Format : no for SUW

Just a quick post to state that I had been wanting to submit Some Unholy War into Format for next year, but it’s not ready yet. I don’t have a favoured edit of photographs, I don’t know what size they should be, I don’t even know if I’m done with the creation of the images I have at the moment. I certainly haven’t written my artists statement about the series yet. Tonight’s deadline will therefore come and go without Some Unholy War being registered in it. Perhaps a good thing to avoid it being launched onto the circuit half-cocked. There will be other opportunities, for Format and for elsewhere.
Comments

Gazonto



Merges film into a game scenario to provoke a reaction to recent events in Gaza.

See article
here.

(Thanks to Tanya for the heads up)

Gazonto. 2014 [video streaming] John Greyson. endtheblockade.ca
located at http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/watch-short-film-gazonto-john-greyson-imagines-toronto-bombed-gaza (accessed 30/09/2014)
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Take 2 Influences : Game On

Screen Shot

On September 26th, the British government voted to join in the airstrikes against ISIS, the immediate response from one twitter user (who will remain anonymous - image and name has been intentionally blurred above) was “Game-on”, a timely dose of inspiration for a useable piece of text for my Take 2. I’ve tried a number of simple diptych type layouts with pairs of images from those available and the following are possible options for discussion:
GameOn2GameOn3_ROB0664-Edit copyGameOn5GameOn1GameOn6
(images used for educational purposes)

OK, there’s an obvious danger here that the images start to look like some form of advertising campaign for a game, and part of me actually likes this idea but only if the images were to be seen blown up to huge dimensions and on the white walls of a gallery where I believe they would have the desired impact. Here though, viewed as small jpgs a few hundred pixels across, they do not have that aura. Low culture posing as low culture does not make a post-modern masterpiece, I suspect.

Different juxtapositions of images give me different reactions. It might be that the colours don’t feel as... complimentary or coherent, or just don’t “feel” right to me. Pilot on the top, or on the bottom has different impacts, perhaps depending on the way he is looking, perhaps because of the plane he has been juxtaposed with. Another example, with more images together, is shown below, this time with an excerpt from Churchill’s “Never in the field of human conflict” speech. This feels contrived, and a form of the propaganda I really want to avoid, the sort of thing that
Some Unholy War is questioning - it’s not the truth, but is being presented as being such, backed up with the historical fact of the words of the famous speech.
Take2_6up
(images used for educational purposes)

I suppose my favoured image as things stand right at this point would probably be the first of them, partially because of the fresh, young looking face of the pilot perhaps having some resemblance of the target audience of the game, boys and young adults. Some of the others really don’t work for me, the text struggles to add much when presented in that way, or at least doesn’t lend itself to being what I wanted. And yes, some of these feel like a graphic design exercise. The same might be true of that first image too; I’m certainly not saying this should be considered the finished image, but it’s a stake in the ground. Something to invite discussion about. I do however feel that this is moving away from something I would have necessarily sought to do, although I can also argue that it does feature elements of what I have indeed been doing recently. Perhaps It just lacks some of the thought that I might want to put into things, partially because this was a necessarily time limited exercise, partially because it is a construct to answer an outside brief when I prefer to work to my own. It’s possibly more to do with a general state of unease in my head about a number of things to do with the MA at the moment. Things that have left what is normally a quite logical mind in a state of turmoil.

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Images for tutorial - AR

OK, some of these are the same as for Caroline’s tutorial, but for the sake of completeness, they’re here again. Others are the same as what I put in the post about Task 1 the other day, but again, for the sake of completeness... And as Angela hasn’t seen any of my other work, there’s a few from last year too.

Speak My Language:

SML_wide
There’s also a video of a rough of the book version below



A Forest:

Shotgun Cartridge

Some Unholy War:

BFHOWWBHD2BHD1
(images used for educational purposes)

Task 1:
_ROB0736-Edit_ROB0871-Edit
(images used for educational purposes)

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McCullin

I’ve just watched the documentary McCullin, an amazingly powerful film, filled with... beautiful yet horrific photography. I feel quite stunned by it. Not sure what to say...
I have a small number of books by Don McCullin, 2 or 3, and visited the IWM exhibition a few years ago, but this has proven more thought provoking than anything I’ve experienced of his work before, perhaps because it now coincides with a period of specific thinking about his subject. It really is time to revisit his work again.

_DSF1217
McCullin. 2012 [Blu-Ray] Jacqui Morris and David Morris. British Film Company

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Take 2 Influences : Single Image Lyrics

Not really much to say at this juncture, other than a brief explanation - in an earlier post I included some images from Some Unholy War with a full set of lyrics from a couple of songs. The images were wrong, and the lyrics were too much so here’s a few others with a shorter set - a line or a verse, all on the same image (in reality I would use others, but this is just a trial).
Harmonic Generator, by The Datsuns

harmonic generator
Hurricane Fighter Plane, by Alien Sex Fiend
hurricane fighter plane
Little Fluffy Clouds, by The Orb
little fluffy clouds

White text tends to work better for me, personal choice really - more could be read into the use of the red text (blood for example). Use of lyrics... I don’t know. All these can have some relevance extrapolated from them, rather than being completely random - push the button could be the trigger, Hurricane is obvious (a British WWII fighter plane if you don’t know) and then the skies.

Maybe, we will see...

(images used for educational purposes)

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Take 2 Influences : Work in Progress

OK, this is a work in progress, I have to stress that...! My idea is working with two sets of images, one of pilots taken from a war film (Battle of Britain), the other from a computer game about the dogfights of World War 2. Whilst neither of these in any way depict the true nature of the loss on both sides of the war, they are both “celebrating” the act of war, with the film turning it into a spectacle and the game turning it into play. My aim is to question both these stances.

I’ve been playing with image interactions and juxtapositions using small (A6) prints on paper - nothing special in terms of quality, just something to make it easier to move things around as physical objects, the order below is my current preferred layout, although things will in all likelihood change when I work out my text and how it is applied. What the text is will be of great importance, and I’ve hit a bit of a wall in terms of this - I did think about pulling in some quotes from that other contemporary “Battle of Britain” and the Scottish referendum, but it would then fail to tie in with the game element. - this is meant to be an 8 hours making, 2 hours thinking project, but I’m going to say that it’s 2 hours contextualisation instead, as the taking of photographs is not (normally) like the production of a painting, therefore thinking of text comes under “making”. I’m still not sure if it will “work” though.

_ROB0379-Edit_ROB0846-Edit_ROB0761-Edit-Edit_ROB0867-Edit_ROB0736-Edit_ROB0842-Edit_ROB0755-Edit_ROB0871-Edit

Film credit:
Battle of Britain. 1969. [Blu-Ray] Guy Hamilton. Spitfire Productions.
Game credit:
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII. 2006. [PS3] Ubisoft.
(used for educational purposes)

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What is Photography?

This is something I saw some time ago, it’s taken from the Arakimentari film about the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. I think it asks very pertinent questions about photography...



Arakimentari. 2004. [DVD] Travis Klose. Troopers Films.

The questions/statements/captions (whatever) are:

What is a photographer?

