Solway Walk – How to Perform a Walk

Introducing Augusto Boal’s ideas about performance as a creative space for experiential learning

The act of reflection on my Solway Walk led me back to performance. Performance, like art, is a variable and often contested phenomenon. It can include theatre, dance, music, sports, business, ritual, play, performance arts and general social functioning. It can be a source of entertainment as actor or audience, but here it would be useful to connect with performance as a form of experiential learning. All art making could be understood as experiential learning as a source of knowledge, but performance has a particularly strong affinity with experiential learning as an active embodied process. My take on performance has to be influenced by my Dramatherapy training, in which a group or and individual can engage directly with performance to learn from experience.

One practitioner who works directly with performance as learning is dramatherapist and Social Activist Augusto Boal. He starts with theatre but develops it with the idea of the spect/actor, simultaneously spectator and actor. The spect/actor is performer and audience in one.

In Rainbow of Desire Boal describes theatre by quoting 16th century Spanish playwright Lope de Vega as ’two human beings, a passion and a platform’. This confirms the theatrical mode of performance as being a collective experience. In this case the ‘company’ is two, (and possibly more) persons interacting with one another. The passion is a reference to strong feelings and often suffering. Passion implies experiences beyond the mundane. Finally there is reference to the platform. In theatre this is usually the stage, as separated form the audience. Boal however moves beyond the actors and spectators as physically separated on auditorium and stage.

What is important to Boal is the act of separation rather than the form of two physically separate spaces. He says ‘The separation of spaces can occur without the ‘platform’ existing as as an actual object. All that is required is that, within the bounds of a certain space, spectators and actors designate a more restricted space as a ‘stage’,: an aesthetic space’.1 By this he says ‘In its greek root ‘aesthetic’ means ‘of or pertaining to things perceptible by the senses’’. Boal goes on ’So theatre does not exist in the objectivity of bricks and mortar, sets and costumes, but in the subjectivity of those who practice it’. He establishes theatre can take place anywhere you want it too. I chose a beach.

Boal continues ‘The ‘theatre (or ‘platform’, at it’s simplest, or ‘aesthetic’ space’, at it’s purest) serves as a means of separating actor from spectator; the one who acts from the one who observes. Actor and spectator can be two different people; they can also coincide in the same person.’ (Boal’s italicisation). The individual performer is witness to their own performance in real time and retrospectively.

Boal says ‘The aesthetic space possesses gnoseological properties, that is, properties which stimulate knowledge and discovery, cognition and recognition; properties which stimulate the process of learning by experience. Theatre is a form of knowledge.’ Here he describes theatre and performance as experiential learning. But away from the confines of theatre as a building with a stage, as a state of entering aesthetic space as a form ‘in the subjectivity of those who practice it.’ then theatre and performance as separation between actor and spectator, could be seen as having occured when I made the beach a stage, an aesthetic space, in which I was both spectator and actor. This is reflective practice.

My reflection, or my ‘review’ was live in the doing and the senses, direct in my direct recollection of the experience, reviewed by the witnessing of the camera and my seeing and editing the footage, in the production of the gps track, as a direct reflection of how I recreated an image of an idea, and how I deviated and moved form representation to improvisation. I witnessed myself in performance. Now you witness what came form my performance.

Boal offers one perspective, and there are other perspectives from other arts and performance theorists and practitioners, but in my reflection, reconnecting with Boal’s idea of aesthetic space resonated with my experience of going from walking an image of an idea to making the beach a place to improvise or perform a new image of an idea. He goes on to further develop the idea of the aesthetic space which offers some interesting insights.

He talks about how aesthetic space has a property of plasticity. It can can be anything we want it to be. ‘A battered old chair will be the kings thrown, the branch of a tree a forest…’ The Solway beach became a canvas to draw an image of an idea, then it became a stage on which to choreograph a dance with a piece of seaweed. Boal says ‘The aesthetic space liberates memory and imagination’.

He also says it offers an affective and oneiric dimension which ‘exist only in the mind of the subject… The affective dimension fills the aesthetic space with new significations and awakens in each observer, in divers forms and intensities, emotions, sensations and thoughts’. In the affective dimension the performer is in the moment and observing them self in the moment, they become spectator and actor. The affective dimension is ambiguous and dichotomatic. I think this is the bit that makes reflection on experience in situ available.

