Visaurihelix

 

Reimagining the Glasgow of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the audio-visual installation Visaurihelix, showcasing in The Lighthouse, Glasgow, until 2 January 2019.

Visaurihelix Artist, Dr Louise Harris explained the exhibition title, saying: “It is a made up word, used to summarise the installation, its first part represents visuals, auri is related to sound and helix is related to the helical staircase of The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse had commissioned the piece, by sending out a brief for a work that would both fit its unique space and celebrate the 150-year legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Harris said:“I have been obsessed with Mackintosh design and architecture since I was a child, and I am also obsessed with spiral staircases, so it was a pretty perfect combination for me; so I applied to the brief, and there you go!”

Harris used her expertise in audio-visual art to compile soundscapes from Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, before combining and presenting them in a new way. This included using speakers, on The Lighthouse staircase, to vertically play sound recorded from five Rennie Mackintosh sites.

Harris explained: “The majority of the pitched material in the work is mapped from those sites; I built algorithmic software patches that took the site designs and translated them to changes in pitch over time, and that made the electronic backbone of the work.”

She added: “The other audio material is sound that has been recorded in those five spaces and has been combined into the work.”

The work was then made interactive by entwining The Lighthouse staircase in a giant glockenspiel construction, the angles of which mimicked patterns of Charles Rennie Mackintosh design, allowing visitors to create their own sounds.

Harris said:“When I was working in the studio I had to make guesses as to how noises would sound when travelling vertically, not horizontally, so that was quite challenging, but it was a good challenge, it made me think more about how to work with multi-speaker formats in more detail.”

She added:“I was quite surprised how well the speakers worked together, but also how the glockenspiel element turned out.”

 

While Harris knew the exhibition space would be a challenging part of the project, an unexpected challenge arose when the Glasgow School of Art suffered a fire.

Harris said:“I was planning to record sounds from the Art School and include them as one of the building soundscapes in the installation; but the fire happened literally a couple of days before I was due to go in and collect the material, so it was quite poignant.”

Despite being unable to capture soundscapes from the Art School, Harris hopes that Visaurihelix will allow people to reflect on all of Rennie Mackintosh’s work.

She said: “I hope this exhibition’s visitors have enjoyed engaging with different Mackintosh spaces, from different places in the city, and so it acts as a tribute to the Art School as well.”

When first arrived in Glasgow, Harris couldn’t wait to see Mackintosh’s buildings up close.

She explained: “I am a relative new comer to Glasgow, I have only lived here for around four or five years, but the Lighthouse and the Mackintosh buildings and galleries were some of the first things that I explored when I got here.”

Harris moved to Glasgow to take up a position at Glasgow University.

She said: “When I got my job in Glasgow, my title was Lecturer in Sound and Audio Visual Practices, and that type of role was unheard of at the time, but these days it is much more common.

“The audio-visual art scene has changed hugely in the last 10 years or so, audio-visual work has become more prominent in festivals and galleries.”

Harris added:‘I think Glasgow’s audio-visual art scene will continue to develop in coming years. Festivals like Sonica are really good foregrounds for audio-visual art work, so I think Glasgow is quite ahead of the game in that sense.”

Despite this, Harris accepts that the definition of audio-visual art can still be confusing.

She said: “My audio-visual art is about creating pieces that engage your sonic and visual senses simultaneously, and give equal weight to both. If you think about a music video its is about marketing the sound, and if you think about a narrative film that is primarily about the visual; but audio-visual work is about the equality of the relationship between the two mediums.”

To explore Harris’ audio-visual art in other venues, you can see her exhibition, Alocas, in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, in Greenwich London, from November 2018 until January 2019.

Harris summarised: “Alocas involves a dual screen speaker and audio-visual work. The audience is situated in the middle of two large screens, so it is a very immersive, physical and participatory experience.”

RCA Graduate Show

RCA picture

Art is for everyone; and to prove the point the Royal College of Art (RCA)  welcomed the public, without fee, to its Graduate Show 2015.

RCA Head of Communications & Marketing, Áine Duffy said: “This year saw the biggest ever graduating cohort – 648 MA, MPhil and PhD students in total, across six Schools: Architecture; Communication; Design; Humanities; Fine Art and Material.

“The Show Team, led by Dean of Fine Art Professor Juan Cruz worked tirelessly on every aspect – from ensuring that each student had the right space for her or his work to delivering the online catalogue, with 648 different profiles.”

