VL 4 : The Neo Avant-Garde - the 1960s and beyond

The fourth video lecture is given by Graham Whitham and covers the Neo Avant-Garde. The named periods and movements have often left me slightly befuddled. I know many of the names, but not necessarily what they equate to, what they encapsulate. The Avant-Garde is a term that probably means more to me in terms of film, especially with the French experimental films of the 60s, things like La Jetée, although even this is not something that is especially relevant to me (yes, I have La Jetée and Sans Soleil on DVD, but that's about it... does Easy Rider count as Avant-Garde well?)

The introduction to the Avant-Garde was useful, from Henri de Saint-Simon and his original meaning within the realms of Socialism and the painting of Gustave Courbet, which took art from the normal cadre of high art, the aristocracy and social standing and into representation of the working classes (something that would become more popular with "beggar photography" and representations of the "Other" - a different reason of taking on the subject matter).

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Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers, 1849
from VL 4

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Paul Cezanne, Grounds of the Chateau Noir, 1900-04
from VL 4

Later however, Avant-Garde began to mean "modern", epitomised by unconventional techniques rather than any social sense as was once the case (as with Cezanne and The Grounds of Chateau Noir). Between the wars these radical methods accrued a political slant as might be epitomised by movements such as Dada, and the anti-war collage being created at the time. Also in the inter-war period, there was Surrealism which further questioned conventions of form and the controlling systems. Works such as Dali's Rainy Day Taxi can be seen as precursors to contemporary installation art.

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Salvador Dali, Rainy Taxi, 1938
from VL 4

That's the Avant-Garde, but what of the "Neo" bit? It is thought the term was first coined retrospectively in the 70s to describe work where the subject dominates (as opposed to the concepts of Modernism) and has some political reason, such as being critical of the institutions, etc. The Neo Avant-Garde rallies against Greenberg's thinkings that paintings are paintings, and sculptures are sculptures, and that these high art objects are for the gallery.

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Mark Rothko, Black and Maroon, 1958
from VL 4

I looked at Fluxus briefly whilst studying for my photography degree (part of a module on visual culture), specifically Mieko Shiomi's Disappearing Music for Face featuring Yoko Ono. Other "happenings", such as Shigeko Kubota's feminist performances are a pastiche of Jackson Pollock, whose work was deemed to be very masculine. This pastiche element is something that recurs, with other artists also parodying the modus operandi of the conventional (Modernist) arts, such as Nam June Paik’s
Zen for Head, Piero Marzoni's eggs with thumb prints as signature, or Bruce McLean's transitory sculpture.

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Nam June Paik, Zen for Head, 1962
from VL 4

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Bruce McClean, Pose for Plinths 3, 1971
from VL 4

Film and video is another medium that is utilised, not like the Avant-Garde films I mentioned earlier, but in very much an anti-Hollywood vein, with artists such as Martha Rosler producing the fixed camera position video that works against the conventions and aesthetics of film making and providing a comment against the traditional view of a woman's place within the home in Semiotics of the Kitchen

Another theme that appears repeatedly within the Neo Avant-Garde is destruction. However, does this really adhere to the intentions of pushing the boundaries and challenging the system? Yes, it is shocking, but then we become more used to being shocked with the proliferation of media of varying types; the shocking nature of the work becomes accepted as being part of the establishment and therefore in order to push the boundaries and be a challenge, the work needs to be be more shocking, more destructive. Whilst Yoko Ono's Cut Piece might once have been really quite something to behold, today in order to be "shocking" it's not clothes that are cut, but the body itself as was seen with the work of Franko B in the previous Video Lecture.

The political leanings of the movement seem very left wing/communist in nature, with the language of the Fluxus manifesto making statements like "Purge the world of bourgeois sickness... Promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art... Fuse the cadre of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front & action." This in many ways reflects the times, with the anti-(Vietnam) war movement, the marches in London, riots in France and the shooting of the likes of Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Martha Rosler received a second mention in the lecture, this time with the anti-war collages of Bringing the War Home, in many ways a return to the Dada principles with collage and political commentary as she juxtaposed the weekly images of war from Life magazine with lifestyle and luxury.

Martha Rosler, Cleaning the Drapes, 1967-72 [photomontage]

Whitham calls on the writings of Peter Burger and his book The Theory of the Avant-Garde to propose that the Neo Avant-Garde may be thought of as having failed as they perpetuated and repeated what they were trying to challenge and their critique of the political and cultural elites. If Neo Avant-Garde is to be thought of as being "anti-establishment", then what of Yves Klein's Anthropometries? The work was made as a "happening", a (high art style?) performance in front of an exclusive audience and featured the painting of naked models with Klein's trademark blue paint before being directed to the canvas. These works, if the video below is to be believed, were then sold for 40000 French francs to collectors, and have been exhibited in museums. Hardly pushing against the art establishment, rather perpetuating them as Burger suggested.

Returning to Rosler, her Bringing the War Home series was originally conceived as agitational works and distributed via the underground press. However, as described in an essay by Susan Stoops (Martha Rosler: Bringing the War Home (1967-2004)) contained within David Evans' book Appropriation, the images entered the art world in the 1990s, when Rosler noted that if they were to enter art history, they would have to be "somehow normalised", thus bringing them "fully into the postmodern discourse Rosler's practice had helped shape" (Evans, p59). Whilst in this case the work was not intended to be sold and exhibited, 20 years after they were created, this was indeed what has happened. Is this, and other similar cases, symptomatic of "selling out" to the establishment in some way?

Is it still selling out if artists sell their "work" as a comment on the art system? The example given in the lecture is Marzoni's Artist Shit - canned excrement sold at the same price, pound for pound, as gold. And is it art? Well, anyone can be an artist, and anything the artist "produces" can be thought of as art if that is the artist's intention. Who am I to argue, but I know I wouldn't be even remotely interested in seeing the "work", never mind buying it. Something like this does indeed challenge the theory that art is a pursuit of aesthetic harmony though, and I suppose in that respect it is successful.

There was some further mention of the feminist practice within the Neo Avant-Garde, with Hannah Wilke's Through the Large Glass, a performance and video piece featuring Duchamp's work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Harrison, Kelly and Hunt's sociological study of women in the workplace (lower wages in the workplace and then more work for free when at home). There was also Jo Spence and the Hackney Flashers, similarly focussing on women's contribution to the economy.

The final section of the lecture covered the Artist's Placement Group that sought to put artists into industry, a form of residency, whereby the artist would be paid as a member of the workforce but rather than do the work, they would produce some artwork relevant to the residency. Stuart Brisley produced a somewhat Modernist sculpture from the frames of chairs, but Ian Breakwell's video was cited as being the one that pushed the establishment in the most useful way; the video and accompanying report drove change at the Rampton Institute for the Criminally Insane. A return to the social meaning of the first Avant-Garde.

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Ian Breakwell, The Institution, 1978
from VL 4

In some respects, the Neo Avant-Garde has opened the gateway for some of the more controversial work of those that came after the movement ended in the 70s. I can't help but wonder what the YBA would have been like without the Neo Avant-Grade having gone first - in many respects, they are standing on the shoulders of those who went before. It's the same with previous movements though, with everything building on or reacting to earlier histories in some way. Would Casey Jenkins have done her 28 day knitting performance Casting Off My Womb without some of the earlier mentioned works, such as Kubota's painting having passed first? And where does the K-foundation's burning of £1m figure?

Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers, 1849 (from VL 4)
Paul Cézanne, The Grounds of Chateau Noir, 1900-04 (from VL 4)
Salvador Dali, Rainy Taxi, 1938 (from VL 4)
Mark Rothko, Black and Maroon, 1958 (from VL 4)
Naim June Paik, Zen for Head, 1962 (from VL 4)
Bruce McClean, Pose for Plinths 3, 1971 (from VL 4)
Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975
Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965
Martha Rosler, Cleaning the Drapes, 1967-72
Yves Klein, Anthropemetries, 1962
Ian Breakwell, The Institution, 1978 (from VL 4)

The Neo Avant-Garde - the 1960s and Beyond, Video Lecture 4. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Graham Whitham. Open College of the Arts

Evans, D (ed) 2009.
Appropriation. Whitechapel Gallery. London


Robert Heinecken @ Open Eye

After viewing Warhol and co at the Tate Liverpool, I walked the few hundred metres to the Open Eye, a photography gallery I've visited a number of times since it moved to the Docks a few years ago. They put some really interesting stuff on, and this was no exception, thought provoking and really quite relevant for me at the moment.

I suppose the main component of the exhibition was Robert Heinecken’s
Lessons in Posing Subjects, a rather tongue in cheek selection of images - Polaroids presented in sets of 8 or 10 with accompanying text that describes the posing of the subjects; the right and wrong way of posing models in certain situations - wearing animal print clothing, or hand on hip, etc. As the gallery blurb indicates, the fact that the text is typed gives a degree of didactic authenticity to the work, I feel this is because of the era it hails from, as a modern take on this would lose this to some extent due to the prevalence of easy DTP.

Robert Heineken, Lessons in Posing subjects

As a photographer, I suppose I had a certain expectation these Polaroid images were from commercial shoots, that he had models posing for him in certain ways for each of the images, models responding to the directions to illustrate the points he detailed in the captions ("Removing one fist from the hip and placing it in contact with another part of the body" - from "Fist Errors"), but no. Heinecken isn't a photographer (he called himself a "paraphotographer") and he hasn't. Instead he has used his Polaroid SX-70 camera to re-frame and re-photograph magazine images to decontextualise them from their original consumer purpose to his own, sarcastic and subversive ends.

The work dates from the early 80s, and you can tell. The style of the photographs that have been rephotographed, the clothes being worn, the make-up (where there is a head actually visible), and the theatricality of the poses (some of them at least). Whilst I would have been young at this point, I can still imagine the original works (I have three older sisters too...), the types of magazines they were from, and the version of "America" they would represent. It's all about power-dressing American consumerism, at least that is the major thing I get from them. They correspond to an America I experienced through Hollywood films and the early days of VHS, or maybe that was actually a bit later in the decade but it all blurs now.

At the time they were produced, there was probably something of a feminist backlash too, although maybe this has tempered over time (or maybe not - it's a shame I'll be missing the lecture on feminism, it's something I'm weak on). There's a certain objectification of women on show, although as this is a re-contextualised objectification, there may also be an objection to the original use of the photographs, a form of appellation to the woman reader to look good for her man... Would the fact that Heinecken is parodying this carry any weight with the feminists? Does the fact that he is highlighting the exploitation of women mean he is working in this sphere, or does his overarching style and frequent use of pornographic material in his other work mean that he remains on the "outside"? How does this compare with the work of Sarah Lucas?

In the second room and upstairs is more of his work, now getting more... shall we say “risqué”? Some involves images from "girlie" magazines, fashion magazines and similar, but not in quite the same vein as the "Posing" series, although still as a comment on consumerism. There's collage on show, subverting the main image from lingerie adverts with the inclusion of others from the likes of Hustler to prove a point that "sex sells".

Upstairs, the work returns to Polaroids, but this time I believe they are of "real people" rather than of magazines, he has returned to a more traditional use of the camera... The images are again juxtaposed with text, and through their content they are highly sexualised. There was a video on show too, an interesting insight into the artist and whilst “Lessons” was the main reason for coming, it all added up to an enjoyable and thought inducing visit, and what I would imagine will be a springboard into a deeper look into his work.

After Heinecken, I also went briefly to DaDaFest, but I didn't really connect with what I was seeing. I can't actually remember very much either, so I won't say anything more.


What is Professional Practice?

The last hangout of 2014 was also our first real look at the Personal Practice Plan (P3) and what it will entail. The P3 was described as being akin to an artistic business plan, something in which we would plot out our intended progress for our professional career as an artist. I've already mentioned that I'm not sure it will become my main profession, certainly not in the foreseeable future, but that's not to say I don't want to be successful or otherwise respected for whatever it is that comes out of my camera, so I will of course pay this the attention it deserves.

The first thing to maybe think about (and may have actually appeared earlier too) is the question "what is professional practice?" In the presentation material, Caroline gives some bullet points:

  • Being professional in behaviour, presentation, administration and aesthetics.
  • Encompasses the world of art practice outside the studio.
  • Is something to be enjoyed, engaged with, shared and commented on.
  • Is something where we can find a place and position.
  • Is somewhere we can analyse the paths of other creatives, their galleries, exhibitions, lectures, profile, statements and so one...
  • Is somewhere (a group?) where we can witness and question curatorial practic, contemporary art discourse and debate, etc.

The key thing I'm picking up here is more to do with our interactions with others, how we personally fit into that professional context. It's something I know I'm a little lacking in. I've signed up with groups like Redeye in Manchester, but struggle to make it to their symposiums and the like. Partially this is because of work, partially because of distance and partially it is a certain apathy in that something has to give in order to fit everything in, and it seems to be this sort of thing. I'll make an effort every now and then, a big push for a specific something, but then everything drops off again... I'm not being very "professional" in this respect.

The same also applies to finding local exhibition spaces, or going to galleries and interacting with art (which reminds me, I need to finish off writing up the Heinecken exhibition that I saw after Warhol...).

There's also a repeat of the questions asked during the VL, so it's pointless to go through them again here (
answers), and a list of areas to consider, which includes:

  • Articulating practice
  • Contextual studies
  • Audience and public engagement
  • Navigating opportunities
  • Verbal, visual and written communication
  • Exposition

I guess some form of exposition is the end game here (and it is the focus of the final year of the course), which is all a form of communication and whatnot. I need to start considering thse areas some more...

So what actually is the P3? Well, according to the notes it encompasses:

  • One year, three year and five year plans.
  • Defining my aims.
  • How to achieve these [aims], what can I put in place, how can I maximise the opportunity to achieve my aims?
  • Recognise aims will shift as time passes.
  • Realism, relevance and achievability.

I'm not going to add anything more at this time, I have a lot of other things to consider over th Christmas break, but I will need to start thinking about it soon.

Discussing the gallery context

The hangout following the third video lecture started off with a discussion on the relationship between the curator and the artist, and how the curator appears to have the upper hand in that particular relationship. At least, that certainly appears to be the case with artists on the lower end of the pecking order (the stellar names out there will have a different view on this, I'm sure). It is the curator who chooses what the public need to see, pulling together topical themes and artists in a way that serves their own purpose, perhaps with the curator being paid by the venue and the artist paying for the opportunity to be looked at and chosen to further pay for their prints (or work, I'm thinking photographically here) to be made and framed, transported to the venue and hung... The balance certainly appears to be against the artist, but then with so many artists out there, this will be the case.

