Week 15/16 (Exam Wk 1/2): Getting There

Before the appointed group meet-ups and bump in period for the project, I was able to talk to my Mother and Grandfather to gain more insight into their personal journey from Vietnam to Australia following the 2nd Indochina War (The Vietnam War). In doing this I am able to invest a personal side of myself into this work, in hopes to act as another catalyst for the project.

My Grandparents were persecuted, in having played a role in the South Vietnamese military during the war, making it difficult to provide a stable environment for their 5 (soon to be 6) child family. I was told about their experiences escaping the regime during the night in a boat built by my Grandfather himself. There were 40 people anticipated to climb on board but soon there was close to 100 present, all desperate to escape the conflict that had taken over the nation. During this time of despair, my Grandfather noted that so many factors were evident within the government, they were not focusing on the society around as it grew weaker and weaker. With these words I tried to imagine the setting of an overpopulated boat with no stable direction geographically and in it’s people who were now seeing themselves as ultimately stateless, and put them into words.

This is what I wrote:

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I wrote this text in a way that it would not be tethered to a specific event, in this case the Vietnam War, and could be received and relative in many ways for people who have experienced similar hardships. In our work we focus on the way refugees have been forced to the limits of their safety and rights and have therefore left their lives in search for another. We have intended to depict a physical environment to which these very things have happened, and with the story I have captured I hope it reinforces and resonates within it.

Sam and I were also able to meet as a pair before the first day of preparation within the gallery and discuss further into how we could display the narrative I had teased out of my discussion with my family. We liked the notion of the story being materialised through the paper and onto the space we had, conveying the reality that this is what the story looks like, and this is what is left after abandonment. We thought that as the paper stretch over the space, pieces of paper with the passage I wrote could also ascend. But, as it rose, sections and words would be removed accordingly, dissipating as it progressed. This would act as a reminder that because of what has happened, this is now the reality as it branches out into the space.

The meet ups were successful, all members liked the idea of this story and the depiction of it that Sam and I discussed. Having the story and concept of our work finalised put us in a great position and for once it was the technical and placement elements which needed to be mainly dealt with. One of the sessions David, Sam and I changed the orientation of the work but deemed unsuccessful due to placement issues and clarity.  So when we were all present in the last gathering we worked well as a team to pickup from our mistakes.  There were many elements that were built and worked upon during these remaining group gatherings such as:

  • Chloe and I were in charge of the reconstruction of the paper structure with the written passage attached
  • Placement of all elements within the space being, well balanced, effective and reinforcing of each other
  • Sam and David were able to iron the sheets, for a effective aesthetic
  • Chelsea edited the projected window image as a video file, whereby we then were able to modify in terms of lighting so it was in a way animated, not just still.
  • Having already recorded a live typing video of the text I composed, it was ready to be projected through the QUMI projector or digital photo-frame at the commencement of the paper branch. Where David heavily assisted  me in the set up and formatting of this content
  • Sam and I sourced some materials that were to be defined on top of the draped tables. Steph was able to present these items in a way that would communicate with each other effectively, bringing more substance to their intended depictions.
  • We as a group finalised the lighting together, where shadows of the paper are effectively displayed onto the walls

As a group we were able to complete these elements and at the same time jam during the construction of our finalised piece, elevating the more effective parts of the work. Critically analysing components we were adjusting, adding, subtracting and emphasising in the final work. We are all overall pleased with the result orientation wise and it’s conceptual design.

 

 

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Week 14 (Recess): Building Upon Further

This week, workshops were not running but as a group we all came into the gallery to build further upon our project. This lesson we worked on jamming, to then tease some more interesting aspects to the work.

We mainly dealt with the physical aspects of the work this lesson and played around with multiple furniture placement within the space; using single, double sofas and different tables. In attempts to bring out the installation did not flow and there was just too much happening, looking more like a poorly lit living-room. Chloe’s window photograph was projected onto the wall which was effective and the group tried hanging actual furniture from the ceiling which was not. I feel the physical orientation at this stage though was not the priority. In the beginning tutors were coming around assessing every group’s concepts and works, and I personally think our group is still in a hole where we could not verbally communicate what our work is about confidently. David and I at the time were working on creating the content for the piece. This motivated me to resolve this issue where I intend to gain more insight into my family’s experiences as boat people, immigrating to Australia in 1980 after the Vietnam War. Where I think we could explore through our proposed environment the best we could:

What made these people leave?

Fathom how extreme the world would have been, to which they were forced to flee.

The intent behind their doings. 

Society now, after the journey. 

