DI&C: Assignment 2: The archive

 

Brief:

Produce a series of related images that use readily available online archive (or archives) as their starting point or subject.

Make a small book for this project, using proprietary software, to be viewable online.  In your book, you may use a selection of images from primary sources (your own images) and / or secondary images (images found online and / or scanned from other sources).  Think about a theme for your book and use the references provided throughout Part Two as inspiration.  Your book should be a minimum of 12 double pages and can contain text if you wish, or simply a collection of images.  Provide a link to where your tutor can view your book and also provide a few double-page spreads as still images as part of your learning log.

Review of Assignment 2

Creative and analytical thinking:

Analysing information, formulating independent judgments; employing creativity in the process of investigating, visualizing and / or making, developing a personal voice.

I have already used proprietary software to self-publish several books over the last 5 years using Blurb and Cewe. As none of the online publishers had templates to publish my book the way I wanted to present it, I decided to make my own. One publisher who advertised that they did concertina/ leporello books, needed a minimum order of 1000 books – as I was planning to publish only 2, I could not pursue that option. I had never bound a book so I had to learn about the importance of using appropriate materials by making mistakes – many mistakes.

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Some of the books I have self-published using proprietary software with Blurb and Cewe.

The draft book I designed had many flaws:

I had problems with the binding & the image on the cover, although it was what launched my idea for the book, was not really what the book was about:

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The original design for my front cover using the image found on Flick’r (see below).

The original image from Flick’r which was the starting point of the project:

tim-dennell-eu-referendum-postal-vote
Tim Dennells’ “Referendum Postal Vote” became the substrate for the ‘key’ or ‘legend’ of the book / map.

The problems caused by the first book binding fiasco led to the front cover being replaced by this:

Book coverDSCF9971
Final cover option:

I had formulated how I wanted to present my material very early in the process but had been initially inspired by Johanna Ward whose work I had seen at the Brighton Biennial in 2014. The original idea was based around the map of the world with lines of Longitude:

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I worked in my personal sketchbook where I rejected some ideas and took on others and I bounced ideas off my tutor when I was not quite sure what I wanted to achieve. One of these occasions was early in June in which he introduced me to the formal term for a concertina book, the leporello.

Reading up on how the term came about was fascinating and, although it was not exactly the subtext of what I wanted to put across, I know that not many people are aware of its history.  My initial idea was to have just images of the newspapers and their headlines but my tutor, Clive White, suggested I use selfies to make the images more interesting. Dilemma: asking people to take photos of newspapers was one thing; asking them to take selfies for possible publication in a book was altogether different.   I was, however, very positively surprised when the participants still agreed to go ahead with the idea.

The image on top left was the effect I wanted to produce: a map opening out to the right.  As in OS maps, the page opens to the right, leaving the key / legend containing interpretations of the signs and symbols the last to be seen.  Similarly, my book has the key to the reason for the existence of the book in various forms: a poem, a description, a list of contributors and the acknowledgement of the image which started the whole process.  Viewers are free to look purely at the selfies or they can dig deeper and read the last page if they want to.

Since the map of the world and having a specific date were immovable points in my scheme, I realized that lines of longitude – demarcating distance and time to and from London – and the physicality of a map were essential to the project, I had the idea of making a map and putting the selfies on it.

The idea was good but the book binding materials were inappropriate:

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I overcame the bookbinding problems by speaking to others, changing the stiffness of the cover, changing the glue and the materials on which it was to be used and changing the weight of the photo paper of the cover.  I bound each A5 sheet to the next using bookbinding tape because my experiments with sticky tape made the joins warp and the distorted product was awkward to handle.  As the pages of the book kept opening awkwardly and getting in the way, I used magnets to keep the pages in place:

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Although the significance of the magnets came to me after I had assessed their practical value, that invisible pull which connects the magnets, is also important when you consider what keeps people together, that invisible glue / spirit.

