Writing workshop

It’s a small room, an office, a home office. Filled with the desks, computers, printers, books and assorted paraphernalia of study, trying to be an artist and running a business. In the midst of this I sit, typing, looking intently at the large screen with my back to the door. There’s a wall of photo-books to my right and front (some of which are prized possessions) and a window to my left. The window often lets in too much light, which causes reflection problems on the screen, but not now on a cold winter’s evening.

It’s time for a coffee.

100 words on my environment, from the hangout on writing. I had lumpy Internet and there were server issues, so it was frustrating as I kept on coming in and out, but there we go. To add to the growing pile of things I have to get moving on, there's an essay to write, which will be somehow based on the
Mapping the Territory thing, support my work and probably anchor in to the P3 too. I need to get moving, need to get motivated and need to actually do something visually creative at some point.

Still, we have a week off next week. So there's time to do the reading we have to do for the week after... Oh, did I mention the P3 is due at the same time?

Pecha Kucha

A Pecha Kucha video about influences... What drives me? What makes me work? What makes me tick?

Here it is, from storyboard to the final video - 20 slides, 20 seconds each and a live voice over...


I’ll add what I’ve prepared as the voiceover text later, whether it ends up being what I actually say remains to be seen.

Slide 1 - Rob, some time ago...
Slide 2 - Concert photograph, 2010
Slide 3 -
Heinz Hajek Halke, The Home of Sailors, 1930
Slide 4 -
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brussels, 1932 (MoMA)
Slide 5 - Daido at Polka, 2011
Slide 6 -
Shomei Tomatsu, Kadena-cho, Okinawa, 1969
Slide 7 -
William Klein, Torn Cine Poster, 1961
Slide 8 -
Tony Ray-Jones, Glyndebourne, 1967
Slide 9 -
Christopher Petit, Radio On, 1979
Slide 10 - Untitled, from
Speak My Language, 2013
Slide 11 -
Petra Wunderlich, NYC Kingdom Hall, 2009
Slide 12 -
John Darwell, Legacy: Inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, 1998
Slide 13 -
William Eggleston, Untitled (Peaches), 1973
Slide 14 -
Stephen Shore, US 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, 21 July 1973.
Slide 15 -
Ridley Scott, Blade Runner, 1982
Slide 16 - Books 1, 2015
Slide 17 - Menu, 2012
Slide 18 - Books 2, 2014
Slide 19 -
Barbara Kruger, Belief + Doubt, 2012
Slide 20 - Pop Art Rob

Here’s what I
intended to say, but it didn’t quite work out that way:

1. Hi, my name is Rob and I’m addicted to photography
I’m going to talk about some of the things that I’ve liked and have influenced me over the years. The first thing I have to mention is music; it’s affected the way I looked, the way I feel and the work I produce. As you know, I’ve used lyrics in my images, but I’ve also used music as the image itself.

2. Here’s a photo I took at a gig, the photograph shows the audience and the effect music can have. Elsewhere it might be less overt but it’s there if you know where to look for the signs. All of my recent projects are also named after songs too. Might be a bit cheesy, but there we go.

3. Surrealism was the first “ism” I became aware of at school, and it’s stayed with me to some degree ever since. Not just in terms of photographers either, but Dali, Magritte and so on too. It probably comes from reading too much science fiction when I was younger.

4. Another surrealist was Henri Cartier-Bresson, but he will be better known for his photographs of the “decisive moment”, like his famous St Lazare photograph. I really got into black and white photography from these old images from Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau and Atget, etc.

5. From France, my interests moved over to Japan and the Vivo and Provoke groups from the 60s and 70s – photographers such as Tomatsu, Hosoe, Moriyama and Takanashi were producing images in the “are bure boke” style - grainy, blurry and out of focus.

6. The images were politically charged, and even though they were influenced by the West, and new wave filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, they pushed against the American occupation of Japan and reacted to the experience of the atomic bomb.

7. William Klein was an influence on Moriyama, and I thought their exhibition at the Tate a couple of years ago was brilliant. What draws me is the way he layers different elements – photo with photo as with this one, or with text or graphic design.

