Category Archives: Assignment 5

Assignment 5 – rewrite

Following feedback from my tutor, I have decided to rewrite the assignment, taking on board the suggestion that I concentrate on producing images of photographs with the storage devices they occupy. Therefore the new version of A5 is attached below, with a revised artist’s statement which reflects the altered frame of reference.

Revised artist’s statement

We pick up a photograph and are instantly transported back to when it was made. It induces a memory which surrounds the act of making the picture; a memory which is not significant in its own right, being generally banal and unimportant, but one that is part of our personal history. The same memory pops up every time we look at that image; it is etched in our minds – an association that we cannot unmake. (Rancière, 2009)

But what of those memories longer term? As outlined in assignment 1, they tend to fade with the passing of the people who made the photographs and we are left with the material traces. Until recently, these have generally consisted of negatives, printed images and albums, but they themselves hold symbolic meaning as both anchors to our family past and as signifiers which hold clues about the people and the lives they led. These signs instantly anchor the images in the time in which they were made.

However, current and future generations will preserve their memories on the computer and the Cloud in online libraries such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which can be accessed anytime, anywhere, so long as the owner can recall where they were stored, but which cannot be physically handled and passed down the generations. In effect, the Cloud is has become the custodian of our images. They are more accessible as anyone can look at them online, unlike in the past where the keeper of the family archive was the only person who could access the images without having to ask. But there is a price to pay.

In this series, photographs from my family archive for each decade from the 1920s are placed alongside the objects which contain them and rephotographed. The viewer is invited to consider what we are losing by the transfer of our photographs from paper to digital media. The cherished and much thumbed family album, with its marks, missing photographs and written notes has been replaced by an impersonal screen and I question whether, in this loss of materiality and its associated indexicality, an important element of our collective history is disappearing too.

Death of the photo album

Notes for specific consideration in tutor feedback

  1. My intention is to rephotograph the images in a studio setting to get completely clean copies. The current versions have been subject to my amateur Photoshop efforts and I know there are some bits that could look better.
  2. Print sizing – the intention is to print them at A3 on matt paper at life size, if possible. Thus the borders will vary depending on the size of the objects.
  3. 3. Just a thought – might it be better to show the insides of the albums, rather than the covers?
  4. Although the images are given decadal dates, I have left these off the prints themselves, having explained the sequence in the artist’s statement.
  5.  I’m still pondering on the title.

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.

 

Assignment 5 – Lost memories of the future family

Introduction

I pick up a photograph and am instantly transported back to when it was made. It induces a memory which surrounds the act of making the picture; a memory which is not significant in its own right, being generally banal and unimportant, but one that is part of my history. The same memory pops up every time I look at that image; it is etched in my mind – an association that I cannot unmake. (Rancière, 2009)

Previous generations preserved their photographs either in a family album or a series of boxes, depending on how organised they were. The images show a remarkable degree of similarity, regardless of the circumstances of the maker – births, parties, holidays and family occasions and thus the family album has the iconic status of memory container. (Barthes,1981; Hirsch, 1997) Current and future generations will preserve their memories on the computer and the Cloud in online libraries such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which can be accessed anytime, anywhere, so long as the owner can recall where they were stored, but which cannot be handled and passed down the generations. But what of the memory container itself – the iconic object that holds the photographs and preserves them for future generations?

In this work, I explore the idea of the computer as the physical replacement for the family album. Using all the images I made and uploaded to the internet in 2018 alongside parts of the deconstructed computer tower on which they were held, I consider what we are losing by the transfer of our photographs from paper to disc. The cherished and much thumbed family album has been replaced by a complex tangle of wires, microchips and motherboards, which can only be read and understood by a tiny fraction of people and I question whether we are losing an important element of our collective history which will be impossible to recover in future. Are we reverting to the pre-photographic age when visually triggered memories were highly unusual?

This work brings together the concepts that were explored in earlier assignments, including:-
• Family photographs and lost memories (assignment 1)
• The elements of the digital image (assignment 2)
• How we access the digital world (assignment 4)

In this final series, I question whether, despite the enormous increase in the number of images we all make and share, the role of the photograph in the family archive is being lost irretrievably and unremarked. The images contrast the physical and unwieldy nature of the computer parts, which contain the images and memories, with translucent prints from my own recent family archive. The performative act of selecting and positioning the images on the background sheet was reminiscent of making up paper albums, and the re-photographing and printing of the results unifies the conceptual framework, bringing it into the real world.

Images

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References

Barthes, R. (1981). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Hill and Wang.

Hirsch, M. (1997). Family frames : photography, narrative, and postmemory. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.

Rancière, J. (2009). ‘Notes on the photographic image.’ Radical Philosophy 156: 8-15.

Self evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The materials used in the final version of the assignment were specifically chosen to put the ideas across. I use digital film transfer overlays in much of my experimental work, to indicate overlapping concepts, and in this case also the fleeting ephemerality of memories, which have no concrete physical reality. By contrast, using the very solidly engineered and three dimensional computer parts draws a clear distinction between the container and what is contained within. The final action of rephotographing the collages was a conscious decision to reclaim authorship of the individual elements in a way that bound the elements of the project together, and to overlay a further meta level meaning.

Quality of outcome

The final outcome is much more precise than I had originally anticipated. The process of experimentation and iteration was enjoyable and led me down numerous paths of research before the exact nature of the final concept became clear. I am satisfied that the final series is coherent and cohesive, although I wonder whether the bounding images (the massed archival ones) are strictly necessary to the story. However, they offer a different, larger viewpoint and visual concept and so I kept them in.

