This post contains
a/ a link to the assignment work
b/ a discussion of the statement, theme, purpose and methodology of the work
c/ the reflection on the assessment criteria (updating previous reflections for Assignment 4)
the final work for assignment five is this website, consisting of 35 video clips and a series of static pages which provide statement, references, and methodology of the project.
statement, theme, purpose and methodology
1/ the line
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.
2/ no shadow secrets
this work is not about my secrets
it is, possibly, about other people’s secrets
I sometimes think that these, other people’s secrets, are mine
this can confuse
it can be violent
are secrets like shadows
do they show in bright light
do they show at night
do they move
a grey sky does not cast a single shadow
all the same, my shadow remains
Statement one in fact is a note taken after the tutorial with my module tutor when we explored the boundaries of this work, i.e., what would need to be named, how, in what ways; and thus also, what would remain implicit, hidden, denied. Statement two was an early piece of writing about this work, at a point when I still called the work no | shadow | secrets. It alludes to the confusion over what was at stake in a series of images that I found myself collecting during the autumn and winter past. It also alluded to the situatedness of these images to auto-biographical events, confusions over these events and a seeking of finding a ground for this kind of work to stand on. Such ground was pursued rather literally: many of the early images would feature my feet as well as the shadows that I caught myself casting in a number of urban street crossing. This formed the first research thread for the work: a body of work around Andy Warhol’s Shadow screenprints that I encountered in Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery in mid-December. They conjoined with a series of evening and nighttime walks along two routes, one very familiar to me in Glasgow’s West End, the other, very unfamiliar to me along Oxford Road in Manchester and into Rushholme, where I had booked a hotel room for a single night en route to my parents in Northern Germany the next day. Over the following months I revisited these two routes as well as two specific sites, Partick Cross and the central flagpole in Whitworth Park, just outside the Gallery where I had encountered the screenprints. These sites and routes became the means by which I investigated my presences in urban spaces and which over time also were juxtaposed with a similar investigation in an online format, Facebook’s timeline and feed. In both online/offline settings I explored issues around boundary constructions, familiarity, visibility, absence, transgression and questions over self, presence and desire, along a present threat of violence.
Along with the production of a series of lens-based materials (in moving image, phone camera as well as MF analogue form), these sites and movements were investigated in text, mostly written (across a series of registers: personal messages, small-public posts, large public posts, personal offline journaling). These written materials were combined with earlier journal notes from myself about events that took place in Berlin between 2008 and 2009 as well as with extensive readings of other writers who used formats of autobiographic fiction writing, theory fiction, performance and the confessional. Writers here were in particular Chris Krauss, Sophie Calle and Bhanu Kapil.
These written materials also feature a series of others, my friends, confidantes, imagined others who in various ways, sometimes closely, sometimes at a distance took part of the project and who informed both visual and written materials. These written materials are in themselves thus a body of artistic work that explores the limits of working with personal subject matter, rendering this subject matter performative, fictitious, introducing doubt over veracity while ringing true, alluding to a series of affective moments and encounters that explore, radiate outwards and attempt a resonance – within this online space, within and across the urban spaces, within the reader, the passerby.
Purposefully, the material can be encountered in different sequences, paths, routes. The material, even though heavily edited down, is still excessive: it exceeds its own boundaries in more than one sense: the videos auto-loop so if left on, the voices will overlay each other, engage, obscure each other. It is unlikely that someone will listen to all files in succession (which succession?), so each encounter is likely to produce a different distributed narrative and a different sense of the images that go along such narrative.
The extent to which this work concerns Digital Identities, the overall theme of the concluding final assignments of DIC is at once immediate and at a distance:
It is at a distance since the body of work is visually, on its surface, but also in its means of production, concerned with urban spaces, it is a form of street photography, however one which largely omits people from the frame of the camera. It is furthermore produced in part with an analogue medium-format camera. At the same time, however, the conceptual concern being one about boundaries, boundedness, visibility, secrecy and desire is one that at once retraces questsions over contemporary subjecthood – which of course is a subjecthood that is intrinsically linked, or perhaps more accurately: constituted through a networked set of social relations, a networked sense of self (often media-rich, contextualized and hyperlinked). Furthermore, the second immediate concern of this work with digital identities lies in its mode of circulation, and even further: production. Here, I am particularly thinking about the textual material, but also the images: all that is contained in this project has existed in public before: on my Facebook timeline, thus also other people’s feeds, in private messenger chats. In this sense, it explores in draft and in practice questions over boundedness, veracity, performativity in the very medium in which digital identities circulate today.
For the purpose of this project, the page ‘methodology’ collates those video clips which in particular speak to and explicate these concerns over how the work is constituted through a notion of digital identity and publicness.