8. Coming closer to home, I have to say I’m English, and I do like the more contemporary style of English photography – after the Picture Post era like this one from Tony Ray-Jones, it became a little edgier and… eccentric. I find this really interesting.

9. Cinema is another big influence, as you may have noticed from the work I’ve been doing. This still is from Christopher Petit’s Radio On, which was a direct influence on the work I exhibited in Bank Street last year with Speak My Language – a mosaic of images viewed in a large grid to form a non-linear narrative.

10. This is one of the images from that work, it’s of Wong Kar-Wai’s “Fallen Angels”, which also gave me the title of the project – Laurie Anderson’s “Speak my Language” was on the soundtrack to the film, and this frame and the lyrics were included in the mosaic.

11. I’ve also got to mention Objectivity and the Dusseldorf School – people like the Bechers, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky. I find this relatively recently but it appeals to the engineer in me, with everything neat and ordered and logical.

12. Quite a few years ago, I attended a talk by John Darwell. During that talk, he spoke about his transition to colour photography, saying “This is now”. It really struck a chord with me and I’ve generally worked in colour since, but not always…

13. William Eggleston was one of the early colour pioneers, who helped make colour photography acceptable on the art scene. I really do like his eye for mundane details, the way he picks up on all the little things we might overlook and makes you look at them as if they now meant something. They become important somehow.

14. Stephen Shore was another of the early colour art photographers. This particular image illustrates postmodernist ideas for me, the simulacra of the mountain in front of the real thing, not quite a map so big it covers the country, but still…

15. This brings me back to film and Blade Runner – an all time favourite of mine, and a perfect postmodern film, with its themes of simulation, what is real and all that. Looking at something like this starts to make sense of some of the pomo theory.

16. I’ve done a reasonable amount of reading on visual culture, and I do subscribe to some of it, but not all – it gets a bit… aloof in places, and it assumes a lot. Some times I just like to appreciate things for what they are to me (itself part of the theory), rather than what they might mean or not.

17. My favourite kind of book is the photobook though. This is one I produced with Daido Moriyama at an event at the Tate. My methodology was much different to his, I was much more considered, and he was very random, more spontaneous. His juxtapositions can be down to luck rather than planning.

18. I like the physicality of the photobook, the image becomes an object that you can “own” rather than something just seen on a computer screen. Whilst books might be thought of as a limited media, you can do so much with it if you want to. And we all know about bookness now.

19. I’ve mentioned text before, but then I don’t like direct captions. I like to think about what I’m seeing, rather than being told what it is. Ok, sometimes I’ll admit to needing a clue, but if the caption is reductive, I’d rather not read it.

20. And that’s it, back to music, me and popular culture… I probably should have been born 20 years earlier.

I’m waiting for feedback from some of the cohort, but I think things went well enough. And it was quite interesting that the Barbara Kruger text came up in the lecture beforehand (as did Warhol’s Marilyn).


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?

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…


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.


200 words in response to...

… Jonathan Jones.
On the 13th of November, the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones published a blog post about photography that provoked something of a reaction within the photography community. His article (which is
here) takes offence to the fact that at this moment in time, photography appears to have gained in popularity and is being exhibited in galleries. After viewing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the Taylor-Wessing Prize and some scientific images taken by a robot, his assertion is that only painting is good enough to be framed and exhibited, and that all photography should only be seen on an iPad or some journal. I’ve already posted something about this, but as part of the writing workshop, this had to be pared down to 200 words, so that is what I have done below:

I have a problem with Jonathan Jones’ comparison between photography and painting, with his assertion that photography cannot be art but merely “flat, soulless and stupid”. One second he talks about photography on the gallery walls, the next about some robot beaming images from a comet thousands of miles away. They’re different products for different purposes. I can make a similar comparison between his beloved Caravaggio and my lounge; both are painted, so by these (clearly flawed) guidelines, the same.