What is photography?

How do I shoot?

What should I take a picture of?

Should I shoot this? That?

Can I shoot this?

Why do we want to keep a photo?

Does a photo become memory?

Is it a friend?

Is it a lover?

Why is it colour?

That’s amazing, it’s incredible!

No it might be an enemy

Should I shoot in black & white…?

Your face shows who you are

Does it make you horny?

Are you getting excited?

That’s disgusting

I burn every experience onto film

The feeling’s gone

The memory never fades

What if I took a photo of everything I’ve ever experienced?

What does it mean to be a photographer?
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Tutorial - CW 22 Sep 14

Luckily, my Internet connection had recovered sufficiently to allow the tutorial with Caroline to take place, although the received video quality was pretty fuzzy. Still, we managed to communicate, which is the main thing.

Half an hour isn’t a long time, although it is sufficient. We managed to talk briefly about Task 1, but in more detail about
Some Unholy War and the work I have planned going forward, all of which is related to representations of conflict. A few names came up - David Cotterrell was the first, who was allowed to go out to Iraq/Afghanistan, although his view of what was there will have been very sanitised - the days of the “wild” war journos has been and gone as the government/military have recognised the power of the media, with reporters now embedded in units rather than free to go where they want. I mentioned Broomberg and Chenerin in return, with their piece The Day Nobody Died which is a very alternative take! Steve McQueen may be better known for films such as 12 Years a Slave, but he has also received the Turner Prize (1999) and produced a body of work called Queen and Country commemorating soldiers killed in the war in Iraq.

arts-graphics-slid_1194082a
Steve McQueen,
Queen and Country (2007-2010)

The report has been posted, and now there’s reading to do, photographs to take and preparations to be made for next week’s tutorial with Angela...

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Why are we so obsessed with films about the Second World War?

Food for thought ...

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/17/why-so-obsessed-second-world-war-films (accessed 21/09/2014)
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Take 2 Influences : pre-trial

OK, this isn’t really what I had in mind, but it’s something I tried with something I’d already photographed. A couple of trials if you like. I don’t think either particularly work very well for what I’m thinking.

SPR_textOWW_text
(images used for educational purposes)

The first photograph, from Saving Private Ryan, features the lyrics of the song Birds by Electralene. It has no relevance to war at all, but there is a narrative of someone left behind, maybe even widowed that can be construed - “Still I can’t stop thinking about you”. The second photograph is from the BBC series of mini-docudramas called Our World War, with this one being about the Pals regiments. Again, the words are the lyrics from a song, this time by PJ Harvey and called Let England Shake. The song is about war, as are all the songs on the album (with the same name). Whilst this one cannot easily be placed, others refer to the Anzac landings in Turkey; Battleship Hill and Bolton’s Ridge, so time-wise it is appropriate, although... does that make it a bit clichéd?

I actually think there’s too much text on these, and then there’s the danger that they’re directing the viewer too much in a certain direction, which is not necessarily what I was thinking for the series in the first place, but then these are just a quick “play” to see if it does anything for me. I’m not so sure if there is mileage just yet, but then I have a few hours to sit down with some work when I have found something relevant for the task. Less text is appropriate though.

I have started with the task in anger, working on the first portion of a possible idea. Hopefully I can add to that in the next few days and have something coming together in time for a chat with the others before it has to be submitted. I feel like I’m walking a bit of a high-wire with this one, so we will see.

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Paul Nash: Ghosts of War

Paul Nash is not a name I instantly recognised, but there is a vague familiarity about his work. I may have seen it somewhere, or it might just be that his work is a similar style to someone else I’ve seen - I’m terribly aware that I don’t know enough painters, being very photography-centric in terms of what I look at, although I’m sure that will change in the coming years.

Not knowing much about Nash, I suppose I should have expected a turn to Surrealism from his background, his love of “absurd” classics of English literature, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, coupled with his wartime experiences in the trenches at Flanders. In terms of his war art, he is accredited in the programme as inventing a new form, based on the landscape but I see this as being similar in many respects as the photography of Roger Fenton, particularly his piece
Valley of the Shadow of Death from the Crimea in 1855

06711401
Roger Fenton,
Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855) - from The Getty website


paul nash wire te21_0
Paul Nash,
Wire (1918-1919) - from the Tate website.

Both images depict the aftermath of the battle, both images are devoid of people and both images give an indication of the trauma that will have been experienced there, Nash’s piece more so, perhaps due to the duration and the nature of the battle, perhaps because of the more figurative and interpretive nature of the media. Nash’s work bores deeper into the realms of nightmare in his representation of the wounded land, there are hints of the future Surrealism, whereas Fenton is much straighter, it’s documentary (although Errol Morris has something to say about his methods).

This work relates in many ways to my current thoughts on projects. True to say they’re not really progressing at the moment, but I see parallels in my mind’s eye;
Some Unholy War ties itself to the surreal and nightmarish in some ways, while the landscape is something I intend to be returning to for a later project, for year 2 in all probability as it will take time to achieve it as I intend to be travelling all over the country to achieve it.

So, the documentary may not have told me everything there is to know about Nash, but it proved interesting and relevant. It was also a springboard into some other research that will likely follow as I work my way through the MA. There’s another couple in the series too, so who knows what they might inspire.

Paul Nash:The Ghosts of War. 2014 [Video Streaming] Patrick Dickinson. Danny Katz Productions.
located at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04j2ywv/british-art-at-war-bomberg-sickert-and-nash-1-paul-nash-the-ghosts-of-war (accessed 20/09/2014)

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Take 2 Influences : second thoughts

So, a couple of days have gone by and I’m not really gelling with this. I need to identify these influences and move on to making something. I mentioned Daido the other day, and to be honest, I can’t figure out how his work inspires me. My thoughts are refusing to crystallise about him at the moment, much as they are with my doubts about whether the MA is for me in general. That’s a blip I need to get over, otherwise it will consume me. I need to clear my thoughts and start making something for this first task, this first hurdle.

So, now I’m going to just put some thoughts down. It might not be pretty, but it’s necessary, even if this task isn’t to be overthought. If I think about where I am in terms of the work I’ve been producing recently, the images from
Some Unholy War, the obvious overarching influence is one of appropriation; I’m taking the visual material from the cinematic representation of war. I’ve being doing this as a way of questioning how the cinematic is becoming visually more historically accurate yet still with an unhealthy level of make-believe. It’s propaganda on many levels. If the script goes too far from the ideals of the military agenda of the relevant power, then there will be no backing, in terms of use of military hardware, troops on the ground as extras and the provision of advisors. There’s also the fact that the film is made for an audience; Hollywood produces films for a (predominantly) American audience, so the film will not paint the use of American military power in a bad light - there might be a “bad egg” in the film, but the protagonist will be an American, with the antagonist being “the enemy” (and there’s all sorts of ways to read any subtext). Even if the film is depicting an American invasion of another country, the given fact of the matter is that this is the right and proper thing to do. I’m not going to get into any heavy politics here, but merely want to question the truth of the events we are being presented with. There’s other stuff too...

