Tag Archives: Kensuke Koike

Format Festival 2019

As part of my A2 tutorial, my tutor suggested that I should try to get to the Format Festival, particularly as two of the photographers whose work interests me are showing there, Kensuke Koike and Alexandra Lethbridge. So on Saturday, I hopped on the train and went to Derby for the day. The festival is relatively compact, with most venues being in walking distance of one another, but I was clearly not going to be able to visit them all, so I decided to concentrate on six locations, which I will go through in turn here. I saw a huge number of images, and so will concentrate mainly on the ones that drew my attention.

First up was The Quad, which had several rooms and corridors dedicated to exhibitions. It would take forever to describe them all so here are a few highlights.

Kensuke Koike – well, what can you say about his work? His speciality is cutting archival images to make new comments about this original and here, he has bigged up the idea. In an installation of about nine pieces, each image was cut and then mounted on a piece of similarly cut and hinged metal, in which is was clearly possible to see that it could be folded back flat. It was a triumph of the use of negative space, and the subject matter was images taken from Derby’s historic archive. I loved it.

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Steven Barritt’s Of Swallows and Ravens considered our notions of how the more esoteric science such as quantum mechanics and astronomy relate to our perceived reality. The work on show for this was very disparate and each piece merited some time to consider what point was being made. Interesting and thought provoking.

Lisa Ambrossio’s The Rage of Devotion was an eclectic mix of old family photos and peculiar mental performances over the period of time when she left home very young and had to start making her own way in the world. Clearly, it was not a very happy experience, but it was a startlingly fresh insight into the mind of someone battling with loneliness and mental health issues at a young age.

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Seunggu Kim’s Better Days was visually very appealing with it’s pink and green palette and its stories of Korean people en masse trying to relax on mini-breaks.

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Amani Willett’s The Disappearance of Joseph Plummer was a historical mystery and an attempt to understand her father’s need for solitude by following in the footsteps of Joseph Plummer, an 18th century hermit who became a legend in his own lifetime. It looked at themes of escape, peace and geography all at once, and really requires more time than I had to delve into.

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I then went to Derby Museum & Art Gallery to see the retrospective of Maurice Broomfield’s White Heat of British Industry, 1950s – 60s. This was a substantial exhibition by a photographer whom I was not familiar with. I would have liked to be able to spend more time there, as the images were fascinating – beautifully lit and composed prints of British industrial workers doing their jobs, and made at a time when the role of the manual worker was very much in the public conscience. There was something almost romantic about them, and more than a hint of Soviet photographic influence. Unfortunately, I was short of time and the subject and presentation were not relevant to my current work, so I had to move on.

St Westburgh’s Church – This somewhat bizarre and freezing venue was the location for the Kassel Dummy Photobook Award. I spent a long time there looking at different book formats. There were numerous examples of books with inserts, different page sizes and varying papers, (including rubber and fabric covers) as well as more traditional styles. The second prize winner, Watertanks in Mathare Slum by Filippo Romano was one that caught my eye. It was made up as a lined jotter with handwritten notes, although the original jotter has been printed on a much stronger plasticised paper which gives it an odd, texture – no longer the original but something else. I also enjoyed Sensor, by Holger Krischke, Thomas Haubner and students of University of Fine Arts Münster, which was a multisensory scrapbook with bits of sandpaper, bubblewrap etc. alongside the images. Plenty of food for thought here.

The Smallprint Company exhibit was in a lovely old-fashioned print studio and consisted of a mere thirteen small images spread about the walls alongside all the usual paraphernalia of a working studio. Unfortunately, there was a workshop going on and I felt a bit inhibited about really examining the work, which was a shame as it was fascinating. Five photographers produced collaged under the title of The Office for Revised Futures. I particularly liked Fernando Martin Godoy‘s landscapes with rectangles seamlessly inserted, and Hannah Hughes Flatland collages, which were tiny and mysterious. I would like to delve into her work in more detail in another post.

Pickford’s House – the two exhibitions here were The Blue Skies Project by Anton Kusters and Ruben Samama and Radical Visions: Camerawork Revisited. The first of these was a series of 1078 Polaroid images of the sky at each of the locations of Nazi concentration camps. The sheer number of images was mindblowing, and it was an object lesson in how one doesn’t need to address a subject head on to make one’s point. I took a quick look around the Cameraworks exhibit, which was obviously highly political, and not particularly relevant to my current studies, but it was interesting to see what was going on in my teenage years, news of which largely passed me by at the time.

