Saturday, September 7, 2013


Paul Rogers: "The media machine, a real-time, performative, sound and object based installation"
during the Noises of Art conference in Aberystwyth, September 2013.
This piece was a beautiful use of junk sounds.

I believe a video will be available on the internet some time soon.
Martin and I didn't decide to go to the conference "The Noises of Art" at Aberystwyth Arts Centre until just about ten days beforehand, when Martin managed to sell some older art and made just enough money for us to attend. As a university driven conference, it was subsidised and not especially expensive, but our situation is dire right now so this was a questionable expense nonetheless. When we heard about this conference we both felt driven to take part, hoping that in some way or another it would help us air our stuffy brains and that just getting out there into the real world among intelligent people with an interest in art for a bit would be inspiring. This venture required a massive effort from myself, as I had to get up several hours earlier than usual, try and make sure I got to sleep at a reasonable time (we commuted back and forth, as it's about 40 minutes by car), and put up with three really long days of stretching my attention span somewhat unsuccessfully and sitting down for most of that time.

Aberystwyth - photos copyright by Vivi-Mari Carpelan
The atmosphere was great and I think everyone enjoyed this conference a great deal (someone hinted that they had never been to one that was so interdisciplinary and interesting). Obviously I can't say too much about the contents of the 20 min talks as many are preparations for doctorates. Most participants were presenting papers (many of them being PhD graduates), either in the real or virtually, or offering artist's talks or sound art installations. I think we were the only ones who were there for the whole time and only to listen and observe. As expected, a few papers were as dry as the paper the words were written on, others were suitably entertaining. A potential problem with research into the arts is that by the time this becomes possible, the art in question is already quite old. Thus we heard quite a lot about Paul Klee and his influence on musicians, John Cage, and a couple of names that were unknown to me - Terry Fox who amongst other things, recorded the purring sound of cats (compare with my "production logo" at the end of The Title) and the disturbing art of voice of Vito Acconci. Especially Acconci's performances resonate to a degree with my "Insomnia", as self becomes objectified and manipulative of the imagined "other" through the use of obsessive speech, especially here in a performance called Claim Excerpts from 1971. 

'A documentation of one of Acconci's most notorious performances, Claim Excerpts is a highly confrontational work, an exercise in self-induced, heightened behavioral states, and an aggressive psychological exploration of the artist/viewer relationship. During the three-hour performance, Acconci sat in the basement of 93 Grand Street in New York, blindfolded, armed with metal pipes and a crowbar. His image was seen on a video monitor in the upstairs gallery space. Staking claim to his territory, he tries to hypnotize himself through language into an obsessive state of possessiveness: "The talk should drive me into a state where everything is possible." He becomes increasingly tense and violent, threatening to kill anyone who tries to enter his space. Acconci has written, "If during the first hour, I had hit someone, I would have stopped, shocked, horrified; if, during the third hour, I had hit someone, I would have used that as a marker, a proof of success... a signal to keep hitting." (from the description on Ubuweb)'

'In the 1970s, he produced a remarkable body of conceptual, performance-based film and video works, in which he engages in an intensive psychodramatic dialogue between artist and viewer, body and self, public and private, subject and object.' (From Electronic Arts Intermix)

Generally speaking the conference offered a great cross section of all sorts of stuff, though tiring as it was for my brain to process. I felt really privileged to find out what people are researching or working on artwise (though art practices were less represented and many of the theoretical papers were rather impenetrable, at least to my sorry brain). As I have a MA degree in humanities from 1999, I certainly felt reasonably at home, but it was also quite obvious to me how far removed I now am from the world of academia and the active world of working life. It left me feeling nostalgic. After my graduation my health declined quite rapidly and the start up of my PhD came to a halt quite soon after. I had to concede that the university years were behind me, and had to try and get on with my life in other ways. Some might even say that I have really moved on, i.e. gotten on with "real life", as a friendly person pointed out. Having now experienced this kind of conference, I feel that I might want to submit a talk myself if a similar opportunity came along, but I would have to consider the stress that this would put me under (if accepted of course). I want to fight the position of a complete outsider but we'll have to see how it goes. Martin on the other hand would love to pursue some serious studies in fine arts, and I know he'd be perfectly able to if an opportunity were to arise. It's an annoying fact that higher education is so expensive in the UK - if this was Finland, he'd already be doing it.

Andrew McPherson:
"The Magnetic Resonator Piano: Electronic Augmentation of an Acoustic Musical Instrument"
at Aberystwyth School of Art in September 2013.
Artwise, I think the conference confirmed the ideas about sound and multimedia that have already been brewing. My two previous multimedia projects will see a third part and I will thus end up with a trilogy, something to do with natural vs unnatural, control vs abandonment... The first part, Insomnia, has sound elements that I created through recordings of events in space as well as my own voice. I have thought some more about what it all means (and if it's still a bit hazy, I shall attempt to work on articulating it even better):

In this video performance, self becomes objectified through the use of voice art. A subjective experience goes through stages of expressions as thoughts become vocalised and then recorded as a token for the direct communication that would never take place in real life. Here, the body gains a semiotic quality because of carrying a potent message of distress, and it can only be a signifier through the process of art.

