Investigations

This is the page for all the reading, watching, listening, visiting and any other investigations in preparation for my Final Major Project. Full references can be found here:

21st February 2019

The past few weeks have been busy for me as I have been preparing my Final Major Project proposal for submission, and shooting lots too. In amongst all that I have managed to do some reading, but only just found the time to write it up here.

Guest lecture 20/2/19: Stella Baraklinou

Twice in one week, a guest lecture that I was able to attend! Stella is my online tutor for this module so I really wanted to hear more about her own work!

Stella introduced escapism, fantasy, installation/experimentation, and utopia as main themes within her work. Much of these have come about because of the extensive inter-continental travelling she’s done.

Working with reflective materials, cool silver and warm gold are recurring themes; which she developed during her prestigious residency at the Banff Arts Centre in Canada, 2016.

She has worked with installations (such as ‘Let down your Hair’) 2010, working hard to overcome technical obstacles and find solutions.

Baraklinou also has publications which include a chapter in Bergson and the art of immanence (2013), Pixel, and the moiré effect.

She has connections with Charlotte Cotton, and was involved in her 2016 show Photography is Magic, which followed the book of the same title.

Experimental photography techniques, photograms, play with light and sculpture, analogue, digital (use of layers and abstraction) are all elements she includes. In 2016-7 she self published three short books (Container 1, 11, 11), which were hand-sewn. The first was printed at Banff.

Her use of reflective surfaces continued with ‘Sunlounger” (2017) in which she weaved gold and silver materials.

This lecture was inspiring; seeing how Stella’s practice evolved from her 2007 PhD (Photographing the Landscape of Memory) and its investigations into memory/psychoanalysis, art theory and history, and creative processes; into the multi dimensional creative practices she works with today.

Guest lecture 19/2/19: Chris Coekin

I was able to watch a guest lecture live as it happened during the evening, and as this practitioner uses ephemera, archives and audio, it was particularly pertinent to my own work and therefore important for me to take part.

Chris is from a working class background in Leicester, now lives in LA.  Working for 25-30 years as a practitioner, he sees much of his work as collaborative, and multi-layered both visually and contextually. He took a Media degree initially then did a Masters in Photography later. His work is centred around his own experiences with pop art / folk art / music and working class backgrounds.

Coekin works with triptychs, examples are Blind Vision and the Hitcher. Much of his work is staged – he observes, plans and finally stages. These works often span many years. 

Autobiographical and documentary are words used by Coekin to describe his work; although he contradicts this by saying the work isn’t really about himself). He has been known to buy items of ephemera from online auctions to use in his practice; something which I also did in my projects for Surfaces and Strategies and Sustainable Prospects, so this was of interest to me. (This time though, I’ll be using archival materials that are found on site, not purchased).

Interesting was his use of equipment, on his road trip (Hitcher) he used medium format film for portraits, disposable for ‘landscapes’ (often the road, his feet etc), and instamatic for self portraits.

For him, and being interested in typography, the process of making a book is very important. Chris suggested that we looked at the ‘why not’ designer books at http://www.juliangermain.com

In one of his later projects, Coekin uses audio, recorded from the sound of machinery in a disused factory; and in ‘The Distance is Always Other’, a collaboration with Noel Nasr used rephotography as its methodology.

http://www.walkoutbooks.com

http://www.chriscoekin.com

IG: chris.coekin

Finding out about data protection law

Whilst planning my proposal, knowing that I would be looking through NMPAT’s archives, I looked into the new GDPR laws to see where I stood regarding archival photographs which included children. What I found was confusing and, to an extent, open to interpretation. So although not necessary to obtain permission of people who appear incidentally in the background of a shot; if images are to be published on the web then this is a ‘potential disclosure to the world at large’, and one should err on the side of caution. (www.admin.ox.ac.uk)

Another site (actnow.org.uk) suggested that photographs of a child or teacher should not be used after they leave the school, and should be destroyed. Moreover, it suggested that new permission should be sought if using old images at a later date. If using photos that were taken before the Act came into force, then common sense must be applied, considering such questions as ‘for what purpose where / when/ was the photograph originally taken?’.

Copyright lasts over 50 years; the length of time depends on the relevant Copyright Act at the time the photo was taken (see table below).

copyright table Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 20.30.55

table taken from actnow.org

Prior to these discoveries I had already decided to base my work around object and place, but was considering the use of archival footage. These findings led me to make a decision to not include any people in this project, no matter how old the photograph as I had no wish to breach the data law, or to act unethically.

Notes on the documentary by Alan Roth Re/Collecting Memory.

This documentary is about the work of photographer Masumi Hayashi, and I was particularly interested in her thoughts on memory, collective memories, and the sharing of memories. Initially I had planned to use these concepts of memory in my project, but after talking to my tutor decided against it.

In 1942. 110,100 American Japanese were forced to go to concentration / relocation camps until 1945.  There was a shame of being imprisoned. Finding out which block she was born in, she revisited the site many years later in search of memories. Hayashi recounts other people’s memories of being incarcerated. People lost their homes, farms, livelihoods. She was born just before they were all freed. 

During the interview she talked about the “search for feeling about the site or the memory” and that even if you didn’t have your own memory, you would search for other people’s memories. 

She describes her resulting work as “remapping or reconstruction of space”

By using collage she says she goes beyond that moment of ‘truth’ and has created some fiction.

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 16.54.53

Fig. 1: Hayashi, 1995. Gila River Relocation Camp (panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints)

The photos are supposed to give the sense of being alone, the audio that accompanies the images are supposed to represent memory.

