art is a kind of mentally exhausting play

Wow. I haven’t written anything yet this month and we are almost at the middle.

I have been busy trying to come up with a system for photographing string figures. This involves me playing with string, finding ways to connect to this form of story-telling and play, and then attempting to document the results. I mentioned in a previous post that string figures are games like cats cradle that many of us played when we were children. They involve a twisting of string and a contorting of hands to create shapes … the sun, a mountain, a crab etc. People around the world and throughout time have used string as a way to tell stories, engage imagination and I assume kill time.

It is a surprisingly difficult endeavour.

Partly, this is because instructions are hard to come by and are easily misread or misinterpreted. It is nearly impossible to articulate in words the complex twists and turns that eventually create a shape. I like them for this reason. Their elusive nature. It is a challenge to capture these forms in words or in pictures. Yet they seem connected to an innate, bodily sense of geometry. In the process you are always contorting triangles from a single line of string until it becomes something vaguely recognizable, a symbol for something known.

A further complication arises from trying to make these forms into an artwork of some kind. Leaving evidence of these fleeting forms. While negotiating with the camera, the string likes to slip and distort. Focussing on the thin thread is a near impossible task for a person on their own, which I guess would make them a group activity, but I am rarely able to get help in the middle of the day. I am slowly developing a system, but it is a laughable one. One that involves me holding a coat hanger in my mouth for the camera to have something to focus on and then dropping said coathanger and replacing with the hands holding the string figure, once the focus has been developed. This is repeated about ten times until the image is just right. Unless the shape falls apart in which case it is back to the drawing board. Perhaps someone should be documenting that! Sometimes I look back on my day and laugh at the futility of it all. I wonder why? But the next morning brings the same desire for mentally exhausting play and I begin again. Oh, but when that picture comes out just right or that drawing is finally complete, the bubble of excitement in my chest is definitely worth it.

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P.S – I have discovered that the best surface to photograph these against is my rather fluffy, black, cashmere sweater. Something about the fluffy surface makes for a nice, deep black background. Just goes to show that art and fashion can coexist.

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