Having come across Tim Ingold’s “The life of lines” at a residential course, ‘Transcribing landscape’ at Schumacher College at the end of June, I realized how relevant his theories and philosophies on lines , blobs and knots were to my assignment & so I assimilated them in the project.  The knots were not only relevant vis-a-vis the www aspect, but he also says that, once untied, the rope/string maintains its shape – it has a memory of the knot and can never be as it was before.   Research on various aspects of digital imaging by Okwui Enwezor, Hans Peter Feldmann and Christian Boltanski led me to realise the relevance and importance to this project of my experiments using tracing paper in my photography: it reflects the transience, the ‘traces’ of people, events and historical documents. The way I presented the images on the tracing paper represented the layers in the process, the history and the meanings we all give to the images we see – so how I presented the selfies was to influence greatly how they were seen.  Clive’s idea about seeing them from behind to give an insider view is maintained.  The insubstantial feel of the tracing paper adds to the idea of passing time and the ephemeral quality of photographs, emphasising also the death element of photographs in Barthes’ theory of photography, not to mention the ephemeral qualities of news, of political dogmas and decisions.  The idea of photo streaming is replicated in the long line of selfies in both hemispheres, as is Ingold’s idea of lines connecting us.  This line is implicit also in the curls representing the oceans which separate the selfies particularly in the southern hemisphere.  The red ribbon which ties the book together is not just for aesthetic purposes.  It could have been of a weaker, less obvious colour, buts has been stated above, it is an intrinsic part of the presentation and so has to be noticed.

I purposely presented the images to be seen from right to left: from East to West because that is how the day, 24th June, revealed itself. At what point & in which place was the interest in the referendum results going to be reflected in the newspapers?   As our books are presented to be seen from left to right, this also presents a challenge to the (Western) reader. The information is predominantly transmitted through images, text is only given because the newspapers are a vital part of the project and the information in them needs to be read to be relevant to the project. Viewers are left to choose whether to read the images in the Southern Hemisphere first or not.

From the outset the pages were not easily handled but the aesthetics are good:

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Both sets, northern and southern hemispheres can be pulled out together so can be seen simultaneously:

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The last page layout of my mock book was inconsistent with the rest of the book: it was A5 whereas the rest of the book was A6:

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so I changed it to this:(view before it was cut and scored):

Poem amended Aug 6 Tim Dennell EU Referendum Postal Vote
The back / front page of the leporello amended on 6th August.

 

Research and ideas development

Sourcing and assimilating research material; using visual language to investigate, test, interpret and develop ideas.

As stated above, Johanna Ward was my initial inspiration for the leporello format. The research material came via the course material mainly but a vital part of the significance of various elements in the physical book came through my reading of Tim Ingold’s work which was not in the recommended reading and which provided the theoretical methodology for the book.

Finding out how to physically make the book, I researched various craft techniques online.

I contacted my friends via email, Whatsapp or Facebook to get the initial pool of participants. I then created a page on Facebook dedicated to the members only, and asked the members to find me participants in countries in which I did not have representatives. I was really surprised to have so many respondents and looked forward to getting the selfies. The instructions were relatively simple: I wanted one selfie of the person holding their chosen national newspaper in which both the name of the newspaper and the headline were clearly legible. As more than half the countries were not English speaking, I also had to ask the participants to translate the headlines. I used the Facebook page to encourage and thank the participants to get the selfies. As I had to produce a model release form, I researched existing ones and compiled one which was relevant to this exercise.

 

Ideas for the book came from many sources in my research:

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The final version of the book is described in a Youtube film.  I could not use Vimeo as the film was longer than my allowed weekly submission.

