Overview of assessment submission for Digital Image and Culture

This is the document which outlines and ties together the various assignments from this module.

Overall rationale and themes

Across this module I have focused on digital culture and the production of diverse identities within these in a number of ways. Central to all  projects sits an investigation into the relational modes between author/artist – subject/object – audience/viewer. Also central is an interest in exploring shifts and changes across media forms (analogue/digital) as well as different sites and locations (online/offline) as well as the constructions of publics within these. More specifically, the five assignments approach the above as follows:

Office at Night (Assignment 1)

This series takes as its starting point Victor Burgin’s Office at Night (1986), in which he seeks to question and update Edward Hoppers (1940) painting of a boss and his secretary depicted in an office at night-time. Burgin’s initial interest for the series lay in an inversion of Hopper’s painting by which the secretary depicted would shift from being an object of sexual curiosity to become the subject of curiosity: ‘to transform showing into knowing, exhibitionism into epistemophilia’ (Burgin referenced in The Exposure Project 2008). His strategy is simple and powerful: an inversion of the subject/object relationship inside the picture plane and thus a shift in the identification of the viewer from the male to the female, a shift in the interaction between viewer and viewed upon.

My own project proceeded in different stages and iterations, the shift between subject/object being taken further still as I insert my colleagues and myself into the picture plane, exploring the relationship between author, subject and viewer further still. For the series presented here, my colleague and I took 35mm analogue images of our work environments and later meet in her office to discuss and re-insert our respective images into her office space. Shot on a Bronica 6×6 MF camera and highly saturated film, it references older forms and formats and employs montage (heightened by the narrow DOF of the lens) to investigate continuity and rupture within the picture plane, agency of subject/object and the concerns over contemporary office working practices.

Der Grund (Assignment 2)

This project starts with a family album cliche: in October 2015, my father hands me a box of photographs of his father, dating almost entirely from the time 1941-1945. This box of about 200 photographs constitutes my archive for this project; it is neither public nor easily accessible; instead it is almost the opposite: hidden and fairly private. I view his images through what he saw. His subjects were known to him: comrades, superiors, friends, possibly lovers; fellow Germans, mostly Luftwaffe personnel, some civilian men and women, all based at a munition camp outside Oslo in Nazi-occupied Norway. They were the occupying force. One wouldn’t guess from the photographs if it wasn’t for the men’s uniforms. It takes me several weeks to notice an absence: many of his subjects have no feet; they seem to have feet missing in incidental ways. Frequently, the ground that they stand on seems invisible, perhaps not even present at all? I notice this absence and wonder if he noticed it too? When taking the photo? When seeing the print? Maybe when seeing the prints after the war from which he returned unharmed, with only a short spell as a British PoW, quickly declared de-nazified, as so many of his contemporaries. I started to take my own photographs interested in this absence. Seeking my feet on camera to stand in, I quickly discover, requires something to stand on. And yet, a stable footing on the ground that I have sought out for myself is not easily found.

‘Ground’ in German also means ‘reason’ — as much as ungrounded is unreasonable in English. What ground did these men and women stand on? What grounds did they have?

The networked image and the negotiation of public and private in the work of feminist artists whose lens-based and performative practice negotiates both analogue and digital (Assignment 3, Critical Essay)

Setting out with Trish Morrissey’s work, this essay explores what boundaries are being transgressed and negotiated between the public and private to chart the impact of networked images on these boundaries. In order to do so, the essay in turn discusses firstly, feminist practices as the site where the boundaries (and their crossing) between public and private in still and moving image are examined; secondly, seeks an understanding of the construction of public and private in their contemporary social context, i.e. what is the cultural field in which these practitioners engage; and thirdly, turns to the question of how the condition of the networked image engages with these concerns, re-articulating older questions? Doing so, it employs a model of author – subject – audience to investigate this problematic in the work of Chantal Akerman, Nan Goldin and Sophie Calle to argue that the arrival of digital practices has led towards a ‘public domain of networked intimacy’ (Garde-Hansen 2013), which is accompanied by a shift in the perception of the image on behalf of the viewer (Fontcuberta 2014). In doing so, this conditions of the networked image are effectively folding forward the accessibility and reach of the performative feminist practices discussed.

the line (Assignments 4 & 5)

He told me to draw a line, to stick to the line. Make transparent what is here and what is beyond.
I could hear in his voice that this division works for him.
It is never one that I would have much confidence nor trust in.
Yes, if this is about boundaries, then let me pick the line carefully, and in abiding by it, let me move – similarly carefully – across my own boundary.

