Research – Presentation Strategies

Having not taken part in an exhibition before, I wasn’t very familiar with the different options I could take for my own project, therefore I needed to conduct research to widen my knowledge and figure out what would be the appropriate decision for my project. My tutors had recommended I seek the installation shots of the different projects or to visit them in person if possible, this would enable me to see how the prints were displayed and how they worked within the particular environments they were exhibited. I attempted to research a wide variety of different artists, what their work investigates and how they were/are displayed. This would give me my own ideas as well as seeing what sort of methodology is appropriate for the work that is of a similar nature to mine.

 

Kennard Phillipps is a collaborative movement making work since 2002 to respond to the invasion of Iraq; the work seeks to challenge the concept of power and war internationally. Their cause has brought various different people together offering a range of skills to create work for different environments including gallery spaces, printed matter and online spaces. The piece I am particularly interested is also based on a politician, in this case the subject is George Osbourne and his quote ‘Britain is turning a corner’. The piece uses newspapers with economic figures as the basis before using alternative methods to overlay another design and element of subject matter.

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The piece is printed on newspaper which is a really interesting choice to use when responding to political and controversial matter. There is always a subtle indication that anything printed on newspaper, is the news from professional news organisations, our traditional gatekeepers who are meant to have a responsibility towards the public and publish the truth. This notion has been combined with the practice of politics, where information is given to the public in a matter that is meant to sound as positive as possible, being manipulated as much as they can to make sure that no negatives can be taken. A speech or a promise from a politician is always taken with a pinch of salt as they can be no way of knowing what they are telling is true, or what they have chosen not to tell. The medium of print also means that people can really get in close and look at the numbers and figures behind the artwork, looking at the detail may broaden their interpretation of the project. The act of taking something in their hands and looking at each part of it is not available in the online spaces of the Internet, the only function that comes close to this is the ability to sometimes ‘zoom in’ however this does not always achieve the best results. This is something I really need to consider with my images, I had previously thought of displaying them on a screen as this would indicate I am investigating a digital concept, however this would make it hard for the viewer to see the detail in my images. In a printed version of my image you can really see the individual numbers more clearly and a static print on a wall would be much more effective for the viewer and radically improve their viewing experience. These prints could either be separate prints featured on the wall, or all of the images could form a printed book. This piece has also opened up another avenue for my project, using alternative materials to print on as I have identified the newspaper has brought another element to the project. I need to consider whether the materials I use for my project compliment or destruct the notion I am trying to express.

 

Christian Marclay is an artist who explores the relationship between fine art and sound, attempting to produce pieces which explores the dynamics of both mediums. From January to April in 2015 there was an exhibition showcasing a vast majority of the work from Marclay’s work which in turn, demonstrated the vastly different outcomes each project produces. I was particularly interested in the work exhibited in box frames, Marclay took sheet music from songs and put them in frames with warped bullseye glass. The songs themselves indicate onomatopoeia, or reference the art of painting which Marclay envisioned having a dripping, wet sound, therefore the frames reflect this notion by replicating a raindrop.

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These box frames are a really interesting idea and they really help to make the concept behind Marclay’s images clear. The space between the sheet music and the glass means that the audience can still see part of the music to recognise what it would be, without the warped glass becoming too much of a restriction. However the glass adds an extra element which works to convey the idea of water Marclay identified in the creative process. The actual box frame would indicate to me that these portraits are a study, in this case a study of sound. The brown frame, the white mount and the slightly aged tone to the paper of the sheet music all aesthetically reference zoology studies in which the scientist would preserve species such as insects. The idea of preservation and observation could be really effective for my project as it would indicate I am preserving a method of portraiture that might become common place. It could create the idea of the human race being preserved in a way that is convenient and legible for computer technology. In this case it would appear the box frames are a good idea, however when referring back to my reflection on the Kennard Phillips work, I remembered how important is was for the viewer to get close to a piece with detail, especially if the detail is the most important part, not the effect of the overall artefact. The distance between the glass of the box frame and the content would be detrimental to my project as it would obscure the view from the viewer and make their viewing experience limited as a result. The viewer needs to be able to get up close to my prints and examine the detail, a box frame would not allow this close interaction as the glass would act as a barrier.

 

Emma Critchley is a visiting professional to our course and previously gave a talk on her artwork before making herself available for tutorials on her work. She showed many installation shots of her work in the talk and this enabled me to really see how the work interacted and existed in the physical environment. She also explained that the creative process can either be impacted by the intended environment or the work itself can demand a specific type of space to be effective. Critchley’s work ‘Figures of Speech’ was an abstract investigation into the way communication is made and it is altered by a change of environment. Critchley photographed people speaking particular words underwater, capturing the release of air made with each element of speech.

