Public Commission VII: Embroidery Galore (August – October 2018)

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With the starry sky alcove and the coloured spotlights set in place, I could return to the third part of the commission: the school road mapping.

Back in spring this year, schoolkids in two classes presented me with their hand-drawn maps – each one showing their own path from home to school. I began to fuse those forty-something individual images into one collective map. Some related to places that were easily recognizable, and some of their features were obviously identical; a supermarket, a traffic circle, those two water pools and the Thai restaurant. Others were very personal, and sometimes pertaining to different layers of reality; a secret tree-house, an encounter with a friend or a wild animal, or some wildly ambivalent feelings expressed in graffiti style… And there were suns, and moons, and stars.

Having arrived at an overview, I again divided the map in triangular parts and arranged the sketches in clusters designed for five different walls; now with the individual paths intertwined – sometimes interacting – and (almost) all ending up in the central piece with the school building.

Then, twenty-one pieces of felt were cut and prepared with starch. Similarly, twenty-one wooden boards were produced to tauten the felt pieces onto. And the embroidery race started…

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It was pure delight to discover all the details of the kids’ maps; humorous – sometimes cheeky – emotional, colourful, observant and straightforward. In rendering their felt-tip pen drawings into yarn stitches, I did my very best to stay true to the original.

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August and September came and went. Stitching, listening to the radio, stitching; pausing only to eat and sleep, and sometimes to go buying more mouliné thread… And slowly, the map took shape. By the end of October, I stowed the embroidery table away. The map was ready to mount.

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Public Commission VI: Coloured Light, Curious Shadows (May-June 2018)

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What next? After the night comes morning light… The starry sky alcove calls for a surrounding light design. Earlier, I did some tests with torchlights – but where to find permanent spotlights producing such a distinct, sharp-edged image?

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Torchlight test

Having searched high and low, and after consulting lighting experts – among them Gerhard Rehm at CDC Lighting and Bengt Ahlin at Färgrum – I finally find the spotlights I’m looking for, through the Rebel Controls company; they’re actually miniature gobo projectors. And, they’re expensive. And, they don’t really fit into the existing wall, because they’re too long; need to add a few centimetres of thickness there.

Spotlight collars – design and result

So, I contact Snickerifabriken Järna – a carpenter’s shop where they do CNC lathing – and present a sketch. And – whoaa! – what a beautiful piece of work they produce: ten perfectly cone-shaped collars, lathed out from hard five-ply birchwood. Thank you, carpenter Nisse! Rather than painting the collars to “blend into the wall”, I’ll pay tribute to craftsmanship by treating them with matte varnish.

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Collars mounted, wiring installed

Site director Anders has been very supportive all along; now he brings a hole saw and cuts all the holes I have marked out. Electrician Thomas does the wiring, and I can mount the spotlights. A day or two for trying out the colour filters and set the final composition – having great fun…

Shadow selfie with three spotlights

Meanwhile, school goes on. The spring term is soon coming to and end. Schoolchildren still aren’t allowed to visit the workplace area – but every now and then I do a little guided tour around the venue for a group of curious kids together with their teachers, or on their own… They are the ones who will spend the days and years to come up here. To share the joy with them is even better than playing alone with light and shadows.

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Public Commission V: More on Acoustic Panels (April-May 2018)

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Remember the pre-fab absorbers recommended for three of the classrooms? Did I mention there was some debate over this? Agreed, acoustics are extremely important – but on the other hand, a colour that ends up hidden behind a white panel is actually no colour… Everyone involved plays a part in finding the best solution. The school representative wants the coloured walls to stay fully visible. What if – says the architect – what if the panels were scaled down a bit, and mounted higher up, just below the ceiling? But would they still be functional enough..? The commissioner comes up with the idea to extend those slimmed-down panels over the side walls too, and the site manager calculates the cost. Since I’m the one responsible for the colour design, I really appreciate all this good will. Next morning, I suddenly remember…

marmorull 2Marble Wool sample, by Karin Auran Frankenstein and Tomas Frankenstein Auran;
photo © Auran Frankenstein

…the Marble Wool – a material recently developed by Karin Auran Frankenstein and Tomas Frankenstein Auran, mainly using waste from the tanning industry and starch-based glue. This could be the missing link – something that would be functional as a diffuser, but also decorative in form and colour. I contact Karin and Tomas, and they kindly accept to take up the work. A couple of weeks later, they come up with sketches for three site-specific designs – far better than I could have imagined. The sketches get approval from everyone, and so we go for down-sized panels complemented with Marble Wool in three classrooms…

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Three sketches for Marble Wool installations, © Auran Frankenstein

Read more about Marble Wool and other art projects at Karin’s website:
www.karinfrankenstein.se

…or at the website for design exhibition Utvalt i Skåne (where Karin and Tomas were granted a scholarship award)

…or visit the large exhibition Next Level Craft – where, by the way, nuno-felting by Anna Wahl Gran is also on display.

