Reflection: Consolidating the Shadowgram strategy

After aborting a repeat of the experiment of the new strategy for two days due to poor weather, the light conditions briefly improved on the third morning. There is only a one hour window for the light to project on the same wall. To progress the experiment I left the print from the previous session on the wall and waited for the light-shadow to project over it.

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At this stage it needs to be outlined that this is not an exact science experiment. So I am not specifically looking to synchronise the image times. I'm taking inspiration from science and sacred sites aligning to the sun, along the Skyspace concept of James Turrell. On a philosophical level I am reflecting on Zen, Taoism and Junichirō Tanizaki.

The function of the camera to act as a memory recorder is something I find interesting as the layers build up. As the camera measures the exposure for the new image, the previous image retreats into shadow. At what point would the original image disappear and the 'memory' be lost in the shadows? This made me reflect on the ofrendas, which are part of the rituals in the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). In the motion picture Coco (Unkrich, 2017) the dead are remembered so long as their picture remains displayed. This thought of memory and image being so closely linked is something I find engaging, albeit one that Camera Lucida (Barthes, 1980/2000) has previously explored.

My second reflection is how the shadows are enriched when layers build up. There is a familiarity in the subtle shadow tones of the background in my series of bamboo and brings me back to Tanizaki's words: “The cleanliness of what can be seen only calls up the more clearly thoughts of what cannot be seen.” (Tanizaki, 1933/2001, p.11). Oddly enough, Tanizaki was talking here about the Japanese toilet, but as the running theme of In Praise of Shadows suggests, one might look at the band of white while others will enjoy the subtle variances of the dark.

The shadowgram also dispenses with a signifying object, in this case bamboo, stripping the image down to its most simple state.


References

Barthes, R (1980/2000) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Barthes, R. (1999) ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’. In: Evans and Hall (ed.) Visual Culture: A Reader. London: Sage. pp 33-40

Tanizaki, J (1933/2001) In Praise of Shadows. London: Vintage.