Feedback: A1

A week ago Wendy and I had a chat via Skype about A1. She confirmed my concerns that the assignment was overly convoluted but said there were lots of very strong ideas and my picture-making skills good (reassuring!) Her advice was to simplify it either by re-editing or even reshooting using myself as the model acting out each of the 6 people. I totally agree with simplifying but I am having a think about whether to use me in this work or return to one of the models I used and and getting them to ‘perform’ all of the characters. I favour using Lottie and her masks if possible if I go down that route but will need to revisit as I only photographed her with three of the people/masks in her garden – a conversation I need to have with Lottie. Wendy also said she really liked the surreal quality of the cover photo with the chicken and the cat which pleased me as that is the direction I hope to head in – somewhat odd, ‘oneiric’ images.

Here are my notes from our meeting:

A1 Tutorial Feedback 4/8/2017 

Main take-home message

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself
  • Keep it simple
  • Be clear
  • Be economical

Interests that emerge from the work are shifting identity and multiple personality (My clarification for my own understanding – not in the sense of ‘madness’ e.g. Sybil but rather how we all have various masks in different situations and in particular how social media and technology impacts on that).

Survey – the data set was very broad (because I didn’t really know what I was looking for)

Narrow the frame of inquiry – what is it you are trying to say?

Look at Natasha Caruna’s ‘Coup de Foudre’: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/natasha-caruana-coup-de-foudre-love-at-first-sight

Also Claude Cahun and Gillian Wearing again

Gillian Wearing’s ‘Confess All on Video’: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wearing-confess-all-on-video-dont-worry-you-will-be-in-disguise-intrigued-call-gillian-t07447

Return to Sophie Calle’s Suite Vénitienne: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7349/sophie-calle-suite-venitienne

We discussed using my self in the work and I recalled thinking about it, indeed being asked by a fellow student from my UVC group if I would ‘do a Cindy Sherman”. Although I thought about it I was concerned I’d already done so much of this in TAOP and felt I should avoid going down that route immediately again. Wendy suggested I should in fact go for it and perhaps reshoot the series with this in mind. S

There was another work Wendy suggested I look at reshooting for the 21st century for A2 using myself (I think some early work bHans Eijkelboom was mentioned but I am not sure exactly which work it was)

Gideon Mendal’s DZHANGAL was also suggested.

http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/dzhangal (Brief. initial look at this is so exciting to see as I did not know it before.)

Key points extracted from feedback document: 

“You mention in your ‘thoughts at the end of the process’ that you feel frustrated by the limits of traditional documentary and portraiture photography. Good! This questioning is all very useful and it is this aspect of photography and portraiture that indeed you are exploring in this assignment.”

“I think the key thing to ask yourself is ‘what and why’. What do you want to say? How are you going to go about this and Why are you using your chosen methods or medium? If you ask your self honestly these three simple questions, things may become clearer. It does seem to me that the role of technology (ie. the internet) plays a rather large part in your ideas, as that is the vehicle that often allows us to assume multiple identities at the click of a button.” It seems odd to still be influenced by my acting training as it was so long ago now but the way I learned to work creatively seems so different from this. The most influential director whose methods I truly loved encouraged us to discover what, who , why over time rather than start with it. In a rehearsal process we would not try to be ‘good’ at the beginning of it. In fact, some super ‘bad’ (whatever that means) broad brush strokes to help get you going are useful early on and over the course of the exploratory period we would begin to find what I thought of as flags which we could put in key places to guide us. Perhaps the director had to consider ‘what and why’ at the beginning and in the sort of photography work I am aiming for I am both the director and the performer (even when I am using others, who let’s face it very often represent me in some way). In my current work outside of the OCA (although I may use it to save myself some precious time and, more importantly, my sanity for A2) I have taken Wendy’s advice and tried hard to think of one sentence that sums up what I am trying to say with the work. I have also made a short list of words that communicate what the work is aiming to encapsulate. 

“Coursework

See main body of the text

Research

Excellent research and reflection

Learning Log

Very well laid out log

Suggested reading/viewing

See main body of the text

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

Don’t over work things – keep it simple and build from each assignment.”

Conclusion 

The feedback was very encouraging and useful, constructive but without being patronising, for which I was grateful.

 

 

Research: Art & Politics

An important and relevant article titled At Documenta, Blurred Lines Between Art and Politics on Aperture I want to retain:

“Throughout his career, Boas returned again and again to the notion that indigenous peoples, as the subjects of ethnographic study, had much to teach the anthropologists who all too often depicted them as primitive. According to the writer Claudia Roth Pierpont, who profiled Boas in The New Yorker in 2004, “he demolished the standard claim that Indian and Eskimo speakers used different sounds for the same word at different times, and showed that the purported vagueness of ‘primitive’ speech was actually a characteristic of the primitive ears of anthropologists, who transcribed different approximations of what they heard at different times.” (By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, 2017 – accessed 7/8/2017)

 

 

A2 Research: Links that may be of use

Shared economy – Uber/Deliveroo and AirB&B for instance (The Times on 2/8/17 publish an article about Uber driver ganging up to exploit passengers by collectively increasing fare-  small mention of the fact Uber drivers are exploited in the first instance and therefore forced into this position by their situation –

