FMP Week 8 reflection: Concrescence

‘The growing together of parts originally separate’ (OED).

In the early stages of the FMP a key issue for me has been the relationship between the various ‘micro-projects’ and the FMP outcomes. Whilst leaving this to emerge over the coming months has particular creative benefits (for instance, in the exploration of the entanglement and entwinement of themes both in the process and outcomes of the project), the uncertainty around what will be produced and how it will be publicly disseminated is unsettling (and potentially might lead to non-completion). Reflecting on progress to date with the FMP, I am now thinking of reformulating the relationship between the ‘micro-projects’ and the FMP outcomes. Over the past few weeks, the individual projects have developed at different speeds and with different visual, and other, outcomes. This makes anticipation of the final form of the FMP challenging. One way to mitigate the risks is to develop a ‘meta-project’, with its own distinct focus and outcomes, but which can draw on the processes and outcomes of the ‘micro-projects’. In this way, the FMP project can benefit from progress with the projects, but is not directly dependent on them. I’ll formulate a precise statement of the objectives of the project in a later post. Over this week I have been exploring possible exhibition spaces and thinking about how the project could be framed to produce outcomes that would be appropriate in these spaces.

One possibility is the small pop-up gallery in a vacant shop at Barking Station. This is run by Barking Enterprise Centre, and features the work of local artists (as a succession of single artist exhibitions).

BeFirst Gallery, Barking Station
BeFirst Gallery, Barking Station

The space is flexible with good natural light and, given the location, very high footfall. The current exhibition features the work of local artist Griffi.

Another possibility is the Warehouse, one of the Participatory City sites. This is a large and very flexible space which has the advantage of allowing workshops to be run alongside (and/or as a precursor and/or follow-up to) the exhibition.

The Warehouse, Thames Road, Barking
The Warehouse, Thames Road, Barking

A third option might be the Studio 3 Arts space in Vicarage Fields Shopping Centre, where I have had work exhibited as part of the 2019 Barking Arts Trail, though space is limited here.

Studio 3 Arts, Vicarage Fields Shopping Centre, Barking

In all cases, the most appropriate focus for the exhibition would be my own image making, though it would be possible to find a way to show how the collaborative process has fed into this. To give this aspect of the work it’s own life and identity has the advantage of taking the strain off other aspects of the work (for instance, the community portraiture), allowing this work to develop at it’s own pace without threatening the completion of the FMP. To an extent, this reflects the point made by Laura Pannack in the presentation this week, regarding the benefits of a self-contained project with distinct deadlines. Operationally, this doesn’t really depart from the plan mapped out in the FMP proposal, but psychologically it brings a degree of clarity about the FMP which will be particularly useful in making a pitch to the galleries. The production of opportunistic pop-up exhibitions relating to the various micro-projects will continue as planned, and these will influence the images made for the FMP. The pdf submitted, and the Critical Review of Practice, can show the nature of this influence, but the FMP pdf will be built around the images presented in the exhibition. The next step is to secure an exhibition space and time. I’ll make a presentation at the Open Project Night at The Warehouse on 20th November and take it from there.

Creating your own audience: Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales

Paul Strohm (2014), in Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury, identifies the cultivation of, and through performance direct engagement with, an audience, as vital to the practice and status of the medieval poet. In moving from London to Kent, Chaucer lost his audience, albeit intimate and small in number. His solution, in Strohm’s account, was novel and transformative. In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer created his own audience for his writing within the text itself, by making the thirty pilgrims an audience for, and commentators on, each other’s stories. The pilgrims come from different walks of life, and the stories differ in form and content. In seeking a form of direct address to mobilise his narrative, Chaucer’s artistic breakthrough is, according to Strohm, to create ‘a body of ambitiously mixed participants suitable for a collection of tales unprecedented in their variety and scope … a portable audience’ (227) enabling Chaucer to produce a work of art that places itself ‘beyond the vagaries of time and circumstance’ (228). ‘The idea starts with a mixed company of Pilgrim tale-tellers. From this mixed company issues the form of the work: It will be serial, multivoiced, stylistically mixed, many-themed, and contentious’ (228).