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These images are displayed in a very clean, abstract style with no captioning or artist statement, the work stands alone within the exhibition alongside the other elements of the project. They are displayed in thin black frames, so as not to distract from the image content, working to merge into the black background of the image. The photograph evidences that the pieces also have a specific lighting set up, the spotlights proving the viewer with the ability to examine the images in more detail, however the glass could work to make the viewing experience less effective because of the glare. Without being at the exhibition myself I can’t criticise the choice of glass without seeing how the pieces react being in a spotlight. Lighting is definitely something I should consider when producing my pieces and picking the presentation method, as the background of my images is mainly black, having glass may make it harder for the viewer to see what is in the image. With Critchley’s images it doesn’t matter as much because the viewers don’t have to get very close to the pieces due to the size, however since my pieces are small the viewer would have to get closer, increasing the risk that they might not be able to see. However the use of the black frame is something I can definitely apply to my own project, if I was going to use a frame it would need to be dark to merge into the subject matter and not distract from the image content.

 

I was recommended to research the artists of the Carroll Fletcher gallery, as they experiment with concepts and issues centric to the digital revolution. The first I chose to research was Thomson and Craighead, who have produced many different pieces of work which have operated in both gallery spaces and online environments. They often adapt the pieces to suit the different environments which can help to extend the lifecycle of the project, their piece Beacon began as a gallery installation however now that the installation is over, a digital version is now featured on the Tate website.

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Online Version

 

Although the gallery version looks different from the online version it doesn’t necessarily mean that the project itself has changed or become less effective. It has simply had to adapt to suit different environments, the flip screen installation wouldn’t be able to operate online however it would have had a powerful physical resonance in the gallery space. The online web version wouldn’t have had such a great effect in the space of a gallery, but it does have the ability to withstand and exist continually whereas the gallery installation has a limited amount of time to make the statement. I need to consider the longevity of my own project and decide whether I need to make certain steps to adapt the project to exist out of the gallery space once the degree show and free range are both over. My project needs to be able to exist afterwards online to continue making the statement and also to improve my exposure as a photographer after the exhibitions have finished.

Another project from Thomson and Craighead is London W1W which was exhibited in the Museum of London in 2013, existing as a series of fly posters. The pieces consisted of a number of tweets, statuses and other social media activity over a specific portion of time which where then made into artwork and pasted on the wall in location.

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In contrast to the previous piece, this body of work is very perishable, only meant to exist for a short amount of time. These fly posters will only exist until new exhibitions are put over the top of it, they will either scraped off or painted over. This presentation method is extremely appropriate for the subject matter it is investigating, the limited life span of this project represents the fleeting nature of social media, each thread representing the raw thoughts of the user at a time. The idea of the piece having to be removed or painted over represents the individual trying to change their representation by removing the content they have chosen to share, however like with the physical piece of art work, there will always be a trace of that information left behind. Although this piece of work won’t last and be viewed continually like Beacon will be, this presentation method is extremely effective and works completely for the concept. This is definitely a different element I hadn’t considered before, when seeing how Beacon would continually be seen by audiences, something I believed I wanted for my project. However after being introduced to another form of presentation which is although limited in time, is proven to be more effective I have found I need to be open minded and respect what is right for my project, not just what would be good for exposure. Ultimately if the project isn’t effective, it won’t stay in the public eye for very long which would mean my profile as an artist and photographer would suffer as a result.

 

Constant Dullaart is another artist from the Carroll Fletcher gallery who works with highly digital concepts, the website of Dullaart is an artefact in itself with a self-scrolling device and a digitally  creative site heading and subject bar. Dullaart’s project’s work both in an online space and a gallery environment, similar to Thomson and Craighead’s Beacon, however there isn’t such a big alteration in the aesthetic and appearance. The piece of work ‘Jessica.ps’ was shown first as a gif which explored the transformation a photograph can make when it is highly edited; this is relevant because the original image was one of the first cases of Photoshopping to an extreme standard before. This is a reconstruction of the original however as there was an attempt to delete and destroy the image for good after the discovery.

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The piece was also adapted to also exist effectively in a gallery space, taking different stages of the editing process and displaying them as still images. Although the form of the project has changed, the original aesethetic is still very similar, allowing the viewer to relate to the project in pretty much the same way as they did before. The only difference is that they don’t see the project as a moving image feature, they view the stages in a slower time scale. I hadn’t previously considered trying to make my images into some other format to follow the exhibition however this is an aspect of my project I really need to make a decision about. whether my images only exist as images after the degree show and free range, or whether to change the nature of it to suit a different space. I probably won’t be able to exhibit again for a while and there is no great need to exhibit the project again following two major shows however I do want my project to exist online after the two different shows end. Therefore I need to think about how my project will currently operate in an online space and/or how to change it to make it more effective in a digital space. I could consider changing it into a gif, this would mean that all of my work is seen at once and none of the image are seen out of the context of the series. It also means that the viewer can make comparisons between the images throughout the course of the moving image piece, the fact that a gif is on loop will enable this comparison process to continue. However I wouldn’t be able to include the captions beside the actual images unless I used a different image file; one with the caption embedded or placed on a border around the content. Although gifs can be highly effective, this is clear from Dullaart’s work, I need to be able to justify that this option is appropriate for my project.

