Alexa // Sheila

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.