September 14, 2017

Tokyo Interactions: a pre-collaboration

A key part of my research trip to Japan is to check out the feasibility of collaborating with artist Megumi Ishibashi. We’ve know each other for several years – having first met when I did an exchange visit with the university she was working at – and I really like her style of re-imagining urban landscapes when we’ve walked around Tokyo together. I’m not very familiar with her working processes and her aims for her sculptural work, however, so we arranged to spend some time together doing some experiments and generally figuring out how a working relationship might shape up.

Unfortunately our time working together was reduced by illness and a few work commitments that came up however, over the course of five days we were able to explore combining interactive and sculptural elements of both our practices.

We based ourselves at Tokyo Gakugei university, where Megumi has been working part time for a few years. After getting a bit tangled up in trying to get started we decided to go for a walk around campus to look for sites where we might locate artworks.

I liked the look of this islanded set of steps surrounded by long grass:

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We also explored down little paths (this one involved ducking under lots of big spider’s webs and swatting at lots of hungry mosquitos) and had a wander around a little allotment where there seemed to be some experiemts going on with growing different varieties of rice.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

The campus has quite a lot of trees and green space, so we were constantly surrounded by the sound of the insects in the trees. I finally got to see a semi/cicada up close. Boy are these things loud!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

The pivot point came when Megumi suggested we visited the exhibition room of a building next to campus; she had walked past it, but didn’t really understand what they did there and was curious to find out more.

We weren’t disappointed!

The place turned out to be the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), a National Research and Development Agency, and the exhibition hall was full of things that made us go “wow!”.

The first thing we learned was that NICT is responsible for time in Japan: they do lots of work with caesium atomic clocks and calibrating the length of a second. They also determine Japan Standard Time and broadcast it across the country.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

The two ladies on duty did a really good job of explaining everything to me in English and we essentially had a personal guided tour of most of the exhibition. This included microwave imagery from planes; a haptic stylus; a funky smell squirting thing that involved activated carbon, an app and me having to guess some aromas; and live visualisations of internet attacks.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We left a few hours later, a little overwhelmed but very excited by what we had learned. The tower and the big clock made a lot more sense now, too!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

I felt there were some interesting resonances between the semi and the caesium clock – vibrations, being dormant for long periods then all of the action happening in a short space of time (read more about the semi here), those amazing cooling fins…

This kind of stuck and combined with Megumi’s preference for mechanised animation (rather than electronic) in the style of Pythagoras Switch.

Pythagora Switch from cereal griego on Vimeo.

So we sketched and dripped and carved and then spent hours days trying to refine a way of popping water balloons filled with paint over a model of a semi.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Alongside this, we were also trying to find ways of triggering sounds at intervals. We’d bought a radio controlled car, hoping that that would introduce a kind of clock function and visual interest as it circled around the semi. We got this working quite well as a trigger for audio via a Bare Conductive touch board, but alas it stopped working so well once we’d ‘waterproofed’ the sensor mat with some tape.

I also made a few noisemakers that used an arduino to count the number of times a microswitch got hit by the passing car. This gave us better control over the intervals between sounds, but we didn’t quite have the set up to be able to get it mounted securely.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We also had concerns about the splashiness of the paint, so Megumi learned how to make DIY slime, which we then added colour to.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Getting the slime into the water balloons also took a certain amount of experimentation!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We’d done some really long days, so on our last day we set ourselves the deadline of 4pm and said we’d run with whatever we had working by then.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

After a few test runs with water, we were ready to add some colour to semi-san.
It (mostly) worked!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We decided to go for broke and try the slime…

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

A lot of cleaning up to do afterwards, but quite a pleasing result!

Megumi usually works intuitively from her imagination, but I think we both struggled with the lack of a context for our experiments – the sorts of information that would shape size, construction and portability decisions. We didn’t have time or the resources to make a refined, finished piece of work, but at times it felt like that’s what we were trying to achieve. We made something interesting at the end of i but, as ever with me, it was the process that I was most interested in. Megumi and I are still friends (as far as I can tell!), so that’s a positive sign given the sorts of hours we were doing in the heat and mosquitos trying to get mechanical and electrical systems to work! I’ve learned more about the way she works and that will help shape any future proposals.

