PHO705: Research-Driven Practice

With the renewed focus called for in today’s Module Leader Group Critique that students drive their work forward as a research-driven practice, then it makes good sense to ramp up on this in the blog.

Research that ran strongly in an earlier module runs a lower level of engagement after a busy period of making and so the time is right to conduct more in-depth analysis.

A recent blog post highlighted areas of research interest, omitted sadly from the proposal by way of four texts.

In building the research, these other works now extend reading into:
Beyond the Unheimlich (Fisher, 2016)
Specters of Marx Phenomenology and the Simulacrum (Derrida, 1994)
Place (Philosophy) and Memory (Trigg, 2013)

Also on the Subject of Family Constellations
(Ulsamer, no date)
(Family Constellations Revealed. 2nd Edition, 2012)


Derrida, J. (1994) Spectres of Marx. New York, Abingdon Oxon: Routledge. Available at:

Family Constellations Revealed. 2nd Editio (2012). Antwerp, Belgium: Indra Torsten Preiss.

Fisher, M. (2016) The Weird and the Eerie. London, [England]: Repeater Books. Available at:

Trigg, D. (2013) The Memory of Place A Phenomenology of the Uncanny. Athens: Ohio University Press. Available at:

Ulsamer, B. (no date) The Art and Practice of Family Constellations. Edited by C. Beaumont. Kindle Unlimited.

PHO705: Concerning the Spiritual in Art

I continue evidencing my research with reading that began in an earlier study module that I carry into my FMP.

I’ll return to make my update.


Kandinsky, W. (no date) Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Edited by M. Sadlier.

Kandinsky, W. (1977) Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Dover. Edited by M. Sadler. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Available at:

PHO705: The Body in Pain The Making and Unmaking of the World

I continue evidencing my research with reading that began in an earlier study module that I carry into my FMP.

I’ll return to update this blog.

For now, it is clear to me in my work that making-up is a part of the abstraction process driven by the subconscious mind following a period of deep immersion in the topic lasting now several decades. This is the result of collaborating with a history researcher.

The result though is the print that gives the abstract its material form, and so the tie-in to the following quotation:

“The human action of making entails two distinct phases – making up (mental imaging) and making-real (endowing the mental object with a material or verbal form) …” (Scarry, 1985)


Scarry, E. (1987) The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York, London: Oxford University Press-23 978-0-19-504996-1.

PHO705: Sick Photography Representations of Sickness in Art Photography – Maija Tammi

This is one of four contextualization blogs I intend to publish in Week 6 and will expand upon later. The post is meant to evidence some earlier research I started in a previous study module and that I carry through into my FMP.

My reading had led to the Aalto University doctoral dissertation 172/2017 as published in the book by this title: Sick Photography Representations of Sickness in Art Photography – Maija Tammi (Tammi, 2017).

This work covers a similar divide to my own, i.e. that between medical science and photographic art.

The publication overlaps into two exhibitions held in Finland.

Keywords: Sickness; disease; illness; art photography; abject; Kristeva; Kleinman

The best description I can offer for this difficult subject is the Author Maija Tammi’s own words from her book abstract which I have wholeheartedly copied below:

“This artistic research scrutinizes how sickness has been represented in art photography and examines the new ways to approach, think about and create photographic art about sickness. This dissertation combines theoretical research and artworks. t\he theoretical part shows that while scholars have concentrated the ethics of what kinds of images of sickness or suffering ought to be shown or on the psychology of why some images of sickness bother viewers, most art photographers have concentrated on depicting personal illness experiences. The research applies anthropologist Arthur Kleinman’s definitions of sickness, illness, and disease in a diagram to examine photographic artworks approach the topic.”

“To understand the functions and the meanings of the different approaches, the research draws especially from Julia Kristeva’s writings on the abject. The main results of the research, artworks Leftover and White Rabbit Fever are intertwined with the theoretical part. Leftover was exhibited at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte in Helsinki in January 2014, and White Rabbit Fever at Gallery Lapinlahti in Helsinki in September 2016. Both bodies of work have also been published as books: Leftover/Removal by Kehrer Verlag in 2014, and White Rabbit Fever by Bromide Book in 2017.”


