Tilde residency ~ day 13

My 2nd last day here until January – and I finally finished mapping all the veg. I’ve done the 2 mapping styles: birds-eye view with species level classification; and profile view with growth habit classification. I feel all this should have been done within a few days but oh well.

Figuring out where the ends of each grid square were on the diagonal was a bit hard but I got there, again, the simple way (pace it out, divide it up), after trying to complex way (visualise where the grid square lines went and then bisect the imaginary lines to look diagonally across them – ugh!). Here’s today’s effort:

Three accuracy challenges I set myself for the profile mapping:

1) Drawing the outline of a tree when you’re not drawing every single branch and leaf just ends up making them look more like corals and other not very tree-like shapes. But I made myself just draw what I saw first time and move on.

2) I wasn’t allowed to cross-check the scale – so a tree that was much taller than the fence might be drawn the same size as another tree further along that was only a bit taller than the fence.

3) I’m definitely not allowed to go back and check and change anything. What I did is what I have.

I also took this photo of me working at the mapping table yesterday and forgot to put it in:

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I just don’t have that much to say because yesterday and today I’ve been tasking not thinking.

But only 1 of the people reading this (and I know you do – wordpress gives me stats!) has commented with any ideas of how to make my map-scores readable music in live-time yet. So the rest of you – please do!

I think since I have these separate sections I’m going to try a few different methods. So I’ll end up with a collection of works: 2 long veg strips (profile); 3 circle gardens (bird’s eye); and 1 short simple veg strip (bird’s eye). It would be lovely to present them all on a single map even if they also exist as separate scores for the musicians to read. The map

That’s it for today. Tomorrow’s bump-out. I’m tired!

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Tilde residency ~ day 12

I passed something really important on my way in today – kids striking for climate change action. It was really the most inspiring and hopeful thing I have witnessed in a long time and if only we could get the decision-making in their hands, we might be in with a chance.

Tilde’s publicity intern Elise came in and had a chat with me about my project.

I started doing a colour-coded version of the profile growth-habit classified map I did yesterday:

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I had a brain fail about how to work out the lengths of the diagonal line across the grid squares for the last bit of mapping. A friend started doing some trigonometry for me until we figured out that I could use a ruler. Genius!!

 

So the paper’s all ruled up ready for me to do the last mapping tomorrow.

And these folks have been setting up for an event here tonight:
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They tell stories to 1 person at a time inside the tiny caravan.

I’m off to a fungi and mycology-centred event that’s part of Why Listen To Plants?

Achieved some but not everything I mentioned yesterday, but I’ll do the rest tomorrow.

Tilde residency ~ day 11

3:30pm: Yesterday arvo I met Lynda from Public Assembly (she’s here again today). I don’t really understand how but she’s doing her PhD in a year! She’s ~6 months in. Here’s her portable office/study/interventionist van parked in Testing Grounds.

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I can’t really explain it properly but she’s developing a set of cards like the Oblique Strategies set that Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno did in 1975 which is “a suggestion of a course of action or thinking to assist in creative situations” (got that quote from the ‘enoshop’ online. Enoshop! Who knew?!) Lynda’s cards are exploring the possibilities of disrupting the highly strict and structured bureaucratic environment.

She has lots of arts academic language/theory/vocab. She suggested my not being able to map out the whole site’s-worth of vegetation in the available time could be a specific limitation to my project – part of the investigation. I think she’s right, but I also think it’s way too late to incorporate it that way now, on day 11!

Here’s a list of growth form classification I’ve simplified from the Australian National Herbarium’s version.

    1. Tree or shrub: A woody-stemmed plant.
    2. Herb: No woody tissue present.
    3. Fern: Any pteridophyte.
    4. Vine or Liana: A climber rooted in the ground.
    5. Grass, Sedge, Rush or Graminoid.
    6. Arborescents: e.g. bamboo.
    7. Rosette tree: Unbranched stem with crown of leaves, e.g. palms, cycads, Xanthorrhoea, tree ferns.
    8. Rosette shrub: Plant with crown of leaves directly from soil e.g. Dianella.
    9. Stem-succulent shrub: e.g. Sarcostemma, Opuntia and some Euphorbia.

