is a symbol, a cipher for a shared concept of functionality. Fountain, though a urinal, through being removed from its functional context, is a sculpture, an art object.

Using my Monochrome Studies as a model, I have attempted to incorporate the ideas I have outlined above of McLuhan, Duchamp, Tsara and Johns into the creation of the Reconstituted Plantscapes below. These are made by cutting up my own photographs and reassembling them to obscure their subject matter and create works of art in their own right.

Reconstituted Plantscape 1 - Castleton Needles.jpg

Reconstituted Plantscape 1: Castleton Needles

Reconstituted Plantscape 2 - Sheffield Winter Gardens, Red

Reconstituted Plantscape 2: Sheffield Winter Gardens, Red

Reconstituted Plantscape 3 - Sheffield Winter Gardens, Green

Reconstituted Plantscape 3: Sheffield Winter Gardens, Green

Reconstituted Plantscape 4 - Kentish Field

Reconstituted Plantscape 4: Kentish Field

Reconstituted Plantscape 5 - Hampstead Heath Tangle

Reconstituted Plantscape 5: Hampstead Heath Tangle

Reconstituted Plantscape 6 - Well Wood Tangle

Reconstituted Plantscape 6: Well Wood Tangle

Reconstituted Plantscape 7 - Chestnut Avenue Passion Flower

Reconstituted Plantscape 7: Chestnut Avenue Passion Flower

Reconstituted Plantscape 8 - Clock House Summer Canopy

Reconstituted Plantscape 8: Clock House Summer Canopy

Reconstituted Plantscape 9 - Ypres Leaves

Reconstituted Plantscape 9: Ypres Leaves

Reconstituted Plantscape 10 - Wickham Hill Fort

Reconstituted Plantscape 10: Wickham Hill Fort

Reconstituted Plantscape 11 - Well Wood Sky-Sieve

Reconstituted Plantscape 11: Well Wood Sky-Sieve

Reconstituted Plantscape 12 - Herefordshire Monkey-Puzzle

Reconstituted Plantscape 12: Herefordshire Monkey Puzzle

Reconstituted Plantscape 13 - Herefordshire Gemini Rose

Reconstituted Plantscape 13: Herefordshire Gemini Rose

Reconstituted Plantscape 14 - Cutty Sark Grasses v1

Reconstituted Plantscape 14: Cutty Sark Grasses

Reconstituted Plantscape 15 - Kent Growth v2

Reconstituted Plantscape 15: Kent Growth (version 1)

Reconstituted Plantscape 15 - Kent Growth

Reconstituted Plantscape 15: Kent Growth (version 2)

Reconstituted Plantscape 16 - Kentish Velcro-Weed with Fern and Fly

Reconstituted Plantscape 16: Kentish Velcro-Weed with Fern and Fly

Reconstituted Plantscape 16 - Kentish Vine

Reconstituted Plantscape 17: Kentish Vine

 

 

Reconstituted Plantscape 17 - Kentish Fern Cluster.jpg

Reconstituted Plantscape 18: Kentish Fern Cluster

Reconstituted Plantscape 18 - Oxford Bark Vortex.jpg

Reconstituted Plantscape 19: Oxford Bark Vortex

 

 

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The Reeds Audition Showreel

Last weekend, The Reeds and my Dad bundled all our instruments, recording gear and cameras into a small and sweaty rehearsal room roughly the size of a generous wardrobe at the Deptford Music Complex. We spent three high-temperature, frantically productive hours playing and filming. The result is the video below which showcases some of our favourite tunes and our versatility. I’m very pleased with it and can’t wait for everyone to see it.

Well-paid gigs, here we come!

Duo Recordings

The Reeds’ keyboard player Jamie and I have been recording a few of our favourite songs as a duo. Below are the fruits of our labours.

 

Admiral Hardy Open Mic Update

The fun and games continue at the Admiral Hardy Open Mic Night in Greenwich with The Reeds.

Recorded 3/8/17

XBY at the World Music Conference

On the weekend of 22nd-23rd July, I attended the World Music Conference in Kerkrade, The Netherlands. I competed in the first division of the international wind ensemble competition as tenor saxophonist with XBY Concert Band.

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I am delighted to say that XBY received a gold medal for its performances of Philip Sparke’s The Unknown Journey, a whirlwind tour of angular atonal melodies, frenetic textural collages and luscious Ravellian orchestrations, and Frank Ticheli’s Angels in the Architecture, a musical exploration of the conflict between biblical good and evil, juxtaposed with Jewish and Renaissance folk melodies and featuring musical whirly-tubes and wineglasses.

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NCS: The Challenge

In July I worked on two waves of The Challenge with the National Citizenship Service as a music practitioner in Thornton Heath and South Croydon. My role, over the course of three days, was to teach a group of twelve 16-18 year-olds to play samba music with a percussion set and prepare a performance for a show-case on the final day.

I was hugely impressed with batucada.jpghow quickly both teams got the hang of the various instruments and the interlocking Brazilian rhythms. We made such good progress that they began devising their own cover versions of their favourite songs to perform alongside the traditional Samba Batucada.

For the young participants, NCS offers invaluable experience of leadership, independent learning and community outreach. Its focus on artistic disciplines including music, drama, art, photography and film-making is sorely needed at a time when these subjects are being dropped in many schools for lack of funding.

ncsMost crucially, The Challenge encourages young people to become involved in their local community and share their new skills and enthusiasm. In Thornton Heath the group visited an elderly people’s day centre where we got to know the service users and entertained them with Reggae and Gospel songs. I found this to be particularly rewarding. From South Croydon, the group took two buses over to Anerley where they introduced the children at a youth club to the samba rhythms I had taught them earlier that day.

I believe the 16-18 year-olds learn more essential life-skills in the three weeks of The Challenge than in a year spent studying for pedantic, learn-by-rote exams. The application of newly-acquired knowledge in a team challenge serves as an effective mnemonic device. But most indispensably, bringing knowledge into a social setting and associating it with play encourages its further exploration and expansion. It is my opinion that the exam-centric framework of learning encourages dogmatism. The Challenge instead fosters autodidacticism. Perhaps we have here a model for a more well-rounded, progressive education system. Reform is on the horizon and I feel optimistic.

NCS Thank You.jpg

I feel priveleged to have met so many creative, hard-working and committed people through NCS, both staff and participants, and hope to reprise the role next time the course is running.