Reflections on Tutor report, the Calendar, Barthes and advertising

Suffering?

Suffering?

In his introductory essay to the Phaidon 55 Joan Fontcuberta issue, Christian Caujolle cites the artist, who had spent some years in Marketing, describing advertisements as “…designed to provoke desire, then the ‘consumption reflex’ in those who look at them…”

The company calendar, that is the output for this assignment, has been synonymous with the development of consumerism since the industrial revolution and the advent of the machine age. The brief requests the photographer not to ‘focus’ on the product and my choice of a ‘support group’ within the auspices on the NHS certainly fitted the bill. The ‘product’, if that is how it might be described, is that of support through difficult periods to both patient and their partner/carers. There are no logo’s for either the Group or the umbrella organization that provides the service. So all in all I realized that I had pulled away from a lot of the assignment requirements as much as I thought I could, and, though I explained it to my tutor I had largely positive remarks in response to it.

I have been working this group for much of the time during this course and my tutor is concerned that this may be affecting my judgment as I seem to be prioritizing it over developing a broader photographic base. I fully accept that view and can sympathize with that perspective, and given only this courses assignments as a view I might well come up with that conclusion. So I will not use my work with the group for the final pieces on the course, despite having a less of a concern in that respect. One of the principal academic areas in this module was the notions of Barthes from Camera Lucida and also Semiotics from Saussure, and whilst I have done quite a bit of research in those areas in Level one and in the other Level two course Documentary, I haven’t detailed any thoughts in this course and my tutor thought it might be a good idea to remedy that by looking, and critiquing some of the images I used in this submission, to see how well I thought they carried the ‘message’ that I wanted to convey. I will come to that.

The ride on public transport is an opportunity for thought and reflection, and sometimes the odd encounter that helps to provoke more thought. Returning to the ‘Park & Ride’ car park on the lower deck of the bus I noticed some reading material on the floor under the seat in front of me. And whilst this isn’t something I think I would normally do I picked it up and started to consider what I found. The front-cover of the magazine was a search for two answers to two questions and it is to this image that I want to first consider, in relation to both the module I have been working on, the assignment brief and response from my tutor and then perhaps to where I have travelled to thus far.

Thinking about the semiotic values of the main image. Maybe half of the image area is taken up with a woman with her arms around a young child, the older woman is looking off to her right whilst the child on her left is looking toward the face of the woman – their eyes do not meet. Behind and to the right of these subjects is a scene of devastation, directly above the girl can be seen crumbling buildings, rubble covers the middle ground between the subjects and the edifice in the distance that still has smoke pouring from it. To their right is what appears to be the burn-out wreck of a car and even closer is, seemingly, bullet ridden metal sheets, perhaps another vehicle, perhaps a shelter, it is difficult to discern. The text is white and emblazoned in white on the dark clothing of the woman, capitalized and sequenced in two sentances: WHY SO MUCH SUFFERING? WHEN WILL IT END? The words ‘suffering’ and ‘end’ are ‘boldened’ as if to amplify their meaning.

What does all this denote? Well we have a woman, whose demeanour  is of a carer, probably a mother to the younger girl, the idiom of ‘Madonna and child’ would be difficult not to connote. The woman isn’t looking at the child; she is perhaps searching for an answer, a solution to their current predicament; again we might connect this to Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ similarly looking distantly to her left. The text is a call for help, the child’s demeanour and expression echoes and amplifies that plaintiff call. The connotation is one of a forlorn hope.

The crumbling and devastated landscape that is in the process of enveloping them is mirrored in their dirty faces, they have survived whatever has befallen the land – at least so far, we might denote that they have with force of character; the will and the luck to be where they are. Can I connote that they have been chosen to be so lucky so far?

Both the subjects aren’t dressed shabbily, their hair is still shiny and clean, they are clearly still healthy and nourished – a little wind blown perhaps – but their faces are full, they appear in most instances to be healthy. We might connote that they could have lost their way? Or perhaps been caught up in something, a natural disaster perhaps, a war zone?

Looking closely around the head of the woman there can be clearly seen a bright ring surrounding her, demarking her from the crumbling of the building to her left and merging with the brighter light of the sky to her right. I wonder whether this might be a fortuitous or purposeful development of the Madonna theme by the photographer either in the framing or perhaps in post processing.

