Finding the Chameleon

http://rota.costasur.com/sites/jardin-botanico-celestino-mutis/en/index.html

Botanical Gardens Celestino Mutis in Rota, Costa Ballena, Cadis, Spain, Andalusia

A few photos from my time in Rota and my hunt for the chameleon. 

Early Morning Gift of Bread

Back up travel snippets: Zadar to Split, Croatia.

   Way back in September I had the fortune of meeting an old college friend in Croatia. We split a lazy week in Zadar, Split, and a day at the Krka National Park. It was wonderful to meet a friend abroad as an alternative to visiting one another or even embarking out together. Both cities were smaller than we visualized leaving lots of time for sun baking and swimming. Rather than describing what we saw or did, I'd like to share a story of our late night out in Split and the character of the locals we met there.

    On our last night in Split Jen and I decided to try to act young and go out for the evening. We started out well, dancing around to 90's and 00's music while drinking wine in the flat and getting dress. Around 1O we made our way out to the old town in hopes of finding a bar to start and dancing and friends for later. Now, this is where we encountered our first mistake: it was a Thursday night. In Newcastle and Tokyo (our respective homes) this should not have been an issue, but apparently this is a Friday and Saturday only city. 

    We did eventually find a downtown bar that was open and settled in with a few drinks with three Germans we met. We were advised not to even try finding dancing and to be content here, so we were. After a few drinks though, conversation grew stagnant; either there was a language barrier, or more likely, we were just very different groups. That is when we transferred to a group of Swedish businessmen there on a group holiday. Conversation was easy, people were relaxed, and it was all going very well late into the evening. That is, until one of the men - the one we were conversing most with - starting showing signs of elitism, sexism, and some racism too. A fast turn with the alcohol revealed and absolute jerk. 

   Huffing off, angry and ranting Jen and I headed home. Blood rushing from offense, we passed by an elderly gentleman and his younger companion smoking. Jen asked for a smoke to calm down, and perhaps seeing our distress, had us sit and speak with him. His English was very limited, our Croatia zip, so it was mostly seeing that we were ok and then showing us his cats around the corner. We learned that he ran the bakery across the street and at 3 am, they were beginning to bake the bread for the next day. His companion was one of the bakers. He took us inside and introduced us to the men working, showed us the bread and the ovens. We even had a chance to try to slice the bread pre-baking which is much more difficult than it looks. One of the workers then gave us each some bread to snack on as we watched and stayed warm inside. It was a series of kind gestures and we were so overwhelmed by this surprise introduction to their lives, that our moods completely lifted.

   Having opened the shop, he invited us along with a co-worker of some sorts to his flat for coffee. It was a small bachelor pad and it appeared that he had lived alone for a long time - as there certainly was no hint of a woman's touch around. He made coffee on the stovetop and served it with grinds and all. Jen was not accustomed to this method and woefully did not filter the grinds through her teeth on her first sip. It was strong and not exactly tasty, but well appreciated as we were perfectly sober by this point. They spoke about the local Dalmatian music on the radio and asked us about our story. An hour later, Jen and I were ready for sleep and the men were headed back into work. They walked us most of the way to our flat, after we insisted we were almost there as it was quite a bit out of their way.

     And all we could speak about as the sky began to lighten was how in a single evening when humanity disappointed us so, it also showed us the most kind and wonderful people. 

The bakery and stoop where we met our kindly friend. 

Holyhead Island, Cambridge, and a Motherland-of-sorts

    Back in September my father and I took a week to travel about a bit of the UK. I've already discussed our trip to Snowdon in the last post, but here I want to stream a few thought straggles from the trip. 

    Our first stop during the week was, in fact, Snowdon. The next day though, we drove up and around Holyhead Island to see South Stack with its lighthouse, cliffs, rare chough birds and general scenery. 

 

-This landscape is called heath or heathland, but heath can also be called heather from the heather family of plants.

 

 

 

- I made my dad go down the stairs to be stopped at the gate because we were not going to pay to see the lighthouse. Really, dad followed me then regretted it. 