I’m reflecting on this as I plan the protocols for working with different groups on my micro-projects. It prompts me to consider the extent to which diversity both within and between groups can be reflected in the forms of visual outcomes. Chaucer’s literary strategy provides a way of managing this diversity, in constituting each group as both producers and an audience for, and interlocutors with, what is produced. This allows the space, in each group, to produce diverse forms of constituent images and collective outcomes, and makes the fieldwork a generative enterprise. The outcomes will be ‘multivoiced, stylistically mixed, many-themed’ and are likely to be ‘contentious’ (particularly where the perceptions and experiences of individuals and groups lie in opposition to, or diverge from, those of, for instance, the local authority and developers). The work produced is thus presented to an audience in the process of production, and potentially transformed. It is formalised in the creation of a pop-up exhibition, with the prospect of enlarging the audience. The outcomes are unlikely to be serial, in the sense of a manuscript of Chaucer’s work, unless the constituent projects are presented, in part or whole, as books or other linear forms (which presents another dimension of challenge).

Thinking of the groups and the work produced in these terms strengthens the collaborative nature of the process, and allows the meaningful production of a range of forms of image. It also reinforces the poetic/lyrical nature of the project (rather than the third party construction and mediation of narratives).

Related posts

References

Paul Strohm (2014), Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury, New York: Viking.

Reflection on October FMP Module Leader Group Critique

Andrew Brown, Test Portrait Composite, 2019

It was good to catch up with the development of other people’s projects. Particularly good to see Alison’s project, which is in the final edit stage. The key general messages for me were:

  • there is no need to be epic. Can focus on a particular aspect of a project. Important to do something that is manageable, achievable and coherent. Better to limit the scope and ensure that the project is well realised and documented.
  • think carefully about the translation from the materiality of the outputs and the presentation as an online document. Think about how the feel and scale of the work produced are communicated in the final pdf.
  • the edit for a book or an exhibition will be very different from the edit for the pdf. Think carefully about the purpose of each edit.
  • document everything so that evidence can be included where needed in the final pdf edit.
  • it is important to have some form of public output/engagement, but this can take a number of different forms. The quality and appropriateness of the engagement, and the detail of the documentation, are more important than duration, scale or size of audience. Transient and impermanent events can be impactful.

In relation to my own project, the discussion reinforced the value of the pop-up exhibitions and events and workshops/seminars as outcomes from the project.

I presented some images from my S&S WIP portfolio (which others in the group will not have seen) plus an example of how I might incorporate portraits of participants (see above). The discussion reinforced the importance of thinking about ways of presenting the work to a wider audience (see discussion of feedback on FMP Proposal).

Valérie Belin: portraits and superimposition

Valérie Belin, Fox Chase Antiques, 2019

Belin’s recent commission for the V&A (for which she produced layered images using photographs from the V&A archive) has prompted me to revisit her work. My principal interest is to explore ways of incorporating portraits into my collaborative composites, layering them with built and natural environment images, artefacts, maps, archival images and so on. Whilst Belin’s practice is very different from my own (in most cases she uses professional models to pose for the portrait components, for instance, whereas I am working collaboratively with community members in the production of portraits and composites), it is instructive to explore her visual strategies and technical production processes.

Valérie Belin, Bravissimo, Stage Sets series, 2011

It is her earlier monochrome layering work that bears the closest resemblance to what I am doing. In Stage Sets (2011) she superimposes stage sets on urban street scenes, her first exploration of the landscape, also using solarisation in a similar way to her Interiors (2012) series (the process of conversion of channel mixed images to black and white produces a similar effect).

Valérie Belin, XXX Toys, Brides series, 2012

Brides (2012) combines earlier images of Moroccan Brides with street scenes, producing an interaction between the adornments of the brides with the complexity of shopfronts (with neon signs and text). Bob (2012) combines the human figure with theatrical prop store interiors and China Girls (2018) blends models with highly complex images of flowers and fruit, merging figure with background.

Valérie Belin, Bohemian Glass Cup, China Girls series, 2018

This work differs from my own not just in process and focus, but in the number of images combined (two in Belin’s case, three in my case) and the contrast (her images are high contrast, mine must lower in contrast). The size of her prints is also notable – each of the images in China Girls is 173 x 130 cm (in and edition of 6 with two artist’s prints). She is working with large format film, which is then scanned and manipulated.

