Tag Archives: internet

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/

 

 

Assignment 4 – Refining the brief, and a title!

I have now shared yesterday’s post with a couple of fellow students and asked for their opinions. The general feeling was that there were plenty of ideas there, but that I had not yet refined it all down to a specific train of thought and that I needed to do that before submitting it. Yesterday afternoon was spent in the Slough of Despond, but as often happens I began thinking about it in the middle of the night and wrote down some free verse scribblings on where I am heading. This is what I wrote, and it came to mind with a readymade title for the series, which was helpful.

One little button
The key to everything under the sun and even far beyond.

With no restraint, there are no boundaries.
So where to go when no one else is looking?
Your wildest dreams, darkest perversions, deepest nightmares.

All are one; the same. Without a filter.
Play, surf! Do whatever you desire.
Lose yourself in exploration and never mind the cost.

It’s all the same to them. Every click includes their financial cut.
No morals, no rules, anything goes.
Nothing is forbidden.

↵Enter.

What came to mind after I had written this was Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. Although the piece was made in the 16th century, and its exact meaning remains unclear, it obviously considers some of the same concepts about the consequences of total freedom that I have been mulling over. On that basis, I have decided to explore the idea held within this image below further, using transparent overlays to think about our relationship with the internet. The idea will be for the viewer to be able to look at each part of the image separately or together, effectively producing three image options in one – a triptych.

P1750357References

Museo del Prado. Bosch, Hieronymus (1450-1516) The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych. [online] At: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-garden-of-earthly-delights-triptych/02388242-6d6a-4e9e-a992-e1311eab3609 (Accessed on 11 September 2019)

A2 – some background research

Yesterday, I was in London and popped in to The Photographers’ Gallery to check out the exhibition All I Know Is On The Internet, the title of which has been taken from one of President Trump’s excuses for not knowing about something. I had hoped it might be helpful for my assignment and was not disappointed. The introductory blurb states that the aim of the exhibition is to

consider the digital conditions under which photography is produced and the bodies and machines which help automate the processing of visual content online.

As such it is a combination of very disparate ideas and formats, not all of which gel together. There were several video exhibits which I could not get close to as a group of school students was mesmerised by them, so this review will concentrate on some of the other work. I am not going to look at everything, but will pick out some of the most relevant exhibits for what I am thinking about, which is how our individual use of the internet mediates what it offers us to look at.

First up was a Heath Robinson machine to flick through Instagram images randomly in order to trick the algorithms into offering a more diverse content. It is part of the #stopthealgorithm campaign, a reaction against the big business tech companies directing our viewing content through their system algorithms. The #stopthealgorithm website is a mine of potential ideas and I will be delving into it in more detail later on.

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I also very much enjoyed the concept of the Captcha wall, where the artist had made a screenshot every time a Captcha screen came up on his computer for five years. Captcha was started to try to differentiate humans from bots and is a feature of many sites’ joining instructions page.

IMG_0097v2In a similar vein, but with a different context was the Batallions of Simcards exhibit, combining hundreds of used simcards taken from the phones which had been used to make fake accounts to be used by bots, (if I recall correctly – I didn’t take a note of the details of this one).

IMG_0099v2Then there was a series of circles which showed the faces of the engineers who maintain the cameras on the Google Street View cars. As we know, Google tries to automatically disguise the faces it comes across on its tours around the globe, but it is not always successful and these are some of the results.

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Finally, there was a series of individual images which captured those times when rapid scanning of documents for internet archives was not rapid enough, and the hand of the person doing the scanning appears in the image. Visually, this was a strong series, with interesting colours and a great variety of types of document scans.

IMG_0112v2 As ever, the Gallery puts on a special section of the bookshop relating to their current exhibition subjects and I spent a considerable time looking through some of the books for sale on the digital world. I finally settled for Omar Kholeif’s (2018) Goodbye, World: Looking at Art in the Digital Age, although was also strongly tempted by Melanie Bonajo’s Matrix Botanica: Non Human Persons, in which she addresses why we take and share so many images of animals doing strange and funny things.

Footnote

I always find an unexpected gem in the exhibition space downstairs, where individual artist’s prints are for sale. This time, I was struck by Alma Haser’s 3D collage Calatheas, shown below. I’ve been following her work on Instagram for several years, but had not realised she had moved into 3D work. It was very much in her style, but had the feel of a jigsaw puzzle, and I was intrigued by the different layers peeping through the surfaces.

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