Boundary Stone :: Open Studio performance proposal

This is a proposal for a public performance on May 18th 2013, to take place during our Open Studios event, here at the Ruskin Glass Centre.

My work is centred on spaces, and investigating the politics and ethics of our common interactions with space. I am especially interested in how our conscious perception extends, and how this action – usually barely noticed – can be exposed through art works to bring us the possibility of an ethical repositioning. Our horizons need not be mediated by contemporary socio-techno mores but unbound and boundless through immersive art-works. This is the third work in a series, the first being Standing Reserve, (which is written up in a previous post). The second: Boundary Field. I will be writing up that piece soon.

The piece involves me carving through a 2 tonne block of Cotswold limestone and then climbing through the hole. The stone is quite soft but it will take considerable effort to achieve. There will be an audio element for the viewers to interact with, and this really is the heart of the piece. The sound of my breathing will be captured by a microphone inside my dust mask, and an ECG device will be recording my heartbeat. These signals will then be out=putted through a surround audio system and headphones. My hammer action will keep time and diverge intermittently with my heart beat. It is not clear as yet whether heart beat or breathing will be broadcast through which medium (headphones or audio monitors).


Cotswold boulder, 2 tonnes

The intention here is to immerse the participant in a space which indexes both internal and external experience. Normally when watching an action such as this one’s conscious focus is directed to the point of impact, i.e. the point at which the chisel impacts the material; as we are accustomed to objectify lumps of raw geology in this fashion. In fact all exterior phenomena, whether built or given is treated as surface by the action of ocular-centric human perception. This work seeks to disrupt this relationship by utilising the intimate sound of my body whilst I am in the act of mining through matter. The focus of one’s attention will be adrift in a de-objectified space.

Aim(s) of the piece: 

  • To employ an immersive art-work to disseminate a middle ground found between nature-as self and nature-as-object perspectives found within current environmental philosophies.
  • To use an immersive art-work to deconstruct ‘a sense of place’

On the surface discourses that seek to explore a philosophical approach to the environment and immersive art may seem irreconcilable. The areas of study suggest different media and modes of participant engagement. Philosophies of the environment take many forms: on one side stand utilitarianism and conservationism: the language of environment as resource for example – as expressed in the work of Gifford Pinchot (1947). The notion that as the apex species, humanity is in rightful custodial possession of all non-human nature, the built environment not being separate from this; and as such it must be subservient to the laws and customs of humanities hierarchical systems, in other words, nature-as-object. On the other side of this argument are the philosophies and practices epitomised by the work of Arne Naess who coined the term ‘Deep Ecology’ (1972), where by nature has an intrinsic value apart from its usefulness to humans and the rhetoric of which extends to a bio-centric egalitarianism where humans (it is proposed) – having no privileged status as a species, engage in methods to re-balance nature such as population control -and is widely seen as an expression of nature-as-self.

Immersive art implies that one is drawn into an embodied relationship with the work, whether this is an installation, panorama, or theatrical performance. The origins of immersive art can be dated back to cabinets of curiosities, Baroque ceiling paintings, ancient frescoes and even cave paintings (Bartlem, 2005); there has always been a fascination with immersion which has often been used to express an ideal, often transcendental form of representation of our surroundings. The capacity of immersive aesthetics to collapse the distance between the viewer and the artwork has and is being successfully exploited in the new media realms of Virtual Reality and other immersive technologies used by artists such as Luc Courchesne, Rafael Lozarno-Hemmer, Michael Neimark, Simon Penny, Erwin Redl, Jeffery Shaw, Christ Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau.

Question raised by this work

Can art practice engender a transformation of self-to-setting?

Immersive technologies are not devoid of politics – can a re-imagining of space through an immersive art-work interrogate an ethics of space and self, and engender consequences for traditional aesthetic theories in relation to the environment?

every little bit helps 🙂


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