About Me

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Liverpool/Sheffield, United Kingdom

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


video

video

Capturing a moment of extreme discomfort whilst enduring extreme weather conditions.

Experimenting with the most successful way of capturing endurance, and discomfort. 
Film 1- Film unedited apart from being centralised and at normal speed.
Film 2- Film slowed down to 50%+ and centralised

Film 1 most successful. Viewer able to empithise more with discomfort due to sound of the wind and image being realistic.
Film 2 less successful due to image being distorted, slowed down image causes a fluid dream like state, which appears pleasant as opposed to uncomfortable.             

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Event plan



Preparation-
3 fully charged cameras
3 Tripods
Extension cables for power
6 tapes
Brief help Team
Masking tape to secure wires
Film James and Beth failing or completing the route 

Itinerary-
5.00 Arrive to set up the cameras
5.40 People arrive
6.00 Briefing
6.00-6.45 First set of climbs
6.45-7.30 Second set of climbs

Experiments-

First set of 3

Helper
Predictions
1a
-ve verbal persuasion
Sash
Less success due to –ve attitude
2a
Show participant film of success of the route.
James
More attempts and success due to encouragement of someone else’s success.
3a
Female
Beth
More girls succeed than with male route.

Second set of 3


1b
+ve verbal persuasion.

Sash
More attempts and success due to +ve attitude.
2b
Show participant film of failure of the route.
Beth

Less attempt and succeed.
3b
Male
James
Less girls attempt and succeed. 

Colours indicate that climbs should be similar in grade to remove grade as a variable. All climbs should be low in grade.

Briefing-
  •  Ask everyone to write down name and email address 
  • Purpose of event-Art practice currently based on climbing, Use the session to get some footage, both art and climbing very related, Want to look at creativity within climbing (are artistic people naturally good at climbing due to creative nature.)
  •  Feel free to warm up and have a practice, the green routes and orange routes are the easiest.
  • I Will be filming 6 routes in 2 separate goes and will be filming for roughly 45 mins for each. When you have finished the 3 climbs mark them on the sheet. When everyone has climbed the fist set I’ll move the cameras to the next set and the process can be repeated.  
  • Make sure you have a go at climbing all 6 routes with cameras pointing at them. Sasha, James and Beth who are all members of the LJMU climbing club will be at each climb to man the cameras for me and to offer some encouragement. 
  • Does that make sense? Does anyone have any questions? Be creative have fun and come to me if you need me.  



Friday, 2 December 2011


Movement, creativity
and mind over matter

Calling all Artists and climbers

Next Thursday the 8th of December between 6pm and 8pm I have made arrangements with the Climbing Hanger to to allow me to carry out some filming for my project work. I would like to invite you all to get involved. I am keen to start bridging the gap between climbing and creativity as both go hand in hand. I thought a good place to start would be by introducing my climbing world to my art world.

The climbing hanger specialises in bouldering. In short, bouldering is doing short climbs (called problems) over huge crash pads, which means there are no ropes. They are called problems because they require solving, the general aim in bouldering is not to the top of everything first time, but to find something on the edge of your ability and solve the problem both through perfecting the movement, but also figuring out which moves to use. If you need any advice members of the LJMU climbing club will be on hand.

There are a multitude of easy problems for everyone to have a go at and to get an Idea of what bouldering is about. I will be filming 6 of these routes and will be using the footage to look at how creativity is used to solve these problems. (Those of us who are artists should naturally have a head start due to our creative nature.)

The session will start at 6pm where I will gather everyone round for a short briefing. It would be great if you could arrive 20 minutes early to give you some time to get changed and hire climbing shoes if u want to. The Hanger charge £6.50 for students which I’ve unfortunately not been able to get them to waver however will allow you to climb until close (10pm) if you want too. 

The centre is easy to find it is 5 minutes walk from Sand hills train station, which is two stops from central station on the northern line. All the info you will need is on the hanger website: http://www.theclimbinghangar.com/the-centre/how-to-find-us/

Bring student ID in order to get a student price and wear comfortable clothing and shoes (that you would normally exercise in.)

