Coursework – a brief guide to my weekly activities

Week ten

This week I had a short 1:1 with my tutor, as I was questioning a new direction my work had taken, and whether I should include it in my portfolio. I see new directions and ideas beginning as my ability to contextualise improves. A new piece of work this week was quite different to my others, although the subject was still the same. Using the newly acquired camera and mirrors, I staged a piece in black and white, which gives the appearance of being more 3D. After discussing the work with my tutor, I made the decision to include it in my portfolio – even though it’s quite different to the others, I feel it’s a stronger piece. Since then I have made another couple of images in a similar way, and amended two others – so this weekend I have to decide which ones to include in my submission.

I attended the ‘In Conversation with Georgina Kennedy’ session this week, which gave me lots to think about. I learnt about various installations at Tate St. Ives; particularly interesting was finding out about how some of the projects initially got started. Seeing how a chance visit to the Barbara Hepworth garden sculptures inspired Linder to create a ballet helped me to realise that sometimes the most creative ideas evolve naturally.  Within my own practice, I am most creative when I have the freedom to see where it takes me – forcing myself to make pictures does not create good results.

Also this week I caught up with my personal tutor and module leader – so I’ve had a lot of professional input this week as the submission deadlines approach.

Finally, I watched the module video ‘Enter, the Academy’. I was amused to see Duchamp’s infamous urinal included, as I had only just been writing about it myself. This presentation has highlighted the fact that I really do need to spend more time considering the audience / space / place of my own work. I have been putting this off, but need to include thoughts in my Critical Review.

I’ve not yet read this week’s independent reading, but hope to catch up on this soon.

Week nine

Arriving back from the States ill, I struggled to talk during this week’s webinar. During this session we discussed our peers’ responses to our video presentations. We were asked what we agreed and disagreed with. More about this can be found here

Easter break

Over the Easter holiday I travelled to St. Petersburg, Florida for a family wedding. As I travelled on the 2nd April, I made sure that my video presentation was submitted via URL before hand (ahead of schedule).  Once the forum was open I posted the link to my work.  During my time away I regularly logged into the forum, watched the presentations my peers posted, and provided reviews for a number of them.   Also I checked my own post for reviews.

During one of the wedding celebrations I was introduced to another guest – New York visual artist Charles Williams.  I was intrigued by the processes involved in his work, which he describes as Décollage .  Charlie makes art from ripped posters, advertisements and notices found on the streets of NY in various states of decay.  See his website here

His work has resonances with some of the artwork produced during the Dada movement and therefore has a direct contextual link with my own collage – influenced practice.

The St. Petersburg visit offered a perfect opportunity to visit the Salvador Dali museum, especially significant as it was currently hosting an exhibition of Marcel Duchamp’s work. I was mesmerised by most of the art I saw, with the exception of some of Dali’s earlier work before he became involved in the surrealist movement. The guide explained that although the initial background in surrealism paintings are real, there is something wrong, or missing. Dali often played with shadows, most memorably for me the piano lid and a key.  Everything in the paintings have a significance. My photograph collages play with elements of truth as well as figments of the imagination; and as with Dali’s paintings, they also have images within images. I took part in a Virtual Reality experience, developed by the museum. The experience was to ‘walk around’ one of Dali’s works, see things close up, look behind, and see things that aren’t in the picture. Again this exploration of time and place is something I try to caputure within my own practice.

Although I have read about, and seen pictures of Duchamp’s ‘ready made’ installations (such as the ubiquitous ‘Fountain’), seeing them in reality made much more sense to me. When (many years ago) I learnt that Duchamp described art as something that was exhibited in a museum or gallery space – the object being made art by this action; I struggled with this concept.  However, seeing examples of his installations fascinated me. (Although there is more than one identical Fountain – is its aesthetic value altered because of this? Presumably they are all unique works of art?)

Duchamp’s fascination with ‘readymades’ and his subsequent association with the Dada movement; Dali’s images within images and altered scapes are both of interest to me and I now realise how  hugely influential they have been in my own work. It can most obviously be seen with my use of found photographs, collage and montage work, edited backgrounds and nothing being entirely as it at first seems.

Week eight: Speaking Photographically

This week, I have found the time to:

  •  Watch the introduction to a BBC series in the archive, with the intention of  watching the full episodes when I can.  The intro link is here:
  • Watch the recording of visiting speaker Simon Bray as I was unable to be present at the time
  • Take part in a group webinar after preparing a PDF for it
  • Read and watched all guided material and posted to two forums
  • Purchased a 9x12cm large format camera.  Following a discussion in the webinar I will be investigating using this in the future instead of, or side by side my Brownie (as a light box).

I also intend to watch again the video in which the work of Daniel Gustav Cramer is presented, this time taking reflecting further on his choice of edits and how I will decide on which of my images to include within my portfolio.