 

Reflection:

Overall the research I have done into presentation methods has been really useful, I have opened my mind up to new methods of presentation as well as ruling some of them out. I can appreciate how the different approaches are effective for each project however as the concepts are different to mine, I shouldn’t necessarily utilise them for my own work. I can however, keep them in mind when I next produce a body of work, as it may be that one of these methods I have researched would be perfect. The black frames from Emma Critchley’s work could be appropriate for my work however I am concerned about the glass and whether the glare would be too much. The fly poster approach is so effective for the concept Thomson and Craighead were investigating, but it isn’t effective for mine, I need to reflect that this project is a study of a moment in time, therefore it needs a sense of durability. One aspect both Thomson and Craighead and Dullaart brought my attention to, was the form my project should and would take after the exhibition time was over. I knew I wanted it to exist after the exhibition was over and that would most likely be in an online space, but I hadn’t put any thought into whether I should adapt the project and change it to suit a digital environment. However I now have some ideas to experiment with in relation to my exhibition and the life of my project afterwards which I will go on to pursue.

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Internet Politics

For my Final Major Project, I chose to use the party leaders for the 2015 election as my subjects. The reasoning behind this was the fact it takes a key moment in time and represents it photographically, fixing my work to a specific time period. The party leaders themselves are a good example of mediation in communication and representation with each politician having a team dedicated to make sure they have the best possible impression on the public. My binary images offer a new way of seeing the party leaders and a new form of information from them, it is then up to the viewer to decide whether this is a true representation of that person, which becomes harder when the only other representation they know has been so carefully constructed. However the choice of choosing the party politicians as my subjects was also based on the increasing amount of political discussion and communication in online spaces; where the online disinhibition effect dictates, behaviour has the capacity to be extremely positive, or aggressive. Such a an unpredictable, volatile environment wouldn’t appear to be the place to discuss the future of the country and the election who decides who will run it, however the subject of politics has been increasing rapidly in online spaces and with it, certain characteristics of the modern day Internet culture.

The conservative leader and now politician David Cameron tweeted a picture of himself and Barack Obama when discussing the crisis in Ukraine in 2014 and was consequently criticised. The ‘selfie’ is perhaps the most widely known and practised phenomenon of the digital age with individuals like Kim Kardashian building and maintaining their popularity through selfies on social media such as Instagram. The selfie was perhaps first widely seen in politics with the Danish Prime Minister taking a picture of herself, David Cameron and Barack Obama at the funeral of Nelson. Although this was predominately criticised for being disrespectful to the late Nelson Mandela, further selfies like this from politicians could be seen as attempts to make the practice of politics less formal, perhaps more accessible to the younger generation. Following this event it was later discussed that Cameron had ‘bought’ himself more likes for his Facebook profile, a action usually carried out by people who have the sole fame of becoming famous on social media. The serious undertone to this humorous story poses the very real concept of bribing and buying votes, a practice which is considered to electoral fraud. Although the act of buying popularity is confined to social media, there is still a risk that individuals unfamiliar with politics will judge the validity of a party’s campaign entirely on their social media popularity.

In 2015 Conservative member Grant Schapps was accused of making changes to the Wikipedia page of himself and other Conservative Members, a claim which he denied. However it was revealed that he had in fact changed his Wikipedia page previously in 2012, attempting to remove facts and comments. It is highly likely that Wikipedia, a crowd sourced database of information, could have the capacity to get certain facts about famous individuals wrong, with some celebrities claiming that their birthday on the site is incorrect. However the ability for anyone to change the information, leaves Wikipedia vulnerable to both the process of mediation and the less subtle process of hacking. The hacking, although it can be reported and removed, can still create a false impression through the attention it inspires, leaving some people with the wrong information if they hear it out of context. The tampering allegedly carried out by Grant Schapps however would indicate that he was trying to tailor his own page and the page of his associates to create a good impression of the Conservative Party as a whole. Though whilst Wikipedia may not be the main source of information regarding politics, it is a site frequented by a large volume of Internet users, demonstrating that Grant Schapps and the Conservative Party are not adverse to the concept of mediation and manipulation to gain a positive public interest.

Aside from selfies, there has been the emergence of another popular Internet phenomenon: the meme. Political memes have been increasingly created to accompany the election and the various activities within it, such as the leaders debate. It isn’t just the public who have been engaging in this activity, the Liberal Democrats created a set of memes to try and gain awareness and popularity for their campaign by Photoshopping the party leaders to reference the popular T.V series ‘Game of Thrones’, casting their own leader Nick Clegg as one of the positively received characters, Jon Snow. David Cameron is cast as the boy King, born to inherit the throne, however there is a aspect of slander behind this casting as the character Joffery, whom David Cameron has been matched with, was a product of incest. These memes, widely criticised for the poor choice of photographs were part of a wave of new memes, one of which ridiculed the Nick Clegg for his subordinate position in the five year coalition, likening him to Sandy from Grease singing her number ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’. These pictures, whilst comical, make it evident that politics is rarely treated with respect on the Internet, with individuals voicing their opinions on each party at every opportunity.

