Dance piece: AMA
After watching the dance, these were the concepts I associated it with:
From these words I visualised how I might represent opposing forces that showed both opposition and harmony in either direction or change in magnitude. The form of a cone resonated with me in its possibility to represent my concept of a force: its pointed tip indicating direction and the conical “flanks”/plane that extended outwards suggesting a convergence/divergence of increasing/decreasing strength of the force. I thought of combining multiple conical structures and stringing them together with another material like wire to further allude to direction.
From here I thought of the materials that might be good for making cones and thought of paper. But by chance I discovered plastic cups in the storeroom which I thought had a conical structure I could experiment with so I started to explore ways of manipulating cups. Thereafter my working process became heavily driven by material qualities of the cup (very much like my first assignment with satay sticks).
I experimented with different ways of cutting up cups and joining them together and found that joining them by the curves formed by their rims gave interesting forms.
Ways of cutting:
Ways of joining:
I tried out my wire-strung cones idea by stringing wires through holes poked through the bases of the cups, varying their curvature and ways they crossed:
Joining cups by their curves resulted in a form that didn’t really fit my intent of using the conical structure of cups in the first place and the visual I had of it, but I was quite keen to use the form for my final because it looked interesting. The form of the joined curves was also somewhat suggestive of the nature of gestures in the dance, so I thought I could proceed with it.
Nonetheless I tried making conical structures with paper as well as I had initially planned to, then thought of combining them with the cups even. Instead of using wires to string the paper cones, I explored using cups to contain the paper cones and “string” them together. I thought the prototype of this fit my concept of opposing/complementing forces quite well and conveyed the dragged/stretched out effect, but I thought it was a bit of a pity to just settle with plain cup-and-paper-cone-stacking when the joined cups created a more interesting visual.
This led me to explore adding paper cones to the joined cup structures and see how they might emphasise the cones of the cups as suggested opposing/complementing forces. I liked that paper both contrasted and complemented the cups quite well in textural quality and colour. However I felt that the addition of paper cones were a bit distracting to the curves that the cups made and concealed parts of them (what I wanted to keep). They also didn’t really add to the cups in a way that it aligned with concepts of the dance.
In the end I decided to have the cups “string themselves together” and have a have a structure based primarily on self-supporting and extending joined cups. Whereas the additional material would play more of a supporting role: tracing the directions in which the water medium is disturbed, and emphasising the dragged out quality of the gestures and forces represented by the cups.
I bought different types of cups of varied material, size, pattern and shape to experiment with, bowls even. I explored different ways of cutting and joining them, orienting them for different angles. I also tried pairing different cups together like the white and transparent one to suggest the idea of opposing forces.
Types of cups:
-Alone, presence not commanding enough VS opaque materials’ ability to suggest form and force/ gesture of dance more strongly
-Tried to combine with other opaque materials (white cups) → liked the relationship between the two suggested: harmonious in joined curves, while contrasting in size, texture and colour (fitting concept of paradoxically opposing and mutually enhancing forces of dance)
-Horizontal lines don’t add value/ contribute to conception of dance
-Somehow doesn’t have same elegance and resonance with dance piece compared to plastic
-Doesn’t have same elegance and resonance with dance piece
-Cutting straight along vertical lines produced neater cuts but curved cuts produced more organic forms/curves
-Vertical line pattern helps to accentuate the form and direction of the conical walls– which for me suggest the manifestation of drag for each gesture (rim curves) within water
Of the different cups, the starred ones created forms that I felt were more visually appealing and more closely fit my conception of the dance.
Choosing between bowls and cups, at some point I found the line patterns of the bowls distracting because they implied direction towards the base of the bowl, instead of following the direction of the curves formed by the rims entirely. I thought having a smooth surface without patterns would draw better focus to the rim curves and be more effective in conveying the dance gestures.