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/not-fare-how-uber-drivers-gang-up-to-exploit-passengers-ctxbvhv98 )

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/uber-airbnb-sharing-economy-people-cant-be-trusted-a7867301.html?amp

Biggest information product in the world is Wikipedia – page xv (Postcapitalism)

Page 15 (PostCapitalism) David Graeber – anthropologist – who suggests ‘no evidence that early human societies used barter”….. instead trust

Synchronicity

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/03/09/atom-and-archetype-pauli-jung/

Silicon Valley and LSD Use

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/turn-on-tune-in-drop-by-the-office

What comes after religion? School of Life links

http://www.thebookoflife.org/what-comes-after-religion/ (History of religion – consequences of Heliocentrism, Strauss )

About Christopher Hitchens  – documentary (religion)

http://www.openculture.com/2015/04/the-hitch-documentary.html

From Stephanie’s post on personal documentary  – https://stephaniedhlearninglog5.wordpress.com/2017/06/30/mirrors-without-memories-truth-history-and-new-documentary-linda-williams/comment-page-1/#comment-526 –

  • “Morris claims his right to make his documentary as personal as fiction and depart from the traditional and  conventional frameworks and procedures considered the only ones certifying a reliable access to truth;
  • Morris explains that truth is neither guaranteed by style or expression, and leaving his imprint his not an obstacle in documentary, because truth is never guaranteed by anything anyway, even if it its still the receding goal of the documentary tradition;” (Dhubert, 2017)

Discuss position of ‘self’ in academia vs. other forms of expression  –

http://www.errolmorris.com/film/tbl.html

From Peter Haveland (Requested development from master/slave)

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

https://monoskop.org/images/a/a5/Fanon_Frantz_Black_Skin_White_Masks_1986.pdf (see page 217 onwards)

Below from page 219:

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 15.12.54

And see footnote on page 221

“…to what is most human in man: freedom” (222)

Transhumanism – What happens to concept of separate Self & Other when we are technologically linked to one another, who’s ability is all about serving the system (overall master)

https://theconversation.com/super-intelligence-and-eternal-life-transhumanisms-faithful-follow-it-blindly-into-a-future-for-the-elite-78538?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1501497647

“Troves of dossiers on the private lives and inner beings of ordinary people, collected over digital networks, are packaged into a new private form of elite money … It is a new kind of security the rich trade in, and the value is naturally driven up. It becomes a giant-scale levee inaccessible to ordinary people.”

From Catherine in repose to my question about master/slave dialectic;

https://thesocietypages.org/monte/2012/09/01/an-interview-with-luc-boltanski-critique-and-self-subversion/

” And I hate dogmatism. I think that nothing is as opposed to science and intellectual activity as dogmatism. The turn that we made in the mid-eighties, by creating a small group, which included people who had worked with Bourdieu, was an anti-dogmatic turn, not a political one.”

“In the mid-eighties, it was less that we thought that social classes were no longer relevant than that we concluded they were no longer interesting fields of research. When authors have dealt with an issue thoroughly—you find the same thing with novels—you have to move onto another topic.”

“Basically, we thought, very naively, that certain things could now be taken for granted politically and that, by the same token, we were freed from the tiresome task of having to repeat incessantly that capitalists exist, that inequalities exist, that domination exists, etc. For the left, it was a rather optimistic period, even if, after the fact, one might think that we were mistaken.” This is a precursor to sentiments many feel now (as seen on social media) that all the social advancements we witnessed over the last 50/100 years seem to be unravelling very, very quickly, and quite easily; their fragility not really understood or foreseen. (sexism, racism, anti-worker, protectionist choices etc)

“We live in a society with a broad middle class and a little fraction of the excluded who, out of charity, must be helped, and a little fraction on the top, composed of the rich, the too rich, who should be more mindful of the public good, of “living together,” etc.—in short, more moral, and whom we must try to make moral. This was the beginning of this moral society to which we still belong. I called our group the “Political and Moral Sociology Group” as an homage to Hirschman, but, personally, I don’t like moralism.” Interesting to note this was written in France, (massive player in EU, key figure in dragon up rights for workers which the UK has now rejected, and that it was written in 2012, several years ago)

Ethicists are more and more convinced we should no longer keep pets

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/01/should-we-stop-keeping-pets-why-more-and-more-ethicists-say-yes?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=237572&subid=11118875&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Also – see Alfie Kohn’s thesis against behaviouralism training practices when dealing with children.

“Entrepreneurs of the self” – Foucault (as described in Paul Mason’s Post Capitalism)  Pg 24 (NB for dating apps work)

https://www.academia.edu/7669807/The_Entrepreneur_of_the_self

“Knowing that, you can go along with it, or resist — they have that covered too — but the possibility of jumping “out of the system”, if possible, would require a shift in concept of self and human nature, and expose you to a completely new set of risks.”

https://www.quora.com/What-did-Michel-Foucault-mean-by-Entrepreneur-of-the-Self

Also – see page 22 “All that would be needed to blow the whole ting apart os for one or more country to ‘head for the exit”, using protectionism, currency manipulation or debt default” published 2015 one yer before the EY referendum.