Although freedom of speech is an aspect only brought about by this democratic rule, it appears to increasingly target individuals such as politicians in a manner of disrespect. The Internet may appear to be engaging more individuals, particularly in the younger generation, however the affect of the Internet on the psychology of representation and communication could lead to a distortion and corruption on the activities that take place from both politicians and the public. The mediation of communication and representation developing on the Internet could encourage a future age where the individual has to break away from the digital to try and interpret the physical again. For now however, whilst politics may be on the increase, it seems very fitting that that actual voting process itself remains a physical paper-based practice, apparently resistance to manipulation, mediation or hacking.

 

 

Research – Colonial Photography

In the creative process of my work I started thinking about portraiture as a medium and how my images fit into this genre. 2014 and 2015 has seen an increase in the arts covering social and cultural history and the practice of portraiture has been integrated in some important historical events, which have impacted the world and relate to the concept behind my project. The ITV drama Indian Summers investigated a the imperial rule of India and the issues surrounding colonialism and cultural domination. Photography and portraiture was employed by the Imperial Government to create surveys of the Indian culture to observe the environment and the native inhabitants. Using photography as a form of power was a significant part of the colonial rule and portraiture was used as a process of identification and observation. The power of the gaze is a concept widely discussed in photography, with Barthes originally describing the relationship between the photographer and subject as the operator and target. This exploitative, aggressive terminology relates to the objective style of portraiture embraced by the colonial rule. The photographer can have an incredibly powerful stance over the subject and this is generally reflected in the early cultural photography where it appears as though the photographer is very much the outsider. Aside from colonial photography this stance can also be loosely recognised in the work of Walker Evan and Robert Frank in their investigations of America. Abigail Solomon Godeau addressed this outsider stance and explained that this notion of portraiture is incredibly exploitative and often results in a misunderstanding of the subject because the photographer themselves don’t understand.

The purpose of the colonial portraiture was to collect and document evidence of physical attributes to learn more about the people of the Indian culture. The practice of photography to document biological attributes, known as eugenics, has been used in many different contexts, including the classification and identification of criminals, with some sociologists claiming to see repeating characteristics in the physical attributes of criminals. As sociology developed and the human race accepted that cultural differences are just variations in the lifestyles and environments of each part of the world, the practice of photographic cataloging reduced. It was only being used for governmental reasons deemed to be necessary in society such as photographing  individuals who have been arrested and the requirement of photographic identification in the form of a passport and driving license. However with the development of digital technology we are seeing a new form of observation and documentation, but this time it is all humans that are being investigated by computer technology. It has become common practice for technology to track and record an online user’s activity on the Internet with the view of creating a profile of information which is used to tailor their search results, target them for particular advertising and even look out for suspect terrorist activity by security organisations.

It has been said that the Internet is the largest free public archive in existence, with social media forming the vast majority of all the information. There have been many instances in which this information has been harvested and exploited by commercial companies in order to target certain individuals to try and sell their products. One key aspect of free social media that many users perhaps don’t realise is that they are the product, the terms of conditions of many social media platforms specify that the information the user shares on social media is technically their property, the only difference between whether the company can offer this information out to third parties, is if the user makes their profile private. Although many see the tailoring of searches, and advertising convenient, it means that humans themselves have encouraged technology to begin a continual documentary process where a representation of the individual is formed of their online information. This is comparative to that of the colonial photographers documenting the physical attributes of a foreign culture. Physical attributes and the information on social media represents the superficial, outward representation of an individual, the true representation comes from knowing and interacting with that individual; something that doesn’t happen in either practice. By encouraging and developing computer technology, we are actually introducing a new form of cultural cataloging, where no one is safe.

Photographer Jason Scott Tilley’s photographic project ‘People of India’ worked against the notion of colonial photography by looking at the people and characters in India and photographing them having known who they are as a person, rather than the process of objective cataloguing seen earlier in the history of India. In his project, he followed the footsteps of his father in attempting to document the Indian culture with an insider stance, producing a celebration of culture and representing the difficulties that certain individuals face. Tilley avoided producing what many characterise as ‘victim photography’ avoiding a dominate stance and not showing pity towards the subjects that he photographed. This was a compassionate statement about the colonial photography in history, aiming to introduce a new form of documentary photography where the subject was respected and empowered. Jason Scott Tilley’s negotiation of his concept was specific to his own personal values and his family history and therefore would have affected the outcome that he produced. In relation to my own project, although I am affected by the notion of harvesting information, it happens to a wide variety of people, and the effects of which are yet to be fully recognised. For this reason I can’t aim to produce a new form of this digital cataloguing, because society and technology isn’t at a point of progression and there is no closure on this very current issue. Therefore I decided that my project should make a very challenging statement, to question each individual’s place in the developing digital culture and question as to whether they are happy with the future of portraiture I am suggesting.

