Final Reflection

Moving forward from Assignment 3, I was still intrigued with the notion of emptiness that we emphasised with that assignment. After a discussion with Georgia and Daniel, we defined our goals heading into the next assignment as follows:

  • Emphasise community
  • Expand scope from Assignment 3
  • Explore presence
  • Deviate from Assignment 3

From here, I felt that the best way to explore community and presence would be to immerse myself directly within it. By spending time at the Tote and allowing myself to be involved in the culture, I felt that the process would be organic and meaningfully connected to the function of the venue. At this stage I still had a vague conception of what I wanted to actually produce for Assignment 4, until Robbie took us to the local RMIT gallery space to experience the work of Nathan Gray, which by chance also had the visual art of Daniel Crooks on display. The amorphous, flowing nature of Crooks’ work had a big impact at the time and provided an aesthetic inspiration that set me on the trajectory for the creation of my own piece.

My process became fairly regular attendance at the Tote when gigs were happening to record moments specifically shared between the audience and the artists. I chose to isolate my technical approach to purely audio in an attempt to engage as wholly as I could with the way the venue sounds. In a way, the process called back to the beginnings on the studio, and I felt as though I was using the zoom recorder to expand my awareness of the moment, the reciprocal energy that flows between the audience and the artist and how this energy feeds into the experience of being at the Tote. What I found is that the totality of the experience is what distinguishes it from any other, that is, the presence of people interacting with the music and talking to each other, creating the atmosphere between songs, all of this amounts to the distinct nature of the various subcultures that pass through and flourish at the Tote. Philip Auslander describes this experience in Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture, where “the value of live performance derives from its existence only in the moment, and its putative ability to create community (if not communion)”. The audience’s engagement with the transparency of an artistic performance amounts to a sort of spiritual experience of catharsis, celebration and an interest in cultivating a particular cultural movement.

To further inform my investigations I was inspired by the central ideas at the core of a collation of RMIT Masters of Interior Design research projects entitled INTERsection, proposed by Suzie Attiwell in her essay of the same name. The use of the word ‘intersection’ in this instance is the marriage of ‘interior’ and ‘section’, which she used to frame the function of the collation itself, creating “an assemblage of individual and intersecting projects”, and that simply by engaging with these works within the collation is “to be among projects”, that is, intersecting with them. I feel that this idea can be applied to the way in which the artist and audience intersect with one another at the Tote, creating the cultural force that passes through the Tote.

With all of this in mind, I chose to centralise the community in my piece as the vital source of energy that sustains the cultural momentum that can be found at the venue. Surrounding this, passages of musical performances seep in to the periphery in the same way that one might find music beckoning them from various passages of the venue itself.

See below a link to the finished piece:



Today we took an excursion to a nearby RMIT gallery space to experience Nathan Gray’s work (follow link for footage of its exhibition setup), a soundscape created from various industrial objects on Cockatoo Island. Having already been exposed to this work briefly in class a few weeks ago, where the footage and sounds were sequentially edited in a single piece, it was definitely worth comparing to the exhibit, which was comprised of a number of screens and speakers each feeding different sequences into the space at the same time. There was a choreography to the edits, although the effect felt quite spontaneous and tied to our being in the space itself. This inspired me to think about ways the sort of work we’ve been doing, which has thus far been necessarily tied to a sequence, could be adapted into more immersive spatial experiences.

Also exhibited in the space was a film created by Daniel Crooks, in which he took natural imagery and contorted it with lines of code, creating these meditative and monolithic structures. The human body was similarly contorted in this piece and appeared to be in the process of a twisted dance with itself.

After visiting this space we began walking directly to the atrium/lobby room of building 12 where we initiated the observation process in our first week. Robbie revealed that we have this space booked and that following our presentations we will be hosting our exhibition there. Robbie explained that the exhibition was open entirely to our input but had the potential to be an additional piece involving and incorporating all of our input as a celebration of the studio. Georgia suggested a structure to the presentation, envisioning a linearity that would evoke the way our own pursuits developed throughout the course of the studio – that is, from the home out into the world, from the familiar to the unknown. Daniel proposed that we establish a group document wherein we could store the words that each group had formulated in the last class to establish a consistency across the board that would provide a springboard for a class collaboration. Before leaving, Daniel and I spoke about the possibility of facilitating spontaneous events, such as live audio recording of the space and live abstract video footage, that could be presented in a way that emphasises the sacredness of the current situation. While ambitious, I think this could be a worthwhile project and I’m glad that we’re considering it at this stage.

I borrowed a Zoom Recorder after class with the intention of heading to The Tote on the weekend to record some band presence. After watching Daniel Crooks’ piece, I’m inspired to create an amorphous sound piece composed of various moments in several different performances at The Tote as a way of embodying the diverse presence of the venue.

Weaving Words

Today we caught up in groups again to describe our process moving forward via a brainstorming activity. The first stage was to conjure 20 words that we each drew from the process and the site, which we ultimately condensed to 10 words. We ended up with:


I contributed “foster” as I thought about The Tote’s role in facilitating the underground music scene, as well as the patrons feeding into and fostering the culture. We discussed approaches to incorporating different interpretations of community as we head into future investigations, and out of these discussions we developed prompts such as “blurred” and “faceless” – as these may suggest, we are hoping to capture human presence as anonymously as possible, so that the result emphasises the effect of their presence more than anything else. I also fed “intersection” into the discussion, largely having been inspired by an RMIT Interior Designs Masters research compilation that I managed to acquire by chance entitled INTERsection, which I am sure will provide fruitful inspiration and momentum to the process. I will explore this further in more blog posts, although at this stage I understand that the use of “intersection” in this context can be read as the marriage of “interior” and “section”, where the interior becomes a compilation of sectioned spaces. This resonates with my experience of accessing The Tote before hours, finding intriguing qualities in rooms and areas usually inaccessible, either due to a lack of permission or by way of being shrouded in darkness. The Tote also represents a space where different people intersect for a common ritual, the intersection of artist/audience. The venue also conveniently sits on an intersection. One of my favourite terms we discussed here was “threshold”, which Georgia introduced and described as the experience of being on the brink of danger in the moshpit, navigating the chaos and existing at the threshold of safety as a ritual and sometimes cathartic activity.

Following this, we paired these words together to create new conjunctions and possibility for creative potential. Some pairings that arose were “faceless ritual”, “emptiness presence”, “foster threshold” and “blurred movement”. This activity served as a way to imagine contexts for some of these prompts and to recognise the potential for their interplay and inevitable interconnectivity. Daniel discussed his urge to represent both “faceless ritual” and “blurred movement” in a motion blurred image of enthusiastic audience members in the moment of moshing, with faces peeling away in a warped blur.

From here we developed another 10 prompts, which although quite abstract I think provide some more interesting stimulus. They are as follows:


With these in mind we spoke about how to represent a “moment” at The Tote, as it is experienced. I think there is a lot of potential for us to visit this idea at different times, although this may be our biggest restriction: the restricted time we will spend at The Tote.

Lastly, we defined our overall goals, which are to:

  • Emphasise community
  • Expand scope from Assignment 3
  • Explore presence
  • Deviate from Assignment 3

With this all laid out, I am confident that moving forward we will bring some more interesting material out of our experiences at The Tote. At this stage, I plan to delve into INTERsections and feed that into my process. I am still drawn to the experience of emptiness and how that might still be at play even with a full Tote – can there be moments of emptiness? Would any moment spent in the packed Tote reflect those I experienced in the empty Tote? Will my experiences in the empty Tote effect subsequent visits? Excited to move forward armed with these questions.

Finally, I should note my reluctance before today to follow on with The Tote. I felt as though I might have everything I need from there and was keen to apply these ideas to different sites. However, speaking to Daniel and Georgia along with Robbie discussing the effect of honing in on something specific to draw expansive material from it rather than finding little from an overwhelming stimulus has inspired me to persist with The Tote and see what else I can tease out of it.

Place, Placeness, Placelessness REFLECTION

Please follow this link to find the assignment posted previously on my blog.

Prior to beginning this assignment, there were no sites that immediately came to mind as places I was particularly interested in unpacking in the same way I did with my home space for the Home In The World investigation. However, meeting with Georgia and Daniel (see this post) set me on a clear and confident trajectory as we grappled with the ideas of sacredness and placeness and to which sites they might apply. We decided that these concepts are dependant on community and identity, and that often a place is gradually imbued with an aura of sacredness as it facilitates and fosters a burgeoning community.

With this connection to community established, Georgia suggested that we investigate The Tote, with its history as a hub for underground musical experimentation and live music. It was a great idea, and when we recalled the Save Live Australian Music rally of 2010 that rescued the venue from imminent closure, we realised the significance and worship that the venue receives and realised that it was the perfect opportunity.

We decided to pursue the venue in a way that separated it from how it might usually be perceived or experienced – stripping it back, with the hopes of finding evidence of community presence. To aid us in this pursuit, we devised the following three prompts:

– Place as Connection to Scene and Identity
– Emptiness/Negative Space
– People/Place/Community

Heading into the documentation I was particularly interested in the emptiness and negative space within The Tote, seeing as I’ve only ever been there when it has been filled and buzzing. I decided to visit the venue on my own before we planned to head in to re-familiarise myself with its usual energy and presence. I found this to be a useful exercise, especially when I did eventually compare the experience to our access during the day a few days later, as I became acutely aware of the myriad cultural artefacts: the imprints and messages committed to the surfaces, the stains and fraying fabrics, the shrines of posters and band worship. Each of these pointed to active community participation and cultivation within these walls, a process that I’ve been a part of but never aware of because it’s been too enjoyable in the moment.

The empty Tote gave me the opportunity to experiment with the idea of emptiness where it isn’t usually accessible. I was drawn to finding the ways that The Tote was animated and could breathe, particularly through the movements of light throughout the space. I found the immersive experience to be quite glorious and has redefined the feeling of that venue for me. These are ideas that I would be interested in pursuing further: to what extent is a place ’empty’? What is stillness? Does a place rely upon a particular community to remain accessible and alive? Does the degree of emptiness in a place have an effect on its sacredness? Is a place able to contain emptiness or is it only experienced? Does the experience of emptiness alter one’s perception of place?

I was pleased with the editing phase of this project, especially because I found Georgia and Daniel to be inspiring and cooperative collaborators. It was during this process that I discovered how crucial it is to establish a solid foundation in the pre-production/planning stage, as I feel we had done, which meant heading into The Tote could be experienced joyfully and curiously, and that curating the results was fascinating and rewarding. I am pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to work with them and will be keen to feedback into their respective further investigations.

Editing Phase

Today we spent class time sorting through the material we captured yesterday. I’m glad that we separated the production and post-production a day apart as it allowed me to approach the content with fresh and critical eyes. We gathered a great deal of material and it was difficult to narrow it down to the most effective few glimpses – we spent the entire three hours essentially condensing our findings to a suitable amount for submission. We arrived at each decision with a lot of discussion and eventually assessed the material based on how much it related to a sense of Place, Placeness or Placelessness.

I found working with Georgia and Daniel during this process to be really productive and enjoyable. I feel as though the assignment has thrived from each of our different perspectives and approaches to it, with each of us bringing slightly different aims and skillsets to the making of it. I’m thankful that our visions aligned at the beginning as it gave me the freedom to explore The Tote without worrying too much about whether or not it would co-mingle with Georgia or Daniel’s findings – I had faith that we shared a wavelength. I feel as though this process thusfar has been stress-free, which has opened my eyes to the fact that experimentation with solid foundations doesn’t need to be stressful and can in fact be exciting and playful. From looking at the material today it was confirmed for me that we were on the same wavelength, which has me excited to wrap this up and present next week.

Investigating the Tote

Today we had access to The Tote at 2pm, with every room available for us to investigate. Within the first five minutes it was clear how differently the space presents itself when stripped of what I thought were its defining qualities – the people, the loud music, the chatter and buzz. The way the light poured in through the windows and illuminated the stained floors and scuffed walls gave it all a soft, almost heavenly aura, which hopefully in our documentation plays well to the idea of this place being a sacred, ritual site.

There was plenty of evidence of people, materialised in sticky footsteps by the bar, marks left on tables from pints and messages inscribed on almost every surface. Feeding further into the aura of the place was the gentle hum of fridges and generators in almost every room, providing a gentle bed to our tranquil, somewhat meditative time spent there.

I found the experience to be really engaging and exciting and feel as though we’ve captured some interesting content. I’m looking forward to getting together to experiment with these fragments and finding their overlaps.

Evening Tote Visit

Last night I made my way to The Tote quite late in the evening armed with a H4N Zoom Recorder to collect sounds of the venue as it is familiar to me: packed with patrons and music booming. I had originally intended to visit during a gig that seemed to me like a classic gig one would find at The Tote (independent day festival comprised of obscure, experimental genre-bending bands) but unfortunately I didn’t make it in time.

I arrived at around 10:00pm and the venue was still relatively lively with the post-gig loiterers. I was aiming to capture nondescript conversation and did at certain points, although more often the Zoom was very receptive to specific conversations. The recordings I did get have personality and are quite lively and humorous. I’m glad I made the trip out to the Tote last night and am now looking forward to having access during the day on Wednesday to compare the experience.

Finding the Site

Yesterday I met with Daniel and Georgia for the first time to discuss our ideas heading into the next assignment. Unpacking the concepts of Place, Placeness and Placelessness, we agreed that The Tote in Collingwood is representative of each of these ideas and worth investigating.

We discussed how The Tote is a place of ritual for many, whether it be as a place to gather and drink or to discover new music and support the underground rock and experimental music scene. Doing a little research reminded me of its fairly recent closure in 2010, which prompted a massive uproar in the form of the Save Live Music rallies – a response that saved the venue and has kept it up and running to this day. Clearly this venue is cherished and has a story within its walls.

I have been to The Tote many times, even performing there on numerous occasions, so I am quite familiar of its energy within the live music context. For this assignment we are hoping to gain access to the venue during the day to document its bare presence, stripped of occupants, buzz and music. I am hopeful that we will have this opportunity and fascinated even at the thought of how different the feeling of being at The Tote at this time would be.

Home In The World REFLECTION

Heading into this assignment I was confident in the choice of prompts and decided to challenge myself to using a DSLR and Zoom recorder rather than my phone as I have experimented with my phone in the past. I am glad I made this decision as I was pleased with the quality of the material as it was eventually presented and feel that it forced me to concentrate on the creation process in a way that I might not have had I just used my phone.

As I set about collecting material for these prompts I struggled with PERFORMANCE, especially because I felt that the other three prompts dovetailed into each other quite well. I decided to focus on PRESENCE instead as a counterpoint to TRANSCENDENCE, which also made a clear connection to ROUTINE and ATTENTION and it was at this point that the process really began for me.

The process of collecting the rushes was the most difficult as I scoured the home space artefacts that would give a different interpretation of each prompt. PRESENCE was immediately inspiring as I was curious to see how I could find presence in a space without or with very little human presence. Here I found myself drawn to the trace of human presence, generally there was a sense of someone having been there prior to the shot being taken. The main exception I found was the footage of the leaf turning in the wind which to me had a ghostly elegance to it. In future pursuits of the idea of presence I’ll challenge myself to finding various types of presence in usually inanimate objects or structures, thinking beyond the ways that humans can leave an imprint.

For ATTENTION, ROUTINE and TRANSCENDENCE, I wanted to find ways of framing everyday activities that detached them from our usual understanding in some way so that they could stand alone as events. I was pleased with the way that the footage of the TV turned out as filming at that distance from the TV gave the fast-cutting content a dreamlike feel, and shooting the garage door mechanism from underneath made me realise how much more familiar I am with the sound it makes than the visual mechanics.

My favourite part of the process was editing as I was able to quite randomly throw a lot of the sounds into the sequence and have really compelling results. Before I began the assignment I was more drawn to the idea of very deliberately composing a soundscape, but the freedom of having a random order gave new life to both the clips and the sounds as they coalesced and emphasised certain aspects of each other. I found that changing the PERFORMANCE prompt to PRESENCE in the beginning of the process meant that all of the prompts felt connected enough that I was confident in being able to throw these sounds at the video content and find all of the pieces interacting in dynamic ways.

See below hyperlink to progress post:

Prompt Reflections / Contemplations