LLIF/FLOW: BACK IN THE LAB.

 

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This is how the marble crew from “Llif/Flow” at Pontio Synthesis came to find ourselves reunited in marbles and music in the Lle Celf at Eisteddfod Bodedern 2017.

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Back in the cold dark days of late winter, early 2017, Lindsey Colbourne, Jonathan Malarkey and I were invited to a meeting at Pontio with Manon Awst, curator of the Arddangosfa Arbenig/Special Exhibition for the National Eisteddfod. We were presented with the opportunity of exhibiting the next incarnation of Llif/Flow as part of her Troelli  exhibition in the Lle Celf when the Eisteddfod comes to Anglesey. There was no hesitation on our part: getting the crew back together, exhibiting at the National Eisteddfod, working with Pontio and being part of Manon’s vision of presenting an alternative view of landscape art, it was too good to miss.

“Here’s an opportunity, says Manon Awst, to gather information and present research by local artists and scientists concerning the landscape of Anglesey which includes paintings, sketches, sculptures, films, performances together with maps, geological samples and plants connected to the island. There is no hierarchy to the different aspects either. By promoting art as a interdisciplinary and collaborative research method the aim is to further discussion concerning how we understand the landscape today.”

The challenge was to create a marble run that would be in a gallery space for 10 days, that had to be robust enough for public interaction,  and that investigated the landscape of Anglesey. Parys Mountain was mentioned more than once, so Lindsey, Rhys Trimble and myself took a road trip out there to see what we might find.

Stunning, mind boggling colours and rock formations. An incredible, overwhelming, otherworldly  place but as always, we were looking for the flow. Is it the veins of copper that flow here? Or is it the lava flow that created it? Or is it that red water?  Lindsey began delving into research and soon found the story, beautifully detailed in her blog “The Strange Case of the Afon Goch Goggledd”

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The Marmaladies, Katherine Betteridge and Sioned Eleri Roberts, agreed to join us again, Iolo Price began to make beautiful Parys Marbles for us and, artist and fabricator, Richard Houghton set to work constructing the skeleton of our “Labordy” at The Old Goods Yard Bangor.

Lindsey and I visited beaches along the coast from Mynydd Parys and took plaster and wire casts of the ripple formations there, both tidal and wave formed.

The tower that was our Anglesey Laboratory began to take shape. The restrictions of creating a marble run withing a small self contained space made us work with much more control and precision than our previous free runs, making the collaboration closer than ever. On Saturday. 5th August, Llif Labordy Mon was ready and functioning for the enjoyment of the Eisteddfod audience.

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As people began running marbles,  they followed the journey of water through Mynydd Parys, into the caverns beneath, to collect, marble by marble in the sump, ready for the release of the Afon Goggledd Goch during our performance. Lindsey’s video, “Tirlun Llif” played on the wall behind, describing the patterns and processes of flow and copper collection.

 

On 10th of August, Ocean Scientist Cai Ladd, Rhys Trimble, the Marmaladies, Lindsey and I presented a performance lecture in six parts. Through science, poetry, music, drawing, computer animations and marbles, we considered and explored the Afon Goggledd Goch story, and ultimately, the patterns created by chaotic systems.

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And that’s not the end of the story….

 

 

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LLIF: LABORDY MON is on show in Pontio Bangor, level 2 until January 2018.

Llif/Flow :The Showcase!

Six weeks ago, in the middle of writing my blog describing the triumphant showcase of the Pontio Synthesis project, which was already pretty late, I was stopped in my tracks by the vagaries of life. Hospital, surgery, more hospital, crazy drugs (prescribed)……

It’s all been a bit of a blur. However, I can’t leave it without recording the rest of the Llif/Flow story.

Saturday 2nd July, 2016 – Set Up.

Lindsey Colbourne, Jonathan Malarkey and myself arrived bright and early to begin setting up the runs on the slopes of Pontio. It was time to put our ideas into practice, and the prospect was daunting. In the back of my mind, I was convinced we had been over ambitious. The spaces seemed huge, the materials were huge too, but didn’t look anywhere near enough. Could we really make marbles flow through Y Caban? Lindsey was already in the zone, arranging the slate run like a beautiful river down the bottom slopes, so I forced myself to stop thinking and start doing. The first job was getting marbles to flow through Y Caban.

 

Once we got stuck in, it was wonderful. Everything we wanted to do we managed to construct, and the materials looked fantastic in situ. By the end of Saturday, it was all in place. The marble Laboratory inside the PL2 lecture theatre was all in place, the Vorticarium was working, even the marble dispenser that had caused me so much stress appeared to be functioning perfectly. The outside runs were a worry, so susceptible to vandalism or weather damage, it was like leaving a child out in the woods, but there was nothing else to do but trust it would be fine, and go home.

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THE SHOWCASE. JULY 3rd, 2016.

