Category Archives: [3] Painting with Light / Story Time [Images]

My World is Visual

31 Images in 31 Days – Update One

Today’s word is: futuristic. Guess one will have to wait and see.
Yesterday’s word was: scary. I took a photograph of two pieces of charcoal on white heavyweight paper. Not everyone will find these two objects scary, not everyone will find the message I am sending scary. Not everyone should.
Tuesday’s word was: clever. I took a photo of my hay fever tablets.  Without them I would suffer.
Monday’s image was a small dish with ice cubes. The word was: frozen.
The first word was: empty and I took a picture of an empty birdfeeder.

What will tomorrow bring? Will I continue to shoot in black and white?
Thirty-one days and thirty-one images.
Empty: Well, every journey starts with a first step.
Frozen? In time, motion or matter? I am intrigued.
Clever? You are the judge.
Scary? Maybe. As scary as two pieces of charcoal on paper? Perhaps.
Scared yet or am I boring you?
Futuristic? Possibly. Only by looking into the past one will be able to tell whether the future was exciting or not – it becomes a waiting game. But wait, this is another project!

Today’s word is: futuristic. Guess one will have to wait and see.

The Story so far on Flickr:


August 2010

31 Pictures in 31 Days – my lates photo project

Bubblewrap and Chair’ness

A borrowed image from the studio, taken solely for the purpose of re’using and re’cyling


Objects of Desire: Light switch

Light switches, you know those common small things that decorate your wall, no, not picture frames (digital or analogue that is), no, and not your TV, and no, not that cobweb that you just can’t be bothered cleaning up. No, I mean those often plastic or wooden objects, some have a metal skin, others a rubbery one, flattish, clinging to the wall, things that seem to make the world a brighter place (oh yeah, sorry – that was cheesy…hmmm…. moving on!) Yes, those little gadgets that we people use rather regularly during a day on this planet. They come in all different variations, sizes, colours, materials, but all serve one main purpose, to let us work and play when the sun is set, a time that is referred to as night (or :the opposite of day) – or on those days when it is just absolutely throwing down with rain and the world is covered in this bleak grey’ness, then we might use them as well. With a flick of a switch we bring light into any space, any dark office, any bedroom, anywhere we need it, well, with the help of electricians and other professionals that take care of the wiring, but ignoring that, all we have to do is: flick the switch. Although these days a simple switch comes loaded with a vast amount of suggestions, be they positive or negative. Eco-friendly design, sustainability, saving energy, money and the environment, convenience and happiness are just a few ideas that come to mind, and there are others. Let’s talk green design for a minute, although I won’t be spending too much time on this subject as I do believe that certain aspects of certain issues are taken a step or two too far, but back to “being green” and two interesting points for conversation:  first of all, we want to save money and consequently the environment – or is it the other way around?- whatever the case, they both go hand in hand. Secondly, we don’t want to lose the convenience we have grown fond of. Falling over people in the crowed train station after sunset? Coming home to a dark house? Back to candle light? Well?! Didn’t think so.  So why don’t we leave issues like the outlined to the bright minds that are working on such tasks, and getting paid for it, –a big shout-out to all of you! Keep up the good work – and move on. Take a look at Switch Me! by Josselin Zaïgouche.  What do you see? A new way of reducing energy use or a beautifully executed piece of design that brings a smile to your face? Or even something else? How practical would that switch be? Would you use it? Does it make sense? Or is it all just a game in which we can be certain, that, someone will get rather annoyed or frustrated, knocks the board and all the playing figures over?  Just like your best friend when you had to play Ludo that one afternoon when his cousin was over and the street had a power cut and they couldn’t find the problem that caused it?? Oh the irony…
I actually have a favourite light switch. It lives in my mum’s kitchen back in my home’land, and everyone who has ever been in that kitchen will know which switch I am talking about – I am certain.
Everything about that switch is wrong. If you had the misfortune of stumbling into the kitchen when it was dark you were in for a treat as the thing isn’t where you would expect it – located next to the door handle on the wall. Nope, it is actually on the other side and considering it as an inwards opening door, you basically, open the door and either have to close it or walk around it before you can see anything. And even though I considered it a challenge when I was a child, it wasn’t always what one needed.  When I move to the UK I came across another kind of light switch: a string. Huh? It hangs from the ceiling in the bathroom and you pull it instead of flicking it. Now what is the point in that? Sorry, I’m not trying to offend anyone here, hang on…  To me, it is almost as pointless as two taps… or the perfectly formed queue at a bus stop….or the lobster-coloured holiday-makers at the beach…  But I guess I’m digging here, I shall leave the stereotypes to one side for now.
Ever counted how often you touch a light switch in a day? A week? A year?  Nope, me neither, but this would be something to do. You could draw a line of chalk next to the switch in question whenever you touch it, add a bit of prison-cell cheek to your living room or kitchen. And you would find out which switch is operated the most – a switch-spotters dream. 