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The unexpected highlight of this venue was a room full of toy theatres. I have been considering using the ideas of tunnel books and miniature theatres in some work for a while, and so this was fascinating. I came away buzzing with ideas about what I could do using current images as the base.

The Eagle Market – last stop of the day, and I was feeling a bit footsore and weary by now. The layout of the work did not help and I needed a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate cake to fortify myself beforehand. The exhibits were spread out over the large covered market in unused stall, and were very poorly signposted, so one had to walk up and down all the aisles to find everything. The Alexandra Lethbridge exhibit – The Path of an Honest Man was here. It is not my favourite Lethbridge series (that honour going to Other Ways of Knowing) but I was interested in how she used a variety of very different shapes, layers and subjects to consider the body language of lying. It was all monochrome and rather austere.

The other highlights for me were a very large piece Indecisive, by Dominic Chapman, which used Photoshop layers to very good effect (see image 1 below), a set of beautiful collages of Punjabi families overlaid with regional print patterns by Yasmin Nilupa(Image 2 below) and a series called An Englishman’s Search for the Irish Border by Tristan Poyser, which spawned a subsequent public participation project on how people viewed the border, by tearing images in half and writing a sentence to describe their feelings about Brexit.

Overall, a good day out, and I’m surprised I managed to get so much into a single day.

Kensuke Koike – No More, No Less review

 

It is becoming a bit of a tradition that my adult kids buy me a photobook for Christmas and my birthday (also in December). This year’s loveliness is Koike’s No More, No Less, and Albarran Cabrera’s Remembering the Future. There seems to be some problem with distribution for the latter, so I have not received it as yet, but the former arrived yesterday.

Those who have followed my work may recall that I have waxed lyrical about Kensuke Koike’s work in my last assignment. He comes from Japan, and his concept is to alter old images without either removing anything or adding anything during the process. This means he essentially restructures the images and the book consists of 30 altered and rephotographed portraits. For it, Koike paired up with Thomas Sauvin (who has also appeared in this blog before) and took the unusual step of asking three different publishers to print his book without reference to the others, so there are three completely different versions of it. I have got the one published by Jiazazhi Press, which is based in China, and incidentally to this, has a catalogue of very interesting looking photobooks to explore aside from this one.

The book is an object of beauty in its own right. The orange slipcover contains a complex origami of printed semi-translucent paper pockets, each of which holds a single rephotographed image. The pattern Koike uses for each is printed on the front of the pocket, and the images themselves are double sided, with the back of each showing the cutting lines that were used, and sometimes parts of the image, reversed. The front patterns are reproduced in red and blue lines in the same tradition that is used for paper sculptures, but so far I have not managed to work out the meaning of the different depths of colour that are used. It’s all hand bound together with red thread, and the result is effectively a series of individual pieces as one has to pull out the loose photo from each pocket to see it.

The original images were part of a collection by an unnamed professor at Shanghai University who was learning how to use portrait lights. Thus they are all ‘found images’ with the portraits themselves being a vehicle for the exploration of ‘freedom and constraint’ according to the cover.

It’s a lovely book and I would dearly like to know how the other two publishers interpreted the brief. I also want to get back to my cutting machine, but must finish the current assignment first.

 

Assignment 1 – Contextual Background

As with every single assignment I have done up until now, the subject of this one has become way more complicated than I had originally intended it to be. En route to my current position, I have been thinking about how our personal relationships with photographers can affect how we view their images, alongside how family memories and understood truths change over time as stories are gradually fragmented and reimagined by the people who keep them alive.

The background for the assignment started from a desire to explore old family photographs through crafting methods that are traditionally thought of as feminine. By declaring that arts such as sewing, paper-cutting and patchwork, for example, are crafts, Western (patriarchal) society has traditionally rendered them somehow less worthy than more masculine arts such as writing, painting, etc. As anyone who has visited a high level craft exhibition will know, the creativity, talent and execution of womens’ arts is obviously of a similar level to any so-called masculine pastime, but because many of the ‘crafts’ originated through the need for clothing and household goods, they have generally been considered as artisanal, rather than artistic. Things are changing, but slower than one might hope.

