Tag Archives: Contextualisation

Concertina Sketchbook Diary



Concertina Sketchbook

I thought I would upload a couple of shots of the 4.5 metre long concertina sketchbook I have been working on. The concertina sketchbook compliments this online diary, in that it explores similar themes, but by different methods.

As mentioned a previous post the length of the sketchbook, at 4.5 metres,  represents the average distance the shore retreats every year at Covehithe. When fully extended and displayed, the sketchbook not only charts the progress of the research, but also attempts to tackle the problem of visually describing environmental processes that operate on a different temporal level than that of our senses.

Concertina Sketchbook 2

The challenge of visually representing environmental processes that our senses struggle to interpret is a theme that is running through my work at the moment. The sketchbook is a rather crude attempt to tackle this challenge, in that it aims to give an appreciation to the viewer of just how far 4.5 metres actually is. It doesn’t however speak of the underlying environmental processes at play or our relationship to them. So, perhaps this sketchbook doesn’t goes far enough?

My reason for asking this is that I have been considering some of my core beliefs about my creative undertakings. Over the last two years I’ve realised that I happen to believe that it would not be to the benefit of my practice to seek to solely translate these processes into an understandable format. After all, it could be said that this reduces art to an illustrative role, when surely creative practice can aim for more than to serve as just a tool of illustration?  This relates to some wider questions about arts-based research, which, in short, question the status of knowledge in art research and making, and even wider than this, ask what the purpose of arts-based research is and what its goals and conventions should be.

So, how does what I do relate to these types of questions? Well, it seems that I believe that the drawings I make, certainly within the context of the arts-based research that I carry out, should have the goals and interests of art at their core. However, I also believe it is possible, and worthwhile, to try to meet these aims while serving other purposes.

What I am aiming for is a form of creative practice that not only has at its heart the production of art that is able to stand on its own merit, but a practice that also furthers the development and understanding of arts-based research. The focus of this practice should then be directed towards not just helping us to understand, but to also question our relationships to, and our behaviours towards, environmental processes.

Sounds easy.



Embodied Processes


Some back story. Three years a go when I was preparing my research proposal to send to the University of Brighton, my research interests were in slightly different area. At the time, I was concerned with how we might possibly, through art,  make environmental processes that operate on a different time scale to human time more personally meaningful, or at least more easily comprehended.

A promising route to a more meaningful experience of slow-moving or large-scale processes seemed to be through art works that physically embody the natural processes they seek to describe. Take for example the handmade book work Once Around the Sun by Kristjan Gudmundsson. According to Frieze:

In the first volume each page is covered in dots, in total as many dots as there are seconds in a year: 31,556,926 dots in all. The pages of the second volume are densely covered with horizontal lines. Joined together, the lines would measure the distance the earth travels in one second, that is 29,771 metres, or about 18 miles. 

This means that these two books, when considered together, are a handmade, visual representation of the distance the Earth travels in one year.   What is achieved in these two volumes, is the translation of distances and timescales, so large as to be practically meaningless, through an object that is not only human-scale in size, but also efficiently and poetically expresses large periods of time in a way we can begin to appreciate.

However, over time my research interests evolved and it is only recently when exploring ways to reflect a process such as coastal erosion through drawing that I have been thinking again about art works embodying environmental processes.

Which brings us to the physical counterpart to the online component of this research diary. Arriving home from work today I was greeted by the roll of Fabriano 200gsm paper that I had ordered, from which a concertina sketchbook will be made. Taking its cue from Gudmundsson, the sketchbook will be 4.5 metres long, a distance equal to the amount of land lost to the sea per year in some areas of Covehithe. The concertina design is crucial, as it will make it possible to exhibit the book in one long piece, presenting the journey the research has taken in an object that  makes visible and understandable the amount of land loss that is occurring in some areas.

To provide weight to my point that we sometimes have a hard time imagining time and space, I hadn’t really considered how long 4.5 metres actually is, only giving thought that the 10 metre roll of paper I had ordered provided me plenty of room for errors when making the book (traditionally I have always been a measure once, cut twice kind of person). Well, I can report, it isn’t easy to wrestle with a 1.5 metre x 10 metre roll of paper (especially working in a spare room as I am studio-less), and further more, folding a 4.5 metre long sheet of paper into individual pages is also a time-consuming task. It is now made however, and is sitting under several hardback books to try to flatten the pages. Future posts will explain in more detail the purpose of the physical book, as well as discussing other ways my work will come to explore certain aspects of erosion, such as degradation and protection.