A5: best quote ever

Joan Joans said at the end of a small clip put out by the Tate on social media:

“I think I would only ask that people take the time to experience it and not try to understand it” Jonas, 2018 

It’s going to be my mantra from now on!

“I jsut ask


Artists: Turner 2018

A useful article in the Guardian about this year’s Turner Prize contenders:


I saw Luke Willis Thompson’s work at TPG the other day when I visited with John Umney (which I should write about soon) but have not seen the others. I was interested to read, “All, to greater and lesser degrees, use film and digital imagery – in extremely different ways” (Searle, 2018)

A5: Artists working with mirrors​

Paul Mpagi Sepuya 

Sepuya is interrogating the self through the use of mirrors and embedded in his work are the terms ‘absence and presence’.

My own inquiry differs in that I see far less of a distinction between self and other – by interrogating self I am inevitably interrogating other and visa versa.

I am also intrigued by the how randomness and pattern can be argued as more relevant than absence and presence in the digital age and hope to explore that aspect.

“I can not *not* be present, latent, embedded in the picture. While working I move between the mirror’s surface and my camera’s viewfinder. When the picture is taken I can remain behind the camera as a reflection, or press a timer letting me intervene on its surface or walk away.”—Paul Mpagi Sepuya (@pagmi) … How do you use photography to investigate the self? We asked photographers now on view in “Being: #NewPhotography2018" to share the ideas and techniques that influence the exploration of personhood in their work. See their responses on mo.ma/newphoto2018. … [Image: Paul Mpagi Sepuya. "Mirror Study (4R2A0857)." 2016. Pigmented inkjet print. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century. © 2018 Paul Mpagi Sepuya]

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See more http://www.paulmpagisepuya.com

Francesca Woodman 

Mirrors turn up in Woodman’s work repeatedly. From the Tate website: “Curator Harm Lux has argued that the mirror, a prop used frequently by Woodman in her work, does not serve a narcissistic purpose – in this work Woodman even turns away from it – but rather he sees the mirror as ‘mocking the voyeurist [sic] viewer’ by rarely reflecting Woodman very fully or clearly (Lux 1992, p.18). Untitled complicates this interpretation of Woodman’s work in that it was intended for her boyfriend and appears to invite rather than deny sexual pleasure. In fact, the mirror’s reflection here affords the viewer a glimpse of Woodman’s chest, in particular the sharp V-neck of her sweater. The work therefore seems instead to support art historian Lorraine Kenny’s position that Woodman yields to or strategically complies with the pornographic gaze rather than frustrates it (see Keller 2011, p.190).” Perhaps we can recall Berger’s comments about mirrors and vanity, the position women are often positioned into this very restrictive space which prevents them from being present as fully formed functioning members of the world – as subjects, and instead must exist only as an absence.

Francesca Woodman, untitled, 1979 #francescawoodman

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Juno Calypso

Calypso is another artist exploring the long-held relationship women have had with image and mirrors. To be first and foremost fetishised as an object to be looked at or  in Berger’s words,

‘She is not naked as she is

She is naked as the spectator sees her’ (1972, p 50)

The work is powerful and relatively easy to connect to (I suspect) – perhaps it lacks a level of complexity more evident in Woodman’s work

(I would like to add briefly – often when I discuss this subject with men, even the most evolved and anti-misogynistic, there seems to be a hint or more of defensiveness; a kind of “but I never hurt anyone – or worse” in their response. I can understand this but the response indicates abject failure to fully comprehend what is to exist as an absence, to be bought up as such, to be born into a world where one can never become fully fledged, forced onto a scale which has at one end the possibility of attempting to emulate the presence in some way, thereby denying one’s own authenticity, or at the other end succumbing fully to absence, rendering oneself a non-subject, an ideal object for an ideal spectator, only and entirely ‘designed to flatter him’ (Berger, 1972. p 64). If you’re not aware of and in some genuine way addressing the problem, you are part of the problem.)

There are of course mirrors aplenty, along with shadows and reflections in Maya Deren’s films. She was highly concerned with human self-awareness, evident in a possible unpublished poem by her, dated March 1942:

It Must Be Done with Mirrors

It must be done with mirrors
my head that rests on nothing in mid-air.

Where is my body where oh where?
I can see the stones hidden in the hands.

