Random Cartographies Experiment #3

Working title: Replicate, multiply, reverse, rescale

Experiment #3 builds on the sculptural/installation work of Experiment #2 and the close up image-making of Experiment #3 to explore further ways to understand the multiplicity and folding of space at Alexandria. It also works with concepts of re-scaling space, exploring architecture, interiors and exteriors in different ways - not through image-making at the site itself, but through working with reproduced images taken during the reconnaissance of the site. Playing with scale - and especially scaling down building structures - arguably provides a way to bring these spaces under further scrutiny for experimentation, exploration and conceptualisation about the characteristics, meanings and relational construction of space and place (see Gill Perry's chapter on 'Scaled Down' in Playing at Home: The House in Contemporary Art, 2013). This approach was also impelled by the poor-but-serendipitous weather conditions over the past few days. The ongoing rain and overcast conditions have made it difficult to conduct further installation and image-making work on site (given the weather would not be kind to my camera gear!); moreover, the car park/dumpsite has been locked off over the Australia Day weekend, blocking access. So I had to try a different experimental route - remaking and scaling down.

Inspired by the photocopier again, and the processes of folding, replicating and stacking that suffuses place-making, I turned again to the use of plain A4 paper and the production of origami buildings. This time, though, I sought to experiment with reproducing the Alexandria site off-site in a process of re-imagination and transformation. To consider the range of landscapes, textures, texts, objects, entities and structures folded into the production of space at Alexandria, I returned to the original reconnaissance photographs from my initial site visit. I wanted to use these photographs, the processes of copying/reproduction and origami techniques to experiment with re-folding the space, landscape and architecture of Alexandria in a different way, to look anew at the relational geographies and spatial multiplicity of the site.

I selected a range of reconnaissance images - of the buildings, the signs, the texts, the reflections, the textures, the canals, the ibises, the landscapes, the barriers - and used Photoshop to convert them to black-and-white (B&W) images suitable for printing at home on plain A4 photocopy paper. I wanted to print at home using my own equipment, which is not designed for high-end printing of course, to think about the production of space as a vernacular and 'handmade' activity. Extending the idea of 'handmade', my intention was to fold the printed images into origami structures, some with the images on the exterior and some with the images on the interior, and then photograph these replicated structures at home, in different ways, to prompt different thoughts about the folding of space in Alexandria.

Picking up Perry's discussion of scaling down, and the fact I was working off-site, I decided to play with spatial and architectural scale, and create a series of miniature origami buildings. Altogether I created 30 structures with squared-off images (1:1) measuring 95 x 95mm before folding. The final structures are roughly 45mm x 20mm x 40mm (with some variations and imperfections due to hand-making on mass!). 18 structures have images on the exterior and 12 have images on the interior. Once I'd begun working with these structures I also decided to make a further six structures using images almost the size, at 180 x 180mm before folding; these structures were folded so that the images were on the interior. Additionally, for some of the replication work I intended to undertake (which I discuss soon), I created a backdrop of the Dunlop-Slazenger Factory building in B&W using plain A4 paper, splitting a tilt-shift perspective of the factory building across four A4 sheets.

The approach of model-making again reflects inspiration from work such as Peter Garfield's Mobile Home/Harsh Realty (2000) and Do-Ho's Fallen Star (2006-2012), but also, as the following stages of experimentation show, take inspiration from other artists too. As discussed and presented below, I experiment with several approaches to exploring the folding of space (understood as place, landscape and architecture): turning structures inside-out and bringing exteriors inside; recreating miniature landscapes; and changing exterior perspective and stacking structures and space. The interchange of interior and exterior has been explored by Rachel Whiteread in House (1993) and Roger Hiorns in Seizure (2008); Whiteread further explored the uneasiness of spatial and structural boundaries, and of the endless, accumulative reproducibility of space, in Place (2008), an installation of 52 doll's houses; while Vito Acconci used building blocks and stacking to invert structures and perspectives in Bad Dream House (1984). I've been inspired by elements of these projects in my experiments with origami miniatures.