If you are able to come I would really appreciate it, as it will be brilliant to get lots of footage for my project.

If you have any query’s feel free to contact me at rachelarm@gmail.com

Thanks Rachel Armstrong

Pushing my Limits

On Wednesday I attended my very first professional training session with my sponsored team. We were introduced to our trainers Ged and Mark who explained how the training sessions were going to work and what was expected of us as a team. We were given a list of the BASE expectations which are as follows.

  • To keep a diary to record every aspect of our training and climbing
  • To adjust our mentality toward climbing
  • To increase what we perceived as our maximum effort
  • And to change what we perceive as failure 
Ged also explained that there will be a level of ability we have to have reached with in two months from now in order to be able to maintain the sponsorship. 
  • To be able to complete a specific traverse with skill focus.
  • To be able to climb at a V4 grade continuously
  • To be able to do 6 pull ups (girls) 15 (boys)
  • to be able to complete 3 reps of a press up routine
  • To be able to climb every single green route in the climbing hanger in 15 mins
The session we the went on to partake in was 2 hours of pure endurance training. Needless to say I have never in my life been pushed so far towards my physical limit. I reached points in the 2 hours where I was physically no longer able to carry on and I did carry on. It was absolutely fascinating to experience reaching a physical limit and then to realise that I was actually capable of pushing myself that little bit further. The whole experience was mind blowing, exhilarating and amazing. Although I finished the session exhausted beyond words, hurting everywhere and missing a good proportion of skin from the palms of my hands I still managed to finish! 

I am 100% determined to reached the required level of fitness that is required of me with in the next two months. It will require me to attend the training sessions every friday, to train one more day a week on my own accord, to climb another one day a week to run once a week and to attend a gym class once a week. I also aim to compete where ever I can in order to maintain a competitive mentality. 

If this whole process isn't screaming to be used to create art I don't know what is.    


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Women's climbing Symposium


On Saturday I attended the worlds first women's climbing symposium. The day was incredible. It consisted of numerous technique workshops lead by elite coaches from all across the world including the current british number one. There were fascinating lectures and discussions that addressed what it means to be a female involved in a very male dominated sport. 

The most interesting of the talks was led by Vicki cassell, sports phycologist and lecturer at Bangor university which addressed self limiting behaviors and the work of phycologist Albert Bandura.         

There are many factors that limit ones ability to achieve which either fall in to the the category of physical factors i.e. lack of physical strength or phycological factors.

The Role of Self-Efficacy

Virtually all people can identify goals they want to accomplish, things they would like to change, and things they would like to achieve. However, most people also realise that putting these plans into action is not quite so simple. Bandura and others have found that an individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached.
People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:
  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered.
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate.
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities.
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments.
People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:
  • Avoid challenging tasks.
  • Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities.
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes.
  • Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities (Bandura, 1994).

Sources of Self-Efficacy

1. Mastery Experiences

"The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences," Bandura explained (1994). Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.

2. Vicarious experience 

Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers' beliefs that they too possess the capabilities master comparable activities to succeed” (1994).

3. Social Persuasion

Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to belief that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.

4. Psychological Responses

Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations. However, Bandura also notes "it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted" (1994). By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy.

Through out the day these sources were put to the test through various social experiments. the first experiment that we encountered addressed vicarious experience.

A situation was set up that involved a well known elite climber attempting to complete a route repetitively, at the same point during each attempt she fell off. As she tackled the route an audience formed around her observing the forced failure. The majority of people knowing how competent a climber she is simply dismissed the route with the attitude that if Lucy Creamer couldn't complete the route then neither could they. Those who reluctantly attempted the route reached the same point as Lucy then jumped off believing that the last move was unachievable without attempting it. After the session had finished we were told that the experiment had been set up and that the climb was in fact a ridiculously easy grade. Proving that because people couldn't relate their own climbing ability to Lucy's they questioned their own ability. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Robyn Woolston. How to be successful as an artist.

