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Gus Cummins Pin Lane: Dub in Liminal Space and its Trans-Media Development


DUB IN LIMINAL SPACE AND ITS TRANS-MEDIA DEVELOPMENT dub2 • verb (dubbed, dubbing) 1 provide (a film) with a soundtrack in a different language from the original. 2 add (sound effects or music) to a film or a recording. 3 make a copy of (a recording). • noun 1 an instance of dubbing sound effects or music. 2 a style of popular music originating from the remixing of recorded music (especially reggae). — ORIGIN abbreviation of DOUBLE. liminal /limmin’l/ • adjective technical 1 relating to a transitional or initial stage. 2 at a boundary or threshold. — DERIVATIVES liminality noun. — ORIGIN from Latin limen ‘threshold’. space • noun 1 unoccupied ground or area. 2 a free or unoccupied area or expanse. 3 the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move. 4 a blank between typed or written words or characters. 5 (also outer space) the physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere. 6 an interval of time (indicating that it is short): forty men died in the space of two days. 7 the freedom and scope to live and develop as one wishes. • verb 1 position (two or more items) at a distance from one another. 2 (be spaced out or chiefly N. Amer. space out) informal be or become euphoric or disorientated, especially from taking drugs. — DERIVATIVES spacer noun spacing noun. — ORIGIN Old French espace, from Latin spatium. trans• prefix 1 across; beyond: transcontinental. 2 on or to the other side of: transatlantic. 3 into another state or place: translate. — ORIGIN from Latin trans ‘across’. medium • noun (pl. media or mediums) 1 a means by which something is expressed, communicated, or achieved. 2 a substance through which a force or other influence is transmitted. 3 a form of storage for computer software, such as magnetic tape or disks. 4 a liquid with which pigments are mixed to make paint. 5 (pl. mediums) a person claiming to be able to communicate between the dead and the living. 6 the middle state between two extremes. • adjective between two extremes; average. — ORIGIN Latin, ‘middle’. development • noun 1 the action of developing or the state of being developed. 2 a new product or idea. 3 a new stage in a changing situation. 4 an area of land with new buildings on it. — DERIVATIVES developmental adjective developmentally adverb. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2010)


introduction At the University of Plymouth I am researching ways to represent gaps in consciousness. I am concerned with data visualisation and sonification. PIN LANE In Plymouth’s Pin Lane, I found a small car park, rubbish bins, a few passing people and pigeons. The cars in the car park, the rubbish, the people and the pigeons were all transient. I photographed them, and made short audio recordings. I arranged the photos in grids - like storyboards. Next I photographed my route to Pin lane, constructing photocollaged panoramas. I omitted parts which wouldn’t work, creating a time line with absent moments. The storyboards and time lines could function as graphic scores, making the omissions equivalent to a dub reggae producer’s mix down. While investigating dub I encountered the term ‘liminality’ (Navas, 2008) and applied it to Pin Lane, referring to the transient nature of what I found there. Pieces were fitting together: • • • •

Arrangements of images captured elements of time Gaps in time represented gaps in consciousness Gaps in the image sequnences corresponded to gaps in dub tracks Pin Lane is, or represents, the liminal space in which dub thrives

I devised: Project 1 - apply the principles of dub audio mixing to arrangements of images of Pin Lane and its environs, and develop the results. Project 2 - further develop the idea by applying the dub principles, and principles derived from Project 1, to an audio project. Project 3 - a moving image project. I can use sensory devices in Pin Lane to provide data, along with archived past work.


1. Pigeons in Pin Lane, Plymouth; long exposure digital photos with colour adjustment 2. EEG recording of 5 seconds of my left temporal lobe brain activity



Pin Lane

Halfway along Pin Lane is an entrance to a small trader’s car park. Double yellow lines ensure no cars stop in the lane. At one end there is a Co-op Supermarket on a corner, at the other end the road stops and a flight of steps ascends. Mostly the backs of buildings are visible from the lane. There are windows to residencies, but most of the entrances must be in other streets. There is one door and a panel of doorbells to flats - short term dwellings. There is a feeling of transience to Pin Lane. Opposite the car park is a back entrance to the Co-op. Discarded packaging, trolleys and large rubbish bins compete for space with a car and a metal staircase. Looking for some history for the lane I found that 130 years ago 3 fishermen lived at number 4. The lane is only a few metres from the harbour. Now, the most life I find here on my visits is buddleia, lichen and pigeons. I search for photographic subjects in Pin Lane, and en route back to my University.


