Thanks to an email that I received from my field tutor I have been volunteering for the Welsh National Opera in an invigilating role of the Field installation located outside the Millenium Center:
My role has been to make sure that the public understands the reasons for the installation, and are able to appropriately interact with it.
This opportunity has really benefited me as I have considered taking the Taff trail project further, being able to confidently chat with the public and hopefully get information and ideas across to the, and the need for awareness. Now that this project has been there a week it is being respected but this was not the case on the first night when it was damaged.
My initial understanding of this project was that we would be looking at how to create playfully and to achieve the best creative possibilities. Throughout the module I realized that we were being equipped with tools and methods that would be extremely useful to take forward into my own practice.
The brief was called Wellbeing and called for a piece of work that related to the title. The parameters were open but we must be able to present the work at the end of the 5 weeks. I was unsure where to begin looking for this project and it took a few weeks for me to have any ideas at all, but I feel that this was because I was not allowing my brain to relax. The project showed me that sometimes it is important to take a step back and not to force an idea.
Through this process, as well as a mind mapping exercise I began to think about what I associated with playfulness. I thought about childhood and the books that I personally found inspired me, and that I still find important to my life. These books formed the foundations for my Idea.
Next I lino printed and potato printed images from these stories and thought about how I might relate them to wellbeing. It was here that I began to associate the images with negative and positive thoughts, and I was curious to see how others might respond when asked to focus on negative and then positive emotions.
I felt that I could create an exercise that people could do that would help them to analyse their current mental well being, but in a very simplified format.
First I would ask people to write a positive thought, feeling or experience onto a card. Then destroy the card “in any way they felt comfortable”. Secondly I would ask them to write a positive feeling, thought or experience onto a second card. Then asking where they might keep this, and if possible document them keeping hold of the card.
The video I therefore produced documented this exercise. I personally found this quite an emotional and exhausting process, but also stimulating. I was forced to face my nervousness when talking to strangers, having to approach people and try and explain what I was asking in a clear manner. Although I was also asking people to explore parts of themselves that they may not focus on normally.
The experience has been fantastic, I feel as though I now know where I can improve on my creative process and incorporate some of these exercises into my ideas process in the future. The most important thing I have learned has been to play with ideas and test it so that I can fully understand its potential.
I did not fully understand what this project was going to be when I started, although I am so happy that I was able to be a part of it. I have truly enjoyed the project and the style of working. As well as helping to see how I might be able to utilise my creative skills in the future, and after university.
The brief was to design and plan a piece of work for a particular site. I had an idea of creating a space that could be used by a community but was not sure where or how this might manifest itself.
By coincidence I began to cycle sections of the Taff Trail and around Cardiff, I quickly noticed that the cycle trail was damaged in areas and did not lend itself well to being utilised by local communities. I therefore choose this as my site and began to plan a piece that would unite the length of the Taff trail, bring communities into the creation and development of the pieces, and hopefully highlight some maintenance issues along the trail.
The sketches above show the final design of the spaces along the trail. Separated by 2.5miles of cycle path, there could be 12 spaces in total, all with a central sculpture that represents the area that it is near. The development of the work was massively helped by the lectures that were available, they helped to see other projects, and how other artists approached the task of making work for the public realm. As well as the Site workshop that helped me to understand and experience ways of exploring and responding to an unfamiliar space. Also the Emprojects lecture was extremely inspiring as it showed me that opportunities are available to artists which are worth exploring to find.
The process has been unfamiliar to me, having to do extensive research into materials, spaces and the design process. I am more familiar with a trial and error, although I am definitely keen to work more like this in the future. I found myself getting very excited and the thought of creating something for a community, especially as the potential for the piece to place a significant role in the development of the Taff trail felt very exciting to me. I do not think that I will attempt to look into utilising this design brief at the moment, but feel it is an idea that I would revisit, especially if there was a call for something like this by Sustrans or the local councils. The whole experience has really stepped me outside of my comfort zone, but through this I have stumbled upon a style of working that I have really enjoyed.
The future of these two projects is something worth exploring, I believe that both have good foundations that can be worked on. It had been my hope that I would be able to produce work throughout the year to develop and improve the collection of work for the field projects. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible due to unforseen circumstances, but the two projects has made me reconsider my methods of practice and has influenced the work that I have done since these projects. I have found these projects very inspiring; I have learned a new way of creating my work that explores a more playful method, as well as the technical research that I needed to do in order to create the successful design brief for the Taff Trail.
Firstly for the Taff Trail project I do hope that I might be able to present this to local councils or sustrans who might consider this design a positive investment to bring more people to the Taff river and appreciating what it has to offer. There was a BBC documentary that followed the Taff from its source all the way to the bay and explored its history, similar to what I attempted to do with my project. Within this documentary the Living Taff Project was brought to my attention, and I have now signed up to their newsletters. In my opinion there are two parts of this project that needs futher exploration; these are the community aspect of the project and the budget. It was my intention to gain infomation form the communities along the Taff in order to select the sculptures that will be inside the domes, as well as locating schools that might begin the organisation of collecting for time capsules. The budget also needs work as it is mostly based on the materials used and I think needs to re-done so as to consider a third party production team for the domes. As I have no expereice of working with the materials or working to this scale I do not believe I would be able to create the domes individually, this also affected my feedback as the modules I made where not satisfactory for the presentation. I was aware of this at the time and so knew that this would need to be improved upon if this project was fortunate enough to be taken further.