I notice also that it’s a square image, I find that interesting in that not many photographers take a square format camera to either a battle scene or a disaster scene, they are too cumbersome. Digital imagery is important for a number of reasons, the capture quantity is huge when compared to film (of course it could be a digital square format, but they are normally associated with art based or studio based work and this is very definitely in the reportage idiom), the speed of operation is a very distinct advantage, the ‘connectivity’ to the mediums which use this type of image makes it much easier to connect with. So this is tending to suggest that this image has been cropped, most likely to focus the gaze on the woman and child situated in this disaster zone. The picture editor has probably cropped this image, troubling perhaps but not disturbingly so.

The tones of the image are muted, nothing distinguishes this as an exaltant image in any way. It places the narrative of these two surviving females in the context of extant disaster very clearly. Denoting that these two are in some peril, all about them is cataclysm of almost biblical proportions, there appears no rest-bite from our perspective from impending and enveloping jeopardy.

In Barthesian terms these are all ‘Studiums’ and semiotic responses to the image. Whether contrived (staged/posed) this image impels the viewer to consider the plight of the subjects. Connoting and denoting with visual triggers to what are in the main, sociological conditioned responses.

The ‘lead’ subject is a white woman – much as Lange’s ‘Mother’ was, posing the rhetorical question, would it be less of a ‘story’ if the character was a male, or a dark skinned male or perhaps a hijab wearing middle eastern lady? But then I go back to the image, where it is situated, what the assignment is. It is a photograph on the front cover of a magazine found on an Oxford city bus. It is also an enticement to covet the answer held between the covers.

So what about the ‘Punctum’, that response to an image that Barthes describes as “..that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).” That personal response to an image that is probably not seen when first encountering the image, but because the image stirred a ‘Studium’ response meant that the eye dwelt and in doing so discerned a puzzle, posed a question, disturbed the continuity – or however it made itself manifest forcing the arrival of the ‘prick’. Barthes describes it as a personal response, to which of course my ‘Punctum’ is mine alone, no other has trod my path. There are though multiple ‘Punctums’ in this image for me, and most have been situated by the title of the publication, which associated with the text puts this in a very clearly defined place. I am though concerned a trifle with the lighting; above and to the main subject’s left is a large light source, high enough not to register in the eyes beneath a very furrowed brow, but catch her shoulder, open enough to catch the young girl’s nose and forehead and almost rim-lighting her beseeching profile. This divine light is despite the gloom everywhere else; a break in the clouds perhaps to shine a light on these two survivors I suspect this is a staged shot and probably a composite, there is no photographer attribution inside the magazine.

The “Watchtower” is an organ of the Jehova’s Witness and is not for sale, this image was almost all of the front cover – I redacted the banner title. My research into disaster photography has led me to undertake some interviews with charity organisations that specialize in ‘relief’, namely ‘Oxfam’ and ‘Pump-Aid’. Their view was that imagery needs to be sensitively nuanced to elicit attention, to engender compassion for the cause and, as Fontcuberta states provoke the ‘consumption reflex’; to not portray the people as ‘victims’ in a hopeless cause – why would you want to donate to a hopeless cause? How does that relate to a magazine whose sole purpose is the recruit new affiliates to its own cause? By providing answers, the texts within the magazine spell out very clearly that within their bible are the answers to all these problems, I won’t describe or quote from them but rather stay focused on the comprehension of the image. Charities, fund raisers, and religions are all in competition both with each other for funds and across the spectrum. The charities I spoke to are very aware of the competitive nature of their place in the consumer milieu. They appreciate that they need to attract donators who are prepared to give money, that their good-work is more important to the donators than any other good-work-doers. The images that are chosen by those charities are carefully selected under very clearly defined rules, which do not denote ‘victim’, do not denote ‘helpless’, but rather independence under difficult circumstances. The Oxfam person suggested that religious charities tend not to adhere to these sort of notions, that the ‘lost’ are often featured. This image and others that are used in connection with relief from strife and suffering are then advertisements, designed to induce desire (the desire to help), to satiate the viewer’s desire to ‘come to the aid’ of these victims, whether hopeful or however hopeless.