Historical background

Altered photographs have been around for almost as long as photography itself. Traditionally, the alteration has come in the form of photomontages and collages (the distinction between the two being defined here) (1), with many 20th century examples being overtly political in content, such as  Hannah Hoch‘s Dada pieces (2) advertising pieces and Peter Kennard‘s anti nuclear war images (3). However, I am more interested in how images can be physically altered using techniques which have come directly from the craft arena, such as embroidery on photographs (Maurizio Anzeri, (4) Shaun Kardinal, (5) Diana Meyer, (6) Julie Cockburn (7) and Hinke Schreuders (8) and paper crafts (Joe Rudko, (9) John Stezaker). (10)

These paper craft interventions really began by mistake, with the Farm Security Association’s mutilation of rejected negatives for their project on the Great Depression by famous photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans by punching holes in the negatives. An excellent explanation of what happened and why can be found in Maev Kennedy’s (2018) review of the exhibition Killed Negatives (11) at the Whitechapel Gallery this year, which sadly I did not manage to see.  The holes were made to prevent them from being used, but they alter the originals and their addition produces another story, layered on top of the original purpose.

Bringing this forward, the duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin used a reversed technique in People In Trouble Laughing Pushed To The Ground , (12) which took images from the Irish Troubles which had been made for news organisations, and which had subsequently been catalogued using different coloured dots pasted on the photographs. Broomberg & Chanarin’s project looked underneath those dots to find the random world of minutiae which occurred around the events which were the subjects of the original photographs.

Another method of altering images is to rearrange the elements of photographs, and the work of Kensuke Koike, and in particular Single Image Processing (Koike, 2018)(13,14) has been a crucial precursor to this assignment. Koike began by taking found photographs and carefully cut elements out and then rearranged them to make visually interesting comments on the originals. The integrity of the original is retained, as it is all still part of the new photograph. I wish to come back to this principle in a later section of this blog post. (see below), but in the meantime, it was frustration at my inability to cut photographs cleanly by hand that made me go out and buy the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, which has opened up a host of possibilities for my work in this area. Some previous posts detailing my progress can be seen here.

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-1-the-constructed-image/preparation-for-assignment-1/

The final artist who has been important in driving my thinking has been Pippa Drylaga. She is primarily a paper artist, who produces beautiful delicate pieces of work, but alongside this she explores paper cutting and print making in different media.  I found her series  Forgotten Moments of Someone Else’s Past (Drylaga, c2018) (15) while I was looking at her other work, and it uses the same techniques that I am exploring on photographs from an album she bought at a second-hand shop. It is fascinating to see how the cut images differ from their originals, simply because she has made patterns of the background to the unknown people.

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Screenshot from Pippa Drylaga’s website, 2018 (15)

[This is also of interest at a design level, and is something I may come back to later. Often, a pattern of cuts on an image completely obscures the subject, but brings out the colours of the photograph in wonderful abstract ways. Three of my own examples are shown below, as illustration.]

Some thoughts on altering photographs

John Stezaker, another collage artist, said in a Guardian article recently, ‘cutting a photograph can feel like cutting through flesh‘ (Guardian, 2014) (16) There is no doubt that it is not as straightforward as cutting a plain piece of paper. The photograph is imbued with meaning and links us to our past and that of our family. I feel the same when cutting pages from a book or a map; spoiling something of value, however notional. It needs to be done with care and an acknowledgement of the feelings of the viewer about the photographer and the subject, whether that be a person or a scene.

Most of the artists and photographers I mention above have been working with ‘found’ photographs, where they have no connection with the photographer or subject, and even so, they treat them with respect and try not to waste them. In my own case though, I am working with photographs from my partner’s family archive, and therefore the potential for causing hurt and offence is more immediate.  To give a little background, my father-in-law was an enthusiastic but not particularly accomplished photographer, who collected literally thousands of images during his lifetime. From what I can see, he never threw any of his less successful images away, and instead indexed and filed them carefully away in boxes and albums.

Following his death early this year, his children had the not inconsiderable task of sorting out these images, and I offered to do some initial weeding to make the task easier for them. The photos I have acquired consist of snaps of holiday locations, flowers and gardens, events long in the past and some of the most out of focus or over/underexposed pictures of family. I have been careful to steer clear of anything that could potentially have local history or sentimental family value. Using these as a starting point, I have tried to limit my early explorations to the least interesting ones, and to keep better images for later. Wherever possible, images with members of the family have not been used, except for a couple that specifically chose to consider the importance of the face to an alteration (post here) (17)

At a recent study day where I was presenting my work, a couple of people suggested that what I was doing to the images was destructive, and even ‘brutal’. That was never the intention. Right at the start, I explained to my in-laws that I wanted to make something interesting out of the most mundane of the collection and they were happy with that idea. So far, I believe that I have stayed true to that ambition.

