It was great to receive my copy of Ryo Kusumoto’s artist book “連師子/Renjishi”.
In many ways similar to Kurt Tong’s book (it comes from the same workshop), with a strong narrative thread (but focusing on a public figure, rather than being deeply personal). For insight into how these books are constructed, Kensaku Seki’s video is useful.
The process is similar to that used by Longly and Law. All the techniques were covered in the workshops I did at the London Centre for Book Arts, and I have all the equipment needed. For slightly bigger scale production, I’d like to explore risograph printing.
A somewhat belated reflection on Unseen Amsterdam 2019. This was the weekend before the beginning of the FMP module. Going back through my notes four weeks on, and with the development of my FMP at the forefront of my mind (the fieldwork phase starts tomorrow), I am going to focus on the work that has particular relevance for the development of my own practice, and specifically my final major project. Rather than one long post covering a lot of ground, I’m going to break up the reflection into five short, themed, posts: using corporate computer generated images (Felicity Hammond), past, present and becoming (Kim Boske), from digital image to chemical print (Michael Lundgren), surface modified images (Sylvie Bonnot, Sasan Abri, Parisa Aminolahi), the book as object/archive (Kurt Tong, Lukas Birk, the Photobook as Object workshop). The greatest benefit of the weekend was, as with Paris and Arles, being able to meet up with fellow MA students and tutors, and talk about our work. Wasn’t able to stay for the portfolio review, unfortunately, but only a few weeks since the last review in Bristol.
The major benefit of putting the research proposal together for me has been drawing up a provisional timeline for the completion of the work. The nature of the project means that I have to leave the possible outputs fairly open, but the major milestones are clear. Here’s the full proposal. The timeline is below. Important to keep this under review (and assess the impact of any slippage).
Planning and set up (23rd September 2019 to 20th October 2019)
Week 1 Unseen Amsterdam. Meetings with partners and participants, making images for the community, community day, demonstration. Week 2 PK presentation and first tutorial. Planning session at school. Visit exhibition spaces. Week 3 Meeting with Barking and Dagenham College. London Prosperity Board meeting. Initial briefing of community groups and schools. Week 4 Submission of Final Project Proposal. Archive work at Valance House.
Collaborative image making and micro projects (21st October to 15th December 2019)
Week 5 Workshops and fieldwork. Week 6 Workshops and fieldwork. Feedback on Final Project Proposal. Week 7 Workshops and fieldwork. Week 8 Workshops and fieldwork. MPF/RPS group meeting (Bristol). Week 9 Workshops and fieldwork. Magnum weekend workshop with Sim Chi Yin. Week 10 Workshops and fieldwork. Week 11 Workshops and fieldwork. Week 12 Workshops and fieldwork.
Series of workshops and photographic fieldwork with the following groups: Greatfields School, Barking and Dagenham College, Thames Ward Community Programme, Thames View Residents Association, Thames Reach Residents Association, New View Arts, Eastside Community Heritage, Barking and Dagenham Heritage Conservation Group. Each series will have a specific focus relating to community and regeneration determined by the group.
Composite image-making and preparation for pop-up exhibitions and simple publications (16th December 2019 to 12th January 2020)
Week 13 Collation of images Week 14 Creation of composites Week 15 Printing and preparation of outputs Week 16 Initial sequencing and layout
Sharing of composites, feedback, pop-up exhibitions and preparation of cumulative outcomes (13th January 2020 to 23rd February 2020)
Week 17 Selection and exhibition layout with participants Week 18 Preparation of publications with participants Week 19 Preparation of publications with participants Week 20 Pop-up exhibitions Week 21 Pop-up exhibitions Week 22 Reflection and follow-up with participants
Final outcomes: exhibition, artists book/archive and presentation (24th February 2020 to 5th April 2020)
Week 23 Finalisation of outcomes Week 24 Exhibition Week 25 Exhibition. Falmouth workshops and portfolio review Week 26 [Canterbury Elder Care] Week 27 [Singapore Expert Panel] Week 28 Public presentations
Preparation of FMP submission (6th April 2020 to 1st May 2020)
Week 29 Review CRJ and online portfolio Week 30 Finalise Critical Review of Practice Week 31 Finalise Project pdf Week 32 Submit Project pdf and Critical Review of Practice
Ideas Store, Gladstone Place, Roman Road, Bow, London E3 5EU. 18th Sept – 10th October 2019.
