LCN Saturday #1 – Where am I? Ways to present, strategise and fund

SPACE Ilford, 29 February 2020

‘This day will begin with a practical session of developing your presentation skills and techniques for effective communication. We will then look at the different economies and strategies that exist to support artists and artistic development, followed by a session around crowdfunding’.

The first LCN day was excellent, not only for the substantive content but also for being able to get to know other artists working in the area. I want to make some quick notes about the sessions, focussing on aspects of particular relevance to my current work and thinking about what I might do after the MA.

Introduction to SPACE – Persilia Caton, Exhibitions Curator, SPACE

Persilia was able to give us insight into the process by which the work for the first exhibition (by Lindsey Mendick) was selected through an open call process and how the gallery worked collaboratively with the artist. A key factor was engagement with the local community, and the ability to ensure both that the process of producing the work was of value, and that the outcome is a worthwhile and engaging exhibition. In particular, it was interesting to see how the work from the workshops (making work in clay with elderly people from the area with no prior experience) fed into the exhibition. The process also allowed the artist to experiment with new ways of working, and for participants to gain new skills and interests. The central theme for the exhibition (advice that you wish you had been given and taken, inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen), was clear and relatable.

Presenting Yourself – Alex Evans

Good opportunity to get to know other members of the group and learn about Alex’s practice (which spans community focused work in east London and his own drawing based work). One of the communication activities involved describing a Lego construction to a partner who had to construct it solely on the basis of the description, exploring the need for a common language. This was reinforced in relation to describing our own practice to different audiences and for different purposes.

Alex introduced the Who (you, brand, partners, fabrications, collaborations, organisations, audiences, customers, clients), What (activity, product, services, company, charity), When (milestones, markers, timelines, stages, evolution), Where (places, spaces, residencies, stockists, connections, communities), Why (reasons, motivations, drive, values, ‘call to action’, ‘reasons to believe’), How (processes, skills, ethics, forms, discoveries), Wow (concepts, achievements, unexpected, magical, imagined) structure and we prepared one minute statements to share and discuss in groups of three (see below for mine).

The framework provides a structure and set of prompts for production of accounts (for instance, and artist or project statement) that can be adapted to different audiences (by, for instance, shifting focus, realigning priorities and changing language). It can also be used cyclically and a different levels in the same account, for instance to describe practice in general and the details of a specific project or a particular work.

Mapping and Strategising your Networks – Kathrin Böhm

In this session we (i) identified and mapped out our networks; (ii) looked at the economic underpinning of artistic practice; (iii) considered an ‘iceberg self-portrait’.

The network mapping helped me to think about the relationship between my prior (academic) work and my current (artistic) practice, and the manner in which networks relating to these different domains might be mutually supportive. For me this is a matter of bringing my artistic and photographic work to a state of relative maturity, and keeping in mind how the work produced (and the processes and contexts of production) might constructively draw on and feed into my academic work and networks (for instance, in forming partnerships between academics and artists in the development of community relationships around UCL East). It was particularly productive to be able to put artistic practice at the centre of the network diagram. Kathrin emphasised the power of working as a collective.

Katherine Gibson’s (2014) iceberg metaphor was used in considering the economics of artistic production. This acknowledges that visible practice is supported by a greater volume and diversity of invisible activities (both personal and institutional). This led to a consideration of the diversity of forms of and audiences for art, and Stephen Wright’s concept of ‘usership’ rather that spectatorship, emphasising a need to be clear about how art is used in different contexts and by different communities. This relates to the manner in which I am using different forms of photography, and using photography in different ways, in different parts of my project (for instance, in activism and as a collective activity). Similar ideas are put forward by Arte Util (useful art); I will explore these further in the critical review of practice, in clarifying the relationship between the components of my project, and, in particular, the positioning of the outcomes of the FMP (as a subset of a wider programme of activities). Returning to the iceberg metaphor, we considered Gregory Sholette’s (2011) application of the idea of dark matter – the stuff that holds the market together but is not readily visible – and where in our own practice we might identify the ‘visibility’ line. Art viewed in this way is special (as a particular form of activity) but not other (set above or apart from everyday activity), resembling Laruelle’s notion of ‘non-philosophy‘.

We explored diagrammatic forms of representations of relationships between activities, like those produced by the Institute for Human Activities.

These are similar to the diagrams produced by Brett Bloom and Nuno Sacramento. Kathrin has produced a diagram to represent how Company Drinks is positioned artistically and economically.

This session was particularly important for me in (i) helping to think through alternative forms of relationship between art and everyday practice, particularly through the idea of ‘usership’; (ii) thinking through how I can use visual means to describe the relationship between the components of my work (for instance, in providing a ‘visual index’ in my FMP pdf submission).