  • Work consistently
  • Read widely 
  • Build bridges
  • Reach out to the people that inspire you
  • Be bold with your creativity
  • Be confident about why you make art  

Thursday, 3 November 2011

My full body scan statistics- Upper body far more developed than my lower body due to climbing, which I need to balance out by running, leg weights, focusing climbing exercises on leg work. 



Personal performance boundaries

I find long term aims daunting and improbable. At this stage the thought of writing a dissertation and putting on a final degree show seem impossible. However by taking big long term aims, slicing them up in to manageable slithers and focusing on each slither in turn makes everything seem achievable.
I have recently been offered a sponsorship to climb with a bouldering team by the Hanger in Liverpool. I've always climbed for enjoyment and never expected to have the opportunity to take my ability to this level of competitiveness. I have been given the opportunity to push my ability to its very limits with professional supervision. Although this is incredibly exiting, like with my other long term goals, thinking about the process of getting to that level of ability currently seems impossible.

The obvious way around this would be to create manageable slithers  

I think that documenting my training process would be a good way of demonstrating how setting boundaries effects creativity and performance.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Mind games

'Why do you climb? Sometimes our motivations, which fuel us at the start of a climbing career, can return to haunt us later on. For example many climbers feel that they are overcoming something or proving something by climbing, which can be very motivating and empowering initially, but unless you are super talented, there will come a point where you can no longer overcome or prove something simply because you cant climb any harder, and the weight of expectation then becomes an double edged sword.

Clinical psychologists have a long history of working with fears and phobias and there is good research evidence to help you match up specific approaches to specific fears. For example, behavioral approaches such as exposing yourself to the thing that frightens you (eg practising falling off if that's what terrifies you) in incremental stages will help you recondition yourself. However, in practice many people find that going straight into exposure can be too difficult.'

Cognitive behavioral techniques (CBT)- Which aim to tackle unhelpful thoughts and undermine the evidence for them through behavioral experiments, can also be helpful and have been proven successful. For example, perhaps your self talk goes along the lines of “this is hard, this is too hard, I can never do overhangs” etc etc, then the approach would be to gather evidence to the contrary of this, eg record times when you have climbed harder and successfully completed overhangs. You would then spend time practicing more helpful self talk so that you can access this in your anxiety-provoking climbing situations. 


Neurolinguistic programming (NLP)- Which also aims to change unhelpful patterns of thinking, where you may use anchoring techniques in different sensory modalities to replace anxiety with relaxation, eg place a sticker on the back of your hand for you to look at when you feel anxious, which you have previously looked at whilst practicing being relaxed.

Mindfulness techniques- Are essentially meditative, but don't require sitting in a quiet place and chanting. Rather, we allow ourselves to be fully present in the moment, connecting with all our sensory experiences. This can be particularly helpful when climbing as attention to all elements of the sensory experience can improve performance. For example, noticing areas of tension and relaxation in our body can ensure the right amount of force is used at the right time and place; paying close visual attention to the rock in front of us can help us spot hidden variations which allow for better positioning, and so on.

Extracts taken from UKC Full article available from-http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1127 

Next step- To continue with experimental videos based upon the above behavior altering techniques.

Monday, 24 October 2011

10 minute move



This is a 3 minute clip showing part of a move that took me 10 minutes during a climb that took me 30 minutes. 