While joining the cups by their rim curves, I found that the structure made could either be standing or hanging depending on how densely I arranged them and the number of joints I made. Between the two, I decided to do a standing sculpture. I felt that the standing arrangement conveyed the idea of paradoxical weight better than a hanging arrangement. The hanging one had a more elegant form and clearer upward flow but the suspension appearance made it feel more entirely lightweight than both weighted and weightless. Whereas in the standing sculpture, there is the contrast between the grounded cups and those that are elevated, such that the elevated ones have the similar quality of appearing both weighted and weightless like the dancer carried afloat by water.
While I had all along visualised and planned for wires to be used to create lines that emphasised the flow of the cups’ motion, when I put the materials together they didn’t look harmonious. There was too much contrast in colour and surface quality. So I explored using paper strips instead since cones didn’t look too bad with the plastic cups when I tried them out before. I discovered that paper gave me the benefit of introducing more interesting lines and a variety of them—by having some width (compared to a wire), the strips allowed twisting, curling and rolling in the elegant lines created between the cups. Although paper was much better than wire in complementing the plastic cups, I wasn’t too sure there was enough contrast because it was white like the cups. I didn’t want to introduce colour either (colour paper) because of the additional associations colour introduced—I also perceived the “colour” of the dance to be white/colourless (elegance/serenity/suspension/water), so using dark colours like black or blue for the literal association with water was out of question.
I considered using transparent materials instead and thought of using plastic tubes or making them myself with rolled transparencies/cling wrap even but they all seemed pretty shabby in appearance. By chance I turned to the materials I already had at hand and cut up the transparent plastic cup I had eliminated for the main form of the sculpture to see what forms I could “recycle” out of it. In my final, I used strips cut from the cup’s bottom section below its rim. These were rigid (could hold itself) but twistable to form some pretty elegant flowy lines, and were conspicuous as well compared to other parts of the cup that were too “transparent”.
Working from my prototypes to the final, I made a conscious effort to try to “declutter” the arrangement of the cups to have more breathing room and spaces within the structure. I also tried to make the snaking motion and direction of flow implied more pronounced. The prototypes were too cluttered and heavy to the extent that the flow and quality of weightlessness was were compromised.
In the final, conical structures are not used to represent forces in the way I had initially conceptualised them to. Instead, the opposing forces manifest in the unique structure of the cups themselves: the lines formed by the rims are the dancers’ gestures and the flanking planes (sort of like water resistance echoes or ripples) are the drag force. Arrangement of the cups are cumulative and slowly build-up to produce a flow that conveys the idea of stretched time and gesture.
A. Line Model
Tetrahedron out of chopsticks, bound by red rubber bands.
B. Planar Model
I was initially obsessed with planning execution. I wanted to systematically plan how many edges, lines and planes to imply/create in order to suggest the form of a tetrahedron in the most interesting way. I studied the tetrahedron structure thoroughly and came up with different permutations of the number of planes required to suggest x number of edges/lines/planes.
When it got down to making the structure though, it was harder than I thought to follow my intended permutation. I found that just experimenting with random cut-outs and not being consciously fixated on doing things a certain way was more productive and created more interesting forms.
My final planar model is therefore one that is more of a result of experimentation than planning/execution of a preconceived idea/vision. My experimentation was however guided by considerations to variations in size, shape and orientation of the planes so as to create dimensional interest while still bearing semblance to the tetrahedron form. The entire process was a tedious one with continuous trial-and-error.
C. Final Model
On the idea of “breaking away”, I considered shifting planes as well as unfolding skeletal structures, but found myself drawn to working with lines of the skeletal structure more. I did not reference any particular artist or style specifically, but the stretching quality of the form in Barbara Hepworth’s “Stringed Figure” did influence the loose visual I wanted for my final model– particularly its use of lines that joined the diverging planes (which I perceived to be “tendons”/ inner strings holding the initial form together).
