Critical Essay: networked image and boundaries between public/private in the work of feminist practitioners

Attached is the critical essay for Assignment 3. The question investigated is a slightly re-focused one to the one originally discussed back in Spring:.

How does the networked image in contemporary visual culture shape the boundaries between public and private? Discuss, notably with reference to earlier performative and analogue works by feminist practitioners.


Link to the PDF: Critical Essay 15 November_web

The narrowing in focus to feminist practitioners who particular worked within analogue means that I am somewhat focusing also on the transition and difference between analogue/networked and am with the main part of the essay tracing existing practices either temporally before networked images or concurrent ones which continue working in analogue form.

The artists I have focused on are Chantal Akerman, Nan Goldin and Sophie Calle, while Trish Morrissey’s work serves as an opening towards the substantive debate. All artist are contemporary with works produced from the 1960s onwards (Chantal Akerman died in late 2015).

This narrowing of focus, or rather: the inclusion of analogue practices in some sense also mirros my own interests and pursuits which from Spring onwards have almost exclusively consisted, in terms of image production, of shooting in film (MF/Bronica and 35mm/Voigtlander), which are then scanned and post-processed digitally.

The essay investigates the boundary constructions in place between public and private and how the artists explored these (often by means of transgression). It is from these boundary considerations that I then enquire into changes taking place in the context of networked image practices. These changes are considered in relation to author/subject/viewer – I call this the relational triangle of the image. I found it a useful heuristic device for my own thinking but also feel I want to investigate a bit further on how that relationship has been discussed and conceptually understood in media studies.

I realise that I tried to conduct some primary research within/alongside this essay: by investigating the artists in detail but also by pursuing a series of images that investigate boundary construction within environmental photography. In this, the limits of the essay seem paramount (in word count and scope), and I realise that I am used to writing far longer research pieces than this essay, which also means that the scope of what I tried to address is too wide. Practically, it leaves the considerations around the networked image practices in shorthand and alluded to rather than actually investigated. I decided to leave this in this form as it presents a useful piece of writing for my own purposes and will be able to act as a bridge/entrance into the final project of the course, where some of the notes around networked image practices will be spelled out and investigated further.




collaboration (project 2): completing a scene in many squares

I have now contributed to the two collaborative projects that I had signed up for (both OCA-initiated), which I mentioned some time ago. While the photography one is still under wraps; the fine art/ drawing isn’t.

This one was a tricky one. I had hoped it would get me into tactile mark-making again, and somehow I had passed over the significant detail that it included elements of an exercise in Drawing 1 that I had skipped because I found it really tedious: copying an image and rescaling it in the process (i.e. gridding up source and drawing). So, when I received the three squares that I should redraw in monochrome as 20x20cm images, I put the to the side, forgot about them, remembered them, felt a little guilty, forgot about them etc…

In early Spring I became intrigued in the processes that drawing and photography share: transparency, working with light, mark-making; I also had been learning b&w darkroom printing and wondered if the enlarger could work as my pencil for this exercise. I was reticent to bring my hand as tool to leave artistic marks into this process, which for all intents and purposes seemed to shout at me that it wanted a commentary on mechanical/ digital reproduction.

These are the images that I sent as .png back to the OCA, in the same dimensions as the original files (though a fair size bigger).


Fine Art Collab 1_orig size_expFine Art Collab 2_orig size_expFine Art Collab 3_orig file size_exp

Along with the images, I sent this note:

please find my images for the project attached. Doing the Digital Image and Culture course (along with Drawing on a Creative Arts Pathways), I considered what approach of redrawing/copying I would find useful and fitting for this project. I pursued a couple of approaches, one also consisted of photographing the images with medium format analog to then process further in analog and/or digital.

I was interested in the source material being a PNG, possibly a screengrab or scan, and I wanted to work with that materiality a little further.
So, the attached images are mechanically drawn by my inkjet printer and redrawn by my scanner (auto feed). I have done some post-processing in PS (crop and levels) and resaved them as PNGs, so in some sense you are getting the same files back that you send me.

I have resized the images to 20x20cm, as they printed out; and finally reconfigured the ppi so that the drawn images are as close to your original ones that you had sent me.

— I realise this is unorthodox as to your instructions; and I hope that it nonetheless provides a comment and contribution on contemporary drawing, its tools and the role that mechanical reproduction may have acquired in conjunction with the digital.

What you would need to do is to print these out on a b&w printer on photocopy paper at original size (it should print at 20x20cm), perhaps cut the borders too.

My adjustment in Ps concerned cropping, rotating, resizing to the initial sizes of the files that I received; adjustment with levels to correspond with the value distribution of the original files.

Possibly most uncertain in this process I have been about leaving the edge in image 3 in where the autofeeder skewed the image slightly. I had removed these in the previous images but left this in for revealing the scan. It may however feel contrived.

The final control over any printed, hard copy form was left to the OCA tutor: as much as I received digital files I wanted to return such. Removing the control over my final work seemed fitting in this process.

The photocopying/ scanning has come in at various points already: e.g. for Assigment 1 and the collage for My office at night; it draws on Noemie Goudall’s work, but also one of the recent StreetLevel study visits (Liza Dracup’s Re: collections).

  • I was spending some time considering a coherent strategy for a mechanical reproduction that would not attempt to imbue value/ my hand in this; e.g. the route with a MF image, printed, or even handprinted and then rescanned seemed to do precisely that: to try and establish an aura for this work of art;
  • I was also considering a fair bit if this was considered cheating: clearly the task was to draw, and I had my doubts whether the scanner light would be considered a drawing medium in the understanding of the OCA course (I had relatively little doubt about that for my own purposes or for in fact a photography assignment, but given the boundaries of how photography is not considered part of the Fine Art pathways, I found that those official doubts were finding their way into this piece);
  • I also realised that I was in danger of feeling defensive in justifying that I had spent ENOUGH time with this project and that I was not being flippant. — The craft and professional consideration filtered in both through past drawing and photography tutors’ comments about ‘having to work hard’, and by outsourcing my work to the scanner, I was not working hard enough (like in not trekking to hilltop three weeks in a row at 4.30am)
  • I felt this was really productive for my own understanding of mechanical processes, industrial means that enter the photographic process and can be bought to bear on different forms as an automatic drawing.
  • I also realised that I could just cheat and return the same images, claiming some form of practice had taken place; and similar, there would be good reason to employ such a loop.


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,