One of the important aspects of this book as archive is the fact that, in the next ten years, we are probably not going to have physical newspapers as we know them.  Headlines are going to be created and illustrated by communities of people who will decide what is worth disseminating. “If such a picture (as that taken in Abu Ghraib) were indeed made recently, it might not have registered in the swirls of issues and images.  Or we might well have missed it altogether, given the rapid disappearance of something like a front page to tell us where to look.  And its disappearance, like that of printed newspapers, seems to be accelerating: according to a 2011 speech by Francis Gurry, the United nations agency head for the World Intellectual Property Organisation:’in a few years, there will no longer be printed newspapers as we know (them) today.’ … they will disappear by 2040. In the United States, it will end in 2017.” ( Ritchin p. 145)  A glimpse into that future is evident in my book in the selfie taken in Braunschweig, Germany, where we see a young man reading his headlines on a monitor.

Visual and technical skills

Using materials, techniques, technologies and visual language to communicate ideas and information.

Making and binding the physical book was very challenging: I had to research how to make the cover incorporating attaching a ribbon to tie the covers together; I had to ask various skilled people, like my husband, how I could attach magnets to the book to hold the pages together & which magnets to use; I had to use bookbinding tape to tape the sheets of tracing paper together; I had to make many mistakes in gluing the different parts of the book together; I chose to make a box for the book simply because, if the book were to co-exist with other books, it would get caught, tangled and torn by other books. In order to be relevant again, the box had to be coloured and covered – as only two examples were going to be made, I could not order multiples of a box & had to use what I already had which I thought was appropriate.

Part of the brief was to make the book available online. I had to make various mini-videos to explain what I did, how and why because I could not provide a direct link to the publisher’s URL.   I therefore had to make mini-videos explaining what I had done & why. As I had not uploaded a Vimeo for over two years and had forgotten, I had to research how to do it again.   Instead of splicing all the videos together, I decided to leave them as mini-clips so that viewers could simply see the aspect that they wanted to see .  Only when I went to upload them I discovered that, if I wanted to go ahead with the upload, I would have to pay for it as it was a bigger file than I was allowed.

Context

Awareness of critical, contextual, historical, professional and / or emerging contexts; and personal and professional development.

The context for this book is a socio-political archival one: the EU Referendum in the UK on 23rd June2016 and awareness of its outcome in the international press. In the 30 countries covered by the project, the over 50 people involved and the over 40 selfies submitted.   The countries were my choice mainly but not all the countries I wanted to cover have been represented.

Although I was not aware of it at the time I was putting my ideas together for the project, Hans Peter Feldmann has done a project on newspaper headlines from around the world on the 9/11/2001 coverage which is now being exhibited at the Rencontres D’Arles exhibition in Arles.   His is purely on the headlines and does not have any people involved, as far as I know. Those OCA tutors and students who have seen the exhibition value it greatly.

A few pages of the project:

Page 6:

Page 6

Page 7:

Page 4

 

Page 2:

Page 2

Bibliography:

Chandler, D.: 2013. Mishka Henner – Dutch Landscapes. Photobooks.

Ingold, T.: 2015. The Life of Lines. Routledge.

Lister,M.:2013. The Photographic Image in Digital Culture. Routledge.

Pollen, A.:2014.  When is a cliche not a cliche?

Ritchin, F.: 2013. Bending the frame. Aperture.

Ward, Johanna : http://www.johannaward.co.uk/i-shall-say-goodbye-images/

 

Live Youtube video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsdMqoqsq9c

 

Tutor report:

This must be the best and shortest tutor report I have ever had in a life time of education:

Overall Comments

“It’s fabulous; probably well in excess of what was imagined when the brief was written.”

Feedback on assignment

“While it would be an undoubted pleasure to handle the actual object it’s too precious to be shunted about in the mail. There’s obviously a lot of painstaking hand work gone into producing this unique object so it’s better to maintain its appearance for the actual assessment.

“We had a few exchanges during the production and there’s really nothing more for me to comment on.  There maybe a few points where I would have done something slightly differently but I’m not going to mention them because they would have been different, not necessarily better and they’re some of the things that make the work unique to you.

“A point I often make to students is that I’m not in the business of saying that’s an excellent piece of work you’ve done but why didn’t you do a different equally excellent piece of work.

“I’m feeling really confident that you’re making the work that you should be making, work that makes sense to you to make, so carry on in that vein. You’ve got the much vaunted ‘voice’, carry on using it.”