Rowan’s piece on networking  –

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2017/07/from-design-thinking-to-system-change?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=Jul-17-blogs&utm_content=blogs

Again see Paul Mason – page xix struggle between the ‘network’ and hierarchy; also Twitter Mike Glasworthy re networks,

From Stefan, Dana Shultz, Open Casket, ICA,

https://hyperallergic.com/392451/dana-schutz-ica-boston-protesters-letter/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sw

The end of religion (Paywall)

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229670-600-losing-our-religion-your-guide-to-a-godless-future/

About the recent riots

https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/02/prisoners-rioting-serial-ministerial-incompetence-justice-chris-grayling-michael-gove

Microchipping

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/wisconsin-company-microchip-employees-robots-artificial-intelligence-data-three-square-market-a7874486.html?amp

Great paragraph at start about how insubstantial a set of descriptions is when describing someone – relevant to A1 and onwards

https://aeon.co/essays/are-novelists-or-psychologists-better-at-describing-people

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/what-rampant-materialism-looks-like-and-what-it-costs

Self & Other Assignment 1

Create a short series (6-10) of environmental portraits of people in places that provide the context for us to understand them. Pose and details are important.

PDF of the assignment in book format- Others (Otherscompletecover)

Please note: The cover on this version is different to the one I sent via email to WM, due to crop I noticed after emailing it.

It will be helpful to look at the book before reading further.

Background

Two months ago I created a survey which can be found here. I was not sure if I would use the results for the exercises or the assignment or both. In the end they influenced all the work but perhaps it is only obviously visible in the assignment.

I received 86 replies to the survey. I chose 6 to work with. I condensed their words into short descriptions of people.

Characters

  1. #34 Female, English, lives in Kent, dress style – “sticks to monochrome”. High thin-heeled stilettoes, feels an affinity with industrial chrome and steel. Home is a modern 3-bed, built to look like a barn, decorated in industrial style, sleek modern furniture. Grew up in France. Has experienced devastating grief.
  2. #83 Female, Welsh, lives in Saudi Arabia. Wears full-length black abaya, with shorts, vest and flip-flops underneath. Home is considered a ‘beautiful bay in Pembrokeshire’ – misses it very much and compares where she is now unfavourably. Was a highly qualified professional when lived in the UK, no longer allowed to work. Signified by a pair of designer sunglasses.
  3. #82 Female, Arab, French but lives in London. Favourite colour red, signified by cigarettes, high-waisted everything, red lipstick, and big smile. Lives with 2 flatmates in Hoxton and although rented, the flat feels like home.
  4. #27 Describes gender as Other, Nordic, and lives on a hill in the woods between the sea and suburb. Struggling and fat. Lives in an old fashioned home that looks like a museum, which feels good. Signified by a tall walking stick. Wishes could tolerate ordinary people more.
  5. #61 Male, British, lives in Nottingham. Feels he is signified best by work trousers. Was changed deeply by death of best friend when he was 18 and grandmother within a few days of each other. Adult but wears superhero PJs. Ideal self is an international playboy, garden designer.
  6. #50 Male, British and lives in London; owns a large comfortable Victorian home, which he loves. Wears a cardigan, which he fiddles with as he did when he was a child with his comfort blanket. Knows he’s very lucky and tries hard not ‘to be a dick’.

I asked people whose work is about representing others to work with me creating a response to these descriptions. The result is the short photography book, Others.

Thoughts at the end the process

I have been quite surprised by the way the course is set out. To me, it feels extremely prescriptive and I had imagined that it would be less so than landscape or documentary, which despite knowing that both those terms can be interpreted in many ways, I avoided, because I wanted to look at things within a wider context. The terms self and other might be fairly broad, interpreted in several ways but the module feels as if it is extremely focused in the documentary tradition, for now at any rate. (Perhaps I am completely wrong, it would not be the first time and I don’t doubt that writing such a course presents many challenges – I can’t even begin to imagine where one would begin.) I wanted to avoid documentary. As a result of feeling potentially pushed into a corner I didn’t want to be in, from the start of the module I have felt compelled to question the trustworthiness of portraits – why am I being asked to do this, I wondered, it won’t tell anyone anything at all? As well, each time we were asked to make work I felt frustrated by the fact that I was being asked to inspect my prejudices and hang them out in public. We are all riddled with preconceptions and assumptions about others. It’s how we operate. Rather than head down that path I felt compelled to explore the fact that we do project and come up against counter-transference too. I conceived the idea of the survey, which was really a reaction against the photographic object. Once I had done that I then felt trapped into making work with it and wished I’d been less prescriptive myself. I also wanted to work collaboratively to suggest my belief that the terms self and other are not as clear-cut as we might imagine.

Because of the concerns addressed above, I have spent a lot of my time lately wondering if I have chosen the right module and/or am on the right course for me.

About the work

In a sense the project is a failure as I was not able to work as I initially wanted to. I could not gather enough people on the same day or days, although I am extremely grateful to Melanie Ingram who so generously offered her time and commitment should we have been able to. Instead, I had to either abandon that idea or work with people individually. At the same time I suddenly became exceptionally busy with work and life which I had not expected. So each shoot felt done under pressure.

