Archive for November, 2008


we can slip away, wouldn’t that better? -yo la tengo

I have been vetting drum loops for the last couple of days and it might naïve to say this as a non-drummer, but dude after awhile it all sounds the same.

When you make music the way I do it’s not like the most cohesive process, some of the source material is generated organically.  Me alone in my studio, massacring my guitar, and sometimes the material comes from these strange field recordings I make, but this is the first time I have ever used samples provided by someone else.

Because I am using drums as the place to start I had to get some drum sounds, a quick troll via the Google and I was able to come across this guy Jim Dooley who for a yearly fee will pump you full of drum loops.  So I download to my heart’s content and then realised I had a problem I am not usually accustomed to: a shit ton of material within which to wade through. Unlike video or gathering your own sounds, with samples you buy blind you’re not sure what it is you’re getting.  They’re all top quality, but it was just the masses of 2 sec drum loops that sort of blindsided me.

The biggest element that I found lacking in my newfound methodology and methods is my gut instinct.  I can remember a time while making something and I would just know it was the right way to be working, I also knew it would be good (the issue and matter of good is something I will tackle in another blog).  I’m not blaming the PhD outright for this, although it’s as culpable as anything else, but rather I find the very nature of the ineffable itself to be both exciting as hell and intimidating to the point of blocking me.  To attain something so awesome requires levels of awesome, and it freaks me out sometimes.

What all that means is that for the first time in a long time, in a context I never expected it, I was starting to get instinctual with the vetting of these drum loops.  I am not saying it’s back for good, but I am learning how to trust myself again as a maker.  It might all change in a few weeks, but I was starting to hear and feel the structure of my compositions or songs or whatever the hell you want to call them.  Since I have been working with sound that instinctual quality hasn’t been present and even flashes and glimpses of it really excited me.

This album also brings about a lot of other kinds of change.  For once I am approaching as if it were a ‘normal’ record.  There might be songs, multiple tracks, I don’t feel the need to create two epic tracks, instead I can really explore the idea and nature of songs, and concepts, and how things can build into something else.  Instead of it being about one or two bold statements, why not 8 smaller statements that stand up in their own right, but when listened to in the context of an album proper, they then come together to say something else.

I know this seems a bit all over the place, and in this instance the writing might be more for me than it is for you, but I really feel like something is shifting and or changing and it’s important to hold on to that, and make note of it.


hopefully some mad delirious ranting for you

I started this semi humourous post/500 word bit of writing last Friday when I was totally sick and delirious.  Basically I spent a lot of my writing time circling the issues without really every scratching the surface as to why-but remember I was delirious so it was pretty funny.  Now that I am not nearly as sick as I was, but still just a touch delirious I thought I would give it another go.

Essentially I am gearing up for album 2, and like all of my work it seems, I have to dick around a bit both theoretically and practically before the work begins to take shape and I start to feel into the groove or something.

With the making of record 1 I really changed my working methodology.  I integrated aspects of my previous methodology but for the most part I really overhauled my approach etc.  Did it really work; I suppose I need to investigate this to death before I can make a move?  I seem to operate under the belief that my first mark cannot be erased.

There is also a different contextual framework to this album, this particular album is to stand along side the previous album and the installation it will go with, but it’s not meant to be listened to within that context.  Rather it’s a proper album, kind of like the one you buy down in the shops, and in a way that’s equally as terrifying.

When I was making the first one there is always a sense of comfort that even if it bombs as album it may still serve it’s intended purpose within the installation.  Why am I such a scared artist is the question that comes up, a lot?  It’s my perception of my past work that I had a greater sense of trajectory and confidence.  I wasn’t running scared, but this whole umbrella idea of the ineffable is not just an incredible place to work but it’s also an incredible burden.

With album 2 I suppose I am altering the methodology a bit more.  Perhaps the thing to be learned here is not that there will be one master methodology at the end but an understanding of contextual differences and how the different ways of accomplishing the goals dependant upon the context.