Boal goes on to say ‘Oneiric space is not dichotomous because in dreaming, we loose our consciousness of the physical space in which we the dreamers, are dreaming, here she penetrates into her own projections, she passes through the looking glass; everything merges and mixes together, anything is possible’. Which is why at the end of the walk/dance/performance I knew something had happened, but only on reflection at home did this thing that happened decompress. The act of making images of the experience helped with this. I think this aspect is the bit that makes, in the words of Monet and Rothko, the art the experience. The art form becomes a form of knowledge. The art making is research with the art made is the process and product of research.

The dichotomy of the experience is a key element. Of dichotomy Boal says ‘ This property is born out of the fact that we are dealing within a space within a space; two spaces occupy the same space at the same time.. And all those who penetrate it become dichotomous there.’ As a member of the audience watching Macbeth, I am in the auditorium and also on a heath, there to meet Macbeth. As a walker on the beach, I was on the beach but also on a canvas to paint a picture, then on a stage to do a dance. On a ropes course I am safely moving over a step across, but I am also a person who fears that may fall to their death. I want to return to dichotomy in my next posting, but from the point of view of the art object in fine art.

As a therapist Boal also talks about the effect of the dichotomy on the protagonist actor in the aesthetic space. In theatrical mode, he says, ‘..the protagonist-actor produces thoughts and releases emotions and sentiments which.. Belong to the character, that is to say, someone else.’ In therapeutic mode ‘..the protagonist-patient (the patient-actor) reproduces her own thoughts and releases anew her own emotions and sentiments.’ In the case of my Solway walk, the beach was the aesthetic space and the work done was partly about my material I brought, ie the image of an idea, but also my experience of the place as an active participant as art form and process. In all of my work and ideas about art as a form of experiential leaning, the approach is much closer to the therapeutic mode. From experience I have found this sets the whole mode of working with art appart from ideas and practices found in ‘The Arts’ or ‘Fine Art’.

Finally Boal talks about the aesthetic space as being telemicroscopic. ‘In creating the stage-auditorium division, we transform the stage into a place where everything acquires new dimensions, becomes magnified, as under a powerful microscope, thus brought closer and made larger, human actions can be better observed.’

Boal as a therapist and social activist has a good deal to say about how theatre and performance can enable spect/actors to reflect on their own experience and ‘..help the spect/actor transform himself into a protagonist of the dramatic action and rehearse alternatives for his situation so that he may then be able to extrapolate into his real life the actions he has rehearsed in the practice of theatre’.

In moving from representation of an image of an idea to improvisation of a new image and thus a new idea I believe the Solway walk did this for me. The dichotomy or ambiguity in the experience invited me to ‘rehearse alternatives for the situation’. This is a creative act, it is experiential learning, it is adventure. Creativity is a state of uncertain outcome. The journey of uncertain outcome is built on ambiguity. Art is adventure, and whilst misadventure was absent here, it is present in some arts practices and, if I got my tide times wrong, the Solway is a dangerous place. My suggestion is that art making can be an inner adventure or an outer adventure. This is a thing I will discuss elsewhere.

The key themes in this are 1) that performance is an invention of experience not place 2) and as such, by being dichotomous and ambiguous, offers scope for new experiences, and 3) the performance or art made is not just a representation or symbol of experience, it is the experience, and 4) the performance or art made can be understood as research and knowledge of personal experience. This, alongside other modes of understanding experience, offers some unexpected dividends.

  • Ig talking about curiosity
  • Ig talking about curiosity
  • Ig talking about curiosity
  • Ig talking about curiosity

Performer, Iggy Pop on a beach talking to someone about curiosity.

In further posts the ideas of performance and art making as a transformational experiential process will be further developed. But a key theme is that this experiential process is dichotomous, subjective, situational, emergent and multi-dimensional, and no single account can describe it in complete and concrete terms and working through direct expression of my own and other peoples working practice is the best way to do this. What I present is art making as adventure, the journey and not the destination.


