Saturday, 31 October 2015

Learning how to make a contact mic

When I was participating in the sound workshop last weekend I was fortunate enough to have a go at using a contact microphone. A contact microphone is a small device that can be used to amplify acoustic instruments. Unlike the more common types of microphone, you do not sing or talk into a contact mic. It works by making contact with a solid object and turning mechanical vibrations into electricity. I would like to experiment with this type of microphone, and today a friend I was taught how to make my own contact mic.

Materials used

Coat the exposed wires with solder (both ends, all wires)

 Solder the exposed wire to the contact microphone

Put the tip onto the wire
Thread the plastic casing over the soldered wires before threading the metal cases over the plastic

The final process was to apply 2 coats of plasti dip (a sealant) onto the contact microphone in order to make the microphone waterproof and therefore turn the contact microphone into a hydrophone. 

I look forward to using this new piece of equipment and discovering what can be heard.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Sound recording in a proper studio!

I've recently been doing some vocal recording and I've been learning how to use an audio editing programme. It's been hard to find anywhere in the Fine Art building that is quiet enough for recording, and so I booked to use a sound room in the music department at the University. I expected to simply get a quiet booth, but was surprised to find out that it was a proper recording studio with one room which contained the microphones and an adjacent room separated by a glass window which contained the computer recording equipment. 

The wonderful Dave even helped provide some technical support! It was a rather surreal experience, but once I adapted to the situation, the recording went well and I am hopeful that I have some good quality footage to edit. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Streetart by Baxendale, the local community and Recoat

Regular blogger, Frayed at the edges, has alerted me to the revamped shutters outside Tramway, Glasgow.

It is a collaboration between Baxendale, the local community and Recoat.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Field recording workshop with Kelvin Brown

This weekend I participated in the field recording workshop organised by NewBridge Projects. The session was Led by Kelvin Brown, one of the artists currently exhibiting work in NewBridge Project Space. The workshop was both a practical introduction to field recording and a chance to collaboratively explore the sonic landscape, and collective memories of the city. Working as a group we produced a set of recordings that document both the sonic characteristics of the city, and the the stories that surround them. These recordings are going to be compiled and a vinyl record pressed and held in the NewBridge archive. The final pressed record will serve as archive of the personal connections to the sonic characteristics within the constantly changing urban landscape.

After a brief introduction to the different types of microphone and sound recorders that we were going to be using, we came up with some ideas of places and sounds within the city that we sonically associated with Newcastle. For example, the sound of standing in the artwork at the Civic Centre and the sound of the Newcastle United fans on a match day. We then walked around the city recording urban sounds and noticing the difference between the microphones.

I was amazed by the way that the binaural microphones create a real sense of movement and positioning of sound in relation to the listener. I was fascinated by the sounds produced by the contact mics, and the variety of sounds made from different points on a generator. I want to explore using contact mics to record insect activity in nature.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Henry Moore Institute - Paul Neagu: Palpable Sculpture

Following Leeds City Art Gallery we ventured next door to the Henry Moore Institute, and enjoyed the current exhibition, Paul Neagu: Palpable Sculpture

The exhibition includes a selection of work by Romanian born artist Paul Neagu (1938-2004) spanning 1968 to 1986, closing when 
he created 'Nine Catalytic Stations', a sculpture summarising his complex philosophical ideas. 

The exhibition includes sculptures, drawings, films, texts and archival material, much of which has never previously been exhibited.

The exhibition encompasses tactile boxes and edible sculptures, performances and fictional collaborators, objects and drawings. In his performances Neagu sought to defy gravity, while his works on paper are simultaneously preparatory works, documentation, assimilation and artworks. In his sculptures Neagu created systems of thought based on his understanding of the human body as a simple container, with his exhibitions conceived as dialogues 
and experiments.

Neagu graduated from Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Fine Arts, Bucharest in 1965, where the syllabus prioritised figurative painting over abstraction and sculpture. Soon after completing his studies he turned his attention to sculpture, making tactile objects - boxes he described as being 'strange mixed media objects'. Portable and scaled to the body, these were designed to be opened, pushed and pulled - each one demanding an active encounter.

British Art Show 8 at Leeds City Art Gallery

Next stop on the Leeds gallery visit route was British Art Show 8 at Leeds City Art Gallery.

"The British Art Show is a touring exhibition that provides a vital overview of the most exciting contemporary art produced in this country. This year, it tours the work of over 40 artists to four cities across the UK."

