Category Archives: Assignment Four

Assignment Four Feedback

Councillor Stan Framed Typical Characteristic Curve 02

I had a tutorial conversation with Clive on Friday, regarding my submission for Assignment Four.  That submission included the tabloid version of ‘Portraits’, the Google search outcomes for that project, the ‘wherenothingisreal’ website, the sequenced slideshow version of ‘Textbook’, plus a set of pdf notes bringing it all together and discussing the choices I seem to be facing just now.  The outcome wasn’t quite as I’d expected.  I had thought we would probably discuss the pros and cons of continuing with both projects or concentrating on, say, ‘Textbook’.  Actually, even allowing for due modesty, I have to say that he seems so enthusiastic about ‘Portraits’ that it’s hard to see how I could even consider side-lining it.  Indeed, it might even be argued that he would favour ‘Portraits’ over ‘Textbook’!  Really good to have enthusiastic support and positive feedback, flattering even, but it leaves me with, maybe, an even more difficult situation regarding assessment submission.  There’s  a fair bit of time, of course, but potentially a lot to do as well.  And I don’t want to fall into the trap of submitting so much that it’s hard for the assessor to look at it in enough depth to really appreciate the work that’s been done.

We certainly spent quite some time on the complications of presenting ‘Portraits’.  Clive really likes ‘The Stan’ tabloid and wouldn’t change anything about it.  He also feels that some/all of these images should be presented as large-scale prints – and I agree.  But neither of those formats can do justice to the broader ‘virtual’ context in which the images exist and, in some ways, come into their own.  They are ‘out there’ as, potentially, ‘real’ identities, so how do we do justice to that aspect in bringing the work to Assessment.  I do have an idea for another website that might do the trick, but it’s going to require more work to put it together.  The ‘wherenothingisreal’ website doesn’t do the job – but I have in mind a more ‘conceptual’ idea that would build on some of its content.

Clive didn’t have too much to say about ‘Textbook’.  I’m not sure it appeals to him quite so much – which is fair enough – and he did raise, again, the question of copyright and appropriation; which I’ve mentioned before myself and which would certainly have to be considered in the Sustaining Your Practice module.  We didn’t get into the editing of this work at all.

And mention of Sustaining Your Practice brings me to a final reflection that I should make here.  I think it’s time for me to enrol on that final element.  In fact, it occurs to me that the issues I’m struggling with are precisely those that should best be resolved within that module.  Of course, I’m thinking through the question of Assessment Submission format for BoW, but this is also bound up with ‘How do I take this work to the outside world?’.  A significant part of that module is about networking and seeking feedback on the work and perhaps it’s that wider feedback I’m in need of if I’m to resolve everything in a meaningful fashion.

So – fantastic to receive positive and supportive comments on my work from Clive, but a lot to do to resolve it for the various audiences and I may have to go looking for advice on a broader basis.

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Linking Body of Work & Contextual Studies

CS essay front

A few weeks ago, I submitted the first draft of my Contextual Studies extended essay – part of the front cover, including the title, appears above.  I’ve had positive feedback; the essay needs a little more editing and my tutor posed a few questions for me to think about but, in essence, the essay is written.  Apart from being a great relief (!), this also presents a good opportunity (and my CS tutor encouraged it) to reflect in this journal on the linking and mutual support of the two modules.  There is no doubt at all in my mind that the research and writing has helped significantly in contextualising the work I have been producing here; and the making of the work has also influenced and informed my understanding of the contemporary art context in the essay.  Summarising the conclusion of the essay, it says that:

· The particular relationship of the photographic image with something perceived as reality survives today – whatever the context of the making and the viewing.

· The origin of that relationship may be cultural, psychological, even scientific; but it resides, even through the torrent of digital images pouring across the internet.

· The existence of this relationship is fundamental to photography’s significance in contemporary art; and through the exploitation, extension, and also subversion, of the medium, the contemporary artist can create meaning in a viewer’s perception, and provoke questions.

· Digital technology does not replace or undermine this significance, but it offers scope for continuing experimentation and exploitation of the photography/reality relationship.