We split into groups to discuss various questions. It was down to me, Emma and Alison to discuss audience and destination. The notes from the various groups are provided below, as they were recorded (by Caroline I think) during the hangout. The orange within our section is to provide a little more context into what we were actually talking about.

The art gallery as destination
Different forms of galleries, open house, etc, different ways of interacting with audience,

Trad - gallery.
There's also the smaller and non-traditional galleries beyond the "big names", such as the Tate, that are available. Some are dedicated art places (like Bank Street Arts I exhibited in during July), others are places that art can be seen, such as "arty" cafes, libraries, temporarily repurposed empty shops, outdoor spaces or generally anywhere with a level of footfall.

Open house - more social.
I've never been to, or taken part in, an "open house", when the artist invites people into their working space, often in conjunction with other artists in the area. Personally, I wouldn't like strangers coming into my personal space, but then my "studio" is an upstairs room in my house, and this might be different if I had another space for working in. With such an event, there isa greater level of interaction with the viewer, over a cup of coffee (or glass of wine!); a discussing of the work so that there is certainly something to be gained in terms of feedback.

Diff audience, more interactive.
Some venues provide a wider variety of ways of reaching the works, through the use of technology or just by being otherwise inventive; it's not just about the work hanging on the walls anymore [I discussed something along these lines with the photographer Jim Mortram a little while ago, as there was a level of context thathad been lost when just viewing his portraits in a show - we talked about things like QR codes with links to videos or background stories, etc.]

Education - schools, get young to look at it.
This was something particularly close to Emma's area of interest as a teacher; she was surprised that some people get to their teens without seeing the inside of a gallery. Looking back, this was also the case form me too - there weren't many galleries in Blackpool (The Grundy, next to the library is the one I can remember, maybe there were others. It wasn't really somewhere you would go for a day out though - no cafe or anything! I did take the arts trip to Paris as a thirteen-year old though. And as my parents had friends living in Oxford, I'd been to Pitt Rivers, but remember that more as a museum than a gallery (was there a dinosaur there...)

Gallery may be new experience.

myriad forms of galleries - find what’s right for artist - presents in right way, and connects.
Refer to the above. In addition, Emma spoke of some work with St Clements hospital's psychiatric ward, where the work had a tactile nature and was printed on carpet before hanging on the walls.

What do we mean by audience?
Work with hospital makes audience more of a curator, as they do the work.
This was the work I mentioned above. I'm not sure what was being picked up on with "as they do the work", but the work has to be appropriate and chosen for the patient, so it in that respect the comment was made.

A lot of art seen on the internet, so that changes the audience.
The Internet audience is many things. It is the widest audience we can possibly imagine, pretty much everyone is a possible viewer, and they will make decisions to move on, to engage, to reblog, or "like" something within very short timescales. If this is the desired audience, then you have to be "socially aware" to make the most of it.

The ‘aura’ disappears too. Or is different. Not the same presence online.
The "aura" being referred to is that which Walter Benjamin wrote about ("...age of mechanical reproduction." essay), and that John Berge further disucssed in his "Ways of Seeing" series of essays and TV programmes. Benjamin talks of "The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition,", however we now have very different traditions, and are now producing work in a "Post Internet" age, there is a new tradition starting... What we were talking about though is how a photograph on an iPad is not the same as a photograph on a wall, or a sculpture or a painting. You lose certain subtleties, such as brush strokes, the makers movements on the material or even something in the difference between a back-lit media and printed media.

Attention span of audience on internet. Short.
The nature of the modern audience, especially on the Internet, is that we are becoming used to "now". We no longer have to visit a reference library for information, all information is on the Internet (well, all information you would find in a reference library anyway, and lots more beside). Similarly, if we want to see an image by so-and-so, we Google it and it's instant gratification. How many times have we given up looking for something if it's not on the first page or two of search results? Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Well, I actually think it's just a "thing" and to be more successful we will need to adapt - survival of the "fittest" is not a new phenomenon.

Limited by small site. erm...

Most artists leave the work to the viewers to interpret
This comment will have been made in response to some discussion on the death of the author I guess. As an artist, we put our work "out there", together with maybe an artists statement for context and people will make of it what they will. Short of using strong clichés and heavy signifiers, we can not force the viewer to buy into our intentions. We can guide, but that's about it...

The art has a life of its own

Is the viewer seen as an interactor that completes the exchange of ideas between the artist, the art and the public space or do they perform a different role?
interactor as a receiver. sometimes they are ask to finish the piece (move things, move around an installation, etc) and sometimes they are just viewers of an image.
receiver of the idea of the artist, sometimes they will finish the piece... as they walk around.
most artists leave their work to the viewers to make their own interpretations an artists perspective can be v different from the viewers
Some artists create work for viewer and some galleries direct artists to
make work in a way that sells - to survive
A painting can be an object with its own reality however viewer can also
make a connection with the work/me - artwork can also take on a whole new sequence, artist and viewer unified emotionally and intellectually

What about contextual requirements for a work, what control do we have as artists over our work in the public domain?
you have no control once a work is out, unless you are in the gallery next to your piece of work otherwise we are all from different cultures so there will be different perspectives - maybe this is a positive thing, learning from others, others seeing your pieces
Once artwork is out there and displayed we, as artists have very little control, the art has a life of its own
We have very little control and If I were doing something I would make detailed notes how something was to be hung/displayed - and with links to my website so a curator could see the rationale
Good that different curators can take works and do interesting things with it and artists might get more out of it than less
artist has no control over artwork once it is displayed
Space in which the art is viewed is v important, a context, interpretation can be altered by context, don’t show work is space is unsuitable

Is it necessary to make a career out of our art practice and if so why?
A lot of artists might have a day job and a career as an artist might need to be supplemented, earnings wise
Celebrities - eg Bono, Annie Lennox, sometimes make visual art as a sideline, using celebrity status to inflate selling prices
In Germany there is a career path that is very bureaucratic, you need to have a paper from the academy to enable you to get insurance. you are taught by a master artist at the academy - you can be a tandem (?) in the south so you are accompanied by an artist as a mentor, to support you and help you to develop - a typical German way.
We have chance in most countries - in Germany you have a system
Selection for the academy then gives you a stamp of authority if you are chosen to be taught by a Master. For foreigners in Germany if you are well known on the art world then curators will select your work, e.g. juried shows. No prizes after 50 years of age !
Artist world is like a shark pool

What does success look like for an artist?
depends on where you are in your career Doing it for yourself
selling a painting
To gain respect as an artist
To have a name that is recognised
To have a network
Having a job as a photographer means I have success but for me personally it is different
Living the dream - to support yourself doing what you want to do
Being thankful and grateful for an exhibition and for selling a painting Grateful for someone looking at your work?
Grateful for someone liking your work?
You are doing your work for yourself... There is no ‘audience of one’
How do we manage knock backs?
a real artist is not successful in his lifetime
Is it for a journalist to say what success is anyway?

VL 3 : Exposition and Context (iv)

The final section of the lecture is focused on periodic exhibition venues and prizes:

Venice Biennale

Started in 1895 and takes place (as the name suggests) every other year.
Features avant-garde art.