Did I work collaboratively? (It might be useful to read my reflection about the term collaboration) With some people I did and with others less so. Melanie Teall (dancer and choreographer) and I were able to sit and talk one evening and share ideas. The rest of the time, although we only were able to grab a few minutes here and there at pick up time at school, we threw ideas around and decided for or against certain things; hence, the image I have used from our shoot is a genuine collaboration between the two of us. Melanie took my intial ideas and came to me with hers in response. She really brought herself into the work (and was very brave too). She understood precisely what I was hoping to explore and felt strongly it connected with work she’d been thinking about for a time. This is a result of those conversations

S&OA1-

Note that this image still contains the light coming through the windows behind Melanie unlike the image in the book, which has had it removed.  (c) SJField & MTeall 2017

I asked artists to get involved because I was interested in the process of using drawing marks (good or bad drawing, writing, automatic writing) to illicit unconscious connections. Had I been able to go with the group work we’d have certainly used drawing in the preparation process.  I feel that the images of Lottie are also a genuine collaboration. Perhaps I played a ‘producer’s’ role but, even though our conversations were brief, the images of Lottie required her to trust me, which she generously did as she gave me her work and self to incorporate. I could have chosen a number of images from the shoot with Lottie and went with the one that fitted in relation to the others.

S&OA1-8776

I didn’t use this image but there were a number from this shoot that might have worked. In the end I went for an image that contained an element of chance.

I work often with Trudi Jackson as you can see here.

We have an on ongoing unspoken collaboration that comes from being very long standing and close friends; her career fits well with this project and the fact we have worked and lived together in the past helps. I would work with Trudi again and again and read that Giacometti preferred to work with the same people repeatedly too, as I think many artists do. These others that we know well are perhaps the most interesting ones often. In a film I watched at the Tate exhibition on him, Giacometti talks about recognition getting further and further away the more he works and the closer to someone’s inner life he gets. I think it would be useful to really look at his work in-depth.

The person I felt most bad about is Stefan Schaffeld who put so much into the collaboration but I was not able to do as much with his contribution as he may have deserved. You can read his excellent notes here. I could not work out how to incorporate his work effectively. I did not want to layer our work together because I’d not done that with anyone else. But he was too far away to appear in the images. I thought about photographing him on a Skype call talking to me about his work, which is perhaps the way I should have gone but finding the time to talk at all was impossible as both he and I are so stretched for time. In the end I don’t think it was only about location, but perhaps this shows that collaboration is not a simply matter of sharing ideas but of being able to work with and accept them. Stefan has in fact made some interesting work with images I sent him which you can see on his blog.

Finally this work looks at the issue of copyright too, which is being questioned by some now – do we need it especially in the new digital reality where everything is downloadable and people make ‘collabs’ all the time (my sons are always talking about Youtubers who do ‘collabs’. How does this old world view of ownership fit in with a changing cultural landscape where sampling and sharing online are so prevalent? So in essence it explores issues surrounding the fixed sign and the changing relationship we have with those signs as language and social structures transform.

I see this as exploratory work rather than a final series, perhaps like a proposal.

Reflection

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skill

I was trying new things and working in ways I don’t usually so all the little niggles in my skill set loomed large. I don’t like using a zoom for non-commercial work but I wasn’t sure what I wanted so did but it’s less controlled and too easy to zoom in or out and not think about why. I could have used images that had slanty lines etc and justified it with the mention of creating an oneiric atmosphere but this is something to consider more in future. The final six images I’ve used are technically sound, if not a little dark in places – which is perhaps down to my enjoyment of working with deep shadows. The Blurb online book making software may not be good enough for future books and maybe I will need to try out their downloadable package or something else.

Quality of Outcome, Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment. Conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The idea and execution aren’t quite where I was aiming but it nevertheless communicates the ideas incorporated into the work and images . Some images are stronger than others. I think the edit is probably decent enough considering the images I ended up with and how I had to fit them together. The book is better than the video because of importance of text, so I was right to go with that, although a video could have those words spoken over images.  Some of the images don’t work as well as others with the full bleed and the compromise is not ideal in those, but I’ve stick with full bleed across the book for now. Something to consider when framing a series of shots that are aimed at a book format – not that I was certain here how I’d present them.  I also hope I got the balance right in the book with context – enough but not too much. I think there are probably too many quotes in the lead up to the images especially considering there are only 6 images – you must be thinking, get on with it. And should I have provided a page here with the images alone outside of a book format too for evaluating? Perhaps….

Demonstration of Creativity, Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

This work may not be to everybody’s taste and in fact I can see it quite irritating some people but it is creative. I deliberately didn’t want to make the same images and present them in the same way as we are used to seeing. I took risks. I don’t know if those risks always worked but at this juncture I think that is a good thing to be doing. I would hope to be encouraged to take risks and to take even more going forward. I wasn’t sure while working I would end up with anything at all and if any of it would have any of ‘me’, my voice, in it – but in the end, the final draft does seem to have a strong sense of my developing voice, despite contributions from a variety of people.

Context, Reflection, research (evidenced in learning logs). Critical thinking (evidenced in critical review).