The second part, The Title, has some recordings of events but also introduces classical music as a symbol of history and the past (apart from being a mood enhancer, of course). Being faced with the problem of not wanting to use copy-righted music and thus not being able to claim full ownership of the work, I have been ruminating about creative ways of creating my own sounds. Perhaps attending local choirs has given me some self-confidence in this area, too. I have also been very adament about the importance of silence and of course, this was confirmed as well. Sound and silence are to me yet another undeniable dichotomy of negative and positive, and therefore of equal importance.

Next up, in the third part ("Visible/Invisible"is the working title), I will be experimenting with more ways of using my voice in an even more expressive way. I hadn't quite realised just how well tremor and feeling really does come through in the recordings, that I have done with free software on my laptop, and Martin's good quality Sony mic. However, this is partly apparent in The Title, in the laborious breathing sequence. Martin has been enhancing my soundscapes but I think that it's time for me to try and get my head around the editing of sounds through some free software called Audacity. This way I feel freer to experiment and create multiple layers without having to wait until Martin has a moment to improve the recordings. What would I do if Martin wasn't informing me about the technical side of things! As it is, I have a great opportunity of adding a new and wonderful dimension to my body of work. As John Harvey, a pleasant professor at the School of Art in Aberystwyth said to me; a lot of artists are starting to employ sound as a medium inspite of not having any formal education in music. It's obvious that this is absolutely the right place for me to be right now, and it feels quite natural. In the end, almost anything goes, and it's simply up to the individual to put their creativity to good use.

What really inspires me is that I can combine sound with my visual material, as this to me is a beautiful marriage. I almost feel that there's a bit lacking when visuals or sounds are presented on their own - this feeling was certainly reinforced by the conference. We have multiple senses, and visuals without sound could perhaps seem a bit like being deaf but have good vision, and vice versa. For this reason I have started to warm up to the idea of video art, which I used to sneer at. In fact it just occurred to me that I've always felt precious about sound, but was unable to do much about it. I used to play music at my private views and later on when I got ITunes, started to create playlists with selected songs for each exhibition. Sadly, playing this music during the exhibitions was rarely possible.

Please read more about my current sound art projects. You can find examples on SoundCloud or my website.


A few weeks ago I received a letter that my art work didn't make it to Shape Open at the Nunnery Gallery on Bow Street in London, but a week later someone wrote and said they thought I might not have been told one of my two pieces did get in! I really hope there's a way of attending the private view in November. Shape Arts is an organisation for disability arts and the exhibition was open to both disabled and non-disabled artists on the theme "disability re-assessed". I'm sure that the main objective is to present disability in a positive light, as 2012 was a year of many developments in this field (mainly through the paraolympics in London). My piece is, however, direct and confrontational.  Unfortunately they didn't want my confrontational statement for the catalogue, so it had to be rewritten. Funny that, as it's really the sort of censorship that I'm trying to fight through pieces like this!

Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "Your Indifference is Breaking My Heart".
Mixed media collage with
artist's photograph, moral poetry from the 19th C, and vintage engraving.
Copyright 2012.

In this piece, I'm suggesting that the conservative government (and the Atos system of disability assessment in particular) has a very Victorian moralist attitude towards those who are disabled and/or afflicted with chronic (long term) illness (a reason there's Victorian moral poetry in the background - nothing much has changed in terms of moral codes...).

Original version: "This is personal. Look me in the eyes and stop giving me moral BS about contributing to society on your terms. You feel you have the right to assess my abilities, but what does that even mean? I am ME, a unique human being. Do you care about that? I need your support and compassion, not parenting! We're in this together, you know.” 

The rectified version: This work suggests that the accepted moral codes of society are still “Victorian”. It is about the fundamental right to assess my own abilities and the ways in which I feel I can contribute to society on my own terms. I want to evoke questions about the validity of assessing people’s abilities from an emotionally indifferent point of view – is my value solely dependent on my economic productivity?

Another happy piece of news is that I sold "The Impossibility of Sleeplessness and Damien Hirst Doesn't Exactly Make it Better" at Outsidein West in Taunton. I'm so glad someone appreciated my hangman's humour! In both pieces, I have used photographs of myself, and feeling this is really the way to go for me.

Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "The Impossibility of Sleeplessness and Damien Hirst
Doesn't Exactly Make it Better",
Handmade photomontage, copyright 2013.

"In a general sense, this piece is about the fear of a sudden fall into a state of despair and depression, and how difficult it is to remain balanced and “on top of things”.

More specifically, this piece is about insomnia, which in severe cases involves constant threats of medication not working any more, while one is being pumped up with habit forming medication in the first place, of the fear of going insane with severe cognitive and physical impairment and physical flare ups due to lack of sufficient good quality sleep... and never getting any really useful help from the medical establishment. On top of this there's the sleep schedule which always goes wrong, ie. something disturbs one's routines and tips the wagon so you end up sleeping/dozing/lying around well into the afternoon and always feeling the day goes by while you're simply useless. Managing a condition that happens when you're not looking, is like walking a tight rope, knowing you could fall any time. This piece is part of Project X. When I thought of the name including the word "impossibility" it became a reference to titles by Damien Hirst and his somewhat doubtful financial success.ow difficult it is to remain balanced and “on top of things”.