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.

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).

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 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

Making a handmade artist book

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.

Resources

Making of ‘Of hope and fear‘ by Kensaku Seki.

Tammy Law’s artist photobook “Permission To Belong

Katherine Longly’s artist book “To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit

Ryo Kusumoto’s artist book “連師子/Renjishi

FMP Proposal and Schedule

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).

Final-Project-Proposal-AB

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

Through our Eyes; Housing & Health

Ideas Store, Gladstone Place, Roman Road, Bow, London E3 5EU.
18th Sept – 10th October 2019.

Through our Eyes; Housing & Health, Ideas Store, London E3, 2019
Through our Eyes; Housing & Health, Ideas Store, London E3, 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.

Figure 2. ‘Don’t inject dope, because you’ll be taken by the police’. Figure taken by Chicks Day employee Bora. From Fitzgibbon and Stengel (2018)

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.

References

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.

PK presentation and first tutorial reflection

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.

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, Ponte City, spread from book dummy.

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).

Barking Art Trail

http://www.studio3arts.org.uk/ig11-art-trail-2019

Barking Art Trail 2019 Opening, Studio 3 Arts

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.