Both of the projects that have progressed to this stage in my Body of Work have relevance within, and/or owe their relevance to, this context. The ‘Portraits’ project makes use of the perceived ‘reality’ of a photograph to create ‘believable’ images of ‘Stan’ identities that have never and will never exist. Yet they appear in Google image searches with apparent credibility alongside ‘real’ images of ‘real’ people – so potentially questioning the role of the photographic image as a representation of identity and, perhaps, the whole manner in which we perceive ‘self’ and identity. The ‘Textbook’ project constructs a seductive series of images that hover between something ‘real’ and something ‘virtual’, inviting the viewer to look for meaning and narrative, perhaps even to see significance for the photographic medium itself. Yet they are constructs, empty tableaux made from detached signifiers, strung together with no ‘meaning’ other than that they were made – in common, perhaps, with so many of the images through which we seek to construct ‘reality’ in the 21st century.

That seems to be quite a brief reflection, but I don’t think there’s anything else to say about it.  The two modules have come together successfully in my own mind.  I feel confident that I can talk about the context of this Body of Work and I hope my contextualising has the credibility to make sense to those who read/hear it and who look at my work.  “Job done”, so far!  Assignment Four of BoW should go to my tutor in the next couple of days; I hope to enrol on Sustaining Your Practice shortly, too; get BoW and CS into an ‘assessable” form over the next 2/3 months (though they won’t be assessed until March); then ‘onwards and upwards’!

Textbook–final images, now what?

Textbook First Edit

I have ‘finished’ making images for the Textbook Project!  A bold statement – and not necessarily an accurate one; there could be more if the project seems to demand it, and I have plenty of material from which I could go further.  That’s a strange aspect of this project; it need never end unless I choose to end it.  But then, knowing when it’s time to stop is an important part of the process – and it’s time to stop!

Some recent additions include:

_DSC8378-Edit_DSC8379-Edit_DSC8564-Edit_DSC8565-Edit

And I finally set it on fire:

_DSC8588_DSC8651

… so time to stop!

I did work on one more pattern/construct, a kind of final spectacular finale …

Spectral Sensitivity Colour Complex

… and I did let the sun go to work on its origin! (Fabulous title for the diagram!)

_DSC8563-Edit

Which leads to the question – what now?  The image at the top of this post shows a pile of around 80-90 prints, each circa 10cmx10cm.  I produced them for the purpose of editing and sequencing and the pile includes most, though not quite all, of the images that have emerged from the project.  Almost from the start, I have believed that a book should be the final outcome for this project – book deconstructed, reconstructed, reimagined, and re-formed as a new book.  Editing a set of images down to those that really work, that really matter for the project – everyone knows that’s a difficult and challenging task.  Letting go of some that are ‘dear’ to the maker is not easy.  I have about 87 images in the set – and their importance does vary, some being part of the build up to something else, for example.  But a thought has come to me about this project, and I don’t think it’s me getting ‘cold feet’ about the editing process – There might be an argument for keeping all or most of them in the book!

I did a little bit of random research amongst some photobooks on my shelves, and the typical number of ‘leaves’ (individual pages) in a decent sized book is around 80.  I have begun to think of the possibility of a lengthy and potentially ‘lively’ book in which all these images appear – sometimes 2/3/4 to a page, sometimes a double-page ‘colour splash’ with full bleed that assaults the senses.  I have a feeling that there is enough visual strength and enough variety in the set to make that work.  Using the small prints, I have had a shot at ordering them in a way that they might be presented in such a book.  This is a link to a PDF slideshow of the sequence, which I hope will ‘play’.  Important to say that they appear as individual slides, all more or less the same size, whereas in book form, there would be much more variety and rhythm to the presentation; also worth saying that there are one or two towards the end that might not ‘survive’ a further edit – one at least is probably obvious.  This is the link: Textbook Slideshow.

I am going to need to submit Assignment Four soon, as already reflected in relation to the Portraits.  This ‘long’ edit might form part of the submission – need to reflect.

Portraits Project–Presentation?

