PART 1. Project 3, Exercise 2, Developing Research Skills

Katie Paterson

Vatnajökull (the sound of) 2007–08

Paterson connected a telephone line to an underwater microphone near the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland which recorded the sound of the glacier melting.

This installation was both site-specific; the glacier occupies a single specific place and cannot be moved to another, and time-bound; the glacier will eventually completely melt and cease to exist.

There is no longer any audio on Paterson’s website, but a recording is available at the following link at time of writing. The sound is reminiscent of corn popping in a pan, with a lot of reverb added:

(Accessed 23/12/19)

Paterson originally exhibited a phone, with the mobile phone number of the glacier displayed as a neon sign above it, and visitors could call the number. In fact anyone could call the number from any phone, and only one caller could connect at any one time. She has subsequently exhibited the work as a retrospective piece: I’ve made a special archive for PKM, with the neon sign of the phone number, photographs of the place and a book which lists the 10,000 phone-numbers that called. When I was compiling the book, I was astonished to find that people from far-reached places like Samoa were calling.

(Accessed 07/01/20)

Paterson’s work deals a lot with cosmology and geology and time. It is conceptual, designed to make the viewer think about the idea of the piece. Medium is clearly secondary to concept.

Those I found most interesting are the fascinating ‘Fossil Necklace’ (2013), which comprises spherical beads of identical size made from fossilised matter from all around the world, arranged in chronological order from the Pre-Cambrian period 4,570m years ago to the present Holocene, and the quirky ‘Second Moon’ (2013-14) which is a packing crate containing a piece of moon rock, shipped by airfreight all around the world for one year. The position of the rock was tracked and charted against ‘user’s location’ and that of the moon and other planets in our solar system.

Patterson has also created a work that adults alive today will never see completed. In ‘Future Library’ (2014-2114) she has planted a forest in Norway, the trees of which will provide the paper for books to be published in the year 2114. Each year between 2014 and then a writer will contribute a text to be included, which will not be read until then. This, like Longplayer, directs the viewer to thoughts of the future.

Another clever piece is a lifelong project called ‘Ideas’ (2015 – ). This is simply a book with short statements that feed the imagination. The viewer is the medium.

PART 1. Project 2, Case Study: Longplayer

Initial thoughts:

Beautiful sounds and colours, utterly intriguing idea.


The title is a play on words that will pass many younger people by; this in itself is a reflection on the passage of time and the development of media by which music is recorded and shared.

The physical installation is visually simple, with beautiful rich natural colours that seem to glow in the low light. This complements the soft, ethereal sounds of the bowls.

The use of basic materials in a spartan setting is a clear juxtaposition to the technology required to create the audio output. The singing bowls, which will never need to be ‘tuned’, are a solid constant underneath the uncertainty of the technological future of the piece. These aspects are strongly linked to ‘time’, elegantly and subtly bringing perceptions of past and questions of future together.

The sound of the bowls is calming and creates a contemplative atmosphere for listeners. I imagine the muted colours and stillness of the physical piece enhance this effect further.

Since the musical piece is 1,000 years long and cannot be experienced by an individual in full, this naturally drives one’s thoughts to the future, to what will happen as the piece reaches its conclusion in 2199; will it be stopped or set off on another millennial loop? Will it last until then, become a cultural phenomenon? Or fade into obscurity due to lack of interest or funding? With no possibility of answers to these questions, this train of thought leads inevitably to one’s own mortality and how we use our own time. The length of the piece also influences how it is experienced; listeners who visit the live installations choose how long to stay. Online listeners may have the music playing in the background. It is always accessible.

The way the piece of music is derived by selecting combinations of the composition from each ring of the ‘score’ is reminiscent of an analogue clock; the hour, minute and second hands all use the same 360° face but move at different rates to each describe a different amount of time.

PART 1. Project 2, Exercise 1, The Fourth Dimension

Thoughts on Time

Time is something I generally consider only in terms of what I can do in a measure of it. My professional life as an accountant is strongly time-bound, whether it is cyclical deadlines of month-ends or quarterly forecasts, or managing my team’s activity in order to achieve outputs ready to be collated by myself or other stakeholders at the appropriate time. Outside of work I aim to allocate time to balance Arts study, choir commitments, ‘down-time’, seeing family and friends, failing to exercise! I know there isn’t enough of it and it seems to be speeding up as I get older.

