There are different commercial services that provide DNA testing connected with ancestry. One service is mentioned here as they have an option to have a personalised book and that fits well with researching visual language of DNA. Two services were inspected:
This is a continuation of earlier research. It looks at a specific book product of commercial DNA testing. The idea is to gain awareness of public perceptions around DNA by examining the visual language used by a company promoting DNA testing.
This current phase of research is prompted by the order and eventual arrival of a personalised analysis “Your DNA Adventure” (LivingDNA, 2019).
The content is predicated on three types of DNA we possess.
Family Ancestry (autosomal DNA)
Motherline Ancestry (mtDNA)
Fatherline Ancestry (Y-DNA)
As the photo project majors on the Motherline (a term now preferred to matriarchy as it softens potential for feminist bias.
The motherline is highly stable over thousands of years and once a change does occur it is passed down to descendants. The top-level term used is Haplogroup within which exist Subclades.
Descriptive language then takes over preventing opaqueness and is a strategy noted elsewhere for keeping others engaged.
There is a very good reference section to explore.
Within the publication the visual themes range across:
trees on African savanna (covers)
Note: The visual references are probably best viewed as a publication rather than my translate to text here.
LivingDNA (2019) Michael Turner – Your DNA Adventure.
Alex is a Commercial Photographer working over several decades on marketing and publicity for film and television.
He described how this work is delineated and gave examples of commissioned work, a concept sheet and a mood board.
As we as students have learned to do, Alex for the first time was faced with making a presentation of; his own influences; what brought him to photography and which book and photographic names encouraged him to become a Commercial photographer, one who brings his own artistic integrity.
Key aspects of career had been: the opening up of the closed shop practices that existed prior to the Thatcher political era, and the impact of the transition to digital on technical and business practice.
The practicalities of commercial practice were illuminated. The passion Alex has for his subject is clear.
Personally, what was said resonated clearly with some fairly recent education on the film industry. This industry is active in the local region around London.
Copious notes were taken. I shan’t dwell on this lecture even though it was thoroughly enjoyed as a contrasting practice to my own. Seeing Alex’s work and getting such insight into his contrasting practice was a great help in understanding my own practice.
PHO705: Guest Lecture Alex Bailey The life of a commercial photographer is different from that of abstract art although attaining an artistic interpretation was key to both. This lecture resonated with recent past studies in film.
Following the visit to the Wellcome Museum, it was clear that others must be working in an area where art is created from science.
Artsci is the term coined in the book (Miller, 2014) where Artsci acknowledges a convergence of Arts, Science and Technology.
Colliding Worlds – How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art (Miller 2014)
The work in bulk extensively sells the market for Artsci, by giving innumerable personal reflections on individual contributor after individual contributor, yet this is rebalanced in the final chapter by doubts over the acceptance of Artsci in restricted / specialist galleries being deemed almost gimmicky as an art form. However, examples are made in the ending of the rejection of Picasso and the Impressionists who had to set up their own groups. And so it is left to the reader as to whether or not to take up the “cause” of Artsci.
Millar describes the technical evolution of technology in computing in this book (Millar, 2014). So much resonates with my early career in technology as a world in which artist and scientist no longer are viewed strictly different disciplines. Art and science and engineering are disciplines seen as having a conceptual touchpoint in terms of methodologies e.g. minimalism and cubism.
An electronic signal called a butterfly transform, photographed on Polaroid film, was one of my earliest technical visualisations. I designed and built an electronic circuit to automatically tune to a signal frequency of a type used to communicate with deep space satellites. The active tuning process was viewed on an oscilloscope and the overall capture presented on film. During development one of the early characteristics was that of a squegging oscillator which pulsed on and off due to design tolerance issue in this automatic circuit. This was around the time that a successful MSc application was made to study the subject of Cybernetics that involves the control of machinery using feedback and software controllers. A funding issue arose that prevented the place from being taken up. Besides this, an economic downturn occurred that would certainly have blocked an immediate return to research and development within the industry.
The book runs a direct parallel to my early involvement in computing, discusses the various technological art movements and the establishment of schools for such art.