The piece consists of two screens. The left screen is an overview of the whole climb showing the physicality of the move and was shot by a camcorder at the foot of the climb. The right hand screen was shot using a camera attached to my climbing helmet and allows an intimate insight in to my thought processes and my own self disabling behaviors whilst attempting a particularly difficult move.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

METAL-Tunnel Vision

After viewing the metal at edge hill tunnels as a possible exhibition space yesterday I am completely hooked on the idea. The space consists of 9 derelict train tunnels next to the railway line that could be quite easily be cleaned up and used to display work. The sight has a really rustic, historical and raw feel to it, and I reckon my current practice would work well in it.
The idea is that we set up an exhibition at the beginning of May as a sort of taster project for our final degree show. I currently have a few ideas for the space all involving a performance, endurance and or an audience participation aspect-
  • The first involves building a climbing wall in the space and using it to set up an endurance experiment/performance piece.
  • The second idea I have is to set up a massive canvas covering one side of the tunnel walls and rigging up a series of drawing restraints using harness's and ropes. I could either create a piece of work myself and invite an audience to watch me doing so or I could invite an audience to take part in the installation. This would explore how restricting freedom of creativity effects the artist.

Ahmed Basiony-Thirty Days Running in the Place 2010/2011

 

I found Ahmed Basionys endurance piece particularly relevant to my own work. Set up as a performance piece and scientific experiment, Basiony ran for an hour a day for Thirty days and recorded his physical excursion (amount of sweat produced and how far he ran.) The results are displayed as digital visual data on a screen behind him. The piece not only comments on the physical effect of exercise on the body and about an obsession that is related to exercise but more poignantly about a 'belief in art functioning as a primal mechanism of the self' gallery guide, abandon normal devices. (which relates quite nicely to my dissertation question considering the value of a fine art degree.)        

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Economist reported in 2009 that male arts graduates can expect to be paid 4 per cent less over their lifetime than a man with no degree at all.(Female arts graduates do not, by the way, earn any more than the men; it is simply that non-graduate women earn even less)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Blind Folded experiment



After tying in to a top rope and deciding upon an easy route I blind folded myself putting my trust entirely in my belayer. I climbed upwards using verbal communication and by aimlessly feeling about for my next hold. I reached the top and took off my blind fold and was shocked by how high above the ground I was. I found that having my sight removed, obliterated any sense of fear I had about how far I was above the ground which removed my irrational fear of falling. This enabling me to concentrate partly on the task of following direct commands but mainly on my physical movement and balance.            


Experimental comparisons



I collected the above footage with the intention of comparing different physical and mental approaches to routes. The first film shows four attempts at the same problem. I found it fascinating to see how each person tackled the problem in a slightly different way.

Top left- Jon, the tallest of the four subjects, uses small bursts of energy and controlled strength.

Top right- Luke, the shortest of the four subjects, has to use more strength and physical power in order to achieve the height needed. By far takes the longest time to complete the route appears to think about each move in detail before attempting it.

Bottom left- Sam, the fastest to complete the route. Not much technique or thought process however an obvious drive to get from A to B. Spends no time planning his next move he simply moves using strength.

Bottom right- Paddy, By far the most controlled ascent. Very specific busts of energy when needed allowing him to reserve energy and strength for the more technical moves. Appears to think about each move, positioning his body and pointing his toes in order to achieve balance.

In the video below I filmed myself along with two others tackling another route. I layered the three attempts in order to visualize a direct comparison. One out of the three of us completed the route and although the footage is blurred you can just about distinguish the two moves that paddy achieved that
caught the two of us out.

The main reason why two of us didn't complete the climb was due to our lack of mental control. For me there was a point where the fear of not completing the move successfully and potentially falling overtook the confidence in my ability. Proving that it is in fact the fear of failure that causes failure.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Blind climbing



A fascinating insight in to how a sense can be heightened due to the loss or even prohibition of sight.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Matthew childs 9 rules of Rock climbing (and life)


 1.Don’t let go- You will think about letting go way before you physically have too. Try to allow your body to keep up with your mind.
2.Hesitation is bad- The longer you hesitate the more time you have to panic and the less likely you are to complete the move successfully.
3.Have a plan- Work through the route in your mind before attempting it.
4.The move is the end- Each move is as integral to reaching the end as the last
5.Know how to rest- The very best climbers are the ones who, in the most extreme of situations can get in to a position where they can rest their bodies and minds
6.Learn to control fear- If you are focusing on fear you are not focusing on what you are doing but instead on the consequences of failing what you are doing.
7.Opposites are good- Focus on physics. Opposing pressure equals balance.
8.Strength doesn’t always equal success- Balance is far more important
9.Know how to let go- Plan your falls where possible a controlled fall is less likely to cause serious injury.
I have spent this last week predominantly researching. Whilst prowling the internet for inspiration I came across the work of two artists that caught my attention.