 

Reflection on the tutor report:

To work on:

  1.  My learning log lacks reflection on tutor report for assignment 1.  This is now done.  I am not a technical person so I was putting off having to face the technical shortcomings of my work.
  2.   “your wider researches and reflections into and about the medium of photography, its culture, that of fine art in general and your place in it as you progress. It’s good to have this read chronologically and including all the sources together, reading, exhibitions, TV, radio, cinema etc. rather than separating them out.”  I have been to many exhibitions and on courses which I have not written up yet.  I am concerned that we can’t upload our own PDFs on WordPress & that they have to be accessed through a link which, during the assessment process will slow everything down.
  3. “One click on Research & Reflection should do the job, as it does in the menu down the right but on the top drop down, which is where I’m likely to go first as an assessor I’m offered more choices and I ask myself do I want to look at Notes or Personal Projects?”   Something had gone wrong with my OCA template & I could not identify what it was.  I got in touch with OCA IT dept. and someone kindly looked into it and rectified it.

All three items have been sorted or are in hand.

 

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Page 51: ex. 2.3

In your exercise for this section, you’ll produce a piece of work that reflects on representations of the self in digital culture.

Produce a series of 6 photo-based self-portraits that use digital montage techniques to explore different aspects of your identity.

Image 1:

Self portrait 1 1

 

Image 2:

wine and ferrero mountain 074 1

 

Image 3:

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Reaching the end of the line.

Image 4:

Rocky headland with contrast DSCF1188

Image 5:

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Self and tree bark , partly b & w painterly colour treatment in PS layers.

 

Image 6:

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Autobiographical expression.

 

Produce a 500 word blog post outlining your working methods and the research behind your final submission. (Whose work did you study in preparation for this exercise? Why did you use the techniques that you did and how effective do you think your choices have been, for example?)

This work reflects the digital representations of myself which reference different aspects of my identity.

The original choice was between using photographs in the family albums and photographs of myself. Because I do not like seeing images of myself and because I have an aversion to photographing people in general, I chose to tackle this option to see if I can overcome this obstacle in my photography.

The work which inspired me most was Vibeke Tandberg’s experimental self-portraits using photomontage as seen in her “Herself – Photography” on the Youtube film(1) and her “Undo” (2003) series.   The freedom and variety of expression evident in her work was exciting and wide ranging: from presenting herself pregnant to using a lightbulb and a corner of a cube to say something about herself, which, to me, is quite liberating. Her manipulation of her photographs ranges from being so subtle that the viewer is not sure if what they see is what is there, to her obliteration of certain elements of her work ( her scribbles over her Amy Winehouse look-alike self) which leaves no doubt about what she has done. The photomontages in (1) present quite dark, disturbing images whereas her pregnancy ones at first sight look quite normal but then you start wondering if they have been manipulated or not because they don’t look quite natural enough. In the 2005 article in Frieze, Christy Lange asks us, in looking at Tandberg’s ‘Undo’ (2005), “What should we make of her self-portrayal not as an anxiously expectant mother but as a lonely woman whose body is peculiar and unfamiliar to her?” (2) The artist portrays her pregnancy not as a natural marvel but rather as this alienating physical experience in which “her swollen belly is like an unwelcome and stubbornly shifting mass that her position must constantly accommodate.” (2) This too is part of an uncompromising approach to her practice: why shouldn’t she?

In Lorraine Rubbio’s, August 28, 2014 article (4) on Tandberg, she gives us a glimpse of what constitutes the latter’s thinking on artistic practice: “it is a mix of self-awareness and fragility, two rather opposing characteristics that I think define the very core of any artistic practice.”(4) When you see her images, however, it is difficult to see that fragility: she portrays herself in very harsh, face-on terms with the viewer – challenging rather than seeming vulnerable, which, to me, is implied in fragility.

