Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton | Tags: archaeology, buildings, collaboration, happ(i)nings, Mapping, walking
Walking Papa Westray, Antonia Thomas and Daniel Lee, 2013
Came across this site today, two archaeologists-in-residence at the Papay Gyro Nights festival in the Orkneys organised by Land Art Papa Westray. View the full paper: http://archaeologistsinresidence.wordpress.com/
Land Art Papa Westray
Filed under: Dispatches, Elizabeth Masterton, Gazetteer, Happidrome 4 | Tags: buildings, decay, Drytree, Elizabeth Masterton, heritage, radar, research, writing, WW2
Elizabeth Masterton has been working with researcher Benjamin Oldcorn to unravel the mysteries of some of the derelict buildings on the RAF Drytree site. The RAF Dry Tree/Goonhilly NNR Building Identification Project report was commissioned by Natural England to form the basis of new interpretative material for visitors to the site. The report includes the buildings earmarked for inclusion on a new walking route around the site, and doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a good start. Please do get in touch if you have any information regarding RAF Drytree or identifications for any of the buildings we’ve missed.
Photos by Benjamin Oldcorn.
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton, The17 | Tags: communications, events, happ(i)nings, outside, performance, The17
Thanks to you all for taking part.
To find out more about The17, visit http://the17.org
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton | Tags: Animation, dark, Elizabeth Masterton, light, projection
New work presented last weekend at HAPPIDROME; this time WITH sound. The images below show a glimpse of how the projection interacted with the fabric of the building, a little window on dilapidation. They remind me of prints that I made at the RCA of pillbox loopholes.
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton | Tags: Elizabeth Masterton, events, language, powerpoint
New work presented at HAPPIDROME this weekend. It looked great projected on the wall of the bunker.
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton | Tags: buildings, bunkers, exhibtions
Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski is building a replica WW2 bunker in the Barbican….Here’s the slightly breathless blurb from the Barbican website!
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton | Tags: Acoustics, computing, Electricity, Memory, sound
This is the memory of the first commercial computer, UNIVAC 1.
The following is taken from the IEEE Spectrum blog http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/core-memories
“…J. Presper Eckert, co-inventor of the UNIVAC, and four other members of the Institute of Radio Engineers wrote in 1949: ”In a delay-line memory, information is stored in the form of groups of electrical or acoustical impulses or signals circulating in an electric delay line or medium suitable for transmission of acoustic waves.
“The authors noted, ”Although considerable research is being done on electrostatic memories…the delay-line type of memory is more highly developed at the present time.” Of course, today essentially all memory is electrostatic.”
Links to radar
Interestingly, delay-line memory was developed from work on radar to filter out unwanted ‘noise’. This from Wikipedia; I’ve included it in its entirety as it gives a good description of the principles and fundamentals of radar. Geeks, read on…
A radar system consists largely of an antenna, a transmitter, a receiver, and a display of some sort. The antenna is connected to the transmitter, which sends out a brief pulse of radio energy before being disconnected again. The antenna is then connected to the receiver, which amplifies any reflected signals, and sends them to the display. Objects further from the radar return echos later in time than those located closer to the radar, which the display indicates visually.
Non-moving objects at a fixed distance from the antenna always return a signal after the same delay. This would appear as a fixed spot on the display, making detection of other targets in the area more difficult. Early radars simply aimed their beams away from the ground in order to avoid the majority of this “clutter”. This was not an ideal situation by any means; it required careful setup and aiming which was not very easy for smaller mobile radars, and did nothing to remove other sources of clutter like reflections off of certain terrain features.
In order to filter these returns out, two pulses were compared, and returns with common timing are removed. To do this, the signal being sent from the receiver to the display was split in two, with one path leading directly to the display, and the second leading to a delay unit. The delay was carefully tuned to delay the signals some multiple of the time between pulses (the pulse repetition frequency), that way the delayed signal from an earlier pulse would exit the delay unit at the same time as a newer pulse was being received from the antenna. One of the signals was then inverted, typically the one from the delay, and the two signals were then combined and sent to the display. Any signal that was at the same location was nullified by the inverted signal from a previous pulse, leaving only the moving objects on the display.
