Author Archives: gmcdonald

Systems Aesthetics: An Artist Is Not A Isolated System


For my conference project, I decided to do a sculpture based on the artist Hans Haacke and my understanding of systems. Hans Haake was the main inspiration for my conference project however I also took from the ideas of sculpture from Damien Hirst, linking to his use of large glass vitrines and his exploration of air and its relationship with movement. The simplicity of these works stood out to me and became the basis for the formation of my conference project mixed with the classes evolution of our understanding of systems. Looking at Hirst’s “What Goes Up Must Come Down” 1994, “Mental Escapology” 2012, “I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now” 1991 and Hans Haacke’s “Blue Sail” 1964 – 1965, and “Condensation Cube” 1965 (2006) (2013), I created my “An artist is not an isolated system”. Taking from their simplicity in materials, in display and focus; this work stands in between Hirst and Haacke.

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I had this work envisioned in my mind, however as I was testing it out and constructing it, it did not go exactly as planned. I found that some of the fans I had purchased and tested out were not strong enough so therefore did not make the ping pong balls jump around the case like I had envisioned. I wanted constant active movement in my work and the air was to be the instigator of this. A minimalist structure would be the base for this however as I began experimenting the idea – the work began to evolve itself, shifting the system I had planned and the outcome I had proposed.


Researching Hans Haacke for my conference I found a variety of interesting statements from him revolving around systems, art and the museum space which became another level to the transformation of my ideas and the evolution of the work;

“The artist’s business requires an involvement in practically everything… The total scope of information he receives day after day is of concern.”

“When works of art are presented like rare butterflies on the walls, they’re decontextualized. We admire their beauty, and I have nothing against that, per se. but there is more to art than that”

“Museums are not normally presenting the works on the walls as provocations to work. It’s more like going to a Jacuzzi”

“An artist is not an isolated system. In order to survive he has to interact continuously with the world around him… Theoretically there are no limits to his involvement.”

When speaking about his piece, “Mental Escapology”, Damien Hirst states “My idea of a perfect art piece would be a perfect sphere in the centre of a room. You would come in and walk around it; it would just be there, floating without strings or wires”. I am reflecting on this in my piece – playing with simple visual trickery.

Throughout the semester, I think we had been constantly searching for immense action and change in each of the systems we studied and created and instead (with my work) the power sits in the cleanliness and subtly of the changes that occur within. Playing with the presumption that something drastic may occur at some stage also becomes a part of the system, manipulating the viewers expectancy when interacting with the work.

I think the use of the text and the Hans Haacke quote adds another layer of meaning and significance. The power of the work does not lie in the constant and large movement of the ping pong balls jumping around the cube like I had planned for the piece, but instead is the combination of the text, the slight movements of the balls and the sound of the fan. I envision the work in a large white room, standing solitary in the middle of a sterile room in which the sound of the fan fills up the space and only movement is seen when being with the piece for an extended period for of time. Movement of the audience also becomes essential to the piece in order for the viewer to read the text around the cube, however this system does not need an audience nor cares for it to continuously evolve. The text can also be read differently from person to person as it can be read as a wrap around or focusing on each side of the cube – how the viewer reads this all changes everyone’s experience and perception of the work. Its self evolution may be slight but now I prefer that to my original intention of having the balls jump all around the perspex box. Preferably I would have the fan be the same size as the cube therefore it is cleaner and tighter visually, however I do not this this effects the power and/or message of the work overall. By just using white ping pong and black texts this minimises the possibility of distractions and instead the eye becomes more focused on the subtlety of the movement and the meaning of the text.


If I were to redo and reshape the piece, I would work with perhaps different materials such as feathers, cellophane – lighter materials that would move easily with the power of the fan. I would also consider working with a smaller cube and perhaps making 2 or 3 with different materials. Overall I am pleased with how my piece turned out. I think at the beginning of the semester I would have never done anything like this. The title “An artist is not an isolated system” is essential. The artist is never static, everything can be an inspiration and a starting point in which a system can be found and evolve from that point on.