Crowdfunding – Tamara Stoll

Tamara mapped out how she moved from the production of a book dummy for her Ridley Road project (8 years and 150 colour images) to publication, and how she used crowdfunding to fund the print run. The project stemmed from identification of a gap in the Hackney archives around the history of the market, and evolved into a site specific, collaborative project concerned with ‘streets and the people who make the streets’. Centerprise was an important influence (in both the publication of local writing and as a place to meet). As in my own work, building trust among the community was important, and she took on the informal role of campaign photographer for the Save Ridley Road campaign, organising workshops and exhibitions. She uses a TLR on a tripod to make the portraits, which quickly distinguishes her from the opportunistic street photographers who are not particularly welcome in the area.

Lots of insights into Crowdfunding – see notes below (and pdf provided by Tamara).

The major insight for me, however, was into Tamara’s work, and resonances with aspects of my own work. In all, the day provided a number of strands to follow up, particularly around relationship between the community engagement aspects of my project and my own work

References

Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2014. ‘Rethinking the Economy with Thick Description and Weak Theory’. Current Anthropology 55, S9: S147-153. doi:10.1086/676646. [Accessed March 7, 2020].

Sholette, G. 2011. Dark Matter : Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. London; New York: Pluto Press.

Wright, S. 2014. Toward a Lexicon of Usership. Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum. Online at https://www.arte-util.org/tools/lexicon/ [Accessed March 7, 2020].

Further Refined Project Descriptor

Following feedback from Wendy, I’ve simplified and focused the descriptor. I’ve got a clearer sense of the outcomes of the project in relation to the work done so far, and how the work submitted for the FMP will relate to the wider community engagement work. The relationship between this work and the wider body of work can be discussed in the Critical Review of Practice, which will include some thoughts on how the work might be developed following the MA. There is still some finessing of the text to be done (including the titling of the three components).


Beating the Bounds


Beating the bounds is an ancient English custom that, in a period that pre-dates maps, involved walking the boundaries of an area in order to remind a community of the extent of its territory through visceral experience of its natural and human markers.


This project, inspired and informed by my community engagement activities in east London, explores three areas of rapid and extensive redevelopment in the Barking and Dagenham, London’s poorest and fastest developing borough. The urgent demand for new housing has put particular pressure on the outer boroughs of east London, optimistically referred to as the ‘rising east’. A combination of availability of disused industrial sites, neglected housing stock, social demand and aspirational local government has led to a proliferation of large-scale housing developments.

These regeneration projects have a profound impact on communities and the environment. As contested, privately owned spaces, they disrupt the relationship between community and place, severing continuity between the past and present and hopes for the future, and transform the relationship between the built and, an increasingly manicured, natural environment. The vision for the three areas presented by the developers is generic and homogeneous, and consequently dramatically out of step with the particular environmental, social and cultural characteristics of each area.

My photographic work presented for the final project visually explores aspects of this disjunction. The work is produced from images and sound recordings made, and artefacts collected, in walking the ‘bounds’ of each of the three developments. It is presented alongside contextualising materials, including maps, historical images, planning documents, text and computer-generated images.

Beating the Bounds One. The town centre is a transport and retail hub that acts as a focus of activity for a diverse community. The vision of creating a ‘mini-Manhattan‘ with high rise apartments and upmarket retail outlets lies in tension with the life-worlds of current residents in one of the poorest wards of the UK. A market, dating back to the twelfth century, runs along one edge of the development area. The images explore the complex entanglement of everyday human activity with the changing natural and built environment, an entanglement neglected and negated by the CGI projected vision of the developers.

Beating the Bounds Two. Barking is an ancient parish, dating back to the seventh century. It straddles the River Roding and developed around fishing and boat building from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century, at which time it was home to England’s largest fishing fleet, the Short Blue. The industrial properties and retail parks that built up around the river following the decline of fishing are now the site of a number of large high-density housing developments, collectively referred to as the Roding Riviera. The images explore the developments reflected in the river that flows alongside them and represented on the hoardings which separate the development from a historic site along its eastern border, which includes the Church where Captain James Cook and Elizabeth Batts were married in 1762.

Beating the Bounds Three. The Barking Riverside development runs along the Thames and is surrounded by industrial units, scrap yards and waste processing plants. It sits on marshland adjacent to former sites of two power stations (a decommissioned gas-powered plant and an older now demolished coal-fired plant) and chemical plants, which have left high levels of pollutants in the land. This development is one of the largest in Europe, comprising of over 11,000 units, and ultimately housing a population equivalent to a city the size of Derby. The aspirations of the council leader are to create a ‘Barcelona on the Thames‘, a reference to the regeneration of the derelict industrial eastern Barcelona waterfront in preparation for and following the 1992 Olympics. In this series of images, the unruly industrial and natural periphery of the Barking Riverside development is explored through the chemical and digital degradation of images of the development, and through images made of along the boundary between the riverside public footpath and the private land of the new development.