 

 

 

- Looking sharp Daddio

 

 

 

 

 

 

- The cliffs has some beautiful sediment patterns. We also saw seals from afar and a lot of spiders. I'm not sure it is something I would drive that far to again, but if you are in the neighborhood it is some refreshing air. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Choughs, easily identified by their red bills. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    After a nice three days in Wales, it was time to go see Cambridge and Wisbech as a sort of return to one motherland. My most recent English relative left for the states just in time to fight in theAmerican Civil War. I believe this was my great-great-great- (one more?) -grandfather. While he was from Wisbech, we assume family was about Cambridge to some extent. 

 

- King's College Chapel was really quite wonderful and chalk-full of information.

 

- While still on the campus we met a gentleman who, rather aggressively, told us about the punt boats history. Being a local, he kindly explained for us Americans how Cambridgians stand on the stern of the boat while the cowardly Oxfordians stand in the boat. 

 

 

 

- Downtown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- I did not get any bubble tea that trip, very sad. I just like this woman's face as I creeped about with my camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-I grew up with sheep. I love all things sheep. Dad, less so. We were in 4-H, basically an agricultural youth organization, where all farms must be named. My father recently sent me a photo of a sheep farm called, "Against Dad's Will." That pretty much sums up my dad's thoughts on still having our sheep. 

 

 

 

 

- Cambridge Botanical Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Queen of the Botanical Gardens (for 5 seconds before moving on)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- I like bugs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    And finally: Wisbech. Frankly, this town was much larger than I expected with a nice market and very old town centre and church. That said, it was a bit run down. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   My maternal grandparents were Lithuanian and there was clearly a large Eastern European population currently in Wisbech based on the various languages and shops I saw represented. Just a little familial amusement. 

 

 

 

 

 

- And last but not least, a very grumpy man surrounded by flowers. 

 

   So there you have it, my lingering thoughts and images from my September trip. While I meant to make a bit more sense of them all, at least I hope enjoy a photo or two.

   Next entry I'll make sure to tell a little story from Split, Croatia. 

Snowdon with my Father: A Recreation of an Internal Monologue

Roughly in order of events. 

*Driving with my father in this country is 100% terrible. The roads and oncoming traffic feel like death approaching.
*So tired. Why no coffee this morning? Why DAD!?

* It is no where near as cold as I planned for. I have way too much clothing packed.
*Sweaty back. It begins.

*SHEEP!

*The air smells clear here. Such still water. So nice. 

*Just stunning.

*Interesting little ruin. Hmm, does the path go around the other side?

*And now it goes up. Time for 'UP.'

*Dad! Stop whining! Why do you continue to go hiking with me?

*Evolution really benefitted man.

*Gentle start here. I can do this, its easier than I expected. Oh, you've got to be kidding me! Its a wall of stairs. A. Mountain. Wall. Of. Stairs.

*Hilarious eavesdropping of a young woman refusing to go any higher and telling her dad to go on, she'd wait there. He appeared to be forcing her to exercise. I wonder how that played out.

*My legs are not in great shape here.

*The sheep here know no limits. They are just casually hanging out all the way up this pile of rocks. I keep thinking we've seen the last, then there is another. And another.

*Its always a bit shameful getting lapped.
*Going up the Miner's Path first was a good idea. Hard up, gentle down. 

*My thighs! Oh, my pitiful thighs!

*Very glad we did not know about the restaurant at the top. Dad hates the concept so much. I definitely saved myself some grumbling there. That said, the cold beer was grand.

*Nap time?

DSC_0102.JPG

*The people at the summit are a very juxtaposed group of charming nature lovers and the worst loud, moment-ruining hordes of people whom feel compelled to yell, litter, and detract from the view and any concept of peace.
*Moved and found a nicer, quieter spot. Much less angry now. More food.

* This is me! (a sweaty version)

*I would have loved to have another day to explore the land around here.

*Vegan food, not so easy to find in the small town here. Bread for lunch! And maybe a bunch of Oreos. 

* Cheater train. 

*Hmm, actually had extra water this journey. Beer must have replaced it.

*Yep, now its my calves. Why are gyms so expensive. Do I really have to start running again?