  1. ‘The Rainbow of Desire’ by Augusto Boal  ↩︎

Solway Walk – Thinking and Reporting

Back in the world reflecting on the experience of art making.

On return home, my reflections on the Solway walk had a number of sources. I had my direct recollection of the place and the experience of walking around in circles, my gps tracks and my movie footage.

What was most immediate was direct recollection of the move from representation to improvisation of the image of an idea of experiential learning through art. What was interesting was that the return to the camera where I reflected that ‘I learned something about my model’ was partly an image in my head but mostly a feeling. The feeling was that the move from representation to improvisation was a feeling of change. It was not a rational thing.

I saw the footage and recalled that the pause in my speaking was me trying to connect with the learning. I had a vague ghost of an image and I was trying to visualise it. One source of inspiration about art as enquiry in post grad research came from the work of artist and academic, Dr Estelle Barrett1. She describes art as research as being a thing of ‘doing and the senses’. It is subjective, situational, emergent, multi-disciplinary and often non-verbal. I knew some change had taken place. By changing my experience of embodying my drawing of my idea, my idea had changed.

In my head what floated around was an image of a map of different experiences and interests with my walking path moving between them. On my return home I used a drawing app and made an image of I thought the map might look like. This is what I drew.

The drawing showed three elements. The looping line I had walked. This was my experience over time moving from one thing to another. Then the things I moved through over time, the art I made, other artists work as source material, art and learning theory, more structured research and reading and revisiting various ‘projects’ with a coherent theme. Then there was a n idea of my connection with the art making. I thought about it on the way in and out and reported on it. I have a journal and use sketchbooks for ideas and images. I became a witness to my own art making, and through reportage her, other people also witnessed what I made. The art making was characterised by mostly doing and the senses. I moved out of fully thinking mode.

Central to it was working with artform, which had a bit of all of the above, but had its own things to show and share. I felt a need to return to the central bit. What it contained I realised was always specific to the actual experience of artform at the time. I intend to try and map what happened in here on the day. On another day this would contain something different and something the same.

What emerged form this drawing, this thinking through doing and the senses, was not so much the act of art making I had put at the centre, but a realisation that the experience of art-making was inseparable from all the stuff going on in my life. The intention to make something as art at the centre still stood and like the walk on the beach, this making as enquiry makes itself. The art making has a mind of it’s own, the intelligence of material. And intention made the intelligence of many materials available. In this case the material was walking.

The experience of walking, and then dancing or performing the image was close to what I felt was my actual experience. But I had lots of stuff going on. I usually have a couple of art projects on the go, I have in mind the work of other artists and off other art works I had made, many of which involve walking. In many cases I did more formal reading and research or related ideas or phenomena, including academic research and writing. I experiment with different arts practices, with varying degrees of success. I reflect on art I wanted to make and my ability to do so. I make judgement on myself and my art making ability, and what I felt I ‘should’ be making and what I actually did make. Lots of stuff going on at a personal, intellectual, embodied and artistic level. Nothing is ever static, hence ideas in the original drawing of rhizomatic or adimensional knowledge.

My simple map image above came closer but it was a static image and the experience of the land depicted by the map was dynamic. A couple of things emerged.

1 – If a map were to be made to accurately represent the experience it would have to be local. It would have to show the things that were present in my immediate experience specific to the artform I was working on. The point of a map of a place is that it is specifically local. I was struck that the walk was specific to an actual place, but I was using it to make a map of a generalised idea about art making. This connected to a recurring theme.

Can you generalise about the experience of art making, create an image of that is replicable like I wanted to walk a replica of the image of an idea. Or does art making as a creative act and thus inherently improvised, mean that all art making is specifically local to the experience at the time? If we consider visual art, the art of image, the image has to be fixed. An image can only show a snapshot of an experience, but is can show insight into the personal processing going on with me in the experience. This has strengths and weaknesses.

2 – The move from a fixed image, from representation, to improvisation, to performance, opened the possibility of performance as a useful artform in which the artform was the experience. The film I captured of experience would show the walk as it happened. This would not be a snapshot of an experience. But this has limits. The point at which I moved to performance and I changed my ideas about my model and my art making would be present in the form, unless I added a commentary. But a picture is worth a thousand words. A image is a snapshot of an experience but it can show insight into my response to my experience.

