Today has seen this work move a few more steps forward. I left the studio last weekend after trying to figure out a fridge on wheels – or to put it more eloquently a refrigerated freight wagon, which would become part of the reason why the aliens have invaded and are staying put. After spending more than half my time today focusing on a new design I can safely say that I have combined the best of two designs for this element of the work.
I began by fixing 4 cups (end to end) before I began to work around this structure. I’m glad I did the other one last week as it really informed the construction of what turned out to be taking the best bits and combining with with a freight wagon. I’m really pleased with the outcome and decided to return to the writing process.
I forgot for a time that this piece would not have a happy ending, which I am slowly drawing to. With a finale of sorts being written by the time I left. I am thinking about other attempts to try and over-throw the invading force. I must remember American history though which tells me the more technologically advanced race won sadly so I should reflect that. Maybe more skirmishes are needed using the language of the Western to fight against the alien invaders. It could go on forever, until I reach a decision I need to carry on writing. Today has seen what could possibly push my abilities both animation and software. It’s something I need to experiment with a lot before I plunge into anything. I’m not put off by that either, I see this all as a challenge to be met.
I’ve not actually done as much making as I have done in previous weeks. Having reached the end of the making process for this test piece. I might be adding more detail later on however.
Focusing on the base, constructing a cave at the bottom of the shaft where cowboys and possibly Native Americans might go into hiding. I’m starting to think about how possible events may play out in the event that the aliens had succeeded in taking over America. I began the day by drawing out and then shaping out cave ends that were soon fixed to the structure, adding even more stability to this piece. After a break for lunch I began to cover up the base that created the cave.
It built up quite quickly allowing me time to pause and begin to think about the concept more, leading to some research to begin. Part of that led to me finding a painting that really celebrates the term and idea – Manifest Destiny. American Progress by John Gast (1872). Today its not so much prophetic as disturbing, you have a woman in the middle of the piece – Progress making her way West moving the savage Native Americans, Buffalo out of the way as progress in the form of trains and stagecoaches follow in her way. Farmers waiting to move out and settle on newly claimed land. Ironically it’s a woman bringing civilisation West and not a man, maybe it’s the aesthetic of a woman treading over the land being more pleasing on the eye than a farmer or prospector, traditionally a male role men leading the way and women following quietly behind, keeping the new homes ready for their return from a days work in the wilderness. A woman here suggest also the virgin land yet to be touched by the American dream, ready to be tamed to be worked by the American Anglo-Saxon’s that believed it was their god-given destiny to reshape the land. This is where the research took over for me. It was an editors article – John O’Sullivan article that first mentions the term Manifest Destiny that’s adopted by some, but not all politicians. Also the term was only really used between 1812 and 1860, just before the Civil War broke out. It was the fear that the spread of slavery across America which was becoming difficult to accept. So it’s more about the spreading of American ideals initially, spreading and sharing the right ones as the expansion process was rolling out. The image of the woman could be easily replaced with a spaceship or a flying saucer firing lasers into the ground as all life escapes to the East. This is definitely an image that will inform my current work.
The Louisiana Purchase (1803) allowed this expansion into territory that was to American knowledge undiscovered, the French declined to share any details about the huge swathes of land they have just sold, probably to help fund/resolve the unrest back home under Napoleon. The extra land was also a worry to politicians not wanting the spread of slavery again.
I also came across part of a speech/reason behind the resolution to the 1812 War between British British Canada, which was over Indian Raids into the Midwest. I learned the original reason behind the acquisition of Native American land.
“The United States, while intending never to acquire lands from the Indians otherwise than peaceably, and with their free consent, are fully determined, in that manner, progressively, and in proportion as their growing population may require, to reclaim from the state of nature, and to bring into cultivation every portion of the territory contained within their acknowledged boundaries. In thus providing for the support of millions of civilized beings, they will not violate any dictate of justice or of humanity; for they will not only give to the few thousand savages scattered over that territory an ample equivalent for any right they may surrender, but will always leave them the possession of lands more than they can cultivate, and more than adequate to their subsistence, comfort, and enjoyment, by cultivation. If this be a spirit of aggrandizement, the undersigned are prepared to admit, in that sense, its existence; but they must deny that it affords the slightest proof of an intention not to respect the boundaries between them and European nations, or of a desire to encroach upon the territories of Great Britain. . . . They will not suppose that that Government will avow, as the basis of their policy towards the United States a system of arresting their natural growth within their own territories, for the sake of preserving a perpetual desert for savages”
It took a few reads to understand what was really being said beyond the old pleasantries of political speak. So my understanding is…
- They would rather take land with a little fuss as possible, that would allow farmers to work the land.
- They don’t want to tell the Native American’s how to lead their lives.
- They will be exchanged like for like land in terms of quality, not so much scale, as I have ready previously.
- The new boundaries will be respected – in reality they will become reservations that no white American would want to go near.