We’ll be meeting up again next week to think more about art that happens outside.
Photos and videos of splatty paint are gradually going up on Flickr as internet connectivity allows…

Tokyo Interactions: Akihabara and reclaimed spaces

As part of my research into how I might go about making art in Japan, I needed to find out where to source the various microcontrollers and sensors that sometimes go into my interactive contraptions. That’ll be Akihabara then, but where to start – I remember going there a decade ago, getting a bit bewildered and leaving fairly rapidly.

Fortunately, Kaho Abe had been on a similar quest a week or so ahead of me and was able to make some recommendations, pointing me in the direction of this useful blog post, including a handy map.

Found them!

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

I expect I’d probably end up mostly ordering online, but it’s super useful to know I can buy things in the real world too, should I need to and, as Kaho pointed out, sometimes you need to be able to hear/feel how a switch thunks before you decide if it’s right for your project.

I made a purchase, just to show willing…

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

After that I wove my way back through the crowds to the station and then followed the train tracks looking for traces of artisan makers: next on the to-do list was a visit to 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan (machine translated link, more information here).

In a way that reminded me of Koganecho, small units have been constructed underneath elevated train tracks and made available to be used as shops by artists and craftspeople.

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

It’s amazing what a coat of white paint will do. I just wish I had the means to take a load of lovely handmade ceramics and woodwork back home with me in my rucksack…

Next up: 3331 Arts Chiyoda.

Housed in what used to be a junior high school, 3331 is now an arts centre that hosts a variety of creative businesses, galleries, shop, cafe and events space. They also run an artists in residence programme, so I was keen to get a sense of their personality, as it were.

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

It was gone 6pm by the time I got there, so some of the units had already closed, but even so the echoes of the old school made for an interesting time wandering along the corridors.

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions: putting the work in

My first full day in Tokyo.

Making my way to my digs the afternoon before, I’d surfaced out of the train station to find myself at Tokyo Opera City: a place I recognised because I’ve been to the Intercommunication Center (ICC) a couple of times. The ICC is run by the telecommunications company NTT East and exhibits media art and interactive multimedia and I quite like their programming although I haven’t yet quite got to the stage where I remember this and go there by default! Anyway, making the most of being local and it being the last day of a multi-sensory sound-based exhibition I went for a look.

OTO NO BA: Sound-digging with the senses took its theme as “sound that is not only perceived with the ears, but with various other senses, or even with the whole of the body”. Being part of the kids programme, I was anticipating it being quite hands-on, and arrived prepared to prance around a bit to interact with things!

I don’t usually have to gird my loins for interactive art in this manner: I think there may be something interesting going on there where I feel more self conscious here and aware that there’s loads more potential for doing The Wrong Thing.

Grabbing the bull by the horns I jumped straight in with a bit of tambourine action and some sort of motion-tracking projection set up (ratatap, Junichi Kanebako) that responded with visuals when you made a noise with your tambourine (or bongo, or shaker…). As an interesting side observation in hindsight, I think most of the noise was being made by the gallery staff – perhaps a reminder that interactive work either needs a facilitator or to be intuitive to use?

Next I donned a stripy tabbard and approached the Border Shirtsizer (Ei Wada) to make some noise in a pleasingly loud, lo-fi, CRT, B&W, tone generator stylee.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

There was some nice experimenting to be done with jiggling/twisting/wafting to see how the changing camera view of the stripes changed the tone that was output.

After all that noise I made a beeline for touch the sound picnic (Junichi Kanebako). Ear defenders to block out a lot of the ambient noise and a sort of microphone set-up that transformed the sound signal into a buzz from a vibration motor.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It would be interesting to take this outside and through a variety of spaces, as it was quite uniformly loud in the gallery. There was a nice percussive moment when a small child ran past me, though!

For me, the star of the show was Perfumery Organ (Perfumery Organ Project) and not just because of its massive sweeping curve and assortment of small storage.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

I really like this literal take on the idea that perfumes have high and low notes. It was also very engaging trying to figure out the different mechanisms at work and general detail spotting. The organ played at 15 minute intervals and, between performances, you could pick up the little canisters on the front row and sniff the different scents. (During the performance you got buffetted by heady wafts coming from the brown bottles.)