This set of stilled videos with audio explores the extent to which stories move into and out of urban spaces and across to the digital. It explores not only the hear-say narrations of truths and half-truth but also their mutability, situatedness and mobility. These stories told and depicted reference a series of events which are at once auto-biographical, fictitious and performative. They feature not only myself but friends, peers, comrades, lovers, confidantes, acquaintances across time and space (the past fifteen years and the urban spaces along and around  Dumbarton Rd in Glasgow and Oxford Rd in Manchester), alongside a series of texts by Chris Kraus, Bhanu Kapil and Sophie Calle to trace not only hopes, dreams and desires across these spaces but also enquire into an antagonistic Other, often in the form of violence.

 

 

 

the line (assignment 5): revisions

Following the tutor feedback and final revision discussion, this is the final version of the line: presented as a three-page tumblr website, holding 35 video clips plus a menu which has a short instruction plus five menu items (two statements; a methodology collection of video clips, and a reference list, and the standard archive tab).

Assignment 5 is only marginally altered: one clip is shortened, four clips reprocessed and uploaded through tumblr and not Vimeo. Here, the tutor feedback seemed to want to remove one of the key concepts (besides the digital/analog moving of gossip, anecdote) of desires, movement, transgression and their darker undercurrents; and I chose to hold onto the abundance and overwhelm that marks this concept.

https://the———————–line.tumblr.com/

 

Der Grund (Assignment 2), final version

This project took a few rounds of revisions. Notably: an old photo album wasn’t working (too cliched), the plan to produce a purpose-made concertina 6×4 album did not feel right either (too large, too common).

In the process, I also kept resequencing the work until I had a version, with ‘chapter breaks’ that worked. The dummy of 5x6cm images (printed on a single A4 sheet) revealed an unexpected degree of perfection in the small-scale, hand-held format. I proceeded to test two giclee papers (photo mat and Hahnemuehle Rag), both about 300gsm weight, the latter an open-structured paper. Producing the folds on the latter is just possible, it creates breaks and an open structure that fit with the theme, the size remained perfect.

I tested a variety of covers, and settled on a reverse inkjet print on a thin vintage (1950s) tracing paper, pasted on, which means the writing sits ’embedded’ in the paper structure, the closing mechanism is a simple elastic:

IMG_2915

A video of the final sequence is here:

Revision of Critical Essay

I revised the critical essay and the final version for assessment is attached.

[the original is in this post]

My key revisions were

(a) adding a reference to Berger & Sontag (1983) To tell a story to elucidate one underpinning concept of the relational dynamic between author-subject/object-viewer

(b) to write through the previously bullet-pointed section that outlines the key changes of the above in the context of the networked image.

(c) to add a further closing sentence to draw back to the role of performativity and the shifting construction of boundaries between public and private in the context of the networked digital image.

I have highlighted the changed sections in a dark red in this new document, here.

 

 

Tutor report Assignment 6: revisions

Here is the final (brief) tutor report for the revisions assignment:

Helms_Gesa_492645_PH2DIC_6

I am also copying the main points into this post as I will refer back to them in preparation for the March 2018 assessment.

Blog restructuring

AP: to add category Learning Log as top level category and subsume current top level categories Coursework and Reflection under it)

Assignment 1:

10×10 as print size would be appropriate but if I feel a bigger size is called for, I could do that too.

Assignment 2:

We discussed at some length the final album form. I talked about buying a ready-made contemporary photo album (but wanting empty pages on which I can position prints freely); Jesse suggested a vintage album and I talked about the various ones that I had already collected (either unused or emptied of previous photographs).

> these are the two options to explore first; if neither works satisfactorily, I will custom- made a hand-sewn album.

 

Assignment 3:

AP to check submission process but also to ensure that I include a print copy in the physical submission to OCA.

Assignment 4/5:

— as per last tutor report for revisions, notably: dedicated site; exploring separate audio track and exploring editing number down.

Assessment submission:

  • –  clamshell box for 1, 2, 3
  • –  and a single sheet that on one page spells out concisely the contribution of each

    assignment (including 4/5 as online submission) >> a succinct paragraph for each.

Assignment Six: pre-assessment review

On 7 Sep 2017, at 12:56, Gesa Helms <g.helms@posteo.net> wrote:

Dear Jesse,

— this email outlines and points to the relevant blog posts concerning the revisions for the previous assignments and thus concludes the module.
I am cc’ing OCA Enquiries (as per your suggestions) into this as confirmation of having concluded the module within the timeframe.