*END: I did not love the way down. It follows the train tracks and in general lacks all notion of wilderness. Far too many over worked little dogs and ill-prepared groups of teens yelling back and forth. Too busy for my taste and lacking the superb views of the ascent. I am clearly just not a people person.

*But the way up, and Snowdon in general was wonderful. The vast views from the climb: hills and peaks, sheep, such greens, and cold mountain waters. A pleasant day mainly composed of great scenery, leg pain and its resulting shame, beer, and a quiet, comfortable father-daughter silence punctuating by dad's complaints. 

 

Snowdon Mountain, Snowdonia, Wales. 

Estonia: Part 3 of 3 - Saaremaa and Midsummer

    My trip to Estonia in June was mainly comprised of two parts. The first was that of Tallinn city, the second was on Saaremaa Island. It is on this island that I witnessed and participated in the Midsummer Holiday. The whole journey was a truly interesting experience, and not quite what I expected to find. I've finished my report on the project (which includes travel logs, interviews, traditions, short stories, my own response story in the folk narrative style, and a boat load of photographs). If you have the time, please take a look for it under my 'STORY SAMPLES' section of this website. 

    Below are two blocks of images: those of the island life and those of the Midsummer holiday. I hope you enjoy the images and are able to get a taste for the beautiful country, simple lifestyle, and celebrated traditions of Saaremaa Island.

1. 

2.

Estonia: Part 2 of 3 - Tallinn

  In continuance with the Bartlett project posts, this post will be a photo-heavy entry. The following images are from the city of Tallinn. This city was a pleasure to visit. It was clean, walkable, friendly and full of historic and artistic interest. I found it very easy to maneuver in as a vegetarian (though not as a vegan) and most people I met spoke English. My only complaint would be the overwhelming number of similar tourist shops and therefore a relative lack of authentic goods.

The past couple of weeks have been very busy with travels, projects, and preparing for my final MFA degree show so this, as well as possible future posts will be mostly photo-essays. Enjoy seeing a bit of what I have seen, hopefully I will share more about the experiences in the future!

Doors of Tallinn

    A Doors of Dublin poster used to hang in my grandparent's house as a child. I loved that poster though never connected them with an actual place. This spring I had to the chance to visit a cousin who lives in Dublin, and noticed that he had acquired my grandmother's old poster. Click! While visiting, I can bet I took the time to go see the some of the beloved doors. This past week I have been in Estonia researching Midsummer narrative traditions and rituals. I have collected lots of observations and photographs and look forward to organizing my thoughts in the next few days. For now though, I've collected a few passing shots of the doors of Tallinn. The bright, geometric doors liven up the buildings and give Tallinn one of its distinctive flavors. I wish I had thought to take more images!

Spiders and Mosquitos

A Bit About Louis Bourgeois' Life:

    Just about to close at the Northumbrian University Gallery is a small Louise Bourgeois print exhibition. Bourgeois (1911-2010) worked with drawing, print, textiles, sculpture, and text. Probably best know for addressing topics of motherhood and the body, along with her giant metal spiders, Bourgeois expressed the intimacies of her mind through various media and phases over the many decades of her life. She began making prints in 1938, in New York at a printmaking studio and with a small intaglio press in her home as she raised her three children. In 1949, she focused her practice on sculpture until 1951, when her father passed away.  Falling into a severe depression, in the next decade of her life she barely made art or left the house. In 1964, she finally exhibited new sculptures exploring psychoanalysis, fleshy, spirals and organic shapes for which her later work is known.  From 1973-1977, she was a printmaking teacher at the School of Visual Arts. She continued printing until her death in 2010.

       Louis Bourgeois, Mosquito, 1999, Drypoint on Paper

 

     Louis Bourgeois, Mosquito, 1999, Drypoint on Paper

THE UGLY AND THE FIERCE:

    In 1999, Bourgeois was the first woman to make a new commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London. This work, her most famous sculpture, was Maman: a 35-ft tall bronze spider. Bourgeois said it is her “most successful subject” and that the emblem of the spider is,

An ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.