The exhibition was vast, occupying the whole of Leeds City Art Gallery which had been totally transformed especially for this exhibition. The included artworks range from tapestry, ceramics, sculpture through to audio works and video installations. There seems to be a couple of 'themes' running through the exhibition. The first theme is the tension between reality and the virtual as in the video work The Common Sense, (2014) by Melanie Gilligan which is about 'the Patch' a wearable device which enables emotions and physical sensations to be transferred between people.

On the other hand, the second theme is for artists to be exploring the physicality of objects and materials, often through the use of skilled processes such as weaving, bookbinding and so forth.

A few of my highlights include:

Simon Fujiwara Fabulous Beasts (2015) - vintage fur coats that have been shaved to reveal the patchwork of skin that is usually covered in the fur
Simon Fujiwara Fabulous Beasts (2015)

Hayley Tompkins - who transforms everyday materials through the use of paint

Hayley Tompkins

Mikhail Karikis' film, Children of Unquiet, features a number of children exploring a geothermal power station in Italy. It is beautifully shot, with lots of mesmerising visuals.

Mikhail Karikis

Caroline Achaintre
Caroline Achaintre's hand tufted textiles that sit somewhere between figuration and abstraction

Alexandre da Cunha

Alexandre da Cunha mixes common mass-produced consumer products such as mops and beach towels with industrial materials including metal rods and concrete
Ciara Phillips

I was delighted to find out that Ciara Phillips' work for the British Art Show 8 involved people from my home-town of Mirfield. Along with others from local groups, they collaborated with Ciara to produce a publication based on a 1950/60's newsletter produced by Corita Kent and Sister Magdalene Mary called Irregular Bulletin.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Gallery visit to Leeds - &Model

My gallery visit to Leeds began at &Model gallery, where I had arranged to meet artist Toby Lloyd, who, along with Andrew Wilson has a residency at &Model during the current 'Project Radio' exhibition at the gallery.

Project Radio is an exhibition space and online radio broadcast created by artists Marion Harrison and Sophie Mallett. The programme is dedicated to the political and collaborative potential of sound art and radio.

Hosted by &Model, Project Radio coincides with the British Art Show 8 opening in Leeds and offers up a shared space for artists and public to make radio. Artist residencies run alongside live broadcasts, interviews and workshops.

The gallery is open 12-5 Wednesday - Sunday, and at times there are events and live broadcasts taking place that are open to the public.

Broadcasts are live Wed to Sun 2-5pm in the gallery and online. They can be listened back at

For their residency at &Model, Toby and Andrew have built a bar in the room adjacent to where the live broadcasts happen.

'Borrowing heavily from the socially conducive architecture of the public house, this environment will encourage alternative conversation modes to blur the customary roles of artist and audience, guest and host, whilst simultaneously presenting and creating materials for broadcast.'

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Art and Architecture at Kielder Forest

After stopping at the felling site, we moved on to do a little walk along the a lovely path by the reservoir before going to visit a couple of artworks.

Our next stop was James Turrell's Skyscape.

'Visitors to the Skyspace find themselves in a circular room where the artist manipulates our normal perceptions of light and space. In daylight hours, this chamber; illuminated only by natural light through the roof opening, is a contemplative space that focuses the visitor's attention on the sky. During the changing light conditions at dusk and dawn, the lighting system becomes active and visitors can expect to experience a rich unforgettable display of tone and colour.'

"My work is not so much about my seeing as about your seeing. There is no one between you and your experience". James Turrell

Standing at the top of the skyscrape gave an overview of the vast areas of forest. Taking the gaze to the floor revealed a variety of mushrooms.

Our next calling point was Kielder Castle for a spot of lunch and exploration of the grounds.

The Minotaur maze by Nick Coombe and Shona Kitchen includes some 'special features such as a set of stairs taking visitors above the walls. The final goal, a small glittering room formed from rocks of recycled glass is a quiet place from which to contemplate the task of discovering a return route to the outside world.'

The final stop before our departure back to Newcastle was to an artwork called Wave Chamber by Chris Drury.

Situated on the shores of the reservoir, 'Wave Chamber is a camera obscura, projecting an image of the water onto the floor of the chamber. Within the dark interior, the walls echo the wave sounds and the floor appears to become liquid. The image is clearer on late afternoons and sunny days.'