Reflection on the assessment criteria
– I have taken the original reflection from Assignment four and amended (deleted/ added in blue)
Demonstration of technical and visual skills (35%)
This is the most extensive and expansive body of work presented for this module so far. It developed over a series of months and started initially with fairly simple camera sketches and movement studies (phone camera). It developed from there as a continually expanding set of images and themes, revisited and refined with both the phone camera as well as then translated into MF analogue format. There are primarily two types of images: movement studies and stand-alone individually composed stills. The latter are in part part of small independent series (e.g. #aroseisaroseisaroseisarose; gallery shadows/ reflections, or from a series of winter lights decoration in the North German countryside); others are taken along familiar routes and refined over a series of walks and honing in on composition, the role of a variety of lights, and the presence of shadow shapes. The day-time images were devised after a study visit in an unknown location (Manchester, around the University) and then revisited with different camera and a more refined research agenda. The majority of the images were taken during Winter, a final site visit in May added a few daytime, Spring images to the set. These in turn serve to heighten the evening/nighttime mood of the majority of the images.
Quality of outcome (20%)
As with a set of analogue images that I developed alongside the Critical Essay (These Summer Images, a selection of which was presented to the OCA study group in August 2016), this project developed out of a practice of taking photos, reflecting and refining these over an extended period of time until a coherent theme and purpose for the project had become clear. In doing so, I am building both on my experience on pursuing visual interests around lens-based formats: notably the availability of a high quality camera phone and the ability to operate within the specific requirements of a MF analogue camera. Pursuing these two route at the same time allowed me to bridge digital and analogue in a form that I initially explored in the Critical Essay but also which is resonant of my exploration of online digital identities (moving online and offline with material posted and explored within various boundaries of a Facebook timeline). Choosing the presentation format as a wall full of small scale prints that meander, conjoin and develop off of each other is a format that chimes well for these concerns: expansiveness, excess, cheap print (as in posting small size images on FB, often to be viewed on handheld devices). The forms in which I want to discuss the content of the project are still in draft form (and, due to the nature of the project) also subject to some form of veiling or boundary drawing. I hope to resolve these for the final form of the project. The final selection of form for this project changed significantly from Assignment 4 as well as the initial tutor feedback (mainly due to a discussion at the OCASA-funded study day in early May): I chose to narrow down the number of images from >100 to 35, and, in order to articulate the role of written/spoken material, present these as single video clips of a still image with an audio narration. Each clip exists independently from each other, can be accessed on a dedicated website in any order (a similar form of openness of the material as the wall installation initially allowed for). This final form however allows for a stronger framing of the images without forcing the reader to also read the textual material. Choosing such web-based presentation form also fully embeds the material within its original form of circulation in a social media feed: here, as before with the materials, the audience would encounter the material on an individual basis (either through a handheld device, the Tumblr app or on a larger laptop/desk-based computer screen; ideally with headphones); this in turn also articulates some of the themes in the work that are concerned with intimacy, proximity, disclosure, the confessional and the performative, its veiling and punctual reveal.
Demonstration of creativity (25%)
The working process of creating and reflecting and refining a large series of work required a systematic going back and forth between materials as well as also trusting in my ability to do so, not to lose a sense of overview or purpose as well as being able to select the most successful images. That these work in a variety of groupings within the large set speaks to me to the success of that approach; the format of the images supports this and while I am proposing the main form of presentation to be a wall installation, I have given some initial thought to other formats and would like to explore these further still for the second part of the project. I have decided, as part of Assignment five for the final form to be a website containing a series of video clips and a few static pages which situate the statement of the work, its references and its methodology. In its final form, this lens-based project has moved to integrate other media forms: notably video as well as an exploration of using spoken word (across a series of registers, such as transcribing messenger messeges, narrating fiction, discussing theory, exploring Facebook functionality); in doing so, I believe that I have found a form that speaks robust and clearly to the material (in image and text) as well as the themes contained within this form.
Different to Assignment 1, this assignment is largely built out of the material that I was collecting and its subsequent reflection, refinement and repositioning. The sources that inspired me to pursue and explore (as well as dismiss, notably the angle on secrets) the emerging themes and their refinement are varied across the visual arts and constitute in my mind a strong and successful frame of reference for this project while noone dominates the work in such a way that this is a work in the spirit of artist x, or similar. I am aware that my blog has not reflected a large part of the exercises for this assignment and while I have explored the themes (notably Foucault’s work on the Panopticon but also his work on sexuality; and its relationship to more psychoanalytical work on desire; and the shaping of these by algorithms), these haven’t been written up yet.
At the beginning of Assignment 5, I explored a number of photo books in terms of their potential to provide a non-linear form of storytelling, these will be useful for future work and in some way have also informed my choice for the final format of this work. In its current form, I have the sense that this work situates itself in some of the work that explores circles of friendship, their desires, questions over boundary and excess, the veiling of these and seeks to articulate these in a non-linear form. The most obvious work that does come to mind (albeit in a rather different set of images) is Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency and its early life as an everchanging slideshow, shown to her friends.