For a so-called critic, his observations are incredibly short-sighted, generic and, let’s face it, wrong. Art is not simply about the craft of a painter, but the communication forged with his audience, his “art” aspirations and the manner in which it is intended to be viewed. It would appear that Jones fails to appreciate the evolution from the Baroque, through an age of mechanical reproduction and the “flatness” of the Modernists painters and Post-Post-Modernism, etc. Photography is currently in ascendancy, perhaps at painting’s expense, and will no doubt fall away too, replaced by something else. At the moment though, photography is where it is, and there’s not a lot Jones can do to take it from those gallery walls.
To be fair to Jones, if you look at the fact that he mentions the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, then here we have a more “scientific” form of photography. Many of the photographs will not have been intended to have been viewed on the gallery wall as “art”, but then is that what they’re being touted as? It will be a photography exhibition, not an art exhibition. Where he does overstep the mark, at least in my reading of the piece, is the broad brush approach he takes to all photography. He would be outraged if someone was to do the same with all painting, to lump Caravaggio in with Pollock or Reinhardt’s black squares that were mentioned in another recent post of mine. They’re not the same, so similarly Philae’s photographs from the far side of the galaxy are not the same as a Hockney joiner or one of Crewdson’s composite images, or any number of other photographs intended to be viewed as art. A huge oversight in my view. So yes, I will agree to disagree with him.

Critical Reading/Writing Workshop II

I missed the first reading and writing workshop, and whilst I did get to see the material that was discussed in the hangout, it wasn't really a great help without the context of the discussions. This time, I took part.

The first thing discussed was a piece of writing by Christopher French about Ad Reinhardt's proposition that "Art is Art and Everything Else is Everything Else". He starts of in his introduction that he is against the proposition: "As much as I admire him, I am here to argue against one of Reinhardt's more famous pronouncements...". A clear statement of intent, but one I didn't feel was followed up in what came next. He spoke about Reinhardt's work, about a catalogue of black canvases that would work as a flip book, albeit one that needs to be seen only through first hand experience (contradictory?), and some work presented as a series of 2000 slides so boring that parts of the audience left. There's no direct talk about art being art, or not.

The language being used is sometimes self indulgent, featuring long sentences of long words, or at least a complex vocabulary not normally constituting an inherent component of the common parlance, and arranged within a convoluted syntax (see, I can do it too, and it doesn't make it "good"). His sentence "I think his image bank provided the evidentiary underpinnings that allowed him the freedom to generate the cruciform geometries that infuse and enliven the otherwise too-severe reductiveness of his black paintings." is an example of this. Yes, it makes sense once you've worked you way around the mental gymnastics involved in deciphering it, but is it really necessary to write in that way?

I guess the answer to that will depend largely on your audience. French was writing for 
The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture, so there may actually be an expectance for this sort of writing. His audience will also be a reason for not including any direct reference/illustrations to Reinhardt's work. Personally I don't know it. I've never heard of the artist, and I can't say I'm particularly "aware" of a large number of painters. Actually, I may have seen one of these black paintings - I recall a visit to MoMA in New York about 6 years ago when I spent some time trying to work out if there was anything specifically within a solid black square painting. I don't believe there was, but I've no idea who painted it either, so this little anecdote carries no weight. The point I was trying to make before it was that I didn't connect with his writing at all, I felt nothing. I suppose I could've gone and researched Reinhardt, but I didn't feel a burning desire to. Plain black images that need to be seen first hand and a series of photographs that are so boring, his audience left. No, I'm not hooked into further looking.

And after all this, he finally returns to his point, to the raison d'être for the piece, and his objection to the proposition. Rather than anything else, he "argues" (or should that be "simply states"?) that the proposition "was a provocative act of misdirection ... what continues to make Ad Reinhardt such an able role model for navigating the ever-more complicated waters of art and life." Personally, I don't see it, but then I don't really know what he's talking about...

Post from
The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture January 16th 2014 (located at by Christopher French, painter and writer, and President of AICA-USA.

The second part of the session was somewhat thrown upon us with no preparation or warning - we had to write 100 words about an experience with a piece of art, writing in the present tense. I chose to write about the first time I saw some Daido Moriyama prints on a gallery wall, at Polka in Paris a few years ago.

“Seeing Daido Moriyama's photographs first hand for the fist time, I am surprised. The print is so large (about 1.5m across) and very different to anything I've seen of him before in books or the computer screen. There is still the grain and the movement - the 
are, bure, boke - but now there is a previously unknown sense of size. I'm conflicted. The images used to be intimate but now that has changed irrevocably. Here is something that can also be immersive, something bigger. But is it better?”