Charles Baudelaire, “… copying nature had nothing to do with art.” (Tammi, 2017) Page 54.


Having read this work, it is clear there is a distinction present between the book with sickness, illness and disease versus the photo project and healing as glow. A similarity of sorts is in the book exemplifying the growing and dividing HeLa cells with the progressive colour change of the suspension. Beyond these comparisons the book and photo project are separate subject matters both involving the human body.

Common considerations do exist that have perhaps been down played or given cause to obscure and these relate to:

  • Ethical and aesthetic problems
  • Disturbing images
  • The difficulty of looking – the abject
  • Difficult photos – aversion; Freud’s uncanny; Misselhorn’s aesthetic of disgust

(Tammi, 2017) Pages 29, 37, 181-204, 215

“… it is not sickness that should be be re-defined or questioned but health.” Page 217 And healing in health is exactly what the photo project does focus upon.


Tammi, M. (2017) Sick Photography Representations of Sickness in Art Photography. Edited by M. Tammi. Lahti, Finland: Aalto University Publication- Aalto ARTS Books Helsinki. Available at:

PHO705: Contextualisation: Hiller, Roth and Fathi

From discussion in a one to one meeting (1);

Artist 1 Susan Hiller – Auras

Artist Susan Hiller’s work Auras: Homage to Marcel Duchamp 2008 features found portraits of individuals surrounded by clouds of light: ‘metaphors for our selves in the digital age.’ Hiller is alluding to the 1910 Portrait of Dr. Dumouchel by Duchamp (1887–1968), a historical aura portrait in the clairvoyant tradition. (Tate, 2019)

I wouldn’t want clairvoyance to be the dominant visual reading of my project. What I do is create intergenerational identification by gene transmission.

So, the question. Will my intent be taken the wrong way?

Hiller’s colour work Aura’s flows from this portrait of Dr Dumouchel:

Dr Dumouchel – Marcel Duchamp

Auras – Susan Hiller (Homage 2019)

Emanations – Michael Turner

My work could possibly be made to go in this direction as I now have archive portraits as well as a colour abstract. The abstract immediately above is similar to Aura’s.

A summary of Hiller’s career and work exhibited/installed at the Lisson Gallery is presented by the BBC in their Introducing Arts website (BBC 2015). An artist talk is provided on the site.

Sadly Hiller died and her obituary can be found on the BBC website. This contains the heading “Connection, empathy, identification” from which I sense a parallel with my practice as Identification is an underlying theme.

From the obituary (BBC, 2019) there is mention of ghosts, “Ghosts are invisible to most people, but visible to a few.”. There has to be some concern as this year, ghosts began to appear in my abstract work.

Artist 2 Evan Roth – Red Lines

The work of Roth is described at the Artangel website (Roth, 2020).

Connecting you to the landscape of the internet.

Evan Roth: red lines – from the ArtAngel website (Roth, 2019)

A network of mesmerising video landscapes is streamed free to your home or workplace in this pioneering new project by Evan Roth.

Roth has travelled to coastal sites around the world where the cables that make the internet possible emerge from the sea. Filmed in infrared, the same spectrum in which data is transmitted online, the videos reveal another side of the internet, one that moves at the speed of weather, wind, and tide.

Evan Roth – infrared from the ArtAngel website (Roth, 2019)

Red Lines can be experienced by anyone in the world. To join the network, all you need is a device like a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and an internet connection. Devices should ideally be plugged into power and connected to an internet connection with no data limits (check with your service provider) with the browser set to 

In summary, the connection to my practice appears to be infrared, computers and landscape through internet transmission. The images are at places where internet cables emerge into the open at the end of a “red line” or connection to another geographic location.

A sentiment behind the work is given by this quote:

(In Maori culture) … your connection to the land you walk on helps shape your very identity. You are who you are because of who came before you; the earth and waters that supported them, now support you. – Janina Matthewson

Artist 3 David Fathi

David Fathi presents his work within the FMP module here. The interest for my work is the crossover between science and art. A blog post expands the research. The connected blog post from Week 5 can be found here.

Discussion as a reminder was about three projects, the first two books then the 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

The migration to installations fell out from presenting Wolfgang creatively in numerous settings. Don’t let the form of archives seduce you. Maintain control.