Going from static to moving image.

From a static image I went to the movie footage with the intention of seeing if it could help me process my experience. I went to my movie footage and what struck me was the sound of the place I did the walk. I explored making a movie and to just show we wandering around in circles, but this did not appeal to me. A 20 minute movie of a beach with a man wandering about would not appeal to people viewing the footage either.

The duration was important and some artists have used the durational quality of movies to explore ideas. Andy Warhol famously made ‘Empire’, an 8 hour film of the Empire state building. It is boring but raises issues about how we experience and represent time.

But 20 minutes of me walking about was not what I wanted. I worked at speeding it up but lost the sound of the place. The movie below is my attempt at showing what the walk felt like out on the Solway, between high and low water, in feral space between human and wild spaces. To get the sounds of the experience listen with headphones. The soundtrack is from ‘Tu Non Mi Perderai Mai’ (You Will Never Lose Me) by Johann Johannsson and captured the feel of the walk.

As I write this it is now 2021. On viewing the footage what strikes me now is that I was totally mistaken over the date. I was a week out. The walk was the 18th of November. The desire to change the duration and speed up the footage also reflected a sense in which the walking a mile seemed to take no time. It was not boring and passed quickly. I also noticed that the movement of myself was reflected by a dog walker and the vehicles on the road. Over a month after the experience, this account or reflection of the experience shows me new things.

My belief is that the making of an art object that is between being both the experience and an account of the experience offers interesting opportunities to explore experience directly through art making. My research after my walk led on to two ideas from performance and post grad art as research which explore this idea of liminality and ambiguity between art as the experience and the account of the experience which I will cover in subsequent posts.

As a souse of reflection I also had my GPS tracks. I downloaded them and plotted them on various maps. I put the raw .gpx files into various apps or online mapping sites. One of the things I am drawn to is the way different maps tell you differne things about place you see on the map. I like Korzibski’s idea that ‘The map is not the territory’, both in terms of our experience of place, but in broader terms of consciousness. This is something I want to cover in posts about humanistic geography and the idea that we perform the outdoors as a place and an idea.

The mapping of .gpx tracks did not disappoint.

The idea that the image is a snapshot of moving experience was evident above.

Different mapping conventions show different things. I am fascinated with how using a map of a place before you visit colours your expectations and information about the place before you arrive and experience it directly. Also, if you go somewhere and look at the map on return, your direct experience dominates but you see new things.

it made me laugh to think that 6 hours later and my walking site would be underwater. Obvious retrospectively but it reminded again me that the Solway is never still and yet it is constant. Tides can be predicted with great accuracy, but never occur at the predicted time. A westerly wind will advance an incoming tide and hasten the time of a high tide. The spring tides always follow the full and new moon, two peaks a month. Neaps follow the moon as she moves from full to new moon. But the range of the springs, the height from top to bottom, vary over the year in a similar way to the month. We have two big springs a year. We have two big springs a month.

Working with the outdoors as art to explore and express personal experience can tell us about art, experience and the outdoors. I think offers interesting opportunities. But the outcome is never fixed in the way the tides are never fixed. We can say what we expect to happen, that at Silloth on the south Solway a spring tide of 9.24m will occur at 1306 on January 14th 2021, but in detail, what actually happens is always local. It is subjective, situational, emergent, an outcome of many factors. Subject to the weather and the sand, the lay of the land. My proposal is that the creative act, art making, is likewise. We start with a clear intention to paint a landscape that could be regognised as a representation of a real place, but the details of what we make is not fixed. It is a known journey of uncertain outcome, it is adventure.

The next two posts are about ideas form the arts about performance and the art object which may provide some academic and practice connections between art making and outdoor experiences.


  1. Practice as Research – Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry. Edited by Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt. I.B.Taurus Press  ↩︎

Solway Walk – The Experience

The Experience of Walking an Image of an Idea about Art as Experiential Learning

Dubmill Point in Allonby Bay was empty and big. From the road to the low water line was about a kilometre. I chose a spot to walk in the centre of the image above, a low bank of hard sand.