Frieze Art Fair
Takes place in October every year.
Sponsored event, currently by Deutsche Bank (which begs the question why is a German bank sponsoring a London event?)
Features talks, education, curated elements.
Also many galleries in attendance; this is a commercial snapshot of contemporary art, so there is a focus on selling artworks.

Turner Prize
Awarded to an artist presenting an outstanding body of work during the previous year.
Provokes a lot of debate - the winning art is usually "challenging" in some way.
The prize is sponsored, attracts TV coverage and can promote a "celebrity" image for the artist.

John Moores Painting Prize
Biennial prize coinciding with the Liverpool Biennial.

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)

VL 3 : Exposition and Context (iii)

Beyond the gallery
The video lecture also explored opportunities outside the traditional gallery context:

Guerrilla Girls
Used newspaper, the Internet, site specific and viral campaigns.

Guerrilla Girls, 1985-90

Marc Quinn
Work displayed on the 4th Plinth
Seen as controversial, questioning "what is art?"
Provides political and social comment on motherhood and disability.

Marc Quinn, Alison Lapper, 2005

Maggi Hambling
Public work "Scallop" on display on Aldeburgh beach.
Was it wanted? The use of public space was not completely accepted, but has tempered over time and is now seen as a landmark.

Maggi Hambling, Scallop, 2003

Robert Smithson
His large scale earthworks "Spiral Jetty" can't really be seen from the ground.
If it can only really be seen in full from the air, what is the intended audience?
What is the intention with the work?

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970

Andy Goldsworthy

Temporary work such as "Icicles" is photographed before it melts.
Is then the work the original sculpture or the photographs of the sculpture, or are the photographs purely a record? (noting, he produces a lot of books...)

Andy Goldsworthy, Ice Star, 1987

Franko B

Uses the body as the medium for his art.
By looking on as he makes his "performance", bleeding from his arms as in "O Lover Boy", are we complicit in the self-harm?
How does something affect the viewer as voyeur?

Franko B, Oh Lover Boy, 2001

Antony Gormley
Angel of the North has become a landmark and is much loved by the locals.

Antony Gormley, Angel of the North, 1994-98

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)
Franko B's website - www.franko-b.com (accessed 22/12/14)
Government Art Collection website - www.gac.culture.gov.uk (accessed 22/12/14)
Guerrilla Girls website - www.guerrillagirls.com (accessed 22/12/14)
Wikipedia - http://.en.wikipedia.org (accessed 22/12/14)


VL 3 : Exposition and Context (ii)

Beyond the questions posed and responded to in the previous posting, the lecture also delved into the nature of the gallery. I'm going to put this forward as a series of bullets at the moment as there's a lot of ground to cover and I feel like I'm slipping behind - maybe I'll come back later and look at specific points in more detail, but at least writing it down here is a start.
  • What purpose does the gallery serve in this day and age? Is it for entertainment or education? Edutainment? Does it have to be one or the other? Will one mans entertainment be another’s education?
  • It was stated that the gallery will mediate art from within its original context, narrative and frame (as opposed to something like the Internet, where these things will, in all likelihood, become divorced from the work).

The video went on to look at specific institutions...

National Gallery (London)
  • A temple to the arts.
  • An impressive building that states the value placed on the arts - a national symbol of culture, wealth and status.

Tate Modern (London)
  • Reflects the considerable status of modern art.
  • A symbol of commercial (rather than national) wealth, with the Tate family and their sugar fortune being the benefactors.
  • It can be both a personal and collective experience.
  • Features everything you need for a "day out" experience - cafe, dining, members room, gift shop, books, etc. And of course there's the galleries...
  • Attending the venue shows we give ourselves a certain status.

  • Again, another status symbol, this time from a much earlier time (1939), which wasn't a period associated with the artistic "day out", so can be considered a social instigator.

Guggenheim (NY)
  • A purpose built centre to draw people in from the outside.
  • Space designed for the presentation of the arts.

Guggenheim (Bilbao)
  • Reflects Bilbao's industrial heritage whilst still following in the footsteps of the New York gallery.
  • very much a symbol of wealth and prestige (something of a trend emerging...)

Louvre (Paris)

  • A building full of history, grandeur and opulence.
  • The hanging style is very different from other places, a lot of art hung in very close proximity to each other, whilst also competing with the building itself.

Musée d'Orsay (Paris)
  • A converted railway station.
  • Holds mainly French art from the Impressionist collection of the Louvre. (Note - wikipedia states they're from the Jeu de Paume prior to 1986)

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (Norwich)
  • Purpose built for the display of visual arts.
  • Attached to the University of East Anglia, whose courses reflect this.
  • Features curated pathways through the displayed Sainsbury's collection, rather than specifically curated exhibitions.

Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford)

  • The work comes from a somewhat random personal collection.
  • Arranged to reflect the locality, rather than other connections between the artefacts on show.

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)

VL 3 : Exposition and Context (i)

The third video lecture sees Caroline come in for in for a change, talking about the context for our work. She asks a number of questions, which I will try to address below, before going on to talk about places to see work, from the gallery to site specific work (part ii of this post).

The questions were as follows:

Why do I want to make this (being an artist) a career?
Well, a career might actually be a little on the strong side. I personally doubt that it would become my career as I seem to be doing alright as an engineer. However, I don't get a huge amount of creative satisfaction from that line of work (more on this later), but it pays the bills, which means I can do what I want to do with my photography without having to worry about pleasing a client or producing something to fill a market need.

Having said all that, if it were to become something that could fulfil that role, then great!! How it would do that, I've no idea really.

What are my reasons for doing it?
Well, creative satisfaction is the main reason. Working outside of the strict rules and procedures of engineering is hugely liberating, it allows me to think differently, not having to worry about whether a particular option is "safe", or whether something might be provable, whether evidence can be found to support a particular route of action. There is something to be said for having an idea about something and working through it, seeing if it works or not, using the camera to ask questions of myself and of others. Admittedly, it doesn't always come off, but sometimes I do produce things I'm happy with.

What are my needs?
As might be gathered from the above, on the first level I want to produce something that gives me satisfaction, that helps me work out things in my head in a visual way. It might be argued then that photography is a form of tool for me, a visual "calculator".

It's also feeding my desire to make images. Long ago I decided in my own mind I wasn't really good enough to create images using paint or pencils ("decidedly average" comes to mind), so photography provides the means that I can use to explore things visually. Yes, it's a different language that is used, but that 's ok... I've liked photography for a long time anyway, even if the style of what I have liked has changed over the years (once, it had to be black and white...)

In terms of fame and fortune (part of the original question), it's not a huge driver for me. I'd be foolish to say that I would not like either, who wouldn't like an extra source of income and some level of recognition? However, it's not what I specifically do it for - aside from a few hundred quid here and there, I've never really made anything, and it certainly doesn't cover my costs! And as for the recognition, I tend to do everything under a pseudonym anyway... The limelight makes me feel uncomfortable, although that's not to say I don't have an ego that needs feeding occasionally. What will come, will come, but essentially I would see that as a bonus.

What does my practice constitute?
Photography... although not what the layman might identify with in that I don't look to do portraits, or chocolate box landscapes, etc. Mostly I suppose the work will be in series, that the images juxtapose with each other (or something else in some cases) to create something "extra".