Hamish Fulton (the walking artist) much like Mathew Barney intrigued me due to the direct Physical engagement he has with his work and his environment. The way he produces work is refreshingly simple yet effective. He walks and he creates pieces of art representing the walk allowing us to engage indirectly. Although the works he creates hold their own as individual pieces of art it is very obvious that it is in the physical process of walking that the true art is created (in the direct influence the exertion has on his mind and body). The two pieces below I found most effective. The first uses text to show the physical connection between three separate biological processes, essentially emphasizing the connection between the mind and the body during physical exercise. The second is simply a photograph of worn walking boots a symbol of the how the process of walking has had a direct physical effect on the artist. It is a powerful image as it speaks for itself with no need for text as explanation, the piece is the walk.
 
I plan to carry on documenting my climbs as before but as Fulton has done by archiving various found objects and relevant material.

As I mentioned in my proposal I am also interested in looking at and portraying how the mind works during the physical process of tackling a climb. Last year I used video installation to recreate the feeling of anxiety and plan to continue to explore this and to continue to experiment using video and video editing. I was advised to look at the work of Douglas Gordon in particular his film 'Zidane-a 21st century portrait.' A piece of video of a full length football match focusing solely on Zidane. Having no interest in football what so ever I was skeptical however on watching I became instantly mesmerized by the way in which the footballer moved. The piece is filmed in such a way that I forgot that I was watching a football match. Parts of it are so intimate that I felt uncomfortable. It was as if I was witnessing the players thought process's including his anxiety's which ultimately manifest themselves as physical behaviors such as involuntary twitches and exertions of breath. This kind of intimate filming is something I am eager to try with climbing and plan to do so the next time I get chance to climb out doors.


         

Final year project proposal

Aims and objectives-

I have decided to focus my third year project on Rock climbing. I have been climbing committedly for the last two years and during that time climbing has become not only my passion but also my obsession. When deciding what to focus my final year on it only seemed logical to combine the two things that I spend the majority of my time thinking about, climbing and art. Over the summer I have climbed outdoors whenever the weather has allowed, Trad climbing in the Lake district and the Peak district. Sea cliff Trad climbing in Devon, sport climbing and deep water soloing in Spain. Through perseverance and training over this 5-month period I have managed to climb to my hardest grade yet. The majority of this I have documented through journals log books, photography, film and sketching. I have read numerous books and articles including, The white spider-an account of the first accent of the north face of the Eiger and Touching the void-Joe Simpsons account of being cut off a rope and left to die whilst descending a mountain in Peru and have been inspired to push myself (although not in such a life threatening way.)

I have started the project with the following mini projects.

Firstly I began working a series of three routes called the unconquerables at stannage edge. The left unconquerable is an E1 grade, which is one grade higher than that I have previously achieved and after various attempts currently seems impossible. I have began a study of the climb, through detailed drawing, photography and also by looking through books, internet forums and videos to find out about the route and people who have previously climbed it. By the end of May this year I aim to have completed the route. The obsession has begun!

I decided to try some route setting of my own by traversing the length of my garden wall and documenting it through film and photography.

I have found a lecture on site TED http://www.ted.com/. Called Mathew childs 9 rules of rock climbing. I found this talk fascinating as each of the 9 rules applies not only to climbing but also to life. My two favorite rules being number 5. Know how to rest-“The best climbers are the ones who, in the most extreme of situations can get in to a position where they can rest their bodies and minds” and number 6. Learn to control fear- “If you are focusing on fear you are not focusing on what you are doing but instead on the consequences of failing what you are doing.” I have started to try to apply these rules to both climbing and life.