Doing UVC was such a useful course. It has helped me to look at everything more analytically and better yet, to be able to write it down. As always I have written reams and reams in preparation. I do it more for me and working out how I feel and think about things, but I appreciate it’s hard to wade through it all so I do hope I’ve laid out the blog well enough. I find non-photogprahy but relevant aspects deeply interesting and compelling, and since starting with the OCA I have read widely, albeit not always quite what has been prescribed. I have referenced many, many books and articles throughout this section. I must admit I only just noticed the reading list (although it is not in the folder and online only). I will get on to it but it is safe to say I have been reading plenty of useful and relevant material.

Refs:

https://sjfphoto.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/south-london-photography-headshots-and-other-portraits/

http://ocauvc.stefanschaffeld.com/?cat=60

https://ocasjf.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/reflection-the-word-collaboration/

https://ocasjf.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/characters-for-artists.pdf

https://ocasjf.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/self-other-section-1-ideas-proposal/

Reflection: The word ‘collaboration’

It seems appropriate to discuss the word ‘collaboration’ here’ to question and unpick its meaning in light of the process I have explored in A1. It seems it is a ‘trendy’ word that many artists and photographers use nowadays, and there are times when it almost feels as if it’s being used simply because it’s what’s ‘in’.

(It is interesting to note the word collaboration has not always had positive connotations and, for example, has been used to refer to people and groups who colluded with the Nazi’s for instance. For example, the Vichy government are referred to in history books as collaborators. As such, each time I use the word I am reminded of those negative ideas surrounding the word and one can’t help but notice that appropriation too is a word that was used by marauding powers who travelled the world ravaging people and land during Empire building years. It is perhaps worth noting how art picks up on these words and then co-opts them into its own language.)

In particular with portrait photography, but also with other forms of portraiture, one cannot make portraits without some form of collaboration, or what might have simply been referred to in the past as ‘working with someone’. (Even if you’re photographing a baby, one who is awake at any rate, you do your best to interact with her and entice her into an interaction between the two of you, thereby collaborating albeit, perhaps, non-verbally). And in fact, artists and subjects have always collaborated. As have theatre practitioners and film makers and many other art makers who don’t work solely on their own. Those that do still often require others to be involved in the selling, exhibiting, critiquing of their work. You could play a game of semantics and say street photographers collaborate with the public, but in the public’s case they are unwitting participants. Perhaps though, here, you could say photographers are appropriating others’ images, and that collaboration by definition has at its essence a pre-agreed decision by both parties to work together in some capacity.

What underlies the current trend, other than it is a contemporary word to use, is to do with the desire to see shifts of power, as discussed in the interview with Ellen Mara de Watcher when asked about why collaborative work is undervalued still, and why we are still very much attached to lone artist figures, “Some are sociological, or have to do with the way power is distributed and the way that artists have historically been commissioned by people in power.” (Abrahms, 2017) Collabration is a challenge to the idea of master narrators and fixed authors; it undermines the pivotal ego figure we have been used to.

The desire to move away from systems of ownership, and questioning the way people in power operate and rule has been a key concern for artists –  and from Dada onwards it seems to have been explored expontentially. The work I looked at in UVC or A4, by Isabelle Mège and a number of photographers whom she collaborated with, turns usual power structure on its head as she, the subject rather than the photographer, approaches image makers to create an image of her rather than the other way round as it so usually has been. I end the essay asking the following:

“However, in Mège’s collection the usually passive Other drives the process, and is active alongside her fellow authors. She invites what we previously might have thought of as the Hegelian master into an atypical photographer/subject relationship, deconstructing what was for so long the norm especially in the proliferation of nudes. It might be viewed as an embodiment of Power Within instead of Power-Over-the-Other. On the other hand the language looks the same as it ever did, even though it may have a different authorship style.” (Field, 2016:14)

Does a different authorship style necessarily mean a shift in power structures between the people making an image? I’m not sure it always does and sometimes it may be that it’s simply about the surface, about the vessels (words) into which we pour meaning or a lack of meaning. You can say you’re collaborating all you like, but if the person you’re photographing brings, for whatever reasons, very little to the process other than their face to appear in the photograph, i.e no ideas, thoughts, suggestions, then is it really a collaboration? And if an artist approaches others/potential subjects/participants and says, I’d like you to give me something in a collaborative process but I am likely to benefit from making the work in some way, either with money, reputation or educational status, but you (the subject) on the other hand will simply have benefited from giving me something to work with, then is that really collaboration?

Wachter answers in her interview that the Guerrilla Girls are truly working together, and explains why: “I would cite Guerrilla Girls as the oldest collective in the book that is still practicing. They’re so strident about that and that’s their whole mission. Their agenda is anti-patriarchal. It’s a strong, feminist agenda. It’s anti-hierarchical. It’s really a democratic kind of group in which everybody has a voice. They use anonymity to facilitate that, and they hide behind masks. They paraphrase Oscar Wilde in saying that you’d be surprised by what comes out of people’s mouths when you give them a mask. That’s a liberating tool for them. I think they’re very much anti-systemic in that sense, and also very critical of the dominant trends in the art world, the market values, and so on.” (Abrahms, 2017)

Having come from ensemble based theatre training, it feels a perfectly natural way to work ‘with’ others rather than for or above them.  Nevertheless, real collaborative work, I have learned in my experiment for A1, is hard work and is not always simpler or easier, despite having more ideas to hand. As I said before it can be frustrating and I don’t feel that all or much of the work is very ‘me’ (of course – that’s the point, heh?) This is echoed in the interview. “I’m not sure that every artist in this book would agree with you that more people equals that many times more capacity to make work, because in a lot of cases, more people means you can make less work because it’s more difficult to make work together.”