Week seven: Responses and Responsibilities

  • Watched and read all the guided materials and also downloaded an article by Nick Brandt
  • Continued with my own independent reading
  • Posted in one forum and responded to a post by a peer;  and looked at the second forum
  • Attended a webinar with my second tutor of the module
  • Completed a substantial amount of work on my own practice

Week six: A Sea of Images.

  • Watched and read the week’s guided materials and made notes
  • Ordered a new book by Geoff Dyer, as suggested by one of the tutors at the recent Face to Face event in Falmouth, started reading it and was introduced to the ideas of Dorothea Lange
  • Had a webinar with a peer, where we discussed each other’s work and how we saw it developing
  • Printed more small pictures to be used as backdrops in my work
  • Updated my CRJ

Week five: Gazing at Photographs.

This week has been busy.  I have:

  • Watched and read the week’s guided materials, note taking
  • Joined one webinar
  • Developed my own practice – produced three images which are almost ready for use in my Work in Progress Portfolio.
  • Participated in two in forum discussions
  • Took photographs of the town in snow for use in my project
  • Updated my CRJ
  • Completed some independent reading
  • Looked at some of the work by Max Ernst
  • Ordered photo corners to stick pictures into new album (purchased last week)

Week four: Into the Image World.

A theme this week which definitely resonates with my own work, is that of the field of semiotics, and more specifically the signifier and the signified, as described by Barthes in his essay “The Rhetoric of the Image” (1964).  My work is evolving as I learn, discuss, contemplate and evaluate.  My images have a signifier (such as a woman in a photograph from the 1920s); the signified becomes transparent when other contextual elements are added which represent the movement of time to the present day (such as part of a contemporary image).

I have purchased a few books which should connect well with what I’m doing – and this week I’ve been looking at Vilem Flusser’s book ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983); and Hans Richter’s ‘Dada’ (1965).

Week three: Constructed realities

Click the link below for my pdf for week 3:

Lights, camera, action!

Learning how photographs can be ‘truthful’ or ‘lie’, I considered how I practiced this within my own work. Within my practice I search for myriads of interpretations, a majority of them are a unique, introspective representation of something I view or imagine. I often use photography as escapism and therefore my images tend to rely on make believe – starting with something truthful and evolving into the imaginary, or representational, but never fantastical or magical. I also take this approach with the literature I read, preferring to read narratives that I can imagine could have actually happened in a different time and place, rather than fantasy which I prefer not read because of its reliance on pretence.

My edits are achieved using digital montage, collage, and other means of manipulating my photographs. I also play with artificial light, and have been known to use props and photographic tools such as prisms and filters (although not so much recently).

Regarding other art forms’ use of truth, the first staging of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” comes to mind. Working with Diaghilev, he created a ballet which was so unique for its time with its use of set design, costume, choreography and pounding rhythms that the audience failed to understand it and a riot ensued. For them, it was an incomprehensible violation of what they recognised to be a truthful staged performance, and it was a matter of some time before audiences could appreciate new interpretive visions.

This week I responded to a peer’s post about the use of words within dialogue with a comment about Lynne Truss’ book.  In it, she illustrates examples of the transformation of a sentence’s meaning through syntax.  A lone shooter walks into a bar, has a meal, kills everyone, then walks out (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves); or a panda’s diet (eats shoots and leaves).  This illustrates the way that text (and arguably) images can have their meanings transformed through structure; and therefore perhaps the way we interpret a photograph depends on how we perceive the structure, whether formal or suggested.

Weeks one and two: Shape Shifter and The Index and the Icon

During these two weeks I settled in to the new module, read all the material, watched the presentations, and posted on three out of the four forums,  I updated my CRJ but being unsatisfied, consequently adjusted and re-ordered it.

A short statement of where my practice now, posted on the forum:

My practice has recently been concerned with taking found images and destroying them in some way, photographing the evidence as I go along. I am interested in the reasons people ‘get rid’ of photographs and what affect that may have on family histories, memories etc. I have ripped, shredded, burnt images, put them in the outside elements, and also reassembled some of them. The narrative behind each photograph interests me – most of it unknown to me and therefore imagined.

As well as the tangible aspect of my montages, I have also created some of them through digital manipulation. The sources are the same – old photos or postcards which I then transform into an image in the present. This creates a problem in some ways, as the process or methodology is at odds with the physicality of the first method I’ve described. I have yet to decide which method will form the basis for my next body of work.

One of my biggest challenges is  how I intend to convey the narrative, and find new ways of working with collage and montage. I enjoy experimenting. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at a further selection of artists and photographers who have worked in this field.

And on the inherent characteristics and contexts of the ‘photographic’ nature of my own practice:

One of the main characteristics of my current work is the way I attempt to change or manipulate a picture in a way that initiates a reaction by the viewer. My project is based around old portrait images although in the future I’d like to develop patterns from the natural world within my photography.