As I made more sense of all this research, manifest destiny still exist, just in a different form, the land grabbing has been done. The land has been reshaped pretty much for the use of the American Ango-Saxon’s who along with other European settlers have made their own. The political ideal of democracy is the only thing they can still promote beyond their borders. It’s what has lead to America’s entry into WWI, WWII (that and Pearl Harbour) among other more modern American wars, wanting to bring democracy where it doesn’t exist, or not in the form they want. Now currently isolationism is very much foreign policy of the Trump administration – “America First”. There have been interventions just more subtle, in hopes that democracy – American style will one day take route.
Away from all the research which is starting to inform my thinking I needed to take a break from all of this to just play, see how the cowboy and Indian toys would work if they were all in this cross-section piece. It was really fun to do, I can see where the camera would potentially go and any difficulties that may arise (there are a few) which I would need to amend. Maybe a bigger cave for example, or building separate larger sections for more in-depth work. I’m already thinking it will be an animation.
When I consider the aliens I’m drawn to the H.G. Wells saucers from War of the Worlds, it’s like I’m moving the action back a century before technology would have allowed us to understand the visitors before it worked out in our favor. I could simply suggest their presence through special effects or other methods. That’s one for another day though.
After 4 days straight in the studio, I’m tired. I’ve completed all I set out to do – to fix the projectors into the four model miniatures. I’ve removed the need for horrible tripods, which looked horrible and also created a real hazard in the dark. Having removed that I’ve now got everything attached or concealed to each piece, whilst hopefully they will be fire safe too. They are all secure and well ventilated allowing them to project the slow-motion violence into the spaces. They may no longer consume them. but they are more intimate which can only add to t he miniature aesthetic.
Onto today’s piece I quickly set on where the project would go, It wasn’t going to be hidden in the double bed. For once it was going to be suspended well raised above and attached to the a wall. The fixing had to be right for everything to work, otherwise it would be loose and dangerous. I was careful when even trying the projector in its final position. Angling and support were the first things to get right. The angling was achieved and ensured with five pieces of lattice that sit below the shelf.
Once those criteria were met I moved onto securely holding the projector above adding ventilation and allowing easy access to the ports/buttons. Once this was sorts I could fix in place, and work on the hidden pocket that concealed the media player within the plinth. I finished the day by returning to the first model miniature and hiding the supports in the bar, boxing out the bar before I got the paint out to begin work on the new features that I want to be seen as part of the pieces, whilst others will be left bare. I’m still not happy with the structure I made yesterday, it maybe completely redesigned before it’s fixed in place. Even though I have begun painting it, that won’t stop me.
Next time it will be all about making the new plinth and carrying on the painting of the new pieces which then allow new tests to be carried out.
It’s been an interesting day in the studio. I now have kit that makes the set-up a lot easier, which allowed me to focus on what’s going on in the work it self and not lose time. I began by editing the other pair of videos, however I might hold back on that idea as I’ve been advised as much as I wanted the clips of slow motion violence to play consecutively, if both pieces are not started together then an overlap will eventually build up. There is a piece of kit that is available, however as I have done with all my work, I want to keep it simple. At least for now I have the method of how to approach this technique. However I might re-edit them.
During that process I was trimming down both test videos to so both show more or less clips of violence, even re-timing them in places. I’ll again re-time them to have similar breaks in-between each reaction to violence. Today I went back to an earlier edit, which I feel works to get an idea.
Looking forward I discussed the presentation with another artist in the studio who suggested that the projectors I am using could be concealed, this would work for two reasons. One if the work was shown in a lit space I need to still have the image visible. concealing the projector within the model miniature would ensure the image is not lost. I would however lose the blanket projection over the model. All of the models can potentially hide a projector, if I made the decision and began to make cuts, it’s a change that I can’t reverse. Two it would also remove what is becoming a nasty site to see, the projectors on tripods takes up a lot of room. If they are worked into the model miniature, I can hide the wires (and lose the blue light from the media player. It’s something I need to investigate.
I’m also looking at projector boxes to do the same job of concealing the wires but not concealed in the model miniature. Either option means more work, the concealing is more appealing, and would make the work more versatile. I’m leaning towards that making them more unique, not relying on external pieces, keeping it within the model miniature is a fun idea.
A shorter than usual trip, with only a handful of shows this time. Starting off with a bit of fun at the London Film Museum – Bond in Motion. Billed as the largest collection of Bond cars ever, which wasn’t my main draw, it was to see everything else on top of the cars/vehicles. Once I was there I was like a kid in a candy store, looking at the cars, especially those which the guns and rockets on show. Definitely one for the boys. The icing on the cake being a model miniature from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), that was built to allow the production team prepare how to film the finale, complete with cylindrical saws.
My next stop stayed with the filmic theme at The Photographer’s Gallery, for a show I really wanted to see. Instant Stories. Wim Wenders’ Polariods. Exhibiting some of the remaining polaroids the German took on location and for inspiration. Out of the thousands he has said to have taken only a fraction remain which allow you to get an insight to his thinking. I see them like sketches, see it, capture it and move on. Taken in the 70’s and 80’s, you get to see him working and exploring America and Germany. I really could have stayed longer than I did, going around the two floors of the show a few times, taking in each carefully framed polaroid, given a new precious status, this ones throw away images are given something far greater than was ever intended for them.