Having said that, there is a whole area of study to be explored around appropriation of photographs, and the ethics and emotional aspects of repurposing family photographs, with their innate connection with our understanding of our family’s past and their ability to stand in for memories. Tinkering with this makes the possibility of accusations of misappropriation and re-writing history possible. However, by only using images from the archive without people, I can largely avoid these issues, and I see this assignment work as fitting more closely to the type of collage work of artists such as Joe Rudko, (9) who tears up old and found photos to make interesting  geometric patchwork style pieces.

References

  1. Cartmell, Paul (n.d.) Difference Between a Montage & a Collage. At:  https://www.ehow.com/facts_5705493_difference-between-montage-collage.html  (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  2. The Art Story (n.d.) Hannah Höch: German Photomontage artist. At: https://www.theartstory.org/artist-hoch-hannah.htm (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  3. Kennard, Peter (2018) Peter Kennard. At: http://www.peterkennard.com/photomontage/  (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  4. Anzeri, Maurizio (2018). Maurizio Anzeri. At: http://maurizioanzeri.com/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  5. Cardinal, Shaun (2013) Alterations (Found and Unbound), 2013. At: http://shaunkardinal.com/2013/alterations-found-and-unbound/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  6. Meyer, Diana (n.d.) Diana Meyer. At: http://www.dianemeyer.net/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  7. The Photographers’ Gallery (n.d.) Julie Cockburn. At: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/print-sales/explore-artists/julie-cockburn (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  8. Schreuders, Hinke (2018) Hinke Schreuders. At: http://www.sudsandsoda.com/work.html (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  9. Rudko, Joe (2018) Joe Rudko. At: http://www.joerudko.com/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  10. The Approach (2018) John Stezaker. At: https://theapproach.co.uk/artists/john-stezaker/images/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  11. Kennedy, Maev (2018) ‘Censored images of 1930s America to go on show in London.’ In: The Guardian [online] At:  https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/06/censored-images-of-1930s-america-to-go-on-show-in-london (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  12. People in trouble laughing pushed to the ground, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin  (2014) Interview by Book Jockey (Olmo González) [online] At: https://vimeo.com/97337922 (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  13. Koike, Kensuke (n.d.) Single Image Processing. At: https://www.kensukekoike.com/project/single-image-processing/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  14. Lachowskyj, Cat (2014?) Nothing Added, Nothing Removed. In: Lensculture. At:  https://www.lensculture.com/articles/kensuke-koike-nothing-added-nothing-removed (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  15. Drylaga, Pippa. (2018) Forgotten Moments of Someone Else’s Past. At: https://www.pippadyrlaga.com/forgottenfaces (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  16. O’Hagan, Sean (2014) ‘John Stezaker: ‘cutting a photograph can feel like cutting through flesh’. In: The Guardian. [online] At:
    https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/australia-culture-blog/2014/mar/27/john-stezaker-sydney-biennale (Accessed on 14.08.18)
  17. Woodward, Holly (2018) More experiments for assignment 1. At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/more-experiments-for-assignment-1/ (Accessed on 14.08.18)

Assignment 1 – Where am I up to?

I attended the Thames Valley Group (TVG) on Saturday, and as usual it was extremely helpful, both looking at other people’s work and in helping me to understand my own. For the last week or so, I’ve been playing with the die cutting machine and making various patchwork squares using cut up pieces of old images from my father-in-law’s archive. My original plan was to turn them into a photographic memory quilt, and I will be doing a separate post on the role of memory in traditional quilting. However, I also tried playing with dots and considering how much of an image can be removed before the upper level meaning is lost. This post looks at the practicalities of the idea. At the TVG, Jayne, our tutor was more interested in the dot images than the quilt idea, and remarked that there was something very poignant about using someone’s discarded photos to make something new that would remind the family of a person’s life and interests. I then started thinking about using cutouts from old photos to represent the gradual loss of memory of a person’s life, and also of their own recollection of events. This was a test piece I put together quickly yesterday morning, which I think has the germ of an assignment within it.

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Over the next week or so, I will explore this further, and in the meantime will also look at the work of Joe Rudko (my favourite found photo artist), Julia Cockburn, the Farm Security Administration’s censored 1930s images and the collage work of a photographic artist I have just come across via Lensculture – Kensuke Koike. Looking at the bigger picture, I will need to research how photography is connected to memory, particularly within families, how ‘the dot’ seems to be popping up all over the place in art photography work just now, and with my feminist hat on, how one can use female arts and the female gaze to re-contextualise ideas which have traditionally been viewed from the male point of view.

So much to do!