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.




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


The sex was over (Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay 2014)

[posted as this on FB, 3/7/2017, 17:24pm to Friends – Acquaintances]

Social work training 9/6/2017
[no further entry]
The things we learn in the shadows
blindfold as fetish
Benny’s lover’s legs. His longing for these legs.
‘Do you remember who I am?’
‘You were editing a video of mine.’
‘Yes, I told you that I have been watching you for weeks before we first met in that bathroom, alone, blindfolded.’
‘We have been cruising each other for many years’.

[this marks the last contextual piece for the line. in fact, it marks an opening and designates the line as a transitional piece, not just between the Cross and the Grasses but to an elsewhere]
[a key element of this piece below is not part of this post, so let me tell you about it: the audio/visual below plays in a darkened room, there are about 15 people sitting in various places in the room; they have watched, listened to 90 mins of a dialogue, performance, movement between Liz Rosenfeld and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay talking about their private and professional cruising of gay male spaces; the conversation ends with The sex is over, and features a single male dancer, who in this case is self-conscious ‘I am not a dancer’, but nonetheless moves between us and the beat for the duration of the a/v]


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:



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…

Continue reading


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…

First Outline for Digital Identities (A4 & 5)

As with my critical essay, this emerging body of work (photographs, but also: text, performance/practice) seems to sit rather closely within analogue practices; or possibly more correctly: at a tracing of the transition between analogue/digital.

– This does concern me (possibly unduly so), and I want to, in this post, trace the two emerging lines of research/development of the project so far.

The project is a double project (assignment 4 and 5, with 4 presenting the initial research, the tutor feedback then leads to the resolution with completion of assignment 5).

Two trajectories are most relevant for me at this moment:
(a) existing notes in photographs: These Summer Images; Shadows; #reflectiontypo

These Summer images presents a fairly extensive body of work of environmental practice, self-portraiture, exploration of boundaries and relationships within the frame of a 6×6 analogue photograph and the construction of author/subject/audience within this. It took place alongside the public/private discussion of the Critical Essay during June-August 2016.

Since then, I have used my phone camera to record a series of themes and sketches, some of these related to the MF images; others, notably around the shadows that emerge of myself in the nighttime urban environment (Shadows), and an ongoing enquiry into the role that reflection plays in my work (#reflectiontypo) and emerging WIPs.

(b) online identity constructions around FB and my own negotiations of that.

I have for the past 15 months used Facebook rather extensively as site to explore and test: my usage, my own interactions, the relationships that emerge onsite/offsite, the types of disclosures and veiling that I engage in with regards to personal matters.

Notably, between September and December 2016, I explored a private matter rather intensively and in detail within a controlled and enclosed FB setting, at various points testing and attending to the boundary enclosure of the setting, to issues of leaking, unveiling, but also to the interactions that emerged with people on the inside/outside of that enclosure. – This presents my primary body of research and material in relation to online/ digital identities (I also used flickr and Instagram to some extent, IG more recently so, but the issue of group control present in FB, and the ability for more varied input/post within the enviroment, meant that I focused my attention on FB only).
I want to bring these two together… I don’t yet know how but I have a sense that there is a terrain where they may meet.

For (a), the plan is:
– write up note on #reflectiontypo
– do research on Warhol’s Shadow prints (done, 8-10/Feb)
– develop own imagery around this: what interests you?
– Partick X and ghosting
– blur and transitions on analogue long exposure
– the nighttime city and my moving within it
started to collate both digital and MF images (January 2017 onwards)
>> a first set of contact sheets is included in this post here
<< is there potentially something about that activity and my online drifting? – scan the remaining images from These… and develop a set. – write a bit more about that set similar to how I talked about the original PK in late August – print and screenprint (screenprinting course booked at Edinburgh Printmakers for 4-5/3/17)… before the SP course: what is the role of the emulsion layer and the screen in this? For (b), the plan is: Some initial research questions (and these are going to relate to essay and my reading around FB public/private in that relation) – how do boundary construction work in FB: – what are pressure points, transgressions (what is being transgressed, to what effect?) – who is involved in this? – what selves are present in which facet (deliberately, accidentally) – how can any of this be put to work in a visual project? >> who has done so how?
– Erica Scourti
– Leah Schrager

>> what is the relationship between (a) and (b)?

pecha kucha file and discussion (August 2016)

my pecha kucha presentation at last week’s study day includes a first edit of images from my summer project in Aberdeenshire where I visited the same location of a pinewood, an oakwood and surroundings for a number of times (a total of six days over three visits). I have known the site for several years, did in fact do a series of prints, drawings and bookworks from material that originated at the site five, six years ago.

