Part 3: Critical essay

For some time I had the plan to make the essay for this module around the delineation between public and private… it has been something that sits at the core of much of my own interests for the past couple of years and I also realise that it animates much of my own engagement with online/digital platforms and communication.

This third section of the course provides a series of projects (largely research and reading-based) and a series of questions. It also offers the possibility to formulate one’s own question.

So, here is my question as I discussed with my tutor at our last tutorial:

“How does the networked image in contemporary visual culture shape the boundaries between public and private? Discuss, drawing on suitable case studies and research.”

He offered D. Rubinstein & K. Sluis (2008) text ‘A life more photographic’ as a starting point. I have also already collated several quotes and sources from the reading that I have done so far.

In some sense, I would like to investigate and reflect on some of my own projects further for this question, in a way to take it as an opportunity to sharpen my own focus on the module so far for the remaining extended project in A4 and A5. — I will keep this in mind, and may run such reflection concurrently (but am a little uncertain as to how appropriate that is for the essay itself).

Two artists I have recently encountered and who speak to me to this question are:

Pilvi Takala, who had a recent show at Glasgow’s CCA as part of Glasgow International. Her (2004) piece ‘An event in Garnethill‘ is a project I knew about for a long time and it’s good to revisit with some explicit questions in mind.

Rasha Kahil’s In your Home (2008-11) and the subsequent Anatomy of a Scandal introduced me to this artist’s work and I am fascinated by the performative and secretive nature of her transgressions but also how their public outing are turned into further work.


— I will decide further down the line if the limitation on the networked image is useful (for making me focus down to aspect of circulation) or too restrictive.



Public/ private in consumption

I was at this most fascinating performance on Friday where one of the performers would tell us that we will never see part of the work that he is going to do, because it will be private, not meant for consumption; and situating it socially seemed to be solely possible as consumption.

He would tell us that we will never see that part of it.
And he would tell us again, that we will not see it, be part of it, or know it.
Again, he would tell us thus.


Gesa Helms
Gesa Helms it was curious, wasn’t it, John? I know how this functions in theory: of how the sensation around that ‘edge’ between public/private creates so much interest, energy and double signals that it draws almost all the attention… it was exciting to witness… it is something that I have been trying to get my head and body around for some of the House work: what can be meaningfully done with secrets in relationship with others… I find it curious as it also creates all these expectations… am going to write it up for House and am also thinking of contacting him (but not sure if that mannerism has put me off the latter :S)

Gesa Helms
Gesa Helms or whether what I call mannerism was also just a function of negotiating that boundary…

subject: images taken in your office

To: L; a
Cc: H
images taken in your office


hi A and L,
hi H

— I realised when talking to A earlier this week that I haven’t done something in order to clarify the use of the work that I have been doing around my current project (in an office at night) to do with overwork, desire and (not)work. for this project, I met with H in your shared office one evening and we talked about the themes and also used a methodology of jointly taken photos. the images were taken on an analogue camera and my phone, H has since seen the phone images but not, in detail, the analogue ones (as I don’t have a full contact sheet of them yet) – so in this sense, H: the below applies also to you for the images you haven’t seen yet.

The project (like other current work of mine) is pursuing the edge of public/private, and while I realise that that is a current concern of mine I also know that it involves transgressions (feared or actual), most notably if I work with lens-based media and its rich and cumbersome traditions of voyeurism and exhibitionism. I like to attend to and work with this transgressive discomfort in whatever way possible (and some of that attention will be clumsy, no doubt; as well as possibly an imposition on others). I feel that I negotiated that process well with H and the material and forms we employed; I was also conscious of being in someone else’s office as a not quite private, not quite public space; that registered with how and what photos I took (and notably didn’t take), and it also was in one way or another done with/by H (in her shared office); there are a number of images in the full set that blur out/ spill over into your spaces/ presence, and I wanted to ask you to let me know if there are any images in this set you don’t want me using in future.

The images that require for me a confirmation that you are okay with them existing and being used are most notably:
– row 5/ img 4: showing the names on your office door — I will obscure these/ overlay them in any case; I would love to be able to use that img with such an overlay.
– any image that shows A;
– any image that shows A’s desk and shelf space; with the latter, I would really like to use the images that show the duvet bin bag as well as row5/ img 3 which includes A’s hands.

And then there will be others in the set that don’t register as sensitive to me but may be to you.

As for the use of these images: at the moment it sits fairly contained within an educational context, as part of my current undergrad degree course. Some of the images I have made from these are here: [it’s one of several posts but has links to all others].

At the same time, I have the sense that this project could become fairly long and expanded… I am quite excited by the issues it raises and how it seems to be able to bring together some of my academic interests and visual strategies and theories… so it could potentially involve various more interviews in other offices at night, and it thus may in future acquire different public forms.

I would like to ask you to have a look at the image which shows all images of that shoot and to let me know if you want any of these removed, restricted, obscured or similar: and please do let me know if that is the case. And if the image quality is too poor, I can also send on digital files for individual images.

I appreciate that you will have lots of other things to do at this time of year; so, I would like to suggest that if I don’t hear back from you until 10 January 2016, that the images (plus the above proposed anonymisation of row5/img4) are okayed for usage from your side.

Link to dropbox photo file:

Thanks so much and all the best,