89 words written in less than 10 minutes with no preparation, slightly under the target but ok. It was a tough ask, especially as we had to read it out to the rest of the group. I think it's ok though. If we hadn't run out of time, the next part of the task would've been to pare it down by about 30%, to 66 words. I'll try that now:

“Seeing Moriyama's photographs first hand for the fist time, I'm surprised. The print is large (about 1.5m across) and different to anything I've seen before. There is still the 
are, bure, boke, but now there is a sense of size. I'm conflicted. The images used to be intimate but now that has changed. Now it can also be immersive, it's bigger. But is it better?”

I've managed to remove 25 words, but added a couple too, so it still makes sense. Which is better? I'm not sure there's a great difference at this point, other than making it fit in a 66 word limit, something that might be useful when it comes to filling in submissions for exhibitions, awards and whatnot... (and the academic essay that will no doubt be coming soon)

Lisa Barnard

Today’s visiting lecturer was Lisa Barnard, a photographic artist who deals with subjects such as politics and war.

Unfortunately, I missed the introductions and the preamble, turning up as she was discussing some photographs taken with a large format, first exploring the psychological aesthetics of the relationship between mother and daughter (
Ps<>D) then those of children engrossed in theatre (the Unicorn Theatre). Whilst these images are shot on a 5×4 camera, they’re not overloaded with the minute of detail that some make use of the format to produce, rather they’re so much more suggestive rather than purely representative, either through the use of tilt/shift or due to the low light conditions that they were shot under. Nice, but portraits aren’t really my “thing”…

Having said that, I did like the presentation from 
Polska by the Sea, with the front/back portrait pairing in the train station in Eastbourne. Maybe not the way I would have done it, I’d have gone down the obvious route and done 180° rotations. Actually, no, I wouldn’t have done it at all, but I may have done something like postcards that formed a kind of juxtaposition with the portraits, being iconography of the idea of Polish-ness and in some ways of life in Britain (Union Flag toilet seats and Lady Di). These postcards featured poems written by a collaborator (I didn’t catch a name) who wrote whilst the photographs were being taken, an interesting MO although maybe not one I’d be comfortable adopting (the idea of collaboration scares me).

Blue Star Moms was another project intertwining portraiture with an element of typology (and indeed, the portraits are also typology of a sort). Again, it was the non-portraiture that I found more interesting – the duality of the Care Packages only really becoming apparent when you are “in the know”. Many of the items seem mundane (and indeed are), however they have added value in a war zone, with cotton buds being used for cleaning equipment rather than ears (which they shouldn’t be used for anyway!!), or sanitary towels used to absorb sweat when added to a helmet lining. These items also serve their normal use as well; a little bit of normality in an un-normal situation. In many ways, this reminded me of Olivia Hollamby (or Robinson – she’s now married and I don’t know which is correct) who worked with her husband in making images from the Gulf (he is a British soldier), but she concentrated on some of the domestic elements, although not in a typographic manner.

Another project with a decidedly blue theme was 
32 Smiths Square, the one time home of the Conservative Party. During the time the photographs were taken, the offices were closed and had been (virtually) emptied, with anything of any value having been auctioned off. All that remained was things with no perceived financial worth, but with interest, notably the series of photographs of Margaret Thatcher that had been affected by the passage of time. Blown up and exhibited in a poll booth type of installation, there was an added depth to the images, all different but so similar – as if the iron lady had an iron façade, unchanging.

The remainder of the work was again centred about the US Army, although no more directly than with the 
Blue Star Moms. Drones form one part of the projects, as is the use of virtual reality. In some ways, it’s quite closely tied into some of my own current work, with the blend of the military, gaming and such. Lisa spoke of Baudrilliard, and his Gulf War trilogy is something I’ve been reading recently, together with other pieces on war as entertainment and the military sublime (Stallabrass). I’ve written a few notes about this, but I’ve also ordered Lisa’s book Hyenas of the Battlefield, so before adding much more I think I will wait for the book to arrive and look in further detail at the work.

All in all, an enjoyable, interesting and informative lecture about a highly relevant subject- Lisa was an interesting talker and put up with me chipping in with typed comments and questions as the session progressed. Yes, thoroughly enjoyed.

