This blog post refers to the idea of taking the work outside of the white cube exhibition space, using facsimile mounted prints in a display box.
It was recommended at the Arles critique last year that a new box is made and while open to the idea, it was decided to investigate. This was done by researching the methods for making a clamshell and flip lid boxes.
Having handmade a box in the past it has been clear how much of a challenge such a simple intention can become. Research has been conducted and shows a range of techniques from simple paper folding through to the use of guillotine and cast iron press.
There are many minor considerations that affect the construction and finish – tiny triangular nicks and unexpected cuts and folds to cover corner spaces and raised section to keep out light and dust. This is quite an enterprise. The tooling is an expensive consideration as is attending a centre such as London Book Arts.
So what about drawing on the resources of a firm that offers custom made boxes. The factors come into play are cost etc. At a 5,000 piece run the box I’d need would be approximately £1 per box. That’s too many boxes and too high an outlay. At a single box the cost is £50 – it is almost better re-ordering the original DNA test kit.
To show how subtle the flip-top box is to make a PDF design has been attached:
Two items have been held up pending 10 weeks of illness then need to create portfolio work.
These are the Video that should have been made over the break and the Critical Review of Practice CRoP.
These have been taken together, but oddly manage to support the work. The following PDF is the mind map. A CRoP is a CRoP but it has to be about something so the overview of working practice and methodology is given as a mind map. The CRoP requirement (or part of) has been mapped onto it and requires further development like issuing a draft. However, there is some referencing to other practitioners still in research. Despite having this for earlier incarnations of the work (in earlier study Modules) the work has progressed on so time for the update.
To an extent I can argue about originality and a need to mask off external influences as the work is quite unique in its standing as a branch of Art based on Science. As blogged previously I’m never surprised anymore to find original thought crop up in other places of which two examples could be cited.
Top left hand in the mind map is the Critical Review of Practice from an earlier module assignment.
The bottom left hand is a storyboard outline for a useful video resource that is being created. (This proved very helpful to visitors to the summer exhibition).
Above this is the connection to the CRoP linked to Ghost Abstract Figurative Themes. While Ghosts per se have been dropped since the review with a book designer, the landscapes remain ghost images.
Practice location top right is the piece being updated for this dynamic project. It does need to settle down urgently prints, book, portable exhibition and talk to be worked on.
There is quite a challenge here as none of the work has been subcontracted to printers or anyone else so all of the skills from the photography through to all branches of making have been absorbed and this alongside all of the marked assignment work. For anyone wishing to embark on an MA Photography Course they may wish to consider how much work to outsource to specialists. Personally, outsourcing the Book making to an online offering is not preferred over an artists book dummy and hiring a book designer would lose some of the original intent to someone else’s view of what the market would stand. The work is still too dynamic for this.
Bottom right is the remainder of the CRoP assignment requirement, which pertains to the public showing.
In terms of evidencing the work as mentioned here in an FMP lecture video then on the subject of gaining public feedback, there is a need to reach out to practitioners to elicit attendance or somehow provide comment on the work.
I now have a date of the Easter Weekend for showing the work over four days at Amersham Studios tradesecrets.live Only now can approaches be made by reaching out.
As image-making is fundamental and has been a major focus, work has been flooding forward and is now starting to receive critique (two critiques were missed through technology issues).
There is scope for an earlier pop-up exhibition at the same location. No promises yet. Details will be published and a campaign run via Instagram account foto_graphical and Facebook.
Overall, an exciting period of practice development.
Concluding, is the intense period of reading and learning putting substance behind research based practice. Going are the days of creating themes in support of project narratives.
For visual language development samples of themes have been created.
Father mitochondria layered on mother image (mitochondria as transmitter). Biological markers ready to be layered in next stage.
Stills dropped out of newsreel of 100 years ago montaged into project examples
Family archive motherline photograph layered with glow image (mitochondria)
graphic development of DNA and cellular imagery and text
A rather busy and very worthwhile period indeed.
Three months of work to finish off a professional portfolio of high quality to be taken public Reacquainting with the MA Photography requirements caused a close look at example work created so far.
There were then many ups and downs hinging on the practice of being fully digital in the making. With much time spent in the digital darkroom the methodology was fully re-examined and especially following the digital imaging Symposium at Westminster University.
