Monday, 30 May 2011

Beuys and Finley and Honey and more

Karen Finley, A Different Kind of Intimacy

Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965

Honey was first used by Beuys as a material in 1965 in his action How to Explain Paintings to a Dead Hare, in which he anointed his head with honey and gold. Honey not only has a connection with nourishment, but it also has a certain mystical quality. For example, according to Beuys, "in mythology, honey was regarded as a spiritual substance and bees were godly." He also viewed the organization of bees as very similar to the principles of socialism in that an end product is made through principles of cooperation and brotherhood.

Joseph Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974

Beuys’s most famous Action took place in May 1974, when he spent three days in a room with a coyote. After flying into New York, he was swathed in felt and loaded into an ambulance, then driven to the gallery where the Action took place, without having once touched American soil. As Beuys later explained: ‘I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote.’ The title of the work is filled with irony. Beuys opposed American military actions in Vietnam, and his work as an artist was a challenge to the hegemony of American art.

Atelier – An Explanation

Atelier is a durational performance presented in an art studio, the intention is to create sculptural forms with the aim of developing an installation within the space, but shown in its entirety in a live context. Artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Francis Bacon amongst others have since their death, had their studios archived and displayed for the public to view them as they were supposedly left by the artist. This idea that an audience is able to interact with an artist’s space which was not intended to be viewed by the public, this causes a voyeuristic response from both the audience and those responsible for making the studio public. However from an artistic point of view what appears to be significant is the action of performance created by simply opening these spaces up to be viewed, the notion of both performance and installation is presented without the artists acknowledgement. At the same time the idea of how the artists lived and worked but in a biographical sense is highlighted by exhibiting the studio rather than just their work and written texts being available about the artist.
Why Birds?
In previous works I had been working with ‘still life’ as both a concept and a medium, in order to achieve this I used dead birds, in particular pheasants. Despite them being dead I found myself developing a relationship with them as I spent time creating and planning the work specifically for a few birds or one. Therefore when the time came for me to either pluck them or lay them down I found myself feeling moved by this, (interestingly causing an add on discussion on the issues behind artists being precious over their work).
As a result of working in this way I developed an understanding of these animals and noticed such habitats in the woods where I have made most of these works. This is when I realised the similarities between the importance of the ‘home’ for both humans and birds. The use of the bird from a feminist perspective is highly significant also and so it made sense to continue to use this medium, however the need for them to be dead didn’t make sense and would have in fact possibly caused the piece to be theatrical which is never my intention. The next step would be for them to be alive as it is not just about the ‘home’ or the ‘artist’ but about maternal instinct, hence my experience of working with the dead pheasants. I was and still am very dubious about working in this way as it is naturally a chaos element and something I won’t be able to control but I feel that this is a step I should make for the development of my performance practice.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at Barbican Centre, London


Marcus Coates, Dawn Chorus -

Mud Nests and Sawdust

I have been experimenting with sawdust as a material to sculpt with, looking at mud nests I think that I could replicate this with sawdust. Having said that my initial want to create brick structures out of the material is still very strong though I was nearly put off by peers and tutors. I am wondering if it's because they cannot visualise it the way I can or it may be that they feel I'm planning too much. However I think it will be useful to the piece to do both, to construct the object then break it down to create the nests. I think that this could potentially work very well.

Finch Nests

(Above) Made by Finches

(Above) Man made

Zoo Cam

The Room Now

This is the new and improved table, it's from the wood workshop.

The shelves have been moved to the wall behind the sink which allows me to take over the central area easily.

Finally, this is the blue boiler suit I will be wearing for most of the time other than when I work with the treacle and bird seed. Therefore I will now have just two hooks one for a white robe ready for when I leave the room to take a shower and the other for the boiler suit when it is not being used.

The Room

I have made some plans to follow when placing the objects and furniture around the space, the images below are of how it looks presently:

I wanted it to be reminiscent of the Hepworth studio but this may actually causing a problem for my own work to develop. Her various costumes hanging really intrigued me but will I really use all of these in the work? Is it necessary or just look nice?

