PHO705: Guest Lecture with Andy Hughes

Introduction

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.

Lecture

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.

Bibliography

Lovelock, J. and Appleyard, B. (2019) Novascene The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. Kindle. UK: Penguin Random House. Available at: http://www.penguin.co.uk.

PHO705: Week 8 Reflection

My reflections on Week 8

Influenza may have slowly begun to pass but it has left behind a frequent loud cough. Keep on resting and keep away from others until it clears up is the idea for now. Sadly I’ll miss the Bristol trip to MPF and RPS exhibitions.

Written more as a progress report this reflection continues on from Week 6 Research-Driven Practice. This self-directed activity ran across Week 7 and Week 8.

As blogged earlier the research is being opened out in a number of areas.

After the last module Surfaces and Strategies, emergent themes are being researched to identify areas of contextualisation:

This work deals with the emergence of ghosts, historic places and inner or outer spaces. These are recurring outcomes when healing images are abstracted.

Further contextualisation taken or taking place include: 

  • video documentaries concerning molecular biology around genetics and DNA and
  • a research trip to the Wellcome Museum and Library.

(Instagram: foto_graphical or michaelturnercrj.blog for photo updates)

There is a catalogue of archive photographs recovered relating to the family maternal lines (mainly) linked to mitochondrial DNA. The stability of common mitochondria is the basis for time collapsing into a moment and creating the experience of identification. Finally, there is the unchanging flora of the Scottish lands and coastal areas of concern and again a metaphor for collapsing time into a single moment.

Really, there are lots of strands here that need to be brought into a consistent theme. The abstract visuals in the project have a strong element of randomness – results are hard to have any control over.

Lots of new healing sites have been photographed.but these need to be processed for glow and then be sorted through. Until this is done it won’t be known if there are enough good images to use in a publication edit. The best public work at present would likely result from taking selected abstracts from previous portfolios alongside new work. 

It is a slow burn process at the moment and hopefully well matched to the current stage of the Final Major Project FMP.

PHO705: Guest Lecture (Research) – Caroline Molloy

This is the link to the Guest Lecture video.

Caroline studied Visual Anthropology for her MA. She now teaches (third-year student photographers) and is researching for her PhD.

Two main projects were discussed:

  • The Untouched Copy and
  • The Deportment Guide – photographs from a flea market but with identity hidden by hard cropping tops of heads)

The first project shown was about studios based initially in India. On a personal note as a Studio worker, it remains true that the MA Project is conducted outside of the studio environment.

By re-visiting India, to re-photograph what was revealed were the numbers of studios impacted by digital, and how this led to closures. Backgrounds had been traditional Victorian (photography had been a Victorian export to the colony).

The project themes were; studios, the owners, and the transition eventually from photographic film. Some research objectives firmed up during the project. In order to get permission to photograph the studio owner Caroline needed to agree to being photographed. This made the genre Autoethnographic. There were many norms to be learned in making the work. Communication and cultural norms had to be learned.

The work moved from studio to studio, following recommendations. Interviews were to be had with owners, their families. The work spread wider as the story and structure were forming.

Studio owners made a living but may have had to also sell gems or even slippers. There is a clear commercial side to photography in addition to the academic.

Caroline was very open about her work. The work went through a transitional phase and entered a liminal space. She adopted socially engaged conversations.

Cultural aspects mentioned:

  • Sending a business card with a model’s photo (not her own)
  • Mother Teresa played down by the official photographer
  • Owner not wanting to be photographed with flowers
  • Photograph me I’ll photograph you
  • A backdrop of English garden scene

Each point involved an unexpected re-interpretation or potential misunderstanding.

While the work was being made and interviews were obtained a notebook was kept that became part of the published work.

As an autoethnographer, it took time to learn. Knowing the kinds of questions to ask is important.

The work went public and was exhibited in Jaipur. Initially, there was a book made on Blurb with a page layout of; photo, photo, notebook, notebook.

After a series of annual trips, it became clear that Autoethnographic communities needed to be more accessible i.e. within walking distance. Carolin’s work turned to the Turkish community in London. This project examines Turkish studio practice, English studio practice and the emerging mix of the two.

Access to the subject is key to our MA students. The work still has to be true to the students’ ambitions and be authentic.

Bibliography

All photographs courtesy Caroline Molloy Autoenthnographer from Falmouth University guest lecture (research).

PHO705: Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi

Early mention was made of this guest lecture in a 121 session blogged here.

David is a scientist breaking free into a world in which he makes art.

As always an important element of these resources is to identify with practice in the Final photo project.

David summarised three projects using these bullets which served as a useful summary:

Project summary – David Fathi

David’s art allows him to take up his interest in the areas of knowledge, politics and science.

Three works are presented: Of these the first two projects, Anecdotal and Wolfgang are books. The next project, The Last Road …” moved on to become an installation.

  • Book: Anecdotal … nuclear bomb testing on own lands e.g US Nevada
  • Book: Wolfgang … Pauli Quantum physics, anecdotes of things going wrong, CERN archive
  • Installation: The Last Road .. Henrietta Lacks archive HeLa cells

In presenting Wolfgang in different contexts, David began to explore the installation as a way of publicly showing “The Last Road …”. 

David felt he could have continued on in the vein he started (in some respects poking fun) but he was driven to do more serious work. Whilst earlier did poke fun it was also factual. 

The work relating to Henretta Lacks, controlled the viewer experience as the installation layout meant the viewer walked between Dark landscapes with Hela cells opposite Intimidating text. A video played at the exit end in this liminal space. The video comprised film stills with an audio track that played louder closer up.

The migration to installations fell out from presenting Wolfgang creatively in numerous settings. Don’t let the form of archives seduce you. It is a danger. Maintain control. Control also by viewer walking between Dark landscape/Hela cells opposite Intimidating text. Video at the end shows film stills. The music gets louder with proximity.

Examples of stills given included the Film Godzilla as metaphor for the atomic bomb.

The talk highlighted ideas of balanced pairs:

  • mortality – immortality
  • personal – political
  • science – art

#Advice

Some take-away advice was “Don’t let the form of archives seduce you. It is a danger. Maintain control of your work”.

On the subject of abstraction, David quoted an observation by Stanley Kubrick:

Be self-aware of one’s art and the impact it may have. Stay true to one’s intent.

It is important to remain aware that work can transition from a book publication to an installation