Field – The City – Marble container ideas

Having thought about it, I’m not going to be able to leave my marbles out covering the floor of an area in town, as they’re going to be a trip hazard. I was very much basing my ideas on the image of Clare Twomey’s “Trophy”, Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower seeds” and even Twomey’s “Consciousness Conscience” with the objects spread out all over the floor and are so abundant that you can’t ignore them and simply have to navigate around them.

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However, these were all in gallery spaces, with willing participants and I’m sure stringent health and safety checks in place, as well as the permission of the gallery. I can’t feasibly go into the centre of town and dump 10,000 marbles (10,000 being a large number off the top of my head, I don’t intend to make 10,000) onto the middle of queen’s street without people becoming angry that I’ve infringed on their public space, as well as me getting in trouble with the counsel or whoever manages public spaces in Cardiff. I could contact someone to try and get permission, but I highly doubt they would give it to me (understandably), and even if I did it in secret at say 5am in the morning, there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t be taken away, and at the very least the university would know that I had done it and I would get in trouble with the ethics committee.

I could try and section off an area of the floor in some manner such as building small fences, but I’m still not sure that would be seen as safe enough so I may as well abandon the idea of them being on the floor. Instead it seems they’re going to have to be contained in some way.

field024The problem with containers, is that they very much limit people’s likelihood to interact with them. Firstly, if I leave a box of marbles in the middle of the street, people are likely to think that they have somehow been left there by accident and so won’t want to touch or disturb them in any way. Secondly, there’s nothing from stopping someone taking the entire box of marbles and walking off with them, which while it would be interesting kind of defeats the point of the piece of only one person gets to enjoy all of them, it spoils it for everyone else. Also, while I don’t mind lots of individual people stealing my work bit by bit, somebody coming along and up and taking months worth of work would probably be very infuriating. Another problem is that you can’t really see the “abundance” of marbles that I would like there to be, they are very avoidable and unnoticable. Also, as I plan to have the marbles in different colours with different rarities I would like you to be able to see a large range of marbles at one time so that it is apparent that some are more common than others, and you might be able to see the single gold marble. If they are in a box or a tub this might be easy to miss, especially the single gold, and I don’t think people are likely to want to root around through a box if they only think there are a few set colours.

field025I think a better idea would be a large, flat dish. While it’s still not as appealing or intrusive as the floor, the marbles can at least largely all be on show at one time, and the flat open surface makes it more appealing for people to come over and interact with it. This also gets rid of the problem of people assuming they’ve been left there by mistake, as a dish full of marbles on a stand is not something people accidentally leave around town and is clearly there for the public to interact with.

I don’t want to have to leave a sign or posting of any sort that tells people what the marbles are for or what to do with them, such as “free marbles!”. While they’re not necessarily going to be self explanatory as to what they’re for, and people might not play with them (as I’m not sure most people know how to play marbles) they can investigate them freely without any constraints on their behaviour. If they have more fun throwing the marbles at each other, or making patterns with them on the floor then they are welcome to do that. If I put up any form of signs saying they are there to be played with, people might then think “well I don’t want to play a game of marbles, so I won’t bother going over and looking at them”.

This is also why I want to film the marbles from afar as the day progresses. I would very much like a document of the work, that it existed, and that people’s response to it. But if people are in any way aware that they are being filmed or documented, this is again going to scare them off from interacting with them, or their behaviour will be unnatural as they are self aware of being recorded. This will ruin the chance of any form of spontaneity that I hope might occur, and while I could document people’s behaviour in a notepad by watching from afar that really isn’t a very good visual document of what happened. I have spoken to Ingrid about this, and she said that I’m going to have to apply to the ethics board if I wanted to film people in public, as even though people are filmed in public all the time by CCTV cameras, in the background of photos etc this is is a different context where I am specifically setting out to document somebody’s behaviour without their permission or knowledge. This is a bit of a setback, as I think it is also an important part of the project that it is documented correctly, and I will have to look into applying for ethics permission as I have no idea what that involves. Ingrid also said that I would be allowed to leave the marbles on the floor of the gallery space in the university, but the problem with that is that the response that a bunch of art students have, seeing a piece of art, inside their art university, is going to be very different than the response of a person in the street. For example, I walked through the gallery space the other day and saw maybe 20 bananas hanging from the ceiling, and thought nothing of it. In fact, I assumed the bananas were there to see whether or not people would start taking them (which in fact they did over the week), and I considered replacing the empty banana skins with new fresh bananas, or even something else like a carrot, just in order to baffle the artist. This is certainly not the same reaction it would have had to the general public, and I want to make a piece of work that enriches the experience of “The City”, rather than an exclusive minority of art students.

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