I have been trying to get a table to match the aesthetics of the space, this is a piece of wood on top of a table, I feel some further research and looking is in order.

The Finches

After searching high and low for what one would think to be a very easy thing to find I finally found some finches for sale in a local garden centre.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Francis Bacon - Images and Article - Studio

Bacon studio re-created in Dublin
By Louise Williams in Dublin

Francis Bacon's London studio has been transplanted and reassembled - every paintbrush and speck of dust, along with the walls and floorboards - in Ireland.
The studio took three years to reconstruct in a Dublin art gallery with every detail of the work space faithfully re-created.
The studio was donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and a team of 10 archaeologists and conservators spent three years dismantling the room and its contents and transporting them across the Irish Sea.


Bacon was born in Ireland to English parents but he left Ireland when he was a teenager. He died in Spain in 1992.
For 30 years, he worked in a studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington.
Special care was taken over transporting the plaster on the walls which Bacon used as his palette.
"This is exactly the mess that he left behind," Project manager Dr Margarita Cappock said of the re-constructed studio.
Three vantage points have been built into the walls so visitors can see up close the re-built studio.
"What you see here is most of the source material used by Bacon throughout his life," she added.
Almost every inch of floor space is covered with cuttings from newspapers, tins of paint and photos.


Dr Cappock said the room was organised chaos.
"On excavating, we discovered an order - for example, there was an area with books and photos, the table was piled high with artists materials and behind the easel the space is full of empty champagne and wine boxes."
Bacon himself once wrote that his studio was the only place he could work because he could not work in places that are too tidy. "It's much easier for me to paint in a place like this which is a mess," he said.
The contents of his studio - over 7,500 items - have been entered into a database.

'Thumb print'

They include clippings from publications like Paris Match, pages from a book on the supernatural and images of open mouths - one of Bacon's recurring themes - which featured strongly in his "screaming pope" series.

"It's unique in the art world to have such a complete archive, which has been done with such thoroughness - every single thumb print or finger print or intervention that Bacon has made has been described," explained Dr Cappock, who hopes the permanent exhibition will attract Bacon scholars to Dublin.
There has been controversy over the donation of the studio but Brian Clarke, sole executor of Bacon's estate, has no regrets.
"I think that perhaps had it gone to any other institution it would have received great care, but here it's been treated with remarkable sensitivity and unparalleled diligence," he said.
"Bacon once said that he'd never come back to Dublin until he was dead," said Mr Clarke.
"And I think frankly if he were here today to see what happened, I think he'd be touched but I think he'd probably roar with laughter as well."

Zebra Finches - Info

Zebra finches belong to the strikingly varied and unique group of finches known as the Australian grass finches. Most of the different species of grass finch are considered non-beginner’s birds due to their relatively high expense and unforgiving response to conditions not to their liking but Zebras are just the opposite! Zebras are probably the most prolific and therefore the least expensive finch available. A pair can bless you with babies when they themselves are only four to six months old. Sexing Zebras is no problem either for males will begin to show their dimorphic colours of chestnut flanks, red ear spots, and a zebra striped chest within a month or two after fledging. Babies just out of the nest all look like dull coloured hens.

One pair of Zebras should be housed in a large cage that will give them at least a little flight space and room to get away from each other at times. Housing these tiny but active birds in a small cage sold for a single budgie or canary is asking for trouble. Zebras are always on the move - they never stop! They are also more nervous, swift in flight, and certainly not as docile as the society or Lady Gouldian finches, Canaries and Cockatiels. Overcrowded incompatible birds will often feather-pick and may be seen chasing other birds around the enclosure. Zebras, even in a large flight situation, may take over other specie’s nests and/or try stealing nesting material if too many birds want the same nests or roosting place.