The images and materials are presented in three artist made archive boxes and can be configured and used in different ways (for instance, as an exhibition, as the basis for a group activity or for individual handling and reflection). There is no predefined order to the images or expectations about how viewing of the images should be combined with the contextual materials.  The work is non-didactic and is designed to eschew a single narrative. The sets of images are presented as a lyrical response and intended to offer the viewer the opportunity to construct their own narratives and sense of place from their engagement with the work, and, indeed, to reconfigure and add to the collections.


‘The catalyst that converts any physical location–any environment if you will–into a place, is the process of experiencing deeply. A place is a piece of the whole environment that has been claimed by feelings’.(Gussow, 1971:27)

Alan Gussow. 1971. A Sense of Place: the Artist and the American Land. San Francisco: Friends of the Earth/John Muir Institute.

Revised Project Descriptor: Beating the Bounds in the Rising East

The urgent demand for new housing has put particular pressure on the outer boroughs of east London, where a combination of availability of disused industrial sites, neglected housing stock, social demand and aspirational local government has led to a proliferation of large-scale housing developments. These regeneration projects have dramatic impact on both the environment, and local communities. 

This project (which is part of a wider engagement with community and activist groups) uses visual means to explore and convey a personal emotional response to the impact of three major developments in Barking and Dagenham, which is both the poorest and the most rapidly developing borough in London. The first of these is the transformation of Barking town centre, through an ambitious, but fragmented, mix of high rise housing and new retail outlets, described by the leader of the council as the creation of a ‘mini-Manhattan’. The second is a strip of large high density developments along the River Roding, transforming moribund retail and industrial parks into ‘the Roding Riviera’. The third development, Barking Riverside, runs along the Thames and is surrounded by industrial units, scrap yards and waste processing plants. It sits on marshland adjacent to former sites of two power stations (a decommissioned gas-powered plant and an older demolished coal-fired plant) and chemical plants, which have left high levels of pollutants in the land. This development is one of the largest in Europe, comprising of over 11,000 units, and ultimately housing a population equivalent to a city the size of Derby. The aspirations of the council leader are to create a ‘Barcelona on the Thames’, a reference to the regeneration of the derelict industrial eastern Barcelona waterfront in preparation for and following the 1992 Olympics.

Whilst the wider project address questions of social infrastructure and community empowerment, the work presented for the FMP specifically focuses on the relationship between human activity and the natural and built environment, and our relationship with the land. The principal images result from walks around the perimeters of the developments (all of which are on private land),  informed by engagement with community and activist groups and archive work; a contemporary form of the ancient practice of ‘beating the bounds’ in which the boundaries of an area are physically experienced, re-established and committed to memory. The images combine elements of human activity and the environment in different ways. The use of analogue and digital forms of image making, processing and distribution reflect the transition from material/chemical to symbolic/digital production in the area (the site of a large chemical plant, for instance, now houses one of Europe’s largest data centres, and an electricity substation built to serve its power requirements). The play between digital and analogue forms also resonates with the impact on the environment and the lived experience of citizens of ‘datafication’ and use of algorithms in social planning and development. The area has strong links to China, and is the UK terminus for ‘the new silk road’, with a train from Yiwu in northern China arriving once a week with 34 containers, following an 18 day journey, adding a further dimension to the the notion of the borough as ‘the rising east’ and raising questions about where the boundaries for an area can be drawn.

The outcomes of the project are in the form of three sets of images with contextual material (texts, maps, diagrams, sound recordings and artefacts), which together serve to provoke engagement with different dimensions of the impact of rapid urban development on this area of east London, and more widely. The images and materials are presented in three artist made archive boxes, and can be configured and used in different ways (for instance, as an exhibition, as the basis for a group activity or for individual handling and reflection). There is no predefined order to the images or expectations about how viewing of the images should be combined with the contextual materials.  The work is non-didactic, and is designed to eschew conveying a single narrative. Rather, the sets of images are presented as a lyrical response, and designed to offer the viewer the opportunity to construct their own narratives and sense of place from their engagement with the work, and, indeed, to reconfigure and add to the collections. 

The photographs in the ‘mini-Manhattan’ collection combine images of everyday human activity in the area with images of the natural environment and the process of transformation of the built environment. The ‘Roding Riviera’ photographs use the river as an enduring form of mediation of images of construction and environmental transformation. In the ‘Barcelona on the Thames’ series, the unruly industrial and natural periphery of the Barking Riverside development is explored through the chemical and digital degradation of images of the development. In each case, the principal images are juxtaposed with a range of contextual contemporary and historic images and other material.

