Mnemotechnic devices and other tools

This is something I have been meaning to post about for a while. Having come across the term ‘mnemotechnic’ twice in one week, maybe now is the time. The first mention was in a passage by Derrida about writing as an aide-memoire, and as representing the passage of thought out of consciousness.

‘Writing, a mnemotechnic means, supplanting good memory, spontaneous memory, signifies forgetfulness … its violence befalls the soul as unconsciousness’ (Derrida, 1976: 37)

The second mention was … well, I can’t remember, though, by chance, I have just re-encountered it on a page left open in the Kindle app on my phone.

‘Long before the book, poetry was the brain’s first ‘external storage’, our first ‘mnemotechnology” (Paterson, 2018: 3).

And that’s the (pragmatic) point. In past academic work and study, I’ve relied on memory, and used writing principally to sketch out ideas and produce provisional and final texts as outcomes. Now, too frequently, I have the sense of having had an idea, or found something to which I might want to return at a later date, but no idea what. Entering a new field, and not having existing points of reference on which to secure my thoughts exacerbates the situation. So, suspending consideration of the inversion of speech and writing just for the moment (but noting the need to come back to it, of course), I’m going to map out my mnemotechnic tools and processes. And in doing so, assess the practicality and maybe even increase the prospect of sticking with them.

  • Sources found on the web, and iPhone photos of book covers and events, go into Evernote.
  • References, texts and reading lists go into Mendeley.
  • Notes are made in Simplenote, which is also used to draft CRJ and Canvas posts.
  • Resources are collected, clustered and classified in Devonthink.
  • Long documents, together with associated research and resources, are created in Scrivener.
  • My images are stored and processed in Lightroom with additional editing in Photoshop or Silver Efex Pro 2 as necessary.
  • Exported jpegs are filed in folders according to module (though should really move to using Devonthink).
  • Reflections, coursework, contextual research and project developments are posted in my CRJ according to module (WordPress).
  • Portfolios are created in Scribus and exported as PDFs.
  • Presentations are created in Keynote, exported as movies and converted to QT format in Quicktime.

That’s about it. Part memory supplement, part workflow. All these applications run on all my devices and are synchronised, so everything is available everywhere. In the remaining weeks of this module I will formalise my use of social media and develop a website – the outputs.

Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology (trans. G.Spivak). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

Paterson, D. (2018). The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre. London: Faber.

Week 8 Reflection

Tried to construct a narrative from the Barking images. A bit obscure and not really the kind of thing that would be saleable, but a useful exercise as preparation for the social media campaign on community responses to the London Plan proposed by JustSpace. Good to see other, more commercially oriented, stories from other people. Concerns about narrative claims, however, expressed in other posts (here and here) still persist. Material on pricing of projects is useful for grant applications, as is consideration of terms and conditions, legal and ethical issues. More time this week has been spent on completing the presentation (and getting useful feedback from Krishna) and preparation of the portfolio. Also spent half a day on the Courtauld digitisation project, and interested to find photos by ‘fourth man’ Anthony Blunt (also Professor and former Director of the Courtauld). He used a Leica apparently (and unsurprisingly – a Zorki 4 or a Fed would have been a giveaway, I suppose).

Clementine Scheiderman’s presentation was interesting, and provided insight into the process of constructing a project, and maintaining good relations with participants. As part of her Elvis project, she made an image of Eggleston’s piano, so here is Eggleston’s image of Elvis’s piano (from the JP Morgan collection, on show at Paris Photo last week).

Photograph taken at Paris Photo of William Eggleston (1984), Elvis’s Piano.

V&A Prints and Drawings Study Room

19th November 2018: Spotlight on Val Wilmer’s Jazz Seen Exhibition, 1973.

Went to this as part of my work on the Courtauld digitisation project. You never know what the spotlight will focus on, so really lucked out with this one. ‘As Serious as your Life‘, which I bought and read in 1977, is one of my favourite books, and really influenced me in so many ways (musically and academically). Prints from the exhibition, plus other supporting material, such as curator’s planning notes, posters (see above), photos of the Steve Lacy Quintet performing at the exhibition event (below), print material such as Ten8 24 (above) and boxes of related prints (like the Tony Ray-Jones US jazz photos, cited as an influence by Val, see above).

Photos of Jazz Unseen (1973) concert from V&A archives

The point here is not so much about the event (which was terrific) but the archive as a resource. Will certainly schedule visits to the prints and drawings study room in the future for research related to my project. Includes the RPS photograph collection. You can ask for up to four boxes of prints to look at per visit. I need to think carefully about how archival work might fit with my project. Whatever, looking through print collections is an important part of developing photographic and artistic practice.


Week 8: Tell a Story!


Seven images from the Gascoigne Estate in Barking.

The narrative is maybe not clear enough in images alone (and it helps to be able to read the text in the photos themselves). If I was able to make additional images this week, it could be strengthened. Whilst not really appealing for publication, it has helped me to think about the kind of storytelling that we will do for JustSpace in making visible what community groups are doing in response to the London Plan, and how the Plan might affect them.

Week 7 Reflection

I’m not likely to become a commercial photographer, but thinking through issues relating to commercial practice and the broader photographic landscape has been really useful. Considering what happens to the images I make is important, and I need to think through what value they have to whom (and what value my expertise has as a member of a team). Commercial questions are not irrelevant, as time and materials need to be paid for, and I have to be able to cost and price my work, for instance for grant applications.