I’ve recently finished my first “Book of Shadows” , a  journal in which I sketched all the light switches in my house over the course of two days. I located all the switches (apart from those stringy versions…) and drew each one several times during the forty-eight hour period, ending up with an accurate record switch usage in terms of the movement of the switch itself. Apart from sounding slightly obsessive, I created an artefact of human interaction with objects, actions that often fall below our radar, simply because we do them automatically or so often that we have just lost the curiosity of spotting them.
As often as we switch the light on, we switch it off (ok, this was kind of obvious…). A ritual that can be funny as much as it can be annoying, as power-saving as much as it can be power-consuming (in mental and physical terms).  All those days you leave a light on even when the sun is shining brightly through the window, or the times you walk into a room you tend not to spend much time in and you leave the light on, or the times you walk out of a room and switch the light off, even though there are still people in the same room, now sitting in darkness…all the times you have been told off for leaving he lights on, or switching them off or for not changing a bulb… Considering this small box-like thing on your wall isn’t much of a beauty-queen or technological genius, it gets used and abused a lot. I stuck a sticker on the switch in my room back home at my mum’s place. This first form of self-expressionistic art-making and personality building may go unnoticed to some people, but why where stickers invented if they weren’t meant to be stuck somewhere? Plus, the switches back home look somewhat different to the ones I’m encountering around me here in the UK, being slightly bigger and therefore looking rather lonely without any customisation (or at least in my eyes they do).  I’m not really sure whether or not my sister stuck something on her switch, I would say yes at the moment, but I might confuse her own actions with other people’s actions. Spongebob is the word. Next time you’re in one of those DIY shops, walk over to the light switch section and let the vast product- saturation take over: there are light switches for children’s rooms, in pink, green, yellow, blue, with frogs and cars and robots, trains, and planes, strawberries and unicorns and there are wooden ones in birch and chestnut , and cherry and mahogany , there are stainless steel ones and bright florescent green ones, there are polished metal and glow-glow-in-the-dark ones that serve as nightlight, there are simple white ones, plasticy and rubbery, smooth and textured ones, ones that one has to flick and others one has to press, there are ones that react to a simple touch, while others have to be turned…. There is a gazillion of switches on those shelves and all one has to do is select the one that will complete one’s life and home.
We have come a long way since 1884 and John Holmes’ invention of the said object. Many millions of times have out fingers flicked the light switches of this world – the planet will never be dark again – unless we want it to. I’m not trying to say that we should reconsider our everyday engagements with the little light boxes (and in some cases light strings) or should come up with a different solution to those relationships, all I’m writing here is an invitation to let this common object tell you it’s story sometime in the future. And why not, I’m almost certain they are here to stay.