    In the Northumbrian University Gallery, there were no spiders, but there was one animal representation: Mosquito (1999, drypoint on paper). This warm red print is a simple line drawing that addresses complex ideas in a minimal manner. Morphing female human and mosquito body parts with what may be a fetus element in the insect’s abdomen, Mosquito is an evocative metaphor for motherhood and femininity.

   What was it about insectival structures that reminded Bourgeois so much of the female life and mind? It is certainly not a typical approach to express the depths of one’s mind with such historically negative symbols. What makes the metaphors of Maman and Mosquito so incredible is that they are not, in fact, negative. She is neither condemning motherhood nor herself. She is expressing a complex life full of positive and negative experiences in a direct, personal manner. These forms, that were so unique for the time and made so much sense to her, do make sense to the viewer if perhaps only after a culturally learned hesitation. Bourgeois’ delicacy conveys the raw beauty of harsh realities (of a woman’s body and life, but also of all humans). The subject is left exposed and vulnerable, yet never weak. Finding strength in flaws and open communication, Bourgeois' works helps to transition the common use of animal metaphors in contemporary art.

Bourgeois' Comfort with Anthropomorphism: 

    In the essay Why Look at Animals?, John Berger discusses a brief history of western European and North American tradition, and break in tradition, of linking humankind to nature: in particular the relationship to animals and the cultural use of animal metaphors and symbolic thought.

Until the 19th century, however, anthropomorphism was integral to the relation between man and animal and was an expression of their proximity. Anthropomorphism was the residue of the continuous use of animal metaphor. In the last two centuries, animals have gradually disappeared. Today we live without them. And in this new solitude, anthropomorphism makes us doubly uneasy. - Berger, pg. 21.

   Bourgeois aptly redefined anthropomorphic creatures, that are typically symbols of fear and evil, to suit her own artistic needs. In Maman and Mosquito (along with many other works), Bourgeois tenderly uses the pitiful and dangerous to represent uncomfortable subjects about the body, mental health, and womanhood. I greatly admire Louis Bourgeois' work and strength, much of her content resonates deeply with me. Bourgeois pushed the boundaries of self-expression and exposure and succeeded in creating individual works that relate to a far larger audience and, I suspect, will continue to do so for years to come.

Karla Black's Plastic Pastels at the IMMA

Karla Black's IMMA Installation. 2015

   From the first of May until the 26th of July, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin) is exhibiting the work of Karla Black. Black (b. 1972 Alexandria, Scotland) was educated, lives in and works in Glasgow. She attended the Glasgow School of Art for her BA, MPhil and MFA degrees. In 2011, Black represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale and was nominated for the Turner Prize. Her work has been exhibited in Germany, USA, the Netherlands, UK, and Switzerland. Considered one of Glasgow's vibrant contemporary artists, Black practices a type of autonomous sculpture. She has developed a personal vocabulary inspired by ideas of psychoanalysis and feminism's impact on visual art. Drawing from various art historical backgrounds, Black describes her forms as, "physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating." 

    Filling the South East Wing of the museum, Black's connected pieces links four galleries and a corridor into one in situ installation. For her first solo show in Ireland, Black- inspired by the IMMA's architecture- installed a row of vertical supports to run along the corridor as the focal point of her exhibition. Prospects, 2015, has 20 plaster casts of approximately 3' tall, thin tree trunks that are bound loosely and partially veiled with a transparent cellophane sheet that twists and swells into various knots. The casts have been set into a plank of raised soil that crumbles and feels overly delicate for the public walking path. The earth, trees, and plastic are daubed with makeup and spray painted with pastels of yellow, pink, green, and blue. The stereotypical female cotton candy palate is just balanced by the deep, dry brown of the soil that one may conceivably overlook as it blends into the gallery floor. The extended installation track is centered in the corridor as viewers are lead to look down one end and then take the circling loop to more closely investigate the Seussian meets Candy Land landscape. 