Pin Lane

(google map, 2010)


Pin Lane pigeons Scanning Pin Lane for points of interest I focused on pigeons, photographing them with approximately one second shutter speed. I found the resulting images intriguing - Turneresque. I gridded them, arranged them in rows and layered them in Photoshop to obtain deep and rich frames. Vector graphics sit sweetly on top of these images. As with my previous temporal images, I am interested in preserving qualities of time in still images.



audio visualisation I made a 55 second audio recording at Pin Lane, of passing cars, people chatting and background noise. I visualise the data using some simple techniques available as part of Adobe Audition software. This is my first brief foray into trans-media work with Pin Lane data. The visualisation is more impressive than the audio.


55 second audio recording in Pin Lane Above; top & bottom left, bottom right: Spectral Frequency Displays secs x Hz, resolution varied. top right: Waveform Display secs x dBs. Below: Frequency Analysis Hz x dBs


images & time Contact sheets, story boards, graphic scores and choreographic plans: all place images on time lines one way or another. So can electroencephelographs of brain activity and motion capture devices. While constructing photocollages of my route to Pin Lane, I switched off selected layers in Photoshop, and liked the effect. This is how it feels to make a dub audio mix - switch off a track and enjoy the effect. The missing layer could represent the missing moments caused by a partial seizure. The person having the seizure may continue to walk the route but in these moments will experience no sensations, or in another instance, distorted sensations.


Left: Photocollage of University of Plymouth Top: ‘Seizure Map’ - manual motion capture from video of body motion during secondary generalised seizure Above: Electroencephelograph of brain activity at seizure onset 13

liminal space Liminal space is primarily defined as transitional space, between places or states, where boundaries break down and ambiguities set in. It includes borderland, airports and hotels - places that people pass through without staying pemanently. I found transience in Pin Lane. This hybrid of alley, road and cul-de-sac isn’t a stopping place. Furthermore, Pin Lane is only metres from the coast, it is borderland. Liminal space was introduced to anthropology by Arnold Van Gennep (1909) in ‘Les rites de passage.’ Van Gennep deconstructed the African ritual of obtaining manhood into three phases, the second phase being the transitional phase; liminal space. Van Gennep’s studies were expanded by cultural anthropologist Victor Turner (1974) who noted that during the transitional phase male teens are not part of society but dwell in communitas, where social hierarchies dissolve. Post colonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha defines liminality in terms of cultural hybidity: By “liminal space,” Bhabha means the site of conflict, interaction, and mutual assimilation that every encounter between cultures involves. (artandculture 2009) DUB IN LIMINAL SPACE Eduardo Navas (2008) claims that Dub thrives in ‘liminal space’, as defined by Homi K. Bhabha.



The dub genre has evolved since it began in the late ‘60s. It originated simply as B-side versions of Jamaican reggae songs on 7” singles with the vocal track removed. At the beginning of the 1970s sound engineers began to add sounds back into the B-sides • key words or phrases from the vocal track with added delay and reverb • accentuation of the bass and drums with delay added to snare drums and high hats • percussion and sound effects Dub singles were widely played by sound systems (groups of DJ’s with large speaker stacks) who toasted back over the tunes, and tracks were released with toasting incorporated. Sub genres have developed since the 1970s, including spacious minimal recordings, tracks saturated with effects and sounds, and dub from many countries.

Dub engineer and producer King Tubby A DJ and MC on the Coxsone Sound Sytem

DEVICES IN A KING TUBBY DUB MIX Opening bars have intact vocals and melodic instruments, which then get taken down in the mix with lots of repeat delay on the final syllable, note or beat. Drum and bass are accentuated, with delay on snare and hi-hat. Key words or phrases are brought back in, with lots of delay upon removal. Guitar is brought in and out, lots of reverb, often lots of delay on removal. Removal of vocal or guitar often leaves very stark ‘spacious’ drum and bass passage, with delay or reverb on drum strikes. Sometimes passages with bass only. Opening bars with vocals which end abruptly leaving only drum and bass create high contrast, as does guitar repeat delay coming to an end to leave drum and bass. Sometimes the vocals or guitar are cut off part way through a word or phrase, creating a glottal stop effect, other times the cut off is saturated with delay which fades to an end revealing the drum and bass. King Tubby: ‘He is often cited as the inventor of the concept of the remix’ (wikipedia, 2009)