Public Commission IV: Light Fibres, Dark Fibres (April – May 2018)

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Having finished painting the acoustic diffuser, I return to the alcove with the circular window. The bench is there, waiting. The dyed silk is now being processed by Anna Wahl Gran and her co-workers at Högklint; felted with dark fine wool into large swathes of fabric… I receive one magnificent piece after another, and store them in the adjacent classroom. And I’ve got a set of optic fibres, a “Starry Sky Set”, ready to install. This requires some planning, a star map, a ladder and a good drilling machine, a staple gun, non-acid wood glue, a lot of tooth picks, and patience.

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First, I mark out positions for each of the 81 individual fibres, arranged to resemble some of the constellations of the Northern and Southern skies. Then, I remove the wall boards to drill the holes. That made, I stretch and fasten the felted pieces over the plywood. Toothpicks, pushed in from the backside, show where the holes are and make way through the strong fabric where the drilling machine would be useless.

Meanwhile, the fibres have been provisionally attached to the original brick wall. Now comes the patience part…

With the felt covered wall-boards loosely set in place, I can squeeze one arm in from behind to manipulate the thin fibres into their holes – working literally by fingertip sense, not being able to see through wood – and meet with the acrylic toppings from the front side. Applying the proper kind of glue, again by the help of toothpicks, and trying not to loose any of those minimal fixtures, measuring 3 by 5 millimetres…

The whole process takes me three full weeks or more, but finally I’ve arrived. And it works!

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Public Commission III; Bob Marley, Conchita Wurst and Wang Di (March – April 2018)

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I’ve learnt a lot from this commission; about the existence of acoustic absorbers, for instance.

One of the many professions involved in the renovation (I lost count of numbers long ago) is the acoustic consultant, who provides advice concerning the interior soundscape. Those guidelines come with a drawback, though: the recommended pre-fab acoustic panels would cover most of the coloured back walls, which were designed to give each classroom its character… Hmm. The commissioner, the site manager, the architect, the school representative and I discuss the matter, but decide to leave the issue unsolved for now.

Unlike the other classrooms, the music room is furnished with a site-built wooden panel, designed to diffuse soundwaves rather than absorb them. It’s made from lathes of different thickness, arranged in a sequence of four: one broad, one thin, two mid-sized; repeat x 14. The visual pattern of the diffuser corresponds to some kind of keyboard, or notation of rhythm perhaps. Of course, the surface had to be painted too – it wasn’t part of my commission, really, but I couldn’t keep my hands away…

I decided to use the lilac of the back wall (just a shade lighter) for the bottom and the sides of the lathes. Then the outer surfaces could sport a colour sequence… Hey, couldn’t it be associated to tones somehow? Yes – Chinese music traditionally uses a pentatonical scale, where the notes correspond to white, yellow, violet, red and black. Now that’s a pretty unconventional palette; I’ll give it a try. Furthermore, the colour sequence of five, overlapping the form pattern of four, will produce a pleasant cross-rhythm.

Then there was the carpenter, who suggested I paint the whole thing in red, green and yellow instead, as a tribute to reggae music – well, I could at least sneak such a triplet in somewhere. And isn’t there some other combination of colours connected to a certain kind of music..? I ask around, but get no positive answer. Come to think of Conchita Wurst, stunningly beautiful drag queen and inspiring artist… Conchita may or may not be transgender, but she reminds me about a flag that deserves to be better known: the pink, white and blue one.

Salute to Conchita! Salute to Bob Marley and his legacy! And, thinking of legacy – Cecilia Lindqvist, my teacher in Chinese, studied music in Beijing in the early 1960’s. Her teacher then was the renowned qin player Wang Di. Salute also to Wang Di!

Public Commission II; Mapping the School Road (March 2018)

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What does “home” mean to you?
What does “school” mean to you?