Valérie Belin, Pieris Japonica Mountain Fire, Black-Eyed Susan II series, 2013

Of particular interest in the development of my own work is the production of colour prints in the series All Star (2016), Super Models (2015), Black-Eyed Susan II (2013) and Black-Eyed Susan I (2010). By following Welling’s channel mixing approach, colour in my images is an artefact (the initial images are black and white, which are fed into red, blue and green channels before being converted/manipulated to produce a final black and white image – the colour images thus bear no relation to the colour of the original objects).

Valérie Belin, Ishtar, Super Models series, 2015

To achieve her effect, Belin is clearly superimposing in this work, which produces a ‘natural’ colour image, but does not allow the interaction of tones and entanglement of images achieved in the process I am using. As I am not able to process colour film myself, adopting Belin’s process would require me to shoot digitally, which will limit the size of image I can ultimately produce. Something to explore: colour images would be more engaging, I think, for some of the community projects. I also want to explore ways in which Belin has drawn out the faces of the models in China Girls (compare this with the images from Brides, which more closely resemble my initial composites with portraits, but again without the tonal interaction/interruption).

Valérie Belin, Golden Girl, All Star series, 2016

Lots to be learned from this work, both in relation to similarity in the use of layering/superimposition and the the underlying rationale for this (bringing things together in the frame which don’t physically and temporally co-exist in a given place, but which psychologically, socially and culturally do interact with each other in the development of a sense of ‘locatedness’ and becoming). My process is, however, is very different, and the underlying intent (and theory) is distinct. There is, however, no clear rationale for producing black and white images (apart from the evocation of a fiction, rather than a representation), so exploration of ways of producing large colour images would be productive.

Resources

Valérie Belin, https://valeriebelin.com/ [accessed 01.11.19]

Warner, M (2019) Valérie Belin’s reflections of the real and imaginary, British Journal of Photography, 22.10.19. Online at https://www.bjp-online.com/2019/10/valerie-belins-va/ [accessed 01.11.19]

Reflection on FMP Proposal Feedback

Heartening to get positive feedback and pointers for development from Wendy and Jessie. The main issues to think about were:

  • getting the scale of the project right, and making sure it is achievable in the time available. For me, that means that I might not include the work done in all the micro-projects. Whilst they will all contribute to the development of the process, the images produced may not feature in the final edit.
Wendy Ewald, Christian, Born 1995, Democratic Republic of Congo; arrived in Margate 2004. Resettled in Scotland, 2003-06
  • thinking carefully about the audiences for the final images and how best to disseminate and present the work. We discussed Wendy Ewald’s use of posters and billboards in the ‘Towards the Promised Land’ project, and similar forms of public engagement. One example of this form of presentation are the images that have been displayed on the hoardings around the Ford plant in Dagenham while it is being demolished. These prints of the car plant interior are printed on plastic and screwed to the hoarding inside a frame. A similar form of display could be used for the Shed Life work.
  • making sure that full consent has been obtained, and that participants are fully aware of their part in the project and what will happen to the outcomes. This requires me to produce a clear description of the project and to obtain signed permission to use the images. This has to make clear that the work will not be used for commercial purposes, but can otherwise be quite open in use of the images. It should be made clear that the images may be manipulated in some way, and links be given to some indicative work.
Grayson Perry, In Its Familiarity, Golden, 2015
  • the output could be a ‘fiction’ of some sort, like Grayson Perry’s Ballad of Julie Cope, and the accompanying tapestries (which bear resemblance to montage).
  • making connections for future practice and engaging with organisations that produce and commission similar types of work (for instance, Grain).

References

Grain https://grainphotographyhub.co.uk/

Grayson Perry, Julie Cope’s Grand Tour https://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/julie-copes-grand-tour/

Wendy Ewald, Towards a Promised Land http://wendyewald.com/portfolio/margate-towards-a-promised-land/

Moving between digital and analog

I’ve written earlier about post-digital practice, in which analog and digital forms of production and presentation are combined.

Michael Lundgren, Unseen, Amsterdam, 2019

I was fortunate to hear Michael Lundgren present his current work at Unseen, and to talk to him afterwards about his practice. Lundgren studied under Mark Klett, and worked as a printer with Klett for a number of years. Whilst his early work included rephotography in Phoenix and San Francisco (with Klett), his more recent work is ‘concerned with making images that make you feel something you can’t quite understand’. These are in the form of large gelatin silver prints (24 by 30 inches, in editions of seven with one artist’s print) and books based on series of images (the latest being Geomancy, a large format book of 80 photographs taken in the desert, produced as a special edition of 30 and a trade edition of 800 by publisher Stanley/Barker).