Systems Aesthetics: System 3

the-scream 687px-Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouchedCreación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel) Name these 3 paintings. Watch my system. Now name them again. For system 3, I decided to glitch three famous artworks. These artworks can be recognised worldwide and by all no matter ones prior art history knowledge. Whether one knows the title, or just the artists name, or even just that these works are significant in someway, they are known and recognisable. By deciding to glitch these famous paintings, I am reverting how they are usually seen and am stripping them of the characteristics that made them famous in the first place. The glitching process causes the colours to be the most important feature of the works rather than the symbols, signs, meaning and the figures involved. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.08.05 pm  Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.08.11 pm This system also becomes a commentary on the traditional view of painting and of the sacredness of the artists hand as well as appropriation. All of these three works are held in the most important art or religious institutions on the world, they have no numerical value instead their importance and value lies in the historical significance of the works but also with the artist. Placing such traditional paintings in a technological setting also is a commentary on what art is can be considered to be today and how the role of painting in the 21st century has shifted dramatically, although these works still hold great power. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.08.25 pm Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.08.18 pm I think out of all the systems I have created this semester, this one ticks most of the boxes for the classes definition of a system and the characteristics it has to have. I think this system “uses simple rules to produce complex results” as when learning this system in class, I had no idea that the code would cause those results. My system 3 is also self evolving (our two favourite words) and it can exist independent of the observer. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.08.37 pm Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.08.43 pm Creating this system was often based on chance. Changing the numbers whilst creating each individual system on processing I was able to manipulate the result; how fast the original work disappeared to be unrecognisable, how long the colours would move for, which direction the work would flow off the screen etc. I just chose random numbers to begin with before understanding the function of each and how it effected the result. When working with processing, this was the system that I most enjoyed learning in class so I thought that doing a glitch for my last system made sense. Over the course of the semester I have enjoyed creating both digital and hand made systems. I found the digital systems easier in their relationship to what our class defined as a system, however they were much more difficult to create in terms of the processing program as I had never tried anything like it before. Overall I think my coding skills have improved (well they didn’t exist prior) but by succeeding in this, I have surprised myself.

Systems Aesthetics: An Early System

IMG_9315 As our readings have progressed as has the class’ understanding of systems, and what attributes they need in order to be classified as a ‘System’. My first system had the characteristics of an extremely simple system however was missing extra attributes to fall into what the class classifies a system now. My first system was a system based on colours and paper, created after we watched Ron Resch’s paper and stick film. Using different coloured dyes I dipped different types of paper into these in which many different colour patters would occur .IMG_8462 copy Presenting this system in class I understood that my system was static and needed to go a step further in order to become a fully functioning system. After creating this system and understanding the reaction from the class, I decided to create another analogue system for system 2 in which I would be similarly playing with the ideas of chance. The idea of chance was fundamental to many Dada artists in which they created many (what we would call now) systems based on the logics of chance. After speaking about Marcel Duchamp and other revolutionary Dadaist’s in class and experimenting with creating an analogue system from the things that we found in our pockets, I decided to take this idea further. Jean-Arp.-Collage-with-Squares-279x395 Based on the chance paintings of Jean Arp, in which he aimed to remove the hand of the artist, he would let square pieces of paper fall onto a larger piece and then stick these on, image above. I decided to replicate this system with items from peoples pockets. After these items would be dropped onto the paper I would then, or the person who dropped them, trace around the objects, creating interesting shapes on the paper, all based on the laws of chance. As the system evolved it became interesting to analyse the shapes they made once the things that had been dropped were removed. There were two different aspects of chance in play with this system as the first was how the objects dropped onto the paper and the second being I did not know when walking into a space who was going to be there, so therefore unaware of who was going to be participating in the system. I enjoyed working with this system and also the aesthetics of what was left on the paper after the objects were removed, however this system could not function without my input or another persons, we were the instigators and it couldn’t continue without continuous  human intervention. IMG_9317   IMG_9312 Therefore my system was not self-evolving, a characteristic of systems which I have been struggling putting into action throughout the course of the semester. I understand this aspect however how to put this into action has been difficult so that is something I really need to focus on to achieve in both System 3 and my conference project. I think looking at the artist Hans Haacke will really help in order to achieve this as I think I will be sticking to analogue systems. The simplicity yet power of his systems and artworks is something I would really like to replicate whether that means playing with water or wind and also playing with the ideas of chance as I did with Systems 1 and 2. IMG_9314     IMG_9316

Blackspace : The Night Sky

17760607_10211930084185620_1623211113_n   17760510_10211930083945614_719956823_n Gazing at the stars is an extremely personal and natural experience that many encounter, when we were children the lullaby, twinkle twinkle little star was sung to us. It represents a simplicity and purity, the removal of outside influences, in which one abandons all thoughts and becomes fully encompassed by this magic. Deciding to code something so natural and pure strips it of these qualities that make it so attractive in the first place, becoming a commentary on how technology is now taking over humanities ability to access the rawness of nature and in life. Through the self evolving nature of this system, the originally star looking dots spread into one another and enlarge, morphing into floating bubbles, what we perceived earlier has been abandoned, forcing us to question what we are seeing and what it is evolving and its significane. Through the constant growth, development and expansion of technology today, the authenticity of the natural is minimized and instead we are replacing these experiences with the artificial, this is epitomized in my blackspace instillation. Also by projecting it on the roof, we are forced to lay and look up, a move that we also must do outdoors when gazing at the stars and the moon, however by projecting these on the roof of Heimbold that is largely pipes, the sterile atmosphere of the building is emphasized in what is supposedly the most ‘creative’ space on campus. Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 12.30.31 pmScreen Shot 2017-04-04 at 12.30.39 pm Overall, I am quite pleased with how my Blackspace installation went. I found it very interesting watching others and how each person in the class interpreted the assignment very differently from one another. This was my first time coding something for this class alone and although it was challenging at times, I persevered and stuck with it. I had to be very patient as I often found that when I thought I had the hang of it, issues in processing would occur, and therefore I was unable to run the code. I think if I were to change and alter my code I would do more to make it change over time and I would also like to use perhaps more than one projector so it takes up more space on the roof, effecting its overall impact. I think if I were to make take this simple code and then project in on all walls and surfaces of the room, roof, walls and floor, it would be extremely powerful, overwhelming and encompassing. The audience reacted well to the instillation, however I think the most effective part of it was the beginning in which it looks closer to the night sky therefore I would keep this in mind if I were to make further adjustments. I think these changes would cause the project to fall more directly into the category of a ‘system’ as it would make greater changes over time and would become self – evolving (more than it already is). 17793175_10211930084065617_2065118028_n     17793348_10211930084385625_1233842294_n  

Conference Project Post #1: Do You Control Space?

