This was going a bit different than just a straight forward parallel project. The outcome was realised and performed aka screened in a private viewing event at Toynbee Studios, London E1 6AB on 20th July 2019 with the support of OCA (Caroline Wright and Carla Rees). The work consisted of an approx 10 min visual-music performative video created together with music student Vicki Downey.
Mindful-Resonance Interaction (video-audio, 09:45 min):
as installed and screened at Toynbee Studios on 20th July 2019. A collaboration with music student Vicki Downey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Remark: in order to have the best experience of the work, it is recommended to listen to with good headphones with a frequency range down to <=20 Hz or with a good audio system that can convey very low pitches
Now, with the outcome accomplished, time to reflect on the work done and a reflection after the event including feedback from the audience and learnings from what I experienced from the other five projects presented.
About our collaboration
(see also Vicki’s reflection – under Reference)
When the call for a New Music-Fine Arts collaborative project was announced, I was thrilled. I pondered for quite some time about how to bring sound and painting together, having only experimented for myself with some animated images and recorded painting processes. I knew that I often take too much on my shoulders and at times all over the place. Therefore, I hoped that I could integrate the collaborative bit into my coursework, even hoping it could be part of my parallel project related to medical imaging and MRI and being presented for assessment (still to come) – and I got the go from my tutor under the condition it would be well documented. I was even more thrilled to hear in my first virtual meeting with music student Vicky Downey that she felt intrigued by the topic of MRI and was open minded to have our collaboration on this theme, somehow ‘directed’ by my parallel project. Since the start I felt an amazing resonance and trust between us.
Big challenge for me was how to create and get visuals, animated images or ‘still’ paintings into a piece of work that work together and are ‘synced’ with Vicki’s music. We discussed this and it occurred to me that non-perfect sync might be even a good idea. I never worked on any video or animated piece longer than 1 or 2 minutes, and mostly as recordings, but without the addition of extra-soundscapes. I was afraid that I have to spend a massive amount of time on learning film editing and post-production software, and that the results would look clumpy, rough and amateurish. Or that awful transitions would damage the experience of our work. I put this concern away and was pleased that our discussion went along more or sensation and experience of visual and soundscapes.
I really enjoyed our collaboration that followed a mutual sequence, starting with talking through my initial idea and own experience of brain MRI, Vicki’s experience and ideas relating to MRI, and pulling together rough ideas on how MRI works, how it could be translated musically and visually, and some references to other artists.
In this flowing phase, I found it tremendously helpful to have Vicki as a remote partner, giving structure through her music pieces, that I could take up and inform my visuals. We refined and build a flow together later. I do thank Vicki for being in that sense more structured as me, as I tend to be rather experimental, at times chaotic and always embracing uncertainty. Also, I very much appreciated how Vicki took up points from our discussion through a few virtual meetings and more email exchanges (that I put all together in a separate doc) and played out and experimented freely. Fortunately, this didn’t put her off.
I made a very rough first draft visual sequence midway that found good resonance with Vicki, and just before our big day made variations and eventually the night before the final cut. I was embracing uncertainty and considered certain de-synced transitions as a key element of the outcome and the experience. It was like a dialogue in three, between visuals, music and perception by the audience of both together. This also led to the fact that I could share a second version of a full visual sequence (a narrative?) with Vicki only the day before the event. However, I made some variations of sub-sequences that we reviewed remotely by texting together. A big thank to her for this late checking in and trust and openness.
Each of us created more ‚raw material’ that didn’t go into our final cut. We have more material that we could (and will) see how it could be used. This includes MRI footage in the work, voice and words, humming sound by string or by audience, and last not least how a live performance with people (us or other) could look like.
Overall, I very much appreciated the opportunity from OCA to work collaboratively with music, especially that it was Vicki who became my partner in ‚MRI-crime‘ (our work title ‘Mindful Resonance Interaction (MRI)’, that I made up in a moment of deep inspiration, is also a reflection on our collaboration based on openness and trust). I also found the inspirational and pragmatic Carla and Caroline very supportive and appreciated that both also made some work together. As a Fine Art student at level HE5, I feel inspired to explore further relationships between visual spaces and sound spaces, both key to our human understanding and knowledge of the world around us. This collaboration opened up new perspectives for me, and I can now even imaging in include voice/words into the work.
Reflection after the performance event 20th July 2019
We started the day in a wonderful venue at Toynbee Studios, six projects in pairs, three before and three after lunch. I was so thrilled hearing that my tutor will come, and for time reasons made us to schedule our bit as the last one of day.
The day started with the fantastic impromptu Kym and Jason, who performed painting and music ad hoc, involving us as the audience by asking to roll a dice that would inform their performance. It was a good start with a lot of fun. I very much liked the vitality and spontaneity of the performance. Something, I could do envision for street art performance or any other public spaces as well. Will keep this in mind as it resonates with my art therapy practice as well.