The principal focus for this week has been the Creating Connections meeting on Thursday and the MA face to face meeting at Paris Photo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reflections on the gallery visits, Photo Paris and the portfolio review are in the Contextual Research section of the CRJ.

Paris Photo – Day Three

 Sunday 11.11.18

Portfolio review was really useful, not just for comments by tutors and peers, but also to see and talk about other people’s work. A lot to follow up in forthcoming posts and making images. Message for me is to draw together the work I have been doing into a coherent portfolio (that can include different forms/genres of work, but with an overarching rationale). Jesse suggests submitting a PDF to allow more control over the presentation, as I have demonstrated that I can use an online portfolio in the first module. Can also include an introduction (around 200 words). Must show development of photographic work, and relate to the focus of the module (for instance, audiences). Lots of references in relation to other people’s work to follow-up.

Paris Photo – Day Two

 Saturday 10.11.18


Most of the day spent at the Grand Palais. Hundreds of gallery stands showing every kind of work, plus some selections from collections (such as the JP Morgan collection, with, for instance, a number of Eggleston prints). Good to see the scale of some of the work seen previously only on screen and in print, and to pick up ideas for presentation of work. Likewise, the publisher and book distributor stands, for ideas about publication.

Highlights for me were the talks (Tod Papageorge, Joel Meyerowitz, Chistopher Williams), visiting Akio Nagasawa gallery/publishers and looking at the low volume Japanese handbound books, Evangelia Kramioti’s ‘Beirut Fictions’, Denis Dailleux’s ‘Meres et Fils”’ (Egyptian wrestlers and their mothers), and more (will add when I can go through notes, fliers, books and images).

More photo books at Polycopies, and conversation with Guy Martin about his new book, The Parallel State, with Gost Books. Then late night visit to On Air exhibition at Palais de Tokyo.

Stunning and inspiring (particularly for the inter-disciplinarity, and creative and inter-connected ways of addressing both with a ‘grand challenge’ and engaging audiences).

Paris Photo – Day One

 Friday 9.11.18

A quick reflection on the days activities, principally to list the galleries visited whilst fresh. One immediate impression is the quality of gallery space around the Marais district, and the diversity of work exhibited. In the order visited.

Gallerie Les Filles du Calvaire to see Laura Henno’s M’Tsamboro, photographs and films made in Comoros.

In the lower gallery was a dual screen film exploring the role of children in illegal migration. In the upper gallery, photographs and films (one three channel in the gallery, the other single channel in a side room, but open so that the shouts from the film permiate the gallery space) focussing on the use of dogs as protection. The still images were lit from above with spots, giving them the appearance of light boxes in the darkened space (necessary for the video projections). The video and still images worked well together with clear thought given to the sonic landscape (see early posts about paying attention to sound in exhibition). In particular, the handling of illumination of still images alongside projection worked very well (all natural light was excluded, so light was entirely designed).

&CO119. Ango by Sakiko Nomura. A small gallery off a courtyard. Not immediately obvious from the street (sign outside, but we had to tailgate someone to get in).

Specialising in Japanese photographers, with a good selection of books. Brilliant exhibition by a student of Araki. Text from 1942 with contemporary staged grainy black and white photographs (with different women representing the same women in the text, thus despecifying the experiences described). Beautiful book (limited edition in French, standard edition in English, German and Japanese). Very striking offset binding.

Not sure how that was achieved so will investigate with Simon at London Book Arts (its the cutting of the pages and the covers, not the binding, which is standard).

La Galerie Particulaire. Claudine Doury, Le long du fleuve Amour.

Some great contextualised portraits here from along the Amur River. Interesting zig-zag double sided mounting of prints in perspex, held together by metal clips.

Could be a good way of exhibiting material that is also presented in zig-zag book form.

Eric Hussenot. Sur Face by Martin d’Orgeval.

Huge white walled space, with natural light from above. Upper and lower galleries. Large prints. Monochrome and two tone.

Polkagalerie. Small gallery on the street leads to larger two floor gallery off the courtyard at the back. Large exhibition by Joel Meyerowitz. Pretty much what you would expect. The large size of some of the Empire State shots was a surprise (with clear long exposure blur on the one with the woman on the corner by the convenience store). More interesting exhibition in the front gallery of contemporary work by Toshio Shibata on the dwindling stocks of Cibachrome. Mix of small, tightly framed and mounted contact prints (I assume) and larger prints without mounts (drawing attention to the nature of the print).

Galerie Templon. Large exhibition on two floors by David Lachappelle, Letter to the World. Large exhibition of work, including Kardashian installation.

écal MA in Photography pop-up exhibition. Encountered by chance.

Interesting exhibition of augmented photography by masters students. Some CGI and lot of post-processing. Two floors, with projection spaces downstairs. Will write something further about

Jeu de Paume. Dorothea Lange and Ana Mendieta. The Lange exhibition is the one that was shown at the Barbican (though difference configuration – the Barbican had a clearer spatial structure), so good to revisit and spend time looking at things missed first time around. The volume, scope and humanity of the work is striking. Ana Mendieta’s work is more conceptual and personal, though through this some big issues are addressed.

As with a number of other exhibitions recently, the use of long, holding shots on film/video was notable. These demand the attention of a still, but determine duration, and in some cases where there is some movement, pace. I wonder, in a space that contains large scale projected video, and photographic prints, how much attention is paid to the latter? The Laura Henno exhibition appears to address this effectively through the dramatic lighting of the still images (brighter and more vibrant than the projected video) and spatial arrangement (between one video and another). The video also provides the soundscape for the exhibition.