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 development of this theme. Transparent fabric is very interesting as a medium it resembles 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.


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.

Continuing the malangan inspired project


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?


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.


The British Museum, “Malagan at the British Museum,” in Smarthistory, March 1, 2017, accessed December 9, 2017,

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




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.


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

Play Ground in John Hansard Gallery

Imagined by the John Hansard Gallery this was a week of play inspired activities. It finished in an Open House Day, on the 16th of July 2016, when the public was invited to visit and take part in our Play Ground. Artists with different concerns and methods were working/playing together for the duration of the project. For me it was a learning experience in several different ways. Observing how other artists develop ideas, learning my own and others peoples boundaries, enjoying collaboration from the simplest play to more engaged pieces. Maybe the most important were the conversations with some of the artists.

Ana Cozendey and me, developed the performance Memory Weave as a part of the Open House Day.

First, participants were invited to contemplate the art object “Pinned Moth” and read the story behind it. This was my offering, a gift of my private memory. Then they walked and discovered objects, words and smells, as a way of encouraging them to get in touch with a memory that is special to them.


After that they shared their memories, together with the collective weaving of a cocoon of wool. Speaking is easier when doing something with your hands, when people are making something together or alongside each other. Weaving memories was about sharing and encouraging empathy.

There was a participant who works with people that are loosing memories -he cares for dementia patients, also a nurse that works with psychiatric patients and we heard about the artwork they create and the effect that art has on them. We had participants from different parts of the world sharing memories and hopefully finding the common human thread. An older lady remembered her grandmother who worked as a pianist for a silent film cinema. This was well received by everyone weaving at that time! This showed the social aspect of the project. The positive reaction of this group of complete strangers from different parts of the world. People shared and sparked off each other. The threads interconnected and became an object, fine spider-web of soft wool.

In the same space there were two more artists, both very inspiring. Laurence Dube-Rushby was working with ashes.

Recently returned from a visit to the refugee camp in Calais, she was speaking in a very sensitive way about the temporality of existence and about loss. Building symbolic houses out of ashes almost ritually, that got destroyed and recreated during the performance. Part of this performance was also a letter by the artist addressed to a young boy, whom she had helped look for his belongings in the ashes of the camp.


Bevis Fenner was concerned with work, its meaning and role in our society. He was painting coals white in a structured way for the duration of the week long Play Ground. A large clock was positioned on the wall above to ensure regular breaks and periods of work. He also organised a collaborative piece, matching images concerned with a variety of contemporary issues – some political and some of the popular culture. A thought provoking piece that I enjoyed taking part in.

This experience was very important for me. The performance developed in practise and both me and Ana gained a feel of how to guide visitors towards an experience we have imagined for them. In the same time open ended and interactive.

There was an opportunity to talk to a curator as a part of the Play Ground, this was particularly inspiring and significant for me. Some of these conversations, I have already started to develop. Sparked off by an idea to capture the smell of a freshly baked bread, I have started planning a performance. Obviously it is about bread and dough. I was planning to make a sculpture but I think that this concept is a lot better suited to a performance. It recreates the smell better! I have since come across some fantastic resources concerning bread, bread making and ritual. Nikos Chausidis is an anthropologist from the University in Skopje and his “The Mother of Bread” and “The Father of Bread” articles are incredible. He creates an unbroken link between the bread rituals surviving in the Balkans and the archaeological remains from the Neolithic in the same area. Using artefacts, analysing language and the psychology of the mythical images he creates new ways of looking. For me this is very inspiring and points towards a research valuable for me and connected to something that interests me as an artistic inquiry. The connection between art and ritual is very deep and old. It is part of our base. Ritual is an ancestor of art.

To create feelings and thoughts in the visitors minds without a figure is an exciting challenge and it is growing in my head like a seed.

Play Ground in John Hansard Gallery

Moths and Memory Weave

Pinned Moth – object

I was working on this moth. After a conversation with a friend Ana Cozendey this object became a starting point for an interactive project called Memory Weave. Ana has experience in organising creative workshops, so the memory theme grew into a memory exchange. Where the participants are encouraged to share their memories and weave an object – cocoon together. A throwing of a ball of wool is used to mark the participants turn to both symbolically and physically contribute towards the creation of the seed object.

There is a story attached to this object. It is a part of the piece -the object and the story together.

Moths and Memory Weave

The Kröller-Müller museum in Holland

Sitting in the middle of De Hoge Veluwe National Park is the Kröller Müller museum and sculpture park.

The way the architecture, the park and the sculptures work together is beautiful. Winding paths, sculptures immersed in a forest. It is planned so well, the effect of each sculpture is magnified, and they look better then if they were displayed in a gallery. Going down hidden paths that do eventually open up their treasures, feels like an adventure and discovery.

The environment evokes a sense that this is a private moment, as the trees and flowering bushes hide the other visitors and the other sculptures. It is just me and the sculpture/strange tower, or this little shrine. As if we have stumbled on the piece by accident.

A grove of trees is hiding a bunch of satyrs. A monumental metal tower that looks like a fractal drawing, stands in a clearing. The repetitive pattern reaching to the sky.

Jan Fabre

We stayed in a bungalow park also immersed in a forest near the national park. The smell of the forest pervading everything. The whole experience fitted beautifully together.

Umberto Boccioni

The museum building itself is on one level, with flat roof and big floor to ceiling windows. Minimalist dream and beautifully sprawled in the greenery. The collection of Van Goughs is magnificent, I loved the Odilon Redon as well. The sculpture is as good and well displayed inside as it is outside. The futurist Boccionni’s famous man in movement “Unique forms of continuity in space” is here.

The use of the space, nature and architecture is masterful. Hiding and revealing just enough and always leaving you wanting more, like a delicious dish. Tantalising pathways talk to my inner child and I am certain I did not see everything hidden in this forest of a sculpture park. I will be back.

The Kröller-Müller museum in Holland