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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Tom

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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.

Losing my marbles (and finding them) on the Mother Island

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Sunday the 20th March 2016 was the first day of Spring, and for the second time, artist Femke van Gent initiated a motely gathering of artists on Church Island, Menai Bridge. What better way to see the first day of spring than through a marble? So, I formulated a plan to share the marble experience with others, and to make myself the centre of a marble vortex.

I used the starter kit for a “drift” as discovered on mythogeography.com as a guideline for my guidebook to “Drifting with Marbles” ( if you don’t know about Mythogeography and the art of Walking Sideways, it’s a wonderful way of experiencing any environment, not just the beautiful setting of Church Island)

11th hour preparations for the Marble drift.

We met in the illustrious surrounding of the car park behind the Jade Garden restaurant. A Duck (Andrew Agace), a Marble-Lady, the Marmaladies, wildlife expert John Bratton, and the Spirit of Spring herself, Femke van Gent, amonst others. I handed out some ‘Drifting with Marbles’ books, and pouches of marbles, then we all headed of into the woods. Some chose to join John on a nature walk, some followed the duck, many chose to explore in their own way. The sun was shining, the woods were full of walkers and families. It felt like spring.

I spent my day drifting through the woods with my marbles. When I met someone, I would invite them to run a marble through my costume…..this was mainly met by confusion….

“ Hi, would you like to put some marbles in my teapot?”

“What?”

“Go on, just put some marbles in there and see what happens….”

“Erm….ok….I haven’t got any money…”

“That’s ok, its free”

“Oooh, that’s really cool. Where do the marbles go? Why are you doing this?”

“It’s the first day of Spring”

“Oh…OK. Thanks”

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I spent the majority of the afternoon as a solo marblist, exploring the woods with my marbles. I found lots of fallen trees that made great runs, and so many holes and crevices to measure with marbles. Floating through the sun splattered woods there was the magical tones of flute music, tempting me deeper and deeper in.

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As I drifted, I came across beautiful interventions created by Syn (Rachel Rosen, Teri RH and Holly Evans)   A space to relax and let beautiful sounds wash over you…..a place to sit and view the world through free hanging, gently moving frames; a new vista every second, and a beautiful glade to smell, feel and absorb the day through all the senses. I eventually found the source of the beautiful melodies…Hilary Davies and her magic flute at the highest point of the landscape.

From this location, the only way was down, and gravity pulled us all gently down to the tiny church of Llandysilio, where we were treated to some of the story of the area, and its patron saint Tsilio from Gareth Hughes, church warden. The tiny church was full, and to close the proceeding on Church Island, the Marmaladies Katherine Betteridge and Sioned Eleri Roberts,  performed an innovative and powerful piece, using Violin, Clarinet and mp3s sent out previously to participant’s phones. Marbles don’t like being left out, so in a silent moment, a few escaped and bounced and clattered across the stone floor.

The drift continued across the bridge to TOGYG for the sharing of food and drink and music made from vegetables, courtesy of the ever resourceful Marmaladies.

It felt like a good and proper  way to welcome the new season.

Additional photo’s by Femke van Gent and Katherine Betteridge.