About hlyth2013

I run websites for The Choral Grapevine (a regional newsletter for choirs in Western Victoria and South-Eastern South Australia) and Cycling Geelong (a recreational cycling group). I am an artist and photographer, musician and recreational cyclist.

Framing the Ephemeral

Purpura, Allyson (2009), ‘Framing the Ephemeral’, Introduction to a special issue: Ephemeral Arts I, African Arts, 42 (3), 11-15.

(Purpura 2009)

  • Intro. To a set of articles about ephemeral art in the publication above. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/eds/detail?sid=b362fdf3-2797-40cb-9960-b32c27967f83%40sessionmgr4001&vid=1&hid=4202&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=hus&AN=505264753 for the other articles in the publication.
  • Def. Ephemeral art – ‘ephemeral art refers to works whose materials are chosen by the artist or maker for their inherently unstable characteristics, or which are created with the intention of having a finite “life.”’ P.11
  • Can’t be ‘collected’ – so no long term purpose – like gallery or trading
  • defies conventional expectations around the preservation, display,
  • and commodification of art and confounds the museum’s mission to preserve works in perpetuity. P.11
  • cites work of S. African Willem Boshoff – 2005 – fine sand, stencilled onto gallery floor – comment on degradation of languages of Africa. As an 8 month installation – the gallery staff needed to maintain the exhibit, although the intention of the artist was it’s degradation over time. 11
  • Other such gallery works are those painted directly onto walls of galleries – and removed with the closure of a specific exhibition. 11/12

History of the ephemeral

  • From 18th century – permanence of art became important – scepticism about art that was not durable – this driven by the increasing importance of collection/ownership/art as commodity. ‘It was a period in which objects became “art” for all time, and public museuims their custodians’ 12
  • Cites ‘Baudelaire’s clarion call to embrace the transience of beauty and flux of the modern city – “the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal, the immutable”. Says this was ‘silenced by the museums of his day. 12
  • This permanence in art is a western concept – non-western cultures ‘accept transience not only as a fact of life, but also as a path to ensure well-being in this world, as well as the next.’ 12
  • Cites Hindu rice flour paintings in India, also African performance art pieces like masks and figures. The intent was for natural degradation of these (sometimes such degradation was spiritual – a degradation of the evil spirits they might contain) – but this is interrupted when museums and galleries collect and preserve these artefacts. 12
  • Early 20th century – a move among Western artists – Dadaism towards questioning of art – and especially the concept of enshrining art pieces – ‘ephemeral art came to be viewed as subversive, or, at best, recalcitrant art form.’ “Dada sound and visual artists hailed the immediacy of the sense and embraced transience as a way to amplify a present that was being ravaged, in their view, by the nonsensical violence and conceit of nations at war” 12
  • Ephemeral art allows artists to “visualize time and memory as active, if not political, dimensions of the work (in distinction to the “time-based media” of film, video, and audio recordings, in which the work unfolds and is experienced over time).” 13
  • Cites

o   Columbian artist Oscar Munoz – water painting of face on hot concrete – evaporating before the face is ever completed – faces of the dead which disappear – about political disappearances in repressive regimes. 13

o   Juchen and Esther Gerz – counter monument for the holocaust (Germany)13

o   ‘And though Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta brought closure to her ephemeral works by documenting them on film, she did so in an ironic way. In her Silueta series (1973–1980), the artist laid her body down in flowerbeds, mud, sand, and snow and photographed the temporary impressions it left behind; but in these images, now the collectable dimension of her work, it is her very absence that endures (Nardella 2007; see also Viso 2004).’ 13

similar idea to Meme McDonald’s desire to view the impressions left on the walking circles by the event and, specifically, the walkers’ footprints.

o   Mary O’Neill’s art is an act of mourning – exploring art os Felix Ganzalez Torres, Dadang Christanto, Zoe Leonard

Shape-shifting, sweeping, decan and the fugitive

  • Ephemeral art works are active – changing with time. “A ritually prepared object releases power as it decays” 13
  • Briefly outlines the other articles in the publication – says that in all the articles “the ephemeral amplifies the present by giving it a temporal frame. ” 13

Purpura, Allyson (2009), ‘Framing the Ephemeral’, Introduction to a special issue: Ephemeral Arts I, 42 (3), 11-15.

