Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Rules to Hold on to…
Appropriating Appropriate Appropriation
Organised by Neil Ferguson
Neil Ferguson: Card
Anthony Griffin: Plastic
Charles Harrowell: Sound
Matthew Vincent-Townend: Wood

The event will provide spaces for imagining for both the practitioners and the spectators by providing appropriate or inappropriate (?) appropriation of processes and materials to consider the rule structures of making being used.
The event will offer sounds, objects, images that seek effect by offering differing contextual references.

What rules are applied to make actions appropriate or inappropriate?
What rules are appropriate to a situation or action?
What thinking makes things do, or not do things?
What strategies allow technique and medium do things?
What structures do we align our imagining to?
What rules are relevant to the act of making that offer potential and encourage progression?

As art disciplines begin to overlap and expand Art practices are forced to look outside their own histories to meet fresh considerations and ways of working that challenges the boundaries of their practices.
Consequences arise then that disciplines “borrow” or rather “steal” from each other and “virtually?” anything becomes available for appropriating.
What is inherent in something to make it appropriate for this form of appropriation? What are the rules of this transference?
What thinking or action needs to be “Held on to?”
What is applied, combined or rejected to make certain actions suitable?
What is or can be exploited, inferred and used?

For imagining to emerge as more than a thought, evaluative decisions have to be made in relation to what has influenced changes in and through the medium so that it seems “to work” or doesn’t.
What simple medium or complex rule sets are applied or adopted to imagine through, to test or push back boundaries?
How is this thinking through action influenced?

Rules need to be applied to set up a situation for discovery. These may or may not embody the initial thinking, interest or action but provide structure for imagining and getting on and doing things.

The situation demands that attention be paid to the adoption and implementation of rules and their influence on decision-making.
This situation also requires attention be paid to what rule interpretations are appropriate or relevant to being taught and therefore promoted through art education.
What are the appropriate rules to underpin art and design education and practice?

The event offers different opportunities for the spectator to apply their own rules for imagining.
Each participant works in a different medium to display different concerns and interests and adopt different methods for investigating them. To some extent each participant borrows from the other to add what is missing.
It is through the exchanges, the visual conversations, difference of approaches that the display becomes both appropriate and inappropriate through what it is appropriating from in order to influence the environment it operating within and what the viewer is attending to.

Rules change, but not all of them…which ones are held on to?


1,001 cards, 2,002 drawings

by Neil Ferguson

Each drawing is produced on the same sized card.

The same pen is used for every drawing in the series.

Each card is numbered and given general title “app…app”.

Each WAS drawing is archived from an external source and then adapted as a NOW drawing.

Each card is given a specific title after the drawings have been completed.

Each drawing is completed numerically.

Each drawing are completed after each other, firstly WAS and then NOW.

No initial drawing is returned to and reworked.

No card is rejected, therefore no drawing is rejected.

All drawings are composed within the printed boxes and do not overlap the edge of either box.

Rules as a strategies for “getting on” and “going on”.

I use the act of drawing as direct connection to thoughts, opinions and memories in recognition of the versatility of line, mark and style to produce individualised forms and patterns. The drawings synthesise thoughts and words as lines and marks that are indexed by numbers and titles. They form a series constructed as a form of conversation and dialogue between thoughts and actions.

The structure adopted suggests different forms of experience and coherence than through more conventional use of writing and drawing as story-telling.

The titles and collection of forms interest me because they do not form an obvious narrative. Indeed the drawings require the abstract qualities behind them to justify their own enigmatic form rather than provide absoluteness of meaning and purpose. They use the medium to form their own imagining. They can be everything and nothing.

The notion of the title on each card, “Refund”, anticipates a return, giving something back. But what we get back from all types of situations may not be wanted. Disappointment may closer to the truth. The NOW drawings may not be better.

Living is not a narrated story, I use the drawings a series of patterns and experiences that may make sense out of the often non-sense of daily decisions, patterns and experiences that form opinion, as series of episodes within a set. The freedom to use line and word in any manner I choose permits series of plots that have beginnings and ends but only operate within the numerical restriction of one thousand and one cards and two thousand and two drawings, just as thoughts operate within the random context of a moment, hour, day, month, year, life-time.

The series pulls from these wide and random sources of influences, personal discovery and experience that allows change within their moments of production, but recognises that each pair of drawings on every card allows for change as metaphor to real life in that initial thoughts are often misappropriated, moulded, and changed. Often initial thought loses its way. It loses its spontaneity, its certainty and direction. These are the NOW drawings, they have become corrupted to become something else “as”. Whether this is for the better has to be judged, but against what?