Michael Lundgren, from Geomancy series, 2019

In his talk, Michael stated that the books were the primary outcome of his practice. He produces just small editions of the prints so that he does not have to hold high levels of stock. It also has the advantage of enabling him to move quickly on from one series to the next, without having to go back to printing earlier work. In terms of process, he now makes the initial image with a Sony full-frame digital camera, and sends the file to Chicago Albumen Works to produce a large format silver halide negative using the LVT (Light Valve Technology) process. He then produces a gelatin silver print from the negative (this is the process that Salgado now uses, with negatives produced on Ilford FP4 using the LVT process). Analogue Arts in London offers this service (producing 4×5 or 8×10 negatives from digital files).

The passage of time and becoming

Kim Boske

http://www.kimboske.com

Kim Boske, Snow, 2015

At Unseen, I was immediately drawn to Boske’s black and white ‘Snow’ (2015) for its similarity, in look, to my monochrome manipulation of channel mixing. This was exhibited as a 153×103 cm C-print in artist’s frame (in an edition of seven prints plus two artist’s prints).

Kim Boske, untitled B/W, 2015

Whilst the form of layering suggests a similar process of production (and the more recent ‘untitled B/W’ series bears even closer similarity), looking at other colour work suggests that a different technique is used.

Kim Boske, A forest, 2019
Kim Boske, Mapping 14, 2017

Boske states that she is ‘fascinated by how different moments in time and space determine our perspective and define reality’ and by ‘a way of thinking that presents itself more as “becoming” rather than “being”’ producing a ‘collection of afterimages taken from past and present, together constructing an image of ‘now’, revealing a phenomenon that is impossible to see or witness with the naked eye’. She sees art and nature as in dialogue and ‘entwined’ and states that her work is ‘basically an investigation of time and space’ informed by reading Deleuze and Bergson [artist’s website]. The human figure is absent from the images, only implied through the process of capture of the constituent moments that combine to make the final image. There is clearly resonance with my composites, but Boske focuses only on the ‘natural’ (not built environment, nor human activity). I’d like to explore this further, particularly the use of colour, and maybe experiment with the juxtaposition of natural/built/human images of this sort (rather than combining these within one image, though I think conceptually this works better).

Kim Boske, Kamiyama, photographic prints on washi paper, dyed in natural indigo, 2018

It was also interesting to see the work she has done that is presented as large prints suspended on wires (not framed).

Whilst Boske explores the becoming of the natural (and implies some sense of continuity) my interest is in exploration of entwining as a core component of the process of change, and the instability and unpredictability of this process as a result of interaction between the natural, built and human (and the ultimate negation of those categories as distinct).

Kim Boske, Untitled (FW-TKY) Video on Photography, 2014 [installation shot]

The work reinforces, for me, that the composites are tenable as a visual form, but that I need to explore further ways of presenting the work. Interestingly, Boske also produces animations, displayed on LCD panels, as well as large prints.

Surface modified images

Many people commented on the widespread interest in alternative processes at Unseen this year – lots of cyanotypes. There was also a substantial amount of work in which different surfaces had been used to modify images. Sasan Abri removes the gelatine layer of prints and places these on watercolour paper, which gives the prints a lo-fi, hand-drawn look which forces the viewer to work to make sense of the image.

Sasan Abri, Exposed Series, 2015-18

Parisa Aminolahi uses paint to modify her photographs of her mother, creating a highly textured three-dimensional surface. In both these cases each work is unique.

Parisa Aminolahi, Hotel Room, 2017

The most extreme form is Sylvie Bonnot’s transfer of the print layer to three dimensional objects, blurring the boundary between photography and sculpture.

Sylvie Bonnot, Grande Mue Odaïba, 2015. B&W photography, silver gelatin repositioned on Arches paper
Sylvie Bonnot, Atlas Aéroplis – Volume VI, 2018. Volumized photography, silver gelatin repositioned on sculpted plaster

This is taken a stage further by Adam Jeppesen, who has moved from conventional cyanotypes to three dimensional work with dyed cloth.

Adam Jeppesen, The Pond (an extract), Unseen, 2019
Adam Jeppesen, The Pond (an extract), Unseen, 2019

I have thought about the use of objects and artefacts alongside photographic work, but these artists have prompted me to think about the possibility of some form of three-dimensional photographic work. In one of my principal areas of interest (urban development), Felicity Hammond has produced more sculptural work, and at her Unseen exhibition, printed modified developer CGIs on plastic sheeting and attached these to scaffolding structures.