Stage #1

The first stage of image-making-post-model-making in Experiment #3 involved trying to reproduce the process of the photocopier in replicating space, and thereby trying to explore different ways of imagining folded space at Alexandria. I wanted to place the origami structures on a photocopier - especially the ones that I folded so the images were on the inside/interior of the structure - in to explore what different perspectives on space, landscape and folds emerged. And I wanted good quality images. So for this experiment, unlike Experiment #1 (which used a real photocopier), I wanted to use my camera as a photocopier. Thus the process of image-making itself became quite experimental! I assembled a mock-copier device using a step ladder, a glass frame with the origami buildings sitting on it (and then covered with tissue paper to mimic the photocopier lid and block extraneous light from above, and a mobile phone torch (to light the underside of the glass frame and illuminate the paper structures. I then lay underneath the device and photographed straight up. This is my makeshift/homemade camera-copier:

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Using this device I wanted to explore the processes of image-making, replication and interior space. I took 80 images of the structures through the glass - mainly structures with images in the interior, but also those with images on the exterior (to see what might show through or not) - some structures alone, some in pairs, some in groups. The images explored the hidden perspectives of folds and paper structures within the photocopier. In doing so, the images also captured - in an intimate and makeshift way - the hidden processes of folding space, landscape and architecture and the Alexandria site. The images brought interior and exterior perspectives, and flat and folded spaces, together in order to prompt different ways to perceive the multiplicity of place-making. The miniature scale of the models, especially when the images are in the interior, creates an close, focused lens, asking the viewer to scrutinise and explore. Below are a selection of these 'photocopier' images:

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Stage #2

The second stage of Experiment #3 involved assembling the miniature models against the factory backdrop in a makeshift home studio in order to explore the multiplicity, folding and replication of landscape at the Alexandria site. These images speak to the reproducibility of space. Each paper structure is similar in form, size and shape, and yet each is slightly different - different exterior images, and certain glitches in the process of hand-making. But thinking in a cumulative sense, the assemblage of miniatures suggests folding and refolding space is endlessly reproducible (cf. Rachel Whitehead, Place, 2008). But in this continuous process of folding space upon itself, new elements are brought into play, folded into the act of place-making, and thus continuously shifting the characteristics, boundaries and dimensions of place. Places are built and constructed - and the miniatures resemble bricks in some ways - but it is a process of building that takes place through malleable folding and flattening rather than rigid layering. Alexandria is such a folded place, an intersecting assemblage of characteristics and activities, endlessly reworked, reconfiguring the structure and architecture of place. Here is a selection of these images:

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Stage #3

The second experimental stage, while evoking the reproducibility and malleable building of space, was also arguably a little too 'neat', too linear, horizontal and flat in its exploration of spatial folds. So for the final stage of Experiment #3 I decided to try something messier: I tried to stack and jumble the miniature structures in different ways. Some the 'right way' up, some on their sides, some on their roofs, some showing the exterior, some showing the interior - in other words, a jumble of intersecting views and perspectives on the Alexandria site all at once. Stacking the structures speaks to the verticality as well horizontality of spatial folding, while also - given the flimsiness of the structures - evoking the fragility and thrown-togetherness (Doreen Massey, For Space, 2005) of place-making. The stacks threaten to tumble and 'unfold' momentarily, yet hold together in this instance of space-time. Here, the folding of space is an 'event'. The experiment seeks to explore visually Doreen Massey's contention about place-making as thrown-togetherness - that place is relational (between constituents), multiple/folded and processual, and as such unstable and endlessly shifting. This final experimental stage seeks to reimagine and re-visualise place-making through the act of random stacking, returning again to the serendipity of the random generator that started this exploration: relational geographies of the fold. Here is a selection of these images:

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The three stages of Experiment #3 have attempted to use off-site re-scaling of the elements of the Alexandria site in order to explore the processes of folding, replicating and stacking space that make his place.