project 1 phase 1

visual dub

I photographed the route from Plymouth Uni to Pin Lane, getting these pictures by ‘shooting from the hip’ - a way to keep my camera out of sight and get less planned compositions. I arranged this suite in a 3 x 3 grid, making no selective decisions. When I began to consider transfering dub devices to other disciplines this was available. Initially I just looked for equivalents to accentuating the drum and bass; the central structure of the piece. I decided to accentuate the lowest and highest tonal values; like the bass guitar, snare drum and high hat. This tonal adjustment eliminated most of the subject matter (narrative) of the images, equivalent to the vocal track of a song being removed. Next I applied directional blur to the high values in reference to reverb, as well as pasting the high value areas back into the image slighlty offset from the original position to suggest delay. It seemed natural to work in a left to right direction for these time related effects. At this point I wanted to drop some selected subject / vocal back into the mix, but here I stumbled. Up to now I had been happy with the results from my randomly selected images, but I couldn’t get an aesthetically pleasing result bringing them back in. So I decided to follow a different route - to dub in the style of Adrian Sherwood (producer and sound engineer of On-U Sound records.) I played with the image I had at this point, and distorted it beyond traceability. I then used some circles to suggest extended delay, and dipped into my archive of images to find some Seizure Mapping graphics, which I overlaid. SUMMARY I have taken drum and bass from one piece of work - the route to Pin Lane minus its narrative, and used this as the central structure. I have added ornamentation, and highly developed elements from another project, Seizure Mapping, that were put to one side and not exhibited, that work well with this project. EVALUATION I think I failed in that I set out to apply Tubby’s devices to a visual work, and abandoned this aim when it became difficult, opting to work in a more Sherwood style. However, this was due to selecting the wrong starting material, and I devised a working procedure. It can be developed. I like the fact that a social artwork has been inserted into an aesthetic artwork, somewhat parallell to toasting over a musical drum and bass rhythm - albeit far less accessible or readable. This quality can also be developed. 16

drum & bass = central structure

added sounds = ornamentation

17 17

project 1 phase 2

co-op dub

For Phase 2, I took a series of photos from a fixed point, using a tripod. They had a stronger time property and element of narrative (ie. ‘Person A went to the Shop, then Person B went to the Shop’ etc.)

I applied the same distorting effects as in Phase 1: emphasising bass and treble at the expense of the midtones, thereby removing the narrative element. Next, in the dub tradition, I selected key moments from the removed narrative and put them back with delay and reverb - these are the head shots, with repetition and blurring.

DELAY is the repetition of a sound after a period of time, REVERB is the reverberation or persistence of a sound.



This image combines • Co-op Dub ornamentation • Seizure Map deconstruction




project 1 phase 3

liminality of nocturnal travel Travelling by night from Plymouth to Bristol, by motorway, is a transient and trance like experience. Motoways skirt round towns and cities, passing through liminal land. Nobody pauses on a motorway except at service stations, where divisions of class and culture break down. Digitally manipulated nocturnal travel photos. (Next 2 pages also)




excursions in versions: • sniper’s sights/medical red cross • seizure map on top of inverted and enriched night photos of the Plymouth-Bristol journey



project 1 phase 4

• Co-op dub central structure • Seizure Map - wide view



• Photos of Pin Lane are filtered to provide the central structure • Ornamented by another treatment of the Seizure Map 30


‘This image combines • Co-op Dub ornamentation • Seizure Map deconstruction’ A remix of the previous version: • The ornamentation has reversed direction of travel • The Seizure Map has inverted its colours/tones 32


Plymouth to Bristol rail journey



Pin Lane details - rails & leaves







project 2

phase 1

trans-media sonic aspect

I set out to develop the sonic aspect by making simple sounds and compositions to which to apply processes from ‘Visual Dub’. I generated sine waves at unique-scalar frequencies (using Audition software). Sine waves are pure sounds with no harmonic overtones. Unique-scalar means outside of the chromatic scale. I used a square root series that I have used to make visual constructions, to generate a frequency series. I combined this with hospital recordings from the same video telemetry sessions that I had used to make visual seizure maps.

phase 2

Finding Phase 1 dissappointing, I used Reason software and its presynthesised sounds and loops to make some digital dub style tracks. These were easy to make and listen to and combined well with extracts from Phase 1. They departed from the spirit of the Liminal Dub Project though, which is to carry processes from one project and medium to another, so I paused before constructing a framework for Phase 3.

phase 3

A backwards glance: on page 15 is a summary of devices in a King Tubby Dub Mix and on page 16 a translation into visual processes. The processes developed through 4 Phases. Phase 1 - sought visual parallels to audio frequency, and established central structure and ornamentation Phase 2 - chose better photos, examined echo effects, and created a less structured image. Phase 3 - used Nocturnal Travel as a liminal theme, generating equivalents to Seizure Mapping and gridded structure from a suite of photos. Phase 4 - showed more of the image in wider angle views. Seperate gridded photos from graphic ornaments. The ideas which have emerged are: Construct - deconstruct Maintain cohesive themes Balance continuity and freshness 42