These were a few of the concept in which I plan to delve deeper into once already conversed with my family to as what would have been going through their minds as events transpired. This not only would bring substance to the work but also not lead audiences in a not completely abstract space that relies solely on their perspectives; we need a driving force to guide their exploration of our work. We needed effective content and we needed it urgently, so I took it upon myself to develop and create it. Chloe suggested that a projection of some sort could be placed at the start of the paper trail which the group thought was a great idea, the idea of a text being digitally projected before blooming out as paper intrigued me. So for the remainder of the gathering we were motivated to figure out the projection element. Due to updates needed to be done on the projector software, it was advised to come back the following week so that we could effectively work through each module instead of waiting around.

Week 13: Last Workshop & Final Iteration

We were pleased with how last week’s work was received and interacted by audiences, so this week we felt appropriate that we grab this iteration by the horns and build upon it’s potential. We decided to break up into sanctions to cover more work so David and I worked on editing video content for the digital photo-frames that were to be dispersed through the installation, representing past occupation of the environment and a ghostly tone with a choreographed static screens and media press broadcasts of refugee camps.

Meanwhile, Chloe suggested we increase the materiality of the piece with the use of paper, intertwined in a way that would flair from the floor and then drifted across the space and tied to the roof. This would add the element of the narrative of the piece springing to life of a, well, lifeless space. Chloe, Sam and Chelsea used this time to construct the paper structure and also create the room itself; consisting of furniture, draped white sheets and a plain white door in the corner. The paper unit was an visually effective addition in which placed lights would cast a eery shadow upon the walls on the space. We canned the idea of the typewriter which was an element that we all agreed on was one that we as a group held onto because it was effective in past iterations, and as we progressed the component lost it’s place and ultimately detracted from the context.

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We finished the semester workshops in the strongest position we have been since the beginning which is a good sign, though, we have copious amounts of work to get through in order it to be presentable, conceptually and materially. Chloe brought up an interesting element of a window projection on the wall to bring the final to life, she noted that she had a window in her home which would fill the tone of the installation and set forth to photograph it so it can be projected onto the wall. Though our motivations were increasing for the final work we still needed stronger conceptual meaning for the piece. This is where I intend to research the first hand encounters of refugees, immigrants and boat people just like my family in order add more depth to this piece. I think we could display my research through some form of projection or display onto the physical paper sculpture. Placement wise, the space was too congested with all of our items within the exhibit, so we aim to bring further out the actual structure from the walls, so that audiences could experience it in a more immersive manner.

Week 12: New Iteration

As the semester comes to a close, so have many group’s project direction, defining what they’re doing and the concepts to which are explored. Our group was still in the dark at this stage, having no clear way of creating this installation. Conceptually and physically we had a very weak signal. This week we intended to focused on the story, narratives and tone that was to be the foundation of our project. Sam spoke in a way we could do so, adding depth to this project so we were able to all be linked and motivated by it’s insights. He suggested that we work with multiple projections, one being that of prospect and then that of reality in society in the media/press towards the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. Evidently showcasing a binary between the two, looking at overall Utopian and Dystopian worlds.

The idea was to set up the projectors in a way that would showcase both sides of the issue, but in a way that would interrupt the sight the Utopian with the viewer’s shadow when stood in a spot where the dystopian was the focal point.  This emphasises that in order to reach the brighter side to an issue, one must encounter, experience and push through negative facets of the matter. The positive screen would show the assimilation of refugees in society and the negative a remix of media broadcast that outline refugees in a dark light. At the same time a composed audio track that accompanies the content accordingly. So after the planning process the workload was dispersed evenly into three.

Still with this uplifting and positive start, soon we became lost again. Not sure whether to look for in order to be effectively conveyed to outside audiences. And soon the well received idea from the beginning of the workshop diminished along with our motives. With time running out we began to urgently jam within the gallery space, using sheets as drapes over furniture and utilising digital photo-frames to showcase David and my own edited depictions of the negative light towards boat people and animations of loneliness and decay. The typewriter was included as a means of depicting a lost presence within the piece. We in the end created a space of abandonment which was a result of conflict. showing nothing but the tedious struggles of people that have been exposed to such downfalls. This quick iteration was register well by the tutors, where we were encouraged to expand on this idea of a left behind space in time, where many more ideas and tones could be teased out with more personal applications by the group.

Week 11: Jamming

Each and every week leading up to this point we were reinventing new iterations with the same level of direction, which was weak. The idea of ‘Jamming’ was to be critical toward one another, take ideas from each member and deconstruct it, outlining was was good and what was not.

