Task 1

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.


Take 2 Influences : Going around the buoy

After playing with the images (small printed versions) to come up with a single pairing that I was reasonably happy with (below), applied the text and came up with what I put in the previous posting, an e-mail came reminding us to submit our 5 images and 2 questions as a slide presentation for group crit. In deciding which images to include with the diptych, further thoughts came to mind of an alternative take on the images as the individual slides started to work like a more traditional narrative and I was reminded of a comic book collection from my youth. One by one, the images looked like frames from the book, albeit as photographs instead of black and white line drawings.

Game On
(images used for educational purposes)

So, with the diptych discarded for the time being, a second round of activity started, playing with the order of the images, pulling more options from the library of images made when viewing the film Battle of Britain (by Guy Hamilton) and the Ubisoft game Blazing Angels, organising them in a longer sequence, a narrative of five instead of two. Adding more images allows for different options (obviously), so things were definitely changing - back to the drawing board and around the buoy... not reworking the images but what they mean and how they interact with each other.

IMG_3094-2IMG_3093-1 IMG_3095-3

The “influences” for this piece originally came from appropriation and mixing text and photography in a way that goes beyond mere captioning (the text is part of the work). Barbara Kruger is one source of inspiration, although she is very recognisable by her graphic delivery (I still haven’t listened to the radio programme mentioned by Angela - on my list of things to do over the weekend). I like it, it’s a throwback to my own short-lived graphic design training. Maybe it can be argued that this is a third influence, but I would prefer to think it’s a continuation of the text and art form, whilst also feeding the realms of the appropriation and the position that could have in the postmodern arena, I’m thinking Roy Lichtenstein and positioning low culture as high culture - I have mentioned these might be developed as large scale artworks for the gallery wall, not small images on a computer screen or pages in an A5 booklet, although this could actually be an alternative resolution of the piece - back to being similar to the war stories, referential to its roots.

With this idea of a more narrative driven piece, still mixing video film and video game source material, the mood perhaps changes a little. Does this continue a theme of glorification of war driven by the media, is it romanticising a period of our history? Or does it actually question what we see, what we do with that media? This is where I want to be coming from, questioning the raison d’être of the source material, that conditions us to be more accepting of conflict, maybe even more aggressive in our outlook - certainly as a male anyway. Perhaps this questioning stance would have to be supported by the statement that accompanies the work, otherwise people will simply take what they see and not be nudged into thinking about things (it’s the same with pretty much anything I’ve produced).

The work submitted for the crit is not truly “finished”, not by a long way; it’s been bound by the constraints placed in terms of time and the number of images. I’m not even truly sure if it’s actually worth pursuing further, but I’m sure the feedback due on Monday will give some guidance with regards to this. Maybe it will be worth playing a little more with styles of text, or working with the underlying DLP mesh that is a feature of this way of working to square everything up in order that it is suitable for printing large...

I’ll post the image sequence and some further notes on the outcome of the critique session later next week.
(images used for educational purposes)


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.
(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.


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)


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.


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)


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.

(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.


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

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.

Art & Today, by Eleanor Heartney (p42)

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]


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.

© 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.