Where am I currently positioned?
Hmmm... aside from on a sofa in France... seriously though, I'm not sure I really know. I'm a photographer, and I photograph what I want. Part of the reason for doing this MA (and not a photography MA) is to se if I can find out where I'm positioned in the wider art context.

What would I like to be in a few years time?
Still doing what I want to be doing, and if other people like that too it will be a bonus. I'd also like to be more aware of what I'm doing, where I'm going with my work (and why). I do sometimes wonder why all my work varies so much, so I'd either like to be in a position that I'm relaxed with that, or I've sorted myself out so that I'm more consistent.

What is a "professional context" for an artist?
The professional artist works in some way. If you look at the so-called art photographer, as opposed to the more commercial types, then in addition to print sales, there will be books, residencies, working with communities and teaching. Even some of the bigger names teach and take on other jobs - I'm thinking those like Stephen Shore here too, who is a director of photography at Bard College. There are many who supplement their direct art income in this way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's whatever "fits".

I said earlier that I don't have to work at being an artist in order to survive, so does that take me away from being a "professional"? In terms of money flow, everything seems to be an outwards flow - I pay to exhibit, pay to have my work seen, pay to receive feedback. Not many people are paying me for my art (one or two only).

What is success?
A wide ranging question, with answers ranging from being recognised by peers, to a wider audience, to making sales of existing work of one type or another, to having people wanting to commission the work or the worker for something.

Or it could simply be making the work. For me, this is where I am I suppose as not many people really see my work. The next step would be to widen my audience.

What it the right setting for my work
The main setting for my work is currently the Internet. Whether this is the "right" setting is another matter, but I suppose in some ways it does play to the sort of work I'm currently producing (the appropriation work that is
Some Unholy War). I do like to think it will move on from there though, and I'll see more of my work seen in a more physical form, whether on a gallery wall or in a book. A gallery would not really need to be some national institution such as the Tate Modern or MoMA, a smaller local gallery would be more than acceptable. The same with books; I'd be perfectly happy to see work on a small scale such as those produced by Cafe Royal Books or The Velvet Cell, or even a bespoke personally produced piece (which I've already done) rather than a mass produced one by Steidl or Dewis Lewis.

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)

Task 2 : F3 feedback notes

Too much time has passed between the group crit and me writing this, too much has happened outside of the course and things are beginning to get a bit hazy. Others have said it before, but it’s really difficult to talk about the work, answer verbal questions, answer written questions, think, respond, talk some more and write down any sort of note to serve as an aide memoire for writing something meaningful at the end. Luckily, I got a grab of the comments, and I’ve also had some feedback via e-mail.

I’ve already posted the chatbox notes, but here I will respond to those that I think need to be responded to in some way.

It’s interesting how you extend the narrative of the photo sequences with text. Have you considered making the prints unique and more intimate with handwriting – just like Duane Michals does with his photo sequences?

Have I thought about handwriting? Not at all!!

At the time the comment was made, the name didn’t really register with me, but on checking on Google I have seen the work before somewhere. There’s a number of others that come to mind when I think of this sort of thing, not least is Robert Heineken who hand annotated some of his Polaroid sequences (I saw his work in Liverpool recently). Does it make a big difference if the lyrics are handwritten? My first thought is that it would be very difficult for me to come up with something that I was truly happy with. I’d struggle to make it centred, would the characters be the same height, would the line droop near the end…? I would probably try to make the handwriting so “precise” that it would lose the purpose of being handwritten.

I also see these. as being quite large images when printed (which is the reason for one of my questions), so how does this then relate to handwriting? Would it be brush painted? Sprayed? I feel like I would lose control a bit – I guess I’m a photographer working digitally for a reason… Which, with reflection, is a strange thing to say as these images are entirely down to chance!

Rob, I’d like to see more experimentation -maybe hadn 
[HAND] colour the photos in some way – over print them? Add sound?

I  suppose this is then also related to the last point too. To working digitally and degrees of control. The images are all manipulated in some way digitally, and years of not using my hands artistically is maybe crippling my confidence somewhat. There’s also an issue of space; I live in a small two bedroomed cottage, and until that lottery win comes in, there’s no space for a studio to have these things printed and then made available to layer in some way by hand. Perhaps interesting, once I’d gotten over the trepidation, but impractical and not really me either. I mentioned in the talker to the slides that this was a big deviation for me, and that my work is normally much “straighter” (as below), this is perhaps an interesting diversion for me, but I suspect I will return to my normal photography at some point.

Sword Beach

As for sound? Maybe it would be an option, but then what? If I think about video, then there’s maybe a need for sound. It might also be included in a gallery context too. Would it be songs? Would it be war? Would including the sound push something too far one way or the other? Something to think about, but…

be really interesting to exhibit these on 48 sheets
or printed and posted on walls/boards in cities

I didn’t know what this meant (48 sheets), but a quick Google and I believe it refers to billboards… Yes, I was thinking large scale prints anyway (over a metre) so maybe… Yes, I think it would actually work like that. I’d like to see it…However… It’s not cheap to get it done in – a billboard is about £700/m and about £200 for the printing. A single board wouldn’t really work either. My pockets aren’t that deep!! Something a bit smaller then – back to my 1m gallery prints perhaps?

slide 3 has horizontal lines that seem to refer to the TV screen…seems important???

This image includes a screen within the feel – the superimposed face of a drone controller and the targeting screen he was looking at (with reticule). Yes, it’s hard to miss the relationship between the controller (actor) looking and the viewer looking. There’s a degree of appellation going on I suppose, or is it just that by watching we become complicit in the actions, or at least accepting of it? Of course, each viewer will have their own take on this.

Transfer letters….old school, rubbed onto the photographs?

I’d thought about Letraset on the glass of the framed print, so that the lettering floats above the image, even if only slightly.

or those stencil lettering
look great in the street

Related to the Letraset – I suppose it depends on scale… (so see above!)

as a comic book type of presentation

The previous work for Task 1 was loosely comic based, but not necessarily formatted that way. I wanted to move away from it with this main thrust of the project…

Looking at the e-mail comments I’ve received:

had a brief thought about some of your lyrics- knowing most of the songs(!) they began to run through my head and some felt more ‘right’ with the images that others- meaning that i thought the music went with them or not.Bauhaus – yes- Blondie – no! I don’t know whether this could be another layer, maybe a hidden one- except for those who know the music- maybe even using weirdly inappropriate music that has a great lyric- (if there is such a thing) to set up a confusing dynamic between words, music and image.

I agree with the Blondie one, but it was something I thought I needed to try to get the idea of what I thought was appropriate. Weirdly inappropriate music – would that include Kylie? The strangeness perhaps comes here only once you realise the source.

Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Can’t get you out of my head, by Kylie Minogue

What about lines from army songs- marching songs or battle hymns?

I think this would then deviate from my thoughts of “entertainment”, so whilst “this is for fighting, this is for fun” (from Full Metal Jacket) might fit in thematically, it’s too far removed from my idea.

back to lyrics- the longer words like this one  All and Everyone, by PJ Harvey give  a different feel – more like an explanation I don’t really have a preference either way- tossing it back to you Rob!

I’m favouring the single lines at the moment…

What do you like- a little ambiguity? something more related to the scene? Is the actual music important or just the words? Do you want to expand beyond song lyrics to poetry or news reports or other words or is it important that it’s lyrics – and especially ones that you like  a lot (and show your age!!!!) What about that – lots of 40 somethings will know these lyrics is it better to stick to that generation or do you want to mix it up- what about different music genres- you got any  rap/hip hop in there?