Objects of Desire: Your favourite glass

Your favourite glass – when I was a child, there was always the one glass that one just needed to hold in one’s hands to enjoy cold drinks.  I had several of those favourite glasses, depending on where I was or how I felt. After all, a child’s world is full of new and important adventures and stories, and I’m sure if we think about it, we all know how much that teddy bear or pillow case helped us through those rough and scary times, as well as making hose special days just a bit brighter.  And once grown-up, we still built these relationships with objects, not necessarily to the same extent as we once loved (and possibly still love) “Muuh” , “Landrover Ted” or “Muschel”, but we form a bond with every day-things. My grandparents lived on a small farm in the same village I grew up in and when I visited them, my grandmother would cut an extra thick piece of the most beautifully baked German bread and make the best snack in my entire child world (although I couldn’t possibly eat it now…kind of freaky combination….anyhoo, I’m digressing…) and serve it on one of those small wooden chopping boards, the kind that becomes more and more attractive as an object the more use it has seen it its life.  And I would get a glass of lemonade with it (and again, I’m not sure how I actually managed to consume so many things I don’t actually like (anymore)…), but the point is, I had a special glass. It lived on the shelf, next to my sister’s and cousins’ ones, and would only be used when I was there – at least that’s what I told myself back then , and I still kind of believe it. It was a chunky tumbler with white lines and hearts printed on. The lines formed a sort of net or grid-like textures on the otherwise smooth surface and there was a small red heart printed on every other square. I loved this glass, and the lemonade or even water used to taste so much better when drunk out of this glass. My other grandmother lived a 30 minute car journey away, which took twenty minutes if my dad was driving (which, as a kid seems like magic) in a completely different world. Until you learn how distance and time works, being somewhere different to where you wake up every morning, is special and just different, even if it’s just down the road and you could be home in less than five minutes. And because my gran lived in what seemed to be a different world, I had a completely different glass when I was visiting: a small glass tankard and instead of lemonade, I would always drink apple juice with cinnamon. And once again, I loved the glass. Just seeing it meant being there, away from home, playing with fabric swatches and hearing stories. The glass symbolised a different part of me, compared to the much loved tumbler back at the farm, which was just another personality-trade I was developing.  Both objects were equally as important to me and back then I connected each glass with an individual scenario or visit – I created a token symbol for an activity in my life. To be very honest, I didn’t really have a special glass at home, I had several not-so-special ones – I just used any one of them. To me, being away from home was being somewhere almost out of my control, so having a reminder and emergency-comforter that I knew belonged to me, helped getting over those first anxiety-ridden but important journeys into the world. Once again, I used an object to help me cope and feel happy – a glassy  base camp for explorations, something I could return to when I needed it the most, although back then, I wasn’t conscious of why I needed the lead crystal helper, I might not even be fully aware  now – Analyse this Sigmund…
As much as the objects signified  a place and a situation, a feeling and different activities, the glasses had their personality, fed with notions and curiosities, tactile experiences, well, actually many sensorial information and personal , well, Lisa’ness. They were part of me; as much as I was part of them – they are characters in my story and without me, they wouldn’t exist to the same extent in terms of their own being as they do now.  Fast-forward a few years and we’re on one of our family holidays in a small wooden cottage in the forest, sitting on one of the large tables in living room, which was covered in sketchbooks, pencils, glasses and plates with half eaten biscuits. And guess what, jep, I did have a favourite glass there. The cottages became more like second residence for my family. We went there at least twice a year and usually with the same people – another family who had children around about the same ages as my sister and me. And all of us had a special glass when we were there – and you wouldn’t want to be the one using one of them while we were there, it wasn’t pretty, but again that’s is a different story. Take any self-catering family holiday and there was a special glass to connect the memories, and even now, when I open the corner cabinet to get a glass out, I favour some over others, just not quite to the same extent.
We choose objects to express ourselves and our personality; our houses and flats are filled with belongings that either we or others close to us choose, often for reasons that are not easily pinned down. After all, as a design student I am not going to write “I chose this because it’s nice or beautiful” or “I like it!” (Please bear with me here), but we often have this feeling of connection with something. As much as we unconsciously decide whether or not we like a person when meeting them for the first time, we do the same for objects. We want to play with objects as much as objects want to be played with – take a common ballpoint pen for example. I’m sure, if you haven’t done it yourself, you witnessed it at least once in your lifetime: the often very annoying clicking sounds of a pen top being presses repeatedly for no obvious reason whatsoever – just like an urge – “The top must be pushed recurrently – I cannot stop myself” [please read with a low toned in voice for maximum effect!] And the same applies to any other common objects that surround us. We use them to express our own personality, they help us cope in stressful, scary or boring times, and they are part of us as much as we are part of them.  Our story would be less interesting if they didn’t contain our favourite mug that we got given as a birthday present by an old school friend, or the old and rusty nail that holds an old picture frame together, or the almost ugly green plastic train that we used to play with, the squeaky chair in the corner of the garage that has a broken leg… there are millions of objects and stories surrounding us every day. Take a look around, I’m sure you’ll find one object you haven’t paid much attention to recently, but deep down you know you would miss it if it wasn’t there anymore. Or think of the second hand shop in the next village, how many great stories are sold there every day? Objects that meant a lot to someone getting another chance to impress a new owner, dining room chairs become kitchen chairs, an old radio become an ornament, the mismatched set of knives and forks become the latest addition to the hip café around the corner, old books hand out stories to a new generation. Old objects and old stories become new objects and new stories – and somewhere amongst all those things are my childhood heroes:  my tumbler and tankard. I wonder which chapter they are on…