The book also discriminates between Media and Fine Art the former being linked to crafts and it notes the rejection that occurred on many fronts.
However, with repeated incursions of technology into art and advances in the modern world, it is argued that contemporary art can no longer exist without the structures and knowledge of the scientific world and they are seen to combine.
Artists are seen to look towards science and without getting directly involved with expensive equipment instead read the ideas and then through contemporary art communicate these ideas. Scientists look towards artists to understand how they approach a topic e.g. Nils Bhor and the wave-particle dichotomy of physics and the resolution of this through Picasso and the advent of Cubism, where it is fine to have multiple perspectives present all at once.
The question has to be where does this lead to in terms of the Final photo project? Well, it resolves why the author takes a technological view of art and provides an independent and solid standing. The intent of the work becomes understood in the wider context.
The book identifies the avant-garde as being the convergence of art, science and technology and it is seen as an exciting frontier in Contemporary art.
There is a summary for Antony Gormley, his influences including in science, and his work which was on display in London during visits there.
Another outcome is a strengthened resolve so as to honour or be true to one’s life experiences. Otherwise work would remain conflicted.
Had this work been uncovered earlier in the course, there would have been the time need to develop programmed work such as animations. These would be over and above the glow images attributed to mtDNA. What there is also are elements of identification (determined through psychoanalysis).
The book has been difficult to put down and yet the historical side has to stop at some point to allow time for project progress.
Computational Biology – Human Proteome Folding
Following a career in research and development in electronics and computing, sometime later, there was a formative even if only a side involvement in grid computing donating spare machine cycles to do then return completed calculations to researchers in computational biology. This was in the search for new drug treatments.
Specifically, spare machine cycles were donated to human proteome folding projects. These projects are highly visual as protein formation and attachment is shape-dependent.
These projects go back to around 2004 and there is little visual material remaining. In lieu of this, a TEDtalk was discovered that ably shows the visuals (Dill, 2013).
For 50 years, the “protein folding problem” has been a major mystery. How does a miniature string-like chemical — the protein molecule – encode the functions of living organisms: how our muscles exert force, how our immune systems reject pathogens, how our eyes see our surroundings, how plants convert solar energy, and all the rest. Huge progress is being made. Moreover, these amazing nano-machines could play important roles in health and disease and commerce in the future.
What this post identifies is what is behind the intent in making the photo project.
Art of Now
Research uncovered a BBC Radio 4 broadcast Art of Now. (McNamee, 2019)
Recombinant Rhymes and DNA Art
The successful sequencing of the human genome has not only had huge implications for medicine, bio-technology and the life sciences – but it has also provoked a great and growing reaction among artists and writers.
Anna McNamee meets poets, visual artists and scientists collaborating creatively on the frontiers of DNA science in a genre that Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of AI Renaissance Arthur Miller calls Art Sci.
In Melbourne, the bio-animator Drew Berry tells how his dramatic but scientifically exact visualizations of cellular and molecular processes have earned him fans around the world – including the musician Bjork.
The poet Sue Dymoke and the structural biologist Pietro Roversi reveal how their creative partnership has resulted in a three-dimensional, topsy turvy poem called DNA Time that mimics DNA’s unique and complex structure.
In his lab, the Canadian experimental poet Christian Bök has successfully encoded his work into the DNA of a bacterium creating what is essentially a living poem.
While at the European Bioinformatics Institute near Cambridge, the artist and filmmaker Charlotte Jarvis and the scientist Dr Nick Goldman have stored music in DNA which they then suspended in a soap solution and used to blow bubbles, quite literally, bathing their audiences in music.”
Drew Berry is a biomedical animator at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. He produces animations of proteins and protein complexes to illustrate cellular and molecular processes (Berry, 2011).
Berry describes the molecular level being sub-light wavelength and how he gained inspiration from the accurate scale drawings of David Goodsell:
Beyond this Berry incorporates measurements of cell dynamics and microscopic observations of larger cell structures to create his animations. His intent is to make work that viewers can take-in with avoidance of technical descriptions and acronyms which otherwise make the subject opaque and turn off the viewer (Berry, 2012)
Animations from Berry and molecular biologists and cell biologists:
Having recently communicated progress and details of research themes for the Major Project, the action has triggered several responses in terms of recommended reads. The objective remains to build research into the contextualisation of practice while developing the visual language.
