road-tripping the end of the world

Art

bookbinding – end papers and casing in (the once and future king)

The book is finished being “bound” and all ready to be “decorated”. I attached the end-papers today and “cased in”, ie; mounted the block in the case. It looks pretty good. Here’s some shots along the way.

After much debate I chose this cream, black and blue art-deco-ish endpaper, here’s the paper before trimming along with my template:

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Endpapers trimmed folded:

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I used the method from the aforementioned videos http://youtube.com/#/watch?v=glbe_fDpCiU for gluing the papers, essentially by overlapping them a little less than a centimeter, and placing a sheet of paper as a mask to glue off of. A roller would be preferable, but I don’t have one, so I’m using little foam painting “brushes”, the cheap disposable kind.

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The book block, ready to take the end paper, and the endpaper attached:

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Once positioned I used a bonefolder to smooth out the attachment edge. This is a messy book block so it was a bit scruffy, I had to re-trim the endpapers after the fact.

The book block, positioned and ready for gluing – I placed a sheet of parchment paper undernead the end-paper to both avoid getting glue on the book block while gluing:

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I glued beneath the mull and binding tape first, and then over top of both, before securing the end-paper in place on the case.

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A clean sheet of parchment/grease proof paper was placed between the case and the loose leaf of end-paper, to avoid any transfer of moisture from the glue as it dried. Then, while not necessary, I decided to place the book for a time – again, protected with parchment – under some heavy books, since my book block is pretty wonky:

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And an hour later, all finished and ready for me to make a mess of the cover:

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I’ve found the cover is easily marked, likely because of the type of leather I used (which isn’t the ‘right’ leather), but as the book is meant to be worn and look aged and possibly bloodstained or possibly dirty or it’s really hard to tell what happened to it … I think it’ll work well. The next step is stamping in the title and “decorating” it for its final role as a prop … well, and the writing that goes inside.

Starting to enjoy this a little too much!

 

 

 

 

 

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collected

The McMaster Museum of Art has generously purchased two of my works from The Jacket Series above (I have donated the third), and I am supremely honoured and very flattered to now be represented in their permanent collection. The collection at the McMaster Museum of Art is extensive and uniquely diverse; their collections of German expressionist works is almost unparalleled, coupled with an equally impressive archive of impressionist and post-impressionist work, not to mention their contemporary acquisitions, both Canadian and international.

I felt spoiled and privileged to study undergraduate art at a school with such a tremendous resource available to art students, and have always been impressed by the museum’s persistent presence and vision in both the University community, that of Hamilton, and the art community of Canada as a whole.  It’s a huge personal honour to have been “collected” by them. And a personal thanks to Carol, Julie and Ihor and everyone else at the Museum that made this possible and helped the process along!


planning focus points and readability tests

This will be pretty dry and technical but some of my former students found this useful and perhaps someone else will as well!

The composite method I use for piecing together large-format prints with a high degree of detail relies heavily on planning out what parts of the ‘scene’ will be in focus and where the crucial areas of interest lie. This is also a distinguishing factor and plays into the conceptual creation of the image, and why a single frame (for instance, from a large format 8×10 film camera) won’t achieve the same effect – fundamental to the ‘readability’ of these images themselves is the rather neurotic control of depth of field and focus across the composite frame. This allows for a ‘flexible’ depth of field that can be essentially deformed across the image, allowing the simultaneous sharp focus of several elements at once that wouldn’t normally be possible with a single-frame image.

The second work I’ve planned for The Once and Future King is tentatively titled “The Impact”, and it’s just easier to copy and paste the narrative description from the proposal here to give a sense of the final product:

The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)

On a dark rural road in Ontario, the wine-red Jeep of one Randall Carter is found abandoned, door open, several large stacks of books balanced on the seats. Carefully folded on top of the books was found a military uniform, embroidered with Carter’s name and a series of unidentified insignia. The Jeep was discovered by Carter’s boyfriend, Charles D. Ward, after Carter’s protracted absence prompted Ward to retrace the route to Carter’s residence. Ward claims he found the Jeep by following the sound of music on the radio. The combined weight of the books was found to be 167 lbs, which coincidentally was approximately Carter’s own weight prior to his disappearance.