Educators across a variety of subjects nowadays are keen to get people to work together since the future of work is likely to be more about problem solving than production as technology takes over the grunt work. This is probably as it should be. However, that doesn’t change the fact that some people are simply more suited to working alone (One of my sons is just such a person and thankfully his teacher this year appreciated that fact and allowed him to write at his own desk rather than in a group). People who work better alone may become distracted or begin to feel disconnected when faced with people in numbers, so despite the trend to encourage group learning, we should be wary of fashionable trends and not dismiss lone working, because as mentioned earlier and in the de Watcher interview, co-operation with others is often necessary anyway but in other forms.

Are artists, such as William Kentridge and Roger Ballen collaborating or working in the same vein as producers and directors do in theatre and film? Kentridge says in a short film on the Whitechapel site that if he has talent, then it is to secure good collaborators. (2016) I’m not sure he is really working collaboratively as the The Guerrilla Girls are though, however, nor do I dismiss or undervalue what he does. He is one of my very favourite artists. What he in fact does, is enable a co-operative production, which leads to grand work with his name in the headline.

I have worked with each person in my A1 project separately, so it has not the been the group work I hoped to do at the start (it quickly became clear that would take too long to organise). And I have not worked collaboratively with everyone although I have aimed to. But in the end I am the main driver of the piece and so am still quite far from working as collectively as is possible.

 

Ref:

http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/qa/ellen-mara-de-watcher-on-collaboration-54876

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pc2Yi3SU7k

https://uvcsjf.wordpress.com/category/assignments/assignment-4/

Peer feedback: A1 S&O1

  1. Response to contact sheet and some of the background posts:

Catherine: Without knowing the brief, the ones on the contact sheet that worked best for me were 1463 ,1491 and 1507 – the pose, form and colour, plus with 1507 the half-open door added narrative possibilities. 1723 of course and 2622, 2635 and 2668 – the mask has an almost human quality which is very evident in these. Also made me think of music and the savage beast (Interesting to note, Catherine has not chosen any from the first shoot at all – Lottie’s)

Doug:  With regard to your contact sheet I have the following general comments.  I think the ‘Lottie’ images are overall the better ones.  I do not like the ones with the scarf around the neck and over the team – too suicidal.  The poses in the dancer often feel too posed.  There are one or two of her that I think are good.  The guitarist and the mask have some that I would select.  Of course make-up is also a mask and I suspect that is what you were getting to. Of course there are many ways of suggesting masks, which are something we must all wear. Arbus’ focus on masks and Meatyard’s explores this – we are all freaks but some hide it better than others. Are the grotesque masks more or less frightening than the ones that look nice but hide what exists in all of us? 

As we discussed you are now into the second order effect of ‘other’ and that makes them quite different although it may be difficult to arrive at this from all the images.

2. Following a draft/approximation of A1:RepresentationofOther being sent out to request feedback:

My email  – Hi, this is a PDF of A1. Please be aware it is a draft, there is no content on the Contents Page for instance, and there may be typos, I’d be grateful if you can point them out to me (there is not a typo alert on Blurb online books and I struggle without one in other programmes as it is!)* The PDF should be simpler to look at, rather than wading through my many notes online – which I appreciate can get quite overwhelming. 

1. Looking through as it is, I will likely present 8 images in sequence rather than lay it out as it is now so that the collaborative end result is the main bulk of the book. I will only have one image per two pages so viewers are not distracted by anything.
2. I played with a video format but felt that since written word was such an essential part of the process a book would suit it better. 
3. These may not be the final images, I’ve not edited yet. A couple seem rather noisy after I’ve played around with them so much  – I’m seeing what works and/or doesn’t at the moment.
4. I am photographing one more person on Saturday morning and will use that time to ensure I capture two of the ‘people’ that are not captured out of the 6 final ones I honed in on. ( – incidentally, I cancelled the shoot last Tuesday for several reasons and found a different person to work with). Stefan, your sketches will be included in the images I shoot on Saturday
5. I do not see this as a complete end piece of work but rather a work in progress which aims to explore different approaches. If this were not A1 I might hone in on 2 images per performer/artist and go and shoot them again but I don’t think at this point that will be a valuable use of my time.
Thanks to any of you who have already written to me with comments about previous stages. I will reply individually shortly. John, I have cc’d you but I know you are exceptionally busy, and have indeed left! If you have time, great, if not, your comments (if you have any) will be gratefully received in person next time we meet up in OH/BG. The fact you are seeing this with entirely fresh eyes makes you a handy person.
Any further comments gratefully received,
SJ

I also made a very short video sequence which I abandoned when I felt a book would be better. (Password same as ever for this section of the module).

Lottie: I do love your images of your dancer – powerful postures and lighting. Having read your blog I believe there is so much thought packed into this that your tutor will gain an excellent perspective on your thinking as well as your technical skills.