The Stan Photo

I’ve almost certainly made all the images that I’m going to for the Portraits Project (need a title!) and so thoughts begin to turn to presentation.  There was an opportunity to try something out over the weekend, when I attended a ‘gathering’ of 14 current and prospective Level Three students (with two tutors) from OCA. ‘Crit sessions’ were very much part of the agenda and I took along some prints of the portraits plus, more significantly, a print of a mock ‘red-top’ tabloid newspaper called ‘The Stan’.  I’m not going to document the design and print process here (it’s written up in a notebook at the moment), but the photograph above shows the principle and there is a large PDF version of all four pages here – ‘The Stan’.  This was an experimental way of bringing all the images into one place, together with either the full ‘back story’ or an allusion to it.  My questions for the group were, essentially, ‘Does it work?’ and ‘Is the print quality acceptable?’.  The latter question arose because this particular newsprint version is certainly not of high aesthetic quality – but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue for those who saw it. ‘Cheap and nasty’ works as a tabloid aesthetic, I think.

More significant, though, is the question of whether it works as a culmination – perhaps the culmination – for the project.  Views inevitably varied, with there being at least one suggestion that one may need nothing else – just the newspaper as the final outcome presentation.  Another view, though, was that the project critiques a wide range of image styles and contexts, so perhaps the ‘tabloid’ wasn’t appropriate for an overarching presentation.  The project seeks to explore the way photographic images create fictions in the ‘real’ world, so maybe something (or more than one ‘thing’) is needed to bring my own fictions into the ‘real’.  It’s a valid point, but not an easy one to resolve.  It did lead me to reflect, in the ‘crit’ that perhaps one approach would be to drop this project as having gone as far as it can without some major piece of work that would be difficult to do this late in the course.  I haven’t resolved that question yet – rightly and understandably.  In my own mind, this project has been slightly ‘second string’ to the ‘Textbook’ project for a while; so that might be basis enough for making a decision between the two.  But on the other hand, the Portraits always produce a reaction in others; always make people think; certainly have an ‘audience’, which might be important at a later stage; and, as the person who was questioning the tabloid said, ‘have legs’ (literally!).  Although this project makes people laugh (a ‘good thing’; nothing wrong with humour in art, surely), it has a very serious side and enough depth of context and interpretation to stand on its own, if I chose to make it do so.

So I’m faced with further reflection about this, as I head towards submission of Assignment Four.  The project will definitely form part of that submission, whatever the final outcome.  The discussion at the weekend has led me to look back at a couple of other angles into this piece of work.  Firstly, I have been taking another look at the website I put together at the end of last year – www.wherenothingisreal.com.  I’m sure there are aspects that could be improved but, coming back to it after several months, I feel that it doesn’t work badly as a presentation of the project – though not as a way of bringing the images into the ‘real’.  Another angle that I’ve referred to a few times is the concept of a Google Search for an old school friend.  This is the first page of a search for ‘Stan Dickinson’, done yesterday afternoon:

Google 01

There are five of my Portraits in there – part of the ‘real’ world then, perhaps?  I tried a search for ‘Dick Stanley’ and, most appropriately, my own ‘Dick’ appears on page three:

Google 05

Maybe, as I say, these images are already out there in the ‘real’?

Much to reflect on further, after the weekend discussions, but the project will stay on its ‘legs’ for the time being.

Textbook–the endgame continues

Solarization 05

Solarization 05

I’ve found that there is potential to be creative as well as destructive with the burning power of the sun.  I experimented with some printed pages from another old book and found that, page in one hand & magnifying glass in the other, I could ‘draw’.  That had potential to be re-photographed and combined with other images to produced another type of interesting image – on the way to the books eventual Armageddon!  These are two examples of the work, so far.  The one below is very ‘controlled’, worked at bit by bit to create the effect, whereas the sun got (appropriately, given the title) quite powerful in the one above and the whole was about to ‘go up’ in my hand – as can be seen on the right of the image.  But that element of risk in the process is quite attractive to me.  And I take ‘control’ again, by photographing and layering with a previous ‘Solarization’ image.  People seem to see an insect in the one below; certainly wasn’t intentional.