This blog post concerns Phantasmagoria Spirit Visions, Metaphors and Media into the Twenty-first Century. (Warner, 2006) Ideas of “spirit”, “soul” and the “supernatural”.
The book (Warner, 2006) challenges why it still is that in the 21st century we revert to ideas of “spirit”, “soul” and the “supernatural”.
Scanning through this text there are two areas of immediate interest with regard to the photo project. First is a quotation.
“You are on a mission to discover
why the human heart still slows
when divers break the surface,
why mermaids still swim in our dreams”
“Michael Symmons Roberts, Mapping the Genome”
With a project theme majoring on DNA there is almost a necessity for discovering why Warner included a reference to the Genome. (Warner, 2006) opposite Page xviii
Further search shows that Symmons Roberts in 2003, soon after the Human Genome was decoded, penned another poem about the Mapping of the Genome and written in a metaphorical style of a car journey along a seemingly unending straight desert road.
Other areas of the text that prompt immediate interest are Part V Shadow Part VI Mirror: Double Vision, The Camera steals the Soul, and Part VII Ghost: Stay this Moment, Julia Margaret Cameron and Charles Dodgson; Spectral Rappers, Psychic Photographers.
Topics with a stronger connection to photography than literature demand more attention in the project context.
Online Video Lectures
The book author is a renowned presenter and her interviews, presentations and lectures are available to view online. This gives quite a quick view over a range of subject matter.
Much of what is presented is based around stories and fairytales and is literature-based rather than strictly photography based.
Warner, M. (2006) Phantasmagoria Spirit Visions, Metaphors and Media into the Twenty-first Century. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Having recently communicated progress and details of research themes for the Major Project, the action has triggered several responses in terms of recommended reads, both from a Supervisor and here a Tutor from a Guest Group Critique.
Recommendations made were an essay (Middleton, 2005), a White Cube Diaries (Anderson, 2013) publication with visual examples of the uncanny. Finally, Photography and the Optical Unconscious. (Smith, 2017)
Photography and the Optical Unconcious
Return to blog here once the reference has been read.
Photography and the Uncanny
In the essay/thesis Photography and the Uncanny (Middleton, 2005), acute observations are made regarding photography as seen through a lens of psychoanalysis. This references Barthes and in the semiotic a mix of symbolic and imaginary then the presence of Death in the photograph.
The photo-project though has a different emphasis being based on a theme of healing, mitochondrial DNA as an information carrier and a collapse of time that enables identification with ancestors. There is an element of the Double of those who are contemporary and those who existed in the past.
The essay considered specific photographs in an endeavour to seek out the uncanny but turned to the theory of photography instead. (ibid)
In the photo project, the abstract process is consistent in creating uncanny outcomes. Randomness exists as intuition barely provided direction of the likely outcome although with practice the source images begin to yield clues. The practice of abstraction allows work to continue on an image until an outcome or outcomes become certain. In other words, like a search for the uncanny, the work can continue until the mind’s eye detects an endpoint categorisation of interest.
Consideration is given to aesthetics and the return of the repressed in an unfamiliar guise (ibid). Certainly, for the photo project, the outcomes or images derived from abstraction are recognised when being created. There is a sense of loss to which ghost images easily connect. As a place, there are types of terrain that attribute easily to the past home, to the coastal areas and sea and the presence of mountains. Finally, the emergence of inner spaces and outer spaces with similar aesthetics relate well to the theme of microbiology. In conclusion, thus far, there is a crossover as well as substantial differences. The key is most likely easier as the attribution of the abstracted images to painting more than to photography even if the data captured is done so through photography.
There may well be a connection to the unconscious and the drives (ibid) However, the effect sought is not revulsion but more of the weighty personal experience and the joy of healing and the identification that it now brings.