For this album, I sort of looked at myself and particular experiences and ideas that I have been having as the context.  At the end of the day it’s silly to say but everything I know about making an album comes from reading about my favourite bands.  Articles, books, interviews: my understanding of the process is slightly tangential, what makes even more so is that I am looking at the creation of albums within a group dynamic – yet I’m an individual.  That’s why the producer is so important, G’s participation is integral because I’m held accountable.  This process, with the mastering and the mixing is almost collaborative because there are so many steps, and yes there is the major insecurity factor.  But back to the idea of the producer, there is something about the constant conversation, and talking about the ideas, why this sound there, why this sound here.  In a way I have to fight harder for the elements that are important, I have noticed that within my own way of working, knowing that someone is not just looking over my shoulder but actually involved changes the nature of the work.  I feel there is a different fluidity and comprehension that perhaps is lost in previous works because they have penchant for being too closed off.

Album 2 is the place for me to explore the difference between the idea of acquired knowledge and personal knowledge, a platform that Michael Polanyi championed.  I am interested in these aspects because they deal with events and things that have been happening in my life outside of my research, yet these experiences are things I keep coming back to because of the question of the theoretical canyon between acquired and personal knowledge.

When these two disparate forms of knowledge are placed within the context of the ineffable it allows me to shape the installations in a different manner, but it also asks in order to understand do you need to do?  Can the same emotions and the experience of bungee jumping be felt without actually jumping?  Can the same emotions and experience be created by different circumstances?

I am looking at album 2 to tease out and explore these two places, and while it will probably be personal it is important that the ideas and the ideal remain as general as possible, therefore the question of ‘success’ and how best to gather data will remain as open and ethical as possible.

Furthermore It is important to respect the boundaries of the experiences I have out-with the scope of my research that are personal yet informative.  My whole life is not inclusive within the research even though at times it feels as if everything is part of something and nothing is mine.

Moving forwards, last week G and I were talking about album 2 and it’s inception, and I spoke to her at length about how I felt my work was more successful when the sum of the parts were simple.  I think that in a way work for months and months on samples was useful and I utilised aspects of the work that I had done, but at the end of it I went back to a simple note and a simple sound.  However with album 2, I am interested in starting from a percussive place.

I have been listening to the tracks that I have made since I started this research and while not explicit there is a sense of percussion and time keeping.  I felt it was never something I had addressed head on.  Also I have been listening to a lot of Joy Division lately and what Martin Hannett did with Stephen Morris’s drums, the dry sounds he was able to get especially on a song like Love Will Tear Us Apart, I just get this sense that there is a lot to work with, and I want to use the percussive element as my starting point.

As it can’t be ignored because I always seem to have an ineffable experience when I go out for a little dance, but I will in some way probably reference dance and or house music in some way, it makes me feel fucking good.

Randomly in my head I have come back to the whole acquired/personal knowledge debate.  In a way it really must be true, in order to experience something in the way it’s meant to be experienced it must be done.  Like getting a tattoo, you can speculate all day long but you won’t know what it feels like unless you get one. But can you understand the feelings that getting one produces without getting one?  And is that the question I am really asking, or am I looking at the actual experience itself and looking to replicate that in a different way?

I am going to leave that question open ended for a while and have a bit of a think, as I am gearing up for it and starting to feel the desire to make I need to look at the methods I utilised in making the last one.

Live Blogging– While I have had no feedback to date on this method, I found it to be immensely useful in allowing me to remain present within the work, there was no ADD or drifting, because I was accounting myself whilst working I had to stay focused.  Also now reading back upon what I have done, it also shows me that I know when something is working, and I also know when something isn’t.

– I used to be a one shot kind of person, and with the last album I edited the ever-living hell out of it.  What we started with back in Jan didn’t even make the album in July, so while I don’t have the luxury of months of back and forth I can continue to work in this way just accelerated.  Plus the demo gives one a bit of space to step back and assess, as does working with a producer, both exceptionally successful aspects of record 1.  I think my inability to do this in past works both visual and audio has caused the work to suffer.