I went to Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent at Somerset House in London a few months ago, but this was very different in feel.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It’s only now as I look back at the video footage that I’m starting to realise that there were a range of different mechanisms for moving the jars/blowy things into position to make the noise.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It was close to closing time by now so I removed my ear defenders and had a quick look at the main exhibition.

It made me happy to see a piece referencing Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, having only recently discovered the writing and used it in a workshop. Also this dead bug soldered windchime triggered by a Geiger counter was nice:

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It happened that I was able to book the last slot of the day for Akio Suzuki’s acoustic installation, so I settled down to listen to Kugiuchi & Water Bottle on my own, in the dark, sealed into an anechoic chamber.

I asked the assistant if the artist provided the room or if it was in their tech specs for the gallery to sort one out. It turns out that the chamber is a permanent feature of the gallery and it gets used to house different artworks as part of different exhibitions. hmmmmmmmm……

***bingle bongle ***
Incoming message from Megumi

There’s an opening event and after party at a new shared studio space, would I like to go?
It’s in Kabata *googles “Kabata”* Yikes that’s half way to Yokohama! And it’s already gone 6 o’clock. What is this place anyway?

We talked ourselves in an out of it a few times, mostly just pitching our tiredness against knowing that it would be a really relevant thing for me to go and see and that tonight would be our best chance to meet a range of people.

We got ourselves there in the end though, and the studio was pretty impressive! Some interesting work, too, slightly different to the sorts of things I usually see at artist run exhibitions.

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

I’ll direct you to the Hunch website to find out more about the artists, but mostly so you can mouse over their profile pictures, too: http://hunch-label.com/habitat/

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

The after party involved a few chats with people to the backdrop of steel and regular drum solos by fairy light whilst a cross between Sesame Street’s Big Bird and a mirror ball rotated above us. I met a glass artist, a lecturer in English History, and an artist who also has what sounds like quite a participatory practice – another unusual find for me in Japan, we’ve arranged to meet up and chat next week without the drum soloist…

More photos from the day here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_pugh/albums/72157685522258521

Tokyo Interactions: in transit

My Sapporo jaunt makes traveling around Japan by shinkansen impractical (never thought I’d say that!), so I’m doing some of my bigger journeys via domestic flights instead. I’m not entirely happy with this, but …photos!

Always interesting to get a new viewpoint on cities:

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Once we got above the cloud line I continued to snap away as the clouds were on very good form:

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Remembering the stepping stones I reproduced for the By Duddon’s Side project in the Spring, I wondered if it might be possible to do photogrammetry from a series of photos of the same clouds. Only one way to find out…

Tokyo Interactions, transit

[x lots]

Here is the result after fumbling my way through software installation and guessing the workflow:
[noodle around with dragging/clicking in the window to move the model]

I think a 3D model was always going to be limited because of not circling around to get the cloud from all angles (can’t decide if that would be fun to do or not…). I also took many more photos of these clouds shown below, but for some reason got a really flat array of points from my first attempt at rendering them.

Tokyo Interactions, transit

The 3D model above was generated from a much smaller set of photos – I was interrupted by a member of the cabin crew asking me if I wanted something to drink!

Approaching Tokyo we flew over a few islands and promontories, where I found it fascinating to see how the clouds gathered above the land masses.

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Flickr album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_pugh/albums/72157688432373285

Tokyo Interactions: the Osaka chapter

As previously noted, the title for this research project is no longer accurate but, in the absence of having had any better ideas, I’m just going to run with it. So, here’s a bit of a write up of the first few days of Tokyo Interactions, er, in Osaka.

[Actually there was a bit of a prelude in Kyoto with artist/game designer Kaho Abe and a selection of local independent game dev types, but that was mostly social and somewhat jetlagged!]

My luggage failed to make it onto the same flight as I did over to Japan from Amsterdam, so my first full day in Osaka was spent at the nearby castle, ready to hotfoot it back to our room in time for the delivery of one large rucksack and miscellaneous contents.