The return of the familiar (ibid) is a fascinating concept as identification in the photo project is with those who were lost who ought to have been known and it is the impact of this loss on those who existed within living memory and of the places that were once a shared homeland. There is though the presence of an obscured element (ibid). Indeed the photographs taken for the project do offer (although the possibility of) the unfamiliar and novel perspective of reality (ibid), even if this is not a rigorous definition of the uncanny in photography.
What is written about Photography and the Uncanny (ibid) holds true for the photo project. The uncanny is a latent presence in photography (ibid) and not all photographs are uncanny yet the medium embodies the criteria necessary to construct it as uncanny (ibid), This may well ally to the idea of the abstraction process being akin to painting which certainly has the required elements of making as relating to the above “necessary to construct”.
The lifeless object as animate (ibid) can be seen to parallel the photo project. in which there is a glow representation of warmth and health and life attached to the otherwise Dead photograph even when of a live subject making connections to the Dead though spectres or visions of the past.
Again there is correspondence in the mechanical eye being able in some ways to usurp the supremacy of the eye (ibid). The photo project relies on the digital sensor capturing data not readily apparent to the eye until processed (enhanced) during a post-processing phase.
In terms of Freud and the fateful (ibid), there is no decisive moment although perhaps there is a decisive era in which to act before all living memory of a certain past is forever lost. As such the photographic practice needs to be performed as there is a sense that this is a life’s work or indeed one’s fate.
The uncanny imagery created through practice does have a likeness to the photographer having an unconscious knowledge that intuitively (ibid) an image could be made and may do so with the presence of the calculated chance.
The photo project has a sense of the double, the person in the contemporary being linked by identical mitochondrial DNA to the person discovered in the past. When the “double” is symbolically viewed as “the uncanny harbinger of death” (ibid) then this must raise serious concern. In a sense, there is a harbinger effect. By not completing this life’s work, the spectre of found ancestors will finally be lost. Also, the photograph becomes not so much what it is a picture of, but what it can represent (ibid), indeed by the abstract post process.
“Photography, therefore, appears to distort concepts of reality and time, the photograph being both an instance of (stopped) time, the past, existing within the continuum of the present, and the conflation of the past and the present can produce an unnerving effect.” (ibid). This effect is experienced in the photo project but rather than unnerving there is another emotional response considered thus far as identification with ancestors.
What is clear is that when the personal element is removed a template should be possible to create for others to use in their own particular circumstances. If an example was constructed it could be the unborn child, on growing up identifying say with a parent who perished in an event such as 9/11. Any other catastrophic event on a world stage ought to create possibilities for the adoption of the technique.
“the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star.” quoted in (ibid) This nicely equates to the photo project, of the missing persons discovered, and of the inner/outer space depictions that appear in some of the abstracted images.
Also, the comment (ibid) “The nature of the medium as an indexical imprint of the object means that any photographed object or person has a ghostly presence53, an uncanniness that might be likened to the return of the dead”
In the photo project, the photo is of a living person who identifies with the ghostly presence of the ancestor. As for the tension of the implicit and lack of explicit (ibid) the photo project can appear more didactic than this as a ghost appears as a ghost image. In that sense a figurative image from the abstract. That much is unresolved in the photo project.
The White Cube Diaries
The Uncanny has been described as something simultaneously familiar and foreign. (Anderson, 2013) A product of intellectual uncertainty Jentsch quoted in (ibid).
In Freudian terms, Unheimlich represents everything that was intended to remain secret that has come out into the open (ibid). There is more than one interpretation to be found in the references here and elsewhere.
When we encounter these things there is provoked a suppressed primordial fear, resulting in intellectual uncertainty and causes a great sense of repulsion and distress. (ibid)
While objects so designed create distress and repulsion, they may lead to fascination and allure, (ibid)
Research has become focussed on the Psychoanalytical for example in terms of ghosts. And as below the ideas of Science in Art have been explored.
Work in Progress: There are some textbooks to finish researching.
To Do: Other books on the history and development of abstract art, hanging over from a previous module. The importance here is to more fully develop an understanding of the evolution of the art. Also, there is a desire to contrast and compare with other artists abstract work to fix in place the photo project.