Chloe suggested the idea of an enclosed sheet room, it was hard to imagine the outcome without first seeing it, so as a group we began to assemble the idea. We took an effective element which was the sheets and expanded on it, tenfold. Tulle as a material fosters characteristics that work well with projection, and being introduced to it by Jo we intended within this workshop to apply it in our installation. So using this we decided to layer the Tulle within the sheet room to then also layer the projection in a way that creates multiple images; we would use the sam Ho Chi Minh literature as the focal point.

Chelsea organised the sound of a helicopter to emphasise the degree of conflict and also a strobe that would flicker within the space accordingly, adding more stimulus. Issues then arose because the space was so multi-stimulating, the audiences would feel disorientated and sick inside due to the strobe, sound and projection happening all at once. We dimmed this by getting rid of the extra lights which settled down the unsettling tone. As the typewriter was one of the mostly successful elements in our previous iterations we decided it could add more substance, and therefore we placed in beneath the tulle projections.

 

This work was not well received by the tutors and personally myself. We spent so much time putting together an immersive sheet room without first collaboratively thinking of what effective components and content would occupy it, providing deeper links to the stories we have been trying to convey in previous weeks. Because it was mainly improvised, the wrinkled sheet room was not up to par with what we imagined; being strung together by dodgy clips and small pins. We had no true direction where this project was taking us, though we all had visions of how things could and would look physically but not conceptually. It was suggested that the group of six were to split up in the next workshop to create and remediate different facets, then combine back in the end to look at each success and failure in a way to move forward.

Week 10: How About This Angle?

More material aspects from last week cost us effective representation to the audience in our work. Maybe we were to try and include more, conceptually. More stories, more emphasis on memories and content. We would project and create more than one depiction of a story in many facets to engage the audience.

With this,  Chelsea firstly suggested a familiar story for her, The Tin Pot General and the Old Iron Woman; the book presents the story of the war, to which satires the Falklands War in the format of a picture book for young children. It is written in a simple style with large, brightly coloured illustrations. We then sourced the media from this story and used it as one of the projections on the wall. Mat outlined interesting points about different forms of storytelling, representing unconventional stories in our chosen context and perhaps inverting them creatively taking note of it’s effects. This led to instead of projections onto physical paper, an actual physically written text to work hand in hand with the material. Cold Chisel’s song ‘Khe Sahn‘ was the focus text selected and written by Sam onto the paper, clearly emphasising the return and reminiscent memories of that of a conflict war zone. Thirdly we reused the Ho Chi Minh literature from previous weeks and projected onto the wall opposite the paper, which was the last element of this week’s iteration.

There was again, too much. Too many stories that had no links what-so-ever which was a concern from the beginning. It began to show that we as a group were throwing components up, trying to make meaning of every single piece without firstly grasping what was read well from the beginning. We were advised to travel back to the roots of this project, exploring texts that would mean something to each of us, and share them within the group. I feel we’re taking one step forward and currently one and a half back, but due to our good spirits, I feel it should take shape so long as we all can come back next week with a new approach and more substance to what we want to showcase. I like the idea of an abandoned presence in an environment once occupied by conflict and I think we can delve into that deeper in the next workshop.

 

Week 9: Too Much?

One thing we took from last week was the effectiveness of the typewriter within the final outcome of our iteration. The presence of it intrigued audiences to physically touch the LCD screen even though it had no interaction based content. So with this, we thought at the beginning of this workshop, “what if we upscaled the image?”, quartering the image and showing 1/4 of the typewriter onto four different televisions. We did this. And to our disappointment, the enlargement of the element led to a less clear image, detracting away from the simplistic and haunting tone that the piece first conveyed.

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We began to think and started to brainstorm of ways to materialise and add more depth to the work. Sam suggested a faint red light to be drifted above the work depicting the notion of communism and the group agreed that the projection of the text in the previous work onto physical paper would be a more enticing and physical story for the audience. Alluding to the first week’s idea of a real life virtual reality room, I suggested the use of white screens to be placed on either side of the paper to then create a more immersive channel for the responder. People were to be seated in this narrow environment and be exposed to the words of a dictator, which I believe was the experiences of some of those who actually went through the communist regime in Vietnam.

We were told that the essence that was present last week is lost in this remediation, which I can agree with. The outcome was roughly thrown together last minute, though given some time I think could have been more effective. Though responders did feel a sense of eeriness when seated watching the text unfold under the red light. But in the end it was set upon that there was too much, materially,  in the space given. To successfully pull of such a tight installation, every component much accompany and converse with each other and this week we did not quite hit the mark. I think next week we can explore similar functions, but open the floor plan up a lot more so that wider interaction can be provided and stimulated.