I love Japanese castles for their craftmanship and cunning [aka 101 beautiful ways to kill people = less nice], and they’re made all the more fascinating when an English speaker can give you a glimpse of their secrets. My collaborator Megumi Ishibashi did a great job of translating signage for me and we also chanced across ‘The Miracle Man’ at one of the outer gates talking about this puzzle-joint repair to one of the gate posts of Otemon:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

It’s really quite tricky to visualise how the bottom section was added in to replace the rotten timber (there’s a massive, appropriately castle-sized gate on top of it too, don’t forget!). Even with the model he produced from his tote bag, we couldn’t see how it worked, but he managed to deftly separate the two pieces. The solution is quite cunning and involves some sliding, but what I’m also liking is that he took the time to hand make his own model (look! You can too with this paper template!), or at least use some serious powers of persuasion so that someone else did…

Across from the gateway was this ginormous stone that had been split in two using hammer and wedges:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Not a bad lump of stuff to use to build your wall out of. The other half from the other side of the split was there next to it too, mirroring the gentle curve on the surface.

I think Japanese wedges are of a slightly different style to Western ones (wider and shorter, perhaps), but I’m including this demo video here because it gives a sense of the process. And also because I like the role listening and waiting have to play.

 

Elsewhere, in one of the turrets, we admired a section of original flooring (other parts of the castle had burned after a lightning strike). As far as I could make out, this floor is usually carpeted because the skills to repair it just don’t exist amongst today’s craftspeople, but it was out and on display on the day we were there. The sort of golfball divots you can see are a trace of what I think was an adze-like tool used to prepare the surface of the planks. Something to do with the samurai needing a particular sort of non-slip surface that worked with the footwear they trained in.
 
Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

We went into the main castle building too and admired the suits of armour …as we wilted in the heat and humidity in our lightweight summer clothes.

Back outside again there was a chance to admire the rooflines before heading back to our digs. (Note the offset as an earthquake resisting tactic.)

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

The next day I went to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living and had a good mooch around their reconstruction of an Edo Period Osaka street, complete with fireworks interval light show!

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

In the early evening I headed over to the Takashimaya department store and Gallery Next where my collaborator Megumi Ishibashi was exhibiting her work.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Takashimaya of course take their cut on the sales made, but we feel we recouped some of this via some recommendations from one of the staff members (the ‘Knows Everything Man’) on how we should spend our evening.

Megumi had already introduced me to the concept of “kuidaore”, defined by WWWJDIC as “financially ruining oneself by overindulging in food and drink (as a fabled tendency of the people of Osaka)”. Counterparts in Kyoto prefer their undoing to be by fine clothes, whilst the folks over in Kobe have a thing for shoes.

It would be rude to shun the local culture, so we set out on a trail of eateries just slightly off the beaten path of the main touristy bits of the Doutonburi district.

We did pop in on the brightly lit bits too:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Setting a more sombre tone the following day, I went to the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum where the special exhibition about childhood mostly involved treachery, betrayal, sacrifice and rather a lot of death.

Nice engraving skills, though:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

That evening, before Megumi caught the night bus back to Tokyo, we popped over to Osaka Makers’ Space to check out how it was taking shape in its early stages and to try and get an initial sense of the maker scene in Japan.

We admired the arduino-controlled sign, admired the arduino-named resident cat, and also rushed outside a lot each time young T went to launch his matchstick and foil rocket! Some promising ingredients for the future, then!

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

I was also impressed by the balance between rapid prototyping tools and the facilities for wood and metal work using regular power and hand tools. It’ll be interesting to see how this space evolves over the next year or so.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

We just had time to squeeze in some more culinary offerings at this side-street tempura restaurant.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

I was really taken by this space for reasons I haven’t yet fully understood. The photo is taken from the street – where we waited on benches for space to be freed up at the then full counter. The hefty wooden tabletop was appreciated, but I also quite enjoyed the narrowness of it all and how we were sat right up against the sliding doors that formed the front of the restaurant.

Hope it wasn’t our fault that they were no other customers by the time we had eaten…

Tokyo Interactions

A while back I was awarded a grant from the Arts Council’s Artists’ International Development Fund to support a trip to Japan, largely to nurture seeds sown when I was out there last year with Watershed’s Playable City programme and doing my own things.

