Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
My name is Reggie Graham. I am a third year Fine Arts student at KPU. I mainly work with mixed media in my art practice, focusing on the digital manipulation of natural environments, interactions, and emotions. I work as a freelance comic book artist, where I have recently coloured work for IDW Publishing’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books.
Lately, I have been attempting to explore and observe how people commune with each other and the environment in a world dominated by social media, phones, and the distracted culture we have grown to endorse. Personally, I have been trying to unplug from my phone as much as I can, especially while working on art or conversing with friends and family. Finding time to go for walks in nature, it is important to me that I find meaningful connections with my surroundings.
This brings me to my reason for going on this trip. Life has been busy this past year. Juggling two jobs, schoolwork, socializing, as well as taking time for myself to unwind, has been doable but incredibly draining. I went traveling throughout Europe last summer, and I found that both London and Venice were amazing places to explore and just walk around, though with only 2 days in each city and a full itinerary there was a lot more wandering to be desired. So of course, with a program that offered more time in these spectacular locations and with a group of friends to boot, how could I say no?
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London (or Venice) so far?
The weather has definitely met my expectations. In similar fashion to Vancouver, it can be cloudy, hot, breezy by the water, cold, rainy, and sometimes sunny as well. I can’t complain. The food and drinks are great so far! Despite some hiccups at the hostel, the places we have found while out and about have all been great. The surprises have come from my friends for sure. It’s just fun having all this time in between adventures to relax. Making sweet conversation and sketching together has developed a chill and inspiring atmosphere among my peers.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
Cildo Meireles’ Babel (2001) (pictured below) was the artwork I was assigned to research and respond to in class. The installation is a large tower of radios that are all tuned to different stations, filling the room it inhabits with an overloaded plethora of various sounds that are somehow unified. The biblical story of the tower Babel was about how humans attempted to build a tower taller than God. Offended, God made everyone building the tower speak different languages, causing humankind to no longer understand one another and therefore created conflict.
What I found interesting was that I was actually quite irritated when I walked into the room to experience this art for the first time. There was a group of people already in there all talking relatively loudly, and it was bothersome as I was attempting to engage with the work in a positive manner. In hindsight, I understand that the feeling of annoyance I had was part of the art, as the theme of conflict between my thoughts and the people in the room was similar to that of the concept Meireles put forward.
I did end up enjoying myself in the end though. I sat in the corner of the dim room for about 40 minutes sketching and writing. Some students and a teacher from a school actually came up to me to talk about the work and asked me questions about it, to which I could actually answer everything thanks to the research assignment for the art back in Canada. At one point, before I left, I even ended up grooving a bit to the jazz music I could hear from one of the radios. I was the only one in the room at that point. I would never dance when others are watching.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
Responding to my artists was surprisingly fluent. Having our Art History class first and taking that time to immerse myself in the ideas and challenges of the time periods had an immediate effect on the way I viewed our projects. For example, when I was assigned Cildo Meireles’ Babel to respond to, I used my initial reactions of what I understood of the work to craft an idea that was not quite yet unified. With such a limited time period to create, I attempted to stick with what I knew and modify images on Photoshop. Though the content I created was new ground for me, the form was not, and something did not quite sit right.
Because my research for the written response of Meireles was due first, I dove into that with my art project in the back of my mind. As I read an interview of my artist, I recall highlighting a few passages that correlated with the theme I was attempting to express with my artwork. He talked about how the art was not in the form itself but the experience the viewer has during the moment they view it. He includes sound in his pieces, plays with emotions such as fear, and attempts to leave the viewer in a different state to when they first encountered the work. I decided to take this information to heart, and following the reading and a conversation with Elizabeth, I ended up turning my piece into an installation.
I wanted to focus on the modification and filtration of conversation in our social media infested culture. I recorded audio for 17 minutes of some of my friends talking and watching videos on computers. Then, I took the audio to Final Cut and spliced it into 16 different clips. After that I spent a couple days in the computer lab filtering the various sounds over and over until I had almost indistinguishable noises in many different pitches and soundscapes. Finally, I put each sound file (varying in length and start time) onto each of the 16 Macs in the Photo Lab and played them all around the same time as the class walked in for critique. To add emphasis to the senses I included the iTunes audio visualizer in many colours, showcasing the final product of my deconstruction of my friends’ original conversation.
The result was very interesting to witness. People walked through the soundscape, picking up various musical cues, scattered words, and buzzing, which was strangely familiar to the sounds of Babel, even though I had not heard it yet (not even in video form). Though I am happy with the installation, after experiencing Babel, I believe I would either add more conversations from more sources to the viewing (with more computers) or go the other route and attempt to make the piece more intimate.
Today’s activity was located at Tate Britain and the London Eye. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day?
Tate Britain was amazing! We spent two hours there and it was definitely not enough time to take everything in. Most museums and galleries, in my opinion, are loaded with such an abundance of works that it’s impossible to experience each work fully. You kind of see what you stumble upon and have to accept that you will not get to everything else. I ended up meandering through the older paintings and such and only really stopped to look at the ones that caught my eye. These days I seem to orbit around more landscape based art. I am very interested in the small details of brushwork, and ended up taking some pictures primarily of close ups of colour and strange forms I noticed in larger art.
Walking through the contemporary section of the gallery was a pleasure. Our class’s first artists we were assigned to research had their art here. Noticing the intense focus and stimulated faces of my friends and classmates had me grinning as I walked past them and their assigned artworks. My particular artist and artwork I researched for this gallery was the late Susan Hiller’s Belshazzar’s Feast, The Writing on Your Wall, made in 1984. I sat in the corner of the installation for about 35 minutes, sketching it out and in a sort of trance as I absorbed all of the information.
Later on in the day our group enjoyed the sights of the London Eye as well as a little boat tour along the Thames River. Though the sights were obviously spectacular, it was witnessing and being a part of the excitement of my friends’ enjoyment that made it all worth it. We drank a little and spent most of the tours and walks in a merriment of laughter. These moments are why I am here. Art not only captivates us all, but brings us together for excursions like this. I realized that was what I was missing last time I was here. The people and positivity that comes with them. I am cherishing these moments, and the best part is that it is only day one.