26/05/15 17:57 Filed in: Visual Enquiry
The first year of this MA course is finished. The photographs are printed, the essay written, PPP progressed and the journal entries blogged and extracted. Everything has been uploaded ready for the assessors and I'll be setting off to Barnsley in an hour to see if they will accept to take the diesel prints in to support the assessment process. If not, it will be down to the rephotographed prints and this...
Ruscha's Gasoline Stations (virtually) Revisited
As supporting material, I have produced a little book. The dimensions are not too far from Ruscha's - his was 7"x5", this is the nearest Blurb do at 8"x5". The design of the book is loosely based on what Ruscha produced - the cover is colour reversed with a similar typeface, it's closer together though; the images are in the same order but are 5x4 format (generally) rather than square; there's also a bit more text in there at the end, and therefore a few more pages. It's largely 'similar' though, and that seemed appropriate for me as I have appropriated his theme.
Yes, it's been done by Blurb, so I was stuck in the format they have defined, with the paper choice they make available, so it's not necessarily the finest object that can be produced, but it is affordable and that again matches what Ruscha's intentions were, even if the fact is that the entry level prices for a third edition of his book start around the £500 mark (generally a little less), and I've seen a first edition advertised at approaching £17000 - you can buy a brand new Mini Cooper or a 48 page book... (I know, nothing compared to the Picasso - there were 300 of these books though).
18/05/15 20:43 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4
The ephemerality of the primary object of this project has led me to consider the nature of what the physical object for display has become. Rather than being something that resides within the diesel prints themselves, it has become a dislocated copy; a reference print that has locked down the affect of the diesel on the paper to a point in time about a week to 10 days after the print was taken from the diesel.
Whilst this provides permanence, something that I would normally take for granted in my work, it is also somewhat reductive of the overall… ambience (?) of the work. Is this Benjamin's "aura" I'm talking of? Authenticity? During the making of the images, the smell of the diesel impregnated through the paper has become part of the experience of the images for me, so looking at the re-photographed images is different to looking at the original version. The smell of the diesel provides a physical link to the process, but also more importantly a metaphoric link to the subjects themselves, the gasoline stations.
It’s a conundrum for me – how to have permanence and the olfactory element together. One suggestion made would be to exhibit the prints alongside a glass tank of diesel. This would provide both an interesting visual element and the potential for the smell, although there will be significant fire prevention and health and safety risks to take account of. Another method would be to synthesize the smell somehow, but I wouldn’t know where to start!
So, for assessment, this leaves me in an odd place too. The original object is now the secondary object, nothing more than part of the process, but the presence of the diesel images during the assessment will provide that trace. That is assuming OCA will accept the prints. I certainly can’t post them, and whilst I should be able to hand-deliver them, there remains storage and other considerations for their insurance, etc. I await clarification – my submission may change again before the time comes for assessment.
13/05/15 23:24 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4 | Evaluation
In its execution, the project diverted from the intention. Despite this, the forensic investigations went well; all Ruscha’s gasoline stations were found, albeit with the assistance of others. Tracking down “Bob’s Service” somewhere in LA, the last of the sites to be found, provided me with a certain level of satisfaction. The effect of immersing the prints in diesel was pleasing, although not at all what I expected, which was that the pigment would be affected rather than the paper.
At this point I have to accept that one or two may be wrong, that the findings of others have led me to view places that didn’t sit right with me (Standard, Williams the prime example). Others used empirical evidence though, including copies of the 1962 regional Yellow Pages, something I could not access. It’s been 50-odd years, maybe things changed more than I anticipated.
My intention was that I would marry Ruscha’s 26 stations with a similar number from my own locale. The area I chose resulted in just half that number (12, plus a disused one), so this was disappointing. Still, it allowed the project to progress in the way that it did, rather than being constricted by reductive initial planning.
I would have preferred it in terms of the “object” if the resulting images weren’t so transient. As the diesel dries (which takes weeks), the patterning of the paper changes, becoming tighter and less aesthetically pleasing. This transience provides some metaphoric resonance to the subject matter though, so maybe it is appropriate. However, I now have no idea what will be seen at assessment.