Pertinence to M~M

M~M was an ephemeral arts event.  The walking circles, and most of the artefacts they contained were not permanent objects.  Article outlines a little of the history, as well as the rise of ‘conserved art’ as a commodity in galleries, and for trade.

Useful information about artists for further research.

Oscar Munoz paints with water on hot concrete. The portraits are of people who have disappeared in oppressive South American regimes. The faces, like the lives, disappear without trace.


Night walk and Shell Heading photos ready to print

Files resized for printing.  print 110cm wide 77cm high flatten2web print 110cm wide 76cm highflatweb print 110 cm wide 79 high flatweb


Large multi-photo files are made for large format printing in the Deakin photo lab.  The paper is 110cm wide.  Cost is $1.50 per inch.  A compromise must be made between large format photographs and total cost.  In the end, the night photographs are printed at 50 cm on the long side, and the Shell Heading photos at 25 cm on the shorter side.

Four photographic canvases are produced.  print 110cm wide 77cm high flatweb

The Rock, Steampacket and Point Lonsdale – photoshop playtime

This is just the beginning of creativity using Photoshop.

The Walking Circles – before and after images

Creative Response:  Part 4 – Impressions left on walking circle sites

Meme McDonald, Artistic Director of Mountain to Mouth, suggested looking at the walking circle sites after the event to see what impression (if any) was left of the walkers or the art installations.

This slide show is the result of visits to eleven of the sites over a month or so.

The twelfth site, (Site 11 – Point Lonsdale) was not included in the slide show for two reasons.  First, the site planned for the walking circle (on a lower walking path) was not used.  The circle was placed on a low table near the playground/picnic area.  Secondly, the walking circle was portable – a sandstone sculpture.  The walkers did not walk the circle, but traced the sandstone labyrinth with their fingers.

The first post-event photographs were taken on the two days after Mountain to Mouth.

At Moorpanyul Park the Barwon River Rowing Precinct sites there was no trace left of the circles or of the walkers foot marks.

At Lara RSL, the circle was still defined by twigs.

At Limeburner’s Lagoon, Steampacket Place and Drysdale Station, there was a trace of the preparative paint,  but no sign of footmarks from those walking the site.

At Big Rock, the walking circle in ochre and sand was still fully visible, and the surrounding wall of dead wood.  The sand in the labyrinth centre was still visible.  This was despite heavy rain on the second day of M~M.  There was no sign of footmarks.

At Swan Bay and Barwon Heads, the circles were marked by sand.  This was still clear, with footmarks in the sand, in the two days after the event.

At Ocean Grove, the walking circle was on the beach – and was made by sand walls and sculptures.  The day after the event part was washed away and the rest showed signs of people’s feet.

The circle at Christie’s Road, Leopold, is a permanent fixture, made as a path through a small grove of native plants and trees.  The day after the event, there was no sign of the event evident.

For those sites where there was still evidence of the walking circles in the two days after the event, follow-up photographs were taken in the following few weeks.

By June 6th, the only sites with any evidence of walking circles were Big Rock, where the circle was still clearly evident (though the surrounding stick wall had been dismantled), Swan Bay where the sand circle was still evident, though less obvious through overgrown grass, and Barwon Heads, where the circle was still evident, but the sand was spreading and merging into the grass.

The tide had completely removed all evidence of the walking circle at Ocean Grove.

Where there was still evidence of the circles and their labyrinths, people were still walking them.  When questioned, none of those I spoke to knew why the circles were there.

I intend to take follow-up photographs at Big Rock, Swan Bay and Barwon Heads over the next few weeks and months until there is no trace of any walking circle.

While the traces left of the event on the land may be few, the traces left by the land on those who were part of Mountain to Mouth will, for many, be life long memories.

The header image: part of the art installation at Ocean Grove walking circle.


Labyrinth – Simple labyrinth for photo overlay

I have been trying out several different labyrinths for a photo overlay on a large work.  This will have many tiny photos overlaid on a painted background.