Dubmill Point on the South Solway

My intention was to walk the image below; my sketch of an idea about art making as experiential learning. I wanted to recreate this as a walk on the beach. I would use gps to track the shape I made, and record the walk on camera, and see what happened when I moved an idea from one artform to another, from an image to embodiment. I would walk with intention, attention and attitude. I would then write about my experience, reflect on theories and practices from the arts and learning, and see where this took me next. In my model below I would follow up this experience of art making into reflection, inquiry, reportage and further art making. I would not only walk my talk I would walk my thoughts.

art as experiential learning model

I set up my camera so as to get as much of the walk as possible without me becoming a dot in the distance. I set up my GPS and found my central point, meant to be the ‘Art Making’ part of the image of an idea. I set off walking in big loops.

Music : overdub1 by Chris Reed

As I walked it I kept seeking to return to the centre point. At first I found I lost sight of the central point. This would mean my GPS track would not reflect my drawing, so I put a marker there, a bit of seaweed and started again. I treated this as a rehearsal, an initial loop round my experiential learning model.

I set off again to recreate my drawing. I walked a line, one foot in front of the other, but by passing through the central point, I also walked in wonky looping circles. I got into a rhythm, I started to pay attention to how this might reflect art making as experiential learning. The central point became the place I returned to, but the loops took me to different places on the beach.

After a while I started to develop a kind of relationship with the central point. It occurred to me that instead of just walking the shape of the image of the idea, I could do a big slow looping dance with the centre as my static partner. I trained as a dancer and wondered why I had not thought of this before.

In the moment of being in moving as an artform, in the intelligence of that material, in witnessing my doing and the senses, it felt like this had significantly changed the experience. I found a freedom from mere representation, from figurative form, and improvised a new form. It became performance. Through this experience I learned a new thing about my art making practice.

All in all it was a quick and easy thing. It took me about 20 minutes to walk a mile. There is quite a strong tradition of walking as art and performance art in outdoor settings. These forms are interesting in that they are durational, the art making only happens when the person is walking or performing. The experience may well be documented through film, photography or other forms, but it is unlike a painting in which the artform exists after the making it. The artform is the experience. Performance based arts are very experiential and offer interesting opportunities for experiential outdoor learning. But Mark Rothko stated that the art, even a painting, is the experience.

This is something I want to explore further. If the art is the experience, and we work with the outdoors as art, the art we make outdoors can tell us not only tell us something about outdoor experience, it can be the outdoor experience. We make something that is outdoor experience. This interests me a great deal.

Doing strange things in the name of art, like walking around in circles on beach may seem meaningless, but often I find that the most important learning comes out of what seems to be the simplest most meaningless experiences, or experiences that seem to have many different meanings. Ambiguity is important.

Walter de Maria, made action-art and land-art, only available when experienced directly in the outdoors. He said…

“Meaningless work is potentially the most important art-action experience one can undertake today”

…but also

Any good work of art should have at least ten meanings.

Walter de Maria 1968

See video here

Read article here

But my intention was to use this to explore my model of art as experiential learning, and at the time what struck me was that by changing from walking the shape of an image of an idea, to performance, dancing, improvising the idea directly in the space, my model changed, and so did my idea about art as experiential learning.

The image that immediately came to mind was my life as a map with different experiences and interests, different places, other artforms made, with the artform I am currently working on as the one with the closest proximity to where I was at the time. In my next post I want to reflect and report on this aspect.

The Solway – Betwixt and Between

A Visual Introduction to The Solway

The Solway Firth exists in a permanent state of being betwixt and between.

Between England and Scotland, between sea and sky, between high and low tide, between being land and water. It belongs to nobody. It is one of the least industrialised and most unspoilt large estuaries in Europe. It is as magical as it is dangerous. To visit on foot you need your wits about you as it can change from sandbank to fast flowing seawater in minutes.

Below are some moving and still images of the Solway. More material will follow of other peoples experiences of the Solway.

