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’!