Read:Code:Make 3: The Final Piece(s)

Welcome to our third and final post on the Read:Code:Program from Guildford Library. In our first post we introduced the artists and makers while in our second post we talked about the creative process.

In this post we’ll discuss the final pieces that were displayed at Guildford Library and reflect on the whole process.

Image by Russell

Russell Jakubowski piece was titled ‘In Phase with the Kwisatz Hadarach’. This artwork casts light on a few sentences taken from Frank Herbert’s book Dune. For Russell “it conjures a fascinating future and is filled with insight into what it is to be human and part of civilisation.”

Russell aims for ” the layered text’s create a physical sense of depth, reflecting the vast scope of the story. And that the phasing light draws on our sense of becoming aware. Whilst the un-repeated pattern of colour changes points to our awareness changing over time.”

A sensor triggers part of the work, illuminating a short but much quoted text from the book – ‘The litany against fear’ (see blog 2). According to Russell “A mantra repeated to one self in times of danger and aimed at avoiding the debilitating effect of fear. It seems such an important thing to draw attention to. So many things we avoid doing out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear that someone will say NO. But perhaps the thing to fear most are the consequences of allowing it to stand in our way and to stop us from trying.”

Next, we asked Helen about her Frankenstein inspired dioramas:

“The library holds several copies of Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’. As it is the 200th anniversary of this great work’s publication, I decided to make a sequence of dioramas evoking the journey made by Frankenstein’s creature as he seeks human company. Mary Shelley creates the freezing rejection her creature experiences through an evocation of an icy landscape. So I tried to suggest a snowy wilderness, an icy forest path, a distant snowy village, a sheltering barn, and a glimpse of a warm house interior from which the creature is debarred. Matt and Carlos worked brilliantly to light the works so that they were illuminated sequentially and with a degree of subtlety.”

Image by Helen Scalway

We then asked Louise to describe her installations: Maelstrom and Cabinet.

Maelstrom has made use of the Guildford Library’s digital paper cutter and the obsolete Encyclopaedia Brittanica to cut leaf shapes from some of the pages and then placed in a glass dome – the type of display case widely used by Victorian’s to display taxidermy. A small motor and fan blade are installed under the dome, with the intention that the paper leaves would be blown into the air”

While “Cabinet, an ordinary bookcase with the upper part led strips sown onto lengths of primed canvas installed as a series of waves while the lower part seeking to express something of the joy of reading with an LED matrix rotating a design of pixels to look like a bird wing in flight. There is also a sound element to this piece which includes recordings of a nightingale’s song, readings from John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale and Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds and crows calling.”

Image by Louise

We asked all artists involved to reflect back on the whole process, and they told us:

“I enjoyed the interaction with the Read-Code-Make team, and although it was time consuming it was useful I think to discuss ideas with everyone present at the Library. It has been a really enjoyable and enlightening experience working with my project partner Matt. And I have learned new skills from him at the Boileroom/Makerspace.
As a result of this project I have joined the SHM group in Guildford, and these skills are feeding into a new body of work.” (Russell)

“Overall I found the process extremely interesting and challenging. It was a long process – I made a lot of draft experiments before discovering the way forward. But this is usual for me, it is always discovery through practice and process.
The outstanding aspect for me was the schedule of regular meetings of the Read Code Make group at Guildford Library which were really invaluable, stimulating and supportive. I loved this contact and exchange of ideas.” (Helen)

“Meeting with the project team, made up of Library personnel, technicians and artists was a very positive experience and the group critique element was a strong tool to develop the work and explore solutions to technical problems.” (Louise)

Finally, we asked Helen Leech, Surrey Libraries Digital Services Senior Manager and main instigator of this project, Would the library do this again? And she replied

“Very definitely, yes. The principle of pairing creators together with people who know technology is at the very heart of the makerspace concept. Both sides gain. Speaking on behalf of the library service, we were pretty ignorant about the practicalities of a project like this – we’ll be much better equipped next time.”

Overall, it was a great project to be involved with. Everyone involved thoroughly enjoyed it and many lessons were learnt, though most agreed it would had been beneficial to have had more time to develop the installations as a few technical issues were encountered during the making and coding parts. On the plus side, it seems projects like this – bringing artists, making and libraries together – have a huge potential for engaging visitors while tapping into the local creative and tech community.