My pet name for this little Australian bird is “Beeper”. The voice sounds something like a diminutive toy trumpet “meeping”- and this is kept up continually. (This can become bothersome for some people but others do find the vocal antics of the Zebra entertaining and, perhaps, relaxing as well. The cock’s song is a short, repetitive, high-speed warble bleated out to any Zebra proclaiming to all his willingness to woe a mate and make more Zebras. As is obvious from their willingness to breed Zebras are thoroughly domesticated and are bred for show conformation and depth of colour. Several very nice mutation colour forms are common so acquisition of these birds is really no problem. The rapid reproductive rate of these birds makes them particularly suitable if one wishes to experiment around with or seriously study genetics.

Although the active Australian Zebra finch does not appear to be as steady or tameable as the majority of domestic-raised cage birds they still do comfortably well in a medium to large size cage in the home and are a pleasure to watch. When the ease of pairing the differently coloured cocks and hens is added to the fast-paced reproduction of the zesty Zebra this becomes another highly recommended bird for the home.

Zebra Finch

Fabulous Information - Finches

Finches are a popular choice of bird for many people, whether they're just starting out with birds or have had birds for many years. There are many reasons why they're so popular: their small size, vibrant colors, ease of breeding, and for some, their beautiful song.

Finches are small-to-medium-sized birds with a strong, broad, and sharp beak, designed for cracking and hulling seeds. Because of this, they are often referred to by the classifications "hardbill" and "seedeater," just like "hookbills" and "softbills." Their lifespan is five to twelve years.

Although they're small, when thinking of buying finches, you need to consider expenses, housing, feeding, avian vets, and much more, just the same as for any other birds.

The name "finch" is used to describe birds of different groups that show close similarities. The groups are known as "families" -- they include Fringillidae, Ploceidae, Estrildidae, and Emberizidae. These are the Latin names used by scientists as an international language to help prevent misidentification or confusion when talking about a particular bird.

Finches aren't like parrots and lack the ability to talk or mimic, however they have many other wonderful traits in the place of speech. They aren't destructive and are relatively quiet, they're small and easily housed, they have a beautiful song, they can provide enjoyment to young and old alike with their activities, and are perfect apartment pets with therapeutic effects.

It's important to note that with all finches that you should always purchase a pair to keep one another company. Unlike parrots, they will never look to humans for companionship so they would soon get lonely.
The first thing you need to think about is how much space you have. Do you have room for just a small cage, an indoor flight, or an outdoors aviary?

The Cage

Finches average at around four to six inches in length, so it's often thought that they don't need a lot of room. In actuality, finches are very lively and are active fliers, so if you decide on a cage, then the minimum size for a pair should be 24 inches (60 cm) long and 12 inches deep; the height isn't as important because birds tend to fly horizontally, not vertically. As always, the bigger cage you can afford, the better. Square or rectangular cages are a must because the back corners gives the birds a chance to get away if they feel they need to, whereas a circular cage doesn't. The bar spacing should be about 1/2 inch (though the smaller species may require smaller sizes), otherwise the finches may escape through the bars or get their heads caught trying. For ease of cleaning, it's best to get a cage with a removable tray; this way, you can easily slide the tray out for cleaning without worrying about the birds getting loose.

Now you have the cage you need to consider furnishings for it, food and water bowls usually come built into the cage, you simply lift the catch and take the bowl out. You'll need at least two perches, one at each end but not too many because they need room to fly. Natural tree branches make the best perches because they are an uneven shape they exercise the bird's feet and provide excellent grip, plastic perches that are moulded to give the same effect are available, and they have the advantage of being easier to clean. A swing can also be added to the cage, my finches used to love sitting on their swing both during the day, and to sleep on. Toys aren't really used by finches, although some people offer bells and mirrors and often hear their birds pecking at them.

You'll also need a substrate on the floor; this will absorb the moisture from the poop on the floor so if the finches venture to the bottom (which they will, as most are ground dwellers), they won't get messy feet. I always used loose sand in my cages because it's not too coarse on their feet and is easy to clean out. Some people use paper, either kitchen paper or printer paper, as it allows them to inspect the droppings and check for abnormalities...either of these work just as well.