Alternatively, the wellbeing project has given me valuable tools to improve my own practice. I think that the ideas that I began to form for this project could play an important role in future work. I have had ideas about making a performance piece based on the wellbeing project as well as now having a better appreciation for the multitude of interpretations for suggested symbolism. One comment that has stayed with me since recording the video was from one of the participants who said that the symbols and their meanings was reversed for the individual. Therefore any work made in responce to the initial video will take this into account and so will be more relaxed in its attempts to attach a reason for the inclusion of a particular symbol, instead allowing the viewer to make their own personal interpretaion.
The feedback that I recived from these projects was so positive that I felt that I had been successful in creating work for the projects. I felt that my research skills improved as well as my ability to put forward a consise description of my ideas, and my method of creating work will be improved from these projects. It is also my belief that I was able to be succesful in these projects because the themes were extremely exciting to me, and so I was able to work passionatly towards them.
I have produced small tests for my project, although have struggled to make them all to scale. Maybe if I was to repeat this process I might consider 3D printing the small sculptures as molding them from clay meant that I did not stick to my size boundaries. I believe 3D printing would have been a quicker and more efficient way of creating the models.
The dome maquette that I made was not mixed correctly and so hasn’t get the smooth surface that I expected. For A first time working with these materials I am happy that I was able to create something, but I definitely need to practice this if I want to use it in the future.
These are the final design drawings that I have produced for this project. With curved benches and information board I hope that a space like this can draw people together to enjoy the wealth of local history, as well as the vast amount of nature that can be enjoyed.
As part of the field project we were given the opportunity to learn about working in a space and how to explore an area. Working in North street lane we first explored the space and tried to come up with an activity that we could do within that space.
My group and I attempted to document the lane using a list, acting as forensics we marked and noted everything we could see without moving things around the area. Although the other groups were working at the same time and so it was fun trying to work around each other.
While working we could not verbally communicate, for my group this was not such an issue as it was simply a case of pointing towards an object and marking it for the scribe. The list could potentially be used to aid projects or create a piece in itself.
This workshop was very useful to me as I new feel like a can go forward and understand how to document the Taff trail, which will hopefully lead to a more informed idea.
The 30 miles between Cardiff Bay and Merthyr Tydfil hold a wealth of historical treasures; from centuries old monuments to its transition from farming communities to being a part of massive industrialisation. The Taff Trail is a wonderful way of linking communities together and giving a healthy way to get to capital.
With the growth of the large Iron works and collieries in the area came a demand for transport routes, but with the complicated landscape the best way to build these routes was to follow the natural undulations of the Welsh Valleys. A requiring theme that I found while reading about the towns and villages along the Taff Trail was that they all seem to have thrived from the building of the Glamorganshire Canal and then later the Railways. The Canal was a twenty five mile canal that is now mostly buried underneath the A470, but between 1794 and 1951 the Canal was important in the transportation of goods from the iron works (eg: Dowlais, Plymouth, Cyfarthfa and Penydarren) to the Bay. From what I can tell, there seems to have been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the finances of the canal during its creation and usage, and was used less and less when the railways were built (Brecon & Merthyr Tydfil Railway, Vale Neath Railway, Taff Vale Railway and Great western railway). The development of these tram roads and railways was partly possible because of Richard Trevithick’s testing one of the first steam locomotives at Penydarren, which then travelled along the Merthyr tramroad (now part of the Pontygwaith nature reserve) as its maiden journey.
Pontypridd also utilised the industrialisation of this area to its advantage, with its development as a transportation hub during the 19th Century. With one of the longest platforms of stations at the time it played an important part in transferring of materials across England and Wales, with links further through the docks at Cardiff bay. Ponty was also where the Welsh national anthem, “Hen wiad fy nhadau” (Land of our fathers) was composed, making this a place of important national history.
Unfortunately, with such a huge amount of industrialisation during a time where there was not a massive amount of safety regulations this area was not unfamiliar to tragedy, including the Aberfan disaster and explosions at the Albion Colliery. With so many families looking to these mines and factories for work it is understandable that whole communities were affected by the events. I believe that it would be important to include a memorial to these unfortunate events within my piece, as it important to remember these tragedies so they can be avoided in the future.
Before this the area was mostly farming communities, but certain areas still had a considerable amount of wealth. Including Llandaff that had been set up as an important religious area from the 6th Century, and the cathedral that is situated in Llandaff shows how the communities still see the area as having religious significance. It is often referred to as a city, an unofficially title, simply because of its seat for the Bishop of Llandaff. With the cathedral positioned close to the trail it joins the castles that are also part of the history of the area.