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.

 

 

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Office at Night (2) : material and possibly outcomes [A1 / office at night revisions]

This post updates on the revisions of Assignment 1: Office at Night.

[UPDATED 8 September 2017 with decision on final form, see end of this post]

I now concluded the second round of image making for the Office at Night.

The first one consisted of meeting a colleague in her office, us jointly taking images while discussing a series of questions over office, work, night, desire. I then developed the images (made on iphone and Minox 35 mm film camera) to form both the manual and digital montages of assignment 1.

The final submission of the assignment is here; the tutor report for it here.

In my first submission I was deliberate as to the provisional status of the images: while impermanence was a deliberate aspect of the manual montages, which were just temporarily arranged in my notebook, while working in the coffee shop, it nonetheless wasn’t a formal resolution for this assignment yet.

During the first part of the course I also experimented with my own bedroom/office as a workspace that exceeds its boundaries. These images formed project Project 1_2: through a digital lens.

The main point of critique of the tutor report concerned the aesthetic qualities of the images: they did not engage, arrest, invite to concern oneself more with them:

You practice is very well informed, contextually, but to be honest, I don’t find that the formal outcome of either these approaches actually have aesthetic qualities that match their intellectual underpinning. Forgive me if this sounds trite or pedestrian, but my view is that artwork – in all forms – is presented to be engaged with, and it needs to be aesthetically enticing to do so effectively. I think this is particularly the case with your ‘manual montages’ – I think one needs to always ask the frank question, of whether anyone else is actually going to want to engage with a piece of one’s work.

— as they originated in a fleeting process and formed a documented record, I didn’t mind this criticism too much and found it fair. It also, over the following 18 months led to much investigation, reflection as to what I consider the underpinnings of my artistic practice, what role what kind of aesthetic plays in this and how to work towards resolutions that address both the the conceptual concerns and a visual realisations that matches these.

My immediate line of thought for this was three-fold:

a. to produce a series of considered still set up far more formally, possibly photographed on film again (and pursuing a few months later the acquisition of a medium-format camera) to allow for a -reembedding back into a slowed down, quietened context.

b. to investigate whether the stills and montages could themselves become part of my main working process, i.e. become the material that constitutes (or: re-constitutes) a notebook. I conducted a series of first printing experiments in disassembled journals to see if this was feasible, but stopped at this point.

c. to engage my interview partner in examining and rearranging the earlier images together to then document this second part in photography again.

In Summer 2016 I sent a single-use camera to another colleague and invited her to document, (inspired by the short set of pointers that I already used for the first conversation) to record anything around the theme, while I would do something similar for my own office at night, again also on a 35mm camera (though not single use but with fairly high-quality lens and a 3200 ISO film).

We then met again (10 months later), in her office/ bedroom and looked at the images, talked about the process, any themes arising while setting up over the course of a couple of hours and with a tripod and the medium-format camera (Kodak Ektar 100, i.e. saturated slow film) a series of stills, some of these featuring ourselves also. I choose to work with available light for this and fairly slow shutter speeds to make use of the narrow DoF of the camera.

On the basis of this second process, I can now envisage a series of revisions for the initial assignment:

  1. the submission of a single A3 print that consists of the diptych in my own bedroom/ office at night1_2 My office triptych.jpg
  2.  a series of images that are referencing the different offices, in which this project has been located:
    Office at Night Angela single1_2 My office triptychDIC_A1_montage1-2Office at Night Angela Diptych 1Office at Night Angela Diptych 2
    2017_08_062017_09_022017_09_032017_09_08— the main question for this approach: single images? combined images for Office at Night (A), and my own office, plus the single digital montage for the original Office at Night (H)?
  3. an artist book in the form of a reassembled notebook, with some printed pages, some text, empty pages and a set of the original source images to invite the viewer/reader to perform their own manual montages in this? [no marquette of this yet, but will reinsert this]
    — what role do the more formal montages play in this notebook? e.g., do they form a cover or back image, are they included as a print also?
    — is there a book per office? i.e. like a potential series?
    — is there scope to turn this into multiples? [e.g. by photocopying, inkjet printing, risograph or indeed screenprinting?This is the type of notebook I use, it is stitched and I in the past already disassembled them and rebound in different forms. It is slightly too large for the pages to go through my inkjet printer but the thinness of the paper is as such not a problem for the printer.
    It also contains a pouch in the back, which could easily take a series of 6×4 prints.IMG_20170731_123912.jpg

 

Final decision on format

Following further discussion and reflection, I arrived at the decision to print single images, fairly large (such as 10×10, or above; though 10×10 is possibly the print size limit for assessment submission – which I will need to check). These will be the following six images:

[I need to upload the current diptych as two single images]

Jeff Wall (1979) Picture for Women [A1/ office at night revisions]

— one of the references for exploring further what is contained in the material that formed the first assignment.

As my tutor points out: it is a retaking of Edouard Manet’s (1982) A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and its complex viewpoints. The multiplicity of the gaze is the one that my tutor picked up from the digital montages of the initial submission.