Labyrinths are ancient.  Written evidence goes back at least to Greek mythology – with the legend of the Minotaur, half man, half bull, confined in a labyrinth, until he was eventually killed by Theseus.  The ancient Greeks knew of at least four labyrinths in their antiquity – in Crete, Egypt, Lemnos and what is now modern Italy.  Labyrinths are part of many cultures – from the Americas to the Indian sub-continent and central Europe.

Labyrinths differ from mazes in that there is only one pathway to the centre, not branching pathways and dead ends as in a maze.  (John Algeo considers the maze a subset of a labyrinth with the single path variety termed a meander.)

Labyrinths have several uses or purposes.  In ancient times, they were considered traps for evil spirits (or a cage for the Minotaur).  They may be decorative, like in the patterns of native American baskets and in gardens of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.  They may have a deeply spiritual meaning.  Labyrinthine floors in cathedrals of the Middle Ages could be walked as a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The Cretan labyrinth which housed the Minotaur had seven sacred circles.  According to John Algeo these represented ‘the seven spheres of the sacred planets, the seven principles of the human being and the cosmos, the seven days of the week, and other such sevenfold meanings.  Passing to the center of the labyrinth and returning to its circumference represents the involution and evolution of the universe, the coming into birth and the passing out of earthly life of an individual, and–most important–a journey into the center of our own being, the achievement there of a quest for wholeness, and the subsequent return to our divine source.’

John Algeo also gives other deep meanings to walking a labyrinth.

According to Meme McDonald, Artistic Directory of Mountain to Mouth, a labyrinth may be metaphor for the life’s journey – a seeking  for the core – a yearning for spiritual meaning.  As one walks a labyrinth one is sometimes near the centre, sometimes further away, in a similar way to the quests the human being faces on life’s path.  In this, the Labyrinth becomes also a symbol of death – when life’s journey is complete and the quest is over.

The labyrinths on the Mountain to Mouth walk were rest stops for the walkers, and a chance for them to experience ‘extreme art’.  The circular labyrinth was a common symbol on which all the participating artists constructed diverse art installations.

This labyrinth (based on the seed pattern Labyrinth) is an ancient pattern – the path I have made (in Illustrator) is that of the walker walking into and out of the labyrinth.

My labyrinth (for a photo overlay) will be followed by the viewer’s eyes.  Thus, the simpler labyrinths at the top will be easier to follow that even the simplest seed labyrinth.

Algeo, John. “The Labyrinth: A Brief Introduction to its History, Meaning and Use.” Quest  89.1 (JANUARY – FEBRUARY  2001):24-25.

McDonald, Meme, Interview with Helen Lyth, 28th May, 2014.

Header image – Mountain to Mouth:  Limeburner’s Lagoon labyrinth – Photo Helen Lyth 11/5/14 (the day after M~M).

The Night Walk

Creative Project part 2 – photos of the night walk route

It was dark when the walkers reached Limeburner’s Lagoon.  From there they walked through an area of Geelong many locals never visit – the industrial northern docks area.  At night there is a desolate majesty about this.  The walkers were silent, or chatting quietly as they walked beside the still waters of Corio Bay.  A few evening fishermen watched the strange procession.  The ships in the docks were oblivious as cargoes were loaded or discharged.

From the bay shore the noise is a steady quiet hum.  Odours change from petrochemicals to the north, to wood as the walkers pass the timber and wood chip exporting facilities surrounding Corio Quay, and roasting grain near the Grain Pier.

From St Helens the walkers entered a residential area, with views of the city skyline and Corio Bay.  Finally, after 10pm, the walkers reached the festivities at Steampacket Gardens.  For one night in a handful of nights during the year, the late night waterfront was alive with activity.

By 11 pm on May 9th, as the last walkers straggled in to Steampacket Gardens, the area was almost deserted.  Rain began to fall.

Overnight the rain intensified, greeting the walkers as they once again gathered at Steampacket Gardens at 5:30am on May 9th.  The next stage, in early morning darkness was along Moorabool Street to the Barwon River rowing area.  The whole area was deserted except for a few early morning revelers returning home.