– Dude I cannot tell you how important this is.  I need the pressure of something bearing down upon me, it’s not that I am lazy but I just need pressure.  I can’t think without it.  It could be argued that I am already ensconced within a pressurised situation, I should be mega productive, but remember the pressure of a sprint is different than that of a marathon.

– I think with record 1 I went in a bit blind, I had an over all idea of what it was that I wanted, but I was never clear.  I am clear about what I want with this album.  I know what I want to explore and I know where my impetus is coming from.



a for real up date will be up by the days end, apologies to the tens of readers.  I was ill communication last week and couldn’t really get out of bed let alone make sense…. until then amuse yourself with this little mind melter.


bringing back the romance

Well it looks like the kid stays in the picture.  I have gotten a space (finger’s crossed of course) and now it’s time to really make the work, and all of sudden I am deflated.

I suppose when you spend weeks and months fighting for an abstract idea, what you end up fighting for takes on a myth-like status and the longer you fight the more you think it’s never going to happen.  I would have to say right up until this morning when the space thing worked out I was convinced it wasn’t going to work out, not because I don’t want to make the work but why now, why would things work to my advantage when they never do (within this context).

So now that it’s a goer why such a long face kid, you ask?  Well in a way, fighting for the abstract makes you lose sense of what it is that you wanted out of the idea in the first place.  Let’s use the idea of a relationship as a metaphor.  When you start dating someone it’s new and fresh, you can’t keep your hands off them and all you want to do is be with them all day long, as the relationship progresses you let some of that romance fall by the way side and settle into a routine, the longer that happens sometimes you forget what attracted you to the other person, and in a way that’s what’s happening to me with the idea of room 1.  I have been carrying it for so long now, at least a year and half as a concept and defiantly at least 7 months within the planning stages etc.

So the further I got into realising the work, the further I got from the idea of the work if that makes any sense.  I am lost in a sea of minutia and planning, and all of that takes away from the romance of the idea.  So this is my chance to sit down, pour the idea and myself a glass of champagne and get sexy again. (in the next couple of paragraphs, the idea Room 1 and I will be engaged in a conversation)

Room 1 what attracted me to you in the first place, what got me all hot and bothered?

Well Alex, I am not sure I can answer that for you.  I am a combination of many important things for you and I represent the beginning both figuratively and literally. But to really answer that you’ll need to look back in time and tell me what you think attracted you to me.

Okay, fair enough.  I think the initial spark came in your innocence.  As an idea and your motivational purpose as a work is extremely pure.  It speaks about a time in my life where discovery came before I learned how to be cynical and sarcastic about experiences such as yourself.  You’re about my childhood and me and in a way you’re the root of the reason as to why I am doing this research.  Me creating work about this particular experience is not just about teaching people how to listen, but it’s also about honouring the importance of you as an experience.  When I was a kid sitting between the bed and wall soaking up every musical experience I could: either on headphones or the stereo, this very act became my saviour.  It was my first experience with the ineffable and music that allowed me to understand the power of an ineffable experience.  This has stayed with me forever and in some way my understanding of the suspension of disbelief comes with a childlike wonderment.

As a work I want you to be this environment that allows the viewer/listener to recapture that childlike sense of awe, the ability to listen without judgement and absorb something simply because it’s new and exciting not because it’s a task.

I know that’s a lot to ask and it might be virtually impossible to say to people whom I am asking to view the work in a critical way to forget that context and allow the kid in them to come out, but I am going to have to try in some way.

Okay, that’s a fair enough answer but as a work how am I supposed to achieve that, what have you imbued within me to make me suspend disbelief to that degree?

That’s actually a really difficult question to answer because I suppose that I was hoping the environment alone would be an effective method in establishing that kind of context.  I have however realised that we are intending to create an aesthetic within the room itself that will make establishing the ‘age’ of whoever might live there inconsequential.  But to me room being so highly aesthetic serves the specific purpose of allowing the viewer to really focus on what I believe to be the main focus of the work and that is listening to the record in the same place that I did: on the floor between the bed and the wall.

