The final exercise in the Site Writing Module I undertook in 2020 with Dr. Polly Gould, Dr David Roberts and Dr. Jane Rendell called for an ‘Artist Book’ to accompany by a body of text to support the work.
This was my first public creative piece of design research and arts-practice orientated work. For this exercise I combined the writing exercise with the animations to produce a curated web installation that aimed to frame the ‘demographic dilemma’ /the ‘what-what’ that had been present throughout the module.
The web page lands on the 4 animations produced in the earlier iteration as the reflective writing/drawings (along with court documents) move on a continuous loop in the background. As one scrolls down the page the text moves between a descriptive narrative of the events that took place in the project.
These are contrasted with a different voice that speaks to my personal experience of this work across my practice. As the conversation continues, it turns back to the work and incorporates the website into the discussion – breaking a digital 4th Wall.
The footnotes supplement the narrative, and offer a mixture of anecdotal historical information in conjunction with insight into the writing’s intent and aim. These are intended to speak to specific audiences.
The writing style and structure borrows liberally from a tradition of South African authors who have merged anecdotal reflection, historical critique with elements of satire or intimate positioning of their story within that of South Africa.
Situating the Research
The work began as a way to re-enter the site of Marlboro South, due to both the physical and emotional distances that have been created between myself and Johannesburg. The early investigations began through an evaluation of my own practice-photo-archive and visited the images that I covered this period of my involvement.
I struggled with the positional aspects of ‘extracting’ from this context tied to the above-mentioned personal challenges in my own relationship to this work, the people involved and my recent move to the UK. This positional paralysis felt crippling and had me trapped in cyclic patterns of reflection, guilt, anger and shame. At a particular low point in this pattern, with the guidance of my supervisors, I pushed ‘to make’ in an effort to break from the ethical rut.
This began with simple tracings, creative writings, role-playing that initiated the first re-visitations. I then began working through physical prints and used illustration alongside handwriting as a means of re-telling the stories of my time on-site. As I wrote, traced, and re-drew the events of that time; the emotions of those moments were made almost tangible while other actions and events made sense with my more updated understanding of South Africa’s socio-spatial landscape.
These exercises were highly cathartic, and almost meditative as I worked freely and intuitively through the tacit act of writing on the site of my practice photo-archive. This form of writing, drawing and working through not only reflection, but towards a larger practice actions and future potentialities is drawn from scholarly work on creative practice as a disciplinary field.
During an iteration of this process that focused specifically on the images that captured aspects of materiality and individuals through digital illustration software that employed a layering structure, I noticed how the drawings created a very simplistic stop-frame. I leaned into this animative aspect of quick simple linework that facilitated a rapid form and intent with slower, more intentional layering and curating of the image. This rhythm of reflection and making resonated with my own natural pace of work and opened a line of experimental inquiry into animation as both a form of reflection-on-practice as well as analysis.
I re-visited my practice photo archive and searched for more accidental stop frame sequences that engaged people, material and action. From these I developed the final series of explorations that captured these sequences. The challenge lay in the limited resource to deeply draw from.
Questions of audience have guided much of the creative process and been at the core of my internal concerns of my Johannesburg/London work geographies. For this reason, I moved away from producing a simple video or interactive pdf and towards a website as the base from which to curate the work. The positioning of the content online felt more appropriate as this allows for a multi-locational access while allowing me to curate the work for a targeted audience of this, the final artefact in this series. The text structure of digital exhibition site borrows liberally from a tradition of South African authors who have merged anecdotal reflection, historical critique with elements of satire or intimate positioning of their story within that of South Africa. The Footnote and Endnote functions were carefully designed to convey both an academic rigor of referencing and linking the concepts and authors to existing cannons of knowledge while speaking to a dual audience of South African and United Kingdom based spatial design practitioners and researchers.
Due to both the spatial and temporal limits of access to my chosen site for the first full online iteration of the Site-Writing module, I used my own practice-photo archive to re-engage the context. As a result, I found myself working closely with these images and through iterative and repetitive actions of both drawing and writing through a blend of digital and physical formats, I re-visited and worked through the site of Marlboro South , 2021. These deeply situated and reflexive explorations through the images of the practice photo-archive eventually led me to new readings of my experience and a form of reflective animation that was both analytical as well as symbolic of other gestures of action in regard to material actions