The Aviary

If you decide on an aviary, then you need to consider security and protection from both the weather and predators. You'll need to lay down a solid base, either slabs or cement works best; this will stop predators from tunnelling into the aviary as well as making it a lot easier to clean. A solid roof or partly-covered roof will give the birds shelter from the rain, although you may also want to consider attaching a small shed or something similar to the end to give them somewhere to roost out of the wind and more. It's important to build the aviary either against a wall or fence or to have the back solid; this works on the same theory as the rectangular cage importance -- it gives the birds somewhere to hide away rather than being open on all sides.
Once you've worked out where to build the aviary and have planned how you want it, the next step is to build it. You can buy ready-built aviaries from companies...however these work out to be quite expensive. Building your own works out cheaper and adds a personal touch to it. The more detailed your plans are at the beginning, the easier it will be to build it.

After it's built, you need to add the same furnishings that are needed in a cage, but because more birds can be housed and of the larger space, you need to think on a larger scale. Tree branches make good perches because of their uneven texture; they also vary in size along the branch if you leave the twigs on. You'll need to clean them thoroughly and the best way I've found to do it is to boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the branch. This will kill off any bugs that are hiding in the branch; depending on the branch size, you may need to do it a couple more times. Then all you need to do is fill a bucket with warm water and get a dishcloth, sponge, or similar and wash down the branch, giving it a good scrub to get any algae or dirt off.
Food bowls will need to be bigger as well. I recommend using wide bowls rather than deep ones, because then it allows you to put a lot of seed in but only in a thin layer. This means that when the finches are eating and the hulls from the seeds go back in the bowl, they don't have to dig really deep to get to the seed.

I use bowls around two inches deep and eight inches across, then when I put seed in I only put it about 1/2 inch deep. You'll need to replace the seed once a day. If there is no seed left in the bowl when you go to change it (just hulls), then it's an indication you're not putting enough in. It's better to overfill their bowl and throw a little away than to starve them. Water bowls can be any size, as long as they hold sufficient water for the birds. I only use metal bowls as they are easier to clean and are more hygienic whereas plastic bowls have been known to help grow bacteria because they absorb an amount of what's in them.

It's a good idea to get a selection of bowls; they will obviously need their seed and water bowl, but I find that it helps to get them used to new foods if you have a "treat" bowl on the floor. The dishes you can buy at garden centers to put plant pots on work well as they are quite big, have steep sides so live foods can't get out, and the birds can perch easily on the edge. If you start by putting seed in it daily then they think of it as another food bowl; after a week or so of seed, you can put new foods in the bowl and the birds will try them; I've gotten my birds to eat a range of fruits and vegetables this way. If the birds are reluctant to try the new foods, then you can try sprinkling a thin layer of seeds on top. Other trays can be used to offer egg food and they work well as baths too.

First Bird

There was a time when, if asked what type of finch someone should start with, the answer would have been a pair of zebra finches without hesitation. However, in recent years, they have had to share their title as a beginner finch with society (Bengalese) finches.

Zebra finches and societies are quite similar in character, both being lively and entertaining to watch. There is never a dull moment with them. They both come in various color mutations so you're not stuck with having just a grey bird, for example. Zebras and societies come in the same price range usually costing around £10 (approx. $13) for a pair; this this varies depending on color and breeding background. Picking a pair of society finches is more difficult than picking a pair of zebras. There are two ways to sex societies; the first is to pluck a feather and send it off to be DNA sexed -- this is costly and takes a while so isn't ideal. The other way is to sit and watch the birds; the male will sing and do a hopping dance, whereas the female won't do this. Some pet shops take the time to separate pairs into individual cages, which is a lot more convenient. Zebra finches are easily sexed; the male has a deep red beak, whereas females have an orange beak. Males often have barring across their chest and orange cheeks also, whereas the females lack these.