I describe 2 visual processes from Project 1 and sonic equivalents. The first refers to Phase 2 ‘Co-op Dub’ culminating in the image on pages 20 - 21 in which the central structure is absent. The second refers to the Phase 4 image on pages 30 - 31.

phase 4

Consolidate previous phases. Lay visual siezure maps onto music graphic notation. EVALUATION The Sonic Aspect project did not produce any sound files that pleased me as much as the visual files from Project 1. However, the development was moved forward. Through trying to extract sonic rules from Project 1 it was looked at from different angles and deconstructed more thoroughly. The visual project was largely the result of graphically representing time and frequency along with harmony, timbre, narrative content, history, culture and so on. In the Sonic Aspect, this conversion was reversed. Actually, the process was not completed, but some of the areas of interest were identified. As I write this, I have edited a moving image project (Version 001), which was undoubtedly informed by the sonic work., the sonic was then developed alongside the moving images to provide a soundtrack.


trans-media moving images

project 3

9th March 2010 - Notes for film ‘In this short film places represent experiences. The only character in the film begins in Plymouth’s Pin lane. This is a place that I found mundane, but which led me to discover the concept of liminal spaces – sites of transience, borderland and marginalization. The character is removed into an ethereal alternative. If this is a seizure, then it is quasi religious. Her spirit is elevated out of consciousness. She ascends to Kelston Round Hill, in the borderland between Bristol and Bath. This place has been visible as a bump on the horizon from most of the houses I have lived in. I just read that it was a ‘probable barrow’. She goes on to descend in an inner city church – in St Paul’s, Bristol. This church used to be in ruins, and littered with syringes. It looks across Portland Square at Cosies, formerly a hangout of mine that still hosts reggae, dubstep and drum and bass. The church has been restored now into a circus school. The descending spirit re-enters via a rope. Finally, she appears a last time in Pin Lane, and the film closes.’ ----------The film refers to an epileptic seizure as a rising up rather than the usual falling down. One of the most famous images of a seizure is Raphaels’s ‘Transfjguration’. This painting shows Christ rising up from death while a boy is brought to him having a seizure - possessed by demons in the words of the Bible. The painting has been analysed as drawing parallells between Christ’s uprising from his death and the casting out of the demon from the boy, also a rising up from a downfall. This Rennaissance image created long lasted attitudes towrds epilepsy as a demonic possession and falling down. My work challenges this stereotype with a depiction of a seizure as an elevating moment, which a temporal lobe seizure is able to be. 44

The protagonist appears in Pin Lane and walks towards the viewer.

There is a drum beat, and the screen darkens. On the second beat a hill appears; a city borderland liminal space with a spriritual history. Next an animated graphic is drawn on screen. This is a seizure map - a motion capture of limb movements during an epileptic seizure.

On completion of the graphic and at the beginning of a musical bar a moving hand appears. The movement is repetitive, edited in loops in time to the music. It recalls the bodily movement of a seizure - slowed down and made hypnotic.

Again, in time to the music, the protagonist’s head and shoulders appear, moving in longer loops. This closer shot is more intimate.

The next shot is close on the face, and the music remains trance like.

Without warning the music ceases and the screen splits. Now we see the whole body descending from a church ceiling in slow motion and fading on contact with the ground. The church is St. Paul’s in a culturally hybrid city central liminal space.

The graphic of a circle and cross represents the borderland and city centre church.

Finally the closing shot is of the original location. The protagonist reappears and walks slowly onwards and out of shot.


Before making the moving image project I watched the ‘Cremaster’ series 1 - 4 (Barney, M. 1997, 1999, 2002, 1994), and was influenced by them. I particularly liked Barney’s use of a closed system of symbols and representation, which is virtually unreadable without contextualsing information, but fascinating to watch. Having previously produced a series of paintings according to a personal cipher this is a way I like to work. Currently I have produced ‘Version 001’ of the moving image project. It attempts to address time in interesting ways - using rhythms, cycles, loops and altered speed. I included an animated seizure map. Symbols represent multiple concepts ie, the cross in the circle: • quasi religious experience • marginal and inner city liminality • red cross health symbol • sniper’s sights • scientist’s microscope These all refer to epilepsy, its objectification, marginalisation and typical experience. Three locations represent 3 phases of epilepsy. Pin Lane is inter ictal, Kelston Round Hill is ictal and St. Paul’s Church is post ictal. The colour alterations and soundtrack at each stage allude to the experience of a seizure. EVALUATION When I watched the first edit, I was aware that it had weaknesses. I regard it as a maquette. I would prefer the soundtrack to be composed and played by musicians, to have a cameraman and not to be constrained by money. However, I see that the project succeeds in conveying a lot of what I want it to. I have a lot of ideas for improving ‘Version 1’, and I am planning to use re-shoots and edits for exhibitions I have been offered in London in summer 2010. I don’t have time to produce the work for submission for this module. Feedback from people whose opinion I respect hasn’t clarified some aspects - many people contradict each other in their responses. As much as I enjoy the ‘cipher’ aspect, it prevents many viewers from accessing the work.


