no | shadow | secrets : installation for OCA study day 6 May 2017

For the May study day I set up the installation of the prints as envisaged in Assignment 4. This meant one wall which started with Site 1 (Partick Cross) on the left, moving into the middle part, the main images of sites, movement, individual images of the project, and on the far right Site 2 (Whitworth Grasses).

This was the first time that I had set up the whole project as intended. However, the setup time was effectively too short (just under 30 mins), whereas before I would spent far longer on setting up the middle part alone and then over a series of days rearranging the relationship between the images.

The installation was accompanied by a series of single page short texts, where each participant received a different text to act as an introduction to the project, and then was invited to explore the installation.

IMG_20170506_134116I also recorded the installation with a video. Unfortunately, my video app has some issues with what it shows on screen as recorded frame compared to what it actually records (which means the recording has a less than desirable framing; which I only realised too late to re-record).


After the viewing, everyone received the remaining sets of text, plus a context note.


The main feedback from tutor and participants as follows:

  • too many images: I obfuscate the content and purpose
  • not enough of mine in this: use my own voice to narrate the text that I handed out (over a still image) [see earlier presentations which used my voice in various ways]
  • vary the print size: print the key images as 8×10
  • construct this as a wall drawing: if these are connected, explore ways in which drawing marks can act as connection (see Richard Wright‘s installations)
  • go back to Della Porta’s Domestic Slavery for how some of the starkness of the context can be activated within this
  • various very strong images; liking the ability to select entry and exist and to explore the multiplicity of images, routes through these, also: appreciation of the subtlety of context and content (one feedback: ‘I knew this would be challenging material and it is and I really enjoy what you have done with this, how you approach the darkness in it’)

My own thoughts relating to the installation and discussion:

  • I was nervous about the rush of setting this up, and that the images would not strongly enough relate to each other
  • It was good to hand out the very different texts and gauge some of the difference in responses >> that is a really insightful means to open up a piece of work
  • through this entire setup, with both geographical locations in place, I am excited to see how the two locations suspend the middle part, the movements from one to another, somewhere between and back and forth rather effectively.
    >> the two locations are very different, more static configurations, my visual analogy was that of two magnetic poles, and iron dust being suspended between them

From this, I pursued the project pretty much exclusively in the video plus narration form as to what became the submission for assignment 5.

The plan is to explore the wall drawing installation separately and independently of the module/ assessment.





A4: site 1 trial sets

I have started to narrow down my selection for the assignment sets.

I find I am fairly slow working through this material, and for the past 10 days I have not looked at the images but instead worked with my notes, some other textual materials and begun to settle on ways in which text (what form? what register? what content) can accompany this material in its current form. I found this way of working was useful, even though it slowed me down beyond my current submission date.

So, tonight, I returned to the Lightroom sets and begun working through it. While there is a vast amount of source images, I don’t necessarily anticipate the various segments to include a large number each.

So, this is the site which chronologically started the series: Partick Cross and observations of my (divergent) shadows while waiting for the traffic light. This led to a series of movement studies (both in video and burst mode).

The boundedness on a sheet is arbitrary for this blog post: I see them sitting on a wall (and leading on and out of the other segments).

This is a selection of the images, in slightly different arrangments:

[I am conscious that my discussion of this project is rather piecemeal, I will likely have to go back to re-articulate, combine some of the research stage posts, yet for the time being it seems fitting to me]

Partick x trial sheet 1
Partick Cross arrangement 1
Partick x trial sheet 2
Partick Cross arrangement 2

Shadows in screenprint

I now went and did the introduction to screenprinting at the Edinburgh’s print studio again. I did this several years ago and then used the workshop for several months. From Warhol’s Shadows, I stuck with the idea of wanting to explore the extent to which I can work with direct markmaking (either drawn or otherwise) for aspects of this assignment.

I didn’t have much time to prepare a detailed image ahead of the course but brought several of the 6×4 prints along with me. The session involved printing a four layer print on A3 paper.

I initially tried to work with two small images (liking the pairing/triptychs on the wall) plus using a final layer to exceed the photograph’s frame (but couldn’t easily resolve the four later separation fast enough to get started on the printing).

I then developed this image fairly quickly from one of the gallery shadows of myself plus a blur from a car window in December.

I produced six prints; am pretty happy with a number of technical aspects: the ability to correctly plan for and adjust opacity and hue, decide on the layer order (first: green-blue, then reddish beige-grey, then dark black-green, then yellow-grey); to control the edges of each layer, align them effectively, attend to issues to do with registration and pulling the print correctly; using a scarf and photocopyer to create a photographic layer; and the overall image composition.

The scale is far wrong for what I would like to do: this needs to be small, much smaller, possibly really 10×15 cm.