A chat with Máire

As part of working through Task 2, we're having small group hangouts; a chance to chat about what we're up to in a little more details than we perhaps would in the normal hangouts. There's only 3 people's work to discuss, so it's more focussed. I say 3, but this first hangout was only 2, me and Máire as Ines had lost Internet connectivity. So, we had plenty of opportunity to talk around what we were doing. We opened up a shared document and simply dropped images into it so we could see what we had been up to - a simple and effective way of looking at the work. We also briefly chatted about the previous Monday's hangout as Máire had missed it, specifically about the autobiographical nature of our work, Louise Bourgeois and how too much information might close off a way of reading the work from the viewer.

Looking at my work, I posted a few images of the work in progress so far, and I gave a brief description of what I was doing, in terms of both physical and thought processes. The response came back that I was being "brave" due to the nature of the appropriation. I'll worry about that when the time comes I think, otherwise I will freeze...

The images I posted were:

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920
Image: The Battle of Warsaw
Lyric: Saturday Night's Alright, by Elton John

Haditha Massacre, 2005
Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: Books from Boxes, by Maximo Park

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920

(images used for educational purposes)

The last image was just intended as something a little different, perhaps a bit closer to being "traditional" reportage type photography. Something for another day though.

Máire also spoke briefly of the start of her own work, which incorporated a sugan chair as the basis for the work. Things were still in the early days of the process she would be carrying out, so we talked more about the idea and the background. There will be more to discuss next week when hopefully Ines will join us too...


Meet the Students

Today was meant to be a “Meet the Students” session but the second year cohort were otherwise engaged doing something else, so there was a short Q&A session with Caroline before being virtually introduced to our second year “buddy”.

The main thing raise for me was by Mathew, in that he questioned the essay writing and requirements for assessment. There’s an essay writing session next week so that will hopefully cover the lions share of that, but the requirements for assessment were interesting. They are:
  • the practical work
  • a piece of academic writing “the essay”
  • 8x A4 pages pulled from the journal

The first two I knew about, but not the latter (although I probably should’ve) - these entries can be anything: a gallery visit, a review of some work, some reflection, etc. It does all need to be pretty central to the development of the work and the course though. No point worrying about that now, but it is something to try and remember going forward (8 A4 pages isn’t really a lot!)

The other thing from the night was being told which of the second years we would pair up with for a discussion, and that would be Mark Daniels. He uses iPhonography amongst other things in his work. I’ll be getting an e-mail in the next few days, so will take it from there as I don’t really know what this is about at the moment, perhaps just a chance for a chat as you might have in a normal B&M? It might be worth having a browse through his blog though.

Take 2 Influences : Group Crit

I’m trying to think back to whether I’ve ever done anything like this before. I thought not, but maybe I have at the Leeds tutorial Penny (a BA Photography student with the OCA) organised. It was very casual, but there was discussion about the work, albeit mostly by the tutor (Peter Haveland). I’ve also done a portfolio review, and that was very different again.

On the work of others, I’m not intending to dwell too much here (they will all be blogging their own thoughts anyway) but there were a few things I did find really quite interesting, Emma’s sculpture being one, Anne’s re-photography being another (I do like photographing images within their context, even if sometimes slightly abstractly). Bits of other things too - crows, swirls of colour, hidden identities, text and ‘loose’ painting of various kinds. In fact, I think it was all really interesting, especially with the finite time given to the task. Some people were more adventurous, trying something new, others saw the opportunity to explore. Still others just saw the chance to move an idea along a little. I think I fall into that category.

So, we basically had 12 minutes to describe then discuss. My approach was different to the others in that I used the 5 images to create a narrative rather than to try different things, different versions or develop an idea. This wasn’t my original intention, and I was worried that the approach, aping to a certain degree the Commando war comics of my youth, might glorify conflict too much, whereas my intention was to question the way that conflict is “normalised” by media - films and computer games. I don’t really remember all that I said about my work, and for future crit sessions it may be worth planning more - time goes ever so quickly and I’ve no record of how I described the work, which is a shame - I may have said something insightful on the spur of the moment! I wish I had made a recording! Talking about the work, reading the comments in the chat box and listening to people ask questions and formulate your answers is incredibly hard work. There’s certainly no time for making notes! Luckily, Angela made a copy of the chat box comments, so this has served as something of an aide memoire.