Is it too many? I don’t think there’re any ferns onsite so it might be 8. There’s definitely some of all the others.  I’m going to use it to do some of the remaining veg mapping similar to the coloured example I drew for yesterday’s blog for this site, only I’m going to do a profile map this time – looking at vertical layers as though it’s 2D. I’ll go draw/map some and see how it goes.

5pm: Lynda just came over to say bye. She looked at my “new approach” and used all these great words. I said it was a profile but she said it’s a cross section. She said my process is really architectural. She’s really into site intervention stuff and likes how I’m using Testing Grounds’ pre-existing architectural and map divisions and even using their actual notepad of grid paper to draw it all up on. I don’t know how or if site intervention differs from making a site-specific work, but yeah. It’s nice to hear what someone else observes and draws together from the threads I’m using. Oh, and then she said she kinda wants me to do diagonals and strangely angled cross-sections and go, “f**k that” to the grid squares. : )

She agrees with me how aesthetically satisfying the species catalogue is (all the plant samples I’ve been collating), and the shame of not completing it. It’s really disappointing but I do think it’s a side-track to the musical outcome, if I’ve accepted that I’m not actually going to use anything based on it to create the scores of the remaining veg. onsite. MAYBE there’s some other musical outcome I can create directly from the catalogue. We’ll see.

6:40pm: Ok I mapped the vegetation from the gate by the pianos up to the corner gate. That’s half of all the rest; can’t really measure it by square metres anymore since it’s a 2D sort-of view. It was so much easier even though still a bit hard. Here’s what it looks like.

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There’s 6 growth types in here – there’s no 3 (fern), 7 (palm), or 6 (bamboo).

I found a beautiful orchid flowering in a pot – so it’s not in my mapping music, but you get a photo:IMG_2195

8pm: So, tomorrow I’ll map the last long strip of vegetation along the fence starting by my studio using this new profile-view growth form classification. I’ll do a better-looking version of all the maps; code the circle garden beds with the species codes from the catalogue; and colour code the 2 long strip profiles. Then I’ll have Saturday, and Sunday morning until I bump out, to start to figure out how to give these things sound!

There aren’t any comments yet with ideas about that – bring it on! I want to hear your ideas. You don’t have to be a composer or musical or anything in particular. Just see where I’m up to and where I’m trying to get, and let me know if you can envisage any bridges I can build to connect them.

Tilde residency ~ day 10

11:30am: Finally caught up with the blog posts. I like writing; it’s hard to not spend hours on doing this as its own outcome, but still keep up. Working on it!

2pm: Just finished a couple of hours on this other piece that’s due in a few days.

Last night when I was riding home, or maybe in bed I don’t know, I had another thought about the score-mapping. Map-scoring? Maybe for the really species-complex parts of the site (you know, the ones I haven’t mapped yet, like in the photo and film from day 3), I can use a colour code or colour gradient. I could assign sounds or sonic gestures to several base colours, and then it would be up to the musicians to musically navigate through the gradients between the base colours in the map. While they couldn’t read 70+ colour codes, I reckon they could read 4 or 6 or something. Something like this:

Colour map example

So I’d assign, for example:
Yellow – ground-covers – ephemeral scratchy but warm tone.
Orange – annual plants – tremolo, flutter tongue or similar, quite high pitched, constantly moving between 2 or 3 different tones.
Green – trees – long low pitched notes, sonorous and rich.
Blue – bushes – moving between 3 or 4 notes within a perfect 5th, in the middle of instrument range, slurred, about 2 notes per second.
Purple – vines – glissando, slippery sounds, hard to “get a hold of”.
And then the musicians would do a different version of these sounds for each of the different oranges, greens, etc.

I suppose I’ve been focusing on doing the initial mapping. I guess I thought that I would still at least categorise and probably map all the species anyway even if I don’t make it the whole work species specific. But then why still categorise and map it all? It’s a big task. I don’t feel very satisfied with this, but maybe I’ll do a few separate small pieces using the species = a sound method, for the veg. strip by the pianos and the 3 circle gardens. And then use some other method for the more complex vegetation communities like the wide strips along the site edges. Like that one above, which incorporates colour coding and categorising by veg. structure.