  • sky over the solway

Solway Walk – Introduction

Towards a Model of Art as Experiential Learning

On November 18, 2020, I went to Dubmill Scar in Allonby Bay, the English side of the Solway Firth, to walk. I went to walk as art. Guided by the art therapies and experiential learning, I make art outdoors to explore and express personal experience. I work with the outdoors as art.

Most of my art making revolves around a series of place based projects. For this project on the Solway, I started with walking, but walking as a creative act. Walking in the space, I try to pay attention to what is happening with an attitude of openness to experience. I seek to be in the space as an experiment to see what happens rather than be in the space as a venue for activity. The art is the experience, and the experience is the activity.

This walk needed a large space with open access and no boundary fences, and at the bottom of the tide, briefly, the Solway has a lot of walking space. The Solway does this by being eternally transitory. It is always in a state between high and low tide. The border between Scotland and England, it belongs to nobody but the sea, the sand and the things that live there. These things need no fences or footpaths. I have been visiting the Solway for years. It is never the same twice. It is a space open to possibilities, and as such, a place of creativity.

For this walk, the space was needed to recreate an image of an idea I worked on previously on about making art as experiential learning. My background in experiential learning has introduced me to a number of models of how we learn from experience. In all of them, there is an image of simultaneous movement, around a circle and along a line.

Plan Do Review Cycle

Kolb’s Learning Cycle

Using this idea and image of learning from experience as a starting point I reflected on my own art making and drew a sketch of experiential learning with art making at it’s centre to see how it might look. I wanted to move this idea between artforms. Each artform has it’s own intelligence, and shows things from another point of view. It is used in the arts therapies and is called multimodal working. It is an interesting technique. To aid with this I decided to film the walk.

things from a different perspective

As a starting point for how a model of experiential learning from art may look, I drew this.

art as experiential learning

First draft of a model of art as experiential learning.

In this model the looping line is my passage through time, through my life. The central bit is my encounter with art making. When I make art I learn something and this loops out back into my life and informs my next round of art making.

There a sort of sequence to this. I think about making art, then witness and pay attention to what I am doing and my senses when I make the art. The art form, the material of the art making has an intelligence of it’s own which can tell me something. This is an idea from artist and research Paul Carter called the Intelligence of Material (IOM). As part of this I also engage in reportage of my experience, which is what I am trying to do here. Writing and reporting helps me understand what I am thinking. In formal art based research, this is called exegesis, meaning interpreting arcane texts.

At the time I was also thinking about Rhizomatic Knowledge from Deleuze and Guattari and Bubble Charts as I felt that my experience of art making had an adimensional or three dimensional quality, hence the images at the bottom

But the bit I wanted to work with were the big recursive loops through art-making and back into life, where I did more formal research of artform, ideas, the work of other artists, theories of learning or art-making. So off I went to the Solway, with it’s big unimpeded wide open spaces, always in movement between states, and thus ripe for creativity to walk this image of an idea about experiential learning.

It is difficult to create and analyse at the same time, so my intention was to be in the space and the moment, witness what happened when I was walking as art, then reflect and report later on moving an idea from an image to an act of walking.

Generally what happens is that what I learn through the experience of art making acts like a cascade of dominoes, expanding out into inspiration to new art making, connections to theories and practices of art making and learning and insight into place and personal experience.

Over a series of posts to my blog I want to follow the cascade of ideas and art-making that will come out of the walk, then curate the posts into a themed collection of ideas, practices, artworks, a bit like a magazine. Over time I want to do a series of magazines covering different topics relating to art, experience and the outdoors.

In the next post I want to describe what happened when I did the walk of an image of an idea about art as experiential learning.

Mapping Sensation

Livingmaps Network ran an online event yesterday.

DRAWING MAPS, IMAGINED LANDSCAPES AND PANDEMIC STORYTELLING

A LIVINGMAPS WEBINAR

It looked at the impact of Covid on our lives and ways that mapping as an artistic practice could help. Quote…

‘Drawing, or perhaps more broadly speaking – mark making, is a deeply subjective tool that we can use to enter into other spaces beyond the here and now, perhaps into memories or imaginations of a possible future or as a form of visually representing emotional states.’