This is when rule bases become important as a place to begin again.

Procedure dictates and imagining begins afresh or as pastiche on an understanding that nothing can ever be exactly the same again.

Rules provide structure for imagining where strategies can be employed to transfer any quirk or notion that may come to mind into a drawing.

When my drawings are initiated certain decisions have been made regards scale and technique. These can suggest further decisions regarding effect and aims for the work. However by laying down a set of plans of action I am also receptive to new adventures.

I want every piece of work to have the opportunity to use luck, as something is not anticipated. I want to retain this stroke of luck or chance.

By giving it recognition a decision has been made about it, a direction and rule of choice has been applied. Decision making has to take place when one is confronted with a variety of different issues in a drawing’s production and appearance. These issues arise from the very first mark, line or act of production.

If I follow style then I recognise that my art may resemble other artist’s work. This is not a problem.

It is recognition of one’s attention to looking and my interest does not weaken by its association. Its appropriation may well be very appropriate.

Its similarity is useful for the work to go on in the manner I want it to. I am in charge. Restricted only by my lack of craft or the decisions about how I observe my craft?

It is my drawing and my experience that I am addressing as I do not expect to find a new drawing technique but rather a means of communication that has more commonality than people may believe.

My drawing may communicate many of my own political and social concerns but will always be recognised primarily as and read through the act of drawing.

Drawing becomes interesting, perhaps vital, when it questions what we do not expect by challenging what we accept.

I am involved in drawing as research of visual language and through the visual language I use in considering this.

My understanding of what constitutes success and failure in a work is vital to my interest in art. I value the selection processes that influence my development and challenging the rules and systems of production I employ.

When I consider the rules, values and methods of selection I apply I recognise that I use very similar assessment criteria to any number of artists. However, I come up against conflicting attitudes about what is considered to be important or significant and the role rules play in the production of images acknowledged as innovative models of artistic success.

I want to promote drawing as a rule based yet innovative and exploring discipline that recognises that the act of drawing as a style based discipline.

By recognising this, one’s appropriate rules of appropriation apply heightened focus to one’s selection of rules in looking at, thinking through and acting as.

Neil Ferguson January 2008

Anthony Griffin:

There were no rules imposed on what should be made.
The rules stipulated a body of work supported by written reports.
My initial proposals were quite far from my results (my rules were too vague).
I theorised as to what the rules were (still too vague).
By starting to pick up and play with materials I began to develop a rule that my thinking may work best through the activity of putting things together to see what could be seen in connecting shapes and objects.
Material choice came from a belief that I could use found or waste objects as much as possible (a strong rule).
I was a little shocked at how many household-waste plastic bottles, lids and packaging I could collect in a short space of time. I developed a rule of working with these materials that could use their plastic properties. Using heat to soften the plastic allowed for new forms to be discovered but also revealed to me the rules of the material. Chemical properties differ by plastic type. The difference in ease of heating thin or thick material became apparent. The engineering strength of solid plastic allowed the cutting of threads into the material.
I had another rule developed from the idea of the material as cast-out. The material could possess a personality or animistic spirit. I wanted a visual theme to follow. I needed to know what I was making the shapes into -another rule – they are figurative pieces.
Once I had an idea of a character I could allow myself the option of imposing other imagery onto the work as it developed. The rule becomes able to work in both directions. I work the plastic but the plastic works me. A shape forms and I see a familiar image that triggers memory. I change the direction of my thinking on the shape but the material rule remains.


Matthew Vincent-Townend:

>> “We the family came upon each other in the early 1980s, there we began our

>> important research into the latent psychology of contemporized urban and

>> suburbanized landscapes. We saw how mechanisms of social-control

>> functioned to mediate the human–environmental relations and thus the

>> processes of environmental orientation in the city and suburbs. We are

>> believers that a history of social control mechanisms, both formal and

>> informal, maintained viable socio-environmental urban relationships. Ergo,

>> their decline over the last several decades has produced a legacy of fear

>> towards the urban and suburbanized environment that has, and continues to

>> have, profound socio-spatial, ecological and psychological implications.

>> We argue that these changes have their origin in the radical architecture

>> introduced during the volatile years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. An

>> architecture that was later suitably dismissed, but then, like a

>> pestilential flashback, covertly appropriated into the motorway flatlands,

>> the desert wastes of today.


>> In our current Shelter based projects we seek to reinstate the Hidden

>> Dimension to the inter-urban realm, to create proxemic microspaces within

>> landscapes we have deemed most potentially damaging to its inhabitants.