 
4pm: 43 species + in the 3 garden beds and the piano strip. The “+” is because I have skipped some that were too tiny, and at the moment all the succulents are just “succulent” which isn’t right but damn this is hard! My rusty and never-expert but at least serviceable botany skills are being str-e-e-e-tched. I want to but don’t have the time to do any more maps this way.

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If you’re in Melbourne this weekend, I just found out about this amazing sounding event: Bushland – “a visually evocative audio work that connects you to the biochemical processes that will continue long after you’ve lost consciousness, as you’re slowly and gently subsumed by the earth over thousands of years.” More audio artist/science mashup stuff! So exciting.

Ok for the last bit of today I’m going to get over the hump of what’s next, and create 16 sounds and sonic gestures to apply to the first map I did of the piano strip. Just as an exercise.

It’s going to be time-based (not tempo-based).

And it’s going to be read left to right, like a regular old score. I know, not very adventurous, but it’s just an exercise! And it means theoretically it could be read using this cool thing that helps musicians read graphic scores. At its simplest it’s basically a line that moves across the graphic score at a preset speed – so instead of following a timepiece the musicians just watch the score and play the material as it passes the line. It’s developed by Cat Hope who did the talk I went to last night. Here’s a direct link to Cat’s TEDx talk about it with some examples – go straight to 5’56” to see an example.

This piece is going to be for any 2 instruments, a duet. Octaves etc will be flexible. Ok, let’s maths this:

  • There are 16 grid divisions within each square; the map has 2 squares, so 32.
  • I want the piece to be about 4 minutes/240 seconds.
  • If each grid division is 8 seconds, that’s a 256 second / 4 mins 16 seconds piece.

Actually when I look at the material, this would be quite slow-moving. How about:

  • Each grid division is 5 seconds, so the piece is 160 seconds / 2 mins 40 seconds. Just a short piece!

Ok, here’s the sounds/gestures:

Species Sound
1 Middlest Bb in your range. No vibrato. Volume loud.
2 Windy whistling sound, low-high-low pitch. Volume soft.
3 Highest clear tone in your range. No vibrato. Volume soft.
4 Middlest A in your range. Vibrato. Volume medium.
5 A delicate tinkling sound. Volume soft.
6 A low distorted sound, made quite differently to however you make regular notes! Volume loud.
7 Tremolo second highest C in your range. Volume loud.
8 Repeated rapid staccato oscillation between your lowest range note and a 9th above. Volume medium.
9 Second-highest A in your range. Vibrato. Volume loud.
10 Pitchless or barely pitched whispery tone. Volume soft.
11 Pitchless or barely pitched slow scratchy tone. Volume medium.
12 Glissando from middlest Bb to G below. Volume loud.
13 Glissando from highest G to A above. Volume loud.
14 Slow repeated pitchless rhythm. Doesn’t have to involve instrument (you can hit something!). Volume loud.
15 Second lowest Db in range. Volume growing from nothing to loud and returning to nothing.
16 Tenuto repeated middlest G in your range. Volume growing from nothing to loud.

And here’s the score-map. Pardon the scrappiness.

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So, please comment suggestions of how I can use all this to make an actually readable score for musicians. I need your help! Thank you!

Tilde residency ~ day 9

Tue 27th Nov 3pm: It’s the second day with a non-hazardous waste truck just outside all day. This is a different truck; it’s humming on a different pitch so at least there’s some variety going on??! But actually… ARGH! Can’t think! It’s 60-something decibels inside my studio. Even with earplugs in it’s pretty pervasive.

4pm: Yes! The truck is gone! Now it’s back to ~50dB of sound to work to instead of 60-something. I wonder if there’ll be a 3rd truck with a different pitch tomorrow? AS interesting as that would be …

Wed 28th Nov 10:30am day 10 (oops): Well yesterday arvo I did one circle garden map and another circle garden sketchy map.

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So I’ve completed ~2.5 maps. Or about 3.5 grid squares mapped out of … what did I guesstimate the total was? … 17 grid squares. Only 13.5 to go!! Oh dear. But adjusting parameters of a project to be more realistic is a part of pretty much every project ever. So that’s ok. Just gotta keep remembering that.