The show featured work from its latest Alumna, across all disciplines; letting viewers wander from sublime sculpture to ridiculous renditions.

While performance art contrasted with material; the show had one constant, it was thought provoking. Throughout the exhibition artists used form to reflect preoccupations such as: fetishes, science and politics.

On the ground floor a huge print loomed over guests; its black and white puffs suggested tree canopies. Yet artist, Kate Fahey, explained the ‘trees’ were actually mushroom clouds, looming over Syria. She sourced aerial pictures of explosions before layering them into a dystopian textile.

RCAKate

She said: “The gap between what we see (and our reaction to it) and the initial, functional intention of the photograph on its capture is becoming further from our grasp.

“In the fragility of the work I reference both the ephemerality of the ‘poor image’ that ‘operates against the fetish value of high resolution’ and the instability of the subject matter.

“In its form and placement within space I reflect on our relationship with contemporary images – screen based perspectives, aerial, satellite and elevated views.”

While Fahey used excess to highlight atrocity, another graduate used it to harness energy. Ghanaian artist, Nana Asafua Dawson, used his home-land’s heat as inspiration to make a (huge) magnifying- glass furnace.

Nana furnace

He said: “Back in Ghana I had worked with craftsmen who used an open- air, electric powered furnace to melt their wax and metal.

“I got to asking how craftsmen could work in an environment like this, without wasting so much fuel. So I came up with the concept of using heat conduction, conversion and rotation to harness the power of the sun.”

Dawson explained: “I bought a 1.1m squared lens; created a solar powered furnace; tested it in London; and it worked! I managed to get the lens to produce temperatures of 1500 and above. Then I used it to melt scrap metal, and create the jewelry displayed at the show.”

Nature again inspired metalwork, as artist Victoria Shennan displayed her jewellery and musical- collaboration about bacteria. The graduate first researched the quantities of human bacteria, before making jewellery that reflected its proportion and place in the body.

RCAVic

She then sought to replicate its patterns, in a musical collaboration with Exeter University Medical School Research Fellow ; Dr Linda Long, and creator of Molecular Music, Jack Hurst.

Shennan said: “The body is a landscape, host to many habitats, vastly uncharted, and part of a wider ecosystem. Through the medium of the body we experience the world.

“My exhibition asks: ‘what if you could experience the world hidden in plain view and hear the rhythms of nature that underpin existence or weigh the value of these invisible worlds?’”

Invisible forces also acted as inspiration for artist Alexander Duncan’s installation. At the show, Duncan flooded an area and added (partially concealed) machinery to create a fake tide.

RCA Alex Duncan

He said: “In this work a loading ramp becomes a slipway; somewhere intertidal and uncanny. An artificial lapping wave powered by a pointless machine.

“I’m fascinated with how people react to water; to want to be close to something potentially harmful and control it.”

Control is a theme which resurfaced in artist Yunjung Lee’s work. Her jagged jewelry showcased rings and necklaces with fangs, snakes and stilettos.

RCAYunjungLee

She explained: “I found that there are two female stereotypes: the princess and the monster. Barbie doll is an example of the princess; Medusa and Vagina Dentata the monster.

“I fused the two different representations and created something in between. Throughout the project I tried to shed the new light on the representation of women, and make the jewellery that can be part of the wearer’s identity.”

Identity formation also prevailed in RCA photographer Ruidi Mu’s work. Mu’s centrepiece was a wooden hut, papered in passport photos of similar looking people. These pictures sat behind test tubes (containing hair) in a combination that suggested cloning.

RCA Rudi Mu

Mu said: “My works revolves around the idea of ‘happening’; trying to find the boundary between art and life, and shrinking it as much as possible; using photography to recreate the environment.”

Another artist using variable environment to manipulate form was Isabella Kullmann. Kullmann’s glass vases and bowls showed clean edges that responded well to light.

RCAIsabella

She said: “This body of work is all about the glass object in its domestic environment or architectural setting- the play of light, the fall of shadows, the reflection on the surface, and the refraction of colour.

“These transitory properties stand in contrast to the permanence of the material itself. The situated environment becomes active: adding colour, movement, and light to the object, while the hardness of the glass dissolves into the space surrounding it.”

Reactive and proactive in parts, the RCA Graduate show offered something for everyone.

Head of Communications & Marketing, Áine Duffy concluded: “The RCA 2015 show has been an unmatched showcase for the talented designers and artists graduating this year.”