A slide show accompanied by live piano music followed by word and voices followed by Anne and Naomi (who was virtual present), with Anne’s husband joining in. I very much enjoyed her piece ‘hands’, written poem, sung along by Anne and her husband, we as audience were invited to sing along as well. I found it intriguing to include words and voice in a piece, something Vicki and I considered but not realized. Re audience voice, it appeared also in the piece performed later by Anna and Deborah, as well as by Emma and SarahJane.
The next project by Anna and Deborah was informed by Anna’s graduate show work on ‘one year in prison’ informed by letters of one prisoner. It sounded familiar to me, as my work with Vicki was also informed by my ideas of parallel project, though nothing was realized till that moment. Nevertheless, there work got a spin by the input of Deborah. The audience was once again invited to participate by creating a human wall (reference to the prison wall) and holding lace flags. Anna informed us that this bit was informed by her exchange with textile students. Their piece was an animated still photograph sequence with voice over by Anna and Deborah sitting on both side of the human wall. I took away the experience of space created in the room, through a layering of background screening, audience as object rather sculptural installation and the words and voices that pulled me as an ‘observer’ into a liminal space.
After lunch, the room became dark, as the three following projects were built around the screening experience accompanied by music and sound. It was interesting for me how the day was split into two parts (intentionally?). Caroline’s and Carla’s work was according to their information a rather short notice built together performative work. Carla was playing on her flute and creating a huge variety of sounds and Caroline played a gong, both playing in the back, between the screen and the audience seated. I was impressed by the experience of time and duration. At the beginning the transitions of stills were very slow, meditative, and the perception of space through layering was stunning. What started abstract moved on with zooming out perspectives and with more clarity on location and video sequences were included. The soundscapes created and experienced were intriguing. Compared to screen-based sequences only, as me and Vicki worked along on our piece, a double space created, the room of the performance was part of the work. A tension between what I see and what I hear, going through my body, being fully immersed. Time was standing still, and I did appreciate how long a piece can be (it was roughly 15 min long) with slow motion or even still. Definitely, something for me to keep in mind.
The project just before our part, was done by Emma and SarahJane, a fast moving sequence build around original footage from an older Venus travel film related to the myth of the Sirens, accompanied by Emma’s music as a soundtrack, or a soundscape synced with the visuals. SarahJane had incredible technical knowledge how to apply filters to make visual effects. Most stunning was their rather improvised audience involvement through a voice choir accompanying the last sequence of an underwater siren sequence. Another fab example, how well the audience can be involved actively, and how improvisation actually works by just doing, being in the space, and feeling resonance among the people and the visuals or music.
The last bit was our work ‘Mindful Resonance Interaction (MRI)’. I was quite nervous, checked with Vicki who was virtual present, sound systems, being concerned about the transmissions of very low pitches. We didn’t foresee any audience involvement or live performing things; it all was about the visual-music experience conveyed through projection and sound. We discussed before the duration of the black screen in the middle of the work just the night before. But having experienced the other works before I was not concerned at all. It is amazing how much space (visually and musically) can be hold when being in that space physically. An experience lacking completely when viewing online, screen based only. For me the big take away: one’s own body has to be in that space. How could embodiment be better explained? We received good feedback related to the photo-painting sequence and the narrative created, at times an disruptive, unstable sequence that worked well with the experience.
Overall, a fantastic day, full of creative energy. We all worked together very well. It was very worth for me to flying over. As one key aspect in my work is embodiment, best experience for me was the necessity of being in the space itself. Kind of summarizing what my parallel project was and is all about. The experience of MRI was a point of departure, it concluded in an experience of visual-sound-music-embodied space experience. I left the venue and the day encouraged and highly motivated and was following up with Vicki to share what I felt and experienced, and feedback received offline. This is another aspect of collaboration: sharing and involving.
About the development of the work ‘Mindful Resonance Interaction’
First, we agreed to start wide open, bringing each of us visual and musical sketches into the table aka into the cloud (a shared drive). This was quite a helpful approach, to have a place to share without talking directly to each other (Vicki is based in UK, I am based in Germany) and to get input of what the other had in mind. We discussed themes as body-mind binary opposites, sense of disembodiment inside the MRI machine, the hand outside the machine with the thumb on the emergency button, physical parameters e.g. proton spinning, Lamour frequency, precession, slicing, machine sounds, notation etc. One reference I added to our discussion was Rasheed Newsome’s Shade Compositions (Furnace, 2017), a combination of stage performance, screening, and sound and voice – it was good to hear that this resonated with Vicki. I do believe that this idea of combining wall screening and stage performance followed through our collaboration. We diverted from this, perhaps more unconsciously mutual agreed on in resonance, it became clear that Vicki couldn’t attend in person. Therefore, we put the stage performance bit aside, and to make it digital only. Somehow, I didn’t feel it would make sense to perform on site/stage alone.