The Courtauld website points towards a series of themes: the bar as site for drinking and meeting prostitutes, described by a contemporary as ‘umixed joy’. The sternness of the central figures expression does not match that description (and also sits at odds with the bustle visible in the mirror behind her. Also: we, as viewer, stand in the place of a man depicted solely in reflection. That the reflection of his face and her back is skewed, shifted too far to the right, is one of the points for discussion.

Jeff Wall’s remaking of the bar scene moves the setting into either a classroom, a dance studio or another, not quite defined, space. Again, we can assume there is a mirror, through which we see the whole scene. In the dead centre of it, a large format camera. A woman to our left, a man, identified as Wall himself to the right, looking at the woman (or, perhaps more precisely, her back). We see it is nighttime: the window front in the back shows a dark outside, overhead are several bare light bulbs. The woman stands still, seems to look at herself in reflection (or indeed at us?), Walls seems to be suspended in a walking movement, is he holding something in his hand?

It is a place of activity, foremost: that of the making of a photograph; i.e. it is the workplace of a photographer (Wall), and still, what else is going here? Is she model? As women at that time in such a space would be. Knowing the origin in Manet’s painting, I realise that I am asking myself too as to what the sexual relationship between the two are. Is there one? Is my wondering intended?

Campany, in the short video clip about the book he published on this single work also relates Wall’s work to Hitchcock’s voyeurism, and outlines the circumstance that this was a large-scale back-lit gallery installation, not a photograph as print. Also: a single work, not a series or a body of work.

[I have ordered the book and will take a closer read of this, as I realise that the Office at Night will remain an ongoing project beyond the remits of this module and assignment

 

seeking : a form

I am seeking a form; I am clearly seeking a form. Or possibly: the appropriateness and the necessity of form.

– I was not surprised that the A1 ‘final images’ were never ordered, printed or placed into a formal, spatial relationship to each other. The project was, and still is, characterised by its process, its method. The outcome is still indetermined, undecided.

Part of the fascination with Sear’s 3rd layer that mediates 1 and 2 is that is acts as methodology, as filter, as form of gaze to determine how 1 and 2 relate to each other but also how the final form is constituted.

So: the office at night is somewhat formless; it is also very fitting for the subject matter: working late oozes, spills out and over; it is everywhere and nowhere; the mutability and the ephemeral nature of the manual montages clearly speak to that also.

Let me consider further what the form – even if temporary or in absence – can be.

photography, performance and (no) aesthetic

One thing that is becoming clearer to me is that the Office at Night interests me in ways that go well beyond the photographic objects I am creating.

This brings up a familiar question: what form do I want to give to these conceptual concerns. And, related to this, how can an excess in conceptual – and I suspect performative – interest be finding its way into a photography course.

I do have a strong sense that I am pursuing a particular aesthetic form, it is not that the form is redundant or of no interest to me; and yet, I am hesitant to pursue highly aestheticised images (my comment on Helen Sear’s pointed to that; and so do various other offline notes).

So, then… what is my gripe, concern, rubbing up against the aesthetic?

Starting to explore this, I asked course mates on the flickr forum for links to their own projects and other artists who have worked between performance and photography.

My questions was this:

I am more and more interested in photography as performance and its role in performance… I would like to figure this out more for the course of DI&C and would appreciate pointers to (a) your own projects where the photography was performative or to document performance; and (b) also some artists who work with this… one of the things I’m trying to figure out is the role of aesthetics to this; e.g., if the main piece really is a performance/ social practice, what does it mean for producing photographs of it… any thoughts would be great, many thanks!

I got plenty and very useful responses, and this is a start to work through them in a more public form.

From the artists that are unfamiliar, two projects grabbed my interest very easily:

Erwin Wurm One-Minute Sculptures, begun in 1977

The performer is instructed, on hand-written notes to take a ridiculous, often difficult pose that has her interact with some everyday objects; the duration of the sculpture (not called performance) is so that it enables a photograph of it to be taken.

A series of the photographs of this are available at http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/erwin-wurm-1

 

Eikoh Hosoe Kamaitachi (1969)

A series of b&w photographs of a collaboration of the artist and an actor, Hijikata, where the latter becomes the Kamaitachi, a ‘sickle-toothed weasel’ that haunts the countryside and people of Hosoe’s childhood. The photographs are the result of Hijikata’s spontaneous interactions with people and place.

Eikoh Hosoe on Kamaitachi from Aperture Foundation on Vimeo.

 

My thoughts?

  • I am interested in a relational process, an interaction, – these two projects exemplify such interaction (between people and/or objects); I am also interested in the role of the photographer/ author in this; again something that is raised – albeit in different ways – by these projects;
  • I am less interested in the performance being stilled, i.e. the projects where the artist enacts a different identity, which then is stilled in the photograph. There is something in the solely performing for the camera (and the imagined audience that then sees the photograph afterwards), that is not the focus of my concern right now.