When I identified that I wanted to use textual support in the form of captions and/or an artist statement, it was suggested I research further into the use of text in art as this could impact the method I would choose to include text. I had to decide whether the captions would be considered as part of the image, or whether they would just be the titles of the images, in which case they could exist as captions. The book Art and Text constructed by Aimee Selby provides an insight into the way text is used in art through a series of essays, a background into text and many different examples of text as art.
Mel Bochner produced work called ‘Language Is Not Transparent’ in 1970 which was made using chalk paint on the wall. The concept behind the work was to investigate the spatial properties of text, how it’s presence can exist as signage and reality, the relationship between the suggested and the real is constantly fluctuating. The black paint dripping would suggest this piece is a act of graffiti and vandalism, however the white chalk written on the black paint references the way in which text is used in schools to teach. This piece demonstrates that text has many roles and uses in society, sometimes it’s physical presence is the statement, whereas in other cases it is the meaning from the language that is the statement. This is a really interesting introduction into the way text and language can be used in many different ways, and it is just as much about thinking of the way it physically interacts with the environment as well as the content.
Catherine Street’s work ‘I see nothing in your plan but risks, terrible risks’ is a demonstration of how a title can be incorporated into the work in the form of a caption. The piece is collage and oil paint onto a magazine page, with the background depicting this magical, fantasy-like environment whilst the caption is layered on top, resembling a physical extract from a book. The likeness to a page of a book creates the tone that this work is fictional, story-like and poetic in nature, not mean to make a statement about reality but instead exploring the notion of imagination and hope. This is indicated by the impression the viewer has that they are looking up at the night’s sky, suggesting that the concept is dreams and the consequent inevitability of them ever coming true. I can take inspiration from this work in relation to my own project, considering how a caption can still look like an extract but yet still look really effective and stay true to the concept.
Artist John Baldessari produced an interesting piece of work called ‘I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art’ in 1971 which was a commission from the Nova Scotia College of Art. The piece itself was meant to make a statement about modern art and discussions over the quality of the piece against the concept behind it. The idea that value is assigned by the craft behind the medium rather than if it makes an interesting statement or inspires discussions. The most interesting aspect of this commission piece for me is the use of the artist’s own handwriting in the work, an option which is open for me to use in my project. Handwriting is a form of identity, through signatures and letters we create our own identity through the way that we write. As my project is about identity it would be an interesting element to consider in relation to how my captions are produced. Previously I was of the opinion the captions would be typed and printed however I could potentially use handwriting to reference the images of colonial photography I have come across in research. The captions were handwritten alongside the printed photographs by either the photographer or the printer, to describe the subject content. I could replicate this approach and handwrite my own captions in my project. Upon reflection however this idea is flawed because I am trying to make a statement about identity becoming information and computer technology taking an observing role over humanity, therefore my using my own handwriting I would be reintroducing a human aspect of identity. If the computer collects the different forms of information, it would also be computer technology that titles the images for the benefit of being able to file it away, my original idea of having typed captions was tested however it remains to be the most appropriate choice for my project.
I came across two pieces of work by Stefan Bruggeman named ‘Sometimes I Think Sometimes I Don’t’ and ‘I Can’t Explain And I Won’t Even Try’ both exhibited in 2001. The pieces are physical installations of text using vinyl lettering which is an adhesive, securing to the wall with minimal protrusion, giving the impression that the piece is simply part of the wall. This simplistic yet modern approach could be suitable for my project and would give it a contemporary feel which could compliment the content of my project. The drawbacks with this idea is the distinct difference between this flat installation and the way my prints are being exhibition, as they come away from the wall to give the impression they are floating on the wall. Having the captions flat on the wall as vinyl stickers could conflict with this notion, the fact that vinyl lettering in itself is a quite a modern statement could take away from the prints and encourage the viewer to look at the captions as a separate piece of work. In addition to this, the university would be featuring vinyl lettering on the wall with the Collective Vision logo and additional text to give details about the exhibition, if I also used vinyl lettering it would give the impression that this is a installation the university has made as opposed to being part of my concept. Although vinyl lettering is a really interesting and modern way of exhibiting text, it is not appropriate for my project because it would exist to make a statement apart from my prints.
The next piece of work I came across was ‘Photograph of a book (Art Is To Enjoy)’ by Matthew Higgs which comes from a series of book covers framed and presented as an artefact. The reason I was so interested in this work wasn’t as such the use of the book cover, but the way the text was the important part of the image and the methodology behind the mounting and framing used by Higgs to make this artefact. The mount and thin frame is comparable to Jason Scott Tilley’s work in his project ‘People Of India’ where the careful construction of the artefact mirrored the careful and considerate approach to photographing the portraits that were exhibited. I had decided on aluminium prints as I assessed with the help of Emma Critchley that my prints would be better without a frame as it would encourage the viewer to rely entirely on the information. However there was another route I could take with these images and present them in a manner which heavily referenced that of a portrait, in this case I could potentially include the captions in the actual print, would then, when framed, make the captions part of the actual artefact. If I changed my process to reference that of Higgs and Tilley, I could really pursue the avenue of making my images look like portraits, which would encourage the viewer to engage with them as portraits and try to relate to them. This is an interesting approach I needed to consider against the notion of just presenting the audience with a simplistic, clean presentation method with the captions existing externally from the print. I was torn between these two options as both of which would be a really interesting way of exhibiting the prints, however I assessed that the unframed print would be more true to my concept, as although I am attempting to make a statement about identity, it is more about the individual being represented entirely through information than it is about referencing portraiture.
This research was extremely eye-opening and made me realise how diverse text can be in the creative process, how the physical presence and materials are just as important as the content. However it may be that the physical presence of the work is the statement behind the project, or in some cases it is the content of the language which reflects the concept. I have seen many different uses of text which have challenged my current wishes for my project in a very positive way, in most cases I have assessed that these methods are not appropriate for my work however I have been able to really focus down and identify the reasoning behind these choices whereas previously I was relying on intuition. I was very close to changing the direction of my project altogether to use text and presentation methods to reference portraiture more however upon reflection I realised that my original methodology would be more true to the idea I wanted to convey at the moment. If I wanted to rework this concept and exhibit it in a different manner I would definitely pursue the portraiture avenue as I think this would be really interesting. Overall it has been really useful to my creative process to research this book, as well as an abundance of new ideas that I will no doubt be visiting in relation to future projects, it has strengthened the choices I made in my creative process by challenging their legitimacy in comparison to other methodology.