ON PHOTOcopy - opening night

Friday night saw the opening evening of ON PHOTOcopy at the 44AD Artspace in Bath (4 Abbey Street) - It’s a fairly small space in the Basement Gallery where the exhibition was located. Actually, it’s not so dissimilar to Bank Street Arts where I’ve had work displayed on a couple of occasions, including Speak My Language which was what was included in the exhibition at 44AD.

In terms of how my own work looked, it was perhaps a little dark, although that is also how it actually is - it just looked "more so" when printed on a photocopier, perhaps it was just a lack of dynamic range and the use of white paper... Still, interesting to see it produced that way, I'd probably have to prepare it a little more if I were to produce a photocopy zine of the work (which is an option I might explore further).

In terms of other work there, Tanya had some of the MA1 work from FFF on display, there was some more photography, some poetry/written word, drawings and other stuff - the largest selection on display looked to me like the photocopier was used with nothing to copy - just "noise" I guess. Something about the randomness of the work was interesting. Chaotic. You can see it spread across the floor...

These are a just a few photos from my own brief document of the night - I didn’t stay long (and therefore didn't do the old “TABULA Rasa” approach) as we had quite a trip back up the motorway to Lancashire to complete...

44AD Artspace

Speak My Language getting the once over...

Tanya’s work on show...




Random photographs of the night...


Intersections and Articulations

Three artists talk about their practice, their thoughts, their research. These are but simple notes taken whilst listening to their audio presentations.

Alexa Cox

Cox is a recent MA graduate, coming out from the very course I am studying myself. She’s a storyteller and painter, working across many surfaces concurrently and in series. There’s a dialogue between making and research. Peter Doig (a Scottish figurative painter) gets a reference, as does Paula Rego and photographers such as Francesca Woodman, especially her drawn on contact sheets.

Research is key within her making; originally she made paintings and then applied theory. This wasn’t as prominent in terms of communicating ideas. She has now developed a visual language, reducing down the information presented – partial trace figures. Ambiguous, but not to the point of losing the viewer in the process of looking. This approach seems similar to the “Provoke” method (Moriyama, Takanashi and Nakahira), removing information in an attempt to provoke thought and creating a new language and ideas.

Much of her reading also takes place outside art theory – stories and anthropological texts that talk about stories. The story is an important factor to her making, this much becomes clear through her presentation.

She uses photography and drawing as means of research – this allows her the freedom to produce work that isn’t finished. Playful, mapping and drawing out ideas. Talks about figures a lot…

Writing and mind-mapping (Venn diagrams) are important and she found this quite revelatory to define her practice. I guess this came in as part of the first year of the MA – I’m not currently finding that so useful at the moment – perhaps it feels a little too much like my engineering background, which I’m trying to escape using photography.

Key text – Lines: a brief history by Tim Ingold, which details the relationship between gesture and storytelling. The making of hand gestures when storytelling, meandering and deviating from a path to discover new things and learn. This in turn reminds me of an interview with PJ Harvey from the time of her Let England Shake album, which is essentially about story telling through the war (First World War) – I’ll try and find it and post a link. Cox tries to make and reflect, to use learning to make something else. To challenge everything. To experiment and take risks.

She talks about the idea of authentic lines – what is an authentic line? Does the viewer know when looking at the line that it is authentic?

Cox is also excited about the edge of the frame – where does the image end? Does a repetitive figure across multiple surfaces allow viewer to weave story? Is the work becoming like a comic strip in this sense – another story?

Alexa Cox

Annabel Dover

Dover is an OCA lecturer and is also working towards a PhD at Wimbledon. She talked about her “research”.

She went to the Chelsea PhD student show with her husband (also an artist) and was surprised how literal the work was, apparently something that is frequently said about practice lead PhD work: that it’s an illustration of theory rather than a means of research itself. Dover tried to start with the emotional response rather than theory, quoting that if someone talks of Lacan or Derrida, the work will be dead. (I’ve done this on several occasions, but I tend to apply the theory afterwards, whilst being aware of it during the making – the theory doesn’t tend to be the main driver…). She declares theory should intertwine with research, that practice and theory should be harmonious.