Here’s the most recent picture of my species catalogue:

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In the evening I went off to the Peggy Glanville Hicks Annual address, this year by Cat Hope. Her talk was All Music For Everyone: Working Towards Gender Equality and Empowerment in Australian Music Culture. I’d like to give a review but I need to get on with my work here. Overall I thought she said good stuff; nothing new or groundbreaking but it all still needs saying still – unfortunately. The most disappointing thing was that she gave a good acknowledgement of the limitations of the research she was going to reference being exclusively women and men. But then the whole rest of her language unrelated to the research was still really binary. An acknowledgement of exclusivity and bias is vital, but so is (working to) using gender-inclusive language in our own expression and communication.

I came back to Testing Grounds at 9:30. It was good to be here in the night. I made this photo of olive leaves and blue neon. That’s all.

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Tilde residency ~ days 6, 7, 8.

Tue 27th Nov 2pm (i.e. day 9, oops): I didn’t come in over the weekend at all – worked another job all day Saturday (day 6) and really needed a day off on Sunday (day 7). I hate not using this space for every possible moment I have it but it couldn’t be helped. So I’m just writing about Monday, day 8.


So all day on Monday this truck was right outside my studio collecting non-hazardous waste. It was quite incredibly difficult to work.

Actually I was here for ages but I only did about 1 1/2 hours of work, just collecting, storing and photographing the species samples for 2 of the 3 circle garden beds I talked about in a previous post. I felt terrible doing so little. I think I was still recovering from the 16.5 hour workday on Saturday.

But I did want to report that I met some interesting folks at Andrea Rassell’s exhibition opening on Friday evening after I finished my blogpost. I had my studio open and 2 people came in to see what was happening and we had interesting convos, and Andrea also introduced me to a friend of hers as she thought we might be interested in each others work. We are!

About Andrea’s friend: Sophie is a sound essayist, which means … ok it’s harder to find a quick definition than I thought! I think I have 2 friends who I can ask. In the meantime, if you know or find anything illuminating about that, post a comment!

Anyway, Sophie’s currently doing her PhD and has done a project where she recorded the sounds of herself building things with food scraps! She’s also done a project where she created written descriptions of certain sounds. That fascinates me because I just find translation endlessly fascinating. It makes me wonder how people who can’t hearing the original sounds – maybe they don’t have any speakers; maybe they’re deaf or hearing impaired – would interpret the descriptions.

Then Michael came in to see what I was up to. He’s a Bio-molecular modeller who works at CSIRO. When I described my project to him he said what he imagined was a sort-of interactive aural augmented reality thing: you put on this pair of binaural ++ headphones and walk through Testing Grounds and as you look at/pass each plant type, the sound that I’ve allocated to that plant type plays. How cool is that?

It’s pretty closely related to some of the ecoacoustics arts stuff folks like Leah Barclay are doing – check her stuff out here. And there’s this project called Biosphere Soundscapes where you can hear live-feeds of UNESCO biosphere reserves from around the world. And then you can get this app where you can live-stream the sound of any microphone that’s been set up anywhere around the world by any community member, which is just so open-source and awesome! I can’t quite remember the name of the app or find a link without going into a research vortex, but I’ll post it when I find it.

Anyway I love what Michael imagined even though it’s totally beyond the scope of a) my project and b) possibly current technology.

Lastly I met Carly who’s doing her PhD in film and archival documenting. We chatted about her work where she’s figuring out how to present multiple media (footage, photos, documents, etc) of an institution in Tasmania that no longer exists. Her suggestion for my work was about who performs it: as soon as she heard my idea she assumed audience would be participating in the performance. She imagined them being given, for example, 1 plant species to play and a corresponding sound-maker, and augmenting the musician’s parts.

Tilde residency ~ day 5

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I asked my friend Mac who knows rocks what they could tell me about the pebbly stuff that covers Testing Grounds’ ground; just from a landscape supplier or something. They sent me this!

5:15pm: I feel a bit awkward because this is the first day I’ve been here all day and used most of the time to do not-residency things. But I’m putting in good hours to the residency work, and part of this residency is about having the space here. And as I think I already said, it’s such an absolute treat (and a new experience) to have a studio space separate from my living space. So I’m making the most of it, and today I wrote an arts job application in the space. It’s also been raining all day so it’s a little hard to go and map the veg with pencil and paper.