    Running parallel to the corridor on the righthand side is a strip of four square galleries connected by open door frames. In three of these rooms hangs a single and ethereal sculpture tailored to fit the space (each an individual, titled work). These floating sculptures are constructed of draping and pinned soft polythene sheets suspended by thread. Each room has a dominant color: pink, blue, and blue again. But within each eye-level bulge little scrunched plastics of other colors represent Black's entire pastel palette. The final gallery contains three constructed and suspended clouds made from cotton wool, sugar paper, ribbon, body and oil paint. These forms are significantly less delicate than the plastic rooms, and yet less suggestively aggressive. The plastics contain a smothering capacity and restrained life-like motion that has been sophistically masked with dirty baby pink and blue paint powder. While Black's emphasis on tactile aesthetics harkens back to the 1970's feminist's artists application of non-traditional materials used to order to challenge multiple aspects of the art-world hierarchies, Black's works do not read as pointedly political. In fact, at the first impression is a sense of creative play and flexible hands aiming to suggest a type of foreign communication. Her work has been described as a type of escapism, and her installation of magical trees, earth and clouds  do indeed have a sense of other worldly or dreamlike construction. Despite this partial creation the viewers of Black's exhibit followed the predictable path of the gallery's architecture- passing through, pausing here and there, then ultimately floating away often without the significant consideration Black's installation is worthy of enticing.

-SRLS

 

A Little Show and Tell at the Tyneside

    Last Wednesday I went for my first time to the 'Show and Tell' event at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. Running since early fall 2014, these free monthly events allow local students and recent graduates a chance to show their moving image work. Any form of moving image is acceptable and in the past people have shown fine art, animation, film, interactive media, documentary and commercial work. Last week there were six presentations that took the form of art video, artist/scientist digital video collaboration, narrative short, and documentary. Before showing the work, the artist(s) was introduced and given the opportunity to comment. Most preferred to wait until after screening, but a few people took the time to set the scene or tell the audience it was still a work in progress. After each screening the artists had a chance to get feedback and discuss their work with their peers and the 'host' who had screened all the works and prepared conversation topics for a generally quiet audience. The event ran for two hours with a short leg stretch in the middle. This is an interesting program that has the potential to expand experimental works, bring exposure to new artists, and help the artists improve their craft. At the current moment, the audience is still a bit quiet and the presented works are defended with the term 'incomplete' too much to really bring strength to the event, but given time this may develop. 

    Below is a quick summary of the April 29th presentations and links to the available works. A few of the concepts and videos were very promising and worth a browse. Enjoy!


1. Nico Amalfitano and Ilaria Spiga "NO!3E"

Amalfitano (animation) and Spiga (concept) created NO!S3 as an experimental animation based on Datamoshing and Glitching techniques. The sounds combined city noises with wave patterns of sound being played underwater to record the startled reactions of fish to loud noises. The moving animation included waves, video game references, and city forms to help stand as a metaphor for human's react to loud noise distractions- particularly those found in urban societies. This video was a gesture to Spiga's scientific research but the two hope to create a new video matching actual sound waves to the reaction patterns in the future.

Video in above link

2. Hossein Nayernia "Lullaby"

The Newcastle University graduate's short film "Lullaby" (2012) is based on short story by an unknown author that Nayernia originally saw on Facebok (funny, I know). The short is a direct humorous and moving narrative about an elderly couple's sleep and morning routines and the battle of marital snoring. The video has a high production feel to it, using professional actors and a clean, stripped back film style with minimal dialogue. The overall storyline is melodramatic but Nayernia tells it in a captivating manner well worth the 8 or so minutes. I enjoyed this video quite a bit: the snoring made my ears twitch, the actors made me laugh, and the plot made me a little emotional.

Video in link

3. Mani Kambo

Northumbrian graduate, Kambo presented a video work in progress revolving around ideas of life and death, fire and water. This non-narrative, flashing, sketch-like work would ideally be realized in a multi-screen installation. The soundtrack dropped in-and-out as images of particles, flames, grey figurative blurs, animated circles filling with water or fire, and unidentifiable flashes linked together to create a fast paced short video.

No video available

4. Michael Lee Toas "Club Resistance at the People's Bookshop"

Cumbria film and television production graduate, Lee Toas, presented the longest work of the night running around 13 minutes long. The documentary on the Durham independent bookshop introduced the audience to the People's Bookshop through shaking pathways and a traditional documentary-style format. The story is informative and interesting but the video lacks a driving message and the polish it appears to strive for. Despite some awkward cuts and a lack of wider scope, this short documentary is a solid introduction to a local business that the artist clearly feels passionate about. 