Several different types of delay systems were invented for this purpose, with one common principle being that the information was stored acoustically in a medium. MIT experimented with a number of systems including glass, quartz, steel and lead. The Japanese deployed a system consisting of a quartz element with a powdered glass coating that reduced surface waves that interfered with proper reception. The United States Naval Research Laboratory used steel rods wrapped into a helix, but this was useful only for low frequencies under 1 MHz. Raytheon used a magnesium alloy originally developed for making bells.
The first practical de-cluttering system based on the concept was developed by J. Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania‘s Moore School of Electrical Engineering. His solution used a column of mercury with piezo crystal transducers (a combination of speaker and microphone) at either end. Signals from the radar amplifier were sent to the piezo at one end of the tube, which would cause the transducer to pulse and generate a small wave in the mercury. The wave would quickly travel to the far end of the tube, where it would be read back out by the other piezo, inverted, and sent to the display. Careful mechanical arrangement was needed to ensure the delay time matched the inter-pulse timing of the particular radar being used.
All of these systems were suitable for conversion into a computer memory. The key was to recycle the signals within the memory system so they would not disappear after traveling through the delay. This was relatively easy to arrange with simple electronics.
Acoustic delay lines: Mercury
After the war Eckert turned his attention to computer development, which was a topic of some interest at the time. One problem with practical development was the lack of a suitable memory device, and Eckert’s work on the radar delays meant he had a major advantage over other researchers in this regard.
For a computer application the timing was still critical, but for a different reason. Conventional computers have a natural “cycle time” needed to complete an operation, the start and end of which typically consist of reading or writing memory. Thus the delay lines had to be timed such that the pulses would arrive at the receiver just as the computer was ready to read it. Typically many pulses would be “in flight” through the delay, and the computer would count the pulses by comparing to a master clock to find the particular bit it was looking for.
Mercury was used because the acoustic impedance of mercury is almost exactly the same as that of the piezoelectric quartz crystals; this minimized the energy loss and the echoes when the signal was transmitted from crystal to medium and back again. The high speed of sound in mercury (1450 m/s) meant that the time needed to wait for a pulse to arrive at the receiving end was less than it would have been with a slower medium, such as air, but it also meant that the total number of pulses that could be stored in any reasonably sized column of mercury was limited. Other technical drawbacks of mercury included its weight, its cost, and its toxicity. Moreover, to get the acoustic impedances to match as closely as possible, the mercury had to be kept at a temperature of 40 °C (100 °F), which made servicing the tubes hot and uncomfortable work.
A considerable amount of engineering was needed to maintain a “clean” signal inside the tube. Large transducers were used to generate a very tight “beam” of sound that would not touch the walls of the tube, and care had to be taken to eliminate reflections off the far end of the tubes. The tightness of the beam then required considerable tuning to make sure the two piezos were pointed directly at each other. Since the speed of sound changes with temperature (because of the change in density with temperature) the tubes were heated in large ovens to keep them at a precise temperature. Other systems instead adjusted the computer clock rate according to the ambient temperature to achieve the same effect.
EDSAC, designed to be the first stored-program digital computer, began operation with 512 35-bit words of memory, stored in 32 delay lines holding 576 bits each (a 36th bit was added to every word as a start/stop indicator). In the UNIVAC I this was reduced somewhat, each column stored 120 bits (although the term “bit” was not in popular use at the time), requiring seven large memory units with 18 columns each to make up a 1000-word store. Combined with their support circuitry and amplifiers, the memory subsystem formed its own walk-in room. The average access time was about 222 microseconds, which was considerably faster than the mechanical systems used on earlier computers.”
Audio to follow…maybe.
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton, Gazetteer | Tags: buildings, Electricity, ephemera, heritage
There’s a whole community of people out there making mocked-up videos of Emergency Broadcast Tests, the system used to alert the populous to an imminent catastrophic event. Its curious how many people are attracted to imagining the end of the world (though I guess its been going on for millenia). If you’ve got the time, check out some of the related videos. This one has it all, with a plethora of sirens, scary lady robot voices, fat gothic typefaces and authentic 1980s ads.
Filed under: Elizabeth Masterton, Happidrome 1 | Tags: buildings, cycling, Electricity, Elizabeth Masterton, happ(i)nings, installation
After devising ‘there’ll always be an England’ as a participatory work for Happidrome One, it was recreated during ‘offsite:inside’ curated by Sara Bowler at Newyln Art Gallery, 2008. I was curious to see how the meaning of a site specific work would change in a gallery context. The following is from a critical discussion of the project by writer Paul Glinkowski-full text can be found at http://engineroomcogs.org/component/option,com_docman/task,cat_view/Itemid,44/gid,37/orderby,dmdate_published/ascdesc,DESC/
Red, white and blue; what does it mean to you?