Michael (first response): Was just having a quick look, will look closer when I have more time later….but anything that quotes Mark E. Smith right at the beginning can’t be bad!!!

Kate: One rookie question, you’ve indexed each of the sketches to each of the characters, but not the photographs of the performers – we work these out ourselves? I really am in two minds about this. My second draft has the description beside each image for now, however, I wonder if this detracts from the images. There is a great deal to consider within the concept so perhaps leaving people in the dark about which image pertains to which description is a bridge too far in terms of disorienting viewers at this juncture. 

The descriptions of the characters somehow put me in mind of character cards, like the ones in Monopoly or role playing games. I almost want to have the cards in my hands whilst looking at the images so I can consider correlations. I rather liked this idea for about 15 minutes. Then I felt it would risk being ‘gimmicky’ and detracting from the ideas – too ‘cute’ but good to have these types of ideas that challenge how we receive formats.

Madalina: I find interesting the way you challenge the influence of language in the formation of the self. There is a certain affective dimension in your photos and a cinematic feeling related to the use of light, pose and composition which I like very much.

I find intriguing the connection you make between the performativity of your sitters and how they see the other. The performative nature of the work is of course salient to it – we are all actors, performing most of the time, even to ourselves (perhaps nothing original in that concept, I admit!)   It is interesting how by starting from a story they hear they’ve created different pictures in their minds and they represented those through their artistic language.

You certainly put the question if art is a way of freeing us from the preconceptions that are related to our use of language. I wonder how much we can challenge our history in the visual images we create. I think this depends on how the work is done. I have written about a play where actors represented people with Motor Neurone Disease and I found the play lacked any true connection to the issues. But anything can be ‘tasteless’ whether you’re using substitutes to tell the story or not. The French/Algerian war is a good example of where films and books challenge official French historical text books taught in schools – and they were banned for many years. I think we should be in the habit of challenging such history. I was taught in South Africa school that the Zulus and the Dutch arrived in SA at the same time, one group by land and the other by sea. This was the official justification for years of wrong doing on behalf of the Europeans who obliterated and appropriated the land. 

You were arguing about the failure of language in representing the self and I want to ask you how important is language in your work at the moment. How do you negotiate your relation to language and other modes of representation in your work? I am truly fascinated by language and how it shapes our reality and reflects our ever-changing state. I suppose this has emerged mostly from the experience of my marriage breakdown. There was so much dissonance between what was said and what was actually happening, what was going on inside of me, how each of us involved in that process had different views of reality, expressed in language. I also struggled to speak throughout the horrible last few months, I could never get my words out. I hated not being able to say what I wanted to say. I was left feeling without any power over anything. Also, I began to see very clearly how much power access to language gave a person or group. The legal system is a mass of impenetrable words that beffudles anyone not versed in it – it’s beyond monolithic, that system, but also crumbling with lack of funding, although the ones in power make an absolute fortune out of people who get caught up in its vortex. I have written about language and its developing importance in my work here.

I agree with you that the book format suits better because it allows to go back and forward and create comparisons and connections.

Michael:

Strong conceptual approach – from the initial idea and questionnaires through to the final images.

Collaboration with the artists/subjects in the images is a major strength and demonstrates your confidence in working this way. I have had plenty of doubts along the way!

Love the Mark E. Smith quote! I always appreciate something like this being included which is insightful and also not from an academic perspective. I like to mix it up – as you know.

The images themselves are strong and work well as a set. The inclusion of the artwork adds something extra, I kept thinking about Rorsach tests.

The opening statement underpins some serious ideas and thinking.

The design works well, is stylish without seeming over egged – colours, image sizes, alignment.

Ideas and comments:

Is the balance between theory and practice right in the opening statement? The genesis of the project is something I find interesting and could perhaps be featured more strongly in the text. I agree with the concerns here – and as soon as I’d printed the PDF of draft 1 felt that the intro needed a bit more to it. I have rewritten it. But I did not want to overdo it by explaining the work too much. I am not sure I have the balance right yet….

Would the captions/questionnaire responses work better alongside the images? That is how I have edited it in draft 2…. 

I love the artwork accompanying the photographs, these work best for me in accompaniment with the photographs rather than the ‘thumbnails’ included at the end. Perhaps that would work well in an exhibition setting. I felt it would be too much clutter on the page and as Madalina says you can turn back and forth if you want to with a book. I think this gives people an opportunity to if they wish. 

I was struck that you reference semiotics rather than psychoanalysis, especially since this is something I know interests you. Of course the reference is totally relevant and well made, self perception and the perception of others are such a strong aspect of the work that psychoanalysis seems to fit closer? Perhaps psychoanalysis is so deeply embedded in my thinking after roughly 10 years of having been in therapy (with a few breaks) that I don’t see it has having to be mentioned. A therapist will pick up on words and phrases you use and interpret them in ways that reveal all sorts of things you didn’t know you were hiding, not only from her/him but from yourself. Their job is to help you bring something of your pre-concious world into a verbal narrative, one that is helpful to you rather than unhelpful. Semiotics and analysis seem deeply intertwined. So I’m not sure one is closer than the other to the work….