Yeah, fair enough, but as the work how am I to establish this childlike interest.  That is a particular kind of curiosity?  A child’s room would not be so aesthetic, it would allow for its inhabitant.  It would reflect the mood and temperament of a child, and right now what you have created reflects the ideal of what you think you might have wanted your to be your room as a child based on how you like interiors now.  Is it a matter of letting people know that this room and this is experience is based on YOUR own experiences as a child?

… I have been really reluctant about how to integrate the background of the experience within the experience itself.  I don’t want it to seem confessional or some sort of reclamation of my childhood.  Rather it’s about utilising that time and this particular experience to train people how to listen in the way that I want them to listen.  It’s about shaping and forming knowledge.  Perhaps the biggest issue is that I haven’t really sussed out how I want to integrate that sensibility, because obviously I am romanticising and elevating something from my past.  I am choosing to shape it in the way that I want, not necessarily in the way that it happened.

Okay then, I think this is worth coming back to but I am curious if you feel like you have reached a better understanding of what it is that you like about me?

Yes and no.  I mean I think I have a clearer understanding of you as a work.  Okay what is it that I like about you more now that before? Look as a work I just like you, you are a place where all of my interests can collide and form something of themselves.  You’re the place where I can begin to explore the addition of sound as a fundamental building block within my practice.  You’re the work that indicates a fresh start, a new page if you.  I think that in the past I was trying to create the ineffable experience but it wasn’t always the main intention, so in that sense making work with such a purpose is exciting.

What’s not exciting is the weight of expectation that I feel.  I suppose since it’s been so long and I have been living within the concept for as long as I have that there is a tremendous amount of fear.  I have fear about the role of the ineffable within my practice.  Irwin spoke of honing his ways of seeing by painting lines on a canvas day in and day out.  I have been doing that in a similar way except I have been honing my idea of the ineffable but I haven’t been honing or illuminating ways of doing it.  My mind is strong but my hand is weak.

Why do you think that, what makes you think that your skill set won’t work?

It’s not that I think my skill set won’t work, I mean I have a team who will build and realise this, what worries me most is how far I have come and how disconnected I am from you as an idea.  I mean part of me would have been happy just being done with you as an unrealised work.  For every amazing aspect and all the good that will come out of you as apiece, you’ve also been a tremendous albatross.  You hang around my neck and taunt me, and in some way I have a feeling that not matter how good you turn out it won’t be good enough.

Could the real problem be that you have no idea what the ineffable experience is?

Actually, yes.  I mean I understand the idea of the ineffable experience in general, and I understand what it has meant for me in a variety of different contexts, but it’s problematic because I am not sure how it is I want people to be changed by this work.  I mean I know how I have been affected by Irwin’s work and Turrell’s work and the prevailing issue is how to talk about the thing that you can speak to, so if I am trying to create the thing I can’t talk about I have to have some blueprint in my mind, and I think what’s happened in all of this is that it’s been easy to not deal with this particular issue.

Okay, fair enough, but as the work I need some direction.  Can you tell me off the cuff what it is that you want me to do experience wise?

I’ll give it a shot.  Yeah, I want you to be this space that people enter and listen to this record that I have created.  Within the space as they listen to the record I want them to sit and be still creating a singular focus on what they are listening to and I want the fuzzy light to diffuse the edges creating this spacey almost dreamlike state and place.  I want this room to have a sanctuary like aspect to it.  The purpose of the work is not just to frame and hone ways of listening but it’s about the other, the other kind of experience, the other person’s head, slipping outside of yourself…

Okay.  I can work with that, I think it’s important that we continue to have these kinds of conversations though.

I find this quasi interview style with myself to be a very useful method and it’s something that needs to be continually explored and defined within the research.


because there are more important things

A great display of the human spirit.


good as it gets?

I know this blog is PhD related but this is pretty ineffable in my opinion. Enjoy!


who am i to blame?

This year has brought forth a new disciplined Alex, I have a word deadline per day and month, and with any luck I will be making a ton of work and finally getting around to answering my research questions.