The work will be presented publicly in a sequence of pop-up exhibitions, workshops and presentations, including an exhibition (5th March) and a trade school on community archiving (9th April) at the Participatory City Warehouse in the Barking Riverside area, a series of workshops (5th, 10th and 25th March) and an Open Table exhibition (18th April) at Everyone Everyday in Barking town centre, and a presentation to the London Prosperity Board (29th April).

Shedlife portraits

First shot at looking playing around with different ways of representing the group, taking influences from forms of group and individual portraiture. We spent some time looking through Dutch 17th Century paintings of civic leaders. This one by Bartholomeus van der Helst appealed, so we had a go using a simple single strobe set up.

Bartholomeus van der Helst, Four aldermen of the Kloveniersdoelen in Amsterdam, 1655.

We’re going to need a shorter table … More to follow maybe, after the group have looked at the prints. Followed a session of individual portrait work.

We took a look at the Taylor Wessing Prize catalogues for 2018 and 2019 and thought about different forms of portraiture for future sessions.

Analogue/digital

I’ve used the time over the break to explore practically the analogue and digital dimensions of the project, and how I can visually, and in terms of process, explore both the ‘datafication’ of decision-making in regeneration, and the transition from chemical/material production/distribution to digital/symbolic production/distribution in this part of east London (and, of course, the residue of the former lies alongside, and acts and is acted upon, by the latter (I’ll post a project statement that encapsulates this later). So moving back and forth between chemical processing, handmade bookmaking, coding and image manipulation (whilst initiating three new projects, starting the London Creative Network intensive artist development programme, and preparing for two pop-up exhibitions in the coming month, and all the ongoing work).

The algorithmic manipulation of images is a new strand, but important as it addresses part of the overall project that I have been struggling with (particularly finding a way to relate the quantification of community characteristics, and use of that data in decision-making on housing and social policy, and the lived, and located, experiences of residents). Using the Processing language (see Reas and Fry, 2007) to automate, through the use of algorithms, the manipulation of images is promising. To explore this, I have used Kim Asendorf’s pixel sorting (a term coined by Asendorf in 2010, according to Hight, 2013) code (available for download here; see examples of Asendorf’s work here and here).

Kim Asendorf, Mountain Tour series, 2010

At this point, I am playing around with changing the thresholds in the programme to produce different treatments of some of my landscapes and portraits, as well as some archival material. Here’s a version of the Barking Harbour image featured in an earlier post.

Andrew Brown, Barking Harbour treatment, 2020

Each image is uploaded onto a surface as a bitmap and the procedure (sketch in Processing terms) runs along rows or columns (this can be set) to look for pixels in terms of darkness, lightness or brightness (this can be set). If set to search for ‘darkness’ along rows, the algorithm searches along each row for a pixel which lies within the thresholds set for ‘darkness’ and places these in order until it reaches a pixel that falls outside the defined limits. The number of iterations (loops) for this process can be set. The thresholds for each can be set to create different forms and levels of ‘mutilation’. This gives me an opportunity to contrast chemical degradation of images (using the immersion methods developed by Matthew Brandt) with these forms of digital degradation. I want to go beyond playful data-moshing, however, and see if I can feed in data (for instance, social progress indicator data) relating to the specific communities that I am working with.

Andrew Brown, Barking RIverside treatment, 2020

This raises again the question of how to present the outcomes of the manipulation. My intention here is to continue to move back and forth between the digital and the analogue, and the abstracted and the located. So printing these could take us back into the analogue, local/located and visceral. As with all this work, the question is what is gained and lost in each translation between forms, if translation is possible, of course, in any meaningful sense (see Apter, 2013).

References

Apter, E. 2013. Against World Literature: On the politics of untranslatability. London: Verso.

Hight, J. 2013. An introduction to Kim Asendorf. Unlikely Stories, Episode IV. Online https://www.unlikelystories.org/13/asendorf0913.shtml [accessed 23.01.2020]

Reas, C and Fry, B. Processing: A programming handbook for visual designers and artists. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Prototype displays

I am working through ideas for a portable exhibitions, and seeing what can be produced with existing resources. Following earlier consideration of work by Dayanita Singh, I have produced some prototype accordion books, to explore size and format, and the suitability of different types of paper (in terms of printing, use in book production and in display). I’ve used the following images of housing developments in Barking, for instance.

I’ve used 200 gsm single-side coated matt photopaper for this. There is a problem in getting stock from which I can get A3 sheets which are short grain. The print surface is good (certainly works well for these monochrome images) and it handles well for book making.

There is work to be done on how they would be used in display, and how different angles of view and light can be used creatively (and, consequently, how images are sequenced and arranged). Some kind of clip that holds each fold at 90 degrees would be helpful (I saw something like this used at Paris Photo last year). The next step is to explore other formats for books/displays and other sequences of images.

I have been looking at work by Heather Weston, a book artist who explores ways in which established book forms can be used creatively to produce resonances, and tensions, between form and content, for instance in her works a diction (2004) in which the pages are the shape of a pint glass, and unfold into a circle, READ (past, tense) (2000) which is printed with heat sensitive ink that responds to the touch of the reader and Paper Cut: relief (2007) dealing with self harm and taking the form of an accordion book with cut outs (below).

Heather Weston, a diction, 2004
Heather Weston, Paper Cut: relief, 2007

In Bookcraft (2008), she refers to Karen Hanmer’s Destination Moon (2003) which takes the form of a ‘flag book’ (a kind of accordion book) that juxtaposes archival photographs of the Apollo Manned Space Programme with John F. Kennedy’s “Man on the Moon by the end of the decade” speech and a whimsical song about a romantic journey to the moon.

Karen Hanmer, Destination Moon, 2003

This dynamic handmade book form, which has been produced using an inkjet printer, is well suited to the forms of juxtaposition and change that I am exploring in my own work, and warrants some exploration.

As a foonote, the black and white images above are all reflections of developments along the River Roding taken from the same place as this 1832 drawing of Barking town (the vantage point is now a supermarket car park).

References

Weston, H. 2008. Bookcraft. London: Quarto.

FMP mid-point review

According to the schedule, at this point (Week 14) I should have completed my fieldwork, and be working on composites and other images for the outcomes of the project. Seems like a good time to review progress to date and map out activities for the next 4 months.

Photographic Fieldwork

Image making for and with community groups has been pretty intense over the past few months.

Thames Ward Community Project (TWCP). Following on from a series of photographs of the members of the Citizens Action Group, I decided to focus on activities within the community. Consequently, I have made images of the following activities: TESOL for Parents (two sites – Riverside and Thames View), Mums with a Mission (Thames View), DJ workshops (at Riverside Campus: see selected images below), Thames Ward Health Stakeholders, Young Citizens Action Group.

A repository of photographs has been created and I have made prints for the project leaders and participants. Prints from projects have been used to raise awareness of the different activities amongst the project team (for instance, at the recent project dinner).

Sharing project images, TWCP dinner, 18.12.19

Photographs have been used in press and promotional material. The 100 images made for the Thrive Community Day have been given to the Mental Health Foundation for the report on the Thrive Thames View project. Next step is to produce a collection of larger prints for the TWCP to use in promoting its work.

New View Arts. My Shed Life photographs (of participants, the area and the models produced) have featured in the press and funding campaigns. They have also been used in the report produced by University of East London architecture students and in support for the planning permission application. I would like to submit images to the WISERD Civil Society Photography Competition, which closes on 13th January. I will continue to make images with the group to feed in to the exhibition planned for the opening of the Shed and any prior promotional work. The Arts Council funded film on the Creekmouth flood and displacement, to which the summer workshop for children contributed, was presented to residents on 2nd November and I gave to prints of photographs used, including archive photographs, to the group. The film was also shown to the public at the Sue Bramley Centre, with accompanying pop-up exhibition of my images and photographs taken with and by the workshop participants, on 13th December. Future showings are planned.

Everyone, Everyday. This is the local incarnation (and most prominent project) of Participatory City. I have joined the project and attended events, and discussed the possibility of exhibiting at the Warehouse with the facility manager and running workshops with the project officers. Their next planning cycle starts in January, and I have a meeting with the Barking project team on 9th January to explore contributing to the programme of activities, which starts on 25th February.

Eastside Community Heritage. Photographs of the demonstrations relating to the Riverside Estate fire, and images of the estate, are being used in the independent report and the website being produced around resident accounts. They have been used in press coverage, and a BBC feature was made with footage from the demonstration on 19th October. Follow up with residents planned. Possible collaboration with ECH producing images for their Becontree Estate project. ECH has previously collaborated with Studio 3 Arts on the Open Estate project, focusing on the Gascoigne Estate.

Barking and Dagenham Heritage Conservation Group. I have continued to to attend meeting and kept in touch with activities. I have made images of developments around Barking, and collected a list of proposed developments from emails about applications for planning permission. May be possible to draw work together for a pop-up exhibition in the town centre (for instance, at the Barking Hotel). Another possibility would be to do a collaborative piece with Keith, who has a particular interest in photography, particularly with film, or to focus on some of the members of the group and their concerns. Might fall outside the scope of the FMP.

Greatfields School. On 8th October, I ran a workshop for GCSE Photography students to introduce a collaborative project focusing on the impact of changes taking place on the Gascoigne Estate. Kiran (the photography teacher) repeated this with another group, and invited proposals for projects from the students. These have been submitted and projects selected. We plan to run the sessions after school on Thursdays, alongside the photography club. Pressure of work around the end of the year have led us to postpone the project start to 23rd January (to run for 6 to 8 weeks).