I can’t remember the last time I spent some real time with this work which I’ve been working loosely with since the summer. Today I’ve spent some good time in the studio playing with my lights and projector, directing them onto the white models I made in the summer. I’ve finally been able to do what I set out to all those months ago. It was rather satisfying to see these ideas take form, if they worked or didn’t was another thing, to actually follow through on a thought that had been there for a long time means I’m happier for it.
So it was all about colour to begin win, wanting to shine block colour, taking the phrase almost literally – painting the town red – with light. I found that the red was coming out more pink, turning to less obvious colours such as green and blue, before finishing with orange. Photographically the results aren’t the best. I found myself returning to earlier work, which is not where I want to be heading, I need to move away from the literal yet atmospheric.
Moving onto another idea I had was to project video onto these essentially blank canvases which meant getting the projector out and finding clips of Westerns I have, seeing what work. Not really choosing anything in particular I went for the rollerskating scene from Heaven’s Gate (1980) which pushed me to consider how to really use the projector and the model, which with every consecutive scene grew ans grew. With this scene it was more about how can I cove the whole or the majority of the model.
It was nice to see how the image consumed the model, becoming an outdoor cinema, projecting its image against a saloon. The image come up well on the model, it will ultimately vary depending on the model being projected onto. I moved onto a scene from The Searchers (1956) which was more of the same. I went to another scene from the film, this time bringing another model, meaning that the projector had to move back to accommodate them both.
What happened here was that the images took on a status of being bigger, yet still very much part of the same world. When I saw the landscape against the more urban models, this is something I wanted to explore, the background being part of these models in the foreground. Pushing it further with the final gunfight in True Grit (1969) which had wide open spaces to take advantage of.
This particular scene worked more so because of the action, the cinematic presentation of the scene, these gigantic god-like being behind the models. I also moved all four of the models in front of the projector, experimenting with layout, creating shadows, which ultimately don’t really matter as the image is still caught on the models in front, the light becomes sculptural. I carried the god-like status through to the next scene – the family massacre in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) which I was very pleased with, partly down to the close-ups.
For the last set-up I positioned the models into a more conventional street set-up, with a gunfight from A Few Dollars More (1965) which drew me to my final thoughts of the day, linking nicely to the original inspiration of the Marquis in Melton – Street violence, or that of gunfights in the genre. I’d like to see how more models and more gunfight scenes work with this set-up. I still want to see how the cowboy figures work in terms of shadows they produce.
So as you can see I have been very busy and had lots of fun, immersed in the Western. To me this piece is about the violence that is created/depicted in the genre, this is where I maybe leading this piece going forward.
A part of my wanting to attend The Big Weekend at New Mills Festival (2016) was to finally see ADP (The After Dislocation Principle) (2015) by James Cauty whose work I had previously seen, most notably the Riot in a Jam Jar series, self-contained moment from disasters that are populated with miniature figures, both comical and deadly serious, how the hell did these events take place, how did we get to this stage to let them happen. ADP is a natural progression for Cauty who has been touring this new work since it was first shown at Dismaland last year. A containers touring the U.K. allowing the public to view a disaster in a fictional town in Bedfordshire.
We can only view the work via viewing ports, I’m not too sure if they are magnified or simply glass. There are literally too many to count, each one allowing to access to view this disaster zone in miniature. Some are more successful than others at what you can see, allowing you extreme or restricted views of the scene that is all but hidden. I was able to see how the piece was constructed, a series of rotating lights on a timer, moving around like helicopters over the situation below, it would have been even better to one land. With that loss there is still an abundance to see from every view-port. You could literally spend hours with this piece, so much care and attention to detail, nothings missed out, like a moment in time has been captured.
The scale of the work has blown my mind, the sheer scale of it, I hope one day to create something as large and as engaging as this. The devil really is in the detail and the mass of figures as he has brought together every conceivable accident into miniature form
I was tempted to take some photographs, I decided to hold back for a few reasons, the aura of the work was far too precious to take anything away from it. I couldn’t really do the work justice with my camera. Lastly I wanted the images to be imprinted on my memory. I can however share with you publicity stills
You can check out where the tour is heading to next here
Laying the Tracks (2016) is part of a larger body that confronts the American Holocaust through play, utilising the non-pc plastic Cowboy and Indian figures that is loaded with negative a racist connotations, having been played with generations of children who are unaware of the history in their hands.Using these figures and the expanded play-set language a more honest history is played out. Using the colours of the figures to define nations they each play out events loosely based on 19th century history. Laying the Tracks looks at the intrusion of the Iron Horse on the Indian plains of America, Yellow Indians who have moved closer to the now much depleted Buffalo for a summer hunt.
Continuing my exploration of the Western genre of cinema, focusing on the steam train. Combining found footage and model miniatures I have travelled the length of my studio at Two Queens, Leicester, U.K.