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unlike my previous presentations, this did not have a performative audio track to it but instead a free-style discussion on a series of issues that have come up for me with the photos and the wider project.

these themes concern:

  • familiarity with a location
  • the desire to take all my interior/ familial work of the past two years back to the outside (an environmental context where almost all my prior work had been situated)
  • understanding and working with the possibilities and limitations of the 6×6 square format, notably:
    • edge of frame
    • stasis v movement
    • movement of what: object, frame, viewer, author?
  • relational constructions within the frame itself: objects in relation to others, to the frame, and
  • relational constructions between author, image and viewer

>> in this, there are questions over distance, movement, relationships

>> in this there are also issues relating to public/private, transgression, piercing of boundary constructions (and as such it relates to the still unfinished essay (Assig 3); I felt I wanted to be engage in making a body of work that speaks to public/private (rather than merely reviewing other people’s work)

>> uncertain as to how, I also sense that this series will fold forward into the remaining extended project on digital (!) identities


there is a wider question for me in these images and this summer project: it concerns my affective attachment to the photographs. this arises in response to the previous sets of work, notably House/appr0ach as well as the Jerusalem inside/outside images: both bodies of work produced – as far as the feedback goes – highly aesthetic, serene, contemplative images; while my affective state when doing these projects was in fact the opposite: inside House I was mostly in a state of panic and fear; for the Jerusalem images, I was taken by the extent to which violence seeps in and out day-to-day actions, our complicitness therein and much more which remains as yet inarticulate.

with this – or rather without naming my wider affective enquiry for these summer images, I was glad to receive the feedback that I did. It concerned:

  • a recognition that this series is full of visual pleasure: the joy of looking (and as such purely photographic). Hearing this, made me very happy: it was something that I had recognised on my first visit to Drum: that the site was full of joy for me, animated to the extreme with living things and that all the work that has come out of this site has been joyful, brimming with line and colour in various media. I also recognised that most of my photographic work to date did not work off of that emotion: it felt hard, complicated, violent, sad… it wasn’t that the images as such exhibited these states, but my relationship to them was such (and, as e.g., the PK from Spring with the Jerusalem images made clear, I would need a different medium to activate those concerns along the beauty of the images that I made).
    Knowing what subjects I had chosen to work with over the past two years, this doesn’t surprise me; also seeking a medium that speaks to the contemporary state of the world for me, and finding that with lens-based practices, was a deliberate endeavour, and still: the difficulty (and energy required) of that stance and approach was also becoming clearer to me
  • the first image that Wendy went back to was also the one I considered the strongest in the series (#11): the puddle reflection that reveals four layers of reflective surfaces and insights. And the acknowledgement that I was able to focus precisely on what I was after: the sharp lines of the fern are in focus, they delineate clearly and thus allow for the blurring of the rest;
  • from this, she suggested a typology of reflection and to write about it also. This typology in fact already exists to some extent but I have not brought it together as a specific focus. This is a great suggestion and I will follow it up — also, to pursue it further in writing.
  • to look up/ follow up:
    • Susan Derges’s work with exposing film under moonlight; to consider working at night/dawn/dusk (this is a short overview of her work ) > just moving into the right time of year for that
    • Helen Sear’s Venice 2015 video installation, .. the rest is smoke
    • Joan Jonas’s Venice 2015 installation, They come to us without a word
    • Stephen Gill’s Hackney Flowers (again): as chance encounters, messiness and chaos
  • we spent some time discussing technical aspects of image-making: ability to control dof and frame consistently; none of the images are properly post-processed other than dusted, some slight adjustment for highlights, shadows
  • however, I have now worked out a scan work flow that will allow for a consistent transferal between neg and digital file, this has been in place for only half the images included here — so a big Action Point concerns the degree of post-processing + analysis of what I have
  • only 2/3 of the images are available digitally so far (I had only just picked up the negs from the last visit a day before)
  • the one with the daisies needs stronger contrast, #05 (daisies); #17 (moving train) a bit of retouching to remove green highlights at bottom edge.

I enjoy the slowness of the analogue production > digital post-processing work flow; that the images are disappearing, become latent until processing and scanning; that they are handled in many steps until they return back into view; that the MF provides a narrow dof is something I hadn’t realised and am thrilled to see what this does to my images: that the focus is narrow, slicing through a particular distance, becomes unfocused so easily. There is something in it about being ‘wide-open and unfocused’ that also resonates with my own state of being at times (and often at times I find productive, useful and enjoyable).

This write-up possibly also produces a provisional title for this series: ‘These summer images’.