Those were the questions I posed to the schoolkids in grade 2 and grade 5… Their answers? “Home” means family, granma and granpa, an annoying little sister, an easy feeling; a house, spaghetti, chips and snacks; love, memories, a native language; a shopping mall, or a beach – a wide range of emotions, persons, places, cognitions and things. And “school” could be anything between a prison and a safe place, associated with knowledge, effort, fun, weariness and sometimes injustice – and, above all, a place to be with friends.

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All the answers, written down on post it-notes, were carefully collected. Next time I visited, I presented them arranged in a pattern where “school” was the common centre, while the “home” notes formed a periphery – a proto-map, missing the in-between part; the school road. Which lead us to my next question: could you draw a map showing your way between home and school?

Denoyer-6-inch-globe-mapBernard J S Cahill: Butterfly Map (conceived in 1909)

Buckminster Fuller: Dymaxion Map (first published in 1943)

Inspired by Bernard Cahill’s “Butterfly Map” and Buckminster Fuller’s “Dymaxion Map”, I offered triangular pieces of drawing paper for the task. What I got in return was a stunning variety of expressions, mirroring individual temperaments and experiences – admirable visualisations and food for thought…

The next step will be the rendering of those school road maps into visual elements to form an aggregated whole, which can be mounted permanently on the walls. In the meantime, enjoy Jasper Johns’version of the Dymaxion map from 1967:

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Photo still from Jasper Johns: Take an Object,
a film by Hans Namuth and Judith Wechsler (1990)

Public Commission I; Light and Shadows (February – March 2018)

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It’s not only about 30 square metres of silk, or sacks of wool and nuno felting. It’s also a matter of fibre optics and nifty spotlights, as well as sound absorbents and schoolkids’ maps… Yes, it’s a commission; a public school is being renovated, and “the 1% rule” prescribes that 1% of the budget for a public construction or renovation should be directed to artistic means… so, here we go!

February 7th: this is my first encounter with the actual venue. Downstairs, school is going on as usual – I can hear kids chatting and shouting in the corridors, and the sounds of a ballgame in the schoolyard. Up here, carpenters, electricians, tilers and painters are buzzing around in a complex system of intertwined work processes.

When first presented to the commission, I figured a concept of mapping the school road together with the kids, and rendering their thoughts and feelings into visual objects. Now that I visit the place, I also see potentials in the very light-and-space conditions. Oh, I have to explore this further…

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…this alcove, for instance; what a perfect hangout it would make. I draw a design suggestion for a sitbench, then mail my sketch to Fredriksson the local manager…

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and lo! next time I visit, it’s there!

February 26th: so, thanks to Fredriksson and Mats the carpenter, we have the bench. Now imagine this alcove darker – almost cave-like – and spotted with tiny bright dots… this is where the nuno felting and fibre optics would come in handy. I contact Anna Wahl Gran, who is willing to take on the task of producing the large pieces to cover all the surfaces; walls, ceiling and sitbench. After some detective work, I’m able to purchase a “starry sky” fibre optics set.

March 7th and 8th: two days booked for meeting school classes… but this will be the topic of a separate post. Here’s just a sneak peak of the mapping project:

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Afterwards, I play a bit with torchlights and colour filters along the curved corridor wall. What if the kids moving around here could produce colourful shadows, living images, on that wall… I wonder where to find sturdy build-in spotlights with a distinct, sharp-edged image of light and shadow? And, what would such spotlights cost?

To be continued…

Public Commission I: Dyeing, 2nd Batch

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15 square metres were far from enough. As sun and wind drives away the last of winter, I’m dyeing a second batch – another 10 x 1,5 metres – of blue silk. This is my part of a collaboration with Anna Wahl Gran, who masters the technique of nuno felting… The dyed silk will be laid out with fine wool and felted into a compound by Anna and her co-workers; the intense blue will blend with the naturally brown and blackish shades of sheep fleece. While ironing metre after metre of fabric – in order to stabilize the dye – I admire the first test samples from Anna, thinking of those stunning photos of deep space… (Actually, pure blue isn’t really my colour.)

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APOD Lopez & Rosenberg

Above: test samples of nuno felting with fine wool and dyed silk, made by Anna Wahl Gran.
Below: M81 Galaxy Group through the Integrated Flux Nebula; photo by D. Lopez and A Rosenberg/ IAC

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