Video on Youtube

5. Callum Costello "Big jump"

Costello is a 2012 Northumbrian graduate who recently completed an arts residency at the Tyneside Cinema. "Big Jump" is a micro-short narrative video (3 min 40 sec with credits) about a granddaughter reenacting a photograph of her grandmother on the day of her funeral. This video is seeping with the classic dry and dark British humor while the dialogue is an exercise in reduction. Polished off with special effects and an excellent young actress, "Big Jump" is an enjoyable quirky and poignant short.

Video here.

6. Luke Robson "Gregg"

Luke Robson is a Newcastle Uni BA art student who is presented the work in progress "Gregg." The NCL Uni film club is currently producing the film and the writer Calum Wheeler is directing. The voiced-over story tells a tale like Kafka's "Metamorphosis" in reverse.  A beetle turned into man discusses his hardships at adapting to the drastic and permanent life change. A bit sad, a bit funny, and a bit cliche- this work is not there yet, but is on its way to an entertaining watch.

____ ____ ____ ____ ____

If you would like to present your work, please get in touch with artsprogramme@tynesidecinema.co.uk.

If you'd like to be part of the audience, reserve your free ticket now at the Tyneside Cinema Box Office in person or by calling us on 0845 217 9909. T: @TynesideArt

The Sounds of "SeaWomen" by Mikhail Karikis

Preface: As my last couple entries have been centered around Katie Wright and my WILD OBAN kickstarter proposal (which ends very soon on April 30th - still a few hours to donate!) I have decided to transition away from my own practice back into the review of another. SeaWomen by Mikhail Karikis is an inspirational art film that addresses sea life, international exploration, and insight into a fading way of human life - all on a contemporary art platform. Many of the fundamental elements I adore in SeaWomen are aspects Katie and I hope to explore in WILD OBAN. Below is my review of Karikis' video installation from the Listening: Hayward Touring Curatorial Open curated by Sam Belinfante at Baltic39 from September 2014- January 2015. 

Photo courtesy of Colin Davison at www.rosellastudios.com

Photo courtesy of Colin Davison at www.rosellastudios.com

MIKHAIL KARIKIS

    Mikhail Karikis is a Greek/British interdisciplinary artist currently based in London. He studied architecture at the Bartlett (UCL) and completed an MA/PhD at the Slade School London. Noteworthy exhibitions include: Danish Pavilion 54th Venice Biennale, MANIFESTA 9 (Belgium), the Barbican, 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale (Greece), Tate Britain, Coreana Museum (Seoul), Arnolfini, and Galeria Eduardo Fernandes (Sao Paulo).  Since 2007, Karikis' work has incorporated musical recordings and performances including compilations with Army Me, Björk, and DJ Spooky. Both his artistic and musical work revolves around the investigation of the voice as a sculptural material with which he may explore ideas of community, human rights, and identity. 

THE HAENYEO

    The haenyeo, literally translating to 'sea-women', are a fast disappearing community of female-only sea workers. On the North Pacific island of Jeju, these free diving women have been operating for centuries outside of traditional gender-roles and professional and industrial modernizations. The diminishing community consists now of mainly 60-90 year old women who dive without oxygen up to 20 meters, for 2 minutes, and up to 80 times per day to catch sea-food, collect seaweed, and find pearls. The use of an ancient breathing technique called sumbisori (breath-sound) allows the great depths achieved and produces a unique aural whistle that contributes to the singular identity of this community. The high-pitched breathy whistle or shriek is released at each resurfacing in order to help adjust to the frequent pressure changes. The technique entails rapid exhalation of held carbon dioxide followed by quick inhalation of fresh oxygen. It is this sound that first attracted Karikis to the haenyeo community.