After visiting a few sites she realised she was looking for archeology “the remnants of something’.

In 1995 1000 people returned to Gila River for a reunion. People searched for a moment, “something to place history with… something they recognise… to share with their children…people they knew”

Hayashi spoke about these experiences becoming her memory now, a collective memory, a collection of other people’s memories. Trying to make something ‘cohesive’, ‘rational’ about it.

2nd February 2019

Brief notes and quotes from The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin.

“The uniqueness of the work of art is identical with its embeddedness in the context of tradition. Tradition itself is of course something very much alive, something extraordinarily changeable”. (p.10)

“Works of art are received and appreciated with different points of emphasis…the work’s cultic value…its display value” Benjamin goes on to say that the cultic purposes mean that for cultic images, their presence is more important than the fact that they are seen. (p12).

2nd February 2019

Quotes and notes from the introduction to Art Photography Now by Susan Bright

“It goes without saying that photography can be art” (p8).

“One reason why digitalisation makes many observers uncomfortable is that it takes us away from reality and into the realms of fantasy.” (p9)

Gallery director and writer Alfred Stieglitz fought to position photography equally alongside painting. He was an advisor on what MoMA should display as photographic art. Paradoxically, photographers such as Ruscha saw photography as a function rather than as crafted objects. The postmodernist movement “asked questions about the place of images in our culture, who produces them and who reproduces them…Postmodernists considered form as the embodiment of the values of a given society, not as a …neutral carrier of carrier of meaning, as pure modernists would have it….Postmodernism impacted on art photography in vital ways. It exposed how photography was used and understood as a medium.” (p10)

Kruger and Prince, affected by postmodernist theory,  ‘appropriated images originally used in advertising and represented them in the gallery space. ‘ (p.13).

“The physical act of photographing something can in turn change its meaning.” Bright describes how in the chapter ‘Object’, featured artists deal with questions of subjectivity and objectivity…photographic truthfulness and manipulation, and what makes a photograph, and indeed, an art work. With no set style…or obvious identity, such work demonstrates the diversity of contemporary art photography…to its range of influences, from important artistic pioneers to the vernacular and the commercial. The crossovers with other artistic media such as sculpture and still-life painting are also apparent…” (p. 15)

‘Document’ is the sixth chapter in the book. Bright says that “documents have traditionally laid claim to certifiable truth…there is an escalating presence in the gallery of work dealing with issues of the document…The decline of the supposed certainties of photography – such as authenticity and veracity...” (p.16)

She talks about the changes in trend in the first decade of the twenty-first century; including photography being about the medium itself rather than its subject matter (p16).

2nd February 2019

Quotes and notes  from What is Abstraction in Photography? Diarmuid Costello

“In art theory, ‘abstract’ tends to be used as a contrast category to ‘figurative’ and means essentially non – depictive...3-D shapes unrecognisable as objects” (p4).

Clement Greenberg was a leading theorist of this way of thinking.

However, ” ‘Abstract’ and ‘figurative’ …is a distinction within representational art not a distinction between representational and non-representational art”, according to Richard Wollheim (p.6).

Kendall Walton says painting continues to mandate ‘imagined seeing’, so it’s representational art.” (p6-7).

“Limited perception of depth and spatial relations between forms, planes and lines”. (p8).

Constructed abstraction – the construction of an image from scratch : no straight recording of the world. Lopes calls it ‘lyrical photography’.  Could also be called ‘material photography’ –  turns itself inwards into the material processes and procedures of photography itself. Examples : Wolfgang Tillmans, Walead Beshty and James welling. (p25-26).

Weak abstraction records the world in such a way as to no longer give rise to a clear experience of seeing figurative content or volumentric form. Examples: Aaron Siskind, and Bert Danckaert’s Horizon series. (p23).

Strong abstraction is very similar to weak abstraction; except that it no longer gives rise to an experience, or of seeing everyday objects.

2nd February 2019

Quotes from Photography is Magic by Charlotte Cotton

“The artists featured here…are astutely aware of their viewers’ perceptions and trains of thought in ways that are grounded in our shared visual culture…there is unprecedented compatibility and transparency between viewers and artists…”  (p3).

“…ideas repeat and morph over the course of the artist’s practice.” (p5).

“The force of the global developments that affect our image / media landscape are such that the ubiquitous apparatuses and automated systems have now become constants. Increasingly, contemporary art photographers are working with the possibilities of creating variance within this visual system…they deploy destabilised practices…the systemised ‘rules’ of contemporary image – making have become the terrain that artists are using as a site of play…” (p9).

“All the artists represented in the book have an ‘immeasurable quantity of active choices‘…in a subjective and non linear fashion’… (p10)

“Non – hierarchical characteristics” (p10)

“…post – disciplinary age of art, we can begin to consider how the history of art is animated in the present in consciously deployed gestures of the ‘photographic’, ‘painterly’, and ‘sculptural’. The lexicons of these creative fields become agents of creative originality – ways of selecting, combining, and subverting visual language.” (p12).

Binding together of image and object (or image as object) is a fundamental cultural phenomenon that the artists represented here are consciously designating and navigating. This is a field in which distinctions between original and copy do not dominate and where images act as objects and vice versa, comprehended through their ongoing state of circulation and versioning.” (p13)

“Post internet art”. (p14).

“New aesthetic”. (p14)

” ‘Post-internet’ is increasingly used to describe work by artists who embed their practices in fluid versioning and scrolling information streams in our commodified systems of communication , using the same iterative processes and dynamic structuring of relations between works to the point that they become inseparable from the systems themselves.” (p17).