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:

IMG_2928

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:

DSCF9970

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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14 thoughts on “DI&C: Assignment 2: The archive”

    1. Thanks, Brian. The knot is quite pivotal to the whole www network ethic of the project, so I am glad you like it. It was quite a sweat getting it all done & now I await the binding tape to get the second one done -each book needs 5 metres of tape! I loved your selfie composition – quite a hoot! Thanks again for agreeing to take part & being so co-operative = great collaboration.

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      1. I find little details like the knot, ones that seem like mere decoration but yet are so symbolic really – I don’t have the right word but I get a real kick from them. They add another layer of meaning. I was delighted to help!

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  1. Anna! I’m deeply impressed. Congratulations for such a professional work. It was great fun beeing a part of it. Looking forward to your next project.
    Big hug from wonderful Düsseldorf!
    Ulrike

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