Surely you’re proud, shout it aloud,
The empire too, we can depend on you.
Freedom remains. These are the chains
Nothing can break.
There’ll always be an England,
And England shall be free
If England means as much to you
As England means to me.
Elizabeth Masterton trained as printmaker at Brighton and at the Royal College of Art, where she gained an MA in 2000. Her practice has since moved in other directions, including into making work in a variety of media in response to nongallery settings. For Me and My Shadow, a weekend-long project at Wilton’s Music Hall in Hackney, London, in May 2005, for example, Masterton collaborated with Loretta Bosence to create a sound installation, Sing us an Old Song!, using recordings of elderly women, some of whom had formerly worked in the music hall, singing songs that they feared might disappear and that they would like to pass on. The songs were piped out into the empty music hall auditorium. ‘There were no visual props at all,’ says Masterton, ‘just the building and the sound.’There’ll always be an England, the work that Masterton recreated at the Newlyn Art Gallery for OI, also hearkens back to an old song: this time it is to a nostalgic,patriotic one.
There’ll always be an England was originally made for the artist-led project Happidrome, which took place on Goonhilly Downs in July 2007, on the remnants of a site that was occupied during the Second World War by a radar station, RAF Drytree. Now located within a national nature reserve, the building itself is gated but the area around it remains accessible to the public. Reflecting on the military history of the site provided the trigger for the work. ‘I have a long-standing interest in military systems and architecture,’ says Masterton, ‘in how the military sets itself up as an infallible institution. I’m interested in exploring the fallibility of the supposedly infallible. The military seemed to me to epitomise that.’
In physical terms, the installation There’ll always be an England consists of an old-fashioned ladies bike mounted on a stand, which is attached by wires to a hardboard screen in front upon which the words “There’ll always be an England” appear in incandescent lights when the cyclist peddles with sufficient force. In Happidrome, the work occupied a dark space at the end of a disused 90 foot bunker. ‘In preparing for the project,’ says Masterton, ‘I read lots of local history books, and papers from the public records office. I learned that bicycles were an important part of escaping from the military life. The location on the Downs made it hard to get off base for leisure time, but some of the personnel were issued with bikes that they could take outside. A lot of the radio operators at the base were women, and I was interested in what the WAFFs [the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force] did for recreation.’ The bike used in the piece is a lady’s bike, and the graphic style of the illuminated phrase, “There’ll always be an England”, is derived from a 1940s knitting magazine. ‘I call the typeface “Forties housewife”,’ says Masterton, ‘but it would have been handrawn (by a man, I’d imagine) to be suggestive of female handwriting.’
The idea of doing something “under your own steam” became a driving idea for the work. It refers to the Second World War ethic that everybody had to pull together. The song There’ll always be an England was written in 1940, when RAF Drytree would have been operational, by Parker and Charles, who also penned another well known patriotic song of that time (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover. ‘The song is about the indomitability of England,’ says Masterton. ‘My work though, wishes to question nationalistic clichés, such as the oversimplistic idea of England being “a green and pleasant land”. The description of England in the song is very much about lovely cottages and rolling fields, and about the British Empire always being there to protect England. I thought about recording me singing the song in the bunker. That would introduce the idea of frailty to the work. I’m not a good singer, so there would be a weedy voice there in the bunker. I decided in the end though, not to use music on this occasion, just the text.’
By staging the work in the derelict building Masterton implied that, in fact, there may not “always be an England”. The overgrown and decrepit bunker was a reminder that monuments to the idea of permanence are being left to decay. The bike used in the installation, though not an original 1940s model, was also calculatedly dilapidated. And the incandescent miniature light bulbs used to illuminate the eponymous slogan were deliberately meant to look old fashioned; to give off “an end of the pier” type glow. There is an element of knocked togetherness about the piece as a whole, which mirrors the way that some of the Radar technology of the time was knocked together. ‘They were often not elegant solutions,’ says Masterton, ‘they were “make do and mend” type solutions.’