Instrumental to the work will be the ability to “read” a lot of the details of the “stuff” piled into the Jeep – literally read the book titles, but then also a lot of the signifiers and symbols present in the rest of the ephemera spread throughout.  So the first function of this test shoot is to map out the focus points / depth of field across the scene, and make sure that everything that needs to be in focus, is in focus. The second function is to test the viewing angle with respect to the composite – rudimentary at this point cuz my tripod head sucks – but because we need to be able to see “inside” the Jeep the angle of the shots, and the Jeep with respect to the camera, is somewhat crucial and does complicate the composite somewhat.

Last, the test generally brings to light unanticipated problems with the shooting/composite process, and gives me a sense of “what I have to work with” – just how much detail I get straight out of the camera under uncontrolled conditions without any post-processing. As such these images haven’t been touched and a few look a little dark or desaturated for a few reasons I didn’t anticipate. Learning!

Anyway, some fairly large images and such follow, so click below to read the rest.

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finally part 2 (my new D800E)

After a couple years of waiting and planning, I’ve finally acquired my new camera: a beautiful, very definitely intimidating Nikon D800E. Google will tell you about the differences between the D800 and the D800E, likely accompanied by all manner of delightfully dramatized arguments shifting to one or the other or neither … the fact is the work I do is probably perfectly suited to a camera with this degree of optical resolution, and I’m excited!

I’ll be posting the results of some “readability tests” for some preliminary planning for The Once and Future King soon, but meanwhile, and much more interesting, the first dozen shots directly out of the camera, no processing, no nothing – the dogs of course (btw, this is also with my new 50mm 1.8 G lens):

 


the once and future king: prologue

The exhibition proposals are finally going out for this body of work. I seem to function at a snail’s pace these days in developing work, but it actually feels like all the pre-production conceptual crap is up to snuff and I know what I’m going to do. The first work is all but finished, and can be seen in a previous post: https://mattsparling.com/2011/10/31/new-work-the-dismemberment-of-a-shoggoth-the-once-and-future-king/

This is the current state of the “artist statment” for this initial group of works, to which I’m referring as the “Prologue”:

The Once and Future King (Prologue)

Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as makeshift-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these images – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, the gruesome aftermath of a monstrous invasion of a residential garage, a paradox of a time-travelling book –  the ‘causes’ of these events seem entirely unknowable to us.

Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, the characters stand in the moment, posing, perhaps with pride, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come.  The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these bizarre, random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.

Staged in lost and unknown locations scattered across rural and suburban Southern Ontario, these stories occupy vague landscapes situated in a nether-space disconnected from recognizable geography, constantly familiar, yet existing anywhere, at any time, and nowhere simultaneously.

I’m starting some of the preliminary technical work (ie; camera angles, feasibility tests, set construction) for a work called “The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)”, although the repetition of “prologue” there bothers me and there’s a third title to a group of works called “The Ballad of Randall Carter” … and then another grouping simply called “Reunion” …. all grouped under The Once and Future King … I am disorganized.

Anyhow, here’s the narrative fragment that’ll accompany the work and serve as a ‘public’ description, and it explains why soon (well, weather permitting), this blog will be inundated with me taking photos of my Jeep from odd angles filled with books:

The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)

On a dark rural road in Ontario, the wine-red Jeep of one Randall Carter is found abandoned, door open, several large stacks of books balanced on the seats. Carefully folded on top of the books was found a military uniform, embroidered with Carter’s name and a series of unidentified insignia. The Jeep was discovered by Carter’s boyfriend, Charles D. Ward, after Carter’s protracted absence prompted Ward to retrace the route to Carter’s residence. Ward claims he found the Jeep by following the sound of music on the radio. The combined weight of the books was found to be 167 lbs, which coincidentally was approximately Carter’s own weight prior to his disappearance.

