In December 2003 I started work on what would become ‘record trace’. I put the rear light from my bicycle on my turntable and watched it revolve… I imagined that in a long exposure photograph it would look like a cylinder of light, a little like the cylinder of data I’d tried to visualise in ‘record colour order – data visualisation‘.
Feeling buoyant having produced ‘record colour order – photographs’ in a few hours I set about a follow up. I thought that I’d explore other ways to recontextualize my records, I laboriously set about recording data including spine colour, record label, artist, album or single name, size, speed, vinyl colour, number of tracks, year of release, number of disks plus additional notes. I recorded information from 386 records before giving up, I had 608 to go.
Plotting record collection data (test)
I tried to plot this incomplete information on a grid, please refer to the illustration above. Each stacked isometric circle represents a different attribute (spine colour, record label etc.), radially each of these isometric circles is divided to indicate a variable (black, white, red etc. for spine colour), the coloured lines represent two records plotted using this system.
Reflection on this test: Visually I wasn’t happy with the outcome of this test, I had encoded information in a manner that meant that it wasn’t possible to decode it; also the process of collecting and plotting the data was laborious and very boring.
Evaluating this visual I couldn’t see how a representation of the data gleaned from my records could be of interest to anyone besides myself. I was however interested in the form I had created, I imagined a record turning on a turntable extruding while it played, the flat platter becoming a solid volume.
In November 2003 for the third project on my MA Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins I produced a body of work which I called Dirty Flowers.
At the time I lived on the fourth floor of a council block located between Brick Lane and Columbia Road in Bethnal Green. It’s an interesting, gritty, colourful area. I’d been scribbling down words and phrases I found scratched or daubed in the street locally as well as in the communal areas of my flat for a while. Many of these words were ‘dirty’, there were lots of dirty words…
I decided to do something with my collection of dirty words, I liked the idea of subverting the meaning of the words through beautifully re-appropriating them back into environment. I bought a bucket of wild flower seed from an online store and toured my local area writing dirty words in seed on grassy communal areas, each letter was approximately 1 metre high. I loved the idea that come spring/summer the residents of the local tower blocks, myself included, would look out of our windows onto beautiful bollocks.
I documented the locations for the re-appropriated dirty words through photographs, I produced a book of these photographs with captions explaining the dirty word sown within the frame and a description of the location. I also manufactured a limited number of wild flower seed packets with which I suggested others sow their own dirty words.
Here are some photos of my chosen locations together with their dirty words.
Green space between Brick Lane and Rhoda Street, looking towards Brick Lane, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘arsehole’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Bastard Green space between Brick Lane and Rhoda Street, looking towards 42 Swanfield Street, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘bastard’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Green space between 68-126 Wellington Row and Gossett Street, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘bitch’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Green in front of Bethnal Green Medical Centre, Florida Street, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘bollocks’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Virginia Gardens, Virginia Road, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘dickhead’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Jesus Green looking towards Elwin Street, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘filthy’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
West side of Ion Square, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘fuck’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
East side of Ion Square, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘piss’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Green space on Brick Lane and Rhoda Street, looking towards Swanfield Street, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘pussy’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Between Gowan House and Kirton Gardens, Chambord Street, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘shit’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
East end of Columbia Road, junction with Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘tits’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Between Kirton Gardens and Briggs House, Chambord Street, London, E2. The word ‘twat’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Green space behind Sivill House, Columbia Road, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘wanker’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Green area around Strickland House, Bethnal Green, London. The word ‘whore’ has been sprinkled over the grass in wild flower seed.
Reflection on this project: There are two simple things that would greatly improve this project. Firstly, photographic documentation of the original ‘dirty words’ as found in the local environment; ideally the original dirty word and the dirty word written in wild flower seed would be in the same general location. Secondly, photographic documentation of the dirty word written in flower seed when in bloom.
This project was undertaken in November 2003 as the second project on the MA Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. I produced three images based on a brief about ‘bridges’, the project lasted for no ore than two weeks.
I responded to the brief literally, I assumed a bridge to be a connection between two points. At the time I was interested in ideas of complexity and randomness and used this project to explore this.
My concept was quite simple, I created a cube of 10 x 10 x 10 nodes and randomly selected two nodes from this cube and linked them with a line. I then randomly selected another node and joined this with a line to the first and so on until I had 10 connected lines within my cube of 10 x 10 x 10 nodes. I repeated this with identical cubes with 20, 50 and 100 randomly generated lines.
I then worked out the probability of randomly creating an identical series of lines within an identical cube of nodes. It was extremely unlikely, the likelihood exponentially infinitesimally small… I no longer have my calculations but remember that very quickly I was dealing with huge numbers (numbers larger than 10^87 which is at the top end of astronomers estimations for the number of particles in the universe).
The images I produced are part information design, part expressive and interpretive illustrations. I remember referencing a number of sources for this project including various articles in Wired, New Scientist as well as Neil Denari (for his illustrative style).
Bridges (1 fo 3)
Bridges (2 fo 3)
Bridges (3 fo 3)
Reflection on this project: Conceptually I still like this project, I continue to be interested in ideas of simplicity, complexity and randomness and some of my more recent work reference this.
Visually I don’t consider these outcomes to be successful, I haven’t communicated the simplicity of the concept or the exponential complexity of my calculations successfully. Further there is no obvious narrative to these pieces, they rely on my explanation both to describe the concept and interpret the visual for my audience. A complicated concept such as this requires a format for publication which allows space for narrative, a poster format doesn’t allow this.
An interesting body of work could come from these themes with further development.
In June 2003, at the beginning of my MA Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins I produced a piece of work called ‘Living room A to A’.
It was a documented journey performed on a static exercise bike in my living room. During the journey 2600 calories were expended, the recommended daily allowance for a man of my stature – these calories were replaced by eating chocolate biscuits.
I kept a record of calories expended against time and heart rate during this activity, I also made a note of what I was watching on the television. It took me a total of 3 hours and 48 minutes, my maximum heart rate was 196bpm, I ate 31 chocolate biscuits.
This data as well as a photographs documenting my performance is recorded in a folded OS map format.
Below are some images of this piece of work.
Journey from A to A (unfolded)
Journey from A to A (detail #1)
Journey from A to A (detail #2)
Journey from A to A (detail #3)
Reflection on this project: I’ve often thought while eating chocolate biscuits subsequent to this performance about how long it would take to burn up the energy provided by the biscuit. Unlike most people I know – between 6 and 15 minutes of pretty intense physical exertion, this hasn’t hampered my enjoyment.
I like the idea of a journey which goes nowhere and the travelogue which documents this. I have intended to return to this idea for some time now. If and when I do I’d like to use a format other than print.
Through this activity I gained an insight into the calorific value of food and the effort required to burn up this energy, most people would gain from this experience. Maybe I’ll write a self-help book with this as the premise.