Her PhD research focusses on a Victorian artist/botanist//amateur – Anna Atkins (the label depends on whose categorisations you use – Victorian women weren’t classed as “artists”) . She used John Herchel’s cyanotype technique, a basic photogram process that involved painting the medium with potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate solution, typically during the night, and allowing to dry before then exposing to sunlight. It was often considered as a process for women and children to do. It then became the “blueprint” and entered the male, technological/scientific domain.

Dover tried to reproduce Atkins work practically, her Poppy in particular – she considered it to be both simple and beautiful. It looks at first like Atkins simply reproduced ithe poppy, but this is not the case. Atkins actually made a number of albums for submission to various societies she would not have gotten into being a woman. However, she “reproduced” nature and donated the albums to scientific institutions. The cyanotypes were actually of dissected and reconstructed flowers to make idealised prints. They were, in effect, collages. This was a subversive act – women not allowed to do such things at the time.

Dover’s stepfather’s sock image illustrates these thoughts – sock was too thick to make cyanotype of so she drew it. She created a simulacra, a false original to make the image from. And now, like Atkin’s work, it resides in an institution. It’s something everyone can relate to; everyone has a sock, and every image tells a story.

As we, the viewer, are able to tap into these stories, we can then tell our own stories. Complex images might be difficult to tap into – the war for instance can be hard to grasp if not experienced. Everyday items can help you grasp it.

Annabel Dover

Helen Paris

Paris is the co-artistic director of Curious, named because, as artists we are all inherently curious about the world we live in. For example, what is relationship between smell and memory? And can we, or even should we trust gut feelings?

She is mostly interested in producing live performances (for a small audience), site specifics art, installation and film. She is fascinated by the live “moment” and the shared experience between performer and audience member – what is possible?

When considering smell, projects such as On the Scent (?) have a long process time. They worked with biological processes, in conjunction with teams of scientists, these things require long research and gestation periods.

On the Scent / Essence of London were live performances, each one being unique.. The way that smell triggers memory means that it can take an audience off to their own space within memory. Associations with smell can transport you back to a moment/place/experience. The transgressive nature of smell – it’s like time travel!

The research started in Bangalore in India, working with a team of biological scientists who were in turn working with the process of smell in the brain – smell memories. These scientists were also interested with processes of performance to; both forms of experimentation, whether as artists or scientists – you don’t know what the outcome in when working on a project.

One of original problems was how do you work with smell? How do you keep them discrete? By their nature they link together, intermingle. The solution was to keep the performance within discrete domestic spaces, with a performer resident in their own room; the kitchen, the bedroom and the sitting room. This approach necessitate small audiences, with only 4 people per performance, 8 performances per day. During the olfactory journey, the performer recites memories then the audience invited to share their own. They created an archive of smell memories. This then lead to a companion piece, a video of essences of London featuring people who worked in “smelly” trades – perfumiers, fish market, refuse collectors, etc. The motive of questioning audience and communities. Inviting people to respond to own questions.

Helen Paris

Of the three interviews, Cox’s and Dover’s were the most relevant for me, the most stimulating and the ones I felt I could take something from. Cox worked in a style similar to my own; work, then vocalise the theory that will have been simmering in the background whilst working, rather than working as a direct response to exploring a theory. Dover spoke of work being dead if made in response to theory, so it would seem that maybe somewhere in the middle ground is preferable. Be informed, don’t be too literal in response to theory (especially some of the more… theoretical theories…) and more importantly, don’t make work in a vacuum. Will I change my own modus operandi? I’m sure it is changing all of the time in response to things said, things read and the general experience of studying the MA.


44AD Artspace and Fringe Arts Bath

A couple of days ago I received confirmation that Speak My Language has been selected for display at the 44AD gallery as part of the On Photocopy call from Fringe Arts Bath. The exhibition starts on the 30th October. I'm hoping to make it to Bath for the opening night. If I manage it, I'll be sure to post some photographs.

Daido Moriyama - Printing Show

I’ve been thinking about photocopies, so naturally Daido Moriyama’s Printing Show came to mind - I was lucky enough to attend in 2012.

Daido Moriyama’s Menu, edited by me...