There are similarities between the practice of cataloguing I am investigating today and the colonial photography seen previously in history. There are also similarities in the stance of myself and other photographers that have investigated similar subject matter, in that it is a concept which affects us and we feel the need to make a statement about it. However there are some very big differences which makes the approach to our subject matter very different. I do not benefit from hindsight and historical closure as the concept I am investigating is very current, in addition to this the subjects I have chosen to use are not directly linked to me, meaning I do not have the benefit of an insider stance as I don’t know, nor have I met any of them. Although these appear to be restrictions, it means that I have chosen to take a very specific approach to my project, one that makes quite a controversial statement. Instead of providing an alternative to a past event, I am investigating and describing the possible effects of a very current event.

Research – Art and Text

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Reflection:

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.

Research – Photographers working with Information

Following my tutorial with David Moore I identified that my creative process needed to advance from the original attempts I had made using images and text overlays. Through researching artists like Broomberg and Chanarin, I decided that using found imagery would be the most appropriate method for my practice because of the links to my previous work in the Phonar module. However just taking this found material and exhibiting it doesn’t display any skill or further thought so I needed to find some way of making something out of the original images. This process of making could be anything from adding in other elements like text and additional imagery to the images or taking the original image and trying to transform it in some way. I thought back to the project I completed in Phonar where I sourced information about a particular person and tried to make an abstract portrait out them using their inconsequential data. I held this in my mind whilst completing additional research and came across a project by Mishka Henner which realised the ideas I had been thinking about, this is when I started thinking about using code in my final major project.

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I previously researched Henner in relation to using found material however his practice is also very appropriate for looking at photographers who have worked with code. A project which is extremely interesting and actually heavily relates to my ASL work, is ‘_IMG01’  which takes an photograph taken by James Francis Hurley and displays it in a form of code. Just like I plan to explore with my images, Henner investigates an alternative form of representation of this image and displays it in a book.

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When the viewer flicks through this book they are having the experience of effectively ‘reading’ this code like they would with any other book. However the difference is that unless they are extremely familiar with this type of code, they wouldn’t be able to know what the code was actually telling them until they reached the original photograph. The original photograph provides that extra support to let them know what the code is actually describing. If I am going to work with code, I need to make sure that my viewer has some indication as to what they are looking at or provide them with the original so that they can see. This photograph, although historic, isn’t well-known globally which is presumably why Henner chose to include the original as opposed to just a description of what it is. If the image was of a subject or event that is particularly well-known globally then Henner could have just relied on a caption or short description to get the viewer to engage. With my ASL images the information will provide the audience with more knowledge about the subject I’m using however I need to decide whether they will benefit from seeing the original image itself.

 

Jon Haddock

I was referred to Jon Haddock in relation to my Final Major Project work as he has also chosen to work with code in his images. His RGB grid series are images made of up of numeric values which represent how much red, green and blue is in each pixel was in the original source image.

Original Image

airpirates1

Detail

ap-detail

Full Coded Image

airpirates07c

These coded images are really clever because a trace of the original image is still visible in the coded image because of the numerical values and the amount of space they respectively take up. This is an approach which tackles the issue I identified previously with Mishka Henner’s image in that the viewer can’t recognise the original in the coded outcome. Here the viewer can recognise the source image in the coded outcome however it still isn’t very obvious and you need the original image beside it to make those comparisons. Perhaps like I reflected on Mishka Henner’s work, the coded image would work on it’s own if Haddock chose an iconic image that is easily recognised globally. This is definitely something to consider in my own work when working with code, although my outcome may not look like Haddock’s I need to consider whether I need to include some contextual support to allow my viewer to interpret this effectively. The black background in this piece is actually really effective and really makes me think of a screen when viewing it which accentuates the fact it is built using a computing technique. These are all stylistic choices I must consider when producing my own images to see which will be the most appropriate for my concept.

 

Reflection:

Mishka Henner and John Haddock have pushed the boundaries of representation by using the computing that we take for granted in this digital age. Quite often we forget that the digital image is only viewed as a visual image when it is required to, for transmission, sharing and sending the image is converted into code in order to be sent instantaneously. A computer can instantly read the code behind the image and generate the visual preview that was originally created using a camera device. Meaning that every self portrait or portrait taken has been converted into code at some point of it’s lifespan as an image. Therefore the individual has been, and has the capacity to be represented by information and code, just like they increasingly are in online communication. This idea has inspired me to try and use the information in my appropriated images in a different way, if I could represent the original images using the metadata or data such as RBG or binary this would link really well to my original ASL idea and link to the ideas I established in Phonar. There are several design choices I need to approach carefully however that I have identified in my research, the idea of context and whether the viewer needs support to interpret the image effectively. I either need to provide the original image for the viewer like Haddock and Henner have in order to let the viewer make comparisons, or I need to consider adding in some textual support which would explain the idea behind the image itself. This research has been extremely beneficial as it has allowed my project to progress in a new direction which I believe will be more effective than what I was previously exploring.