Felicity Hammond, A Global Sense of Place, Unseen, 2019

The challenge for me is to combine this three-dimensional photographic work with portability. Projection on to a surface is also a possibility.

Resources

Sasan Abri
http://www.sasanabri.com/

Parisa Aminolahi
http://parisaaminolahi.blogspot.com/p/cv.html

Sylvie Bonnot
http://www.sylviebonnot.com/default.asp?lg=gb

Felicity Hammond
http://www.felicityhammond.com

Adam Jeppesen
http://www.adamjeppesen.com

The book as object/archive

I was fortunate to be able to talk to Lukas Birk at Unseen. A number of his projects have given rise to ‘archive’ style publications, where a range of different kinds of images are brought together into a single place around a central common theme. For my project, his ‘FERNWEH – a man’s journey‘ is particularly interesting. This brings together a number small A5 handmade books, some of which are altered texts, and others of which are collections of found or family photographs. Individually each has its own theme and identity, and collectively (presented together in a box), according to Birk, they constitute ‘a riveting travelogue memoir that unwraps the lifetime of three generations of men who shared a passion for traveling, photography and the mountains’.

Apart from a pamphlet with a short essay and list of plates, there is no text and all images are full bleed. The reader can clearly look at the constituent booklets in whatever order they wish. The essay (by Natasha Christia) reinforces this, stating that ‘the five booklets … are fragments of an incomplete photographic memory, misconstrued by nature. They also operate as interconnected vessels of a shared universal experience, inviting us to step back and forth in time and engage with content according to our own personal visual and emotional resonances’. In thinking about the relationship between this kind of portable print output and exhibitions, it is interesting to note that Birk states that FERNWEH ‘was originally conceived as a mutating touring exhibition’ This invokes the kind of adaptable exhibition resource produced by Dayanita Singh, and the notion of ‘locatedness’ explored by composer Georgia Roberts. In producing site specific compositions, Roberts explores the sonic characteristics of the place, seeking resonances and frequencies that ‘belong’ or are optimal in the place. This can also be seen as a process of ‘extraction’ of music from a place, and then a placement of the listener in this sonically animated space. There is more to explore here, particularly in drawing comparisons with between contemporary composition and the visual arts. For my FMP project, however, the key outcome is to think about the way in which I can produce a collection of images and other material which could constitute a resource for the production of exhibitions or installations that adapt to the spaces in which they are presented, and the basis for other outputs (such as an artist book). ‘Locatedness’ is a central theme both in the production and presentation of the work.

Kurt Tong, Combing for Ice and Jade, page spread, 2019

Kurt Tong’s ‘Combing for Ice and Jade‘ was also available at the book exhibition. The book draws of a range of types of image and text to present an account of the life of his amah. This includes family photographs, still life photos, period publications, texts and more. Coming initially from a design created at the ‘Photobook as Object’ workshop, it has the structure and content of a handmade artist book, but being produced by a commercial publisher, has a very different feel. The commercial production also limits the range of different kinds of papers and printing used, a key characteristic of the handmade artist book (it does, though, have cutouts, tipped in images and gatefolds, and other features typical of the handmade book).

Kurt Tong, Combing for Ice and Jade, Exhibition view, 2019

It was interesting to see the work as an exhibition at Arles. The book as a strong linear narrative structure, reinforced by text which maintains direction and pace. Though images are the principal focus of the book, the exhibition is a more visual experience. It allows the viewer to diverge from the linear narrative, and it is a more social experience (in that the viewing takes place with other people, which creates the possibility of interaction). A considerable amount of work needs to be done to turn an exhibition into a book and vice versa, and clearly one or the other may not be appropriate for a particular project.

References

Birk, L. 2019. FERNWEH – a man’s journey. Fraglich Publishing.
http://www.lukasbirk.com/portfolio/fernweh-a-mans-journey/

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. 2019. Georgia Rodgers and ‘locatedness’. https://hcmf.co.uk/georgia-rodgers-and-locatedness/

Tong, K. 2019. Combing for Ice and Jade. Jiazazhi
https://jiazazhistore.com/products/kurt-tong-combing-for-ice-and-jade