At the moment it’s about the “entertainment” element. I had thought about leaving the films and into news footage or even promo video for military hardware, this would then blur the real/fake element which is part of what my initial thoughts were, but takes a step away from the entertainment element, but then it’s all part of “spectacle” so maybe I should? I might try it and see how things slot in together…

As for music style… no rap/hip hop at the moment (I don’t think), but there’s differing styles of music, from dance (The Prodigy), to industrial (NIN and KMFDM) and goth (Sisters of Mercy) to pop (Kylie). Lots of British indie stuff too, with The Smiths, PJ and The Wedding Present. Sixties music from The Beatles, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. Elton John, The Sex Pistols, Queen and Bowie… Should it be a more select list? I don’t know.

My view on rap/hip hop is that it’s all about “Get out, cock the hammer, then kick down the door” (Cypress Hill, A to the K). OK, ok, I know I’m not familiar with the scene, but that makes it harder to work with… and I’m already confused.

For me the outstanding image was the haunting green soldier with the powerful Cohen lyrics.  I preferred the independent, rather than blocked writing, which I found distracting, and feel that  the presentation of the words is key to how you move forward.

There is a connection with the words of Cohen (from The Partisan, a song about war) and the image, so the two reinforce each other. I’m still slightly torn, but coming to think that this is the right way to go… Not overtly about conflict, but not obviously trivially not about it either (like the use of Blondie Tanya mentioned).

The presentation of the words is fairly key,and I need to sort this out before the work can be resolved in any way. The intention with the blocking was to remove distraction (from the background), so it interesting to hear that it causes distraction in itself. I’m coming back around to not having the blocking (white or black) in there and just sticking with the text, although there are still a large number of variables to think about.

Having sat thru the various videos and slide presentations for the Turner Prize, I felt FFF could easily have been another contender.

It’s really good to hear that the work is being positively received as I do have my doubts about it…

I was comforted by your confusion, it helped put mine in perspective.

Similarly it helps to hear others are also confused. None of us are alone in our confusion…

“If you could let me know which of the lyric styles you prefer (and why?) on mine I’d much appreciate”Its hard to say Rob!  I was asking a few questions of you as for me that is the way I’d start to decide on how I wanted things…do I want the viewer to know its from films, does it matter its filmic representations, or is it more important its conflict representations.  What does having the lyrics add to the images, is it important people may recognise the lyrics, or is it more important that they don’t.  Do the lyrics mean to veil or conceal the conflict or are they there to elucidate on some aspect of it etc, if only the senselessness.   So if it was me I’d decide conceptually based on what I thought I was doing with them

Is it important that they’re films…? At the moment I think it’s not really important the viewer realises that they’re films, but it is important that they are. The way I think the work is seen by the wider audience (accepting that it’s not being widely seen by anyone – it’s on a few sites but with limited audience), the images will be thought of as a form of entertainment in themselves – almost comic book art which in itself almost promotes the entertainment value of conflict. We are looking at them and not with a documentary eye. The lyrics are adding to that “pop culture” element of the work. I guess I want people to “enjoy” the work, and then almost to feel guilty for doing so as a realisation dawns…

They will then question what it is they have enjoyed. To think about what the war film represents – a celebration of killing each other for what are often strange ideals on behalf of what is usually the aggressor (politics, religion, whatever…) I think the purpose of the lyrics is to add to what is being thought about. Add to the confusion that might ensue, and it’s probably this in itself that is causing me so much confusion as I create the work.

Stuart Whipps – I suddenly thought of him, he’s a local photographer working quite internationally it seems these days, I went to one of his exhibitions on Wales and the picturesque versus reality, in which his images were accompanied by a recording of people making enunciations (of not particularly relevant things) in Welsh.  Which was deliberately that no-one could understand as we were in Birmingham!  It was partly about the way that non-local people have no understanding of a local context I think.  There was a translation available and it talked of historic events, welshness vs English overlordness….etc etc

But it reminded me of your work in the way there is not necessarily a feeling of ‘sense’ for a viewer but there is an underlying conceptual reason for the presence of the words.

I’ll look into this – not had a chance yet.

So for me if I was you (and this is just me and I think its possible I am just very very weird about this stuff) I would be asking myself why I was doing the lyrics, over and above the juxtaposition and fracture.  And I would decide in the end on how I felt in my gut about it regardless of anyone elses view!For me overall there is something about film, something about how conflict is portrayed on film, and that we watch it as entertainment.  So the lyrics might draw our attention to what we are doing in some way.  Another way I guess is to have a musical soundtrack that makes no ‘sense’ with the images.  Maybe there’s something about how film is immersive that might need to be there, and a soundtrack would also have an immersive quality that is not there so much with stills which are more contemplative.

Things to think about… (too many things to think about, although maybe now I have the realisation the confusion is self induced….)

I like the words: there´s a club if you´d like to go” most – there is a connection between these words and the soldier – for me. What do think about writting yourself a Haiku. Links to your loved Asian photographers…

A haiku would indeed relate to my other interests, and would be appropriate to the intention of the juxtaposition, but it then moves away from my original ideas. Is it too great a leap sideways? Can haiku be written in English? How does the flow of on relate? Is it to syllables? To words? Would it be in some way similar to using a verse from a song? Perhaps it should form something of a future project.

You could present the photos as well in addition with spoken words….. wirtten, without the white blog behind…..or present them as a projection onto the walls going around and sounds – words coming from anywhere – this would be a deep impact to the viewer.

Hmmm…. The images started off without words (which have always been added afterwards – never as an intended pairing from the start). Maybe the images could be just that and somehow work out a way for projecting words around the gallery… Something more to think about. Actually, there is so much to think about….

Have seen such an installation  in Stuttgart: artist Peter Kogler

As well Rebecca Horn did this in Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, with words…  


Warhol @ The Tate

A rare day to look around galleries in Liverpool took me to the Tate, Open Eye Gallery and The Bluecoat. Fitting three galleries in was always going to be dangerous, especially on my own, as there would be a danger of image fatigue setting in. There’s also the lack of people to bounce thoughts back from; see something, comment, response, new train of thought….

Warhol was first and walking through the door I was confronted with both the familiar and the unfamiliar. There was Monroe, there was soup and Brillo boxes, and there was some dance steps and other things.
Dance Diagram, 1962 on the floor as you walk in was something I hadn’t seen before, or at least not remembered seeing before. The transference from the (almost) everyday item to art is classic Warhol ideology, and whilst these dance steps maybe a thing of the past, here is a snippet of one preserved as art. Maybe the obscurity of this source material on the truly contemporary stage diminishes it somewhat, or maybe it’s just my view on things, but this wasn’t that interesting for me, thankfully there was more.

A lot could be said about the well known works, I’ve already mentioned the Campbell soup tins, of which there was a selection, the Brillo boxes and, of course, the iconic portrait series of Marilyn Monroe. A pleasure to see for real (although I’d already seen some a few years ago – MoMA I think) but a suppose a certain familiarity with them meant I felt an urge to look at some of the other things. Electric Chair was far more intriguing. It was new to me, and it made me think about my own work.