For our (Grace and Mathilde) conference project, we want to make a sticker story, explaining what Remix The City is, and the notions of space. The notions of space as in how we interact with it and how it impacts our daily life even if we don’t always realize it. We want to focus on the subtleties of how space impacts our responses to society and our creativity. Our sticker story will wrap the main aspects and notions we have studied and realized in class. Our goal is to mess with people’s subconscious and force them to question all these subtleties that they dismiss because society, whether we realize it or not, forces us to dismiss them. We want to follow the style of the situationists in the sense that they create things that might seem like complete non-sense at first sight, but have a very in-depth and complex underlying meaning. Our sticker story will be installed around the first (main) floor of Heimbold, around the base of the walls. We want to make it not too big, but still demanding attention, so people are forced to pay attention to it, without it screaming at them either. As people follow our story, they will at certain points have the option to go one way or the other, and determine their own ending to the story. Our story revolves around what we have to say about space, but also a main contributor to the overall meaning of the work is how our audience perceives it and interacts with it. In that sense, our project is quite playable, but we are shaping how it is “played” with.

Comment: Formulary for a New Urbanism

Today our culture and society is built around similarity and familiarity. We know what to expect everyday, what we are going to do, and who and what we are going to hear and see. Most of a daily activities are predetermined and planned out, without consciousness and we have become oblivious. Our days are busy and as a society we struggle to stop and take in our surroundings and the natural beauties of the world. Therefore, my formula for a ‘new urbanism’ aims to bring peoples attention to these natural beauties. I want to create a society in which everyone knows where the closest beach and natural area is to their main city and location. I believe it is important that everyone has a space where they can relax and be free. A calming environment without being surrounded by capitalism. A space where one is able to abandon everything and be in the moment and clear their minds. Growing up in Sydney I was always in an extremely close radius to different beaches and I would spend much time there throughout the winter and summer. Ivan Chtcheglov states in his “Formulary for a New Urbanism” that, “Darkness and obscurity are banished by artificial lighting, and the seasons by air conditioning”. Our world has become one of artificiality, we are constantly surrounded by an un-genuine man-made world forcing us to consume. People should have freedom to make up their own minds and be separate and be one with nature. Instead of creating man-made natural areas, which occurs a lot in today’s society, I want people to be aware of the beautiful natural areas that are so close to them that so many populations have no idea about. To be able to separate themselves and take time to contemplate their position within humanity. To realize what is important and understand the capitalism and manipulation, we as a population are witness to everyday.

Questions of Space

  • Is space tangible?
  • Is space intangible?
  • Does space have monetary value?
  • Who determines if a space is public or private?
  • Where is ‘your’ space?
  • What makes it ‘your’ space?
  • Who calls is ‘your’ space?
  • Who determines whose space is whose?
  • Do we as a society create space or it is something greater than us?
  • Who determines how a certain space will be used?
  • How much control does one have in a public space verses in a private space?

Space HiJack: “Disco Cube”

For my box, I wanted to do something fun and interactive, that would make people smile. When we first got given the project I planned to do something with packaging, e.g. fragile stickers, heavy stickers and bubble wrap, however I didn’t think that doing something like that would link to the “playable city” so I decided to create something more interactive, that would give Heimbold a bit more life and entertaining and enjoyable. Heimbold, even though it is meant to be the most creative and stimulating building on campus, as we have spoken about in class, is an extremely hostile and sterile environment, I aimed that my box would shift and change this, giving it a bit more life. I have always loved Disco balls, and how the light reflects off them and how it distorts your reflection thus I decided to create a “disco cube” and have it hanging in Heimbold near the door. I knew I didn’t want to convey a powerful and serious message with it, so just something that was visually appealing and interactive was the way to go. The actual creation part didn’t take that long, I purchased numerous mosaic mirror tiles from amazon and off I went. I am pretty happy with how it turned out however if I had more time I would have planned more carefully the placement of the tiles as some were uneven and there were areas of the box showing and also make it lighter as I was unable to hang it. As I couldn’t hang it anywhere, I placed the box on one of the tables near the café as well as on the third step as you go up to the 3rd level. I watched people interact and it was quite similar to what I expected. Most people stared at it and then just kept walking however some bent down to its level and viewed their distorted reflection in the mirrors. When I placed the box in Heimbold I watched people interact and react to the box and took photos, however my phone recently died so will have to do new documentation and then I will post photos from my new discoveries.