Anyway, back to appropriation. There are a number of appropriation artists that I am aware of, with Richard Prince being the first I became aware of, even if I didn’t fully comprehend what he was doing at the time when I saw
Cowboys.

_DSF1212
from
Art & Today, by Eleanor Heartney (p26)


These rephotographs were purportedly to undermine the images and what they represented. It’s what I’m looking at doing with my own appropriation - make people look at a subject again, question what they think the image represents, what is real, what is make believe... There are others - Sherrie Levine is really quite audacious with After Walker Evans, and then the follow-on by Michael Mandiberg (After Sherrie Levine), there’s also those that move away from just photography such as Mike Bidlo (Prince does when he paints on images too).

There’s some mileage that can be had here, I just have to find a subject that I find relevant (I’m not thinking of using
Some Unholy War for this), and to bring in another influence. Since I’ve produced Speak My Language, I have a growing interest in words and pictures working together. I don’t mean this in terms of captions, which I often find somewhat restrictive - if I use captions they will generally be quite open. I actually mean as something that will work together with the artwork, that exist within the same frame as the artwork. With Speak My Language, the snippets of song lyrics occupied an empty space within the image mosaic, and were not tied with the adjacent images in any obvious way, much as the images were not tied to each other. Other uses of words have been seen in the work of Barbara Kruger, William Klein or Martin Stobich.

_DSF1211
from
Art & Today, by Eleanor Heartney (p42)

_DSF1207
from
William Klein, Foam #37 2013 (p106)

As I’ve written this, I have no Internet (an “incident” in the local area requires a repair which will be done by the 23rd at the earliest), so I will not be able to upload this until I have at least started to work on something. I won’t change this before it’s uploaded, although I might well come back and add some more...

[note - since the Internet recovered from the incident, I’ve added links to better versions of the images]

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Take 2 Influences : first thoughts

We’ve not to overthink this exercise, so these first thoughts are necessarily brief. They are necessary though.

Inspirations... we have to take 2 of them. I’ve been thinking about this, and whilst I have many influences, I’m not 100% sure what I would consider to be a major one, an obvious one to choose. I’m probably a little schizophrenic, picking little bits from everything and mixing them together. I have decided to take something from
Daido though, use him as an influence. Not necessarily in terms of his are, bure, boke aesthetic from the late ’60’s, but more from his freewheeling approach, his surrealism.

_DSF1026
© Daido Moriyama (from
Menu, curated by Rob™)

The other one... I’m thinking of being vague in a grand way, picking on modern culture. I have an idea, something that has echoes from Langlands and Bell.
Pasted Graphic
© Langlands & Bell

Yeah, all very vague but I have the beginnings of a cadre to work with. I’ll see how it goes as I play...

Oh, who am I trying to kid - I’ve got no idea what I’ll be doing yet.


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BBC iPlayer : British Art at War

Only available for a short while, but part one of the British Art at War series is currently available on BBC iPlayer (and is being downloaded as I type). This episode looks at Paul Nash, not somebody I’d heard of, but then the “art” side of war (as opposed to photojournalism) is something I’m just really becoming acquainted with...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04j2ywv/british-art-at-war-bomberg-sickert-and-nash-1-paul-nash-the-ghosts-of-war

Once it’s been downloaded and watched, I’m sure I’ll come back to add some more notes.
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Images for tutorial - CW

In preparation for the upcoming tutorial with Caroline, we’ve been requested to upload 5 images onto our G Drive and share. Well, that’s done and these are the 5 images I’ve selected, all of which are from a current project called Some Unholy War.

BFHWWSOWWBHD2BHD1
In order of appearance, they’re from Battle for Haditha, We Were Soldiers, Our World War, and 2 from Black Hawk Down - used for educational purposes)

Why these ones? Specifically, I’m not sure. I guess they appeal to me on some level.

As a series, what I want to explore is on several layers. There’s the romanticisation and glorification of war, certainly in earlier films although perhaps this is changing more and more as audiences evolve - many films are becoming far “grittier”, showing more of the horror. Then there’s something about representations of truth; it would appear that some take these fictional pieces as being historical documents - almost an eyewitness account of the situation, especially as we are now see historical reproductions of vehicles, etc. (in the
Battle of the Bulge from 1965 American post war tanks - the M47 - were used as German Tigers, and the M24 Chaffee as the American M4 Sherman - they look nothing like what they were meant to!). The increasing amount of news or even civilian footage available also has an impact, everything blurs together if we do not pay it enough heed, the blurring then being represented physically within the image. This has been borne from something that I think Paul Graham said about HCB’s “decisive moment”, and it being followed by another (I will have to find this quote again). Whether these images as shown here will be the final object, I’m not sure yet. Sometimes I think there needs to be something, other times I think that there would be a danger of them becoming either contrived, convoluted or reduced somehow. We will see.

I guess there are still some issues regarding the copyright of these, their source material is obviously copyrighted, but then the work is transformative from the original, in terms of media (video > still), they focus the viewer on a finite moment that is perhaps not particularly telling during the film, it reframes the image, sometimes within a different format, but always cropping something away from the original. I don’t see these as entertainment, but as questions... Is this enough? I don’t know, so will they continue...? I don’t know. Ultimately, I don’t know if they’re interesting enough to continue either.

I did see this on twitter though. Does it make a difference?
Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 21.50.35BxsbCLJCUAEQQSt.jpg-large

I will be sure to post something after the tutorial, I believe doing so will be mandated.
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VL1 : Seminar

I think I’m coming to terms with a sort of crisis of confidence, of awareness of whatever it was that was filling my head with doubt about the MA. A brief chat with Angela before Monday’s hangout has straightened a few things too. I’m now sitting here looking at the short page of notes I scribbled during the hangout and I’m wondering if I was actually in attendance though? I’ll blame a cold for this, and also for the fact I’m not sleeping and writing this up at 3am, having been awake for the past 2 hours...

Anyway, based on the notes I have made what I have learned/thought pertinant would appear to be:
  • Presentations need to be sent to Paul/Alice on the Thursday before they’re required.
  • Alison appropriates photographs of people in her work.
  • Ryan Gander is showing in Manchester (actually, was showing - it finished last Sunday)
  • Jeff Koons is at the Whitney (NYC)
  • I was in a group with Monika and Emma to discuss the questionnaire.
  • Anne Hamilton.
  • One shot video.
  • Characteristics to respond to - abstract concepts not helpful.
  • Powers of 10
  • Questions to ask others about the work - “I think this does... what do you think?”

And there we have it, the sum total of 3 hours worth of note taking during a lecture.

There is context to all this, I know that “one shot video” was something Angela said when talking about the first task. I think she actually meant a single take, but “one shot video” seems somehow relevant to the work I’ve been exploring with
Some Unholy War - a project that might be getting its first appearance in print soon, if they’re happy with the appropriation element (an interest has been expressed, but I have explained the work so we will see).

The small group hangout with Monika and Emma was really enjoyable. We didn’t manage to discuss the lion’s share of the questionnaire, but the discussion around the first section got me buzzing. I found it really useful to speak to people about how they get going, where ideas come from. OK, whilst the generalities are not so different to my own way of going about things, just talking to people from other disciplines has been good, and further quelled any worries I have. I’ll be talking with them during task one too, as they will be my task buddies to start with.