Lots of really good arts projects about mapping and imagination, of better futures and utopias, great and small. The idea of using mapping to express feeling and the imagination was very interesting and changed my way of thinking about mapping.

A place I visit called Walton Moss, and seek to make a subject of my art has evaded my skills for a long time. It is too big to photograph, or paint, and capture it’s magnitude. It is not particularly scenic in a classical landscape way, but is very impactful to visit. It seems to exist at two scales of sensation, the very big and the very small.

Walton Moss Sensation Map

So I did the header image as map of the sensations it evokes, show above. What was useful was the way the map, as a form that expresses a large scale object through a smaller scale object worked really well. The idea of mapping feeling freed me from being trapped with figurative depictions of a magical but enigmatic place, difficult to express figuratively.

I used charcoal crayons, felt tip pens and watercolour pencils, then scanned it.

About that stroboscope in the attic.

Creating an image showing thinking, doing and making art.

This week two things happened at the same time, potentially in the way Jung talked about Synchronicity, an idea brought to my attention by that Police album of the same name.

  1. I found a need for a single image for my blog which showed thinking, doing and making art. A Google image search for <thinking AND doing AND making> complete with search operators drew a blank. And…
  2. I went into the attic and saw the old stroboscope I got from a car boot sale.

As a 60yrs + person I remember frequently having strobes in discos before their connection to seizures was noticed and they were banned or controlled. For people who don’t know, strobes in discos were seriously cool. When switched on in a darkened room everybody appeared to be moving very slowly and your eyes tendency to retain an image for a few milliseconds and produce traces, made people look like they had many arms and legs.

Using the strobe at night in my garden I had an image of me, mysterious in black, moving in the dark through space highlighted by a series of frozen frames from a strobe.

This image could show thinking, in that I would need to think about how a stroboscope could be used with my camera and a long exposure, it would show doing as I could do this at night in my back garden (hoping the neighbours would not see it and call the police), and it would show making as I would make a photographic image.

A plan was formulated and family warned and I felt sure that if the police were called they would understand as they did do that album called ‘Synchronicity’ in 1983 and they could quietly play a bit of it to placate the neighbours should the need arise.

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The camera was set up on a tripod, the strobe connected to the mains, as dusk came tests were done to give a sufficiently long exposure. I dressed in black and did a few test shots and what became apparent was that even at dusk, a person dressed in black was invisible to the camera. Kind of obvious in retrospect but hindsight always gives you perfect vision. The strobe had to be much closer and I needed to dress in white to be seen.

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A shorter exposure was used with the strobe closer but my expectation that the strobe would be like a flashgun showed that it was not bright enough. Also the rate of strobing had to be increased assuming doubling the speed would double the level of illumination. I had hoped for a set of clear seperated exposures but with a faster rate of strobing the effect was more like that of a non-strobing light. I look like somebody walked by with a vape and blowing a cloud of smoke.

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This image is later, so it is darker. The strobe is fast enough now it appears to be a continuous light and is much closer to me. This is a 30s exposure at f8 and I time a walk across the space to fill the 30 seconds of the exposure. Here the image is more dense the slower I go.

After some experimentation, I can use the speed at which I move to deepen the density of the image recorded. I use the 30s exposure at f8 and a 10s delay for the shutter firing so that I can control my start point and count 30s to control the point at which I finish in the frame. The review screen on my camera provides feedback on what the effect of what I do has on the final image. The image is the review in this experiential learning process.

A powerful and simple function of a photographic image is that it is a re-viewing of experience but also a significant catalyst of director of the experience. The making of the image is the experience and the re-view and as such influence thinking about how the image is made.

After about 50 exposures and an hour and a half of playing around and experimenting with using my movement to control the exposure, I got to a couple of images I was happy with.

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This one has an interesting contrast between different parts of the image of the moving figure. This has some cropping and some modification of the image with dodging and burning to control highlights and darkness. To me this best showed thinking, doing and making.

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This image was most interesting and was made by simply raising my arms fast at first them slowing down over the 30s exposure. As a preview, it looked otherworldly, like an angel was landing, but as a full sized image it was less otherworldly. I did quite a lot of modification to make the full-sized image look like the pleasing impact of the preview.