With all the uncertainty surrounding me securing a space it brings up an interesting issue, what are my questions again and with all this uncertainty are they still relevant?

Do contemporary multi-media immersive installation artists differentiate between the idea of the ineffable and the phenomenological, or is the common assumption that the terminology and the experiences are interchangeable?

What methodological framework(s) need to be established [or created] in order to generate, qualify and measure ineffable experiences?

Will the added element of sound in conjunction with the visual better enable practitioners to create the conditions for generation of the ineffable experience, or is the preferred inclusion of sound merely a subjective choice/need?

Question 1 is fine; it wouldn’t need to be changed in any major way if I decide to execute the works as films versus video.

Same with Question 2, I think the only one that would need a serious tinker is Question 3, and I suppose the only real changes would need to be in the language so that the concept of film was made more inclusive.

Realistically this won’t be an issue, and the inclusion of the works as films will be an added bonus not simply because the securing of space has been so difficult, but this difficulty raises an interesting question for me within the context of my research first then out-with.

Ideally as an artist when you are out of school, motivation and deadlines for work come from external sources and the securing of spaces etc. is not something that I as an artist would have to be worried about.  Because I am a student within an educational institution I am paying for the structure and the framework that said institution provides, I understand that being a PhD student is different than being on a BA or MFA course and I am I not entitled to support in that specific taught context, yet as a student, the same support in the exhibition and more importantly the space within which to realise my work should be extended to me as well.

I understand very clearly that I am no longer on a taught course, but some provisions need to be made within the school itself or the school needs to extend itself to assist PhD students in the securing of space. I am not trying to be a spoiled kid or anything, but if you are asking people to conduct research through their practice(s) how come there is no space allowed for the actual physicality of the practice itself?

Bitching and moaning isn’t going to win me any friends, nor is it going to secure me a space but I am unsure of how else to proceed, and I am being placed into a corner that has nothing to do with quality of work, rather I am making circumstantial choices based on asinine external factors.

If I was not in school, I would push ahead with the work in it’s immersive installation like state because it was the work that I wanted to make and it was the right time in my practice, on the flip side the hope would be that I have (had) a gallery behind me that wanted to support me and find further support in the construction of such work, as well my question asking would be of a whole other variety.

So am I compromising myself as an artist in order to meet a research deadline, or am I compromising myself full stop because of myriad of complications: GCC, GSA, et. al?

If I come to the conclusion that I am compromising myself as an artist because of a research deadline, is it really the end of the world, or am I merely finding a way to work within a flawed system so I can get the hell out of dodge and get on with both my work and my life?  Or has the need to get the hell out of dodge made me desperate to fit any peg into the proverbial round hole?

But to me the bigger question is the work that fits the research.  Both of these aspects have come forth from infancy in a sense but they came forth together because like puzzle pieces they belong together, one will help answer the other and so forth.  So if I totally ditch the immersive installations within the context of the research, I am not just compromising myself as an artist but I am also giving up on the research as it stands?  NO or YES?

I suppose in a way it’s slightly pointless to dither on and on, but I feel like I have to come to a conclusion for myself and I need to do it within the next few days (I have a meeting concerning this issue on Wed) and I want a clarity.  Either I am doing it as films and shelving the installations for another time or I am pushing ahead with some combination of the two.

But back to the last question I asked and the idea of getting the hell out of dodge and putting any peg that will fit into any hole, does practice led research and all intangibles that go along with it really grind one down so far, that as an artist you begin to consider options you would never normally entertain in order to simply finish? Or is the rigidity of the structure of this research needed because otherwise I might quite happily float in the land of maybes and the idea of potentially?  But then again the idea of discipline should never be misinterpreted as structure, I should be able to get out of bed with a desire regardless of the context within which I am making work, and I am starting to wonder how affected that aspect of my practice has been altered.  Has the structure of the PhD allowed me to falter within my own discipline, or is it simply a matter of motivation?

(Listened to the new The Dears album Missiles)