Task one has been launched, with a few weeks to produce something - 10 hours work, with a rough 4:1 split between work and thinking. I have an inkling of where to head with this, actually drawing something from Langlands and Bell, but not really... I’ll have to try and not be abstract.
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Questionnaire - Studio Use

During VL1, there were some slides about studio use that posed questions about how we use that space, how it can be improved.

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 08.00.16
This is followed up by another questionnaire, which is as follows. I’m not quite sure these answers are “correct” (if there is such a thing) as I don’t consider that I actually have a studio at all...

What do you do in your studio or the place where you usually make work?
Write down everything you do in your studio or the place where you usually work. Include drinking cups of tea, dreaming, reading the paper, phoning friends etc.

  • Photographic workflow control (Aperture/Lightroom type activities)
  • Post processing with Photoshop
  • Printing (sizes up to A3+)
  • Sequencing images, arranging juxtapositions, etc. normally with something like InDesign if a book is the end product
  • Answering open calls, trying to get some exposure
  • Looking at photobooks, reading theory books, etc.
  • Looking at photography/art related material on the Internet
  • Flickr/Tumblr/Twitter, etc.
  • Writing my blog, updating websites, etc.
  • Writing in my paper journal
  • Thinking, contemplating, procrastinating... call it what you will
  • Drinking coffee or whatever
  • Eating my breakfast (whilst reading the news online)
  • Company accounts, business correspondence, etc.
  • E-mail, or writing snail mail, etc.
  • MA hangouts, skype, telephone
  • Online shopping
  • Browsing the Internet for non-photographic things, reading the news, watching the odd game of football, etc.
  • Listening to music
  • Anything else to do with a computer...

This room that I’m calling my studio is the smaller bedroom (the office) in a small two bedroomed cottage, it’s shared with my wife although we do have our own ends to the room, our own desks and computers, etc.

Which of these things do you want to be doing and which do you not?
I could probably do with spending a little less time browsing the web for other stuff, but sometimes it’s that other stuff that keeps me sane. You could probably argue that I shouldn’t eat my breakfast here either, but time is a premium and if I can catch up with the news before heading off to work... Other than that, it’s a room with my computer in it, so everything has to be done there.

What else do you want to do that you don’t? Why aren’t you doing these things?
Yeah, it would be nice to have a space that people could come to if they wanted to discuss my work, but it’s not that sort of space. I could probably do with tidying it from time to time...

Is your studio set up for you to do what things you want to do?
I don’t photograph in this room, most of that is done elsewhere - out on location normally, but in the lounge for the current set of images I’m working on. So other than the odd photobook snap I take, then it’s fine. I do have a garage that I can hang a roll of white paper from if I wanted to do that sort of thing, but to be honest, I don’t do that sort of thing very often. So yeah, I think so.

What stimulates ideas and your imagination?
Some ideas come when I’m driving and my mind can do whatever it is that it does. 12 months ago, it was a 90 minute commute to work so there was plenty of time for thinking, with the problem being that sometimes I’d forgotten what I was thinking about by the time I got off the motorway. Now it’s only 30 minutes each way, not as much time for ideas to come, but more chance I will actually remember them. Other than that, my “studio” houses my bookshelves, so there is inspiration sitting there, waiting to be looked at.

How do you keep track of projects?
I blog about things, I have folders full of links and other stuff that relates to the project, organise photographs in Aperture/Lightroom (Aperture will no longer be supported by Apple, so making a painful transition to Lightroom at the moment). Things get dropped on to my computer desktop, notes get written on a whiteboard. Probably too much sits in my head (which might be why some things get forgotten - I need to upgrade my internal memory store, but I’m not too sure the technology is with us yet).

Is it too messy and chaotic or too neat and tidy?
Of course, it’s spotless...
IMG_2563IMG_2560
Ok, ok. The latter is nearer the usual truth.

Do you feel at home and relaxed?
Yeah, normally - it is home, and I’m often relaxed.

Can you play there?
Depends what the game is...

Can you refine and finish work there?
To a point, yes - quite often the finished print will be produced externally, but the files they need are produced here.

Is there enough storage?
There’s never enough - it’s a small 2 bedroomed cottage in the countryside, but I make the most of it.

Do you have a comfortable chair to sit in to contemplate work?
Yes

Is the light adequate?
Unless I’m really inspecting a print closely, the light is fine. I often prefer things on the dingier side if I’m working anyway, it keeps the reflections down.

Are there enough electrical sockets?
Everything is plugged in (to a spaghetti network of extension sockets), so I guess so (although I can still only charge one camera battery at a time!)

Is there a good enough internet connection?
Define “good enough”... We have countryside broadband, which is significantly inferior to that available on the moon. It’s enough for the hangouts, and enough for most other things except streaming HD video, etc. Some things just take longer, such as uploading high res files. Now we’ve gone to Powerline networking, we have wifi throughout the house except the bathroom - it might be a small cottage, but it’s a small stone cottage and wifi doesn’t like that.

Where else do you make work or think about work or carry out research?
Much of my work is normally “en plein air”, although I am doing stuff in my lounge at the moment (photographing the telly). I mentioned the garage which gets used once in a while. I might do “research” in a gallery. We also have a house in the countryside of Brittany, so several times a year we get away from it all there. Not that I do much work there except maybe reading the odd book or magazine...

What do you do in these places?
Take photographs, read, look at the work of others... (and drink coffee, yada yada yada...)

Do you need to make any changes?
It would be wonderful to have more space, a dedicated space, a designed space. The truth is though that this is my home, and it needs to meet the demands put on it as a home in the first instance. I’ll sort out a better space when that lottery win comes in. That said, I believe it does what it needs to do.

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VL1 : The Reflexive Practitioner

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Video Lecture 1 : The Reflexive Practitioner

What’s it all about, being a “reflexive practitioner”? It’s all about thinking, with reflection being about looking at what you do, reviewing, pondering, etc. However, it’s also about forward thinking and the impact of that thinking on future thinking and how you do things. In essence I guess it’s about stepping back so that you can learn from thinking about what you do. There’s a quote in the video from Donald Schön stating that reflexivity is essential for independent learning. Some key elements coming from the lecture are:

  • being aware of how you make work
  • being aware of your influences
  • knowing where to position yourself and your work amongst others
  • being conscious of yourself as an artist within the broader discipline
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There is also talk of bringing other outside areas of interest into the artwork, things that influence you in a greater sense. James Aldridge and Tracy Emin are mentioned, Aldridge from the course required reading book Interviews-Artists. In the book, Aldridge talks of how he was influenced by his father, but also by where he lives (in Sweden), his taste in music (metal) and how elements of his work come from other artists; Audubon, Schongauer and Munch. Recognising this is part of what is mentioned above (and something I refer to in my questionnaire answers). It’s all part of how everything comes together in the work we produce, just as it comes together in how the work is interpreted by the viewer as discussed by the semiotician, Roland Barthes.