As with all good projects, since then the title of my proposal – Tokyo Interactions – has become hopelessly inaccurate as ambitions creep and good things get linked together.

I’ve just booked the final piece of my accommodation jigsaw puzzle, so hopefully all the major details are now stabilised and my trip will range from Kurashiki-shi in the West, up to Sapporo in the North. About 720 miles as the crow flies …which of course I won’t be doing.

The woman at the travel agents laughed when I enquired about the feasibility of doing Sapporo to Kurashiki-shi in one day by train. She reckoned that, even with the magnificent shinkansen, I’d be regretting my decision by about half way through. So, out with the rail pass and in with the domestic flights and night busses.

The main purpose of my trip is to work with artist Megumi Ishibashi. In December we were musing on what would happen if we combined some of the interactivity of my practice with the sculpture of her practice. Well, the plan is to find out.

Detail of 'dream U reality U phantom' installation at Gallery SEIHO, Megumi Ishibashi

Detail of ‘dream U reality U phantom’ installation at Gallery SEIHO, Megumi Ishibashi

I also have research questions around what sort of an ecosystem is out there that could support my practice in general. Most of the art I’ve encountered so far has been very much based in the system of commercial galleries, although I’m aware of a few friends – Megumi included – who have taken part in outdoor sculpture festivals. To this end I’ll also be visiting a lot of different fabrication spaces, figuring out where to buy kit, and also scoping the streets looking for opportunities to do interesting things where people aren’t necessarily expecting it. I’m looking forward to meeting up with the Playable City Tokyo crew too, as it’ll be really interesting to find out how/if last year’s workshop has infiltrated the way they do things.

I’ll also be visiting a few festivals. Sapporo International Festival is this year asking questions around critical mass with its themes of “How do we define ‘Art Festival’?” and “When Bits and Pieces Become Asterisms”. Yokohama Triennale’s theme of “Islands, Constellations and Galapagos” is similarly a way in for conversations about isolation and connectivity, whilst Koganecho Bazaar starts with “Double Façade: Multiple Ways to Encounter the Other” to express an encounter between art and local community. I’ll also spend a few days in Setouchi Triennale territory, curious about what art lingers out of season and whether places like this might be more predisposed towards unusual encounters in the streets.

It’s going to be a busy 38 days…

 

 

By Duddon’s Side – the exhibition

The By Duddon’s Side exhibition was installed at the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere and ran from the 8th of April through until the 25th of June.

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Inside the cabinet we were lucky enough to be able to display some original documents from the museum’s collection, as well as some other objects relevant to the theme of re-visiting the sonnets. The exhibition also included some documentation of my residency, presentation of some of the responses from participants to photographs by Herbert Rix (also on display), and the two artworks I produced from my residency.

Duddon installation

Participants had been out and about around the Duddon Valley seeking out the contemporary views that matched the locations in Herbert Rix’s photographs. We laser engraved some of the photos people shared with us and presented them on a map with other observations made about the process.

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

 

Duddon installation

Next to this was a touch-reactive sound wall, accompanied by a rather magnificent loaned handbuilt kayak. Wooden icons represented different locations along the River Duddon and, when touched, triggered an audio recording from that place.

Duddon installation

Duddon i

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

The reactions from people – even as I was still installing it – were great. The best response to “but why is it awesome?” was “BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A WIZARD!”

The egret from the estuary proudly bears some grubby finger marks from when, during installation, I invited a couple of kids over the barrier to help me with some ‘essential user testing’!

Duddon installation

The stepping stones (based on digital 3D models of actual stones across the Duddon) were popular as well, once people understood that they were intended to be played on. Focusing in on four lines from one of the sonnets and an account from the Reverend Malleson of his retracting of the sonnets’ journey down the Duddon, the stones were there to invite some “not unpleasant peril” within the gallery.

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

A fifth stepping stone went to the Peter Scott Gallery at Lancaster University and was exhibited as part of their OPEN programme of events.

More photos of the exhibition at the Wordsworth Museum can be found here.