Sunday the 3rd was a stunning summer day. Unbelievable considering the variety of rain we had been appreciating up to that point.

THE SLOPES.

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There were four marble run routes set up on the slopes outside….and they were all pretty large. One flowed from Y Cegin cafe, zig zagging sharply down the ampitheatre style terraces, along metal offcuts from the Pontio Building’s construction until bouncing and flowing into a delta of slate in the courtyard. Another, a long clear pipe made a looping path beside the stairway until it to became a tributary to the slate below.  The third route also began at Y Cegin, but this travelled to the left, dropping down until reaching a viaduct that took it to Y Caban, into a pipe that wound its way from outside to in, ending at Y Caban’s doorway. The final run picked up at Y Caban and flowing along the tiny gradient from Y Caban to PL2, along first the new materials from the building, and into the slate fencing, such as you may find around the traditional Cabanau.

The first visitors arrived half an hour before the advertised start time, and the slopes came to life as hundreds of visitors of all ages began running marbles, altering runs, fixing gaps and playing in the sun. it was anarchy of the best kind, and it carried on unabated til closing time.

 

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The weather was amazing, and people were relaxing and having fun.

THE LABORATORY

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If the slopes outside were the field study, inside PL2 was the science laboratory itself. It was here where the marble instruments, in both a scientific and musical sense, were recording the flow of the day, and the shape and sound of the flow patterns created by us  participants.

The stagnataphone used stagnation points to create delicate a delicate tinkling.

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The Vorticarium is a sit in vortex, the space within the spiral, making a deep, rhythmic percussion.

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In contrast, the Vorticiser uses the vortex in a freer way, allowing the energy of the participant to create the speed and success of the vortex, building up a frenetic whirring.

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Laminar, trickling flow, dropping and running like city rain in scaffolding was recorded through the K Clampifone.

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On the tables, were two smaller and more delicate laminar instruments..The Laminaphone created straight flow using pipes of different lengths…high pitched and staccato or legato, depending on the angle.

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The Marbleharp uses tension and angle to create short, controlled flow and waves, reverberating softly beneath the turbulence.

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The PL2 lab was also where our more scientific investigations had taken us. There was the ever present fascination of the vortex, which had appeared over and over again in our research phase, which resulted in the vorticarium, and the two table vortices.

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In order to track the favoured route of marbles through obstacles, and thereby find the most successful flow pattern, there was a numbered run, also part of the orchestra, with an accompanying map, charting the route of each marble. The slatescape also had a bell on it that was just too tempting, so the new experiment became an investigation into how to find the most direct route to the bell.

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There was even some real science, in the form of beautiful, graceful video presentations, by Jonathan Malarkey, illustrating the physics behind  the flow.

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THE PERFORMANCE

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Throughout the day, participants running marbles in the marble instruments were creating sounds that flowed through a multitude of wires into the mixing desk, controlled by the sound alchemist, David Hopewell. From there, through yet more wires, the sounds travelled out of the building and into Y Caban. On two occasions through the afternoon, these marble sounds were joined by the violin of Katherine Betteridge, clarinet of Sioned Eleri Roberts, and the voice of poet, Rhys Trimble. Together, they are The Marmaladies,  improvising and collaborating with the ringing, trickling, jangling flow of the marbles . The Marmaladies wound through the crowds, along the runs and through the building, making their own patterns that ran and wound through the event. Rhys Trimble, cutting up Welsh and English, science and poetry, created both stacatto turbulence and low murmuring, interspersed by silky silences. Katherine and Sioned create sounds on their instruments that I have never heard before, weaving twisting, stretching violin sounds through percussive clarinet sometimes deep, sometimes sharp. The whole performance was recorded, creating a sonic imprint of the occasion.

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THE MARBLE CREW

Llif/Flow was in every way, a collaborative work. Starting with Lindsey, Jonathan and myself, we quickly joined up with Rhys, Katherine Sioned and Dave. The day could not have happened with out the technical crews : Iolo, Dic and Iolo from Pontio, who said yes to everything, and made it happen, and Freya, Tom, Heather, and Billy, our assistants on the day, who were everywhere at once, fixing, helping, directing and answering questions.

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Billy, Freya, Heather and Andrea

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David Hopewell

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Freya

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The whole crew.

Photographs by Andrea Thorley, Lindsey Colbourne, Jony Easterby

Confluence and Breaking the Sound Barrier.

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Time seems to be moving very quickly on the Llif/Flow project for Pontio Synthesis.  There was a confluence in the barn on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, when Jonathan Malarkey, Lindsey Colbourne and I were joined by Rhys Trimble, Katherine Betteridge, David Hopewell and, in spirit, Sioned Eleri Roberts. Lindsey had been working on musical runs, and after coffee, cake and discussion of the physics of flow, we moved inside to play. It was both fascinating and a privilege to watch the magic of improvised sound and poetry collaboration happening before our eyes. A sound becomes a note, a beat becomes a rhythm, the marbles and words weave and bounce; sometimes flowing smoothly like the waves in Jonathan’s lab, sometimes bubbling and clattering in chaos like turbulent flow over rocky bed.