A collection of FMP photographs has been catalogued and are in the backlog queue and production rate has picked up. Photography of healing continues and images are being processed. In one case it was a relief to obtain the first Ghost image of this series:
Another image is of a graphic type and serves as a representation from DNA testing and might be expected to form an image layer as part of the contextualising process.
Some colour images have also been made while ideas are being formed. As such they are individual examples of technique or aesthetic stylisation. The main priority has been to maintain practice – concentrated periods are need to explore and develop the image types.
Here is this week’s example of a glow image:
This week’s example of an abstract Landscape image:
A rendition of a pure abstract in Week 8 harks back to the saturated colour theme from earlier portfolios. There is a personal joy to this image as at exhibition in the summer there were requests for two such images to be made complete with a third. This looks like the missing third image:
At present these are partial works and it is plain to see there is no attempt at consistency as ideas remain open. Once the direction is decided the work can properly proceed.
Social interaction occurred in making this week and was a joy too. This continues to be motivational. The making is also a pleasant break from the reading and research.
This post connects an earlier technological career with an analysis of this scene as a motivator in the current photo project and stands alongside the more psychoanalytical regarding the strangeness of abstract images created.
In creating the post the photo project became more connected. Answers were found to questions such as how animations at the cellular and molecular levels were resolved. Further validation and extension of an understanding of Biology occurred. This allows the topics to spoken of with greater clarity. The connection between Biology and Art was explored and parallels drawn with art forms such as poetry and music.
It is clear that recent medical progress is so significant that we have entered a new era and as we do so we witness the integration of Art, Science, Engineering and Technology into a new field simply described as Research.
One of two Guest Lectures was blogged as the Week 8 lecture was replayed in Week 9. Guest Lecture with Andy Hughes. Andy talked about the environment in terms of plastics and global warming as well as the making of a film using a gaming platform.
Here is the lecture. The main photographic project is based on letters between sisters over a hidden relationship that of a secret transgender female Ken married to one of the sisters known as aunt Hazel. All this was at a time when there was no recognition or language to frame identities.
Identity was sympathetically dealt with and Ken becomes K(ay) and her or she.
There is a book “Ken – to be destroyed”. This began as a small personal project but created an unexpected level of interest. The conversation led to working on the project and exhibiting in Liverpool. There were uncertainties from gaps in the texts.
Sarah found more including family photographs. As she worked with the materials this led to working physically in the darkroom as a natural extension of handling physical materials. The working with a family archive was a first for Sarah.
The work is robust having nowadays a universal message of identity. The work presents well as small groups of images and as a book.
The book was a collaboration with Val Williams who helped with the edit that combined family archive material with Sarah’s work. Working collaboratively proved very useful.
Both Sarah and today’s host began their artistic lives as painters.
The personal aspects were seen to be of interest to audiences. There is a universality of family with all the problems family present that viewers can insert themselves into.
Another aspect of the German Jewish family is the next piece of work. It is still, based on family history but now covers the Holocaust. The project is approached from a very personal perspective and in an intimate way. An album carried on the Kindertransport is a material source for this new work.
Final Photo Project
Sarah’s project was allowed to develop and that is important compared to planning exactly how the work should be from the outset.
A point in common is the use of family archive photographs. High-resolution scanning, alternative processing of the images and concentrating on the surface condition are strong elements of Sarah’s work. Obliteration of identity became a step in which aunt was translated into clothing only or into the uncle.
This compares with using the photos for the final photo project which are scanned for smaller size reproduction. The idea was not to overwhelm the abstract images at the core of the project. Recently one image from the archive was layered with an image of mitochondrial glow and connecting thus with an ancestor from the maternal line. This has a key significance.
The history of a family is also common as is the impact of 20th-century war.
Photographs Sarah Davidmann from Falmouth Guest Lecture
An Argentinian photographer based in Wales from Newport University, Bruno is now based in Paris.
Bruno photographed in a dance club above a place he waited in. Using flash created an aesthetic he seemed to use extensively but disliked so turned to black and white.