I think the only way in which I’ve considered time in relation to Art is in terms of historical periods, such as ‘What would Monet have thought of street art?’ or ‘What would DaVinci think of helicopters?’ or conversely ‘Imagine having to mix all your own paints from medium and pigment that won’t necessarily last, and not being able to just order some Windsor & Newton paint off Amazon with next-day delivery…’

I don’t recall coming across art that deals specifically with time as a subject.


PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 4, Looking at Context

Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind if Someone Living, 1991.

First reaction:

Pointless animal cruelty, deliberately shocking.

Emotional response:

Anger. Reluctance to engage further.

What do I think it’s about?

Primarily publicity for the artist. The fact that if you saw this view in another context, you might be about to die (tiger-sharks do prey on humans) yet you still can’t comprehend death. By extension, we take life for granted.

What do I think about the title?

It is thought-provoking and an interesting concept.

Dewater Collier, Still Life with a Volume if Wither’s ‘Emblemes’, 1696

First reaction:

level of detail invites closer viewing, recognisably Vanitas still life with typical symbolism

Emotional response:


What do I think it’s about?

Depicts ‘earthly pleasures’ – wine, fruit, music, jewellery- alongside reminders – skull, hourglass, timepiece – that these things are fleeting and everyone dies.

What do I think of the title?

More of a label, a descriptor.

PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 5, Finding Out More


Notes from listening to [accessed 17/11/19]


The shark was caught and killed for this purpose

The tank is a frame

The commentators discussed that modern art is more open to interpretation than before and referenced Duchamp, “a work of art is completed by the viewer”. They also referenced the influence of the 1975 Spielberg film, Jaws, on the way humans feel about sharks.

The title itself is a challenge and is poetic, but it also clashes with the physical piece and one of the commentators states that ‘this is where the art is’ and that this piece gives the viewer ‘a complicated experience’.

This is not the original shark; the first one dissolved.  The commentators discussed whether this was intentional or an inadvertent side-effect. One commented that Hirst is struggling to keep the shark intact then posed the somewhat clumsy rhetorical question ‘who isn’t struggling to keep themselves intact?’

On the subject of whether Hirst intended for the piece to be permanent, one commentator pointed out that the choice to use a real shark versus a fake one, and using formaldehyde versus Amber suggests not.

They stated that one definition of art is that it outlives us; is trans-generational. That humans have tried to stop time throughout history (I read this as meaning the effects of time).

At the end of the video the commentators stated that modern art poses philosophical questions whilst giving no answers and is not always concerned only with aesthetics, if at all.


Having more contextul information around this piece does not change my view of it; I cannot get past Hirst’s killing of animals for his art. The video also references the bisected sheep he preserved. Yet more works are referenced in the 02/04/12 Guardian article by Adrian Searle. I recently read an article on this subject that estimates his ‘body-count’ is approaching 1 million.

PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 2, What is Art?

What is art? This is a huge question and the answer has to be really subjective. Is it just anything that is made by a human? But then why aren’t manufactured goods art? Does it then become about context? The piece in the previous exercise, Fountain, is a urinal that was manufactured. Does it become art because the artist says its art?

Duchamp said he wanted ‘to put art back in the service of the mind’. I think perhaps the ‘artwork’ in that case is no longer the piece of porcelain in front of the viewer; it’s the thoughts that they are having about that object and any discussions they then have with others.

My current personal view is that art should require some kind of skill from the artist, whether that’s technical skill or vision or design. I’m often not entirely comfortable with somebody just calling a found object art when it then becomes the words around the object that make it art – those words often sound entirely false and pretentious to me. I feel like I’m being conned or given the ‘hard sell’. Does this mean I like to be spoon-fed? Or not challenged?

‘Does art need to move you emotionally?’ I’m not sure what that question really means. We have an emotional response to everything we perceive, even indifference is an emotional response. Is the question about the strength of response? If so, then this still cannot be a measure of whether something is art because everyone has a different responses.

‘Does art have to be unique?’ I don’t think so. This question can be interpreted in more than one way: just one original? Print-makers may object! An entirely new idea? That would mean that no cover version of a song could ever be called art.

PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 1, Fountain

MD Fountain

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1950 (replica of 1917 original)

My First Response…..

I don’t like it, I don’t tend to like much ‘found’ art. Why did the artist designate this ‘art’? What does it mean? Who is ‘R. Mutt’? Is it anything to do with WWI? Is the orientation significant?


Exercise 1: What do I want to gain from Higher Education?

I wish to add a level of personal growth to practices I am exploring anyway, and to broaden my experience through exposure to other artists’ work and interactions with fellow students. I have a stressful job in Finance and the creative process helps me manage that pressure; it may seem counter-intuitive to add pressure into that area of my life by studying formally, but I am more productive and motivated with a deadline.

Time management is a significant issue for me. My professional life is somewhat cyclical in terms of workload, but also frequently has an ad hoc element to it and it will be a challenge to fit my studies in around this. As well as time, there is inclination to consider. I have to be ‘in the mood’ to study in order to enjoy it (and I do want to enjoy it!) and my energy levels and mood are impacted by work. To mitigate this, I will need to plan well and give myself sufficient time to work through the course.

Exercise 2: Set up Learning Log

I plan to use this online blog as my learning log, and will include within it photos of any supplementary materials I produce.

Exercise 3: Analysing and Learning

Nude (Study), Sad Young Man on a Train

By Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) – Guggenheim, PD-US,

What I see – Many, predominantly vertical, marks in graded shades of brown, palest in the centre creating the impression of close proximity. At a glance, it looks like a queue of people. On closer inspection, one sees details that imply it could be the same figure (cane, pipe, physical build, posture).

What I think – I like this piece, I’m interested in how artists portray movement. It is over a century old but it seems modern to me. The use of colour suggests situation in the tunnel and creates a marked sense of perspective. I think it is clever and effective.

I found the constraints of a low word-count added an interesting element to this exercise, driving the selection of the most important points to highlight. Just looking briefly at Duchamp’s body of work makes me interested to track his development over decades and learn more about his interactions with other well-known artists and movements.


Exercise 4: Managing Time

(covered above)


Exercise 5: Setting up your space

In terms of resources, I’m fairly sure I have everything I will need.

I am very fortunate to live next to water, surrounded by a nature reserve with very few neighbours. My house is a tranquil place to be and, whilst I have a dedicated north-facing room for art (not yet unpacked from the move), I tend to spend most of my time in the upper south-facing rooms because of the view, and I can work at the kitchen table.


Exercise 6: Say hello to fellow students

There seem to not be many students on this module at the moment. About 15 of us have communicated via the email group. In addition to this, I have set up an unofficial closed Facebook Group for us where we can share our blogs, chat, critique and share interesting posts. This is in place for Drawing 1 as many people find it difficult to navigate through numerous email trails. I found it to be a really valuable resource so I suggested it for this group as well. There are three of us who are admins to build resilience for when people complete the unit and move on. So far we have just introduced ourselves with our backgrounds, which are very varied in terms of location, age, family circumstances, experience. All women so far, strangely.

ASSIGNMENT 5 – Final piece

I used A1 watercolour paper in an attempt to allow the ink to flow further away from the figure as it had in my tests with wider margins of water. I didn’t use quite enough ink to achieve this, and was being slightly cautious. The wash dried lighter than it looked when wet in my tests, and even more so on this paper I bought for the final piece. Whilst the ink marks are not as striking as I intended, I still think they are effective in enhancing the feeling of movement of the figure.

Using charcoal on this paper with such a strong tooth necessitated an unforeseen change in technique that I had to break off and test before continuing. In addition I was doing this in very hot weather and didn’t want the oils from my skin to influence the charcoal. I used a tortillon to blend the charcoal instead of my finger, which gives an almost pointillist effect in some areas.

I’m pleased with the final drawing. I think using the ‘potential energy’ of a pose to capture movement is effective and works well in this piece.

The abstract suggestion of movement with ink, as an augmentation to the movement proposed by the pose itself, works well with the absence of background. The feeling of uncontrolled falling is very like isolation, which I found was accentuated by an absence of background in my final piece for Assignment 4. I’m happy to have been able to use this as an active element of the drawing once again.

Progress shots: