Reflection: Using Image and Text

My work doesn't have any kind of political agenda or a narrative. I would go as far to say that my work for BoW was borne out of a diverse group of influences such as street art, sculpture, Bauhaus and East Asian art. It brings together physical and meditative acts as discussed by David Campany in his essay Physical Space, Image Space, Psychical Space (2018). But it has also contextually evolved through the academic theory I have read, and reflected upon during this module.

It is also fair to conclude that if I was not theoretically challenged I may have continued to pursue the safer ground of photographing the Asian landscape through a graphical, Western minimalist eye.

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Reflection: Sequencing

Admittedly I might be treading on old ground by referring to Richard Serra, James Turrell and in a photographic context, Hiroshi Sugimoto, however I do regard it relevant to see how there work, sculptural and photographic are sequenced. Having written about site-specificity regarding sculpture and its influence on my practice, I also have the books at hand to reflect on the layouts based on a new point of focus.

Since my work is not based of narrative, I think surveys and monographs are more relevant publications to explore. Monographs in general are not narratively sequenced, but more often divided into series.

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Reflection: Levels of meaning

In my previous assignment I recognised the use of A4 paper as a symbol of standardisation in framing my shadowgram abstractions of light and shadow. The connotations being that standardisation is a part of human desire to organise and simplify the processes of work, play, etc. The rhetoric I have been pursuing in my BoW with formations is the importance of gaps/intervals/pauses in the arrangement of works to provide a physical space that can psychically engage the viewer (Campany, 2018) to ‘read between the lines’ and form his/her own opinion on the subject of representation. Representation is a burden (Tagg, 1988) on the image and image maker which as Douglas Crimp says “…can never be fulfilled, insofar as the original is always deferred.” (Crimp, 1993, p.111). I believe that in providing this ‘psychic space’ in my site-specific work I am working towards easing the burden on the image maker to be conclusive, definitive, not to sell a way of seeing to the viewer, but to facilitate a discussion based on shared experience of the image.

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Reflection: The Emperors New Clothes

For this exercise I am going to use the example of Bloomberg & Chanarin. As they represent much of what I have been exploring more in Part 2. Namely confronting art or artists that initially aggravate me. When reflecting earlier on the examples from the genre Conceptual Photography, I saw the response of Sean O’Hagan, art critic for The Guardian and Observer to B&C’s work The Day Nobody Died (see fig. 1.). Like O’Hagan my threshold for self-righteous grandstanding was crossed when I learned the concept behind the work. Writing later in The Guardian, he sums it up perfectly saying “The phrase "when viewed from the right perspective" is crucial here, suggesting that there is only one "right perspective" – their own.” (O’Hagan, 2011).

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Reflection: Accidents

When first engaging with BoW I spent a day playing around with the absolute basics of photography, light itself. I had a macro adapter connected to my camera and passed light through a prism. Getting up close with a home-made colour spectrum was fun. Later on when I returned to my desk I had left the live view function on the camera where I could see the abstraction below. I aligned the camera more centrally and took a few frames. What engaged me was that all of the elements in frame are what we would call white. The shadows, the walls, window frame, blind and paper lamp.

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Reflection: The Frank Album and Thomas Ruff's JPEG

I have a sense of ambivalence to The Frank Album. I am not particularly against the use and reuse of image sharing on the internet. For studies I frequently do so myself, referencing other artists work to articulate or support my points. However I am not seeking profit from this, as in keeping with current copyright laws I am referencing for academic and personal purpose. This is the area I find problematic.

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Reflection: Genre hopping

I regard genres as a starting point of expectation. But perhaps the specific use of genre as a concept is in a historical context, to acknowledge what has come before. In a similar sense to citations and references, it is a self-awareness for the artist and subsequently the spectator that works of art one has created have origins from elsewhere. In having established a genre it helps to know that the work of art is a continuum of a point of view that has been crafted or explored before in order to expand the spectrum of possibilities.

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Reflection: Conceptual photography

My interpretation of the genre terminology 'conceptual photography' is that of an artistic theory that acts as a framework to which a photograph (or series of) adheres to. Conceptual frameworks have at heart the desire to explore singular ideas; be it to subvert an existing theory or to illustrate a new one. This is in contrast to the desire in other genres to pursue or create narratives. The theory underpins everything and takes precedence over craft and story. Positives for conceptual photography include the evolution of ideas and helps to distill them into a into a concise format to explore, essentially setting ones own boundaries. Conversely it can be perceived as displaced from daily life and narcissistic. Conceptual photography can also court controversy in striving for attention or deliberate provocation. Its place in art history coincides with photography increasingly entering the museum place and thus falls into the realm of "...the machinery of art history and museology,” (Crimp, 1993, p.107). This creates an elitist or hierarchical view that the concepts need intelligence to be understood.

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Reflection: Psychogeography

During my previous module, Documentary 2, the general consensus was to dispense with the notion of an 'objective' discourse and to focus on a more holistic method of analysis. Not only would the artist influence the outcome, but also the circumstances and conditions (such as budget, time, restriction, etc.) around the body of work. This is where I would regard photography to be more aligned with design than art. Psychogeography is something I have used in my practice professionally and academically. During Documentary 2 I utilised being in Japan to reference the Provoke aesthetic for one assignment. While in (a muslim country) Malaysia, I participated in Ramadan and documented the experience. In terms of both conception and execution psychogeography played a major role.

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Allan Sekula: Reading an Archive - Photography between Labour and Capital

It was evident early on in Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital that Allan Sekula was in opposition to Richard Howells assertion in Visual Culture that photography benefits from dualism. Sekula believes that “…dualism haunts photography, lending a certain goofy inconsistency to most commonplace assertions about the medium.” (Sekula, 1999, p.190). Going so far as to say that if photography can be regarded as both art and science, then it can also be said that it is neither. Is this because it is occupying the centre ground of the art/science spectrum? 

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Richard Howells: Visual Culture

Reading Visual Culture created an interesting double challenge at this stage. Unlike the previous essays Howells spends a lot of it going over the history of photography before explaining his point. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it creates a lapses in engagement before its purpose becomes apparent. He explains the inclusion saying “With the proliferation of cameras and consumer photography today, it may be difficult to imagine a world without photographs.” (Howells, 2011, p.188). This is undoubtedly true and it is hard to contextualise the reactions to imagery over 100 years ago. 

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Roland Barthes: The Rhetoric of the Image

Similarly to Camera Lucida (1980). Roland Barthes combines methodical analysis and a primary case study in The Rhetoric of the Image that creates a template structure to apply to reading any image. From a personal point of view I enjoy this analytical approach as it resonates with my way of contextualising. What undermines this for me is the illegibility at times of never ending sentences and random digressions. In defence of Barthes, his work is translated into English (which brings its own causalities) but perhaps that does underline the point. All linguistics, images carry cultural context which is not universally clear. That said, I cannot deny that the text is densely rich, it just lacks fibre to digest it more naturally.

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Douglas Crimp: The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism

So firstly I find Douglas Crimp to be an digestible writer that I can follow. It is not laborious to read his text. The fascinating thing about On The Museum’s Ruins is that it has three contemporary resonances to me and my practice.

  1. As a continuum from Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on ‘aura’.

  2. In the displacement of traditional aura in contemporary performance art and sculpture (an area of declared interest of mine).

  3. The role of the museum.

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Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Walter Benjamin states in the first lines of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that anything that is man made is reproducible. Therefore the concern in photography is nothing new. For me photography itself is perhaps guilty of misrepresentation and even mis-translation. The word itself photos (light) and graphe (literal meaning representation by means of lines or drawing) is often referred to as ‘painting with light’. Being seen as a replacement to painting, presented as an objective medium, thus deeming it superior, caused perhaps unnecessary resistance to its utility. Benjamin acknowledges that the process of photography came after other reproducible mediums such as wood engraving, etching and the lithograph. And it is perhaps here that photography could be more accurately compared.

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