This reduced the number of images and was more hands-on in developing and printing. He preferred the timeless look with few signs of the modern world.
light breaks where no sun shines pictures from Wales 2013-2019
Duelos y Quebrantos 2104-2018
In another project, Bruno contrasted a small Spanish village that represented his culture with Castilla La Mancha. He followed the places visited by fictional character Don Quixote (and Sancho Panza). This required a lot of travel by foot and sometimes other means.
A book was published, Grief and Sorrow.
The project took 4 years and Bruno needed to obtain part funding for an otherwise self funded project.
Bruno started some editorial work that allowed him to maintain complete control. He tried to work collaboratively and started to create some staged images. The outcome was that some staged images looked un-staged and vice versa.
The story of two people who tried to keep the last Abertillery newspaper alive. A commission was offered by the BBC but they would not let Bruno create a film without any previous video skills. In the end, he acted as director and collaborated with a videographer.
Apart from the film, there was an exhibition in Cardiff that included a recreation of the newspaper office. A phone would ring and a voice would direct the viewer around the office.
Julian from the Dynamic is helping to write part of the book. Seven months were spent filming. At the end of this Bruno was very tired and took off a whole of September to rest.
Bruno’s inspiration for storytelling comes from film and literature.
Andy Hughes is an artist based in Cornwall and he investigates the relationships between consumption, plastic waste and the defilement of the land and sea. Hughes is interested in radical conceptions of materialism and the implications this has for politics, ecology and the everyday way we think of ourselves, others, and the world.
As preparation, the audience was asked to watch the film Plastic Scoop on Vimeo. There is also a Zine about this film. It is on Issuu.
The FMP Photo Project
Following the viewings above the immediate question must be about the Video Documentary and Video Gamification post that introduced Verdun a successful WW1 game on XBox. There is a possibility of cutting scenes into the photo project. Given the work is about the What and less so about the How, then this could become a diversion. The intent would as always be to contextualise the Abstract Expressionistic images at the core of the project to give the viewer more scope to follow the theme or themes.
Plastic Scoop above is a collaborative effort taking 6 months to create and demonstrates the scope to be largely beyond that of a Final Major Project FMP.
A summary is provided here of some of the main points from Andy’s guest lecture and with particular reference to MA Major Project practice.
Early work was in part didactic as a way was sought of helping campaigns. The way an artist works is different though.
The book Novascene (Lovelock, 2019) was given as a recommended reading in terms of the theme connecting the past, present and future. Lovelock is the author of the Gaia Principle.
It was noted that in Aboriginal culture, thinking does not have to be linear as in Western culture. The image below depicts the concentric and a representation of thinking moving in any number of ways.
The area around Castleford which Andy has a childhood connection with transformed from coal mining to businesses’ that feature single-use materials (McDonalds and KFC).
Interest was found in the sport of surfing and this led to an awareness of beach litter. In photographing surfing comparison was drawn between the UK and the classic portrayal of surfing in sun-baked climes.
A new series of work was created using colourful plastic waste.
Also, in travels to the USA an unravelling golf ball was shot and in the background is the menace of a polluting plant.
Work was also made based on the waste found at outdoor events such as Glastonbury.
As an artist, there is a connection with making and so still life photographs of waste were combined with paintings.
Nostalgia was raised as a topic. Nostalgia is popular at the moment as it makes people feel comfortable in uncomfortable times.
At various points, during the presentation, there was a prescience: subjects photographed (e.g. rat, glove, stick) photographed as the same composition decades earlier.
In a comment about carbon usage, it was noted that Photography has in its DNA this thing about travel. So what can be done to limit the carbon footprint?
Working on plastic scoop meant spending 6 months in the studio and that limited travel.
There was work currently close to being exhibited. There is the whole question of how you keep in contact with the curator as there is a balance. Big-name artists can probably call the shots while the lesser-known have to be more patient.
Lovelock, J. and Appleyard, B. (2019) Novascene The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. Kindle. UK: Penguin Random House. Available at: http://www.penguin.co.uk.