The House of Osama Bin Laden, by (Ben) Langlands and (Nikki) Bell, is something different. I suppose some of my reaction to it is reminiscent to how I first responded to Man in the Dark during the introductory hangout. It’s fairly dated, in a way that anything that has a dependency on technology will become. It is however related to some degree with something I’m considering going forward, a spin off from my Some Unholy War. Whether this happens or not is still open, but I will come back to Langlands and Bell when the time comes to think about it some more. I will leave the politics out of it as well for the moment, although it will undoubtedly come back at some point during my current work - questioning the influence of the establishment on the making of work for example. There is an awful lot of propaganda in conflict related imagery. Indeed, my own situation will be called into question with the work, which is part of the reason I want to do it. Like has been stated in the lecture, I will need to be objective, introduce that critical distance spoken about during the lecture when Angela spoke of Shaun McNiff.

Christiane Baumgartner’s work is heavily about process, making the work look like a contemporary photograph/video still whilst being firmly rooted in an old technique, such that it only becomes obvious on closer look. I’ve not yet had the chance to look more closely at her work, but there is something interesting there, something to return to at a later date.

“How do we prevent ourselves from becoming slick?” I’m not so sure I am slick... But the question in relationship to Rose Wylie’s work is more about how we look at the work of others as a way of critiquing our own. How to reflect on whether we are just going through the motions of making work. The section moves on to making transcriptions, or studies of the work of others which will lead into the first assignment (“Take Two Influences”).


The rest of the video then looks into ideas of the studio (I’ll be doing the studio questionnaire later), work flow and reflection upon how an artwork is progressing, the iterations.
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Whilst this might indeed be the way that we are encouraged to process our work, and probably even the way it actually happens, my heart sank as I now had “a process diagram” to follow, enact this process and I will get my ISO9001 accreditation for being an artist. You see, part of my reasoning for following this path is a desire to get away from rigid rules, from processes and from logic and to do something more organic, chaotic perhaps. It seems this may not actually be possible. Realisation of this leaves me at a bit of a low point, even if I should have been aware of the fact already (it is pretty obvious when you sit and think about it). This low point coincides with general doubts too, so... There are some closing thoughts that should be considered with the theory and practice questionnaire too, and are actually good points for when thinking and talking to others about your work.
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I watched the video a few days ago, this is written up from my hastily scribbled notes, I’ll try and watch it again before the seminar tomorrow.

Screenshots from the OCA Lecture
VL1 : The Reflexive Practitioner , © Open College of the Arts


+++UPDATE+++
Rose Wylie, whose work was featured in the video,
has won the John Moore’s Painting Prize...

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TateShots: Olafur Eliasson



located at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-iDkq8yfWY (accessed 13/09/2014)
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Heather & Simon @ GAG

Back in July there was a talk and walk by Simon Roberts at the Grundy Art Gallery, a session I fully intended to attend. Unfortunately though, when the day came I was still in a recovery period following surgery and I couldn’t make the trip over to the seaside. I have now finally managed to make in to the gallery and look at Roberts’ prints, and the video installations by Heather Phillipson too.

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Whilst I was there predominantly to see Roberts’ work Pierdom, the ground floor was taken over by Phillipson, so the entrance into her exhibition beckoned and seemed to be the logical place to start. Prior to the exhibition, I knew nothing about Phillipson. I still know little, other than she can be a bit risqué and works with video installations that are more welcoming than others I have seen. Now, in the past, video has been weak for me. As the art form itself, it has not been particularly captivating, and many have been what I would consider highly pretentious or just plain dull as yesterday’s dishwater. Here though, after being rebirthed from the dark and into the light of an odd new world, there is something that I found interesting. They weren’t slow and ponderous, if anything they were quite surreal which will always pique my interest a touch. And watching a video from the back seat of an old Peugeot or a speedboat on bottles of water is not something you do everyday.
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It was A is to D what E is to H that I found most compelling, viewing the video projected on to the screen of the aforementioned car. Seemingly random images flowing together, narrated by a woman (I assume this to be the artist). I really don’t know why I liked this. Yes, it was different. No, I don’t know what it means or why... Well, just why in general I think. It’s left me confused but wanting more. The delivery of the audio is still in my head.

A is to D what E is to H - excerpt from Heather Phillipson on Vimeo.



So, back into the real world and upstairs to Simon Roberts’ photographs of piers... an odd transition, but somehow also a strangely appropriate coupling - can a pier really have phallic connotations, or is that something that only comes to mind when married with Phillipson’s work? Will this be something that occurred to Roberts as he carried out his survey of Britain’s Victorian piers, recording them before they deteriorated into nothing but memory - I recall that on the day of the intended talk, Eastbourne pier was badly damaged by fire.
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Physically, the 4 main prints were large and impressive. They’re packed with detail and clearly not taken with an iPhone on a family trip to the seaside - no, they’re slow, deliberate and considered. They’re also very “matter of fact”, objective; not hiding the fact that they’re deteriorating, not hiding the fact that there’s a certain unsavoury underbelly in the surroundings that may actually be lost on those that were not born in a seaside town. Maybe, as a “Blackpudlian”, I have a certain view on living in a seaside time for much of my life, a view that is not particularly favourable (can anyone look favourably on a town that was reported as heading upwards by a local councillor because a Nando’s was opening?). I see beyond the dazzle of a theme park, which I suppose I liken to put glitter on a skin cancer. But the theme park is also a subject in one of the photographs, representing an escape from reality that seaside towns can be to those that visit and leave before the gloss has had time to tarnish.

Is the theme park otherwise relevant to these images? I mention it because with it it became obvious that Roberts is not searching to show everything in the scene. Yes, the pier is there, but whilst it juts out into the sea, it’s also connected to its surroundings, and these surroundings go beyond the edge of the frame. We are allowed to explore the pier, but we are stopped from going too far from it. I guess it should be obvious that there needs to be an edge to the frame, but some might want to neatly encapsulate things - perhaps that would be the sign of a vernacular image? What I have done though is leave that frame and bring a lifetime of experience of seaside life to them, seeing beyond them. It’s a clear embodiment of Barthes’ theories that the images are different to us all because of who we are. I’ve never been to Weston-Super-Mare or Southend-on-Sea but still feel I know more through a shared experience. I may be well off the mark, but the photographs stir up feelings. I’m fairly sure these aren’t what Roberts was expecting, I suspect he would rather recall happy times, playing on the sands near the shadow of the pier or visiting the “amusements”, but there we go...
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Despite what might come across as negativity for these images, I actually found them really interesting. They’re very relevant to my own approach to landscape, of how I am planning to approach my next significant project exploring what might be forgotten histories of conflict. They illustrate how a measured approach to the subject does not have to become a tightly controlled Becher-esque typology, although typology is clearly what this is.

Perhaps a “complaint” that I might raise about the exhibition is that it’s small; there are only 4 large photographs and 2 smaller ones. However, this weakness might also be considered a strength, the exhibitions USP. You see, it’s not just in Blackpool, but also in a range of other seaside towns at the same time. It’s not for people in the big cities with the fancy galleries, but it’s back with the places that it came from. It’s odd, but whilst it takes something away, I also think it’s given back something else and it’s strangely stronger for it.