 

Abject apologies for the lack of updates here. Also, if my former students of this past semester would like to lend me permission to post some of their work here, drop me an email, you guys were great.


charles latham found!

Some of you might recall my brief article on Charles Latham, and his series Cyrus.

Well – Charles contacted me, and he has a new website! So please check out http://www.sofabeast.com/ and all it’s photographic and design goodness, there’s some fantastic work there.

Thanks again Charles!


new work: the dismemberment of a shoggoth (the once and future king)

The Dismemberment of a Shoggoth (The Once and Future King)

I felt a bit like I was rushing this post, but it being Halloween, it seemed appropriate.

The Dismemberment of a Shoggoth is the first work I’ve executed in a larger series, at present titled The Once and Future King. I would have liked to have had the full artist-statement on the series completed when I posted this image, but it’s still in the works, but meanwhile, here’s a snippet:

Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as working-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While we are privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these events – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, a garage where some monstrous Lovecraftian terror emerged and was summarily dispatched, a paradox of a time-travelling book – the ‘cause’ of these events seems entirely unknowable. The events themselves play across a fictional timeline, punctuated by a system of signifiers drawn from actual reality and historical reference.
Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, characters stand in the moment, posing, proud, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come.  The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these seemingly random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.

Ideally, when complete, the work will be printed around 60″x90″, and funds permitting, on big beautiful lightboxes. I have included some detail shots below to show the level of “readability” present when viewing the work in person, but I’m hesitant to post a full-resolution zoom.it version at present for a variety of reasons.

More props to the Propnomicon for being an essential resource in the creation of various bloods, goo and otherwise disgusting elements for the scene. Also thanks to my buddy Jer who made me a nice tub of gelatinous congealed grossness he whimsically referred to as “thickened water”. And, as always, my brother for posing for me, and my family for tolerating this level of insanity in their own garage.

Happy Halloween everyone!


making a kill room / in progress pt. 2

A weeks worth of messing about in the garage has produced some 30 gigs of component photos to fiddle with, but while that’s actually happening, I thought I’d post some of the in-progress shots I accumulated along the way. The primary function for these is actually to address problems in the composite-process “ahead of time”, plotting the depth of field, framing etc… but as a result they’re a nice little documentation of the whole procedure as it goes along.

The final piece has a fair bit of work left to it, so I don’t want to discuss it much until it’s complete, but I included a preview at the end. Also, there’s zoom.it links along the way if you’d like to see the full-resolution images in all their excessive detail.

Edit: I’ve now written this post six times over. Images keep vanishing or text starts inexplicably moving into the image ‘captions’. This is a bit frustrating, hopefully this will finally work.

http://zoom.it/RkRp

The door has a lot of history (and claw marks), and the sawhorses usually support the soft-top for the jeep; I used three cheap halogen worklamps for lighting (two 500w and one clip-on 250w), and an old trouble light, which worked quite well.

http://zoom.it/kpIx

Cheap lightweight painter’s plastic sheeting – not the heavyduty stuff, so it wasn’t exactly durable (or wind proof), but it was cheap and cheerful. Shockingly, duct tape doesn’t adhere very well to old, dusty wood, but it still functioned well as a liner for the plastic through which I drove many a nail. The arrangement was meant to be haphazard and minimal at best, but still afford for some easy cleanup (which it did, beautifully). This shoot was at night, I shot it all again to check the lighting during the day, and fix some focus issues the night shoot highlighted.

Apparently half the text of this post is now missing. Awesome. Here’s the above scene shot the next day, with day light:

http://zoom.it/7tE5

The light from the window and entrance (behind the camera) provides some nice fill light, and I fixed a few of the focus/framing/depth of field issues that occurred in the night shots. Finally, adding some of the props and objects that would be in the final shoot:

 

http://zoom.it/OLDR

Good clean fun. Here’s a preview of the not-so-clean-fun:

dismembering an eldritch horror

I have to credit The Propnomicon as an invaluable resource on all things fake-blood and goo related. I ended up using a simple recipe of green-coloured detergent mixed with india ink and charcoal powder for the majority of the ‘wet’ goo, the best part was it cleaned up real quick with just the hose and some occasional scrubbing. My buddy Jer provided some thicker, heavier material you can see on the axe head and elsewhere in the piece that he described as “basically thickened water” – I’ll see if I can coax the recipe out of him, but given he works at a specialty lab for custom rubbers and resins, I imagine the ingredients aren’t over-the-counter. It was delightfully thick and gross however.