I have also started to study physical movement and strain during climbing through intimate photography. My aim with this is to portray how an experienced climber moves with the “strength of a gymnast and the precision of a ballet dancer.” (Joe Simpson-Touching the void.)

During this next year I will be exploring themes of; escapism, frustration, obsession, pushing my physical and mental limits and Mind over matter through art and the art of climbing. I will carry on as I have started by documenting through photography, film, log books, journals and written accounts, detailed drawings and paintings.

Friday, 20 May 2011

RESTRAINT

The purest and most satisfying way to execute a route is to solo it with no protection (ropes or gear.) It is a form of climbing that is taken up by fanatics world wide and is something I have experienced only on very easy routes. Although my experience of this type of climbing is very minimal, the sense of freedom of movement in comparison to rope aided climbing is to say the least addictive. However as you can imagine it is at the most extreme end of an already extreme sport and is ridiculously dangerous.

This got me thinking about the freest way to create art versus the most restrained way to created art. If you think about it as artist students we have ultimate freedom in what we do which is terrifying. We get to write our own brief and tackle it in anyway we want, at no point over the last two years have we been given any form of restriction on our creativity. So what if we were given guide lines and boundaries? Would our work be any less expressive? could boundaries in fact improve our work? or like relying on a rope to climb with, would it restrict our freedom of movement? as suggested by Juan I had a look at Matthew Barney's Drawing restraints. Restraining creativity in the most physical sense.     
 
 

Thursday, 19 May 2011

what next?

Over the past few days I have started to think about the direction I want my work to go in next year and how to give myself a head start over the summer. A conversion with Juan towards the end of last term encouraged me to start looking in to creating work based around my obsession with climbing. As I learned from the project I have just finished I am far more likely to keep interest in a project if it relates to something I can be permanently engaged in. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Jumble sale

On Saturday afternoon me and my boyfriend arrived at Bradway scout hut jumble sale. Bradway jumble sale is the god father of all Jumble sales and it occurs a mere twice a year and is an event that me and will make an effort to attend when we can mainly on the off chance that we will find some second hand climbing gear. However this year was slightly different as joining us was Lauren, A family friend of wills who was visiting from Australia. It was an interesting experience trying to explain to Lauren what a jumble sale is "Its kind of a communal event where people donate all the crap that they dont want, and people rummage through it and donate money to a charity." Apparently they dont have jumble sales in Melbourne. As we arrived at 2.25pm on the dot we were greeted by the hugest Que you have ever seen. It spiraled out of the scout hut swung twice round the car park and a good 15 meters down the road. As 2.30pm came around the doors were flung open and swarms of people forced their way toward the entrance in a sort of frenzied rampage. We walked through the entrance to find angry elderly ladies fighting for there right to pay 20p for the occasional underskirt and children clawing at each other to get at the second hand toy section. As I turned to Lauren it was apparent that she felt extremely out of her comfort zone. She gestured to me with a very 'help me' kind of expression on her face and I grabbed her arm saying "just keep close you'll be fine." After a good half an hour rummage and a car journey with Lauren appearing to still be in shock we arrived back at wills house and proceeded to empty our black bin bags and compare our prizes. Wills pile of prizes contained multiple 'vintage' looking jumpers (to be expected) a few books and a Charles and Diana commemorative wedding mug (less expected.) My sole prize was a Kodak brownie twin camera which I had snatched from a little girls hand for a quid! I was pretty exited about my prize. Lauren however had not bought anything as she explained she was too scared to get her money out as she had witnessed a lady put her purse down on a table to look for her glasses and another lady pick it up and try to buy it. I then found my defensively trying to explain that attending jumble sales was not something that me and will did every weekend and that we did have many other interests.

I can possibly feel a piece of art coming on relating to consumerism and wastage and the amount of crap we collect. All seems rather relevant.

Stupidly huge Que!!

My prize!