Andy Warhol. Electric Chair, 1971 [screen print on paper]

As might be expected, there was a series of these images too, the same but in different colours. The repetition of the images might be thought of as desensitising the viewer to the subject matter, much as the constant flood of media in general can do, and the colours, do they serve to mask the subject matter? (an instrument of death at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York State) Perhaps the purple version above is still quite dark, but the yellow? I’m undecided on this, but it did resonate with me in terms of some of my own work on the war films, the colours they have are, in some instances, quite ‘pleasing” which can work in contrast to the subject matter.

Other work triggered thoughts. A pair of images of snub-nosed revolvers (
Gun, 1981) also triggered (groan) thoughts of my own work, with the images overlapping / out of register being visually similar in some ways to the movement blur I’ve been capturing. Am I moving towards Pop Art with this current project? Maybe I am, I’ve bought a book about the subject from the gallery shop…

The next room was noisy, too many people, all chatting and I couldn’t hear the various videos and whatnot. Off to the other annex of the exhibition and an artist I hadn’t actually heard of but I did know some of her work; Gretchen Bender worked with video, some of which as I say, I knew (REM for a start). There wasn’t a lot here, but it was definitely worth the look, and in many respects brought me back to the video I watched on Sonic Outlaws

Gretchen Bender

After sitting and watching the multi screen presentation (above), I moved back in to Warhol, and his large video room and The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Now this I really liked – wrap around video, music from Velvet Underground and really quite immersive. The video from YouTube doesn’t come across as the same thing – the audio is shocking (it wasn’t at the Tate), an you really don’t get the same feeling of being in the middle. No-one was dancing at the Tate either.


This was worth the admission on its own.


Task 2 : F3 feedback

Here’s the discussion from F3. Still need to get my thoughts in order, and I’ve had a few e-mails as well, but this is a starter for 10…

It’s interesting how you extend the narrative of the photo sequences with text.Have you considered making the prints unique and more intimate with handwriting – just like Duane Michals does with his photo sequences?

Rob, I’d like to see more experimentation -maybe hadn
[HAND] colour the photos in some way – over print them? Add sound?

be really interesting to exhibit these on 48 sheets

i agree to emma

or printed and posted on walls/boards in cities





Slide 9 (green) really works for me, and as suggested perhaps hand writing.

slide 3 has horizontal lines that seem to refer to the TV screen…seems important???

Transfer letters….old school, rubbed onto the photographs?

or those stencil lettering
look great in the street

as a comic book type of presentation

Your work felt like a Turner prize entry to me.

Rob – suuuuch dramatic images – truly moving…..

I love the energy in them Rob!

Thank you

Very emotional images

its very strong work Rob

Les Bicknell

The visiting lecturer, Les Bicknell, brought a monster slide presentation. 146 slides in total. Professionally speaking (and I mean as an engineer) this is dangerous; in the investigation into the death of the crew of a Nimrod aircraft over Afghanistan, powerpoint overload was listed as a contributing factor. Show people too many slides and they will drift off and not pay the right level of attention. They will miss things. Now, I know there is a world of difference between aircraft safety and the arts - people don't usually die if you drift off during a presentation about art. I'll hold my hand up and admit that, on occasion during the 2 hours of Les' presentation, I did begin to drift off, thinking about how earlier slides might apply to me, reactions to this, that and the other. Les did keep bringing me back in though, so not too much of a problem I think.

The thrust of the presentation was twofold, both being related to research within your practice. On the one hand he gave some clues as to the nature of research: asking yourself questions such as "what do you like doing?" or "who is your audience?", your contextual framework, relationships to practice and the iterative ways of working that we will all go through, consciously or sub-consciously. On the other hand (the other "thrust") he also spoke about "bookness" and how that has worked itself into his practice.

Because I treat my art as a way of escaping from the regimental side of my work life, I do get deflated when I see art reduced to a process. Yes, I know that in reality we go through these processes, these iterations of the work before coming to the end product, seeing it described as a process is disheartening. Still, Les had some good ideas about working out what it is you do, and this is something I will have a go at these things soon (something for the Christmas break perhaps?).

Bookness is something else altogether.

Bookness (From Les' slides)

This sounds fairly straightforward, there's hardbacks, paperbacks and even e-books... made of paper pages or similar, bound together in some way so that they are read sequentially. Actually, bookness doesn't really have much to do with that, well, it does as an absolute starting point, but it keeps on going beyond the logical and into the... realms of fantasy? The roof of a house has "bookness" in that the shape looks like the cover of a half open book

Roof (from Les' slides)

If the roof is the book cover, then the walls, the bricks, the rooms are the pages, and yes, all will tell a story of some sort. Calling this "fantasy" is a bit harsh, there is some form of fantastical logic about his train of thought though, with ploughed fields displaying bookness (the furrows being like the pages of the book), or anything displaying text being akin to a book, or... or... or...... There were times when this was reigned in though, when comparing a sculpture to a book, he was told by it's creator it was a sculpture, not a book. You can't win them all...

Personally, this sort of thing isn't for me, although I do understand the nature of interconnectedness and relationships, etc. Of how one thing can lead to another. Having said that (and I do believe I'm too logical for it), I do like surrealism - am I actually to logical for that too? Whatever. I'm afraid I haven't taken a great deal from this one as for as bookness goes, although maybe the research section might prove to be of use once I get around to working through some of his questions to ask ourselves.


Task 2 : F3 - just some more...

Image: Enemy at the Gates
Lyric: I bet you look good on the dance floor, by Arctic Monkeys

Image: A Bridge Too Far
Lyric: How soon is now? by The Smiths

Image: Our World War
Lyric: The passion of lovers, by Bauhaus

Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: Psycho Killer, by Talking Heads

Image: Full Metal Jacket
Lyric: Hanging on the telephone, by Blondie

Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: A forest, by The Cure

(images used for educational purposes)


Task 2 : F3 - more versions, some thoughts and stuff

I’ve been posting various images and trials (but not all of them) within the OCA Flickr group forum in order to get some feedback. There’s been some things said that have helped, some that have made me think some more and others just pointing things out.

Firstly, here are some more versions, back to “testing” I suppose, or maybe it’s “sampling”… I’m not really sure.

Image: A Bridge Too Far
Lyric: All and Everyone, by PJ Harvey

Lyric: Ribbons, by The Sisters of Mercy

Lyric: Some Kind of Stranger, by The Sisters of Mercy

Lyric: Miserable Lie, by The Smiths

Lyric: Birds, by Electrelane

Lyric: In the Dark Places, by PJ Harvey

Lyric: Ziggy Stardust, by David Bowie

Lyric: The Partisan, by Leonard Cohen

Lyric: The Charge, by New Model Army

Lyric: White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane

(images used for educational purposes)

OK, so here I’ve been playing a little with the length of the snippet and font size, therefore the size of the white box, even trying that white box as a black box, the opacity and again flitting back to red text. Some of the lyrics are more obviously war-centric whilst others aren’t. Some are deliberately love oriented, others simply obscure.

So, for me, what works? Well, without referring to any sort of idea of what I was hopping to achieve, on a visual level, I think a single line of text is better. I also prefer the idea of the lyrics not being directly related to conflict, those that are read a little bit more like a caption and less thought is required to process the coupling. Black text on white is possibly better too, I think the white background, semi-transparent though it is, helps with legibility as in earlier trials I’ve had to choose lyric length to suit the image elements in terms of light and dark, rather than content (I know here the specific content has not been particularly considered).

