I posted my TAOP materials yesterday, and so the past few weeks were a transition from one course to the next.
Here are the reflections on TAOP as a waymarker of sorts to help me go back to the starting points and interests that led me from one very old course to a brand new one.
Reflection on whole course: what have I learned? what did I do? || what do I want to learn and do next?
Starting questions to begin TAOP with in summer 2013 were:
- How do photographs function in relation to
a. instantaneous capture?
b. recording all that is there?
< very much coming from a fine arts practice that constructs a visual experience from ‘nothing’, I was very aware of the complexity of anything captured, of everything being included and the need to have an approach that allowed focusing, editing, authoring in a way different to the media that I worked with before
- How have I used photographs so far and how can photography fit as part of my artistic practice?
- What else may there be that I don’t know yet?
Photography as new discipline to me
In the early parts of the course I was getting excited by discovering a new field with its debates, silences, traditions and transgressions. Excitement of encountering Abelardo Morell, Lee Friedlander and Francis Woodman in particular.
Slowing down and becoming conscious of my control over the viewfinder as early learning.
Getting to grips with technical aspects but also seeing that the technology is there to help me construct an approach, view, concept.
The technology is limitation: this is the ontology that a camera produces; this is the knowledge it constructs. And: there is a long-standing debate of this.
>> a conceptual understanding of this medium is far more widely discussed than e.g. what I encountered with printmaking or drawing. So: the question over reality, indexicality, authorship, mediation is at the heart of this medium, and easily accessible. And so is a sense of working with the present, the what is now.
<< much of my interest in drawing became (a) process-based, (b) exploring, critically, the role of ‘creator’, ‘maker’, (c) a sense of a non-representational approach towards visual arts: e.g., indexicality in drawing (Anna Barribal); these interests were far more central to photography than what I had encountered before in fine arts debates and it was useful to make those links.
Construction: an image, a set
Possibly from that interest over indexicality, observation and recording stems some of the earlier difficulty to approach photography as constructive, performative: of creating an image in a deliberate manner – in my visual arts (but also in my social science research) I was keen and intent on exploring what was already there, rather than foregrounding construction.
The grid: repetition and difference
The grid: ordering and sorting
The grid: sequentiality
Fairly early on I became interested in the ways how photographs are viewed/ shown and the order in which they ‘unfold’ (Helga Paris’s exhibition at Streetlevel made that apparent to me).
Working in series was based on an earlier interest of mine but, again, much more foregrounded in photography (or at least the approach to it in TAOP).
A line became a grid, became a variable, foldable grid.
From this exploration of temporality in viewing/ showing came an interest in the time captured on film: notably, the stretching of time, blurring, a sense of excess but also a sense of being at the edge of the defining characteristics of the medium. Francis Woodman’s work was key here.
Photographic studies in self and identity construction
Her work also became key to investigating self and identity, assignments 3-5 explored this in a variety of approaches. Again, Paris’s work on a place and time (East Germany of 1970s onwards) also placed my own family and memory into the context of this course: her series ‘Memories of Z.’ are a restaging of childhood memories, and writing this up now, I realise, also informed my approach to House (Stories). [one of the photos of that series is included here: ‘And everything smells like post-war‘]
Probably from Assignment 3 onwards I felt I was able to achieve photographs that displayed my intentions, but also to capture meaningfully what I was seeing in a ‘view’ or scene. It was also becoming clearly by that point what constitutes research and development for a photography project: how to develop and progress through a line of enquiry. Here, Assignment 4, Hand play, was the first fully articulated set at the end of a research phase.
The project, appr0ach, out of which House (Stories) (Assignment 5) arose, presents to date the most complex artistic project that I undertook. I developed it as a residencies, conducted much preparatory work – as social practice but also exploratory as to visual research and preparation. The fortnight spent there was intense, the emotional register often informed by fear, trepidation and sometimes close to panic. I was able to put in place shooting plans and mini-projects within the wider context that not only made use of these emotions but were also effective responses. I was also able to develop my projects over that period of time to a considerable extent (and much further than I thought possible before I went). I was excited by being able to translate my intentions and interests into photographs that were speaking to them (not only to myself but also others). I also realised what I had learned in terms of photographic skills to do so effectively.
For this project, I also realised how fitting a lens-based medium was for my intentions and for what I was after artistically at this moment in time: it was able to incorporate an attention to a present condition and also include not only a record of objects but of the time itself. It was a sense of congruity that I hadn’t had for other mediums in the past, and I was certain that I wanted to pursue that further: in terms of skills but also concepts and debates.
With some of these concerns, I feel almost as if I have gone back to some of my earlier concerns: those about recording, being informed and speaking to a present (while attending to time/memory/temporality). So, I am possibly less interested in some of the conventions of photography – I realise that e.g. the debates over authenticity and truth are not interesting me all that much right now; I am also not interested in the forms and skills that produce commercially images – other than questions over how these suffuse and circulate, cross-over into many forms of self-representation, etc.