Research for ‘The City’ Brief

As a starting point I began my research with a look at the theme migration. I was started looking at people and animals and quickly delved deeper into the human side of migration. A Google search presented me with the Migration is Beautiful movement with its iconic butterfly symbol/icon.

Migration is beautiful

A movement aimed at empowering migrants and the rights of economically poor to move between countries. While the movement is an interesting one, what really struck out at me was the way people spoke about the butterfly symbol and the intention to use it to shift the feelings towards migrants away from a view of victim-ism and hostility towards empowerment and friendlier approaches towards migrants and migration policy. Summarising: this made me think more about the power an image or icon and its effect on an idea or movement.

I looked at Richard Long and his environmental work made by walking or creating lines in the landscape with the immediately available materials in the surrounding environment. These works were often completed as part of a journey and often in the middle of nowhere or in the wilderness, such as the Sahara or on mountain tops and even in treading broad lines into grassy fields.


This work is titled ‘Dusty Boots Line’, its situated in the Sahara and was created in 1988. These type of works were interesting to me as it made me think about the notion of unconsciously making marks and leaving a trail whilst on a journey – interacting with, manipulating or physically changing the environment as you pass through it in however small a way. As man moves (or migrates) through the environment it more often than not changes it in some way. How do people migrate to cities and how on their journeys and arrivals do they change their immediate environments? People come legally, illegally, groups, solitary, pilgrimage, holiday, commuting, exploring, searching, quality of life, necessity. People leave litter, gum, scuffs and scratches, cells, hair, odours, dropped or misplaced items, tickets, money, graffiti, butts, food.

Feeling I had not yet really examined people in the city and their relationships with or to migration I turned my attention to the human being in the urban world. Whilst thinking of an artist I remembered Slinkachue and his ‘Little People in the City’ street art project. He uses small models to make tiny street art sculpture or often scenes depicting comical or sad or everyday and often touching aspects of everyday and city life. There is something about these tiny little public street art scenes that is instantly likeable and more often than not relate-able to. He is able to summon up powerful feelings quickly and effectively with simplicity and creative placement of the works which he often then leaves after photographing for others to find and enjoy. I feel often I can connect with the story going on in its freeze-frame state and so I feel he captures well the way of life and thinking that is brought about from living in the city, and perhaps how small and insignificant we can all seem amongst the busy rushing city.

Skyscraping 1 - blog

This image of the wee man spreading his ‘wings’, with a powerful bold stance looking out over the city, seems to convey to me feelings and expressions of hope, future, a sense of adventure and release . Also on reflection of these initial impressions perhaps a sense of futileness, desperation,  and the odds being stacked against my favour as I try to struggle upwards and onwards on clumsy wings of aspiration and hope.

From Slikachue I began to investigate to portrail of people in street art. This brought me to the artist Swoon and in particular her highly recognisable style of wheat-pasting. Wheat-pasting is like fly poster bombing only using an image. This is printed, drawn or painted onto thin (often cheap) paper or vegitable paste paper and then glued up onto a surface using a homemade adhesive from flour, sugar and water. She jumped out at me because of the way she depicts people. She has a fascination for capturing people in the process of doing everyday ordinary things often working from memory or photographs to produce drawings or woodcuts which she will then transfer to large scale paper and paint before pasting on the street. A lot of her work seems to reflect the people and city life of New York. Her work is often related to and so praised by the communities  she pastes it up in.

Bomb It! is a documentary about street art history and what it is today. It got me thinking about control and power in urban areas, the segregation of different areas and how they become their own small closed off environments.


I now began to start looking at graffiti in Cardiff. I wondered Splott, Cathays And Roath to much satisfaction and found City Road to be of particular interest. As I was doing this, and i found lots of great work, I found myself thinking more about the cause and effect in/on an environment in which I was finding this street art. I began thinking on the notion of space and the influence, control and power we can have over a space or environment.

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Moving away form street art I began to research into artists who deal with  space and environment in their work. Agnes Denes’s corn field in New York. It was the setting of the work that interested me, she essentially created a small natural (or agricultural) environment dwarfed among the enormous skyscrapers of New York. The stark contrast of environments in such close approximation is appealing, you could walk off the New York side-walk into a wheat field.