                          "(I) Asked why they don’t take advantage of the modern development of scuba gear and breathing apparatus they reply, ‘well then we wouldn’t be sea women’". - MK

    Traditionally, the practice was passed on from one generation to the next starting at the age of eight when new girls began diving. A combination of intertwined physiological, economic and cultural reasons exist for the gender-purposed nature of this profession including the fat distribution in women’s bodies and historical attitudes towards nudity being shameful and reserved for those of low social status. In the 1970s the haenyeo community was the leading economic force on Jeju island and the women often served as the primary financial providers for the family. This unusual matriarchal system within an otherwise patriarchal Korean society helped alter ideas of female value and pride (if only locally). At the haenyeo's peak 40 years ago, the community that worked commuted, worked, bathed, ate, sang, and prospered together numbered north of thirty thousand women. Near extinction, the work still provides a sense of pride, economic sufficiency, and life purpose for these strong and agile, aging women.

THE AURAL ALLURE OF SEAWOMEN 

The Baltic 39's video installation SeaWomen, 2012, by Mikhail Karikis was comprised of a multi-speaker sound installation, a 30-minute looping video, and 10 floor pillows on a large straw mat in the blacked out gallery space. Mikhail Karikis' simple but immersive installation focused on emphasizing the aural qualities of the work by presenting a video with only limited Korean words and without subtitles or voice-overs. Karikis feels that to understand and interact with people, one does not need to understand every bit of linguistic information. The only sounds in the video are those of the ocean, the boats, and the women working and communicating with one another. Images of the diving - viewed dominantly from the water's surface - are broken with prolonged scenes of the elderly haenyeo eating communally, cleaning and weighing their catch, washing, singing, and commuting on boats and scooters. The entire day and work process is represented throughout the film, though not always in a chronological fashion.

The stripped back video style allows for sounds to be clear and attention grabbing and for each scene change to be a deliberate addition to the narrative. In the haenyeo's story, each various vocal sounds connects to a certain activity in their day. The whistling marks the dive, the work-song is used in transport, a distinctive shower splash marks the end of the day, and chatter vibrates in the communal dining hall after work. Central to Karikis' research has been vocal sounds that are beyond or without language. Without a frame of reference the sounds of shrieks, gibberish, yelps... are meaningless but in context these specific sounds can help mark the identity of a community. Karikis arranges the different sounds elegantly and with very little self indulgence with the exception of some overlaid singing and wave audios on longer transitions. Despite conflicting with the seemingly unaltered representations of the rest of the work, the audio track additions do aid in creating sensations of time moving on without change.

In the Listening: Hayward Touring Curatorial Open exhibition the importance of the whistling sound and its role in identifying the community is well understood. But were it not for the themed curation, the viewer could easily overlook the significant aural qualities of SeaWomen in exchange for the fascinating subcultural issues of age, gender, and the communal eco-feminist dimension of the sea-working. This by no means weakens the work, but allows for the viewer to direct their attention to whichever elements they find most appealing. The inclusion of the floor mats mirrors the manner in which the haenyeo eat and discuss business matters. This informal viewing presentation lends itself to an intimate relation with the video as viewers relaxed, leaned back, and tended to stay far longer with Karikis' work than is often seen with video installations.

SeaWomen by Mikhail Karikis at first appears as a straight forward documentary but this is far from correct. The artist used the space to welcome the audience and link their bodies to the customs of the haenyeo. He cycled nonlinear scenes to emphasize the role of time in the sea, the women's work, and the women's lives. He paralleled this cycling to the natural filling and emptying of life sustaining breath and centered a video around a sound that marks the transitions between the two. This moment of transition is vital to appreciating the history behind the non-lingual sounds of the sumbisori. SeaWomen enticingly explores an individual sound that stands for a community with a long history of strength, pride, and love of the sea.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

https://vimeo.com/42216544 will lead you to a Vimeo promotion clip of SeaWomen. More information may be found on the artist's website: http://mikhailkarikis-seawomen.blogspot.co.uk/

 

A Day in Yorkshire's Turkish Baths and Gardens

   Two weeks ago I finished my MFA dissertation and was in much need of some relaxation and new inspiration. Browsing the internet, trying to find somewhere to travel that would not cost me my coffee budget for the next month, I found out there was a Turkish Bath house in Yorkshire! Now, perhaps this is not that surprising for native UK citizens, but for me it was thrilling news. So last Thursday I packed my bag and took two trains to the spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. 

