I’m making a new piece of work for an exhibition in Hexham in October. It’s kind of a remix of an old work, and builds on something I’ve wanted to make for a long time. To gather images and a GPS track I went on a flight in a Cessna 150 yesterday from Newcastle Flying School at Newcastle airport. Back in 2004 I got my National Private Pilots License (after getting the bug during another project), but I haven’t flown since then. I had forgotten a lot of the details, but the basics of flying, gaining and losing altitude and turning were still there. When we got to the area I wanted to make the GPS drawing in the instructor just let me go for it, freehand drawing with the plane and the GPS. I wish I’d remembered that I could do tighter turns to make the drawing more specific, but as that means banking at quite a big angle I didn’t have the confidence at the time (can I afford the time and cash to do it again?). But to hold the steering on your toes, to turn and level up, to keep the nose at the right level to not gain or loose height, those balances were still there. The size of the movements needed to make the right adjustment, how to watch the landscape, the sky, the instruments, to steer left and right with feet and up and down with hands. It was all there in tiny adjustments.
I have also been working on making a dress to test a pattern. Photographs I took during the flight will be printed onto fabric and made into this dress so that I can wear the landscape, the altitude, the sky and the flight. My sewing skills are almost as rusty as my flying ones. This is the third attempt at making seams match, the second unpicking. There’s a small adjustment of a seam to make. As I sit at the sewing machine, stitching those lines with a pedal under my foot, using my hands to guide the the fabric, constantly checking against the 5/8 inch guide line, nudging the fabric back into place, and keeping the speed constant with my foot, I started to think about accuracy. Recently I’ve been writing about the unrulyness of research methods in the ‘Unruly Pitch’ work. I usually think of myself as someone who makes things ‘well enough’ while improvising in new situations. But yesterday and today have been about accuracy, and a level of attention to small adjustments, to working with feet on pedals, and to steering machines to create lines that fit together.
I remember more about why I’ve wanted to make this work for such a long time. There is an engagement with operation of a machine, tracing a line and following instructions, while dealing with three dimensional space that is a big part of why I make things. Flying in the sky and construction of the three dimensional form of a dress both allow me to move in three dimensions, which needs a certain kind of thinking in and through the world. The outward view of the landscape and sky in flying, and the inward making of a garment to cover the body remind me of playing with Quicktime VR in the 1990’s, stitching images together to either make a panorama (standing still and rotating while taking photographs) or to make an object (the object stays still and you move 360 degrees around it). (Forced Entertainment made Frozen Palaces work using QTVR). Flying felt like being in the panorama, sewing a dress is like moving around an object.