think of an apple what do you see in your mind? I see a black void

Research and practice 2020 – capturing nature


think of an apple what do you see in your mind? I see a black void

think of an apple
what do you see in your mind?
I see a black void

With Aphantasia I can’t imagine things visually so I make them. It is just as weird to me to think about how an apple looks as to think about how sound might look, or movement. My practice revolves around making intangible things solid. I tend to make things that can be held in the hands so they deliver a personal sensory experience in a different way.

Visible and tactile sound

At the start of the year I developed a machine that drew the pattern of music using clay slip or glaze. This moved into 3D forms that represented the shape of sounds. I wanted to be able to hold songs in my hand.

Teenage Kicks in Clay machine generated shape you can hold the song

Teenage Kicks in clay
machine generated shape
you can hold the song

Ev’ry Bird drawings

I don’t see images in my head but I do hear sounds, generally music, sometimes quotes. I had a recurring quote from William Blake “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?” running through my head and this inspired me to use birds as the data for the next stage of making intangible things solid.

During lockdown I started to capture the movement of birds and the wind in line. I used a series of drawing machines rigged up in my garden. Birds landing on a platform moved a pen, the wind moved sails that also moved the pen. These became a recording of the movement of time, recorded over 12 hours with different colours used for different temperatures throughout the day.

I also brought in an interest in ontology and phenomenology rooted in Spinoza (“everything is nature”), Heidegger who wrote about objects withdrawing from our sense of reality and contemporary philosophers such as Graham Harman and Tim Morton who are loosely categorised as speculative realists. The main themes I’m taking from this (and working with) are that everything is an object under tension that reacts or withdraws from every other object and that there are many aspects to reality we cannot sense.


24 hours here day and night the first of June drawing lockdown life

24 hours drawn
day and night the first of June
capturing lockdown

Rocket Pots

The next stage of this is to capture that movement of nature in 3 dimensions. I’m using a similar method to paint thrown stoneware pots using colours that represent temperatures but made over a series of days or even weeks. The premise here is that you can see and hold all of October, rain and all.

The shape is influenced by the 50’s and 60’s science fiction I was reading and listening to at the time.

sci fi rocket pots decorated by nature made by Lisa Cole

sci fi rocket pots
decorated by nature
made by Lisa Cole

Control v chance

Although the decoration and initial data is generated in an analogue way via chance, I’m controlling that with the choices of colours or the actual shape. The rocket pots have a strong geometric shape, technically challenging to throw. They seem to root into the ground but point to a hidden apex, like a space ship focusing a ray gun.

What next?

I’d like the birds and wind to make an actual 3D shape rather than just decorate them.

I can use the lines as a pattern as I did with Teenage Kicks or I could develop a low tech clay extruder triggered by movement. This needs experimentation with consistency of clay slip and possible additives. There are issues around drying and humidity that would need to be either controlled or worked with.

I’ve just started to live stream some of the bird and wind drawings. I could plot these movements and send them to a 3D printer to make them in real time.

Visible and Tactile sound was only ever a prototype so there is more I could do with that, recording memories in a form you could hold for example.

I have so far only worked with sound and movement. I could also work with taste and smell.