The Symposium was good and gave access to several key scientists in skincare and medical forensics. For those that know about the project the relevance should be clear. Much was confirmed around the artist’s assumptions of biological science as applied here.
The quality of the work then came under deep scrutiny anticipating cramming a lifework into a meagre 10MB PDF file without undue loss of image quality. The answer is InDesign and the methods documented in the FMP block.
However, any signs of a borderline quality entering the process and the situation will only worsen. Were there signs in current work?
Previous bad experience of transferring to mobile working and lack of connectivity in the Scottish Highlands led to a deliverable quality issue. It was never planned to be like that – the cohort will remember those events.
In an attempt to avoid technical issues deep scrutiny was performed on the work. A solarisation filter is quick to pick up on banding faults and pixelation (not in the original but from processing).
How to resolve this? Some very detailed analysis and comparison trials showed how and where different algorithms broke down affecting an unacceptable number of images.
During the last week of the “break” or so called University Assessment Period, and to which this blog post pertains work continued urgently to sort out technical issues. A number of workshops and external resources were called upon and a growing amount of time was soaked up.
This continued into Week 13. The current blog post is a retrospective. That is how important it was to resolve quality, instigate testing and build a professional approach to practice. Time normally spent learning and researching art and photography began to make way to working the critical methodology during the FMP blocks.
It would be great to have visual examples accompanying this post but for now it is important to continue making and delivering images elsewhere. Return later when priorities resolve.
There has been much catching up to do. After 10 weeks of being slain by the aftereffects of two bouts of flu, it is sad to note the passing of two more family members in the run-up to year-end.
In a way, the losses underline the importance of the project being made complete to pass on to others. The pay-off would be in gathering the technique that others may wish to use with their own, alongside forever unfolding events on a world stage, whether that be a 9/11 or something else.
The intention is to deliver something art-based (rhyme or graphic text or image titles) over the upcoming period between terms as noted in the Final Proposal. An intention is to experiment to discover if contextualisation and visual language can be built with Recombinant Rhymes or DNA Art.
The idea is to use imagination in selecting words like TELEOLOGICAL that contain DNA base letters ACGT and combine them for effect, perhaps making a video with a reading of a rhyme. Words are intended to be selected for their connection to narratives of the project.
Select from the following ACGT words for some connected meaning:
Themes occur in several sets subdivided. First, are the now consistent outputs of the work, and second, the themes of visual narrative explored and third the set of the subject matter placed before the camera.
In turn, we have:
Out of abstraction, the theme set subdivided into
place as landscape/seascape/mountains of heritage and theatre of war;
ghosts ever more recurring;
depictions of inner/outer space.
Out of the physical and psychoanalytical, the theme sets are around language/communication and intent:
science mitochondrial DNA,
the phenomenological – the weird/eerie/uncanny
Examples of the above can be found in this portfolio:
There is the theme set of the subject and photography:
museum (military and medicine),
video (gaming and broadcast)
Examples of some of the above are also in this portfolio.
In retrospect, this presents the analytical. To think in deconstructivist terms as in Derrida, it would make sense to home in on that which conveys the main feelings. There again Art Science (Artsci) as described by Arthur Millar brings scientific method back into scope. The latter demands more resolution by the artist. Millar points to the history of the avant-garde. The art world and gallery system had rejected impressionism and the likes of Picasso as surrealist. Artists then built alliances later their work being more established it became more widely accepted. Millar might argue the case for art-science as the new avant-garde.
In the case of accepting Millar, then the project proceeds as
Family Constellations have allowed freedom from entanglement with ancestors and their narratives of loss in a war.
View the following as experimental imagery that is work in progress. This is not the end product of publishable standard at this early point.
To go ahead, work needs to be resolved. As these firm, vestiges are present in other approaches.
War imagery, either from Museum exhibits or from video archives footage. There is the style of Natalia Goncherova with angels and flying machines compressed into the frame in a very claustrophobic way (as in her lithographs).
Science, as molecular biology, animation and Generative Art.
Further influences begin with Albert Steiglitz and images similar to cloud formations. This is closest to my type of work of any of the above approaches.
There persists influence from Picasso, in breaking bounds then Rachel Howard in terms of the hidden brush of gravity abstract style.
