Monday, 14 November 2016

Never stop evaluating

It's been a few months now since the end of my three years of MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking. Strange feeling making conclusions and processing everything. It's been a real epic journey. I've met some of the most talented and inspiring fellow students and staff at UWE, while developing my technical and research skills. 

The outcomes are almost irrelevant, but for me these really sum up the ambition and direction of my work.

All of my work on the MA is documented in past blog posts, and now with some hindsight, things start to piece together:

Why Pinball?
A pinball machine is a great example of printmaking, from the screenprinted playfield wood to the backlit glass and the potential for 3D printed and digitally cut parts.

As a theme it really underpins the idea of Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking and links up different strands of my practice as a Designer, Printmaker and Visual Artist.

Read more:

How pinball inspired me
I’ve thrown myself into the world of pinball over the past two - three years, during this time I’ve played over 100 pinball machines all with different themes and competed in local pinball leagues, at the time of writing I am ranked 5180th in the World and 121st in UK. (I've not played in a while!) 

As well as playing I have had the opportunity to develop my professional practice alongside Heighway Pinball - the UK’s only commercial manufacturer of pinball machines; MyPinballs - a one man company hacking and modifying pinball machines and; State of Play - the BAFTA winning iOS games developer who have just released the beautiful pinball game, INKS. 

An older post about what I learned from play:

I’m hoping to tap into nostalgia and memories of pinball. I believe there is a growing market for digital artworks in homes, creating *almost* a product that could potential be a topic of conversation and of course income as I work together different strands of my professional practice.

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My goals in the project

  • An incredibly ambitious project to build a pinball machine.
  • For viewers in a gallery to play on a pinball machine.
  • To elevate my work to a higher standard for exhibiting and funding of future projects.
Read more:

The natural progressions within the time
The Mini Print and Student Exchange projects were incredibly important to me and worked alongside my main project of building a pinball machine, these allowed outlets for experimentation (and escapism) which ultimately led to the pinball digital prints, with embedded digital screen.

More on Mini Print:
More on Student Exchange Exhibition:

Seeking out reference to how artists are using screen based technology in art
We're starting to see a growing number of artists using interactivity and more specifically games as part of their work. Embedding digital technology into objects can never really be made to look seamless, yet we're starting to see advances and ideas paving the way for the future:
"Soon to see digital screens that can be made into any physical shape"
- Elephant, p189, Issue 23

"The seamless integration between the real and physical is still an unaccomplished goal: we can usually still distinguish artificial elements from real ones with ease. But when digital projections are involved the border between real and fiction becomes less predictable" 
- Neural, p30, Issue 51

Please do touch...
As an artist, I’m interested in making physical artworks layered with digital technology designed for gallery viewers to interact with. The interaction can lead to new experiences and audiences for art. To do this I sought out national exhibitions that were exploring the topic of new media art to observe methods and display techniques for these types of artworks.

On a jaunt to London to catch some exhibitions I observed how artists and galleries are choosing to display digital artworks;

On the style...
The journey to find the direction in style was tough mentally. I put somewhat pressure on the idea of the outcome, which in evaluating suppressed creativity, and held up being able to move forward at a faster speed.

Eventually I realised to evoke memories and pull people in, I had to create references to traditional pinball styles but links to my own creativity, like what I had done in past printmaking projects

Tutorials with professional visiting artists inspired and helped me make realisations about direction.

On the concept/style:
Art Direction:

The Outcome
I have been in some apprehension about the outcome of the main project since conceivement of the idea. With so many parts coming together at the last minute it could have gone either way really. My planning of having everything ready to go together really paid off.

The fact is, the outcome of all pieces of work have absolutely exceeded my original expectations, the concept has driven new ideas of storytelling in my work, with the medium of pinball enabling and opening doors to many different opportunities.

With so many parts to the project I planned a staged execution. Working on this over the course of the year has meant I could span out larger budgets and production times for certain parts.

This way of working has meant that certain decisions had to be made at pivotal moments before the generation of artwork or before certain parts were bought, meaning a more retro fit approach to final assembly. (this would be a problem for mass production, but not so much for a one-off)

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What went wrong
Usually something goes wrong with projects of this nature while working on a small budget. I just don’t see them as wrong doings anymore, I use this as part of the project. I really believe that a smaller budget can make a project better as it challenges you in creative ways (of course I wouldn’t be writing that in a funding application, don’t worry).

I underestimated time and labor required of myself to produce a project like this.

The main failure was having enough time to fully programme the game. It’s the part that's lacking and when it won’t be hugely noticeable, it will lead to some bad gameplay experiences.

Not having a scoring system present, when is not to much of a worry in terms of a sculptural gallery work, it does mean that the natural competitive streak in people can’t really be brought out, which is part of gaming!

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Is there anything new you have been taught from this?
In terms of skills, many of the techniques were new developments of previously learned processes. Building on these skills and becoming more professional and independent.

It has left me desiring collaboration. Much of my work is done in solitude and through various aspects such as music collaboration or working with MyPinballs on the game code, I see benefits of asking for help more.

Read more:

Would you do anything differently next time? 
This is usually in the top 10 questions to ask. Although not wanting to sound like I have regrets of what I have done, I think it goes without saying that it would be a very different if I did it again.

The challenges and effort faced sourcing pinball parts from multiple sources and some parts not being available or having to repurpose something for the job. If a next time. I would find a full and intact working machine as a starting point, instead of piecing together and finding that like a charity shop jigsaw the most important pieces are missing.

I see what I’ve done as a record of a certain time, the outcome is a certain way due to the many factors and decisions taken, sometimes overthought or made in haste. It’s amazing that it exists in some ways, but ... no I'll leave it at that for now...

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