I was interested to see how the outcomes of a photovoice style community research project could be presented as a public exhibition. This work was part of a research project on the relationship between housing and health in Tower Hamlets. It is stated that:
‘The eight exhibitors have used photography to capture their experiences, thoughts and feelings on the topic of housing in their community and in their own home. Issues explored included whether residents have experienced any changes since the introduction of the cuts to public spending particularly affecting the budgets of local government.’ [online]
As, I think, with all photovoice type work (where making and discussing images is at the core of exploration of participants’ lifeworlds), there is a tension between the role of images in the process and the use of images as (exhibitible) outcomes. Fitzgibbon and Stengel (2018) note that the nature of images produced by participants (which can relate to sensitive aspects of their everyday lives) combined with the interdiction placed on images of people where anonymity has been promised, limits which images can be used in accounts of the outcomes of photovoice studies. In their own work, these images may, for instance, represent or infer illegal activities, or situations that might threaten the safety of participants. The images used in the account of their research are consequently apparently mundane and difficult to interpret (the significance of the image lies in the account of the participant). The weight of communicating outcomes rests, as a consequence, on the text, with images playing a very minor part.
The images in this exhibition are similarly mundane, and reliant upon the text to make the message of each image explicit. There is little in the way of surprise (the concerns of the residents are much as would be expected) or challenge in either the text or the images (though it would have been interested to see a selection of images without the accompanying text). This particular exhibition thus raises question about both the photovoice process as an effective approach to insightful, coherent and convincing research, and as a means of producing powerful images. The exhibition on its own falls short of achieving the aim ‘to stimulate dialogue between residents, policy makers and practitioners’. As Liebenberg (2018) argues, photovoice can be a powerful approach to research and social change, but to achieve this it needs to be conceived, and operationalised, as a form of participatory action research.
Fitzgibbon, W. and Stengel, C. M. 2018. ‘Women’s voices made visible: Photovoice in visual criminology’, Punishment and Society, 20(4), pp. 411–431.
Liebenberg, L. 2018. ‘Thinking critically about photovoice: Achieving empowerment and social change’, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), pp. 1–9.
‘I know it is invevitible progress, and I’m invested in the digital world as much as the next person. This is not my point: cinema made with film and shown as film is very different from cinema made and shown digitally. Within art this is mostly understood, because the world of art has appreciated medium specificity since before the Renaissance: Giotto’s mural is a fresco, conceived, made and seen differently from an oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci; we understand that an etching is not a watercolour and a drawing, not a relief; they are made differently and the experience of seeing them and handling them is different. They might share the same content, the same images and even be copies of one another, but they are not the same. However, they are still pictures. But for some reason there is a cultural blindness towards the difference between film and digital: a blindness with an underbelly of commercial intent that is invested in seeing one replace by the other so the difference can be quickly forgotten. Both film and digital are pictures, perhaps copies of one another, but they are not the same thing – one is light on emulsion and one is light made by pixel, and they are also conceived, made and seen differently’ (Dean, 2011: 16)
Dean, T. 2011. Film. In Cullinan, N. (ed.) Tacita Dean: Film. London: Tate Publishing. 15-48
Having to put together the PK presentation was a mixed blessing. Valuable to think about where my project was coming from and where it was heading. I’m not sure whether the fixed duration for each slide is helpful. Greater freedom in the timing and number of frames would have given a better presentation of the work (but still within seven minutes).
Helpful discussion with Wendy, which has given me confidence to develop the proposed focus for the FMP (which can only be a relatively small part of a bigger, over-arching project). Important to think about strategies for exhibiting and disseminating the work. Will check out Ponte City project by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse as a way of exploring life in a particular housing project. The spreads from the working book dummy are particularly useful.
And look more closely at Gideon Mendel’s Dzhangal project (focussing on left behind objects, which resonates with my earlier object related work in museums and collections and the refugee archive work at UCL).
Fortunate to have two images in the exhibition at Studio 3 Arts in the Vicarage Fields gallery. Particularly apposite that the images are both made from photographs taken just outside the shopping centre, and that the redevelopment of the shopping centre itself has been approved and compulsory purchase order are being sought. The development would include the purchase and demolition of the current Barking Hotel, the original Barking Hotel having been compulsory purchased in the 1980s for the building of the shopping centre. The owner of the hotel wants to be able to record his experiences, and I have offered to help with this – more in a later post as this develops.
The art trail involves a number of commercial sites and public places, some of which might work for my pop-up exhibitions.
My second year at this event, and a good opportunity to think again about the relationship between film and photography, common issues in both, and seek out ideas and work that help me to think through my own project.