The whole shebang cleaned up like a proper Dexter-style kill room too, in about ten minutes, and that was just peachy.

Hopefully the final work will be ready in a week or two, right now all the finer adjustments and brain surgery are on the agenda.


in progress

Garage interior, composite test shoot

I’ve dedicated this week to executing a piece I’ve been planning for some time now, and finally things have mostly fallen into place to get it done. It’s part of a larger series of images which I’ll discuss later, but this one is situated inside my garage, so some cleaning and test-shoots have been needed. Above is the third composite test-shoot of the area I’m going to set up the narrative scene in; there’s just over 30 frames making up the final composite. I’ve posted some details below the cut, but if you’d like to explore the image on your own, my friend Jason linked me to zoom.it as a means of posting these large images, so feel free to check out the full-res image via their site at http://zoom.it/tJ4o (couldn’t get it to embed here, any suggestions are most welcome). Again, this isn’t the final work, just a technical test shoot to iron out some problems.

Tentative schedule has the final bloody shoot finished on friday or saturday, hoping a rough cut can be posted early next week. Details below!

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derek liddington – dandy gangs: a working-class love story

The Warhols - Dandy Gangs: A working-class love story

This past week I had the pleasure of serving as still photographer for Derek Liddington’s Dandy Gangs: A working-class love story .  Derek’s statement for the performance:

“The performance Dandy Gangs: a working-class love story looks at possible repetitions founded in dandy, hip hop, punk, rock n’ roll and gang aesthetics. Consistent with my interest in melding popular histories and autobiographical moments I have borrowed locations from hangouts I had as a youth growing up in Mississauga, including Mississauga’s Civic Centre and Kariya Park. At scheduled times knowing and unknowing audiences will watch as two groups of dancers and tenors interact through operatic song and dance choreography based on early Fluxus happenings, scenes from West Side Story and operatic interpretations of early 90’s hip hop music. Viewers will watch as opposing dandy-gangs entangle in scenarios of territorial misunderstanding, conflict, tension and resolution expressed through a Fluxus-dance-rock-opera. Gang members will be presented as caricatures melding fashions and attitudes borrowed from the flâneur, dandy and punk; likening the performers to the cultural phenomenon of flash-mobs.” (http://derekliddington.com/section/245097_Dandy_Gangs_A_Working_Class_Love_Story.html)

The two featured gangs were The Warhols (pictured above) and The Stallones, each with a distinctive uniform and their own gang leaders, all wearing masks of their respective namesakes. The outfits were meticulously constructed, with metal studs outlining the gang names on the backs of the clothing (I can’t imagine what all this cost to have made). Wigs were similarly used to distinguish the gangs, and in the same manner, the gang leaders, who had beautiful leather tail-coats.

The performance occurred in three parts: a chance meeting and confrontation between the two gangs during a picnic in a park, a progression of each gang through Square One mall, and a final, operatic-rock battle in Celebration Square, a giant recreation fountain.

Dandy Gangs - Battle at Celebration Square

Photographing the performance was definitely challenging but thoroughly enjoyable. Too often I’ve seen performance work essentially destroyed by a photographer literally pointing a camera a few feet from the performer’s faces; I used a relatively long lens and aimed to be as inconspicuous as possible, and I think I did pretty well. The resulting images were, in my opinion, extremely successful and I quite enjoyed “reliving” the whole performance as I processed the final photos.

Following the cut below I’ve included some of the ‘highlights’ and a few feature photos showing the principal players and outfits.

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