I also had a visit from an old friend, Renate, who mainly lives overseas and is in Melbourne just for 2 days. I’m chuffed and flattered she took the time to come down and catch up and see what I’m up to.

I showed her my project and pitched some of the problems to her. She honed in on the practicality of mapping the whole site’s vegetation in the detail I’m idealising doing it in.

First she suggested I use a colour code for musicians to read the map, which I really like but it still doesn’t work with ~70 colours if I’m going with the species classification! So she asked, “what about some classification other than species?”.

Here are some options we brain-stormed:

Structural layer/Growth habit – tree, bush, ground cover, vine, etc.
Botanical family (the 3rd smallest basic cladistic/phylogenetic plant classification division) – species = smallest; genus = 2nd smallest
Region origin – European, Australian, or whatnot.
Human purposefulness – like was it planted on purpose? Is it a weed?

How about Edibility?
Also, I’ve been thinking that this birds-eye-map view also erases the concept of height of the plants, and that could be another approach or classification division, but would need to be mapped differently.

IMG_2096Maybe going with movements like Nat suggested yesterday, or separate pieces even, might be good. There are 2 discrete circular garden beds (photo of one to the left), and they would be quite neat/interesting to play as their own pieces. Also it means the performers and audience could move to each actual garden section and that would be another level of specificity in the site-specific-ness.

Also – revelation – I don’t have to do the same thing for the whole site. It takes me so long to get to this kind of thing … I’m so driven by scientific processes like repeatability and conformity of methodology – it’s such a big no-no to use a range of methods on a single study … so it takes me way longer than artists without a scientific background who are exploring science/art mashups to (re-)realise I DON’T HAVE TO CONFORM TO THOSE PROCESSES HERE AND MY WORK WILL STILL BE VALID!

To be honest, I think the re-realising of this is always going to be a part of my process when arting science or whatever it is I’m doing.

That’s all for today. I won’t be in at all tomorrow, but I’ll be back on Sunday for an afternoon-ish session onsite and here every day next week.

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Late arvo view over Testing Grounds after hours of rain.

Tilde residency ~ day 4

2:45pm: A small day so far. I’ve done some admin. It’s rained a fair bit, and I’m just making up enlarged grid squares for separate sections of the site so I can survey them in detail. The next few days all have rain predicted; it’s going to be hard to survey well in the rain (anyone got waterproof paper?) but right now I’m not exactly sure what else I can do in the meantime. The surveying seems the next step. Ah well, we’ll see.

My lovely friend Nat Grant visited … we didn’t workshop my work as much as we *should* have, but they did suggest that perhaps the final map-score could be less unwieldy (more wieldy?) if I broke it up into movements based on sections of vegetation. I’ll think on that. The idea didn’t leap out at me as a lightbulb moment, but it’s definitely worth pondering a bit. More visits from others tomorrow.

Also tomorrow (Friday 23rd Nov 2018) 6-9pm is fellow Testing Grounds and science/arts mash-up artist Andrea Rassell’s exhibition opening, Wildly Oscillating Molecules of Unanticipated Momentum. She does moving image research and microcinematography. Check out her stuff at www.hellosynaesthesia.com

6:00pm: Ok so I finished the enlarged grid square outlines. There’s 42 of them, and each represents 6 square metres. Onsite, some of them only have strips of veg but some are completely covered with green. I guess, at a very rough calculation of my map, there’s 17 full grid squares of veg, so that’s 102 square metres of surveying. Oh, that doesn’t even include the moveable pot-plants. And there’s about 70 odd species.

So this is where I wonder at the feasibility of my idea. And how can I change it to be a practical size, and still a satisfying project? Obvious answer is just don’t do all the veg, just pick a few bits. It seems so easy but it doesn’t sit easy conceptually!