That fragility and self-awareness features in my poem, although I had not read up on Tandberg when I wrote it. In the rest of the images, I have used digital technology to cast myself as an artist’s subject as well as a subject in front of a camera’s lens. Unlike Tandberg, I have not been subtle in the methods I have used to process the images, and that is something I would like to explore further. I am not questioning how women are represented, nor am I revealing any psychological darkness, as far as I am aware. My images reflect the different identities I have chosen to depict: the positive, colour-loving optimist; a gourmande who cannot resist wine and chocolates; an older person who realizes she is fast approaching the end of the line; the nature-lover tending sometimes to feel part of the geology; the drama-queen; the complex character who is sometimes lost and confused; the image-maker, both in text and in pictorial representation. Unlike Tandberg’s work, mine has the occasional flicker of light humour; image 3 plays with the idea that it might not be manipulated: an image standing where others have stood and it too is on its way out.

 

References:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-TcVnnAxI
  2. https://frieze.com/article/vibeke-tandberg-0
  3. http://www.zingmagazine.com/zing12_staging/zing12/reviews/reviews-2.html
  4. https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/artnet-asks-vibeke-tandberg-75786

P.45:Ex. 2.2

Write 500 words in your learning log on a piece of work by one contemporary artist-photographer who uses the archive as source material. You may focus on any artist you wish but you may wish to select either:

  • an artist who exhibited as part of the exhibition Archive Fever (2008)
  •  one of the British artists’ projects produced by UK organization GRAIN
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Photo of the Kessells exhibition of 1 day’s uploaded images at Rencontres D’Arles, 2013 . Photo:Anna Goodchild.

 

The artist I will look at is Erik Kessells whose work I first saw at the Rencontres D’Arles in 2013. My first reaction to Album Beauty was to wonder why he would want to use family albums, those artifacts that are ‘glorious in their dullness’ (Arles 2013 catalogue), why he would want to trawl through flea markets and second-hand shops and stalls all over the world to find these albums. Tim Clark (1) calls the exhibition “a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of obsolescence.”(1). That obsolescence contextualizes the work in time and one day, perhaps, our current practice of uploading our every move will also be seen as obsolescent – perhaps that day has already been and gone and the mountains of images are being recycled in more ways than one through montage and collage to create different work as in the case of Lilly Lulay, Katie Shapiro and countless others. Anouk Kruithof (2), in focusing on subconscious traveling uses something she found by chance to illustrate something connected to this image re-cycling and obsolescence: she found empty photo sleeves, arranged them randomly on A0 sheets of paper which she then put under glass and arranged them on a gallery wall. In doing this, she invites viewers to fill in the contents of the sheets with memories of their own travels thus experiencing a vicarious or second hand journey. The glass reflects their faces and thus makes the viewers part of the ‘scene’.

Reflecting on that exhibition space in conjunction with Kessells’ maelstrom of printed images uploaded in a 24hr period on Flick’r in the next gallery space suddenly brought home to me the magnitude of our collective and individual desire to upload our expressions or narrate our dull lives to a global audience possibly again to be part of that vicarious journey, to be seen as being part of that bigger picture of humanity.

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Exhibition space 2: Arles 2013. Photo Anna Goodchild

Recently I wrote a blog on Ted Forbes’ “Nobody cares about your photographs” in which I decried his sentiments that we need to make work that makes a difference, that matters, make us feel better about ourselves. Of course I realize that he is referring to that mountain of daily dumps on social and photographic networks, but I also think that iconic images, images which have mattered in moving people, like Don McCullin’s “Shell Shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968”, were not premeditated, were not made to make people feel better about themselves.

In an article entitled “The vanishing art of the family photo album.” We see that what Erik Kessells found in the family albums he trawled through was “an archaeology that lists the detritus of beauty, boredom, travel, companionship, innocence, youth, pride and participation.” (1) Those carefully constructed images of self, largely radiating happiness and the best of everything – similar to what we see on social media today – also contain ‘the dissonant, the banal, the disruption to ritualized harmony within family photography.’ He finds beauty in something less than perfection and mistakes which reveal, perhaps, something the photographers did not want to show.