Thoughts about Resolution
More wayward approaches need to be set aside where project intent risks being diluted i.e avoid any negative impact.
The strong influence going into the Final Major Project FMP has been to resolve the visual language to make the abstract accessible to the viewer. This was achieved in a summer exhibition although the martial narrative need not be enforced was a consideration.
Having just stated that though, the war theme is necessary otherwise we lose the linkage and orphan the themes of place foreign and theme of ghosts recurrent.
As current research continues into Phenomenology and mtDNA, a break is taken to cast ahead to publication. The work has to be taken to the public and is still experimental as shown in PHO705: WEEK 9 REFLECTION. Some of the making stages in the plan will arrive soon enough.
It makes sense to gather some direction even though the desire is there to complete work in progress reading as mentioned in PHO705: WEEK 10 REFLECTION.
Thinking through one idea here has a purpose of creating a Strawman. This will have enough form or structure or clarify the artistic design. This idea is about a book and starts with Ghost images. These creations appear fleetingly and have to be captured before they disappear. There is a need to conquer this and to avoid there being no work of this type to show. Apparitions are always welcome to this work but the nature of creating them is open to the random. A perhaps predictable but nevertheless still surprising element of this randomness occurred during a period of distraction in which Ghost images began to appear in other made work, outside of the main project. Perhaps these intrusions are just another type of Ghost, linked to the main project by occurring during the project timescale.
In the previous module, an attempt was made to help progress by restricting image scope to abstract Landscape. At first, this was a mistaken choice. As with Ghosts, Landscapes are also subject to random process but nevertheless, they regularly feature in the work.
The experience was somewhat worrying as having restricted scope to landscape the theme was worked towards for a solid two weeks and the worst – no Landscape could be made. Letting intuition take over the method of obtaining the desired result was finally fathomed. A way of making at will was settled on which largely depended on recognising the kind of processed starting image that might work. There is an earlier Landscape representation with horizontals and verticals that would have been readily obtained from the start, which may still feature as published work, but what it had led to was a more imaginative scene that required more sophisticated processing more akin to perspective images as compared to earlier flatter images.
All this is taken as a lesson learned around the intuitive making versus something closely allied to a ‘commissioned’ approach.
The Week 9 reflection above turned up a Ghost of the kind sought. But what if that was it? in this case, it might be necessary to showcase the image as a full-page and in a process of categorisation accompany it with earlier ghost images as a plate of smaller inserts.
There is a process of categorisation that would work equally as well with the works other representations (seascapes/mountainscapes and spaces inner/outer). Each theme is linked phenomenologically with narratives of the work but each would stand as page layouts again of main plate and plate of earlier images at a smaller scale.
This is not the final piece, but thus far it has an appeal. It leads to making and it does so in a structured way and way familiar to the author and in some respects reflective of Victorian categorisation schemes e.g. in Botany.
To take this a stage further is to keep a keen eye on an Exhibition element of publication. Having learned from visits of a knowledgeable public to a Summer exhibition of recent work, the idea would be to take from this experience the things that worked well with the audiences especially around sequenced narrative and incorporate it into the same book design mentioned above. A book section that parallels an Exhibition.
There then becomes a substantive element of making to propose and gather feedback on from the University regards the standards of the MA Photography course. It would also be necessary to maintain balance, i.e. not try and squeeze a long term project into the remaining time on the MA.
What this is about is the practicalities of making images of publishable standard, about a book and about an exhibition.
There are extras planned either to assist the design such as using ISSUU as a template for hand, bookbinding. Or, to help create impactfully contextualisation by making moving stills and or a video. This created the atmosphere at the earlier summer exhibition.
The exhibition has some elements that are rooted such as the available space and the possibility for lunchtime pop-ups during appropriate photographic training sessions. Some elements would be more aspirational at present, such as making society presentations at one or both societies with which there is an affiliation. This is a likely outcome but does not have to happen within the timeframe of the MA, it can follow on. Another group or in fact two groups have made approaches although generally so and not so much around a specific project.
The aspirational elements represent To-do action if something is to be achieved. For the purpose of the MA and continuity, it might make sense to negotiate with the various societies and groups, the further taking of the work to public view but time this to allow freedom to complete substantive work for the MA without too much self-imposed overload.
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