 

Typical Characteristic Curve 02

Typical Characteristic Curve 02

It was a real benefit to share some of these Textbook images, including these two new ones, with some fellow students in an informal ‘hangout’ session earlier in the week.  The feedback was pretty positive, which is pleasing.  Everyone seems to have found the images visually interesting and attractive, which is one of my first objectives – to seduce the eye and attract the viewer to look further.  There was a sense of puzzlement about what was going on in the complex constructs, which again is something I want the viewer to experience.  But there was also a sense that the group wanted some guidance on context.  I had kept that deliberately brief – chiefly because I was interested in their immediate responses at this stage, but also because the background is very complex and explaining in full is both time-consuming (for the viewer to read) and directive (in the sense that I prefer the images to ask puzzling questions and be open to all sorts of potential interpretations – something that did also emerge in the discussion).  What this does tell me is that writing an effective ‘Artist’s Statement’ for this project is not going to be easy – especially one that can work in a variety of contexts.  That’s likely to mean more than one, perhaps.  It was really good to have the chance to discuss my work, though – very grateful to those who were present and gave me such helpful feedback.

Textbook–working on the ‘endgame’

Fire Ex01-1Fire Ex01-2Fire Ex01-3Fire Ex01-4Fire Ex01-5Fire Ex01-6

Ever since I started on the process of ‘deconstructing’ the Textbook, I’ve had the idea that I might, in the end, destroy it by burning.  The project is well-advanced now, and I have been considering if and how I might bring the ‘story’ towards a conclusion.  I did some background research a couple of weeks ago on the use of fire in art – partly to see what contextual work there might be, partly looking for inspiration, and partly to see whether there might be any technical and practical help for the creation of images of burning paper/books.  I asked fellow students in the Flickr group, too – as discussed here: Flickr ‘Fire’ Thread.  My overall conclusion is that there isn’t a lot out there.

Some references from the various sources include – Andy Goldsworthy’s use of fire in Land Art; Richard Gingras’ burning obelisks (http://richardgingras.com/fire/); David Nash’s charred sculptures; Juan Miro burning some of his canvasses and then exhibiting the result; various performance artists either ‘eating’ fire or setting themselves alight; and then perhaps the closest of all, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, especially the stills from the film (I wasn’t familiar with the works, so ‘thanks’ to fellow student, Richard, for pointing me in that direction).  See below:

bradbury

The burning of books is a central theme, of course, and the title refers to the temperature at which book print will turn into flames.  This image, and others like it, comes close to the vision I had for the project.

I have been mulling over how I might achieve it, technically and safely.  Indoors is preferable in order to control light, but clearly has some serious dangers attached; so I’ve been wary of that.  Outdoors is safer but harder to set up from an aesthetic point of view.  Another factor that I’ve been reflecting on is what exactly is going to trigger this fire.  Obviously, it could just be a match or gas-lighter, but it would be preferable for there to be some relation to the whole process.  (I had, for example, wondered whether dissolving in photographic chemicals might be an alternative outcome – except that, for reasons that should have been obvious but wasn’t – photographic chemicals are not strong enough to impact on paper!)

A casual conversation with a friend, over the weekend, may just have set me off on the right course.  He wondered whether I could use the sun!  So I’ve been experimenting with a magnifying glass and some pages from an old paperback book from the sixties and the images at the top of this post are the result.  The sun isn’t really powerful enough yet, I fear; or present for long enough at a time!  Whilst I could easily get the paper to smoulder and smoke, getting it to set on fire (at 451 degrees Fahrenheit!) was difficult.  I’ve succeeded twice today, one of which I photographed above.  These image aren’t going to win any prizes, I realise, but I’ve demonstrated the principle, I think.  It will need a lot more work before A Textbook of Photographic Chemistry goes up in flames, ignited by the power of the sun’s light, but there seems every reason to think that it could be done.  Of course, I also need to make sure the camera is present, too!  It could ultimately be best to shoot an HD video and extract stills; hopefully more will become clear over the next few weeks – so long as the sun shines!!