His discoveries record what the archives found in family archives tell us not only of the history of a particular family, but also how habits have changed over time.   He discovered a pattern in the making of the family albums which averaged 7 – 8 in number and which record photos of a relationship in the first album, the marriage in the second, fanatical urge to photograph the first child in the 3rd, then the 4th – 7th albums are a complete mix whereas the 8th album would focus on the couple living alone again.

These piles of archaeology exhibited on the floor of what once may have been a family home, invite, ironically, more photographs to be made and uploaded to social media sites because there are no ‘family albums’ any more, yet we need to be part of that picture – even if we don’t quite fit.

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Photo album exhibition space: Arles 2013. Photo Anna Goodchild.

References:

  1. (http://time.com/3801986/the-vanishing-art-of-the-family-photo-album/)
  2. https://www.coursera.org/learn/photography/lecture/wuMhX/6-4-interview-with-anouk-kruithof
  3. Rencontres D’Arles 2013 catalogue.

“Nobody cares about your photography.”

I have just watched / listened to this vlog (= video blog!!) in which the author (no name given) tries to argue, by giving us ‘a brutal truth’, that “nobody is really interested in your work, that the only way to justify making work is to make stuff ‘that matters’ ( I love the way this American drawls that word out!), work which leads to bigger projects,  work which makes us think, work which makes us feel better about ourselves… we need work that makes a difference.”

Normally I would ignore this vague or, at best, ambiguous  posturing but I decided to analyse what he is saying in the light of the work of Erik Kessels , for example, in highlighting the prevalent practice of uploading daily  images by the million on to social networks, and of Lilly Lulay’s practice of recycling images in collages and montages.  I also  decided to tackle the ‘what do you think of this?’ question posed by a photographer whose work I appreciate – Bill Jackson.

How do we know what work matters, to whom and at what point in time?  Recognition of the value of so many projects has come years after their appearance on the world stage.  Should we all start pontificating on our pet subject?  Should we set out to tell others what to think?  I don’t think we do.

‘Work on projects  which lead to a bigger body of work’.  Are 32 mindless images better than 2 mindless images?     Who decides that they are mindless?

Surely in our artistic process we do not  know what the end ‘product’ will be.  We need to   experiment, to see what works and what doesn’t.  Did the cave dwellers make art which was significant in their times?  I don’t think so – their expression was important and still is & is worth investigating today.

Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you are trying to say , so, if you simply don’t create work because ‘nobody is interested’, what does that do to you as an individual ?  If you are interested, I wold say, experiment / investigate / explore.  Whom / what are we harming, assuming we are using digital imaging, in our explorations?

In the July, 2016 edition of the RPS Journal, world renowned photographer, Sarah Moon, in response to the question “Do you spend a long time planning your photographs?’ responds: ” Some I do but it is never what I have planned that happens.  You can’t stick to an idea, it is like a mirage.” (p.516).

One photographer he ‘consumes’ is Bill Cunningham who, in his opinion, made work that mattered – ‘he was of his time’ and ‘did not produce easy work’.   In an article in the New York Times titled “Bill Cunningham on Bill Cunningham”, Cunningham states:

” I STARTED photographing people on the street during World War II. I used a little box Brownie. Nothing too expensive. The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/fashion/bill-cunningham-on-his-life.html?ref=topics&_r=0)

I don’t think I need to write any more.   Except to say that I thoroughly enjoyed making these two images shown here and collaborating with Fiona, a total stranger I met on a course recently: they matter to me because the process took me down an avenue I had never explored; the process totally captivated me; I expressed myself as I never have before; it makes a difference to me because I can feel myself developing as a photographer; if nobody else cares about my work, it really does not matter – if they do – wonderful!  Yes, I am adding to the trillions of images uploaded to social websites but I am doing it to prove a point that what others feel about your work does not matter if that work matters to you.

Flora 3DSCF7771