The talk highlighted ideas of balanced pairs:


BBC (2015) Are you experienced? Visionary art from Susan Hiller. Available at:

BBC (2019) Obituary: Susan Hiller, the artist of neglected memoriesBBC website. Available at:

Tate (2019) Hiller Tate Britain. Available at:

Roth, E. (2019) Living with Red Lines. Available at:


Marcel Duchamp (1910) Dr Dumouchel. Available at:

Susan Hiller’s Homage to Marcel Duchamp (2019) moremilkyvette blogpost. Available at:

PHO705: Reading and Contextualisation

Three books have been read for general background research and as a refresh on:

Art history (Arnold, 2004)

Contemporary art (Stallabrass (2006)

Postmodernism (Butler, 2002)

Access to these texts during the prior assessment period was as Kindle and Audible Books versions.


Arnold, D. (2004) Art History A Very Short Introduction. Edited by D. Arnold. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Butler, C. (2002) Postmodernism A Very Short Introduction. Edited by C. Butler. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Stallabrass, J. (2006) Contemporary Art A Very Short Introduction. Edited by J. Stallabrass. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

PHO704: Week 6: Draft Oral Presentations

After the fact:

That was quite a week. It started with cutting out a studio opportunity to give me some breathing space for drafting the Oral Presentation. Next, the task looked identical to the previous Oral – the wording was the same, and all that had changed was a shift in my practice. We had that resolved by the Tuesday pm, with a letter of clarification and an update to the task description. So two and a half days leftover which we were to create a bright shining new presentation.

I learn that the experience comes around once a module or twice a module if we count draft and final versions

I was on the bounce from a previous experience, which was tainted with shooting away in remote areas of Scotland. The transfer to mobile was quite sudden and unplanned (not my fault/nothing I could be but buckle down). The technology went horribly wrong. Nasty, nasty nasty. Do I want to remind myself? No. It is in the past. However, it has stayed with me and affected my approach to these Oral Presentations. In a sense, this task had become a first time experience, learning new tools on a new platform. Last time I created the whole piece, the day beforehand in – I never planned to do this but being horribly constrained, it happened that way. So this time, even the reduction of timeframe to two and a half days was a luxury.

Being the visual type, I was now really pleased to be able to collate photographs with ease. Before, every click had been painful. Next was the changeover of platform and software tools. Even what tools should I use? This I would have answered the last module, and this is why I reckon it felt like starting over, instead of building on past experience.

I had favourite methods but was not able to use them last time (mobility issue)  or even this time (change of platform). A wilderness or a stage for experimentation? Rather than dawdle, it was a case of make a decision. I went native with the supplied software, the wrong software. It was a great way of working that at last, I seemed to be enjoying. A quick test demonstrated the file should translate.

So yes I overdid the bells and whistles through unwittingly selecting a theme with too many visual elements available and that I also used. Too much for typical Photographic taste. Post review that was quickly rectified. I should have known better by now and yes I keep seeing others sites with the most minimalistic appearance designed to make the photographs sing, or something like that.

A significant part of the exercise was presented in the presence of time pressure. Now the Oral creation involves a narrative and photo narrative, but it also consists of a production task. With time for just one run through, how was this going to succeed? How do you aim and achieve a specific file size limit and speaking duration? These metrics are critical in the context of the task set.

In came a quick piece of creative thinking. Put the main punch of the presentation, the bit/content that had to be there, put it at the beginning. Then follow with the supporting development of photographic practice. I was only a few minutes over, and an edit sorted that. A massive PDF saved to a smaller size, a fraction of that allowed. At once relief but also there was some scepticism over resolution. I accepted the comfort and whether turning a blind eye or not, was happy at the superficial level that individual pixels didn’t show. This is part I deem to be the production task. Given to an expert to work on, they’d size and check and do the technical posting. As an all in one mission, that experience has to be gained.

When it came to the actual timed review, the disconnect in the timeline was noticeable – my ruse had been discovered. Post review I’ve got time to swap back into time order. It’s easy enough to change the time order – simply swipe up or down a  list of slides. However, it’s a more significant task to do than that. With alterations resulting from the review, the timings and file sizes alter, and the job has to be resized to take on board all of the changes.

