- I really like the bright cabling in this work. They almost look like the veins of the work, and it would be cool to experiment with this further in another work using red cabling as well.
- I really enjoyed building the structure. I’m very happy with my decision to do another installation work.
- Creating a work that involved reflecting on my other works was really interesting and almost meditative. It made me feel good about things I’ve created and excited to create and share more. I also found it really interesting to layer the works together and how well they worked. I was obviously a little selective about the samples, but I didn’t need to chop and change much. There’s clearly a sound world I’m creating that everything makes some part of.
- It would be cool to iterate this work every couple of years to add to the collection and use it as a moment to creatively reflect on my practice.
- I’d like to get some of my friends down to improvise in the bower and add a performance dimension. I’ll try and make this happen for the Grad Show.
So a friend suggested the name Something Bowered, Something Blue, and I quite liked it for a number of reasons (the first being who could resist a pun in the name of their final MEDA work??).
The rhyme “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” is a British folk custom of things a bride should where on her wedding day. The wedding ritual linked in with the fact that the bower is a mating ritual for the bowerbird, not their nest. I like the collecting aspect of the rhyme, and felt like it fit in with the collecting of the objects for the bower. I also just really like the folklore ritual dimension. Finding rituals and meanings between objects collected feels like a important part of developing my creative practice. Drawing on old things, new things, borrowing things is what we have learnt to do all through MEDA.
Which brings me to the colour blue. The obvious colour choice for the objects in the bower was blue, given the satin bowerbirds colour of choice (other species of bowerbird pick different colours). I considered using a different colour – mostly maroon red. The satin bowerbird’s eyes match the colour they pick, and I thought I could draw a link between my red fringe and the objects I collect (its often a colour I pick things for).
Coming back to the symbolism of the bower however, when I was looking through my old works to pull out sound samples I realised that the colour blue does actually come into my work. Looking for Blue is an album I started and didn’t finish, and one of my MEDA projects was done in black and white with blue highlights. It has very personal meanings, so I returned back to the original colour. Perhaps the colour was part of what drew me to the symbolism in the first place.
Something Bowered, Something Blue is a symbolic work of my time at university developing my creative practice. The Satin Bowerbird is not only a native to the Illawarra area, but can be found in the gardens around the creative arts building at UOW. During my university time I have learnt to collect, curate and create, and in this piece I reuse, recollect and return to these ideas and creations both through physical objects and sound objects.
The idea of return is present in most of my works and is here in multiple forms. Samples from previous works are returned to, many of which also involve loops and delays. There is a live sound element in this work as well – just as the Satin Bowerbird mimics the songs and sounds around it, sounds in the bower are echoed back to participants.
You are encouraged to make sound as you walk through the bower.
So during my research, I found another artwork that involved a giant bower! Local too! It was up at Siteworks 2017, the annual festival at Bundanon Trust. Unfortunately I couldn’t go this year because it was the same weekend as we were doing The Grotto at the Wollongong Fringe Festival.
Jodie’s work was also looking at the Satin Bowerbird as a local native to the location she was using, drawing from the Siteworks 2017 theme of The Birds and The Bees. From the website: “Jody explores themes of impermanence, loss, and reassure. More recently Jody’s practice has moved into three-dimensional work which celebrates the broken, displaced and forgotten. Detritus is repurposed into artwork to satisfy a longing to rescue and restore.”
My work will be branching (ha) off in a different direction, towards the audio ideas of mimicry, but it will be super useful to have Jodie’s work as a reference point. She also did another work called Seduction – The Bower Collection. This draws on ideas I talked about earlier of the bowerbird often arranging objects from small to large in their bower.
So here’s what I’m looking at, the bower of the satin bowerbird:
So how to make a MVP bower – something I can construct reasonable quickly to get an idea if this is something interesting?
Things that are important:
- Scale – part of the idea here is to be able to walk into the bower, and a scale model isn’t going to help me understand if this will work. It needs to be full scale.
- Quick to set up – I want to make the most of my time on Tuesday, so being able to set up quickly is important.
- Able to experiment with different materials. My first thought was gum tree sticks, but also maybe bamboo. Being able to test out different materials will be important.
So my idea is to create a base frame that I can thread sticks into to create the bower. This might not be how I ultimately make the bower, but will be perfect for making test bowers.