Introduction and Initial Proposal

352mc – Professional Photographic Practice is the largest and most important module of the third year in that it accounts for a large proportion of the final mark. It consists of two assignments, a project proposal and a professional body of work which would go forward to be exhibited in our degree show at the end of May. In addition to this we would be marketing our our pieces and work towards creating another aspect such as a catalogue however this process would go towards the 354mc Professional Practice Portfolio.

In the beginning lecture of the module we covered the assessment requirements and were introduced to the assignment brief for each assessment. At the end of the lecture we were set the task of writing a sample proposal for the following week, this would help our course tutors identify which external practitioners to bring in to give us tutorials. It would also help for us to start focusing our ideas early and presenting them to the tutors; this is an area that we are weak on as a class.

I went away and made a list of all the areas I am interested in that I could pursue further in my final major project:

  • Photographic Truth – taking inspiration from Ritchin & the National Geographic Image
  • Photojournalism and Representation – following the Phonar sessions on collaborative negotiation
  • Catfish – inspired by a documentary which explores romance trickery on the Internet
  • Trolling – abusive behaviour in the online world which is encouraged by the lack of responsibility
  • Digital communication – how online communication differs from face to face and how that may impact the individual
  • The digital world – the difference between representation and identity
  • Other issues involved in the digital age and how this is impacting society
  • Artificial Intelligence and the possible threat to humanity

After researching and exploring around all the possible concepts, I narrowed it down to two key concepts which I was particularly interested in: digital/online communication and artificial intelligence. Having researched around all of the concepts I also identified that some of them would perhaps merge together or interlink with each other, for example Catfishing is a form of online communication formed around romance, and representation is a form of communication, especially when through social media platforms.

Artificial intelligence is a topic which is being widely discussed with individuals such as Stephen Hawking giving their opinions and forecasting what could potentially happen. Hawking explained that his system which helps him speak often suggests words for him to use based on the content and dynamic of the sentence being formed; however this made him feel a bit like his speech was being adapted, like the computer was steadily taking control. Hawking is forecasting a society where humans teach the artificial intelligence to be so clever that eventually the technology will take control and the humans will be phased out. This idea has been explored in popular culture, with the iconic Matrix films exploring a world where the computers harvest the humans using technology, and the recent Ex Machina which creates a modern-day Turing Test, in which the protagonist has to confront what real ‘life’ actually is. In many cases, artificial intelligence has been mistaken for actual consciousness, this idea emerged with the Turing Test, where the individual takes on the challenge of identifying if they are talking to a real human being or a computer. My initial research revealed that artificial intelligence hasn’t been taken on by many, if any photographers, suggesting it is either a tricky subject area to tackle, or that it is still recent enough to be untouched. This concept lends itself to much discussion however I’m not completely sure on the potential for a creative project, especially as I am not very good with coding and I feel this project may take a web-based route.

Online communication is a more lucrative subject which has been widely explored in predominately in video and documentary. Just recently Channel Four showed their drama ‘Cyber Bully’ which explored the issues surrounding abusive behaviour online, the possible consequences and the morals of the online space. This drama challenges the viewer by presenting them with a main character who has cyber bullied, who in turn is attacked by a hacker, continually the viewer must decide whether the actions are right or wrong and which character to feel sympathy for. The concept of online communication and the issues surrounding identity has been explored in the film and now TV series ‘Catfish’. The film and TV series explore the act of ‘catfishing’, a term that was created in this process of the initial film. Catfishing is where an individual online takes the pictures and details from a different online user to mask their identity and create a new one, with the view of attracting romantic attention. Quite often the catfish chooses images from an attractive online user to boost their likelihood of gaining initial interest however the general intention is to try and establish a relationship, however there have been some cases where the catfish is simply trying to get revenge or create havoc. The dynamic of the film and the documentary is kept the same each time, and the end point is to try and expose the catfish to see whether they are the person they claim to be, in most cases the person is completely different however in some instances it has been the truth. The ease of manipulation and masking identity online has created an environment where it is extremely hard to trust each individual you come across, as there is a strong likelihood they are changing some element of themselves. This can be as simple as photographing themselves from a particular angle each time for a profile picture however this might not be indicative of their actual physical appearance. In addition to the term ‘catfish’ there has also been the emergence of the term ‘trolling’ which describes abusive behaviour, predominately on platforms which offer the chance to comment and reply to content that has been posted. Trolling is perhaps more common where the user can withhold their identity, acting anonymously or under a false name. The lack of association has meant that the user doesn’t have to take responsibility for what they say, the worst that can happen is the platform suspends or closes down their account. This suppression of emotions also occurs on a smaller scale, it is a well-known occurrence for most users of social networking sites to observe debates between individuals where the tone can become progressively negative.