conclusion SUMMARY I am interested in digital photography which captures the essence of time in still images. While photographing Pin Lane I used long exposure, series of images presented in grids and rows, and photo collages to achieve this. When I removed elements from these pieces, I saw parallels to musical dub remixing. In dub, vocals and melody are often removed at the mixing stage, and reinserted in fragments with audio effects applied. New sounds are also introduced. While researching dub, I found the work of Navas (2008), who referred to dub thriving in transcultural liminal space, as defined by Homi K. Bhabha (artandculture 2009). I found that liminal space is also defined as transitory space, a definition which I felt fitted Pin Lane. The essence of the project lay in exchanging the transcultural and transitory definitions of liminal space, and applying the dub remix crossdisciplinarily to the visual data I had compiled in, around and en route to Pin Lane. I have developed a technique for manipulating and combining digital photographs which I shall continue to use. There is a tendency in digital photography to take series of photos. This is a way to distill these suites of images into single pieces of work. When I first tried to apply these methods to audio I had more difficulty. The temptation was simply to produce dub, which was not developing the techniques from the still images. I tried several approaches before realising where I was erring. This realisation helped when I came to the moving image project. In the moving image project I was able to carry over the gridding and tonal simplification applied to the still images, and intuitively convert it to temporal moduling and similar visual tonal techniques. The soundtrack was developed rapidly from the final work I had produced at the sonic stage. Temporally the sound and visual modules were tightly synchronised. The content drew on previous work. EVALUATION At the end of ‘Dub in Liminal Space and its Trans-Media Development’ I am eager to continue developing the ideas seeded here. 47

While the treatment of the still images felt successful I am reflecting on people’s reactions to the moving image project. This gives this area of the work greater depth for me. It requires further developement, and is drawing me into language, memory and philosophy. This module is succeeding in unpacking and making me understand my own practice. The most challenging task has been writing about my own work. Producing the work feels fairly intuitive, however analyzing it helps push it to new levels and this is a challenge I must rise to.

References: artandculture (2009), accessed 3rd Jan 2010.

Barney, M. (1995, 1999, 2002, 1994) Cremaster 1 - 4, 1995, 1999, 2002, 1994. Series of films (5 in total). Directed by Matthew BARNEY. USA: Matthew Barney. Harris (Callaloo, Vol. 18, No. 1, Wilson Harris: A Special Issue (Winter, 1995), pp. 110-124) Navas, E. (2008) Dub, B Sides and their [re]versions in the threshold of Remix,, accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Oxford English Dictionary (2010), accessed 15th Feb 2010 Turner, V. (1974) Drama, Fields and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society, Cornell University Press Van Gennep, A. (1909) Les rites de passage, University of Chicago Press Wikipedia. (2009), accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Bibliography: Author unknown (2009), accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Author unknown (2009), accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Emery, M. L. (1995) ‘Limbo Rock: Wilson Harris and the Arts of Memory’, Callaloo, Vol. 18, No. 1, Wilson Harris: A Special Issue (Winter, 1995), pp. 110-124, The Johns Hopkins University Press, accessed 10th May 2010 La Shure, C. (2005), accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Perloff, M. (1998), accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Smith, C. (2000) Looking for Liminality in Architectural Space. Catherine Smith,, accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Trubshaw, B. (1995), accessed 3rd Jan 2010. Wikipedia. (2009),, accessed 3rd Jan 2010.


Musical Producers refered to: ‘King Tubby’ - Osbourne Ruddock, 1941-1989 Adrian Sherwood, 1958Software used: Adobe CS4 Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign - to produce and modify still images Adobe CS4 Premiere Pro, AfterEffects, Media Encoder - to edit, modify and encode moving images Adobe Audition 3.0, Reason 4.0 - to produce, modify and edit sonic work



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