O bring back my body to me, to me, O miracle bring it back
before the mirrors break.

Mirrors in Art

Mirrors and reflective surfaces are evident in art throughout the ages, and many, many painters, filmmakers and photographers have made use of them because there is something magical about them – this list could have been a great deal longer and I have focused on quite specific examples. Mirrors are such an important object in the human story, seen as ‘a metaphor for an abstract soul and a divine metaphysics” (Hulkes, 2018. p 55)

Mark Pendegrast, who wrote the introduction to The Book of the Mirror, 2008, says, ‘The ability to recognize oneself in a mirror correlates with (but does not cause) essential human traits such as logic, creativity, curiosity and appreciation of beauty.” (p 10) He quotes primatologist Frans de Waal who says that without self-awareness, so evident in our relationship with mirrors and image, “we might as well be folkloric creatures without souls, such as vampires, who cast no reflections. Most important, we would be incapable of cognitive empathy, as this requires a distinction between the self and other and realisation that others have selves like us.” I would go further and repeat my suggestion, based in part on what I have read from Carlo Rovelli about the nature of man being a ‘network of personal, familial, and social interactions within which we exist” that others are us and we are others. (p227, 2017)

Beth Williamson in her contribution, Mirrors in Art, to The Book of Mirrors, 2008, says, “Mirrors both reflect and construct what is seen, and mirrors within images can construct a viewer who as particular physical and spacial relationship with the spectacle within the image… spectators pick up cues to think consciously about seeing, and about what they see and how they see it, and about the significance of what they see” (p 134) In other words – a mirror in a work of art is never random and usually, if not always, consciously or otherwise, prescriptive about how we should view a piece.

Finally – looking back through my own work  I see I have been fairly busy with mirrors too over the last five years. As well I have also taken many shadow pictures and these are not as I have read elsewhere, coy expressions of self, rather an exploration of self-awareness, a recognition that the illusion of self is so powerful and all-encompassing, but just that – an illusion, perhaps one which disappears just as easily as it arrives, despite our conviction that is otherwise. A shadow or a reflection perfectly illustrates the illusion. Presence nowadays is far less certain than it once was – as meaning disintegrates (and I will elaborate on this elsewhere). Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining the proliferation of SELFIES, which are after all nothing more than mirrored reflections. It’s as if we humans must constantly remind ourselves we exist. I DO I DO I DO and if I take enough images of myself then surely that will make it so. 


Berger, J, 1972. Ways of Seeing, BBC, London, p 50,64

Anderson, M, ed. 2008. The Book of Mirrors: An Interdisciplinary Collection Exploring the Cultural History of the Mirror, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle

Williamson, B, 2008 Mirrors in Art: Images as Mirrors (The Book of Mirrors: An Interdisciplinary Collection Exploring the Cultural History of the Mirror, ed. Anderson, M) Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, p 134

Pendegrast, M. 2008 A Historical and Psychological Overview (The Book of Mirrors: An Interdisciplinary Collection Exploring the Cultural History of the Mirror, ed. Anderson, M) Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, p 10

Hulkes, R, 2008 The Philosophic Mirror (The Book of Mirrors: An Interdisciplinary Collection Exploring the Cultural History of the Mirror, ed. Anderson, M) Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, p 54

Deren, M. 1942. It Must Be Done With Mirrors, Available at: http://www.worldpicturejournal.com/WP_4/PDFs/Deren.pdf [Accessed 18/4/2018]

Rovelli, C, 2017 Reality is Not What it Seems, Penguin, London, p 227

Digital media art: Art of the Paradox, New Scientist, Simon Ings, 24/2/2018

The article, Art of the Paradox, in this week’s New Scientist (NS), is relevant to the work I’ve been looking at recently. It reports Transmediale, a festival in Berlin which I mentioned when posting TPG’s article about Heather Dewey-Hagborg. I am not, however, entirely sure what the writer is saying in NS.  He seems to be arguing throughout digital art is almost futile and self-defeating due to being the same thing it is critiquing. A host of problems, in Ing’s mind, arise. Perhaps whatever he finds worrying about the art is in fact what is so troubling about human beings.