The main changes to discuss in our tutorial concern A1 – Office at Night and A2 – Der Grund.

For A3, the essay I will present a version reworked on the basis of our discussion, notably writing through the final section which is currently only presented in bullet point form (due to the word limit).

For A4/5, please see the discussion on the previous tutorial as to technical and presentational revisions (mainly: moving to a dedicated site which allows fuller control over uploaded videos; but also considering to edit the selections of videos down.).

For A1 I have written (and now updated) a blog post which details a further iteration of the original participatory methodology of the project and now includes a repositioning of the initial prints in the participants workspace (i.e. a take on the manual collage). Please see post here: https://digitalimageandculturegh.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/office-at-night-2-material-and-possibly-outcomes-a1-office-at-night-revisions/

For A2 I took a series of additional photographs, following our tutorial and have re-edited the set of images and intend to realise it as an actual print album (as family album) rather than an online format. Please see post here: https://digitalimageandculturegh.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/der-grund-2-revisions-to-assignment-2/

For our final Skype tutorial, Wednesday 27 or Thursday 28 are good for me (I will be in Germany), please pick a date and time that is best for you? I look forward to the final tutorial and many thanks for all your support during this course!

All best,
Gesa

Conclusions

Dear Jesse,

— this email outlines and points to the relevant blog posts concerning the revisions for the previous assignments and thus concludes the module.
I am cc’ing OCA Enquiries (as per your suggestions) into this as confirmation of having concluded the module within the timeframe.

The main changes to discuss in our tutorial concern A1 – Office at Night and A2 – Der Grund.

For A3, the essay I will present a version reworked on the basis of our discussion, notably writing through the final section which is currently only presented in bullet point form (due to the word limit).

For A4/5, please see the discussion on the previous tutorial as to technical and presentational revisions (mainly: moving to a dedicated site which allows fuller control over uploaded videos; but also considering to edit the selections of videos down.).

For A1 I have written (and now updated) a blog post which details a further iteration of the original participatory methodology of the project and now includes a repositioning of the initial prints in the participants workspace (i.e. a take on the manual collage). Please see post here: https://digitalimageandculturegh.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/office-at-night-2-material-and-possibly-outcomes-a1-office-at-night-revisions/

For A2 I took a series of additional photographs, following our tutorial and have re-edited the set of images and intend to realise it as an actual print album (as family album) rather than an online format. Please see post here: https://digitalimageandculturegh.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/der-grund-2-revisions-to-assignment-2/

 

All best,
Gesa

Der Grund (2) : revisions to Assignment 2

I had taken a series of additional photographs for this assignment back in Spring, mainly following the tutor advice on including other people, different locations; so, much of the revision then focused on different grounds, perspectives but also doing a series of photographs with me and my father (my father being the son of the photographer of the initial set of photographs that inspired this project).

There are two main proposed changes:

  1. the photographs and their sequencing
  2. the material outcome

 

The photographs and their sequencing

The initial project was realised as an online flipbook, here.

Early on I marked the following as changes: if in book form as it:

  • remove: spread 12-13, 14-15, 26-27.
  • retake: 25 (colour cast can’t be post-processed); also on bed!
    >> don’t want to retake it; reducing saturation (-30) works quite well.

<< this responds to the tutor advice of it being too repetitive and laboured in its current form.

Looking through the sequence again, I am even tempted to remove than the initially marked spreads.

The photographs I chose to take in addition are the following:

… I will need to print these and then work on the sequencing with the earlier photographs (both archival and those that I took)

The material outcome

Initially I was keen on having a luminous, back-lit outcome for this, hence the online flipbook. But looking back at it, that preference was mainly my own rather than one grounded in this actual project. For the final resolution of the project I have settled on an actual album, either just a small 6×4 album, or, more likely a slightly larger album which allows for utilising the negative space on the page to reposition some of the historical images with current ones.

I am currently experimenting with a simple shop-bought album for this (which in its ordinariness seems fitting, rather than a handbound one).

 

 

exercise 4_3: a meme

 

exercise: Taking inspiration from an image or idea you’ve researched, create your own photographic response to an internet meme. This may be something original, or your own interpretation of an existing meme. It might be funny or profound, but it should make people want to look at it and share it.

 

Having used Facebook rather extensively as interface for my final assignments, I over time sought out various meme pages and explored some of the forms in which memes are generated, repeated, altered, and circulated.

