After a lovely breakfast at The Boat House, we went for a chilly damp walk around Gosport seafront in the fog. Portsmouth was barely visible across the narrow harbour and everything was dripping with fog – perfect for some moody shots!
I was lucky enough to have a lovely head and shoulder massage today and I suddenly had an insight into mindfulness and our need to ‘switch off’.
Having the massage, with my eyes closed, I lost myself in the relaxing feelings and realised that it was akin to mindfulness – that ability to switch off, to step away from our normal thought processes and be in the present moment.
We often have hobbies or pastimes that do this – anything where we might say “the time flew” “I was in the zone” “I lost track of time” – they are all forms of being in the moment, experiencing ‘Now’ and perhaps we do these activities because we need this peace, we need to have some space from the incessant thoughts in our heads – worrying, planning, berating ourselves for something….
I often try to explain mindfulness to people, and yet, it is merely cultivating the ability to conjure up this feeling and peaceful space at will – without having to distract or occupy yourself in order to achieve it. With practice, mindfulness means you can find these little pockets of peace more easily and eventually they fill all the little spare moments in your day, and I believe that this leads to very positive changes in mental health, which is increasingly important these days.
A great many artists will tell you that it is essential to have a cull of your work regularly, in order to keep things fresh, but it is a very difficult thing to do. Earlier this year I met Mark Anstee (see my blog post from January) who strongly feels that his work is temporary, and consequently, he culls regularly.
The prints they chose were mesmerising and I realised in an instant that I had to cull my photographic work and concentrate on the simple, zen, abstract work that I do.
So this morning I have deleted hundreds and hundreds of pictures that I have taken this year. I have only kept the ones that made my heart sing when I saw them, and surprisingly most of them just evoked a ‘nah’ reaction – it wasn’t very difficult to do!
“One should photograph things not only for what they are, but also for what else they are.” Minor White
The exhibition is over. The room is empty. The project that has consumed the last six months every waking thought is packed away in bubblewrap and I am left a little bereft and wondering what to do. So how did it go?
Over the 15 days the exhibition was open, we had 1028 (adult) visitors which is an incredible achievement. It was always interesting watching people viewing the work – a mixture of art lovers who had come specifically and parents of children at Action Stations who wandered into an alternative universe from the noisy child centred activity around us.
Of the ‘walk ins’ it was clear that some were not used to seeing an art exhibition but in the spirit of wandering around the Dockyard perhaps, they gave it a go and had a good look round. It was very rewarding to feel that we may have challenged some beliefs about what fine art is all about.
We had some favorite moments, like when a child asked his Dad what my 3D installation ‘Opportunity’ was. “That’s art Henry, that’s art” he replied 🙂
And when we had a bone fide (and rather handsome) celebrity visit who was presumably just visiting the dockyard with their kids for the holidays, but it was lovely of him to drop in.
A couple of kids were unruly and we had some damage to a couple of things (luckily repairable) – but we always knew that was a risk but the benefits of having so many kids (not counted in the numbers above) see the show out-weighed that completely.
For my own stats, we were keeping record of the number of times that Being Present was triggered and how many people saw it through to the end. I always knew that a 2 minute art performance would stretch many people as the average time someone will stand infront of a piece of art is usually measured in seconds! I’m still working on the data but will post figures soon.
The raffle was extremely successful – 6 original pieces of art from the artists – there was something for everyone as entrants could prioritise their favorites. In the event, when the raffle was called, everyone got their first or second choice. Jenny Walden, Associate Dean, at the University of Portsmouth was there to receive her winning piece from me which was lovely!
So what made our exhibition so successful? I put it down to two factors. Firstly, location location location! We had a wonderful space in one of Britain’s top tourist attractions – that was a great move! Secondly the effort and expense we went to for marketing – it was the lion’s share of our spending but worth every penny. I was always gratified by people coming in with one of our fliers, or who said they heard about us on Twitter or who had read about us in the local paper. And of course we were on the Big Screen too!
One of my favorite pieces at the show is Being Present – an interactive digital piece that aims to show people the benefits of mindfulness – of being present, even if only for 2 minutes.
I have loved watching everyone try it out – not everyone sees it to the end but those that do (and it’s only 2 mins!) say it’s very restful and calming.
Here is the technical spec followed by a gallery of shots from the last few weeks:
Raspberry Pi 3
Adafruit 64 x 32 RGB LED Matrix x 2 (giving 12,288 controllable points of red, green and blue, each with 255 levels of brightness)
Adafruit RGB Matrix HAT & Real Time Clock
WaveShare 5″ Touch Screen Display
Mini Keyboard with Mouse Mat
Custom electronics for control
Pressure sensitive mat
Raspbian Jessie Operating System running Python programs
IBM Node Red for Internet of Things
The installation is a collaboration between myself and technical expert Bradley Hawkins who has spent a great deal of time programming in order to get the effect I wanted. Each time the process runs it is unique for each viewer and if they step away the work closes down. The colours, shapes and effects have been carefully chosen to show chaos and then peace.
You can try the innovative work yourself at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Action Stations, first floor) daily until 2nd September. It’s free to enter, just mention us at the gate.
I’ve been a bit delayed doing this post as I have been manning the show but I finally got a few mins free. The opening night went brilliantly, the art looked amazing and even better, hundreds of people showed up and said nice things. It was also lovely to bump into so many people I know electronically and put faces to Twitter IDs!
The only glitch was at 5.45, just before we were expecting our VIPs, the power went out! As with all the minor issues this week, we were not expecting that one! Quickly fixed by Will running up the stairs and flipping the switch back 🙂