 

The afternoon ended with more cake and conversation, as well as a wish list of sound tech to take to our next meeting with Pontio, which was imminent. In fact the following week was intense with marbling. An afternoon spent playing and experimenting on the slopes by Y Caban, Pontio, and a fantastic tech meeting (you really don’t expect to hear “yes” so many times in any one meeting) are both pointing to us being able to do exactly what we wanted to do!!

(photos by Lindsey Colbourne)

At the end of the week, Lindsey, Jonathan and I were invited to the “garden shed” workshop of Iolo Price, a member of Pontio staff, and also a fantastic glass craftsman. He generously showed us the whole magical process of making a handmade marble. The confluence is getting bigger, as Iolo is now working on Pontio marbles for the event.

 

We are definitely moving into the next phase of the project now, away from exploring and experimenting and into the construction and definition process. As I have been working in the studio, I have been thinking about collaboration and how it works. How do you make something that is coherent as a whole, but contains elements of each individual involved? I originally decided that I wanted to work in collaboration rather than making work alone because I found I was having a really hard time finishing work, and was getting lonely and defeatist, but I wasn’t really sure how to collaborate as part of my practice.  I began going on walks with Rhys Trimble, as we were both interested in walking as art, and in the practice of making small interventions in the landscape. We had a couple of great walks, one where we were joined by tiny little horses in an abandoned quarry, another where we built a little cottage out of slate. They were interesting walks, and could still be the start of something, but we didn’t so much collaborate as just share a space, a journey and an intent to create “art”.

Working with Lindsey has been amazing, as we have a shared vision and different skills,as well as the fact that we work well together personally.. My initial fears of losing my voice, or being the lesser half, have been overridden by just working through them and creating together. The beauty of marble runs in they are so compulsive, there’s no room in my head for nagging doubts.

Now we are adding Jonathan to the mix, and not only collaborating between artists, but across disciplines. I think at first I expected that Jonathan would tell us about flow, and Lindsey and I would make runs based on his knowledge, and I wondered what he would get from that. The way it has worked out is so much better. The knowledge is not a one way street, and from the very first meeting, ideas have bounced back and forth until they have become our ideas, and the individual origin has all but disappeared. Although, practically, construction is being done alone in studios and on kitchen tables, there is not one element that hasn’t been created through joint exploration, discussion and agreement. The approach and processes across the disciplines of science and art also seem to be in harmony, as, when you get back to basics, both start with curiosity. I have also realised that, as an artist may look out at a feature of the world and wonder how to represent it in the studio, so the scientist will wonder how to recreate it in their lab. Both are hoping to learn something more about what they are seeing.

Synthesis on the Nursery Slopes and Turbulent Flow in the Studio.

 

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It was a cold, crazy day, complete with freak hail and sunbursts, when we (Lindsey Colbourne, Dr Jonathan Malarkey and myself) met at the barn in Nant Peris for our second “play day” for Pontio Synthesis project. The barn, though chilly, is an amazing space, housing the collection from Lindsey’s Digging Down project, as well as some fabulous new marble pieces that she has been working on. The plan was a loose one; to use our new knowledge of flow patterns to inform our marble run design, and play with some different materials on the lower slopes of the mountain, testing and experimenting for the 3rd of July. It began awkwardly, for me at least. It was so different from our lab visit, where Jonathan had been so erudite and generous. In contrast, I felt a real inability to verbalise my artistic practice, or explain anything. Of course, once we relaxed and started playing with marbles, self-consciousness disappeared and we found ourselves on the slopes, in the freezing wind, running marbles down pipes and slates, playing with angles and vortices. This, “the process” is the pay off of making art for me. The “flow” where the hours become meaningless, and each twist and turn makes a new pattern and a new connection. I think it’s so hard to verbalise because it is such an individual thing. As the three of us worked on the slopes, we each approached the same problem and the same materials in a very different way. The art of collaboration will be for all the approaches to join into a single flow, just as individual modules of a marble run can be linked together to make a complete system.

 

We made some good progress and some good discoveries and lessons. One thing we learned unequivocally is that marbles do not behave like liquids in a flow, nor do they behave like particles in liquid in a flow. In fact, marbles are fabulously anarchic. However, marbles can be made to behave in a way that mimics flow patterns by making adjustments to their route, trying to control angles, momentum, velocity and the transference of force ie bounce! As well as creating features that force them into patterns such as laminar and turbulent flow, and of course, vortices!