>> They are structures built in mind of an imagined future and its populous,

>> marginalized and existing outside the neo-system. We envision an

>> inhabitant for whom the passing high-speed automobiles while have become a

>> transformative vision, like the sea and the stars. Here the Hermitage

>> hovel melds with control-tower architecture. The Shelters in essence

>> provide defensible space, to help introduce people to themselves. The

>> Family Karr collectively believe in the power of individuality, the

>> shelter IS individualization”

>> –Brother Matthew of The Family Karr.


>> Formed 30 years ago by 10 PHD students the then Institute for Commune

>> Design Analysis, Inc. was a not-for-profit corporation which, aimed to

>> develop and apply interventionist technology that altered the

>> psychological perception of housing projects and suburban communities in

>> order to reduce crime and improve psychological stability in the

>> community. When, in 1984, nine of the founding members deserted the

>> project, Brother Matthew chose to continue as part of the Family Karr. The

>> Karr group continues to develop community-based interventions to this day
>> at both their UK and Australian earth centers.

Charles Harrowell:


Sound Sculptures – Rules, Appropriateness and all that guff…

Sound is sculptural as an entity it is 3 dimensional – volume, duration and frequency define what we hear but not what we see as the waves that make up sound are not visible. I use the term ‘Sound Sculpture’ both in this sense and in the sense that I sculpt sound to make my pieces of work. Sound is also sculpture in the sense that it sounds different to the listener depending on their physical position in relation to the source of a sound in the same way as viewer of sculpture changes their experience by moving around a piece.

In the main I work with found sound – sounds I collect as I listen. I try to actively listen (active in the sense that I will stop and ‘listen’ in the same way as visual artists will stop and ‘look’) and as a result I probably identify more sounds than others whose active listening periods are less conscious. I might collect a sound for its inherent beauty or its ugliness or its blandness, maybe for its texture, its angularity or its roundness or strength. Many words used to describe sound are ‘visual’ words – being very visual creatures humans don’t have as many words for sound and visual words often convey meaning very satisfactorily.

Sound is my raw material and I collect it often with no inherent purpose, rather it is good to always have stuff to work with whatever medium one chooses. Reviewing and listening to sound that I have collected is an important process for me that may provide beginning or ending points of pieces or may elicit feelings of, ‘hmmm nothing there today maybe tomorrow’

I might use sound as a metaphor, the anguished scream of a poorly lubricated crane reminding me of my headaches or a photocopier that encapsulates the repetitiveness of many people’s work as they strive to have money for stuff. This seemingly simple communication is always mediated by the listener – one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure and so the relationship between an ‘audience’ and the sound is as important as the relationship between the sound and its creator and/or its appropriator.

Rules and Appropriation.
The rules that govern the making of my work are as elusive as they are omnipresent. This duality of freedom and constriction allows me to do as I please whilst at the same time creating the rules that allow creation to take place. It is this paradox that is at the centre of my work.

Whilst working I will often accept or reject a course of action based on the many faceted criteria or rules of that which ‘sounds good’. Good in this context may be best, most effective, most jarring, most pleasant, ugliest, most beautiful – often the sound I want and/or need does not fall into binaurally opposed concepts it’s just that language often does. That which ‘sounds good’ is often that which sounds most appropriate for the piece.

Occasionally I know the sound that will work on my terms and can find and manipulate that sound in a ready way. Very often I need to experiment with texture, depth, distance, timbre, repetition, editing etc for the sound to fit my minds ear and achieve a ‘good sound’. Rules govern this process even when I am thinking ‘out of the box’

Rules are often informed by my past work as sound engineer where I worked with many different types of music. The craft and skills I learnt at that time allow me to manipulate sound. This freedom of ability allows me forget process and work towards a goal but also tacitly places limits on my courses of action and my judgement of that action. The very rules that allow work also limit which parts of a piece I may deem legal or illegal – appropriate or inappropriate.

Rules play their part in forming the practical and/or emotional and/or decisional and/or judgemental frameworks that allow me to create. Rules are not so much something to hold onto or let go of rather they are a continually changing dialogue between the legal and the illegal. Because rules are often elusive it is much harder to let go of them than it is to hold onto them and any rejection of a rule can only really be seen as an acceptance of another. This continually changing dialogue makes rules amorphous and plastic not solid and stuck fast.

Rules exist and they are appropriate and inappropriate at the same time both explicitly and implicitly – visible and invisible they make up our understanding of the world and that which we choose to make within it.