Originally, the work was shown in pitch black surroundings. Visitors had to be guided on to the bike by invigilators. ‘Until you were actually peddling the bike,’ says Masterton, ‘you could not even see that there was a phrase there to be illuminated. The bike was welded onto the frame in the highest gear, so it was incredibly hard to peddle. The faster you peddled, the brighter the lights became; so you were rewarded for working harder. People were so pumped up with adrenaline, or endorphins, that they invariably came out saying “oh wow, what a great piece”. I liked the fact that your body was making chemicals in response to the art work and that that might be altering or influencing your perception of the work.’
Visitors to Happidrome tended to respond to Masterton’s work as an experiential, interactive piece, rather than something symbolic that required interpretation. ‘I thought that people would relate it to what was happening in the world now,’ says Masterton, ‘to how our position in the world has changed since the Second World War. But people didn’t necessarily see it in that way.’ When Happidrome ended, Masterton wanted to leave the work in the bunker so that anyone who happened to stumble across it could still make it work, but the bunker sprang a leak and the installation had to be removed.
Recreating the work at the Newlyn Art Gallery offered a chance to find out whether the reception of the work would be different in a gallery setting. ‘I decided just to try it out to see how the meaning would change when the work was brought into a white space,’ said Masterton. ‘Initially, I thought “that’s just not going to work”, and I considered doing something else for OI, but the curator and I decided that there didn’t seem to be another way that we could suggest or somehow represent the piece in the gallery. We decided in the end just to bring it in and try it. I’m glad we did, because it is completely different.’
The Newlyn Art Gallery lacked not just the historical dimension, the connection to the Second World War, but also the quality and immediacy of sensation encountered in the bunker. The aspect of reward and interactivity remained, but the drama of the location was missing. ‘The bunker has its own peculiar atmosphere,’ recalls Masterton, ‘it’s dark, spooky, and enigmatic. It smells damp, and that instantly carries connotations of age and memory and decay. All those things are lost in the more clinical gallery setting.’ The gallery space was also quite light, which meant that the text was revealed without the effort of having to peddle the bike.
‘The ensemble aspect of the original group show is also missing here’ observed Masterton. ‘It is no longer one of a series of new works made in response to a common site. In general, I favour taking work out of the gallery, but there is a real problem in trying to get people along. Without the curator’s invitation, I would not have thought of recreating the work in a gallery, though there was an interest in seeing how the meaning of the piece would change and what aspects of it would survive. I wouldn’t say it was unsuccessful here, I would just say it is very different from the site in which it was intended to be seen. Physically speaking, it actually fits very well in the Newlyn space, but that was a happy coincidence.’
The institutional atmosphere of the Newlyn Art Gallery also made a difference to the reception of the work. At Happidrome the audience did include people who had made a specific effort to see the project, but there were others who were just out walking the dog. Masterton felt frustrated by the lack of opportunity for critical feedback at the original offsite location. Because it was an artist-initiated project there was an absence of independent curatorial dialogue; each artist simply worked in isolation on their own piece. For Masterton this meant that there was little chance fully to articulate the thought processes that had gone into the work. ‘I was interested in the opportunity that OI offered to have a dialogue with a writer,’ observed Masterton, ‘because that offered the possibility of some critical discussion, and a chance to talk through some of the dimensions of the work that had perhaps remained dormant.’
Masterton chose not to reproduce any documentation from the original offsite project alongside its gallery incarnation. ‘I’m very ambivalent about documenting site specific work,’ she explained. ‘It can only provide a snapshot; you lack the sight, the sounds, the smell of the piece in situ. That’s what I liked about the original piece: that there were all sorts of other senses being stimulated. That just wouldn’t be the case in the gallery.’
Although Masterton’s recreation of There’ll always be an England lacked the rich contextual trappings and the suggestive atmospherics of its original staging, it did nevertheless seem to hold its own as a gallery exhibit. Shorn of any didactic explication of the ideas that had informed its genesis, its themes of ambiguous patriotism and uncertain nostalgia, allied to the effort of interactivity required to trigger and thereby complete the spectacle, meant that viewers were still able to engage with the piece on multiple levels. The result may not have been as full, or as rewarding, as it was offsite, but it was by no means negligible as a visual and contemplative experience.
Text © Paul Glinkowski 2008
Happidrome images by Paul Ridout
Offsite:Inside images by Sara Bowler