In the following days my head was buzzing with ideas of how to make marbles move like turbulent flow, to twist and turn but still keep going, so i began carving a marble landscape in plaster to see where they would go.

 

As the week went on, we started to tentatively order a few materials, ready for our next play session, this time at TOGYG. It’s reaching the point of the project where too much information could be seen as spoilers for the main event….but here are some sneaky peeks of what we got up to.

 

 

MAKING WAVES AND SHEDDING VORTICES

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Firstly, a brief history of how Lindsey Colbourne and I found ourselves working with Pontio and  visiting Dr Jonathan Malarkey’s lab in the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University on a sunny Wednesday in April……

Back in June ’15. At a planning meeting for Gwyl Afon Ogwen, Lindsey suggested building a giant marble run from found materials in the woodlands of Bethesda. I thought this sounded like great fun, and Lindsey was happy to let me collaborate. The initial idea was to make something fun and interactive that would give visitors an opportunity to experience the environment in a different way. I don’t think either of us realized how deep it could go at this point.

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In the proceeding 4 months we went on a journey of discovery, learning about spin, gravity, chaos, and determinism, and the rules of a functioning system.  Lindsey’s research uncovered a new, debatable, law of physics called “constructal law” that could govern the shape of flow patterns, and we began to use some of these “rules” in our marble construction. The results were “A Crash Course in Constructal Law; experiment a & b” shown as part of the Cylch Cerflyn/Sculpture Circle at Gwyl Afon Ogwen, October 2015. Rhys Trimble and the Marmaladies, Katherine Betteridge and Sioned Eleri Roberts, added a whole new dimension to it all by responding to the run in their stunning improvised performance, subconsciously collaborating with the children pouring marbles down the slate bagatelle style sections.

The Gwyl Ogwen day was a revelation. We both knew there was so much more to this, and we were hooked. Building marble runs is compulsive, and we haven’t stopped since…experimenting in Lindseys barn, in TOGYG studio’s, in the woods in Betws y Coed, and even on myself, as part of Mother Island Whispers.  “Sheelah’s Progress” An archeological marble run, is currently on show in The Artfield/Cae Celf in Caim, Anglesey. The marbles became philosophical and metaphorical and the Marblist Manifesto was written.

We were both very aware that everything in the movement of our marbles was governed by laws of physics, and we really wanted to learn more of what we were working with. We teamed up with Dr Jonathan Malarkey, a process scientist with an open mind, a fondness for marbles and an incredible knowledge of the laws governing flow and the processes of particle movement. Together we applied to the Pontio Synthesis Project, and this is how Lindsey and I found ourselves in the lab.

It is a common misconception is that science always happens in sterile conditions and with hi-tech precision equipment. Ocean science is sandy and wet and vast. There’s a machine that plunges water, and another pushing water through a thin space. A vast slice of water and sediment stretches across the whole space, past the sacks of sand, piles of bricks and cement mixer (for mixing sediment) The sounds of water are everywhere.

Jonathan patiently showed us everything, and explained the processes we were watching….beautiful terms…laminar flow, settling velocity, shedding vortices, progressive waves…..With a big spanner and keys, Jonathon set the wave machine in motion and created a standing wave. The surface of the water rises and falls rhythmically, going nowhere and reflecting the light like a metal sheet bending back and forth in slow motion, the tiny particles of sand rock back and forth on the pinnacles of sand ripples. I am mesmerized. The wave pattern changes to a progressive wave and the sheet metal water surface changes to a silver ribbon, waving in the breeze. The patterns in the sediment keep changing. Now the little particles move, leaping first forward, then back, but ever so slowly heading for the beach. I found myself emotionally involved with a sand particle, wishing it well on it’s journey.

After a lovely lunch by the sea, we learned about the Von Karman Vortex Street, a phenomenon created by a disruption in the flow that causes a stagnation point at the front of the obstruction and vortices to be shed in the flow behind the object, in an alternating rhythm. If the creation of these vortices reaches a resonance, then it is powerfully destructive. In my mind, I relate this law to other disruptions in the flow….Arguments, illness, depression, financial difficulties. Taking it to the abstract and thinking of the spirals painted on cave walls, carved into clay slopes, and Hogarth’s “Line of Beauty”, the arabesque curve that is seen to be the most pleasing form of all. What is that if not a representation of the vortex form?

I now see these vortices everywhere. I spent a happy half hour watching the Menai Straits flowing around the bridge supports, creating elegant swirls that are there one minute, then gone, dissipated back into the flow. I also searched for them by dropping an inked marble into a glass of water.

I call the result a Three dimensional Live drawing in the medium of ink, marbles and water. There are definitely vortices, but not the Von Karman Street. I think I need a longer glass.

 

 

Marble Drawings

Determinism vs Chaos.

A series of experiments with angle of descent, shape of paper and frequency of marbles.