Wooden stepping stones

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

Having photographed the stone stepping stones and transformed them into digital stepping stones, the next task was to  turn them into wooden stepping stones.

I did this thanks to the skills and CNC routing equipment at the FabLab in West Bromwich where the manager Anne helped me to turn a few sheets of plywood into some contour model versions of the stepping stones.

Lots of photos…

After cutting the shapes out of the wood, I then relocated to my local open access wood workshop where I assembled the stones and began the task of applying as many coats of yacht varnish as I could within the time limit.

  

 

 

 

Digital stepping stones

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

And this is the reason why I was taking hundred of photos of the stepping stones from all angles.

Using a process called photogrammetry, the photos can be recombined to form digital models of the rocks. Tim from Backface Studios in Birmingham was kind enough to provide the skils and the computer processing power to generate these models from the photos I took.

Look at the detail! Even the little pools of water in the crevices on the top of the rock!

Here are the links to the 3D models online so you can spin them around and zoom in as you wish:

https://sketchfab.com/models/ce0a1fcad3d340e68315aeeca5cf8d04#
https://sketchfab.com/models/dff19e5ce66a409a91262e859c1356c1#
https://sketchfab.com/models/440741dc28674fdba0e8e0f682e6004a#
https://sketchfab.com/models/77e7776c4e3d42f99d9862086df755b4#

I really like the splooshes and splashes of the water captured around the base of the rock, partially because I’m not sure if they are a single, frozen moment, or some kind of amalgamation of all of the splashes from all of the photos. The other reason I like them is because of the good shapes – this first one really reminds me of the The Great Wave off Kanagawa print by Katsushika Hokusai.

Nice as these details were, these weren’t the reason I wanted the digital models of the stepping stones. The surface colours got ditched, the bottom bits got trimmed and tidied up, and then everything got sliced up.

The purpose of all this was so that I could remake the stones and place them in the gallery. Part of my brief for the exhibition is to make it more of an embodied, sensory experience, to complement the somewhat text-heavy approach of some of the other spaces visitors will have encountered.

I read a lovely description from the Reverend Malleson (1819-1879, vicar of Duddon-in-Furness) from when he tried to follow in the footsteps of Wordsworth and made his own journey to locate the landmarks described in the sonnets. He described the act of crossing the river via the stepping stones near Seathwaite as being a “most welcome and delightful way of not unpleasant peril” and I reckon not unpleasant peril would be something rather nice to introduce into the gallery space!

 

Wordsworth’s steps from all angles

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog: http://byduddonsside.wordpress.com
~~~

steps scan

So, why did I spend an hour stood knee-deep in a very cold Lake District river?

Various people have tried to assign specific locations to the different places described in Wordsworth’s Duddon sonnets. Some are easier to locate than others and, whilst the mention of stepping stones in the tenth sonnet sounds like it should be a pretty straightforward place to identify, there are a lot of stepping stones across the Duddon, and, well, long story short: we still don’t really know.

These ones at Wallabarrow near Seathwaite seem to have won out by general consensus, possibly because they’re often regarded as the most scenic.

Not that you could tell so much when I first went to see them: there had been a lot of rain, the river was high and fast as a result, and I nearly didn’t spot them at all when I got down to the river.

After a bit of hesitation and selecting a run of stones where the water was slightly less deep and treacherous looking around them, I girded my loins and got into the river.

Brrrr it was cold!

Also nice and slippery thanks to the green slime on the loose pebbles on the river bed!

Fortunately I managed to stay upright and completed my task of taking lots of photographs of the stones from all angles. What I forgot to do, however, was to take any measurements of the stones so I had a scale reference for the photos, or to take enough photos of the relative positions of the stones.

“No problem!”, I thought, and popped along the next day with a measuring tape.

Oh!

That’s the thing about the river: it’s not static. The water flows along its length, but there’s also movement up and down on a daily basis according to the rain and ground water. You can experience a different Duddon on consecutive days.

Below are some photos taken a few weeks later, just as Spring was starting to be hinted at in the valley. You can see the gentle curve of the stones that people find so pleasing and they look more like a reasonable path across the water.

 

 



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