Summary of this as art as experiential learning.

  • This was all situational. Experiential learning is founded on learning in the here and now.
  • I had an intention and an image in my head of what the final form could look like. This did not happen but something else did, not better, not worse than the original intention, just different.
  • It was a journey of uncertain outcome. I had to change what I did over the time I was working on this. The path emerged from the walking.
  • It was an active process that emerged from an active physical experience.
  • I made something. Poiesis occurred. An image or series of images existed after this that did not exist before. Each image was witnessed by me and through each witnessing, the ideas for the next image emerged. Art is witnessed by an audience in the end but it is witnessed by the artist or maker before this.
  • Making each image was the process. The image is the experience and witness to the experience. Experiencing and reviewing are the same thing.
  • The whole thing could be understood as a form of research in which a hypothesis is formulated and tested, but each iteration of this changes the direction of the research. This makes it different from quantitative and qualitative research and can be best described as performative research. The outcomes of this research are situational, subjective, emergent and personal. This, done as research by someone else, somewhere else would produce a different outcome.
  • Thinking, doing and making art is shown in one image. An attached description or exposition helps clarify this. But without an exposition, each viewer would see a different thing. Words used to describe doing are more objective and more universally understood. But the experience was personal and subjective. The image is closer to the experience but more open to subjective response. The image is more a accurate representation, but more subjective. This is a paradox of how we do and how we show experiential learning.

What the Bird Said

Using art as research to explore and express bird flight through drawing and poetry.

Weekend of April 25-26.

Chris Reed


What the Bird Said


The bird said
What is the ground?
I only know the tree

The whale said
What is the sky?
I only know the sea

The bird said
The ground in where the cat lives
The cat it hunts for me.

So up I fly
way up high
it is the sky and the tree for me.

The whale said
The sea is where the two legs sail
The two legs come hunt me

So I hold my breath
and swim way down deep
I am safe at the bottom of the sea

The bird said
The tree and the sky
Is where I live
I know nothing of the sea.

The whale said
The deep dark ocean
is where I live
The sky means nothing to me.

The bird said
The sea, the sky, the ground, the tree.
The things that hunt for you and me.
We are so different, and yet the same.
Show yourself to me.

So whale showed herself

The whale said
You have wings
Wings like me
That I might fly in the sea.

The bird said
I have wings like you
that I might fly
through sky from tree to tree.

We are alike
They cried
Hunted flying things
One flies high
The other deep
One has the sky
One has the sea

We are sisters you and me.

Art as Research

Intention

I found this…

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So decided to do art as research to turn bird flight into visual art and my reflection into poetry.

Preparation

A cup of coffee.

A pad, a pen and a blue pencil.

An hour timer.

A back garden with a comfy seat.

Action/Reflection

I sat and watched the birds in my back garden. I used the blue pencil to do a light outline of the tree and hedge in my garden as a guide. The blue pencil is an idea from illustration. Blue does not photocopy well, so you can sketch in pencil, then ink in, and when photocopied, the blue does not show but the ink does. This does not always work but I thought I would give it a try. I then recorded all bird flight in ink over this blue pencil image of my garden.

As I sat there I reflected on how chilled this was. Birds came in little bursts, like they moved about in bunches or family groups. Different birds moved in different ways. Sparrows were fast and direct. Starlings did a fast wobbling amble. Corvids were slow but assertive. Two seagulls rode a thermal.

It was clear that though we get used to seeing birds on the ground, their world was all air and trees. I was struck oddly by the idea that a bird knows the ground like a whale knows the sky. The bird and the whale must know about the sky and the ground, but for each, the sky and the ground don’t figure much in their lives.

The experience made me realise that the birds in my garden, which I found very familiar, actually lived a life that was very alien to me, in the way that a whale would not know anything about the sky or land beyond their aquatic life in the ocean. All in all it made me realise that diversity occurs very close to home as well as in the depths of the oceans on the other side of the world.

Exposition/Sharing

I wanted to share the image, just as I drew it. I also wanted to make the insight into birds and whales as a poem, not as a dry description.