Processes of identification

As indicated previously, the conceptual base for the project I’m doing as part of my residency at Wolverhampton School of Art has shifted radically over the last few weeks. One of the results of this is that the old title – Ride – now neither seems to belong to this project, nor feels appropriate.

The project needs a new name.

The project needs a new name …and it needs one reasonably soon because I’m starting to bring in funders and collaborators and, if you’re asking people to come in on on a thing, it really helps if that thing is a named entity. Naming things is hard, though; especially things that don’t yet exist. On top of these usual difficulties, this is one of those projects where I’m building the thing to better understand the nature of the thing, so naming it now seems even more back-to-front.

Needs must, however, so I took to my virtual studio (Twitter) in order to try and find some of the right words for the as yet hazy associations I’m trying to corral and give form to.

I must have hit a good time to catch people on their lunch breaks, because what followed was a very intense hour with various concurrent conversations taking place in which several people shared references and parts of their own stories. I’ve gathered together the individual threads here.

Several days later, the images and associations that are still lingering with me include:
* Migration (of going away and coming back again, of an instinctive urge to travel, of seasonal rhythms)
* Orbiting (of having some central point about which to circle, and also of the centripetal forces that continuously nudge the orbiting body)
* The final verses of A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, where John Donne uses the metaphor of a pair of compasses to illustrate the sense of one person remaining rooted in place, thereby allowing the moving person to accurately complete their circuit. [notes]
* “The thin warble of telemetry”
* More of a sense of what it means to be the person left behind (who the cabinet will fulfil a function for)
* And orreries as a similar form to the mechanical cabinet I’m making.

Although I had a lot of stuff coming at me in that hour, it really helped me to focus in on the things that are important to me with regards to this piece of work. (Thanks everyone!)

What I hadn’t anticipated was how this process would also help me to be able to visualise more clearly the form I want the insides of the cabinet to take. Whereas previously I had a sense of what I wanted to pull out of the data and that this bit might be communicated through a series of cams and how this bit might be converted into light etc, etc, now I’m thinking in terms of “this bit will reference constellations” and “this bit will reference a flock of birds”.

Alongside the naming process, I’ve also had to start articulating what the project is about to potential collaborators. Articulating it outside of my head. Out loud. With sentences and that.

In a phone conversation a week ago I found my articulations falling over at the point where I was trying to describe the sort of stories I might want to curate to sit alongside the sculptural element of the work. I found myself resorting to the word ‘epic’ a lot in describing some cycled journeys and fumbling around trying to express the not-so-epic cycled journeys I think I’ll want to bring into the mix to balance these. I’ve since spent some time thinking about why this was so problematic and have come to the realisation that the epic nature of the first batch of rides is not the story of them that I want to be telling.

Remember how this project is about exploring how we might have different conversations with my mechanical cabinet as the prop (compared to Strava maps or live-trackers). I think I’m coming to realise that’s partly about recognising that the big, epic rides comprise the same battles with gravity and weather and stubborn thought patterns that everyone else’s rides are made from too, just that there are more of them strung together in one trip!

[I’m very tempted to name the piece “Orrery for Bastard Hill and Headwind, but I will attempt to come up with something more poetic before that sticks!]

I don’t think I was very likely to do so before, but now I have a renewed pledge to not keep a tally of miles travelled, instead thinking more in terms of just quietly marking their passing and of the rhythms of the miles rather than the size of the cumulations or the speed of their acquisition.

So yes: quite a lot of identification having gone on over the last week, both processes having hinged off of conversations and speaking/typing things out loud. Here too, blogging about it in order to continue to coalesce those thoughts and encourage things to continue to take shape.