Objects of Desire: Schnellhefter

A basic, simple tool for gathering, keeping safe and in order of appearances / importance / [insert any chosen word here] – a coloured plastic sheet, folded and paired with a clear front and metal clips: the common A4 folder. Any pupil, student or, well everyone who had to keep things collected and safe will have come across one of them in their life time, and if they haven’t, they will at some point during their time on this planet – I’m almost certain. In design terms, a simple yet practical piece of material, user-friendly,can be recycled or even made from recycled stuff, ease of storage, well, I think you get the drift.
My story begins with my time back in primary school. I chose this point in time as entering primary school is often seen as a big step in a child’s world – but it is not necessarily the first time I came across one of these covet plastic keep- sakes. My school was a beautiful old building, with really high ceilings, a marble staircase, big heavy wooden doors and awesome large windows. So when you sit in one of these rooms on a small creaky wooden chair, at a pond green Formica covered table with loads of other kids you’ve never really seen, you really wonder why you are there and not in a massive sandbox playing or finger painting a large roll of wallpaper…well, at least I did… but the teachers have a rather clever way of engaging you (or basically ripping you away from your fantasy world and dropping you in this cold and results-driven daily life) : they give you homework.
Yes, homework – the stuff of (almost) every first grader’s dreams and every older pupil’s nightmares… not really sure when this switch happens, but it does and it’s painful, very painful!
You first tasks might have included colouring in a picture of a teddy bear holding a pen in its paw or painting a bunch of flowers in the brightest colours your acrylics will generate, but you feel like you’re actually learning things you didn’t know before. And then comes the reading, writing and counting…and now you either fall into the “I’m very keen” or the “I can handle this without anything new” category. If you fall into the latter, by now you begin to think that you don’t really need to know all this stuff. I mean, why would you, you survived up to now not being able to read or write and you can continue this life style.  And well, if you fall into the first category, you just cannot wait to get started. But my point being, that whatever group you choose, the grown-ups are there with their teaching. At my school, we had a colour system to teach us order, organisation and very, very possibly annoyance. Each lesson was associated with a colour:  red for German, blue for Maths, yellow for religion, green for geography and so on, if there are anymore lessons… If I remember correctly, you were allowed to choose the colour for art education….so I think loads of girls had pink or purple while the boys had black or silver or whatever was available. And this is where it gets annoying:  all your notebooks and workbooks for each lesson had to be wrapped in the specific associated colour and you had to have a plastic folder for all your hand-outs and loose leafed informations. Seriously? Seriously. Those teachers created a colour coordinated system of information and threw all of us into this rather disturbing new world. And at this point I began to dislike blue and red and favour green and yellow…. I can however see now where all these nation stereotypes come into play…And you made sure that you and your newly acquired knowledge fitted into this colour system, because if you had a green folder for let’s say Maths (let me remind you the colour is blue – and a dark blue, not one of these fancy lighter blues, no a dark and depressing blue), you received a lecture on how you cannot learn anything from being sloppy and you will need to be organised for the rest of your life and blah blah blah and if it happened more than once, you were handed  a polite note to take home to your parents. Cold German primary school reality. And the economy benefited from this categorising as well: what started each autumn and continued until spring time the following year was a mass-flooding, over-populating of coloured plastic folders. Every shop you could buy writing equipment or stationery items, you would find (not too sure how it is these days, but will check next time I’m back in Home’land) you would find a table or corner of shelf specifically designated to the common plastic folders.  