It was interesting to explore the veiling, shadow, blur in one image — all are image elements that I am drawn to and employ a lot in my photography. Here, they are translated in rather different means in screenprint:

  • the crisp form of my body shape (as darkest value also takes on form of a shadow)
  • the reddish grey shadow (a pigment wash; I don’t think that edge works particularly well)
  • the overlaid blue-green darker shadow with a crisper edge (but possibly too rounded in outline)
  • the veiling top layer is both a shadow and a veil
  • the bottom element constitutes a blur and a see-through (I would have the dark top layer more open for another version, to allow for more blue to shine through).

Here is an annotated copy for the print:


I did initially want to pursue a yellow block as an excess layer (which was replaced by the textile veil in the final print), but didn’t have a sense this could be resolved for this print.


For the further development a couple of ideas:

  • add myself in the form of a screenprinted gallery shadow that repeats (in the same small size as the other photographs) in various places across the wall installation
  • produce a 2- or 3-image set on digital paper where one of the images is a screenprint added afterwards
  • can I add a screenprint layer to a photographic print? [I wanted to try this out over the weekend but didn’t have time] — they will easily print on top of fibre prints but I am unsure how they will react to coated paper
  • using a screenprint layer to exceeed the photographic frame, to add a monochrome (or at least: low chroma element).

I will go and start printing in the week after this and hopefully have a couple of images ready for the submission to my tutor at the end of that week.


Studio SMACK (2016) Paradise and Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (c1495-1505)


Seeing this animation first time a couple of weeks ago, the FB feed has reintroduced me, just as I had come back from my fielwork for taking analog images for the current assignment.

This time round, I looked more closely at Bosch’s original painting and some of its interpretations: earthly sin, the fall of (wo)man; notions of earthly pleasure or innocence, or in fact an ironic commentary on the Habsburg Empire’s pursuits of earthly delights.

What interests me in this?

  • the contemporary interpretation in format/medium as digital animation of one the key pieces in the Western art historical canon
  • the overflowing mess and abundance of the imagery, its animation and the inability to take it all in.
  • the theme of pleasure/desire

All these, in different forms are relevant to my current assignment work.

I ordered a recent publication on Bosch’s original work, mainly for the high quality reproductions of the details in the painting and a sense of current state of interpretation of this work which has been interpreted so vastly differently over time.

I will update this post with some more research details as they emerge.

Below a high resolution image of Bosch’s original work (source:



Viviane Sassen: UMBRA, The Shadow Panel Discussion

– Stephanie suggested this recent panel discussion, as part of Viviane Sassen’s current Umbra exhibition in Chicago in her comment on my first set of negatives.

“Viviane Sassen: UMBRA, The Shadow Panel discussion where experts from a variety of disciplines discussed ways in which the idea of the shadow figures into their professional practice. Mary Dougherty, Jungian psychoanalyst and art psychotherapist; Dr. Andrew Johnson, Vice President of Astronomy and Collections at the Adler Planetarium; Chicago-based author of Heartbreaker Maryse Meijer, and Myra Su, a narrative artist specializing in storytelling through puppetry and live theater, will join Sassen in a series of short presentations”

Watching it, I took a series of notes.

First off: I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary range of presenters, their varied styles and contributions. I thought that was really special in expanding on Sassen’s work (which I only looked up at a point throughout the discussion).

Some notes:

  • Myra Su’s demonstration of shadow puppetry, notably working with a projector. She contends that colours is also shadow; that the more opaque something is, the clearer it becomes.
  • Mary Dougherty, a Jungian analyst and art therapists, gives an excellent introduction into Jung’s concept of the shadow for personal development.
  • Andrew Johnson examines the role of shadow for solar eclipses
  • Maryse Meijer reads a children’s book about a school anxious first day at school and then a short story she wrote about a shadow house.

I have a strong sense that the psycho-dynamic aspect of shadow work is significant in this body of work.

I also sense that my upcoming venture into screenprinting will provide something further into the role of shadows: possibly the presentation on shadow puppetry and the role of colour in this will provide insight.

I have ordered Sassen’s Prestel edition of Umbra to explore this further. I am not overly familiar with her work, and while I am aware of a fair bit of her fashion photography, her more conceptual work is largely unknown to me. The Umbra series on her website is rather formal in utilising coloured perspex/glass, sand and her hands; but probably will present an interesting and very different aspect on the role of shadows. Hers are stark, strong, clearly delineated, occur in broad daylight. Mine are more transient, murky, hardly discernible on a nighttime. I think these distinctions will help me.

There is something in the interdisciplinarity of the panel that pulls me in considerably. I would almost like to provide such disparate aspects for this work: to draw in different elements and install them around a theme (rather than fully integrate).

Contextual FB discussions relating to Assignment 4

Facebook posts relating to this assignment which can sit in this blog’s public (amending as I go along).

A first outline as to some themes relating to online/offline; public/private for this project are in this previous post.