In terms of the process, I’ve missed “normal” photography – I’ve not used a camera except for the local petrol station side of the project and for recording of the diesel objects at a point in time. Having said that, maybe I’m realising its more a means to an end, that I should be more accommodating
The Internet is quite some resource! Without it, this project would not have existed in the way it does. Google Street View is pretty awesome in itself, but then there’s the access to other artists that have worked with Ruscha’s ideas. I’d have been stuck without them.
This was all a big risk, if truth be told. From using GSV to immersing prints in diesel, it’s a long way from what I would normally do and way outside my comfort zone, (technique and results). I’ve wanted to use GSV in the past, but it always seemed inappropriate, but here I’ve been able to make it go the distance, see it through to some sense of completion.
I’m not sure how this can be directly taken forward within my practice. Will I ever use GSV again? Maybe, but probably not. I very much doubt that I will be using diesel in my photography again either, other than for what it was intended and driving me to somewhere I want to photograph. That is perhaps the major realisation I’ve reached; it’s the journey I’m constantly drawn to. I thought it was landscape, but I’m more interested in the getting there than the subject. I think my recurring muse is the journey, whether it be physical, temporal or metaphorical. That is something I want to take forward.
11/05/15 22:32 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4
The litho prints I received from Emma have been in the diesel and whilst something has indeed happened, its not in the same manner as the photographic print. With the litho, the greys and blacks seem a little darker, the central mottling is more accentuated. It's also maybe a bit "smudgier", although not as if the ink has run in the diesel as it's still cohesive. The paper (a standard cartridge paper rather than a photo inkjet paper I think) does not produce the same patterning as it is drying. Yes, there is some visual change, I'm just not convinced it's wroth pursuing any further. It doesn't interest me.
Polyester Litho Print (before diesel)
Polyester Litho Print (after diesel)
So, I'll leave that at that - thanks to Emma for making it possible to try, but it's a "fail" in my eyes.
05/05/15 17:59 Filed in: Contextual Research
Many thanks again to Tanya for highlighting This Charming Charlie
- a simply wonderful little Tumblr, and a poke in the eye of the corporate giants (Universal Music) after a takedown notice was rescinded following Mozzer's note of support. The premise is a simple one, Lauren LoPrete has created a mash-up of Charles Shulz's Peanuts comic strip, featuring Charlie brown and Snoopy, with lyrics from The Smiths (something of a favourite band of my youth - I was perhaps the not-so-proud owner of a fairly unique yellow Meat is Murder t-shirt after my mother washed it with a duster...). Arguments of fair use abound, and LoPrete has handily included her legal documentation on the Tumblr too.
04/05/15 19:03 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4
With the increasing realisation that the A5 prints that have been subjected to the diesel will not be the final product of the exploratory project, questions need to be asked about where I see the project ending up. The obvious answer would be in the book form I had always intended, and yes it does remain something I want to look into when I have the final images at a point of finalisation again (those they have been resubjected to the the diesel). Another option would be in reprints; photographic prints made of the dieseled originals at a point in time chosen for the perceived aesthetic interest of the mottled effect.
I will leave the idea of the book for the moment, well for a week until those last prints have hopefully developed in terms of the pattern. Photographic prints are going through something of a reinvention, or maybe they have been through it already. Historically, many photographic prints tended towards the smaller end of the spectrum. Not a hard and fast rule, Oscar Rejlander's The Two Ways of Life from 1857 was some 76cm in length, but that was very much the exception rather than the tule. Now, if you have the money, much bigger things are possible. It's really not uncommon to see enormous prints, thinking back to the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition at the Tate Modern, there were some really large prints - Jane and Louise Wilson's photographs of the Normandy fortifications were some 180cm square. Looking elsewhere, Thomas Struth's Shibuya Crossing measures 184x241cm and Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent II Diptychon 207x307cm (albeit in two parts). Size no longer appears to be (realistically) limited.