All kinds, colours and qualities whatever you could imagine… but the most common purchased versions must have been the multi-pack:  the dream of very mother/father/primary caregiver. Usually twelve flimsy, but not too cheap looking plastic folders:  four red, three blue, three yellow and two green Schnellhefter. I did however once wonder why there would always be an almost overload of red folders, but then conclude it must be because we all write load in our German lesson and hence we needed four red folders in one of these multi-packs. My idea held up until I found out that in other schools they would use yellow for German lessons and red for Maths and purple for geography and who knew what else  … but by then the cold and harsh school routine had gotten hold of me with those icy and long fingers and I had lost my inspiration to investigate this colour situation further. Thankfully, I got hold of my motivational drives later on in my school career and took charge of situations and explorations again.
However, once the folders where introduced into my life, they stayed with me. Let’s talk GSCE’s and A-Levels (well , the German equivalent) , actual A-Levels (once I moved to the UK), various coursework, general collections of information, undergraduate essays on art and gender, Saussure and Derrida, recipes and notes, well anything in paper form actually. Once you are old and knowledgeable enough, you go to secondary school and quite often, you are allowed to choose your own lesson-organisation-system, as long you can provide evidence of administrational talents, well mostly homework.  And once again, the crowds split: you get the rebels that completely  throw all the colours out of the window and mix them up, so Maths now is green and German blue and the colour for the new and eagerly awaited lesson: English, become pink and religion white and no one really is able to keep track of them as they often change depending on the mood or the shopping situation on the open market and the spending behaviour of the primary caregiver (if they still give a damn at this point) and you get the nerds that stay with the system “because it works”.  You might even find a rebel that comes back to Geek’land because they lost any form of organisation, but that is rare, which does not say it never happens, or a nerd that discovers new found radical behaviour, but who are we kidding here….this is just life now and one’s own position in the daily routines.
But back to those thin layers of plastic covering piles of paper, holding them together for easier transport, storage or just because, seem to be a powerful part of (my) daily life, even though the mental connection of a red folder and German grammar still exists, or the dislike of blue folders and the disturbing thought of calculators and numbers seems to haunt one form time to time.
And while those boring looking plastic have become filled with knowledge and paper goods, they also have become loaded with stories and histories, both in the physical and mental worlds.  Everyone who has come into contact with one of them will have some form of opinion, story, memory or connection to tell and share, be it a long and detailed monologue, a heated debate or a quick comment, any recollection, written down or verbal, “every object has a story”.
So next time you see one of these hi/story-loaded things, sit back, stand up, roll around , … and let it tell its tale.

Pink and Blue

A few notes…

If one was asked to describe what hell might be like, this would do.
Henry Moore

Just a few of my notes I took today.

Thought I share this one with you …

… taken during my visit to Oxford last Saturday (20/02/10)


The Wait is Over!