With only a small amount of research completed on each concept, it was clear to see that online communication interests me more and offers a greater capacity for my Final Major Project. Although artificial intelligence also interests me, I don’t think the area was appropriate for me to explore photographically. I made the decision to explore online communication for my final project and used the brief research I had completed already to fill in my first proposal using the given template. I paid specific attention to the schedule and made the effort to plan out what I wanted to achieve each week. Although I couldn’t plan what content I would produce when, I set out some milestones to try and stick to in order to keep my project on track. My initial proposal can be seen below:

 

 

352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_1 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_2 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_3 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_4 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_5

The Wretched of The Screen – Hito Steyerl

In a tutorial with David Moore he recommended I research Hito Steyerl’s ‘The Wretched Screen’ as it would introduce me to new ideas and get me engaging with concepts that would support my project development. I sourced the text and managed to print it off despite it being quite a lot of pages however I had read the introduction briefly and it seemed to be the perfect research for my project. In order to get the most out of this text in the short time available, I identified certain chapters which I believed would be the most relevant to me and made notes on them.

In Defense of the Poor Image

  • The poor image is a copy in motion, with a substandard resolution
  • Ghost of an image – preview/thumbnail/errant/idea
  • Poor image is compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed to be copied and pasted into other distribution channels
  • Image has been liberated from the vaults of cinemas at the expense of it’s own substance
  • Poor images spread pleasure, death, threats, conspiracy theories, bootlegs, resistance, stultification
  • Contemporary hierarchy of images is not only based on sharpness but also resolution
  • A high-res image looks more brilliant and impressive
  • Neoliberal radicalisation of culture as a commodity, commercialisation of indepedant image making
  • Establishment of audiovisual monopolies
  • Poor images are poor because they are not assigned any value within the class status of images
  • Has to do with the post-socialist, postcolonial restructuring, new traditions and cultures are created
  • Privatisation of media production became more important than state controlled
  • Privatisation of intellectual content led to piracy and appropriation, rise to circulation of poor images
  • Networks in which poor image circulate = platform for new interest, battleground for common agenda
  • These environments are permeated by advanced commodification techniques
  • The viewer is enabled to participate in the creation and distribution of content, but they are also drafted into the production, the individual is an editor, critic, translator and co-author of poor images
  • Poor images – popular images, made and seen by the many
  • There is a narcissism, desire for autonomy and creation, inability to focus on a concept, readiness for instantaneous submission
  • Poor images are snapshot of the current/affective condition of the crowd: neurosis, paranoia, fear, craving for intensity, fun, distraction
  • Poor images are poor because they are compressed to travel quickly, they lose matter and gain speed
  • Circulation of poor images make a circuit, which creates an alternative economy of images, free from perfection, it reconnects dispersed audiences world-wide
  • Construction of anonymous global networks, creates a shared history, builds alliances, provokes translation/mistranslation, creates new publics and debates
  • Through losing visual substance, it gains political punch, and a new aura – no longer based on the permanence of the original but the transience of the copy
  • Circulation of poor images creates visual bonds – feeds into the capitalist media assembly lines and alternative audiovisual economies
  • The poor image is no longer about about the real thing – the ordinary original
  • Instead it is about the conditions of its existence

 

A Thing Like You and Me

  • In 1977 heroism is dead, but David Bowie releases his new single “heroes” – singing about heroes in time for the neoliberal revolution
  • Bowie sings to himself, layering clips from three different angles – Bowie’s hero has been cloned, has become an image that can be reproduced, multiplied, and copied
  • Icon is a shiny product with post-human beauty, an image and nothing but
  • Identification is always with an image – but would anyone actually want to be a Jpeg file?
  • If identification is to go anywhere, is has to be with the material aspect of the image, the image as a thing, not as representation
  • Then is it participation and not identification?
  • Emancipation was conceived as becoming a subject of history, representation or politics
  • To be a subject was good, to be an object was bad
  • The subject is already subjected, position of the subject always suggests a degree of control
  • What not be a thing? An object without a subject?
  • Struggle of representation relies on a split between: here thing – there image, here I – there it, Here subject – there object
  • What if the truth is neither in the represented or in the representation
  • To participate in an image, rather to identify with it could abolish the relationship with images
  • Walter Benjamin – it doesn’t represent reality, it is a fragment of the real world
  • To affirm the thing also means participating in its collusion with history
  • The digital image isn’t outside of history, it bears the bruises of its crashes with politics and violence
  • The bruises of the digital images are the glitches, artifacts, traces of its rips and transfers, the image is violated, ripped apart, subjected to interrogation and probing etc
  • What is the point of becoming a thing or an image?
  • Walter Benjamin emphasised the liberating force within things – awaken the slumbering collective from the dream-filled sleep of capitalist production
  • Boris Aervatov – the object should be liberated from the enslavement of its status as capitalist commodity
  • Things shouldn’t be passive, uncreative and dead, but free to participate actively in the transformation of everyday reality
  • To participate in the image as a thing means to participate in its potential agency
  • We have unexpectedly arrived at an interesting idea of the object and objectivity
  • People love the pixel, not the hero – the thing remains

 