Stefan:

How I see it:
1. appropriation of visual and verbal information received – like the first step for all
2. a multilayered perspective on self (i.e. several images together) – like what you are doing at the moment – the multilayered way we exist is what interest me, you can always peel away another layer it seems
3. a next step? My idea is to incorporate somehow your photos in a next round of my drawings/,paintings. Similar perhaps to how I approached my theme of absence, presence –  I have seen some early examples of this and think these have the potential to be very interesting. I love that this work is being used this way by you. 
a) collaged images => that’s my ‘self’ (my intimate sketches, your photos with Lottie, and the one you send me with the head scarf)
b) ’tearing apart’ – or as you relate to – deconstructing the collage => that’s the others
Stefan has written a comprehensive blog post about his part in this work and I will link it here when he has published it. 
Catherine 
The PDF downloaded without any problem for me and what a good idea to separate it all out from the background contextual information.  I think this is important (especially as there is so much contextual info – no person should have to wade through all of that). I do not like work that feels it must be explained. I think lots left to the viewer and they should have questions, and work I like is when the brain has to figure things out. In fact I wonder if I’ve given too much in the brief intro but the initial concept should be stated as I hope I have done. 

What I mean by that is that the images stand-out on their own  without the need for additional information.  I’m noticing more and more that, if I look at images on their own,  they can often appear as ‘just’ portraits ‘or landscapes’ etc and really need all the written material to provide a frame for the images. Hope I’m making sense. You are – but I wonder is sometimes there is too much information given. We don’t want to see the back office at work always – although sometimes that is the interesting part too. 

The images on pp 11, 12 and 17 seem on the dark side to me and the first two have a slight pink tinge. I’ve re-profiled my screen (Color-Munki) but it looks the same.  I have noticed that I have to increase brightness when I’m uploading for web because of the backlighting effect. Have you been able to run off a small print to compare? All the different formats require different edits! Small screens seem to benefit from greater contrast in some cases or less in others, big screens benefit from different crops, images, colours… it’s a flipping nightmare. 

Overall it’s a very vibrant piece of work and I like your image choices so far – want to keep looking at them. I’m slightly confused as to what you mean re the sequencing – numbers 1 through to 86 of the responders: the software numbers them. Since they were anonymous this became their identifier, rather than the name. Do you mean your photographs will be separate from the drawings/painting? Guess there’s a difference between the requirements of the Assignment itself in terms of image requirements and the holistic approach of the collaboration – photographer, subjects, responses and the collaborative ideal dancing together. Correct me if I’m wrong though. I was worried that the work would not have my voice – but after completing edit 2 of the book I feel it does and that I am the creator of the work and that feels right for this particular stage/study/point in time. I have discussed the various shades on collaboration here

I think you’re right  re note 5 as this first Assignment is meant to be the beginning of a dialogue between you and your tutor (who is your tutor by the way? Wendy).  Even so, you’re laying the groundwork for how you want to be as an artist .

 

  • *I should not have asked people to correct these typos at this stage – what a waste of their time! It was a first draft and in future please just accept there will be errors and often lots of them. There were soooooo many here as I type too fast and there is a very high chance I am dyslexic (the real test is too expensive but the short one indicates about 80% likelihood). Because of that I am nervous about typos but I am capable of doing a proper check myself at that stage and have lived with this issue all my life so have lots of ways to highlight things. But I do miss spelling mistakes and typos as you must have noticed normally, so I am grateful for everyone’s help. But a first draft is never a good time to ask people to check as I will invariably rewrite several times anyway. Sorry for wasting people’s valuable time. 
  • I do note that people are all mostly terribly kind – there are things to say about this but I shall do elsewhere. (perhaps reflection) 

Following these comments and thoughts of my own I have made the following book which is likely to be the version (with some minor changes perhaps) that I’ll submit shortly.

Draft2RepresentationofOther

 

Refs:

http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/11/04/diane-arbus-photographing-freaks-costumes-wear-year-round/

https://ocasjf.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/reflection-text-and-images/

https://ocasjf.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/reflection-the-word-collaboration/

S&O1 from Sarah-Jane Field on Vimeo.

Experiment: A1

S&OA1 SJF 512666-8855-2

#83 Female, Welsh, lives in Saudi Arabia. Wears full-length black abaya, with shorts, vest and flip-flops underneath. Home is considered a ‘beautiful bay in Pembrokeshire’ – misses it very much and compares where she is now unfavourably. Was a highly qualified professional when lived in the UK, no longer allowed to work. She writes she is best signified by a pair of designer sunglasses.

Lottie Ellis is an artist and teacher who created inner typographies of the survey descriptions. She said of the work “I tried to imagine what it was like to be inside the other. Not as me inside them, but what it really felt to be living in their existence. I wondered how they might move and feel and what colour their inner language would translate into. I wonder how that language might be written on their very inner surface. I suppose the works are internal projections? Therefore, to be wearing them was impactful. I was putting on the inside of someone else as my outside. It felt like I was able to hide behind someone else and yet show the inside of someone else as my outside”

(I suspect I ought to play with video, in fact, bringing all these aspects together)

Image (c)Lottie Ellis & Sarah-Jane Field 2017