So, where does this leave my gasoline stations? I won't be going seriously large, I don't feel that the subject matter suits this anyway. I guess I have three sizes in mind. Firstly, it's the A5 of the original, there's a degree of appropriateness in this. But what of A4 or A3? or even the "logical" sizes of 10x8 or 20x16? Of the enlargements, the A3 size was the one that immediately appealed in theory, but in practice, I'm not so sure. I've printed one of the images (Texaco, Vega) onto the sort of paper I felt might be suitable at the three sizes.
Texaco, Vega, Texas (January 2013)
The image is a difficult one to view as the building is disappearing, but then this is one reason I chose this image for the trial. The first thing I "feel" when looking at the images is that I'd maybe like them lighter. It would make them harder to view, but this would be nearer to the experience I get when looking at them backlit. They would feel more ephemeral, but then I think I need to acknowledge and accept the fact that they won't be viewed backlit and so will have a very different viewing experience; paper isn't naturally luminous! The second thing that I notice is that the larger print feels "looser", like its losing some more of the cohesion that keeps it on the page. It's true that the image is naturally incoherent, the detail is "washed out", it's low contrast and there's the overriding mottling to camouflage the building into the background. It's not working for me, but conceptually I can see why you might want to go this way. The A4-ish is better, but then I do like the fact that you have to get in closer to the A5 version. It feels more intimate, and that's something I've thought for a long time about smaller images.
That said, I'm beginning to doubt if this all works at all. I know what the image is, what it's about. I know the context in which I made it, why it looks the way it does and its relationship to some other work that I have to accept that the viewer may be unaware of, or not fully aware of. Will a series of 26 of such images (ok, 25, + 1 that is "normal") hold the attention of the viewer, regardless of what size they are printed? Will they invest in the images? Am I expecting too much of the viewer? Do I have the right to make those expectations? I really am doubting that. The obscurity of the image, the strained relationship with an original and the fact that some of these places have no obvious relationship, even if the details were there to be seen... Is it all fluff about an aesthetic that I can work around, but obfuscates too much? Hmmm....
04/05/15 07:39 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4
03/05/15 21:18 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4
It seems the interestingness in the diesel-soaked prints is short lived. At the least it is transient, and the patterning changes over time. I knew this anyway, as the photographs are translucent when they come out of the fuel, with the pattern appearing after a couple of days of drying. They just don't seem to stop though...
This is what the Shell, Dagger photograph looked like after maybe a week to 10 days after it came out of the diesel bath:
Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012] + 1 week
And this is what it looks like another two weeks later:
Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012] + 3 weeks
The photographs have been taken with different cameras and with different light sources, so there will be a slight difference in colour temperature (I've not bothered "normalising" them), but it's more the size and style of the grain that causes me the issue. In another 2 weeks, will the trace of the diesel have gone? Is the conceptual impact that transient? It seems so, which would then indicate that the light-box mode of display might be somewhat meaningless - if the pattern has gone, what's the point? It seems that the object might then need to be the photograph of the print after about a week after being in the diesel bath. This would close the light box avenue, but open others, albeit possibly weaker ones. And yes, the transience of the effect possibly overshadows the transience of the gasoline stations, at least in terms of what I was hopping for.
So yes, this is something of a disappointment, one I hope to work around in the short term by putting the prints back in the diesel for a couple of days and then photographing them all again when the mottle is more interesting. And yes, this was an exploration, an experiment into trying something more divorced from my "normal" image making. It's not really paid dividends, but at least now I know. I'm not ready to go full "Daisuke Yokota" just yet, so I expect a return to normality. That said, I do like some of what he is doing. I'll post a link soon.
02/05/15 19:14 Filed in: Visual Enquiry | Task 4
Emma was really generous and offered to print me out a couple of litho prints to see if they reacted any differently to being submersed in diesel. Time will tell on that score, but here's a couple of images:
Polyester Litho Print
Polyester Litho Print
I picked them up from the Post Office earlier today, and they're in the diesel now. The paper very quickly became saturated with the fuel, much quicker than the photographic paper, which will have been coated with whatever it is they get coated with. Nothing immediate happened with the ink, but as I said, time will tell...