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Questionnaire - Theory and Practice

As part of the preparation for the first seminar on The Reflexive Practitioner, there’s a questionnaire to focus our attention on how we think about our work, how we make decisions, influences, that sort of thing - something to also come back to when physically working, to question what we’re doing. Some of these questions are quite “tricky”, and not things I’ve particularly thought about before, well, not in an overtly conscious way at least. Some of these are quite personal questions too - what is unsuccessful in my current work is something that can be hao come to terms with, to be open about, but I will try and be as unguarded as possible about these things.

So, with no more ado, here we go... (bear in mind I will be adding to this along the way)
Week 37 2014: Initial thoughts in “
Aqua” (thanks to the Apple crayon colour scheme...)

Generating and selecting ideas
  • How do you go about selecting and developing your initial images/ideas?
It depends... (yeah?). Normally something will trigger a concept, be it something someone has said in conversation, something I’ve read or heard or seen, then I will go out and photograph whatever I think might fit in with that rough straw man idea - make some visual “ranging photographs”, then sit in from of my computer, see what seems right or interesting. Things will develop from there (or not). I don’t make “one off” photographs, everything is in series of images so this may go on for a while. This is what’s happening now with Some Unholy War; I’m gathering lots of images and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but will soon sit with them a while... (see later)

  • What criteria do you use to select or reject them?
In the first instance, it’s purely an aesthetic choice, but when I know how things are panning out, that choice may well change... It also depends on the project. Images that might be weak in isolation, might sit well with another image. There are so many things that play their part, but I suppose it’s mostly down to how they “feel”.

  • Are your ideas usually substantial enough to sustain a piece of work? If not how do you modify them?
That’s a tricky one, some do, some don’t. Sometimes the idea and the work transforms along the way, other times it only really gets refined. My last finished piece (A Forest) ended pretty much as it started, as a juxtaposition between the forest and the litter found there. Yes, the post-processing changed slightly (I wanted much cooler images originally) and it became a 1:1 juxtaposition, so much more direct, but it was sustained. Other work will change organically, it will lead its own course and get to where it gets to with or without my help. Some will not know what it’s going to be until very close to the end when I look at the body of photographs and I have a little conversation with them. Other times, a comment will be made and it will be like a firework going off! I guess at the end of the day it’s trial and error.

  • What do you do when you get stuck?

Give up? Seriously, I might let it sit there unworked for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes at a later date. Sometimes it soon becomes apparent that an idea isn’t as good as I thought it was, or maybe the timing is wrong (it’s not unusual to realised I’ve simply missed the boat). Other times, I use Flickr to post an image and have a chat with some friends that I trust. Maybe I’ll flick through a photography book or two, or watch a film... soak up visual ephemera or just take a break.

  • Are there ideas you would like to explore but don’t know how to start?

I have a couple of ideas that are sitting on the back burner at the moment, not so much not knowing how to start, but maybe not knowing when to start or just suffering from apathy, over-procrastination or whatever... Maybe there have been in the past, but not right now.


Contextual research
  • What are your influences?
I draw a huge amount from photobooks and the way they are sequenced, how images interplay with their partners or predecessors/successors. I’m a particular fan of Japanese ones, perhaps a bit of a cliché but I like the Provoke era. But not just that, I like a range of different things... From Parr-esque social documentary to the deadpan of Düsseldorf, to the poetic and maudlin images of Hido and Engström’s whatever it is he does... and... and... it goes on and on. I like a lot of different stuff really. I’m also a big fan of cinema, and not just the Hollywood blockbuster - I’ve got a reasonable collection of world cinema films. And music has always been an influence of a sort. Does it alter the way I photograph? No, I don’t really think so (but maybe I’m too close), but I do like the interplay between words and images (and I don’t mean captions). As for other art, other media... Does it influence me? I guess I like what I like and will draw something from some areas, but I’m not 100% sure what that might be at this point in time. Lets be honest, life is the big influence on everything though.

  • How does your work draw on these?
I used to work a lot with a black and white aesthetic, introducing a degree of are, bure, boke into the images in post, not really now though (although I will if the mood takes me). Is it influenced or is it “informed”...? How does film influence me? I’ll ignore the Some Unholy War here as that’s the subject matter, not the influence... There was one film, Christopher Petit’s Radio On that was a significant influence on both Into the Valley and Speak My Language, in terms of how I sequenced the images, and in terms of Speak My Language what I actually photographed, or rather what I chose not to not photograph (i.e. I photographed anything). Maybe that is more the exception than the rule though.

  • How do you choose the resources to research and to support your work, where do you find them?
Sometimes I will stumble across something and it will lead to something else - I recently read an essay about the military sublime that I found via Twitter, which mentioned a number of artists, some of which I knew, others I didn’t which will then lead me off at tangents. Other times, I will find out about something from a friend, or hear something at a talk, or catch something in the news, or a gallery show... There’s a certain serendipity to it.

  • How do you position your practice in a contemporary context?
I hate this question... I suppose it highlights a lack of awareness on my part, and a fear of talking about my work in a certain way. Part of the difficulty comes because I can work in quite different ways - one minute it seems like landscape work, the next minute it’s more of a documentary style. I guess I like to think of it all as being a form of social commentary, even if that social element is just me, there’s a message of some form. I’m a “northern thinker”, does that mean anything? How does that fit in with the contemporary context? I’m still trying to find that out.

  • What difficulties do you having in accessing resources?
My biggest difficulty is that I live in a rural location, so access to galleries, etc. is harder than it might be for others. It has to be said that they’re only ever a car journey away, but finding time for that car journey can often be quite difficult. I have reasonable access to the Internet (not the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, but reasonable), so online research is possible, as long as you know what you’re looking for...


Evaluation
  • What is your framework for making judgments about the work of others?
Often, it will be purely based on a gut feeling in the first instance. Does it speak to me in some way, does it elicit a reaction? Does it appeal to my aesthetic tastes? Does it provoke me in some way? After that, if I’m still interested, I suppose I dig a little further, consciously relating it to my experiences and outlook. If I’m not hooked though, there’s too much stuff to look at to take any time to make a measured judgement; there’s a room full of photographs uploaded to Flickr everyday - we can’t look at them in isolation. Something has to give, and that gut feeling is my first level filter.

  • How can you tell if images or objects, yours and others are successful or not?
Very much like the previous question - for something to be successful I need to be hooked in the first instance and then have the piece communicate to me at some level.

  • How do you compare your work in relation to the work of others?
Obviously it’s far superior... Seriously though, I don’t know. Not on a serious level at least. This needs far more thought to be able to answer.

  • What is successful and not successful about your current work?
About my “current” work... well Some Unholy War is still unresolved - I don’t yet know what the finished “product” will be. I have a number of possible images that are sitting on my computer, unprinted (apart from a small sample print to check something out), unfinished, un-sequenced... There’s still some way to go with it. However, I do believe they’re exploring the subject that I want them to, they’re aesthetically interesting (pleasing might be the wrong term to use) and there is potential there.


