Continuing the malangan inspired project

 

Building on the last post, I have now finished parts of the sculpture. The woman sitting on a chair is cast in resin and bronze, and I have carved some of the panels.

I have thoughts of creating transparent cages in different materials, as a further developement of this theme. Transparent fabric is very interesting as a medium it resambles skin and can be embroidered. Wire is another material that can be very interesting in achieving transparent enclosed spaces. Some beautiful examples of this include sculptures made out of chicken mesh. Also some theatre costumes, more specifically the costume for the Minotaur in the Harrison Birtwistle reworking of the myth for the Royal Opera in 2008.

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The lighting is very interesting in the above image and in the show itself. With the use of lighting the mask can become opaque or transparent. This is very sophisticated use of transparency, symbolically sometimes the man dominates and sometime the beast.

I may incorporate a light, inside the enclosed space of the wooden panels, to make the sitting woman more visible. This will bring her into focus.

The changeability of meaning in the Minotaur mask is extremely inspiring for me as well. I have started working on a practice based research that is concerned with change.

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Continuing the malangan inspired project

Malangan

I came across Malangan sculpture in the excellent book Museum of the Mind by John Mack, long standing director of the British Museum (Mack 2003, p.105).They are ritual objects made by the people from the north coast of New Ireland, an island in Papua New Guinea.

The intricate carvings are only used once in a funeral rite and then discarded. This captured me. Why would the artist spend so much time creating these beautiful pieces just to be used once and then destroyed?

 

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Malangan figures, 1882-83 C.E., wood, vegetable fiber, pigment and shell (turbo petholatus opercula), north coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea © Trustees of the British Museum

 

Looking at the objects it becomes clear that there is always a figure locked in a cage like structure. This structure can be made of different things- often monsters, tusks, fish, snakes – a variety of items confining the figure. As if forcing it up, this is a cage with only one way out. The figure itself can be fearsome sometimes.

There is a sense of coercion in this item. The animals and patterns that make up the cage are related to the family – clan the deceased belonged to. It is as if the traditional signs are forcing the deceased to behave in a particular way – leave.

The idea of traditional patterns coercing (people-us) into desired behaviour was starting to form then. The use of symbols/rituals as a way of establishing power relationship is very interesting and a good starting point for my next art work.

I am currently working on little sculpture of a woman, cast in resin, sitting in a cage of paisley patterns which are carved in wood. This is a traditional, domestic enclosure. I am trying to capture the claustrophobic aspect of this.

Bibliography

The British Museum, “Malagan at the British Museum,” in Smarthistory, March 1, 2017, accessed December 9, 2017, https://smarthistory.org/malangan/.

MACK JOHN, 2003. The Museum of the Mind. The British Museum Press

 

 

Malangan

How can pixel graphics deeply affect?

It is the old combination of form and content – the game world itself and the issues it explores, in this case. If the tension created is believable and meaningful, even simple symbols are enough.

‘The Last Door’ and ‘To the Moon’ have overwhelmingly good reviews from its players. They also have in common a certain simplicity of the graphics- they are deliberately created pixelated, using the bare minimum of pixels. Yet they attract almost cult following.

‘To the Moon’ has a central question: What if some decisions in a long life were made differently? The game starts with an old man near his death. The game is a journey inside his head, discovering secrets form his past, suppressed memories and trauma.

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The Last Door’ creates genuinely oppressive atmosphere. Set against Victorian background, it is about a search for ‘answers beyond’. This goes well with the slightly romantic view of the science of the time, practised mainly by the rich as a pursuit of leisure. The side characters and issues are a big part of the atmosphere. There is madness, PTSD, drug abuse, social issues, fog and a secret society.

Aviary Attorneys is not a pixelated game. It uses very simple, but beautiful animation based on 19th century caricatures by J. J. Grandville. The difficult moral choices the player must make and the severe consequences that follow, make it incredibly immersive. The feelings of guilt, after some of the consequences, are real. It can have several very different endings. I wanted to mention it here because despite its simplicity, it creates a complex world.  It made me reconsider and question more.

 Minimal visuals have been explored (and still are) in theatre as well.  I recently watched a lovely, minimal, shadow puppet performance of the ‘Tin soldier’. The audience genuinely experienced the sad story, even though the actor/storyteller cut the characters out of paper on the stage. There were tears in the audience at the end!

We experience the story (the art) despite the simplicity of the visuals.  Our brains decode the symbols and construct a whole world, that we become immersed in. We fill in the missing parts of the picture. The potential and the readiness of our imagination to live through an imaginary world is immense.

We have a hunger for good stories.

How can pixel graphics deeply affect?

Art and Ritual

Participatory art shares a boundary with ritual. Where does one end and the other one start?

Ritual reconnects community, reminds and renews. It ‘guides’ a community. It strives to create a framework for a messy individual life (baptisms, weddings, funerals…). The study of ritual as practice defines ritual as “set of activities that construct particular types of meanings and values in specific ways.”, it is a “vehicle for construction of relationships of authority and submission”.(Bell 1997, p.82)

Participatory art questions. It makes the participants reconsider, examine their feelings and thoughts about something. This can include reminding. It doesn’t necessarily nurture a community or expect faith.

A good example is Tania Bruguera, she points to something we all know and prefer not to look at. Here she talks about her participatory piece ‘Surplus Value’ exhibited in the Tanks-Tate Modern in 2012.

 

Art and ritual have deep connections, their paths have crossed many times. Yet, they have subtly different roles.

Reference list

BELL, C.M., 1997. Ritual. New York [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press

Art and Ritual

Interactive art

Visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, we were taken by an interactive piece. Part of it are musical benches, that you can play like an instrument. YSP commissioned the art collective Greyworld to create this playful piece in 1999. Their public art is always fun, a little reminder that “life has unexpected joys”(Greyworld).

Here are some moments, featuring the piece in YSP.

This feeds onto my interest in interactive and participatory art. Their example is joyful and surprising.

Interactive art

Onion Skin

 

This piece is about layers of identity. The building up of different aspects of our selves into a coherent person. It is about belonging and home,but also about the reflections in our mind.

It considers as a layer the biological body with its limits and the potential self.

These aspects layered over each other create a sense of self. How do we define ourselves ?

The ambient music is by Project Divinity

Onion Skin

Remebering a homeless woman

I have come across a strange parallel between a contemporary homeless person and a character in several Noh plays.

The character of  Komachi,  is based on a real poetess Ono no Komachi ( 825  to 900 AD). Talented and beautiful in her youth who becomes homeless in her old age. It immediately  made me think of an old lady  I have noticed in London, with shopping bags on her feet.  I later found that the resemblance goes deeper then their homeless status. She also was a talented woman, a concert pianist when young. She has sadly passed away now. Her name is Anne Naysmith, and I used to see her on a car park where we used to park sometimes.

This Christmas we have noticeable more homeless people than previous years. Some of them choose to be homeless and some have no other choices left. It is good to loose the prejudice even a little.

There is a great resource online with a large database of translated plays here Noh play database with downloadable PDFs.

Remebering a homeless woman