Research as Creative Practice
The focus of the discussion was principally exploration of the extent to which non-fiction film making could be considered to be research, fuelled perhaps by the association of all three panel members with universities, and concerns around what counts for the Research Excellence Framework, and other measures of research productivity. Each panelist presented examples from their work, each of which had some resonance with my own. Brett Story’s The Hottest Augustis formed around casual conversation around New York during a heatwave, starting with the question ‘what are your hopes for the future’, creating a sense of the anxieties of people at this particular place and point in time. Whether or not this constitutes research, it does provide some insight, and uses visual (and audio) means to capture these encounters and engage and provoke the viewer. For me, it raises the question of the capability of photography to do capture everyday activity in this way. The method used is interesting as well – walking around with a camera and sound rig and asking the question to whoever you encounter, something that could certainly be done with still photography (though, interestingly, it might be more difficult to explain as an activity – the higher visibility of the video and audio rig giving a much clearer initial message about what is going on and what is expected of the participants; presumably permission are sought after the event). The idea of the production of an archive of the present, through these conversations with strangers, is interesting. A still image cannot do the same thing, but it can sit alongside other artefacts and media in a way that extended video cannot. This relates back to an earlier discussion provoked by Stephen Heath’s presentation at last year’s festival: the relative advantages of the installation over the film (in this case, his film Island). An enduring question, for those working in any media, is ‘who are you in this encounter?’
Bo Wang‘s Many Undulating Things explores spatial inequality in Hong Kong, starting and ending in a shopping centre, and exploring different kinds of public and private spaces (from housing projects to commercial warehouses). Interesting issues here include the difficulties in gaining access to privately owned land (and ways of subverting this) and the nature of the encounters with people (and rejections), leading in some cases to verbal interactions off-camera, but on sound track (interesting to explore with still images, with either text or audio). The primary focus of the film is on the experience of social and physical space, and the bodily experience of inhabited space, questions that are implicit in my work, but should perhaps be more explicit.
Interesting discussion, and resonates with my own approach to using photography as a means of investigation and interrogation (as research) rather than seeing research as just a precursor to visual work. How this might then contribute to inter-disciplinary research programmes remains a core question (which will be addressed again in future posts).
Raised interesting questions about the use of archives, and what happens when a country ceases to exist and archives are scattered. Also about the creating and maintaining spaces for dialogue (and the manner in which polarisation destroys this, constantly asking the question ‘whose side were you on?’). Who do you trust to tell the story of the past? On working in the archive ‘Every day in the archive is a shooting day for the Director’ (ie, creating content).
Films and shorts
I booked a session to view a selection of films and shorts, including the following (of particular relevance to my project).
Here for Life, Andrea Luka Zimmerman & Adrian Jackson, 2019
Collaborative film with ten Londoners, where individual stories blend one into the other. A number of scenes that provoke thoughts for my own project (i) posing in front of developer CGIs on hoardings; (ii) conversations between local people and site workers; (iii) darkened interiors, street scenes, court converted into a hotel; (iv) flickering between the poetic and the mundane; (v) acting on and in the world; (vi) privatisation of the land; (vii) sequestering of labour; (viii) juxtaposition of folk song and demonstrations; (ix) production of a community play. Most importantly, has provoked me to go back to earlier work by Zimmerman and Fugitive Images around Haggerston.
On the Border: Yoshiki Nishimura, 2018. Japan. 7’
Visually arresting photogrammetric rendering of beach debris with soundtrack.
E-ticket. Simon Liu. 2019. Hong Kong, UK. 13’
Cut up archive of 35mm film, 16k splices, spliced together in rigid increments. Good to think about in relation to the animations I have made from composites.
Moving from the taught modules, with their structured schedule of readings, presentations and activities, to the more open Final Major Project phase, with its principal focus on the timely completion of a defined project with public outcomes, requires a rethinking of the form and function of the CRJ. With the exo-skeleton of module structure removed, an alternative device has to be put in place to give shape and direction to the journal. Posts need to be more tightly focused on my own project, and the pace of development has to be maintained, so I think that means shorter and more speculative items, with occasional longer posts to take stock and pull things together. There is a complex range of topics to cover, including: technical development, artistic development and contextualisation, theory, production, presentation, dissemination, background research, galleries of images, progress updates, milestones … To make this work will require careful tagging – something to develop over the next few weeks.
I took the complete set of prints (each print 24x16cm on A4 paper) of my WIP portfolio for review with Jesse and others in Bristol (at the RPS). I wanted to get feedback on the quality of the prints and the extent to which the way I had placed the ‘codes’ between the images had worked. Having made prints, I could experiment with the manner in which they are arranged spatially (keeping the code close to the related image).
Whilst the pdf submitted has to take a linear form, it is interesting to think about the effect of displaying the prints in different ways in a gallery or other exhibition space. The grid layout, for instance, has very different connotations than the linear (vertical or horizontal), suggesting layers rather than a sequence (which might lead me to think differently about the ordering of the prints),
The feedback was very positive and reinforced my intention to work further on the printing of composites, with careful attention to tonality and texture. Jesse suggested experimenting with liquid light and printing on glass, and also exploring the physical layering of images. The codes seemed to make sense to people, and were of visual interest in their own right. One suggestion was to explore 3D ‘cut outs’ of the images used, in the way that Emeric Lhuisset has done with maps of areas destroyed in conflict in When the Clouds Speak (on show at Cloitre Saint-Triomphe, Les Rencontres d’Arles, until 22 September 2019).