Category Archives: Assignment 5

Assignment 5 – tutor feedback

I had my video tutorial with Wendy last Friday, but with all the pre-Christmas activities, hadn’t got around to writing it up until now. Below is a link to the written feedback. As with previous assignments, I will respond to specific comments only.

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Rather than reverting to a pre-photographic age, It may be more useful to think more in terms of our move a hyper visual culture where we are constantly surrounded by photographic images. We are actually taking, viewing and reviewing family photography for example far more often than ever before, and mobile computing has meant that effectively we constantly carry our family history with us, 24/7 in fact.

Wendy did not accept my premise about the demise of the family album and argues that we have more, rather than less access to family images in the digital era. That wasn’t really what I had meant though, so I need to consider whether to go down her suggested route or to try to make my current concept more easily understandable. What I really wanted to get across is that the performative and ceremonial aspects of getting out and going over the family album are dying out. Their current method of storage does not allow for this, and images tend to be glanced at quickly, instead of being pored over. In a way, I am mourning the disappearing pleasure of going through my mother and grandmother’s albums, looking at their clothes and the background scenery, and looking for family resemblences. She thought the way to go was to consider how redundant media is associated with certain types of image, providing ‘a timelock to a particular period‘. She mentioned obsolescent technologies, such as old computer drives and storage methods. I will have to think about this over Christmas with the aim of producing a re-write in early January.

I think the simplest approach often works best here – as in the second image in your series, where one image is simply presented next to its associated hard drive. Your first image works well too. That way of bringing gives us all of the information we need. For your final submission, I’d produce a series of images which are produced in a similar way visually. Do you want to add titles (dates etc?) That might be interesting in regards to your theme?

I think what Wendy is saying here is that simplicity is better than overload and to limit the amount of information on each image. I too like no 3 (my numbering including the grids at present) and think it is the strongest of the group. I take the point about producing 8-12. There needs to be more of them.

I’m not sure that you need the grid of images? Presumably this is a highly edited set of images anyway as the original HD must contain tens of thousands of images?

I’d been wondering about this myself, and am pleased that Wendy gave me a definite steer on this. She talked about ways of producing a similar effect by using a less formal arrangement, perhaps scattering layers of images on top of each other, to  express the ideas of quantity and the layering that has been a feature throughout this module.

Let’s discuss paper stock, scale and methods of presentation at our 1-2-1. 

We did so, and Wendy suggested that a quality matt pape such as Hahnemuhle at A3 size would best suit this series. (Note to self – my printer, although excellent, struggles with thicker papers, so I either need to sort out the problem or get the images printed professionally.)

Using the photographic techniques normally reserved for fashion and advertising. Photographic duo Christto & Andrew use photography to produce strange still lives where computer parts and other technologies are brought together with natural forms: https://www.rencontres-arles.com/en/expositions/view/248/christto-andrew

Wendy suggested I look at the above photography duo for ideas on presentation, but also Valerie Belín, and in particular her typological series, and I will write a separate post about these.

Apart from the assignment work, we also discussed timings for my final assignment. I need to have finished A6 by the end of January, and so we have agreed that I will submit a re-write of A5, plus A6 for written feedback only by 17th January. A6 will include an appraisal of the module and how I related to the different assignments, plus some thoughts on what the experience has taught me about how I approach my own work and in particular ideas on visual research methods and learning through making.

 

Thinking about presentation – Anne Collier and Erik Kessels

My tutor suggested I look at the work of Anne Collier, from a presentational point of view, and following my research on Evan Roth I also want to revisit Erik Kessels’ presentation, which I think has much in common with Roth’s.

Collier, another American, is known for rephotographing old artefacts to reframe their meaning in the light of current thinking about feminism, the male gaze, and the effects of time on objects among other themes. While the subject of the work is very interesting and worthy of further research (see here), for the purposes of my own studies I currently want to look at in in terms of how she sets out her photographs and then presents them for viewing. I will use two separate images for consideration.

As Katy Diamond Hamer explains, in a review of Collier’s 2012 exhibition at the Anton Kern Gallery,

Each photograph is a frame within a frame. The actual frame contains an image surrounded by white space and then the content, central, is appropriated from various sources. (Hamer, 2012).

Many of the objects in the images are appropriated, but the act of rephotographing them as framed studies in their own right, and as objects that show signs of use, give them a new authority, and specifically a space to be seen as individual pieces. So ften we see an album cover, for instance (one of her themes) en masse and we don’t take the time to appreciate the work that has gone into each individual one. By photographing them in a minimalist way, Collier gives the objects space to breathe.

At the other end of the scale, for Erik Kessels, more is better, and much more is even better. Kessels also uses appropriated images, but puts them in collections. Again I am interested in his work here in terms of presentation. Kessels is prolific and I could have chosen any number of works for consideration. He is interested in the sheer quantity of images being produced at present, their banality, and whether we look at them with any particular sense of engagement. In the two images below, My Feet and 24 Hours, we see both the size of the issue, and the lack of that individuality which would be present in a single analogue photograph. Our use of the internet has made photo editors of all of us, but the output is generally of much lower quality overall than what was produced when we were limited to a 36 frame film, and single images are generally very bland.

Kessels work is not dissimilar to that of Evan Roth in terms of the presentation – both use images in huge numbers to make their point, but the point itself is different. Kessels is exploring our relationship to photographic images, while it could be argued that Roth is exploring the image’s relationshiop to the internet, although both obviously have other themes overlaying this fundamental approach, as well.