In reality, and I kind of knew this from extensive experience, it’s a case of allowing time to do the Oral draft task twice with multiple practices runs being necessary to meet timing and size constraints. I must go back to completely finish that off. I’ve been somewhat distracted by my photographic reading – I went back to Susan Sontag On Camera and dived into Fashion Photography and Kinship lifestyle magazine from past and current research recommendations.

I was pleased to have gotten together a consistent look to my images and will ditch those horrible default frames that add nothing. I faltered in delivery on basically checking whether there was time left to fit in the full slide deck which marginally there was. The practice is necessary. Having time to practice is also required.

I thoroughly enjoyed the task, even if left to last in order (the creeping pressure that lasted the whole session) and heightened time pressure due to starting late. Others presentations and reviews gnawed into the available time. It was a great relief getting through it, and then as a bonus, there was clear and purposeful advice I’m able to work with.

I’ll crack on with that.

On the subject of potentially compromised image resolution, there is something to add – I certainly worried about it and was picked up on it last time. PDF file size reduction works but can be visible. For this course, a piece of work was done by the University by the software training department. I tried it out during late summer. What it means is InDesign if available, can be set up to use full resolution images and the reduction can be made there. I was shown the method called save to an interactive PDF. Small file size with uncompromised image resolution.

As I have not used any visuals here so far, I will post the updated draft when I’ve got it in order, I’ll include one photograph from my non-DSLR digital processing era. From this, a lot of my later abstract image references developed. It is a really dirty image, designed to grab attention and was photographed on a cold December night in London’s Oxford Street and taken through the misted upper deck window of a London bus.

Oxford Street

PHO701: Week 12 Proposal and Audience in Practice Tutorials Submit Proposal and Portfolio

Week 12

I didn’t think I’d catch-up by this point (with technical circumstances previously mentioned).

Well, I’d never have planned it this way. Working up to the 11th hour to get my project proposal assignment completed and then with little time to spare assembling a work in progress portfolio. 

Positions and Practice Research Project v1_Redacted

(no project dates and costs)

Developmental Portfolio

(work in progress portfolio assignment)

The work was quite challenging, but there again, I suppose it is meant to be. It can be quite a balancing act, trying to get some decent resolution images together within a file size constraint. If I did this again, which am sure I will do shortly, I would allocate time for image sizing.

Well, there we are, it’s down to experience, that’s something we certainly gain in abundance.

For the project proposal, the most extraordinary thing for me was managing to summarise the bulk of the work in just 600 words when there was a 1500 word allocation. Of course, when I looked through my notes and mind map, there was still plenty to add, and I got there.

In retrospect, you’d think that starting early and building in contingency would solve the deadline problem. However, the information we gain in support is progressively administered to us. First attempts can be added to with each passing week.

My planned project ideas seemed so confident at the beginning, but then my plans were shaken from the foundations. I seriously began to doubt my choice. In my own terms, the Academic worth needed to be apparent. What sustained the original was a degree of preparation combined with a planned commemoration in Perth Scotland. I had considered project ideas that were totally different, but something in my soul took me back to the Commemorative Historical work. I thought more and more seriously about what would be needed to make it work.

A breakthrough came with the introduction of genetic analysis that has enabled me to bridge between the present generations and those who took part in a significant world event, over 100 years ago. The original commemorative history I’d focused on, has been retained, but for reasons of story. The DNA side has caused several changes not least, shifting emphasis to my maternal line on learning how mitochondrial DNA and X-chromosomes pass between generations. The focus remained on the same world event. I’m aware still that the whole thing could be thrown up in the air as I progress through the course and I steep myself in photographic theory and art.

Quite a revelation for me in terms of my approach was the example set through an, in conversation, interview with Ian Walker, surrealist and academic critic. Ian is a seasoned critic and demonstrated, by Guest Lecture, how I needed to strengthen my own analysis and critique. Ian can discern what is surreal from what only looks surreal. Also, not all of the work of a particular surrealist may be to one’s taste giving room to express a personal view. Ian also demonstrated how fairly everyday settings, containing the right elements, introduce the surreal. For me, surrealism had been simply an example of artists freedom of expression while pushing the boundaries of public acceptance.