These comments and questions were:

Is this a celebration of boys' comics, a comment on their glorification of war?

They are ambiguous, but that is more interesting to me

Have you seen Willie Dohery
Will Doherty's use of text I mean!

I feel like the images conflict so much with the glib words, which makes a really interesting awkward balance between them - the pop culture words definitely make us question what we're looking at!!!!

Yes, it does glorify it, for me, but I'm coming from a very personal position of being anti-war

I feel it glorifies and partitcularly the words used.

You are doing with photography/computer games what Roy Lichenstein did with oil paint - I like it.

As in, if you give us information, statistics etc, you are trying to make us feel a certain way, whereas this challenges us to see how kids learn about violence, and organised violence etc.... really exciting work!

I'm a bit caught as to whether to read the text as irony ... not sure, there's some ambiguity of whether glorifying or not
slide 4 looks like a child ..


Thank you for your personal story - that really informs the images for me.

I find the photos disturbing and scary, so maybe in a way that means it's not glorified. I'm conflicted about them! (pun intended)

Do you know Idris Khan's photography? I'm sure you do. There's a lot of similar movement

It's a brave place to go.

the images are full of threat and full of tension so very successful in terms of what you are trying to do I feel

EMMA how did you get to Idris Khan from these?

Movement - blurring! 

Some of the questions were answered, I spoke with Sharon about how my intention was to question, not glorify or romanticise conflict. I suppose it’s more about our (collective) attitude and how conflict is very much normalised. There’s was a question of perhaps needing to show “pain” in the images for there to be less of a glorification effect - not mentioned but relevant is how we are bombarded with more and more extreme images of real events, through the news etc. and that, even though these are censored, we can find more and more gruesome images if we want - this is normalising us too, in conjunction with Hollywood and the computer games industry. How much pain do we actually need to witness? Does it need to be absolutely everywhere?

Willie Doherty I now know, and I’m still not sure if I knew of him before, but he was mentioned in my tutorial the other day. I’ve not had much of a chance to dig into his work this time around, so his work has not been particularly influential in any way. It is certainly something to look into though.

I can sort of see where Emma was coming from with Idris Khan, with the blur, although the process is very different (more akin to the Mishka Henner video I
posted), and to my mind more appropriate to Ines’ work on identity.

Tanya mentioned that the photographs were “equipment heavy” or something like that. True, two of the five photographs featured planes and that was intended to carry the Commando comic theme, and was also the only real way of getting the computer game element on board. I don’t play computer games (although I did when younger), and this one was bought specifically for this project. Maybe with further exploration of the game there might be a way of adjusting the various views to make it more appropriate-able (is that a word?), more flexible in the way it could be used. The time didn’t really allow for this exploration from the starting point of a “noob” - there was a couple of hours with the film, a hour or so with the game, then the rest was going through the images, working in post and sequencing them and trying different things. I probably went over the 8 hours to be honest, but not by a great deal (post takes very little time as I tend to just work the same things). Back to Tanya’s comment, to be honest, there’s far more people involved than I normally would have, although this current series (
Some Unholy War) is mostly people, but it’s quite a deviation from my normal MO.

On the whole though, it seems that there has been a successful outcome, although perhaps the glorification aspect is a little strong. Would this be better if printed large scale? If compared to Lichtenstein (who Mathew mentioned), that I feel does more closely reflect the comic book action, which is of course what it is supposed to do. I’ve never thought as to whether it has any particular stance though...

Take 2 Influences : Image sequence

These are the images as presented for the group crit. They’re intended to be viewed as a short 5 frame narrative which hopefully questions our approach to the way war is often portrayed, and the conditioning to it that we get through varying media - films and video games are used as source material, with the narrative being loosely based on boys war comics. As a finished piece of work, I’d probably envisage these images being quite large.

(images used for educational purposes)

I’ll add some thoughts on the crit later.


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.

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.

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.


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:


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!

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 17.26.44
© Caroline Wright

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

© Nina Paley

© 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.