It stopped raining, so I started mapping one of the simplest sparsest sections – over by the 2 pianos near the big wall: IMG_2093

That little strip, from the wall to the gate, has more than 16 species! I didn’t plot every one; there are so many tiny weeds I kind-of arbitrarily mapped some and not others. Already INACCURATE! Here are the 16 I mapped:
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And here is my map that I messed up even in this most simple strip of veg:
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On the other hand, I can see the basic process to make this section into a piece. Which is encouraging! Enlarge it, replace each number with a note or sound gesture, make it time-based e.g. the whole piece is 2 minutes long, so 1 minute per 6 metres/grid square, and read left to right. So that’s something.

Tilde residency ~ day 3

View from my studio.

Today I’m writing throughout the day, then I’ll post before I leave.

Fennel, iris, dandelion, nasturtium, nectarine, grasses, +++ …

11:30am: Things I need to figure out to make the botanic map-score concept work:

Accuracy – so I’m often a perfectionist and with science-type stuff like mapping vegetation I want it to be exactly accurate. But there is such a lot of vegetation here – not just high species diversity, but also the individual plants. And many of the plants in the ground are all intertwined and overlapping, like plants do. And many of the plants in pots can be moved anywhere onsite and will probably be somewhere different for the performance in January so even if I get all the beds right, my map-score will still be INACCURATE! I need to figure out if I want to reflect a temporal snap-shot, or if I partly incorporate the move-ability of the pots into the score.

Creating the score – ok so once I figure out how to do the above … I can totally make a detailed site map with “spp 1”, “spp 2”, and the shapes of the individual plants, overlapping and all. BUT then how do I convert this into a thing musicians can read? I’m not thinking of it being an interpretable graphic score as such. What I want is to assign a strict musical note or gesture to each plant species. But the diversity is so high I can’t possible ask a performer to remember what 60+ numbers are, and to cross-reference a map key during performance is totally impractical. So I have to then put these notes and gestures directly onto my map score. And how will I do that????!

Reading the score – this isn’t such an immediate concern, but after I’ve figured out how to create the score in a useful and readable way, I need to figure out how musicians can read it. It’s not linear: the site is a big triangle. Will they read as though walking through the site? Around the perimeter is easy enough, but how about the little discrete beds and all the individual pots within the site? Grid it up (it’s already pretty griddy) and give them an order of grid squares to play? Let them decide?

2pm: Here’s a film of my residency studio door and one little bit of Testing Grounds’ garden. The hissing sound is a sprinkler on the garden. This is just to give you an idea of the profusion of green that I’m trying to figure out how to map.

I started working on the mapping.

Really excited to learn that there’s another science-art mash-up practitioner onsite. She’s called Andrea Rassell, she’s absolutely lovely, and the work she’s doing is really cool! Here’s her website. She has an opening here on Friday night 23rd Nov 6-9pm. I immediately want to sit down and have chats about what we could collaborate on … but I have plants to map!

4:15pm:
I’m excited about this idea and chatting with a site staff member got me more excited: most of the trees are rescues and re-placings from rejections elsewhere. And most of the plants are cuttings, borrowings, sharings, chances and possibilities. He’s also contacted the person who did most of the plantings who is going to get me a species list and his mappish things. There’s names and histories to all these plantings. The histories are temporally brief, but huge in heart. I like this a lot.

I’ve used the grid on the provided site-map to create another map with grid squares divided, labelled, ground-truthed and updated. Now I can see how many grid squares have vegetation in them and use the squares to map the veg detail one part at a time. It was really fun and mapping it all seems way more do-able now.

That’s it for today. I like writing as I go, it helped me think and I had a really productive day. More tomorrow!

Tilde residency ~ day 2

This is a day I’d rather not publicise, but transparency calls!

Not very productive.

1) I dawdled.

2) I slept on the floor.

3) A huge storm. I recorded a film of the water dripping under my studio door. It was really cool to watch in real life, just focusing on a tiny little section of water with drips and bubbles and a tiny pool getting bigger. But it’s a pretty low quality film and the rain just sounds like white noise.

4) I researched the botanical names of the 53 plant species I have so far as best I can. They are tabulated.

5) The traffic is so loud. All the trucks carrying all the loads that can’t go directly through the city go right by me instead. I’ve seen removal trucks, semis, 2 x cut-in-half-demountables, trucks carrying cars. So loud.

That’s all. No photos. No sounds created or recorded yet. But it’s percolating; I’ll start to find my way soon.