He says “Internet art hardly ever get’s finished. There is always more to sort, a virtual infinitude of rabbit holes to hurl yourself down, and very little that is genuinely new has had a chance to emerge”. Firstly, I would suggest this is a reality for people growing up and existing in a world heavily shaped by our interactions with the internet and digital life. So if this lack of finding closure is a problem for the art, it is also a problem for the world. Or, it isn’t – merely a new way of being. “Nothing ages on the internet; nothing dies. Nothing is ever resolved”, says Ings. This new reality where nothing ends is a significant and substantive shift and society will need time to come to terms with it. Art which reflects it is one way of doing so. And technology didn’t start that trend. It was being spoken about at least throughout last century. See Barthes’ Death of An Author, and the end of the fixed, closed sign, of Author-gods.

“…the world of media art has suffered the same fate that has befallen the rest of the internet-enabled planet. The very technology that promised us the world on a screen has been steadily filtering out the challenges and contrary opinions that made our interests and ideas so vital in the first place, leaving us living in an echo chamber.” Anyone believing those promises was perhaps more than a little naive. Ings communicates a pessimistic view, and we as a society will find ways to address these issues and we will often fail to tackle them and then try again as we always have done. We will, of course, get over our early pioneering childlike awe before becoming overawed and naive about the next revolution. We may wreck quite a lot of our world in the process but existence is far greater than our own lifetimes. We may even be on a backward-heading social path for now, in many areas. But we will continue to explore and learn about this deeply embedded need to identify our tribe, to recognise others who are the same as us – to find echo-chambers. This human trait is not new, it is merely supported by how the internet operates, and so highlights it, and makes us see it more clearly. Which is a good thing, as we can then explore it; and even try to address it? As I mentioned last week developers seem to understand they need to be writing programmes which will combat lack of empathy, cognitive bias etc.

Of course, the art is ‘strange, hard to explain – and a work in progress’. How could it not be? That is its job. Reflecting and discussing significant shifts in society due to technology’s presence. Why would the art NOT be very odd indeed? The world is super strange, hard to explain and a work in progress. To think of it in any other way, however, seems even stranger.

In the end, the article is a very useful resource with summarised details about some of the artists involved with Transmediale, but I’m not sure it says anything terribly helpful in terms of critique.


https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23731661-000-transmediale-digital-arts-the-internets-impossible-paradox/ (Paywall)


Artist: Heather Dewey-Hagborg

I wish I had come across this a few days ago as might have included it as an example in the critical essay with reference to subjectivity and the intersection between art and science. From Hagborg’s website “Since 2001, I’ve been working at the intersection of art and science, with an emphasis on conceptions of the natural and the artificial. Drawing from diverse fields including biology, computation, sculpture, and critical design, I view art as an open field in which any discipline can become subject and material. I utilize art as practice-based research with which to probe the deep and often hidden structures of media/technology/science that dominate the contemporary moment and frame our cultural imagination.” http://deweyhagborg.com/statement

So much in this work seems relevant from the way we define boundaries, to how technology frames and influences our understanding of reality. But the critical point for me here is that t would have been an excellent example of how the idea of ‘objectivity’ is a fallacy.

Last weekend our digital programme team were at @transmediale, a media arts festival that takes place every year in Berlin. Alongside a conference programme with discussions from artists, writers, activists and theorists, two exhibitions and large series of fringe events occur. We’re going show some highlights over a few posts. The work in this photograph is called Probably Chelsea by #HeatherDeweyHagborg and @xychelsea87. Dewey-Hagborg algorithmically generated each 3D portrait from samples of Chelsea Manning’s DNA while she was imprisoned. The variety in the portraits comes from different approaches to working with DNA, and shows how much subjectivity there is in analysing and interpreting data. #facevalue

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Sonia Boyce: An article referring​ to removal of Waterhouse’s naked nymphs painting

Everything in this article feels relevant but in particular:

“…why a mythological painting is judged so differently to a photograph. Participants remembered the confiscation by police in 2009 of a photographic work in Tate Modern by Richard Prince, of child actress and model Brooke Shields aged 10, depicted with an oiled torso in a bathtub. Is it the classical story versus the documentary image that makes one kind of object charming and the other so problematic as to be judged illegal?” (Boyce, 2018)


Feedback Recommendations

1. Benedict Drew: http://www.benedictdrew.com/
2. Pipilotti Rist – showing in A Minute Ago in London shortly:


(‘A Minute Ago considers the idea of ‘a moment’ through artistic practice: how do we experience a single moment in time, and how do we process, communicate, and reconstruct it. Including performances by live art practitioners and moving image work selected from the Zabludowicz Collection, the exhibition investigates the ways in which a moment can be interrogated through different art forms’.)