Exhibition and engagement

Work has been exhibited locally in pop-up (such as the Creekmouth film showing) and other exhibitions (such as the IG11 Art Trail, which ran until 9th November) as planned, and used in community engagement and dissemination activities (for instance, the Community Day, TESOL for parents and DJ workshops). These opportunistic exhibitions will continue. For the FMP outcome, however, something more formal will be needed, which can incorporate and showcase my own work. I am pursuing a number of possibilities, and the London Creative Network will give rise to new opportunities, including the new block at Barking and Dagenham College and the Warehouse. Most likely is the Sue Bramley Centre, which has good outside space in which work could be displayed without danger of vandalism (which would be a problem with the hoardings in the areas, which would otherwise provide a good display surface).

I have discussed this with the centre manager, who is supportive of the idea. Other site specific exhibitions could also be organised. I have also discussed the possibility of running workshops at the Centre, for TWCP project leaders and at the Warehouse. At this point, there are ample viable sites for exhibition and engagement, but this will have to be tied down in the coming month, and work produced for exhibition if this is to be a principle outcome of the FMP. I am also exploring handmade books as a way of displaying photographic work in easily portable form (I’ll make a specific post about this).

Next Steps

I am currently collating images and other material (including maps, planning documents, data and archive images), and exploring how these can be juxtaposed. Ethically and practically, I am inclined now to identify a number of key collaborators, and a narrow range of themes, and to work with them as models, and in selecting images with which to work. Over the next two weeks, I need to produce a range of images to exemplify the form of outcome, and/or to act as base composite images to which to add images of members of the community. Alongside this I will identify the most appropriate ways of disseminating and exhibiting the work. I will also produce a range of forms of book to illustrate how the work might be transported and shown. In addition to the photographic work for and with community groups, I have been exploring the boundary between the Riverside development and Footpath 47, which runs alongside the Thames. Currently this gives direct access to the riverbank, but under plans for the estate development, will become a paved walkway between the housing and the river, which will dramatically change the local ecosystem, and access to the marshland environment. In addition to the community related composite work, I will explore the environmental aspects of the development through the incorporation of environmental effects on the images themselves (see, for instance, the discussion of work by Matthew Brandt; I have collected samples of water from the marshes and rivers to experiment with the effects on images). Related to this, I want to visually explore the boundaries that are being created, and the conceptual limitations of the notion of boundary in understanding the entanglement of human activity/well-being, the built environment and the natural environment. From this work I also need to produce a clear statement of the focus of the FMP (as a subset, or intermediate stage, of the wider project) – a post will follow about this. Commencement of the LCN programme at the end of January will also have an impact on the development and ultimate focus of the FMP outcomes.

Revised schedule

Whilst progress with the work has been good, and largely to schedule, there is a need to fix the focus of the FMP and revise the schedule to ensure that adequate time can be give to the work that needs to be done. The revised schedule looks something like this:

Composite image-making and preparation of prints prototype books (16th December 2019 to 12th January 2020)

Week 13 Collation of images and documents
Week 14 Creation of initial composites and other images
Week 15 Printing and preparation of images and prototypes
Week 16 Final determination of project focus, collaborators and outputs. WISERD images submission.

Sharing of composites, creation of images, feedback and preparation of cumulative outcomes (13th January 2020 to 23rd February 2020)

Week 17 Image making with participants. Commence work with Particatory City.
Week 18 Image making with participants. Commence Greatfields project. Commence LCN programme
Week 19 Image making with participants
Week 20 Image making with participants. Thames Ward Growth Summit exhibition
Week 21 Production and presentation of work
Week 22 Reflection and follow-up with participants

Final outcomes: exhibition, artists book/archive and workshops (24th February 2020 to 5th April 2020)

Week 23 Preparation of material for exhibition and workshops
Week 24 Warehouse exhibition and workshop. Complete Greatfields project
Week 25 Falmouth workshops and portfolio review
Week 26 [Singapore & Canterbury]
Week 27 Workshops and exhibition
Week 28 Finalisation of outcomes.

Preparation of FMP submission (6th April 2020 to 1st May 2020)

Week 29 Review CRJ and online portfolio (Easter)
Week 30 Finalise Critical Review of Practice (Easter)
Week 31 Finalise Project pdf
Week 32 Submit Project pdf and Critical Review of Practice

Landscape, Portrait, Still Life

In the publication produced to accompany her three simultaneous London exhibitions in 2018, Landscape, Portrait, Still Life, Tacita Dean considers the extent to which Paul Nash’s watercolour Cumulus Head (c1944) can be considered to be a portrait (of Nash’s wife), a landscape (or more precisely, a cloudscape) and a still life (the head takes a sculptural form).