Colonnade and Sun Parlours in the Valley Gardens, Harrogate. 2015

Colonnade and Sun Parlours in the Valley Gardens, Harrogate. 2015

Off the train and with a fresh latte, I meandered down through the small city center full of clothing boutiques towards the Valley Gardens and Pine Woods. The gardens lead into a recreational field, then into the woods, and finally ends with the RHS Garden Harlow Carr.  I never made it to the RHS Gardens due to time constraints, but even in February the Valley Gardens were delightful. A bit bare perhaps, but the grass was green and little pink buds and roses were easy to find. 

My favorite part of the nature walk was the Pine Woods. This 96 acre woodland conservation area is just amazing. Muddy, a little bit of snow, and absolutely stunning. The trees are tall and healthy, birds and squirrels are in abundance, the varied footpaths distribute the walkers, and the dogs run off leash enjoying some rare freedom. I miss nature quiet frequently living in cities, and this walk was quite therapeutic. 

After my walk I went back up to the city and to the Turkish Baths and Health Spa. I made sure to go for the mid week discount and booked a ladies only time slot. Bathing suits optional for the single gendered bookings. For a 4 hours time allotted, the price of this treat is reasonable at 17 pounds. The dozen or so women were a balanced mix of nude, topless, or full suits so any choice you made would fit in. The baths involved a staged process of the eucalyptus steam room, shower, plunge bath (which literally took my breath away the first time I dove in), and three heated rooms that worked up to 55C. I spent the recommended 20 minutes in each heat room working from the coolest to hottest, with a steam and plunge in between each temperature increase. By half hour cool off room, I was relaxed, drowsy, and my skin felt tight and smooth. It was lovely. 

My trip to Harrogate was just what I needed after months of research and writing. The town is quaint, friendly, and offers shopping, nature, food, and should you like - a spa house. If you are in need of a splurge, I would definitely recommend spending a day here. If I could have afforded a B&B, I would have slept over and gone walking again in the morning. But thankfully York is a 30 minute train ride away and full of budget hostels. Until next time Harrogate! 

Pine Woods View. 2015

Pine Woods View. 2015

Yearning and Haggling at the Vintage Fair

Happy Sunday Everyone! I've had the proper lazy day whilst postponing paper work. My first stop this morning was browsing Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle upon Tyne. This UK traveling vintage fair filled a large room (conveniently located near two cafes) with dozens of individual stalls.

I haggled down a piece with that nice man in the stripped shirt. My mother would be proud.

I haggled down a piece with that nice man in the stripped shirt. My mother would be proud.

I arrived 10 minutes before 11, and by the time the doors opened there was a long line of anticipating shoppers. Most were women though quite a few families showed up. Many vendors and shoppers alike came dressed in 1940's through 1970's inspired outfits.  

One of the fair's selling points that inspired me to get out of the house on a Sunday, was the 'affordable' in Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair. While the rack above was marked 2 pounds and up, most of the articles were in the 15-25 pound range. Despite the median price being a bit high for my taste, there were tons of 5 pound racks, scarves, small pieces, and men's clothing that fell into the lower cost spectrum. Also, there is always the option to haggle at fairs and I did bring down a piece 3 pounds, which later went to my tea. 

I don't wear silk, but the 8 pound red and orange silk dress above almost convinced me otherwise. I did end up splurging on a couple head scarves and what I thought was a lovely, USA made dress but turned out to be my very first romper! Lucky me it still fit.

The fair was well stocked, full of friendly people, and very colorful. I will certainly try to go again the next time it is in Newcastle, prepared to show up early and mind the crowds.

The fair, located in the Biscuit Rooms of the Biscuit Factory sold teas and drinks downstairs. However, since I have a low tolerance for crowds, I went into the Biscuit Factory (full of local art for sale) to their cafe and had a wonderful soya chai latte overlooking the town. I like my chai a little spicier but the view was great and the tea hot and delicate. It most definitely was a charming Sunday morning.