Missing People: Entanglement, Superposition and Exhumation as Sites of Indeterminacy

  • 1935 Erwin Schrodinger devised an experiment, a cat inside a box which could be killed at any time: quantum theory dictates there are two cats inside this box, one dead, one alive – locked in a state of superposition
  • Macrophysical reality is defined by either/or situations, this experiment replaced mutual exclusivity with impossible coexistence, state of indeterminacy
  • The act of observation breaks the state of indeterminacy, in quantum physics observation is an active procedure
  • By looking at the cat we fix it in one of the two possible states, ending its existence as an indeterminate interlocking waveform, freezing it as an individual chunk of matter
  • Surely then if we apply the same logic, a missing person is both alive and dead at the same time, in a state of superposition
  • In the 20th century – an age of genocide, racism and terror, the superposition of life and death became a standard feature of various forms of government
  • Schrodinger’s box in this case became a concept of lethal detention, or mass extinction

 

The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation

  •  Dense clusters of radio waves leave our planet every second – letters snapshots, intimate and official communications, TV broadcasts and text messages
  • A huge percentage of the pictures inadvertently sent off into space is spam
  • Image spam is one of the dark matters of the digital world – trying to avoid detection by presenting its message as an image file
  • According to the pictures dispersed, humanity is made up of scantily dressed degree-holders with jolly smiles because of their orthodontic braces
  • Image spam is our message to the future
  • In terms of quantity, image spam outnumbers the human population
  • From the perspective of image spam, people are improvable, perfectible
  • The people in image spam are the dream team of hyper-capitalism
  • Image spam tells us a lot about what the “ideal” humans are by not actually showing humans, versions that are too improved to be true
  • Image spam is addressed to the people who are far from the neoliberal point of view – it is addressed to the vast majority of humankind, but it does not show them
  • It is not an accurate portrayal of what humankind is actually not – it is a negative image
  • What if image spam was more than a tool of ideological and affective indoctrination – what if it became a record of widespread refusal, withdrawal of people from representation
  • People have begun to actively and passively refuse being monitored, recorded, identified, photographed, scanned and taped
  • Pictorial representation, which was a form of privilege, now appears to be more like a threat
  • Social media and cellphone cameras and created a zone of mutual mass surveillance – adding to the ubiquitous urban networks of control
  • People are now routinely surveilling each other by taking endless amounts of pictures and publishing them in almost real time
  • Empolyers google reputations of job candidates, social media an blogs become halls of shame and malevolent gossip
  • There have been substantial shifts in modes of self-production
  • Warhol’s predicted everyone would be world-famous for fifteen minutes – that appears to have come true long ago and now people are wanting the reverse
  • Photography is now recognisably of victimising people regardless of their status
  • We end up being represented to pieces through our data
  • Images and shame you forever, they can trap you in hardware monopolies and conversion conundrums – once images are online they will never be deleted
  • The magic fear, of cameras is reinstated in the age of digital natives, however in this age they do not take away your soul, they drain their life
  • Cameras are not a tool of representation, they are at present a tool of disappearance
  • The more people are represented, the less of them in reality
  • Ideology forces people to invest in their own oppression and correction trying to reach unattainable standards
  • The political representation of people was overshadowed by economic interest
  • There is a crisis of representation, we used to look at images as accurate representations of something or someone – now this relation is altered
  • Image spam circulates without being seen by the human eye, it is made, sent and caught by machines
  • Computers are slowly becoming as prominent as immigration walls and barriers

 

Reflection:

As I predicted, these chapters were really beneficial to research for my concept and gave me some really interesting ideas to think about. The idea of the ‘poor image’ being the one that is constructed and constantly reproduced and circulated by the public, somehow this image breaks the conventions of the capitalist society. Walter Benjamin described images like this in his age as fragments of reality, this ideology links with the modern day concepts of Jaron Lanier saying that identity is fragmented when represented online, and Suler explaining personality is a series of constellations, not compartments. Steyerl suggests that the poor image could be used in a revolutionary way, with people taking control of their own content. Steryerl goes on to explain how observation controls society, with the power to proclaim someone dead and alive at the same time. This constant act of surveillance is being rejected by more and more people as the true power of being observed reveals itself. Once an image, a representation is shared online, it never gets deleted and forms this impression of a person that may not actually be accurate. Computers are tracking our every move using GPS and identifying patterns about each individual when is then sold to commercial companies who present us with the desire to invest in our own perfection regardless of the unattainable standards of idealism. Steyerl suggests that computers are not actually a tool of representation, but instead a tool of disappearance, the more a person is represented online/digitally, the less they are in reality. Computers and people rely more and more on the online presence of an individual as opposed to the physical characteristics and behaviour which makes up personality and identity. These ideas are so relevant to my concept, the ideas of surveillance and the reduction of personality, and humanistic notions of identity the more computers observe and record society. I will definitely be considering the concepts explored by Hito Steyerl throughout the creative process of my Final Major Project and revisiting this essay to read all of it in reference to my future projects.