  1. Look at Tony Oursler’s work (thinking particularly about his experiments with the voice and with sound; http://tonyoursler.com/who-will-give-answer-to-the-call- of-my-voice-sound-in-the-work-of-tony-oursler/
  2. Mark Wallinger’s Sleeper (‘performing’ the self): http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/meet-artist-mark-wallinger

I have been looking at the various recommendations Wendy gave me in the A3 feedback.

Benedict Drew – I have written about Drew elsewhere after seeing his work at the Whitechapel last year

Tony Ousler – https://www.nytimes.com/video/multimedia/1194817108496/sound-digressions-in-seven-colors.html

I couldn’t find the link I was given as it appears to be broken according to Ousler’s website but had a look at various other works by him and feel I must come back to it as there is so much. I was drawn to the above and the following words which were on an MIT site that came up when I searched for the words in the link.  https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/15263810360661426?journalCode=grey

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 15.34.04.png

Mark Wallinger – http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/meet-artist-mark-wallinger Wallinger dresses up as a bear and wanders through a German gallery at night. Passer-bys ignore him or stare at him to see what’s going on, or are frightened by him as he lunges at them as they walk by outside.

I loved listening to Wallinger speak about his experience on the Tate website. But the critical point for me in this is his statement about performing for no-one which echoed what I was saying about Growtwoski’s assertion that a performance can be for as many or few as you like – (page 32 Kindle) – he talks about what a performance needs for something to be rendered a ‘performance’ and Growtoski says only one audience member is needed. Wallinger however, talks about having no audience at all other than himself which is just as valid in a discourse about boundaries between the idea of self and other (we are all part of the fabric of reality and therefore self and other are linguistically created illusions). However, is it not slightly disingenuous of him to say there was no audience since he filmed his performance, interacted with people staring into the gallery or who ignored him (even though they did, there was still meeting of consciousness’ caught up in the ‘performance’ of ignoring) – and then showed his dressed up isolation to another audience? Since the work was entered for the Turner prize the end result-audience was large indeed.

Pipilotti Rist – I have written about Rist several times but in particular here. I went to the Zabludowicz Collection last week and was very pleased to be able to spend time with her work in a gallery and with the soundtrack there (At that time, I had not managed to find it online with sound as there are some copyright issues on the Youtube version which means it is only shown silently in some versions – I have found it now. Apple Music  – not iMusic but the Beatle’s company are notoriously tricky about protecting copyright so wonder how this all played out….)  A while ago, I realised that I respond to aural effects, but that verbalisatised speech often irks me. For instance, I don’t recall song lyrics but at the risk of sounding horribly pretentious, I feel like I somehow kinesthetically ’embrace’ the melody, or it embraces me. That isn’t to say I don’t like or am not interested in language. I very much am and most of my inquiry here is about how language shapes our reality – but I find the human voice can quite often break a magical moment when it has been created with the use of light, sound, place, movement, rather than add to it and perhaps that is something for me to think about. I’ve digressed somehow – I am very drawn by aural aspects of Rist’s video, I’m not the Girl Who Misses Much – a dismantled version, in fact just one-line from a Beatles song, Happiness is a Warm Gun, which Rist adapts by changing the lyrics so it is about her female-self rather than a song about a female-other sung by a male-primary subject. The song is a terrific choice not only because of the words, but the combination of whimsical minor chords and its regular beat, already broken up with musical slides and somersaults, which Rist speeds up and slows down, as well as interrupts with other audio. It is accompanied by visuals of her dancing which are out of focus, with effects and editing tricks that further dismantle and disrupt the narrative. It’s the sort of work that makes me very, very excited!

I didn’t manage to see A Minute Ago by Rachel Rose, which the exhibition was named after (the upper level was closed in preparation for a performance) but have seen a clip on Vimeo here https://vimeo.com/141589264. This work made me think about fellow OCA student Catherine her Second Life investigation – and how reality in our hyperreal world has been usurped by technically made visual reality, and corporeal existence is rendered out of focus