I am pleased about how the various assignments along the way have fed into this final piece of work. At the time, I had concerns about how my assignments 1 and 2 fed into the whole, but this has become apparent in Assignment 5 in an unexpected and satisfying way.

Demonstration of creativity

Most of the creative aspects of the assignment occurred while I was refining the ideas, rather than appearing in the final series, but were necessary to get me to where I finished. I have collected the interim images in my scrapbook, some of the relevant pages being shown below.

Context

I must thank fellow students in ‘The Collective’ study group for their suggestions about what was visually interesting and what was not, which informed the choices that were made along the process journey that was this assignment. They are a constant source of ideas and support. The larger OCA Digital Image & Culture hangout group was also involved in my decision making and the Photography Reading hangout group’s regular book discussions provided much food for thought in the assignment’s philosophical background.

Visits to the following exhibitions and formal study events were also informative:

 

 

 

A5 preparation

Following on from my tutor’s suggestions I have been playing with different presentations for the assignment, which will now meld together images from my 2018 archive with pieces of the computer from which they were taken. The starting point was this A2 sheet of all the images I exported to the internet in 2018. (NB these are experimental images only – the final ones will be better quality.) B

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Fig. 1 Images uploaded to the internet in 2018 (2019)

From a personal point of view, the selection is interesting, as it gives a chronology of the year while specifically looking at the type of work I was uploading to the Net. Mostly experimental and family or studio portraits, by the look of it. And a surprisingly low number of images  – only 280.

This is only half the story though. I then began overlaying images of computer parts, with the idea that if I embed them in the collage, their role in the process of making and disseminating the images is acknowledged.

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Fig. 2 Mixed media collage 1 (2019)

I also looked at making diptychs of individual images and parts of the computer to produce a sort of conversation between them A couple of these are shown below.

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Fig. 3 Mixed media collage 2 (2019)

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Fig. 4 Mixed media collage 3 (2019)

Further experiments took the idea of the physical base of the computer and overlaying it with images of computer parts/archive images and also mixing reality with images by including real and photographed parts within the same frame.

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Fig.4 Mixed media collage 4 (2019)

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Fig. 6 Mixed media collage 5 (2019)

Finally, this morning, I have been mixing real computer parts with transparent images from the 2018 archive on a motherboard background, and think this is probably the most appealing idea to me. I like the contrast between the solidity of the computer pieces and the more ephemeral images, and they both reference the reality of the computer hardware against the images, the latter only visibly existing when they have been printed.

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Fig. 7 Mixed media collage 6 (2019)

This last one works best for me, and I will make some proper ones over the next couple of days. There is a question which is still bothering me about it all though, which is whether I should just include a series based on the last image or whether a mix of different types would be better. Specifically, I still want to include the initial collage, as that is the basis for all the rest.

Figures

Fig. 1 Woodward, H. (2019) Images uploaded to the internet in 2018. [Photograph, digital collage] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 2 Woodward, H. (2019) Mixed media collage 1. [Photograph, digital collage] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 3 Woodward, H. (2019) Mixed media collage 2. [Photograph, mixed media] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 4 Woodward, H. (2019) Mixed media collage 3. [Photograph, mixed media] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 5 Woodward, H. (2019)  Mixed media collage 4. [Photograph, mixed media] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 6 Woodward, H. (2019) Mixed media collage 5. [Photograph mixed media] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 7 Woodward, H. (2019) Mixed media collage 6. [Photograph, mixed media] In possession of: the author.

 

 

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 (Mousse Magazine, 2019), 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.

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Fig. 1 Clouds. (2012)

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Fig. 2 Open Book (Waves) 2, (2016)

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 my feet

Fig. 3 My feet. (2014)

 

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Fig. 4 24 Hours of Photos. (2011)

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 (Smithson, 2019) and it is an idea I would like to explore.

Images

Fig. 1 Collier, A. (2012) Clouds. [Photograph] At: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/newphotography/anne-collier/clouds_8x10-2/index.html (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Fig. 2 Collier, A. (2016) Open Book (Waves) 2.[Photograph] https://www.antonkerngallery.com/artists/anne_collier (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Fig. 3 Kessels, E. (2014) My feet. [Photograph] At: https://www.damnmagazine.net/2016/02/03/my-feet-by-erik-kessels/ (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Fig. 4 Kessels, E. (2011) 24 Hours of Photos. [Photograph] At: https://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2016/may/04/photos-that-changed-the-world-24-hrs-in-photos/ (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Bibliography

Hamer, K. D. (2012) ‘Anne Collier @Antonkerngallery, NY.’ In: eyes-towards-the-dove.com. At: https://eyes-towards-the-dove.com/2012/04/a-n-n-e-collier-antonkerngallery-ny/ (Accessed 05/11/2019).

Mousse Magazine (2019) ‘Anne Collier “Photographic” at Fotomuseum Winterthur’ In: moussemagazine.it  At: http://moussemagazine.it/anne-collier-photographic-fotomuseum-winterthur-winterthur-2019/ (Accessed 05/11/2019).

Smithson, A. (2019) ‘The 2019 Photographs in Conversation Exhibition In Lenscratch.com  At: http://lenscratch.com/2019/05/the-2019-diptych-exhibition/ (Accessed 05/11/2019).

 

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
MOCA Jacksonville (2019) Project Atrium: Evan Roth: Since You Were Born. At: https://mocajacksonville.unf.edu/Exhibitions/Project-Atrium/Evan-Roth/ (Accessed 18/06/2020)

Roth, E. (2020) Evan Roth: Shows At: http://www.evan-roth.com/shows (Accessed 18/06/2020)