Paul Nash, Cumulus Head, c1944

As such, the work questions, and subverts, the established distinction between landscape, portrait and still life. Dean’s three exhibitions focus in turn on each of these forms, but, as with Nash’s work, the permeability and instability of these forms, over time and across contexts, and the manner in which Dean’s work is positioned in respect these categories of work (and others working in these genres), raise further questions.

One question, which resonates with my own work, is the extent to which her landscape work tends to focus on the landscape, or on elements in the landscape. My own work tends to be very much in the landscape, tending to focus on objects and artefacts rather than the larger features of the landscape (as do many other so called landscape artists, like Fay Godwin, who’s photographs draw us to what is in the landscape, which prompt out attention to flicker between landscape as context and landscape as content: what is in the landscape provokes us to think differently about the landscape itself). This, in turn, raises a question about the category of still life, the defining feature of which appears to be the decontextualisation, or rather recontextualisation of the object (from, for instance, the field to the studio). Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long also question this distinction, creating works in and from the landscape.

Andy Goldsworthy, Japanese maple leaves stitched together to make a floating chain, Ouchiyama-Mura, Japan, 1987

This calls to mind the work of still life artists, such as John Crome, who work in the field, foregrounding particular aspects (for instance, Crome’s studies of flints, c1811, which, by focusing within the landscape, blurs the landscape/still life distinction).

Crome, John, Study of Flints, c1811

The distinction is further problematised by the question of whether a still life has to be of inanimate, or dead, artefacts. Can living plants, or animals, or people, be the subjects of still life? Ultimately, the photograph renders them still, and animation can only be implied or inferred. New materialism, and object orientated ontology, of course, re-animate these objects and artefacts, in de-centring humanist accounts. This focuses us on consideration of how the landscape, human activity and objects inscribe and mark each other in the process of co-production, which I aim to explore in my own photographic work.

The composites produced for my neuropolis series can be seen as combining the landscape (urban), portraits (street) and still life (flora) in the same setting, with accompanying connotations of, in turn, a future, present and past. Whilst I have explored the interaction between these elements, I haven’t thought about the work in terms of artistic forms or genres. Dean’s exhibitions produce resonances between forms and each raises questions about stability and integrity of the boundaries between forms and genres. My work mashes these forms together and, in a modest way, raises similar questions in a different way. In addition, I hope, the use of composites and juxtapositions creates a possibility space for exploration of the potential of photography in inter-disciplinary enquiry and practice.

Paul Nash, Landscape from a Dream, 1938

As a parenthetic thought, looking at Nash’s work in doing research for this post, there are other resonances with strands of my current work. In Landscape from a Dream (1938), for instance, Nash places frames and art works into the landscape, which is echoed in thoughts about exhibiting my work in non-gallery internal and external spaces, placing art work, and the structures that support it, in the landscape. I’ll follow this up in a future post.

Paul Nash, The Menin Road, 1919

His work held at the Imperial War Museum, for instance The Menin Road (1919), explores the manner in which war scars the landscape, in ways not dissimilar to the impact on the landscape of preparation for the large scale building development.

Interesting that entry to the AOP Student Awards 2020 has to be in one of three categories, people/places/things, that mirrors the long established, but clearly questionable, portraits/landscape/still life distinction considered here.

References

Harris, A., Hollinghurst, A. & Smith, A. 2018. Tacita Dean: Landscape, Portrait, Still Life. London: Royal Academy of Arts.

London Creative Network (LCN) at SPACE Ilford

Lindsey Mendick, Regrets, I’ve Had a Few, SPACE Ilford, 2019

Great to see SPACE Ilford open this weekend. Provided the opportunity to visit the new studios and talk to the artists who have moved in so far. Not much in the way of photography, but some interesting digital media work, with a number of artists in residence working on new projects.

Spoke to people from the London Creative Network (LCN) and have subsequently put in an application for their artist development programme – see statement below. A great opportunity to make links with other local artists and work on development of my practice beyond the MA. Putting the application together provided an opportunity to think about how I frame my current practice and how I might develop my work over the coming years.

Statement

I am a photographic artist, writer, academic and educator exploring the ways in which photography can make a distinctive contribution to inter and multi-disciplinary practice and enquiry. My current work focuses on community engagement with urban regeneration in the outer east London boroughs, through exploration of the entanglement of human activity with the changing built and natural environment. This involves three forms of photography: working with residents’ own images to explore and understand their lived experiences and aspirations, collaborative image-making with community and activist groups for use in advocacy, and my own artistic exploration stemming from a range of local community projects. My practice is post-digital, and I produce images and artefacts using digital, analogue and alternative processes, exploring what is added and subtracted as we move between different forms of production and circulation. This resonates with the increasing quantification of human experience and data driven decision-making (in housing development and employment) and the environmental consequences of the change over time from chemical to digital industries in east London. To date this work has been disseminated through community pop-up exhibitions and group shows, and contributions to publications and archives (for instance, relating to a recent fire on a local estate).