Materials and techniques etc.
  • How do you decide whether a material or technique is appropriate or not?
I’m a photographer, so I work with photography. I can work with film and digital, but I think it’s fair to say that I’m a digital photographer first and foremost. However, is that with an iPhone, a compact, DSLR or medium format? It will depend on the desired aesthetic - fluidity will be with the iPhone or a compact, possibly with the DSLR, whereas if it’s something more considered and will benefit from the MF cameras, well then that will be it. The different formats do have a different feel, and even different cameras within the same format. Sometimes, it’s just what is close to hand though, or which have a particular feature that will be useful.

As for presentation, again it’s often just a gut feeling and then try it. It will either work or it won’t. When I produced a book on newspaper, there was a certain amount of trial and error to get something that felt right, was in tune with the idea that was lurking at the back of my head. Not everyone thought newspaper was an appropriate material though, but I liked it.


  • What limits your choice of materials and or techniques?
In terms of camera choice, much is down to what I have. I don’t have large format, so won’t choose that. I don’t have pinhole, so won’t choose that. I’m not really set-up for wet film, well, not really. I can do it, but I prefer the immediacy of the digital. In terms of printing, I have physical limits to what I can personally print to, although there is a local printer who I have used to go larger. Starting to paint or sculpt is not really on the cards either!

  • Are there any materials or techniques you would like to explore?
Not that I can think of...


Communication and intention
  • What messages do you intend your work to convey? How do you do that?
This varies… most, if not all will have some social element, but perhaps not within a traditional social (documentary) context. The work is quite personal – perhaps a little too self-referential sometimes - but hopefully also relevant to others, that people can relate to it, that it speaks to them in some way. How do I do that…? Well, I hope it’s by creating something interesting from the everyday things we can all experience in some form or another, infusing it with a multi-layered element. An allegory of a metaphor! Ha!! I guess I try to give the viewer something to think about.

  • What is the intention of your work? How is that manifest in the work?
I aim to involve the viewer in some way, to provoke thought rather than provide vacuous “eye candy”. As a result of this, the photographs are rarely traditionally “pretty” even when photographing something more accessible such as a landscape – there is often an element of the sublime and melancholy. There’s repeated themes – it might be the mundane and the overlooked, or barriers for example. Some of these things may only really come across when viewing a number of images together.

  • Who is the audience for your work?
I see the work as existing in multiple forms, from printed and hung on the gallery wall to printed and displayed in book form. It will also displayed online, through my own website, through other galleries (such as IRIS, or simply Tumblr or Flickr), etc. Who will the audience be for each of those? Different I guess, but I would hope that my work will be seen by contemporaries, both in terms of photographers and the wider art world. I don’t really see what I do as having mass appeal – they’re not “pretty photos” that you would necessarily find on biscuit tins and postcards. More for the thinker than the layman, but hopefully there will be something for the interested layman too.

  • Who will critique your work?
Anyone who sees it will have an opinion, but is that the intended question? If we’re talking about critique by contemporaries, by the intended audience, well I suppose my intention is to get the work seen and commented upon by curators and magazine publishers, etc. that sort of thing. Certainly, things can be quiet on the social media side of things, but then I don’t push it excessively at the moment.

  • What might their criticism be?
An open question – everyone will bring something of themselves (and their life’s experience – I’m thinking Barthes’ stance here) to the viewing of the image, so I find this difficult to answer. Hopefully they will appreciate the questioning nature of the work and the fact that they have to think. Will it be too obscure? Will it be too convoluted? I don’t know. Will they like it, will they loathe it? It’s like Bovril.

Critical thinking
  • What have been the most and least valuable resources so far?
The Internet can be incredibly useful in general terms, but then it can be a huge waste of time too. Gallery visits, books and discussions have all triggered critical thinking in the past too. Last year’s visit to Arles with OCA was a great experience – lots of photography and lots of discussions with like-minded people to trigger the thinking process, thinking about works, analysing them – I came back buzzing, both in terms of renewed creativity and how I thought.

  • What changes has your research made to your work?
This is difficult to put a finger on. Sometimes it will be a dash of inspiration in juxtaposing images, other times it might just be a particular colour scheme. Some things are subliminal, others overt. The surreal narrative of Speak My Language is a direct result of watching Avant Garde cinema. I’m not really sure of anything else at the moment, but there’s bound to be examples.

  • What
Erm...

  • Have there been any been any negative effects of your contextual research?
Nothing that immediately springs to mind – maybe a project has not gotten off the ground because of a piece of research…? It’s more of an annoyance than anything when I realise that my groundbreaking original idea has been done before, but then, is anything truly original anymore? Build on the shoulders of those that have gone before...

  • What specific influences and ideas have made the most positive impact on your work?
Perhaps the one that sticks in my mind most is a comment made by Dr John Darwell at a talk he gave at Lancaster University. His early work is all black and white, but if I remember the back story correctly, he was asked to work in colour for a commission and as a result he moved over to working all in colour. He said that “this is now” – something that stuck with me and has largely closed off black and white work to me. Yes, I will still use it if it is appropriate for some reason, but not as a purely aesthetic choice or because that’s what is expected. I don’t see the point in aping a bygone age for the sake of it. I see my work as being improved because I made this transition. But to be honest, everything I see will influence me to a greater or lesser degree.
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Introduction to Professional Practice

A first introduction to Professional Practice, covering much less time than the allotted hour. What is meant by “Professional Practice”? Well, it seems pretty much everything, which is fine - I would hate it to be a very specific list of things relating to being a working professional in the normal sense of the word as this would probably be of less interest. Art is unlikely to make up the bulk of my income any time soon. Whilst Caroline was talking, I was busy writing down bullet points, which is all I will present here - bullet points that will undoubtedly become more rounded and meaningful in due course as we explore and discuss topics:
  • The world of Art
  • How do we present our art outside the studio
  • Finding a place we are comfortable with in the Art World
  • Looking at other artists
  • Witnessing and questioning curatorial practice
  • Engage within our field of art
  • Awareness of the Art World (chosen field and wider)
  • Connecting with local and wider groups
  • Consideration of our audience

All this will come to head in a PPP at some point too, which then forms part of the end of year submission. A growing account of how we see ourselves as artists within the Art World.
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Introduction to MA1 Visual Enquiry

So, the first “official” hangout on the road to having an MA has passed. Well, ok, it’s the first if we assume that the kickoff hangout on 2nd September was a case of getting to meet each other, getting to know the IT and just basically introducing the course. So, this week’s “introduction to MA1 Visual Enquiry” was... fraught with IT issues with some of the users (a number of people were dropping in and out for some reason). I’m really not so sure it achieved a huge amount more than reading through the timetable wouldn’t have done. The VL is better, that’s for sure... more on this later. But anyway, the timetable roughly pans out as:

Time table 1


My initial thoughts is that this really isn’t for me. I’ve become too used to the freewheeling independence experienced in the photography degree, whereas this “suffers” from too much structure and not moving at a pace that I want to. There’s also a fear that in doing the exercises planned I won’t be doing the work I want to do. I know this is a failing with my mindset though, and that it’s just a case of adjusting to a different way of learning, of operating. That in time, when the IT is behaving and the course has started in anger and people are engaging with each other, things will be much better. Maybe I’m just missing Clive’s peculiar way of providing feedback, together with a degree of uncertainty about the mixed media cohort and the way things are phrased (“studio” for example). It’s certainly a worry though, but with luck I’ll make it past the end of the month.