— What follows is a fairly narrow selection of the memes that interest me and the sites that post them. In that, many of them are political, are at points offensive, and at other points targeting a rather particular audience (like Freud Quotes, Shit Academics Say or Zlazloj.zizek, which is Slavoj Zizek extensive experiments in social media form). The other type of memes I was interested in are those that are ironic takes on both memes and the wider context of YOLO (you only live ones), these are the inspirobot.me and Vapid Daily.

Politics, narcissism and social media practice

Zlazloj.zizek, Zizek’s page (and numerous other pages like I would prefer not to, Disturbing Books, Freud Quotes seem all fairly closely interconnected, often reposting each others posts, so for many of the memes, there is a iteration and redundancy in my feed, which reinforces, repeats, reminds).

Zizek in particular explores the edges of taste, the futility of love (which I take to be an attack on current strands of feminist politics around care, self-care and a renewed focus on social reproduction) and above all the scope for narcissism in social media form. These two are examples of this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both reference popular films (It and Fifty Shades of Grey), depict key stills from these and insert Zizek as protagonist: as monstrous clown Pennywise (who is very much to be feared) and as the subject of Christian Grey’s unconventional desire. In both these scenes, the meme works because it requires an audience’s familiarity with the plot development, the actuality of appropriate fear vis-a-vis Pennywise and that Grey’s desires are of sexual domination (and having a female submissive partner). The first, Pennywise, meme, subverts the plotline by altering the text (in written, not spoken form), the second one does so by inserting a new still, of Zizek in bed, sitting proud in front of a picture of Stalin.

The joke? The dangers of communism as spectre and Zizek as controversial character.

Bottom Leftist Memes does something rather different. It is one of the few pages on FB that I have encountered that explicitly discusses (gay and submissive) sex and desire within a left anarchist political context. Its content features often the page admin’s own graphic drawings, besides some reposting, some other memes and some political commentary. The posts for some time feature a text description of the images which is thoughtful, hilarious and a tech commentary on the inability of FB to provide appropriate text captioning for its image (i.e. there is a commentary about accessibility contained in these.

I use an example which isn’t sexually explicit, for others, go and visit the page.

The post reads:

CW discussion of violence; poorly drawn Nazi symbolism]
What are you getting so worked up about
.
.
.
[ Image description: Drawings of a person wearing a red swastika armband and heiling; a person with a 1488 forehead tattoo; a sharply-dressed guy with a suit and tie and a Pepe the Frog pin; a person wearing a KKK hood; somebody waving a Kekistan flag; some kid wearing a Pepe mask and holding an anime girl body pillow; and a guy wearing a red baseball cap that I was too lazy to write MAGA on but you know that’s what it’s supposed to be. Text reads: “Hahaha don’t you feel silly? 6 out of these 7 “quote-unquote” “”””NAZIS”””” are only joking, and only one of them would actually beat you to death with a baseball bat in real life. Have fun guessing which one! ]

 

 

 

 

Vapid inspirations and artificial intelligence

Vapid Daily is a page that composes and circulates vapid inspirational quotes (not) on a daily basis.

I only see these occasionally in my feed, their overblown visuals and the trashy font type generally make me smile, the text often is painfully accurate. They are clearly carefully constructed as such.

Late June I came across a bot that is designed to provide inspirational quotes, inspirobot.me . I came across it as there as a fair bit of media coverage as to the nonsensical, often offensive nature of its inspirational quotes, of getting it wrong how a meme, an inspiration works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I generated a few quotes here and there, and over the past fortnight started to do so more systematically, with a friend setting a shared facebook album to collect (via screenshot a few of these). The album is called bat rum (once), a word play on bot romance, as the aspect of romance, desire and social interaction was one that initially interested me most. With some of the memes being so offensive and rude, I soon set up a second, more private album called bot romance (the m files), m standing for misogyny, morals and mother (?). My friend and I would generally share our finds via messenger, I would often upload them to be shared with her and my friends. A comment a few days ago pointed to the narcissist, individualised, neoliberal logic of many of the quotes, but also that our posting was needing a trigger warning: you are about to be hit on the head with some neoliberal inspirational sledgehammer. This exchange led me to the following as GIF (though the format is strictly an MP4, a video, but it consists of two images, one a myriad of inspirobot images, too small to be read, yet relentless, the other one a simple phone drawing about the need to be inspired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironically, while each of the inspirobot memes gets some likes, noone has liked my meme so far 😮 — or: perhaps not ironically but fairly fittingly.