Gesa Helms 10 March at 21:44 ·[posted to Close Friends]

tonight’s discussion of public boundaries:
– Gesa, it looks like you’re unfolding and doing much more on important things on FB
– Hm… that is in part because you’re back in my close friends list, I had removed you for the past six months and you are now included again.
– Ah… okay….
An hour later:
– But, Gesa, something has changed nonetheless
– Okay then.

k. priceless…in so many dimensions…
Gesa Helms
Gesa Helmshahaha, you mean Mastercard would not be my friend here?
Gesa Helms
Gesa Helmsoh… i told him your comment re hair/dress too, so he wasn’t all wrong 😉
k. hahahahaa…i read it and if you don’t know who the OTHER is, it has so many layers…it’s like a crime scene…i would continue to read the book or play …
Gesa Helms
Gesa Helmshehehe… let me consider the crime then… good idea…

Here are some of the text fragments from the first third of Gilligan’s Birth of Pleasure that I am considering as coming into the #noshadows work.
I am not sure they will feature as actual texts in this but in some sense help me organise/select/focus the work.
They are still fairly sprawling. They also help me refocusing the notion of ‘secrets’ in this.
I remain very taken with her retelling of Cupid, Psyche and Pleasure; but my usual hesitation to work explicitly with art h…

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she told me about the pockets. how everyone was now afraid of what may be in those pockets. in their pockets. the pockets you may not quite know if they were there or not. and if they did exist, what would they conceal. what weapons would they hide. what hands would they keep warm. how would you know.

I am not quite sure what I titled this as: it was a room in cheap accommodation in north London at some point in Spring 2010. It was a single bedroom, shared bathrooms and very noisy heating pipes. I stayed for about a week there, the nearest tube was Mornington Crescent. In the kitchen, there were women from all over the world, many doing some kind of training course, many doing cheap work, many of them stayed far longer than that week.
The print is essentially a monotype, I scored cardboard, can’t quite remember how I did the yellow layer but it was similarly improvised, I pulled a single print of it only, the cardboard would have given me possibly another five before it would have come undone.
I will stay in the same beige hotel as I did a couple of months ago; somewhat reluctantly so, somewhat curious. It is close to the park, offers a single room where I can leave my camera gear, the hostel would have been similarly expensive for the night in question and added 50mins walk in either direction with gear.
And, then there is of course the part of me that is intensely curious why that room was rather weird the first time round. Now I have a few 6×6 exposures to test that out in more detail (all on Ektar, so it will produce highly saturated beiges).


Gesa Helms hahaha… of course these individual posts function very much like a digital shadow: they come, they go; they are not visible from many angles (in many feeds) but in others they are. So, as much as I dislike the limited depository function of my timeline (all the deletions; i generally search by the most unusual expression that I use for any post, which means I need to remember the phrasing I use for a post in the first place), the fleetingness is rather apt…

Second play with printouts: twos and threes

After a few hours, I moved the prints along. The initial groupings interested me and I started to assemble threes, then twos, and then threes in landscape format (my original squares printed out as portrait, so I have an unusually high number of portrait-oriented prints at the moment; I do like the format – how they combine in three; I will need to check how this relates to the original composition).

I grouped most of the prints (the two on the left are complex images which almost sit on their own):


Some of the groupings are as follows:

I have also started to write through some of the themes for me within this extended set.

Being able to move these physically while they only existed in phone and in FB albums before is significant in a number of ways:

  • easy to see the relationship between images across the timeframe (five months) as well as across the different themes
  • #digitalsecrets #reflectiontypo #aroseisaroseisaroseisarose, and recently #noshadows are the hashtags which i have been applying to different themes within these.
  • moving them and relating them both in terms of content/theme and formal qualities is insightful: – I like the size, framing of the prints; -hues/saturation repeat fairly consistently, so do shapes; – placing plants side-by-side other objects/ myself works rather well (why? in what ways? what are the relationships constructed and themes raised?)
  • these digital images can work well either as an extended narrative on a large wall or as small groupings (2s, 3s) in a book format
  • I remain reluctant to name the content; perhaps I don’t have to name it (or not to have to reveal its personal significance)
    >> I think this is what I am currently most uncertain about: what do they need for activation? what transparency do they need or not?
    >> unless I am clearer about this, I will continue to work with these in practical form: through placement but also through further selection and image production.

These images sit far aside to the Bronica ones from Summer but also to the ones that I hope to take in a few days. Obviously, technically so: these are digital (mostly in-camera-processed jpg files), while the Bronica are analog ones.

How do these relate to each other?

  • Does one related out of digital and the other into digital?
  • Do they enact boundary constructions in different ways?
  • What is being blurred/merged/socialised in what forms?
  • What does this mean for my earlier observations on author/subject/viewer? — How is this affected by the device and initial circulation/origination?

I have started to write through some of my thoughts on these (and their context) in a series of posts within a small FB group (as I have done for some of my own projects since September). I am uncertain as to how I will move (or at least reference) these here at the moment but have set up a post where I will copy of the few of these posts.