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.