As Barthes deliberated, as much as his ‘Punctum’ is what bruises him, my ‘Punctumis all mine and mine alone; informed by who I am and what critical referencing I have or am bereft of; I denote and connote in a sphere of my own consciousness and a lifetime less interesting than most. But so are others similarly informed, the marketing person isn’t wholly interested in the connotations, the primary motivation is in adherence to the image for however long is needed to implant the seed of desire. The Company Calendar has used many forms to attract itself to it’s market, Pirelli offers this as it’s current ‘cause to desire’. Some might suggest that it is still in the ‘dark-ages’ in it’s approach, however it would not present such a product without the conviction that it will continue to ‘cause the desire’ and the ‘compulsion to consume’. These decisions are base decisions, much as the Jehova’s Witness considers it a straightforward choice to offer redemption and deliverance guided by the depiction of a Madonna in flight from a Sodom and Gomorra landscape to, perhaps an Edenic deliverance. It works because they use its visual narrative, if it didn’t work they wouldn’t. Pirelli still uses passive women in overtly sexual poses for exactly the same reason. Marketing and Sales works. The first rule of the advert is to obtain attention; the second rule is to obtain attention of the target audience. ‘Punctum’ may do the rest. The passive bare breasted, posterior exposing female implores the ‘Studium” response to any who consider themselves in the bracket that Pirelli want to talk to, the audience provides the vernacular response dwelling long enough to want to be associated and remember the ‘brand’ the next time they are in ‘Quick Fit’. Others, who seek ‘answers’, might feel inquisitive enough to satiate that yearning with a visit to a congregation and ‘support’ them there. From an image perspective I see no difference in the two intents, the liminal and subliminal content have the same narrative, their reliances on the Barthesian observations are coincidental as all images have the capacity to provide overt and covert, purposeful and un-purposed narratives, its just that advertisements are all determined constructs designed purposely to invoke reaction, form associations and deliver that desired instinct.

As a photographic artist the desire to invoke reaction is perhaps only concerned with developing the notion of a constructed ‘Studium’, the composure, the narrative structure, the contextual referencing which are left within the frame to develop the discourse between creator and spectator. Forming a basis for intercourse between those two parties have different bases from which to launch any conversation. Brent Stirton’s continual drive to ‘go one better’ in the presentation of images to win prizes is part of that capitalist drive that is no different in moral turpitude than that of Pirelli or the Watchtower, they all want us to part with cash, or perhaps cash is the driving force behind the click of the shutter release. To review one’s own work from a disinterested perspective, to attempt to derive the ‘Punctum’ from the frame is, I would venture to suggest, difficult for as an artist, the content of the frame is a construct. What is it that drives the need for this level of subtlety in this sort of image from Stirton? And the direct connection from all the base desires on display in this frame collide with mine, and that is of course cash. The detritus surrounding the supplier and receiver in Stirton’s image situates them in the fringes, the ‘Edgelands’, of Kiev and of a society coming to terms with both capitalism and political upheaval. Cash is the stimulus and the encumbrance of these two and also the ‘Punctum’ that binds them together.

From session one

From session one

But to attempt the task bidden by my tutor it is the nails that I didn’t notice in the girl tenderly nurturing the ‘nest’ that she is constructing that might provide the ‘Punctive’ element; I didn’t notice it when I asked her to pose in that way, the ‘Studium’ was an attempt to deliver that nurturing element, both as a means by which the spectator might connote that this child had a depth to her despite her difficulties. That it finds her in this group, but also reflecting that the group is a nurturing facility to its users; a mirror to her place in the group/society. Those few nails that have the sense of toil, of exertion, of struggle perhaps.

From session two

From session two

And equally in this image of a boy masking himself which offers both the ‘Studium’ as the means by which to engage the viewer, the careful handling of the clay, and then as the ‘Punctum’ by the masking of the boy to anonymise him in a society that has less and less regard for individuals who can’t, for whatever reason, contribute and conform to those norms that Pirelli would feel easier in.