From various comments that have come back from Flickr – the first one relates to the last image, above. “remember what the door mouse said” was the copied from the Metro Lyrics website, whereas Anne pointed out it’s a “dormouse”, which is indeed what it was called on another website (AZlyrics). Oldie Lyrics claimed the line was “remember what the
doorknob said”. Now that really doesn’t make sense, even in the drug fuelled world of Jefferson Airplane or Alice’s Wonderland. Care needs to be taken to ensure the lyrics are correct, otherwise it all begins to fall down.

Film: The Battle of Warsaw
Lyric: Peace Frog, by The Doors


(images used for educational purposes)

With these two images there was some interesting thoughts posted. The mix of black and white image with red text was thought to be visually interesting, but without recourse to any intentions (Dewald). Another thought from Anne, especially with the lyrical reference to “the streets” was that this began to be more like a police drama than a war film – the hint of khaki was needed to be sure that it felt like conflict rather than crime.

Image: Saving Private Ryan
Lyric: Ribbons, by The Sisters of Mercy

(images used for educational purposes)

Stephanie gave the following comment about the above image from Saving Private Ryan.

I really like the contrast between the images and the world here.

It is difficult to read, on purpose?

Just a thought: the text works here for me, strangely, as the projection of the viewer’s thoughts thinking about something else while watching a movie – rather than illustrating the thoughts of the character in the movie. You know, how your thoughts are drifting away from what your eyes are looking at sometimes. One thing growing with this set, from my perspective, is that with the number of images you are taking, you are more and more present in the set. I imagine you watching hours of movie with your camera, looking for something and these lyrics on these images are one more screen distancing you from the subject represented. 

Image: Brotherhood
Lyrics: Firestarter, by Prodigy

And again, Stephanie on the above:

I really like the lyrics you used in relation with the last 3 images, there is a difference with the previous one, they are angry, and they sound like music. They are more raw than the previous, more poetic ones, closer to the frustration one can have in front of war images. 

It makes me want to scream the lyrics, I feel restless now rather than contemplative. You triggered something.
So, some food for thought – more trials to undoubtedly follow.


Task 2 : F3 - More... thoughts... and more photographs

I’ve created a few more image/word combinations for Form, Frame, Fracture, building on something that was posted the other day. These trials are within what Les Bicknell would have termed the “sampling” phase (something from his lecture, more on which will follow once I’ve put T2 to bed, but see below). I’m still trying to work out what I want from this, so I’m still some distance from the “designing” phase, and I actually may need to go back around the buoy to the “research” and “testing” phases, but we will see.

Les’ phases of making

This time, I’m working with the images I have rather than going and finding new images (I will do more of this as we work through the year), and I’m just trying to work out how they feel together, unified in style of text, even though I’m not fully sure as to what that text should be. Should they be short snippets? Should they be obscure? (acknowledging that unless you recognise them for what they are, they will be regardless) Should they be more didactic and drive home a point? Should they be somehow violent in themselves, to mirror the violence of the war they are “covering”? Should they be completely opposite, softer and perhaps more feminine to offset a perceived masculinity of war? (and yes, I do appreciate it is not a purely male-oriented pursuit)

I suppose what I am trying to work out is what I am trying to say. What is the reason for creating these images? What is it for? And what do I want from it? (more questions from Les’ lecture)

Whilst I’ve thought long and hard about these questions over the last few months (well, the first three anyway), I’ve not thought about this particular version of the answer; whilst it will be informed by that thinking, what I will write below is somewhat off the cuff. I feel I need to do this as if I (over)think, I end up tying myself in knots. I might still do…

I’m not actually sure I’m trying to 
say anything, not in a direct sense. I’m asking myself questions though, and also putting those questions “out there” for others to contemplate, or not. The catalyst for starting the work was a combination of seeing media coverage of actual conflict on the television, my own relationship to that conflict, and how that conflict gets turned around, rehashed and presented as entertainment. War films are hugely popular and I will hold my hand up to admitting enjoying them myself. I’m part of the conundrum I’m trying to resolve in more ways than one.

I’m also interested in how both film and documentary come together as spectacle, sometimes even blurring, with films sometimes shot docu-style, with handicams and whatnot, I suppose this is related to using Hipsta-style apps for shooting
documentary photographs of war but working in a contra-direction. War is sometimes being packaged into something… easy to digest. Familiar. Acceptable. Sure, there’s the so called “War Porn” of Christoph Bangert and the likes, with work far more visceral and subject to censorship, and which is also presented for consideration by the viewer as documentary, not art (although, how is the current Tate exhibition to be considered?). And yes, this brutality and carnage will spill over into the more hardcore cinematic realms. Where do the real and un-real crossover? Where does it all become entertaining? Is it fetishised? Commoditised? (a slightly different direction, but one that might be worthwhile taking a look at – see adverts for the RAF here or BAE Systems here, and there will be others to consider too). I suppose it’s about our attitude more than anything else.

I could just leave the images as they were, blurred time slices that can have a really poetic feel in some cases, or be quite jarring in others, haunting too at times. Left alone, they feel too much like they’re promoting the concept of war, almost making it exciting, entertaining and reinforcing the idea of war as spectacle in the age of hyper-reality. Maybe that’s something I should push, but then I think this removes something of the onus on the viewer to question. The lyrics, for me at least, do two things. Firstly, it brings in another vein of the entertainment industry. More importantly though, I think it makes you stop in your tracks and consider how the two things go together. Why are the words and image juxtaposed? It’s here that I think the question of war and entertainment become stronger, although I’m undecided if they’re stronger with a more… surreal combination, or something more direct. Is it better to let people think about something for longer, accepting you will lose people along the way? Or should I look to hammer home the point using connected or related combinations. There are songs about war, some pro, others anti/protest. There are songs that have become associated through use in s film soundtrack – I’m thinking more about the late 80s Vietnam films here (
Good Morning Vietnam or Full Metal Jacket), and the music they used and even the pop songs they spawned; Camouflage or N-n-n-n-n-nineteen anyone?

I need to consider the theoretical underpinnings too. I’m reading
War isn’t hell, it’s entertainment at the moment, whilst simultaneously dipping into Memory of Fire too. There’s Baudrillard’s The Gulf War did not take place and other things as well. So many things that can be considered, war is obviously a popular subject in many ways – art, film, songs, books and of course, actually fighting them. It leaves me conflicted (pun intended).
Anyway, back to the latest “samples”. They’re here.

Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: Sumerland, by Fields of the Nephilim

Image: Apocalypse Now
Lyric: Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen

Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: Kill Your Television, by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Image: Battle of Warsaw 1920
Lyric: The Love Song, by Marilyn Manson

Image: Battle of Warsaw 1920
Lyric: Can’t get you out of my head, by Kylie Minogue

Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane

Image: Saving Private Ryan
Lyric: Ribbons, by The Sisters of Mercy

Image: Our World War
Lyric: The Partisan, by Leonard Cohen
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Firestarter, by The Prodigy

Image: Enemy at the Gates
Lyric: God Save the Queen, by The Sex Pistols

(images used for educational purposes)

I need time to think about them, but time is not what I have for F3. All that means is that before the end of the year they will change.