Benefit

Following a career in education, I have returned to an earlier interest in photography (which began at the age of four as a child model). I will shortly complete an MA in Photography. My artistic work is currently subsidised by other forms of income. The LCN programme will help me transition to a primary focus on artistic work, and enable me to develop a financially, ethically and artistically sustainable plan for developing my practice.

I have lived in Ilford for the past 20 years. I am committed to development of the community, and have, for instance, served as a governor of local schools and colleges. I am excited about the developments at SPACE and potential for the arts to play a part in the revitalisation of the town and borough. My current work focuses on estates in Barking: having seen how developers exploit artistic work and that arts funding often fails to engage residents meaningfully, I am interested in developing alternative funding models for community focused art.

My primary motivation is to learn. I also hope that my experience and expertise can benefit others in the network, at a time when inter-generational understanding and collaboration is vitally important.

Reflection on Week 10 Tutorial

The purpose of the tutorial was to take stock and set a clear direction for production of the FMP outcomes. Whilst the individual projects are moving forward, I want to allow them to take their own course (with their own timescales) and to view them as a resource for my over-riding (clearly defined) FMP project, which by necessity has to be completed by May 2020. The diversity and complexity of the projects provides a rich set of possibilities in terms of the focus for the project. The challenge at this point in time is to clearly define the direction and outcomes of the project.

We discussed possible over-arching themes for the FMP project. The relationship between the natural and built environment and human activity (and, in particular, the ‘pushing back’ of the natural environment against human exploitation) appears to have most potential (for instance, in relation to the history of flooding of the marshland on which the Thames View, Thames Reach and Riverside estates are built, the recent fire on Riverside, the destruction of trees on the Gascoigne Estate, the pollution of land in the area by the coal-fired power station and other industrial units and so forth). This can be addressed through collaboration with selected participants in the micro-projects, and will involve archival work, environmental portraits, quotations, sound recordings, personal and official documents, photographs of the natural and built environment and of human activity relating to the place, developer and other images of current and future building, including CGIs. The work could focus on something like eight themes spanning both inter-twined environmental and human concerns (for instance, flood, fire, infestation, environment damage, mental health, migration, communication, isolation). Each theme could have a collaborator/informant, and would include material relating to their life world, trajectory and aspirations. The work could be presented as a multi-modal installation (see earlier discussion of the work of Edmund Clark and Janet Lawrence, for instance). The aim would be to invoke a sense of the relationships being explored, not a literal description. For that reason, and because of the complexity of the relationships, the exhibition (or other output) would not be explicitly themed (which raises the question of how to organise the work – do, for instance, I cluster the the biographical and archival material around the related composite image, what text is used and how, what is the relative scale of the images, and so on).

Specific issues raised in the tutorial:

  • I should use a sketchbook for exploration of both the images to be made and the layout of exhibitions and other public outputs;
  • I could create a zine mock-up or similar for each of the themes/clusters of work, to explore ways of editing, sequencing and presenting the material.
  • think about the ways in which the images will be presented, and experiment with alternatives (for instance, the use of projection). Need to take care over costs. Might think about a website, and other ways of creating resources for the online submission of the the final project.
  • of the exhibition spaces explored, the Warehouse looks most promising in terms of flexibility. Another possibility is the new block at Barking and Dagenham College, where the Photography programme is housed, and which is in the process of being fitted out and occupied. There are a number of places where a temporary exhibition might be possible.
Barking and Dagenham College, D Block.
Barking and Dagenham College, D Block.
  • check out work by Noemie Goudal (I saw her work in London last year). Particularly interesting is the scale of the work, and the use of frameworks and other structures for display. Her website includes lots of installation shots and is a good source of ideas.
Noemie Goudal, Satellite II, 2013
Noemie Goudal, Fotografiska, Stockholm, 2018
Noemie Goudal, Exhibition View, Station VI, Fotofestival Lodz, 2017
Noemie Goudal, Southern Light Stations, Installation View, Hayward Gallery, 2017
  • make more environmental images. Look at Gillian Wearing’s remaking of Durer’s weed paintings (for the video work Crowd, 2012) in relation to the exploration of plants and boundaries along Footpath 47.
Gillian Wearing, from Crowd (colour video for monitor 15 minutes, loop), 2012
  • explore portraiture further. I am doing this as part of the work with the TWCP Citizen Action Group.