Richard Serra’s abstract sheet metal sculptures create an austere and intimidating environment; restricting and controlling the movements of people passing through the long halls or courtyards dominated by his sweeping rust red steal curves. The warped yet graceful steal walls seem to be frozen in mid-movement as if they may suddenly begin to once again slowly start to move with a breathing and curling movement.In my mind I have this vision of releasing these rusty steal walls from their entrapment. I have an idea of making walls that react or change to a presence or certain stimuli, I need to explore this idea further.

richard serra

Olarfur Eliasson  is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. In 1995 he established Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin, a laboratory for spatial research. He seems to be fascinated by time and space in art and creates the strong sense of an alien environment in  many of his works. He creates whole new immersive environments like the mist room – this is a space he has complete control over and can manipulate as he sees fit.

” Eliasson has been developing various experiments with atmospheric density in exhibition spaces. In Room For One Colour (1998), a corridor lit by yellow monofrequency tubes, the participants find themselves in a room filled with light that affects the perception of all other colours. Another installation, 360 degrees Room For All Colours (2002), is a round light-sculpture where participants lose their sense of space and perspective, and experience being subsumed by an intense light.[9] Eliasson’s later installation Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger) (2010), commissioned by the Arken Museum of Modern Art, is a 90-metre-long tunnel. Entering the tunnel, the visitor is surrounded by dense fog. With visibility at just 1.5 metres, museumgoers have to use senses other than sight to orient themselves in relation to their surroundings.[10] For Feelings are facts, the first time Eliasson has worked with Chinese architect Yansong Ma as well as his first exhibition in China, Eliasson introduces condensed banks of artificially produced fog into the gallery of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. Hundreds of fluorescent lights are installed in the ceiling as a grid of red, green, and blue zones”. -


In seeing the amount of interaction with his work by the audience as they experience his work, often inside of it, I felt inspired to create something audience interactive.

In my Tuesday workshops i have been exploring Arduino and Rhino with Jon Pigott. Whilst also experimenting with free software such as Pepakura and Blender in my spare time. I am excited about using all of these things to potentially produce either a large or small amount of work for my current brief.

All this experimentation with Arduino and sensors got me very excited about creating interactive objects and environments. Imogen Heap was introduced to me through constellation last term. I’m fascinated at how she creates her music using the musical gloves which are used to create music from gesture, motion and position in space in her own musical ‘environment’ that she moves around to produce different sounds and effect. This space/environment is invisible but as we watch we become aware of its boundaries  and, after a while, of its characteristics-  so much so that we can create music and expression from this mini environment. A space or environment portrayed by sound.

The playable city idea – Hello Lamp Post (Bristol situ) is an idea of a smart city with objects that can be communicative with people through digital media (mainly smart phones). The idea is to encourage people to interact with their environment and and learn about their locality. For instance sit on a bench and get texting with it and it may inform you of the areas history, good local book shops or a nice unknown cafe nearby. How do I interact with Cardiff city and the urban environment? What can it tell me and how can I pass on or prevent the information to others in a way for them to find out for themselves? What sort of interactive street furniture could I create/propose?


New York based designer Richard Clarkson created this interactive felt figure sculpture that turns its wee head to turn and look at you as you approach. Its called Mr Indecision, he sits there on a shelf watching the world go by as he turns his head back and for not quite making up his mind. The process behind the felt figures creation began with a full 3D scan of the designer. He then laser cut out out of felt the pieces that 123D Make broke the model down into then assembled them into the figure with glue and inserting the servos and proximity sensors during the building process. He has also created another interactive piece of work called Clouds, large fluffy clouds suspended from the ceiling light up and flash with crackling thunder as you walk underneath them and move across the space/room. This has the effect of making the room a really unique little environment which can enjoy interacting with.


Footfalls by Tmema [Golan Levin & Zachary Lieberman]) is an interactive audiovisual installation in which the stomping of the visitors’ feet creates cascading avalanches of bouncy virtual forms. In Footfalls, stepping and stomping sounds produced by the visitors’ feet are detected by microphones under the floor, and used to govern the size and number of virtual objects that fall from a six-meter high projection. The harder the visitors stomp, the more items fall. Using their silhouettes, visitors can then “catch” and “throw” these projected objects around. –

The relation to architecture is  now what I want to explore, searching for ideas for some sort of interactive project in my surrounding environment – Cardiff. I am not sure exactly what it is I am looking for but something to inspire a hidden interactive piece or an environment to identify, encapsulate and manipulate.


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