In terms of my own work, and this project in particular, I need to decide whether to go minimalist or maximalist, so the next step will be to try out each presentation to see which I prefer. I am not in the habit of mixing multiple images together within a single frame, so this should be interesting.

Finally, I am reminded of a piece I read a couple of months ago, on the biennial Lenscratch Photographs in Conversation exhibition, where two or more images were abutted in order to set up a dialogue which would not be there for each single image alone. Details can be found here and it is an idea I would like to explore.

References

Hamer, K. D. (2012) Anne Collier @Antonkerngallery, NY. In: eyes-towards-the-dove.com. [online] At: https://eyes-towards-the-dove.com/2012/04/a-n-n-e-collier-antonkerngallery-ny/ (Accessed on 5 November 2019)

Mousse Magazine (2019) ‘Anne Collier “Photographic” at Fotomuseum Winterthur. [online] At: http://moussemagazine.it/anne-collier-photographic-fotomuseum-winterthur-winterthur-2019/ (Accessed on 5 November 2019)

Smithson, A. (2019) ‘The 2019 Photographs in Conversation Exhibition.’ In Lenscratch.com  [online] At: http://lenscratch.com/2019/05/the-2019-diptych-exhibition/. (Accessed on 5 November 2019)

 

Evan Roth – a case study

As part of my feedback from Assignment 4, Wendy suggested I do a case study on net artist Evan Roth, and in particular his series Since You Were Born. I have been looking through his work and she was quite right to ask me to do so, as it is both fascinating and highly relevant to my current feelings on my assignment.

Roth is an American who currently works in Europe. Although originally trained as an architect, he now works as an artist, and has won many plaudits for his installations which look at our relationship with the internet, but quite differently from the work of a photographer I have already referenced, Mark Dorf. His interest first stemmed from discovering one of the locations where the fibre optic cable of the internet came onshore after travelling across the Atlantic, and this sparked an interest in the physical side of the World Wide Web. This has blossomed into an extensive exploration of our relationship to the actuality of the Web, through a mix of images, sounds, video and physical sculpture, in various iterative series.

Just taking a few of the more recent ones, Voices Over The Horizon looks at the physical, and deeply banal, aspects of the Web. They are all around us, in the form of cables and radio waves, but we rarely notice them. In Kites and Websites, he tries to capture the essence of the physical internet – not a mythical ‘cloud’, but a human-made and controlled systems of wires and computer (Roth website). In Silhouettes, he makes actual silhouettes of the shape and proportions of the internet, using pieces of his own browsing history. (I really liked the concept of this, with the resulting silhouettes presented away from the wall so the shadows of the pieces are also seen.)

Apart from the physical aspects, he is also interested in how information and data passes through the Web via a complex and ever-changing series of gates, producing a system in which a single image may pass through many locations between sending and receiving, and the data of this often appears in his work. He also likes the way the internet can carry data which we cannot see in normal life, such as infrared and radio waves, which led to the idea of Red Lines and his many infrared images/videos. This is also compared to the 19th century telegraph system, which was set up to pass only through friendly countries across the world. The physical Web has also been set up on a similar basis, with huge quantities of information going through a relatively small number of pinch points, the UK being one of the largest and most important. We tend to think of the Web as being invisible and surrounding us all the time, but Wi-Fi notwithstanding, by far the largest way information moves is through straightforward fibre optic cables, which naturally need to be protected, and which are as open to tapping or physical interference as any airwave.

Notwithstanding all this consideration of the physicality of the Web, Roth is an artist not a scientist or documentarian, and his work explores aspects of our real-life relationship with the Net, such as how our connections are routed, landscape locations the information passes through and the data itself. Far from working at light speed (the speed of the communication network, he works very slowly, for example making 18-minute videos of important locations and asking us to consider why we find sitting still for 18 minutes with no distractions so difficult.

Since You Were Born was a specific project he undertook for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville. For it, he took a daily snapshot of the contents of his visual internet cache for four months, beginning with his daughter’s birth, and added each day’s content to the allocated space, gradually building up a huge visual rendition of his searches, contacts and activities over the period. While it was very personal, and exposed an uncensored record of his life over the four months, it is also entirely understandable on a larger scale, as each of the visitors who look at it thinks about their own usage of the net, what their own cache history would show, while also making clear the underlying influence of the big net companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. All of that information is being used by those companies to monitor our lives and to tempt us into buying products that have been chosen to appeal to each of us personally. It is scary stuff. Roth says that like most people his exploration of the net started while thinking about communication, his work is also underpinned by considerations of ownership and property (both physical and digital), the reality of what is under our feet and the historical empire building that hasn’t changed one jot despite the apparently neutral non-physical nature of the Net.

So, how does this relate to my own work? Wendy suggested that the way forward for assignment 5 should use the concepts I was exploring when I took the computer hard drive apart, paired with images from that drive. She also thought I should explore the idea of increasing the size of my work, although I am not entirely sure whether she mean the size of the individual images or their number. I am therefore going to explore both of these concepts next. She also thought I should place some boundaries around the work, both for the sake of clarity and also to make it easier for me to select images, and I need to do this. To this end, my next post will be about presentation and specifically the work of Roth, Ann Collier and Erik Kessels.

Just as a matter of interest, I am sure I have seen one of Roth’s video installations in London in the last couple of years but cannot for the life of me recall where. I recall passing it by fairly rapidly at the time, as the meaning didn’t immediately make itself clear, but would now be interested to see it again, with the knowledge I have gained in mind.

References
http://www.evan-roth.com/presentations/retune/

http://www.evan-roth.com/

https://mocajacksonville.unf.edu/Exhibitions/Project-Atrium/Evan-Roth/