Foreign finch seed is available in most good pet shops in pre-packed bags. Usually it contains varying percentages of yellow, white, and panicum millets; Japanese millet; spray millet; and small canary seed. The seed will form the base of your finch's diet; it, however, should not be the only food available. They will enjoy and benefit from a varied diet containing sprouted seeds, moist egg food (available commercially as a dry powder -- just add water), fresh vegetables such as broccoli and grated carrot, fresh fruits like apple, melon, and berries, dandelion leaves, boiled eggs mashed with the shells, and live foods such as mealworms.

Grit is a controversial topic with many views for either side, so I will only touch on the subject. There are two types of grit, small stones or oyster shell, charcoal mix. The first isn't needed at all; the only purpose this would serve is to grind up the hulls of seeds in the crop to aid digestion, but because finches hull their seeds, they can digest their food perfectly. Grit like this is only needed for birds that eat the whole seed such as doves, quails, etc.. Oyster shell, charcoal mix is used as a conditioner, providing the bird with calcium and other nutrients needed for breeding. It's not needed in most cases because the finches will get everything they need from a proper diet.

Their drinking water should be changed daily to keep it fresh and they should be offered a shallow dish filled with warm water daily to allow them to bathe if they want to. Finches are very clean birds and will soon become ill and depressed if they aren't given the opportunity to bathe.

Toys aren't needed with finches because they don't play with them. Some people, however, give their finches bells and mirrors and have seen them pecking at them, interpreting it as playing. With zebra finches and societies, it's important to give them a nest box or wicker-nesting basket to roost in, although they will breed if given a nest...if you don't want them to breed, they will be just as happy sleeping on a perch. Another important thing to consider is buying a cage cover or light cloth to cover the cage at night. This serves two purposes: one is to keep drafts off the birds and two is to darken their cage so they can get sleep without light from the TV or the room light shining on them.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy your birds and give them a long, enjoyable life in return.

Experimenting with Materials

Below are a series of documented images of experiments with various materials with the intention of using them to construct a sculptural object reminiscent of a nest in the studio space over two to three weeks. These experiments display obvious actions that I feel could cause boredom for the viewer and will therefore be developed further, however these images are important for they deliver a sense of what is to come, what works and how it can be improved upon.

Below using hay is a nest structure, the material binds very easily but the structure is far too literal for a performance.

Below is wood shaving mixed with flour and water, this is to create a bind and the flour and water was chosen due to it's use for papier mache. I like the idea of using these materials and mixing them with traditional art and craft methods to create a structure. I particularly like the look of the action when pouring the wood shavings into a bucket of flour and water and mixing it with my hands. This action is highly reminiscent of baking, or cooking and I feel it works incredibly well both practically as well as symbolically.  

I used treacle this time to cover my hand and arm in order to stick the bird seed to myself I feel it worked better than the golden syrup both practically and aesthetically. I used two different types of bird seed the black seeds worked very well aesthetically whereas the multicolour seeds worked well as a viewer would be more likely to recognise them.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Room

Here are some images of studio D, which I have chosen to make the work in. It used to be a ceramics room and so still has the drainage system in place (the metal bars on the floor along with a fantastic sink) it gives the room an artists presence before an artist has even stepped in the space and this is important to the performance both practically and symbolically. 

Nature and Beauty

This is Alice's seat at the gardens I visited at the weekend, thinking of construction as an action I have found myself taking more notice of how things have been made. 

Below is from the gardens also and is a tree trunk (two) shaped like legs, I don't know if this is relevant but I liked it a lot.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Barbara Hepworth - An Artists Studio

After visiting Hepworth's studio in St. Ives I was happy to re-realise my fascination with artist's studios, the process that happens there, to me is incredibly exciting and it's a shame that the public viewing the finished product don't see the process inbetween, or that they are unaware of this. This realisation will allow me to develop my final performance further by making myself aware of the space I have chosen to use as a means to perform and using these process actions, by constructing something live in the space. 

The image below is an important one for I have been thinking about what 'costume' I will wear, I feel that as there are a number of different actions to perform, they will require different garments and sometimes nudity. Therefore, the use of a number of 'costumes' hanging and ready could be a strong attribute to both the piece and the space.