So I set up an audio experiment with 4 different speakers on differently timed delays that were spread through the room with a microphone in the middle. The microphone needed to be set low enough to not cause feedback issues, but I managed to get it there without too much trouble. My RØDE mics that are very directional are probably the best option for this project. I also tested a contact mic with the thought of amplifying footsteps, but that didn’t work particularly well. Here is some video footage of the tests:
Next step will be to try it in the bower, to see if there are too many elements, or if they gel together well.
So I’ve been reading about bowerbirds, and in my mind they are becoming symbolic of my (and perhaps the other grad show student’s) time at uni developing as artists. They are very tied to the location of Building 25 for me, and the process of constructing an elaborate bower and collecting (or curating) objects that fit a colour scheme to appeal and interest an audience seems very symbolic of creating an artwork as part of a broader creative practice. Creating something using this symbology for my final university project seems only fitting, particularly as I am spending time reflecting on feeling sad that uni is almost over but excited to continue my practice outside university.
Some interesting ideas:
Male satin bowerbirds take about 5 years to mature and start gaining their distinctive blue-black feathers, coming full though after about 7 years. I really like this fact, because this is about how long I’ve been at uni for.
They tend to their bower year round. The bower is made from sticks and painted with saliva. It is decorated with found blue objects (many of them are often human made). The female bowerbird might investigate the bower without the male there, but if the male is there he will strut, bow, and make sounds. (Perhaps I could strut through my artwork playing violin…)
The sounds that the bowerbird makes are often mimicry, which has now drawn 2 of my project ideas together – using the echo concept!!
Bowerbirds have also been shown to sometimes create illusions by organising the collected items so as to make themselves look bigger while they are strutting in the bower. Having the echo illusion in the bower will also riff off this illusion idea.
Forgotten Songs is an installation in Sydney of birdcages suspended above the lane way. Sounds of birds that were native to the area before it got built on play from hidden speakers. The sounds change at night time to nocturnal species. It is a really lovely, engaging work that draws on bigger environmental themes through one specific angle.
If I was to do a recreation, I think that I would need to try translating it in order to recreate the meaningful connection between materials and location and concept. The Innovation Campus is quite new, so I could investigate what was here before. Building 25 on the main campus on the other hand has been around for a while. I have wandered through the gardens around the building before as part of another class when we were looking at the dérive. I discovered that there are a shit tonne (incredibly accurate measurement) of bower birds in the gardens there. Perhaps this could be a starting point? I could use bower bird calls, perhaps create a bower, and draw on the idea of bower birds as scavengers/collectors.
The history of the Innovation Campus is that it used to be a soccer stadium, home to the Wollongong Wolves. It also has the migrant hostels, the cylindrical huts that are still around on campus east from WW1. I’m not sure how much of a connection I feel to the Wollongong Wolves history, but the migrant hostels have a rich history I could draw on.
I think at this stage I feel more excited by the idea of the bower birds. I wonder if there are bower birds on Innovation Campus?
So while I did enjoy aspects of the experiment I did projecting outside and inside, nothing has really grabbed me and feels like I can create a full work out of it.
So what do I want to do? What’s missing?
I tried these experiments because I wanted to focus more on sound, and I still think I want to do that. BUT I did really enjoy just building shit for The Grotto, so I think I want to do something that requires more hands on prep.
I still want to break out of the gallery space like the projecting outside idea.
I want to work with loops (or similar recursive systems).
I want to work with dynamic elements.
So I thought I’d try and bust out as many ideas as I can before Tuesday so that I can get feedback from others in the last 2 weeks of class. SO. Here are some ideas:
- It doesn’t have to move so far away from The Grotto/The Island, I could build on these ideas or early versions of these idea. I did an experiment with loops playing in different rooms of the house in one of the earlier weeks of last semester that I could follow up (architectural composition).
- A recreation/version of this Arduino project.
- Create a fake echo (playing off different kinds of loops/recursions) with multiple speakers
- Recreate Forgotten Songs, an installation in Sydney
So I don’t watch a lot of TED talks, but my Dad sent this to me recently and I felt like it had a lot of interesting ideas that echoed some thoughts I’ve had about my creative practice this year and moving forward with my practice next year.