Following hot on the heels of my submission to the Guernsey Photography Festival, I saw a call for part of the Fringe Arts Bath Festival titled On Photocopy. The submissions, naturally, need to be of a photocopied nature, and this is something I've been considering for one of my earlier pieces, Speak My Language. Photocopies might seem like an odd choice, especially amidst the current vogue of large, exacting prints (I'm thinking the likes of Gursky and Struth here) but I like it. It has a sort of underground feel (old zines come to mind) and it would be a fairly natural progression from my original mode of presentation for SML which was newspaper print. I produced two different newspaper versions for the piece, one was a tabloid style newspaper, printed by The Newspaper Club, whilst the other was printed at home using inkjet printing on recycled newspaper and fabricated into a leporello book (a mock-up dummy of which was included in APhF:15). It is this version I'd been considering progressing to a photocopy on demand version.

Intersections, with Helen Rousseau

Helen Rousseau is not a name I was familiar with. She’s not a photographer, so she is already off my normal “radar” in terms of who I look at (I can be a little too insular some times). The work she does create is perhaps a further step off my radar too, at least that’s the case with the work she showed during the presentation she gave as part of the series of visiting lectures. That’s not to say that Intersections – connecting and disconnecting the dots wasn’t interesting. There were certainly aspects I was drawn to, not least her discussion about language and its connection (whatever that might be) to art.

One of the first mentions of language was that making is her starting point. She begins to work with the material, negotiating with it, rather than from some preconceived idea that has been defined within a coded language. The work takes shape in its own language, unfettered by the limitations of a constraining system of words and meanings. This is something that I’ve adopted when approaching a long term project, such as Le Loup… I find it difficult to pre-visualise what the project might become; I don’t know what I will see in 5 minutes time, never mind what I will see in 12 months. And then there’s the question of what I have seen will mean to me by the time I try and construct the finished article. With shorter conceptual pieces, this is clearly less of an issue though…

Allow the body of work to grow organically and then see what it means.

I think that’s about the crux of it anyway, and it’s certainly what I took from it, and from what others had said previously; Rinko Kawauchi, the Japanese photographer, said it about Illuminance in an Aperture interview (I think) several years ago (she gathered the work, photographing what she saw then had “conversations” with the images), it struck home at the time and completely changed the way I was thinking during the BA in photography I was doing at the time. Having no clear endpoint from the outset offers up a greater range of possibilities for the outcome… or to use a quote from the presentation:

“The decisions about how to start and conclude are choices that shape the very identity of a piece. It is only by concluding in a particular way that the piece establishes its own standards of completion and demonstrates why it had to be the way it is.”

(Jan Verwoert, The Beauty of Latency, Exhaustion and Exuberance, Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform.)

This idea of coded language perhaps seemed strange though. Rousseau spoke about problems paving the way for the work with words, but then the presentation was peppered with quotes. Art might be considered a language of its own, but we seem to feel the need to wrap it in syntax, to explain it in what might be considered a reductive way with quite limited signs and signifiers, rather than just exist in its more free-wheeling form as art, that can speak on different levels and say something different to us all.

Later, a small group discussion centred around the idea of sculpture, what it is, what it means to us. Things like 3D came up, the physicality of the object, interactions of touch and space. Are Carsten Höller’s slides a sculpture? Are they installation? Is there a difference? Do we become part of the sculpture (assuming they are) when we pass through them? The Marionettes of Nantes – a series of sculptures or merely a form of entertainment?

Monika spoke of some artists from the Biennale in Venice, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Pamela Rosenkranz, whose sculpture moved through the audience, or the audience moved through it. Rousseau spoke in turn of ultra high speed photography of balloons bursting and the temporally fixed moment of the water retaining the shape without a bounding surface.

I myself thought about Richard Wentworth, a sculptor in his own right but also someone who photographed things that happened naturally as a form of sculpture – a glove on a fence, tyres leaning on a wall. Mundane items in mundane situations but they become something else by chance, by the act of recording them. Then there’s the likes of Lorenzo Vitturi, a contemporary photographer who has created assembled elements to photograph and juxtapose with the images, as with Dalston’s Anatomy. Still life pieces, props, sculptures? Is there a difference? Does it matter?

It would have been fairly easy to remain closed and detached from the lecture, but no, there was discussion and much procrastination. Will it change things with the way I work? It’s unlikely I will start making Vitturi-esque still life images, but I do relate to the constraints of language, and even the idea of deliberately using the constraints of language to deflect and divert meaning from being too… obvious, I guess.


Penn-ar-Bed 1



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