How to present making a Trace drawing as a performance piece.

The idea that the making of a trace drawing could be part of the exhibiting, came about because the nature of the surface of the final works have been so fragile that transporting and even storing could, potentially, jeopardise their integrity. To make them where they are to be hung could solve this dilemma. There are clearly options on how this might be achieved- it could be made as part of installing the exhibition or the making could become part of the showing. The Doug Aiken- ‘Station to station- a 30 day happening’ in London recently included a number of spaces that did just this- there was a working print workshop, a graphic art studio making album covers and an artist painting the answers to people’s questions. The Soil Culture exhibition recently in Plymouth also included a number of studio spaces with artists working on their projects relating to theme of the exhibition, as part of the exhibition. I do quite like the idea of activity as part of showing, as it does often stimulate dialogue, and I in some ways make it more accessible.

Kaprow described a ‘Happening’ as something that lies in the gap between two verbal articulations-

  1. The scenario or projection of the Happening
  2. Recollection or Commentary.

So, although visually I have quite a good idea of what I might intend I need to write a projection of the scenario as I see it. To help me break down the activity in order to do this, and to record the detail I made a number of flow diagrams.

Even as I have written these words I have changed the word ‘gallery’ (that I wrote in the diagram) for ‘viewing platform’ (in the photo caption) as it occurs to me that a traditional gallery may not be the space to show this work. And as I still have to complete the Professional Practice part of the course it seems prudent to keep my options open on how it might finally be shared. For the purpose here I shall imagine working in an indoor space sufficiently large to accommodate a making space and a hanging space.


Projection of potential scenario to make Trace drawing as part of exhibition, to  include working studio space that shows part of the process.

Time requirements- at least 4-5 days in order to make and process required amount of charcoal.

Space requirements– an indoor space sufficiently large to accommodate a making space (table, chair, and materials) and a hanging space (at least 2 x 2m, with similar floor space in front of it).

Materials/ Equipment

  • Chair
  • Table
  • Bundle of willow (preferably that I have grown, otherwise farmed) – either green or pre-soaked and ready to use.
  • Secateurs
  • Collection of small tins (that will fit in fire)
  • Bag of dry sand
  • 3-4 plastic bowls
  • Spoon/scoop for sand
  • Roll of heavy paper 150 cms wide
  • Scissors
  • Long ruler
  • Wooden frame (to weight paper on aperture edge)
  • Approx.8 weights (to hold paper down)
  • 4 wooden lengths 150 cms long- for hanging
  • 4 new large bulldog clips- for hanging
  • Camera
  • Note/sketchbook
  • Tool to carefully lift charcoal from sand
  • Plate/box to collect charcoal
  • One of the living willow sculptures (Optional)
  • A selection of books related to willow/charcoal making (Optional)

Projection of Scenario.

My first task will be to prepare the paper (150 x150 cms) and hang it (using wooden lengths and bulldog clips), in its blank state, in the space.

To make previous Trace drawings I have had to prepare between 2 and 4 tins of charcoal prior to making the drawing.

Over a number of days I imagine creating a space where I can work with willow, making the spheres and packing them into tins with sand ready to be made into charcoal. For this work I imagine bringing them home for the burning, and returning the ‘ready’ tins to the space. I will aim to have 3-4 tins ready to make the drawing.

I will need to enlist a number of helpers to make the drawing and document its making.

Lay prepared paper on the floor in front of hanging space.

Lay previously prepared paper, also 150 x 150 cms, but with square aperture, 60 x 60 cms, cut from middle, over the top and weigh down using ready made wooden frame and weights.

Select 3-4 ‘ready’ tins and empty contents into space created by aperture.

Remove weights and wooden frame.

Carefully lift paper with aperture to revel ‘floor work’.

At this stage the work could be left for a period of time (an hour or 24 hrs) before completing the Trace drawing, allowing time to consider and document fully this stage.

To complete final stage- carefully remove charcoal into container, then the paper can be lifted and the charcoal covered sand emptied into a plastic bowl, revealing the drawing.

Hang the drawing.

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1 Response to How to present making a Trace drawing as a performance piece.

  1. Pingback: Maybe there are clothes there – David Howard OCA Blog

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