I did pull from ideas created during my course, kind of spin off ideas informed my ideas about my parallel project. I maintained a dedicated sketchbook for my project, at the beginning it was rather focused around my brain MRI experience, other artist’s work informed by MRI, and my coursework ideas. It developed into a more focused exploration around our collaboration.
A next main phase started midway, when we agreed to structure our work around three parts: an emerging (informed by my reference of arriving in the clinic and before going inside the machine) , an inside the machine (with its percussive, pulsing sound and slicing effect relating to the visual imagery resulting from the process), and a final part that I referred to as Baroque, informed by MRA images of my brain vessels, we called it ‘Brain Baroque’.
Concerning the Baroque: this is informed by my reading of Deleuze ‘Fold’ (brain as folded matter) and inspired by Helen Chadwick’s work ‘Oval Court’ and her interest in the Baroque, Rococco. I found it helpful to have midway Carla Rees supporting Vicki in finding her way into this theme that she took up and came back with stunning piece of music.
Concerning uncertainty, I tend to push thinking about final piece away and still being very positive about the process and an outcome. I have to acknowledge that only quite late in the project phase I got some clarity on how things might evolve from my side.
My first draft (Downey, Schaffeld, 2019b) based on the three part music provided by Vicki established for me a frame around emerging (my portrait with zooming into my eyes) , using original MRI footage and some of my sketchbook ideas to improvise on the idea of slicing alongside the organ sound from Vicki, using original MRA footage of my brain vessels (animated) for the ‘brain baroque’ music, and last taking my same portrait to fade away into blackness as end.
I was not satisfied with couple of items, e.g., do I want to use original footage? Do I want to illustrate ‘slicing’ through animated movement of still images? how could we make a meaningful finish? I wanted to build in process work, i.e. painting process, and to replace photographs with paintings, all still to be created.
I found it was very helpful that we obtained a combined full piece of work, even in a very raw and sketchy way. It supported us to reflect in structure, on timing, on visual-music resonance. Without that overall impression, I doubt that we would have been able to establish the outcome we presented (see Schaffeld, 2019b).
Few main changes we made: to break the first part down into two sections (a slower and a more dynamic phase) and to break the third part also in two sections (allowing a smoother finish). Vicki came up with the idea of breathing, I related it to departing from the machine into nature. This really got my ideas flowing, to distant myself from rather illustrative visuals, and to relate more to the body. Some further reading done for my critical essay gave me ideas in faces, defacing, and touch and the body. The result was me drawing a sand with the water washing it away. This is what I do relate to the seacoast, for our work I had to improvise and to set up the ‘beach’ on our porch with sand and letting water from our rainwater container run over it to flush it away. All these connotations with drawing a face in sand and the sea informed the last section of our work.
I decided to start the ‘Brain Baroque’ piece with the original animated footage (was too fascinating for us since the beginning), but merged it with a process painting of watercolor running down (in final piece it is ‘running’ up as I rotated it informed by the uplifting sound and uplifting evolvement of Baroque forms).
To replace my photographed portrait with a painting was the easier bit, and I think that the fact of Vicki being not physical present informed my decision to ask her for a portrait photo and to paint her as well. During the making next steps followed on each other and our two photographs turned into two portrait paintings that turned into one layered combined portrait followed by the first idea of zooming into the eye and into the brain.
The last, the middle section was perhaps the hardest bit, as I not only questioned the use of original footage for that (too personal? too illustrative? ethics?) as well as the visuals as being just an illustration of the music or of my idea of ‘slicing’. A turning point for me was when I started to depart from being inside the MRI machine and focusing more on my embodiment, my reaction to sound when I was inside. Is music not creating a soundscape that we tend to take in us, triggering images, and last not least make us to move, to feel? What if I would perform not to the original footage but to Vicki’s music? A surrogate perhaps, but more real in the presence, informed by same phenomena of human embodiment. I think after making several performance during daylight and at night with UV light, fluorescent paint on my face, and a check pattern projected onto my body and the background wall (the pattern was one of those moments of serendipity found during making of other works for my course, informing this project) I did know the music by heart.
- Downey, V., Schaffeld, S.J. (2019a) ‘Communication with Vicki Downey (March-July 2019)’. At: https://drive.google.com/open?id=143f1CRWaacfR2eCI9MDA8JkGj8hHDTmT
- Downey, V., Schaffeld, S.J. (2019b) ‘ ‘DRAFT-V1-complete-MRA Organ Baroque_low’ [film] At: https://vimeo.com/354202212/7145b70974
- Schaffeld, S.J. (2019a) ‘Sketchbook #6’ [pdf], At: https://drive.google.com/open?id=11XCQDJcc88A0lV6xe5ijqC5124Yn-9R5
- Schaffeld, S.J. (2019b) ‘Parallel Project – Editing visual materials’. At: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?page_id=7923
- Schaffeld, S.J. (2019c) ‘Critical Review’. [blog category] At: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?cat=230