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Introductory Workshop

So that’s it, the MA has officially started (well, sort of) and I’ve met my fellow artists at the inaugural Google hangout. I say “sort of” because the actual introduction to Year 1 is next week’s hangout topic. This was more of a “how to Google+” session, hosted by Caroline Wright, (Dr) Angela Rogers and Paul Vincent, introducing the IT that we will be using, so I must confess that, at times, my mind was drifting off elsewhere and I started colouring squares on my gridded note pad. Eventually though, we introduced ourselves to the cohort (Alison, Anne, Emma, Ines, Maire, Mwamba, Monika, Shaz and Tanya). Accompanying this introduction, we were asked to upload a photograph (this more to prove we could I suspect), but here’s mine:

RobTM

Something from
Speak My Language although this wasn’t mentioned. It’s relevant to me as it shows my Union Flag cup (now sadly faded by the dishwasher) which represents my nationality within a multi-national relationship (I have a French wife) and a love of coffee, my computer keyboard (I’m a semi-geek) and a photobook which is perhaps my preferred method of absorbing photography... It also made a background appearance in the photograph Caroline uploaded, although I’m not going to suggest anything can be read into that!

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© Caroline Wright

Pleasantries over, there was a brief breakaway into smaller groups to discuss three different links - two videos and a flash website:




sita
© Nina Paley



ManintheDark
© Miltos Manetas/Aaron Russ Clinger

The first of these, the video embedded above from Alexa // Sheila, was something I really enjoyed. The visuals were really striking, and reminded me of the rotoscoping technique employed in the making of A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater. The transient nature of the images was also interesting, the interplay with milk going off, the milk affecting the paint, the chalky nature of the photographs. There’s only a few finished images in there, but they do make me want to go and look at more. Ok, it’s photography so up my “street”, but it’s not my type of photography, but regardless, I liked it. I don’t know what it “meant”, but I liked it (and actually, does it need to “mean” anything?)

Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley) was intriguing... the contrast between cultures and the layers it created, between Indian religion/customs and the roaring twenties (of Annette Hanshaw’s vocals), this historical element with the computer game “platform-ness” and with the superhero kitsch of the “Chop!” that resonates with both the modern resurgence of the genre in the movies and the Batman series of the 60s. I’m not sure what I thought of it as “art”, but it was an enjoyable animation, a catchy tune... perhaps more entertaining than I was expecting.

And then there is the Flash (I assume) website of Man in the Dark by Miltos Manetas and Aaron Russ Clinger... I saw this an inwardly groaned. I’m not a fan of this sort of thing, I feel it’s very dated and not at all innovative nowadays. If I’d seen it a number of years ago (maybe in 2004 when it was created), yes it would have been quite something, but I can’t help but feel blasé about it, that it’s dated and outlived its appeal. I get more of a kick from simple animations on the iPhone now. Maybe that’s significant, and maybe it ties in with what I envisage my MA will be about; the representations of conflict in art/photography, and the saturation we may well have reached in what we see and then how we have to break from that tradition... Art has to innovate, adapt and re-innovate in order to keep fresh and interesting.

After that brief sojourn, Caroline gave an introduction into the MA-ness of the course. An interesting briefing that sparked something within me that we beginning to feel flat, feel nervous and doubtful. She touched on the research (process, looking, context), skill attainment, criticality, awareness, communication and independence. All buzz words I guess, but that’s not meant to be cynical, merely an observation. Whilst I still have some doubts, they’re more to do with the structure of where the course will take me and how that will impose itself on where I want it to take me (I have my ideas already). It’s something to discuss in my first one-on-one, unless it is relevant to the group discussion beforehand.

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Theme - conflict photography

I’ve not paid my fees yet, and the course is yet to start, but I thought that I would take the time to lay out some general thoughts for the overarching theme for my MA work. This might seem odd, but current events are playing on my mind a little and so it felt like the right thing to do.

The theme will be conflict photography. It’s a fairly wide ranging subject, and I will say right now that I have absolutely no intentions of visiting any of the current theatres of conflict, in the Ukraine or Gaza for example. Instead I will be intending to look much closer to home with notions of how it has affected the landscape here in the UK for what I envisage being the major part of the body of work. I also intend to look at other aspects of conflict photography and art, both in terms of its history from the likes of Fenton, through to recent Deutsche Börse prizewinners such as Luc Delahaye and Richard Mosse, taking in others along the way that touch on the subject (Jon Tonks’
Empire and Melanie Friend’s The Home Front, for example). There’s more too, from conflict photographers such as Tim Page and Don McCullin, the latter of whom especially seems to have his photography accepted more and more within an art context, rather than a purely reportage one as it had been originally intended. I’ll leave it at that for a list of subjects for now - it will grow, both organically and specifically as I piece together pieces of this particular jigsaw.

I’m also looking at a number of related but dissimilar projects to keep me moving throughout the three years duration of the MA, and will be looking at bringing
Some Unholy War onboard (a project I have been kicking around since I finished the BA), exploring the theory behind what I’m trying to work out in my head and through the lens and making the work grow into something more meaningful. Perhaps with a more political kick, perhaps playing with how it might interact with other aspects of work, be it work that has been appropriated in some way, be it wartime quotes, song lyrics again, or whatever. I do feel that it needs something more than just the images at the moment, some of which are included below (and will no doubt be featured in other blog posts along the way).

Centurion:

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Battle for Haditha:
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Full Metal Jacket:
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This body of work though has gotten me in something of a muddle in my head at the moment. I watch films, which generally glorify the fantasy of conflict in some way or another, and take these strange motion blurred photographs which, in some ways reinforce that fantasy. However, in the background I am very aware of the footage coming out of places like Gaza, and the awful things happening there. It would be hard not to. Seeing what is happening is also playing somewhat on my professional choices outside of the art world. I’m an engineer working in the defence industry, what does this all mean to me? How are my politics changing? Are my politics changing, and if so, will it come out in the body of work I will produce? And does the passage of time affect how I see each conflict? After working with Battle for Haditha, based on events that took place during the Gulf War, my next mini-project was with Centurion and the battles in the north of England between the Romans and Picts. Perhaps that is an extreme, but what of differences to how I react to the Gulf War and the Vietnam War, or WWII, both of which are “before my time” (I know, strictly speaking, Vietnam wasn’t, but I was 5 when the Americans withdrew and do not have personal, contemporary memories of the dispute - everything has come later through history books and cinema).

So, that’s it in a somewhat untidy nutshell - what I’m currently thinking. Of course, once the MA actually starts and things begin to happen, it might all change. I’m sort of used to that happening. But yeah, this is my stake in the ground that I will currently be measuring myself from.

Credit information for
Battle for Haditha, Full Metal Jacket and Centurion can be found here. (images used for educational purposes)

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