I wanted to start from the skeletal structure instead of the planar one and began with the idea of having the lines detach from their original joints and slowly unravel. I brainstormed and experimented with the different ways I might be able to do this: one of the ideas was to have the lines come apart such that they slowly detached to form a continuous snaking structure that winded upwards to show the dynamism and upward motion of “breaking away”. However I decided in the end to limit the detaching/disjoining effect to just the three lines that converge at the tip of the tetrahedron, and to retain the triangular shape of the base structure (in the snaking upwards idea the base breaks away as well) for a stronger semblance to the tetrahedron form from that particular side. I experimented with the number of lines out of the three to detach as well such that I had an interesting form that was stable enough to stand alone at the same time– 2 out of 3 / 3 out of 3 detached from the base. The final idea went for 2 out of 3, prioritising the stability concern, and working within that restriction to find the most interesting form it allowed.
For this idea, the visual I had in mind was to have the three sticks lift themselves upwards from the base joints and be tilted at different angles so that from the top and sides they looked sort of like an expanded structure somewhat like a exploding flower. I also wanted to have the additional material be used to join the lines where they detached from their original joints on the base to illustrate the tension and pulling away motion/path that they had taken. For this, I envisioned the material to form curves to create a sort of stretching effect, rather than straight lines which would come across more like supporting rigid structures or extensions part of the structure itself. Materials I considered to form these curves were wires and strings. However, I realised these materials were unable to support the weight of the lifted chopsticks and the only material on my hands that could do this was satay sticks (chosen also because of their complementary colour and similar appearance with the chopsticks that formed the skeletal frame).
With satay sticks however, the structures that I could make/ it alluded to were very linear and straight, in contrast to the stretched curves I wanted. I started to explore the material and see if rigid straight sticks could somehow form curves by bending/breaking them. To my surprise the angles at which they were broken held quite well and as supporting structures they were quite durable and did not snap at the joints I broke them. Yet at the same time there was some degree of flexibility that allowed the sticks to come across as “soft bendable” structures at the joints. I also discovered that the splinters that resulted at the joints I broke them were to my liking and created a “broken” quality that fit the idea of the structure breaking apart. I started to form “curves” with broken satay sticks, joining them together with masking tape in my prototype.
For my final, I had initially planned on putting the sticks together with hot glue gun, but I found that I liked the use of masking tape in the prototypes: the colour of the tape was harmonious with the sticks and the way they joined the sticks together at the joints conveyed this idea of “repair”, resembling the way we bandaged broken bones (once again fitting the “broken” quality I was going for). This material choice eventually led me to use masking tape to create the planes in my final as well. I created planes with masking tape to represent the “debris” and “fragments” left of the tetrahedron as it breaks apart/away. At first my placement of the planes and variation of sizes was completely spontaneous and random. However I realised that planes at certain places, particularly the area where the highest-lifted chopstick extended away, distracted/ compromised the interesting visuals the sticks alone created. Hence I removed these planes and concentrated them mainly at the bottom where the unlifted chopstick was and had them spread out increasingly in the direction that the most lifted chopstick extended (“escalation” / “peak” of breaking away motion). I quite liked the “flexibility” of the planes the tape formed: at different tautness they could be flat or curves of varying curvature. While meant to represent fragments of a larger plane broken, I found that they also felt like planes that were trying to hold the structure that was breaking away together (alluded by the “repair” bandage nature of masking tape itself).
Overall, I used my explorations of materials chosen to try to express the idea of a tetrahedron breaking away in its skeletal structure. In the creation of the final, I think I let materials (qualities and constraints) guide the outcome more, with only a loose concept in mind while working, as opposed to working by selecting materials to fit a well-developed, pre-conceived vision.
My peers gave feedback during the critique that the organic curves in my prototypes were more visually interesting than my final where the curvatures of the sticks were less pronounced and more rigid. On hindsight I agree with them and might consider returning to sticks to further explore creating organic forms out of rigid materials again (or other rigid materials).