This chap who is full of joy at the surface level, enjoying the pieces and interaction with others in the group, whilst the subliminal question might be to ask why, what has led him, this apparently healthy and alert person to be with this group? I might ask the question, its joyous facade for me is pregnant with association as I have a knowledge, not a complete knowledge but a vested comprehension of what underpins his activity and presence. The viewer will denote I am fairly hopeful of his rapture, but maybe not any sense of grace.

These generations huddled in consideration of a common subject, in a common place with a common cause, we denote those characteristics of the image, we might also denote the inclusiveness of the group based on gender, race and age – all subjects equally valued in the frame and respected as such. We might also connote the active participants are the two on the left of the image, both with writing implements, both expressing are in active control, whilst the elder two are more reflective and receptive in this instant of capture.

Fontcuberta’s posit regarding advertising is one that I have a great deal of sympathy for. The notion of action/reaction is a visual paradigm going back to the dawn of the industrial age, the means by which the image could be replicated as embedded into the capitalist construct. My images in this ‘calendar’ were never intended to solicit emotive responses similar in intent to those of the Watchtower/Pirelli or Stirton. In the images my intent was to inform, to add to the discussion about the value of existence for those in the group, not to have judgment made about whom was a clinical user or a volunteer or clinical professional.

And finally, I fully appreciate that the descriptive potency of these words has permitted a transformation of interpretive comprehension on all of the images from a disinterested spectator. I hope that I haven’t extinguished whatever value I had vested in these portraits, but I know I have changed them forever.

Assignment four, A Calendar, the submission

Cover option 1

Cover option 1

Cover option 2

Cover option 2

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

After some deliberation (and more to come) here are the final images for the calendar, assignment four. I still have to decide which cover photo to use, I had initially decided on the hands but had, in my mind, the arms reaching up – which would have been fine for a portrait format – so I started to work a new version. I shall discuss all the images as part of the submission.

Background:

I was asked by Artscape to document the Measurers project which started in September and ended late December, this body of work will also inform assignment five, but I chose to select some of the work for a calendar. The assignment brief suggests researching a company and creating a ‘product’ that I can relate to. I discussed this with my tutor and jointly we agreed that I would try and create a calendar that would help to raise awareness of the ‘Echoes Group’, a project that is supported by Artscape – which is itself a charitable organisation providing arts-based therapy and support within the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trusts where I have a contract as a volunteer.

The project that I have been working on with the Group revolves, amongst other things, around the schoolchildren and ‘Users’ of the Echoes Group creating models of inventors who have developed things that each artist would like, supplementing these creations with Haiku verses that broadened the depth of the artworks which ended up in an exhibition at the Oxford University History of Science Museum in Broad Street, Oxford and open to public view. The project was supported in the main by BBC’s Children in Need. I think it was a great project both in terms of outcome for the participants old and young and from my perspective as a burgeoning artist in the community.

Aesthetics etc.

Overall the tones selected for all the images are warm, I deliberately chose to keep the image tones warm and as light as possible, this was difficult on occasions as the available light in the Fusion Arts centre was sometimes quite low – although that helped with providing softer light, the film speed was generally close to or higher than iso1000 with apertures typically around f5.6 or wider. I used only two lenses and one camera for consistency and over the three months probably more than a thousand images (I was aware that I would need images for the next assignment as well!).

Artscape has no logo, it is a small entity and operates only locally, having no great world domination plans, so the typescript choice stems from wanting to provide clear and unambiguous messaging. Fusion Arts and Children in Need logos were taken from their respective web domains – these decisions are similar for option two as well.

I chose texts from various sources to accompany the images and hopefully to both inform and engage, the text colours were taken from the images, I appreciate that this is a risky strategy as the viewer might connote other meanings from the apparent randomness of the colours, however I am hoping that they might be viewed as being sympathetic to the image content and more so if the textual colourings had an anchor in the image.

Cover option 1:

This shot emanates from a desire to try a convey some depth to the work being created. It is a close up of some painting that one of the users was undertaking (a picture of Isembard Brunel) to be used on a print, so the ink was quite thickly applied, I wanted to depict the depth of the ink as a layer in how this image was being created. The focus of the image is I feel on the ink though it is obvious that it is part of a wider image and I want the viewer to inspect the image enabling the text to be considered as part of that viewing.

Cover option 2:

Initially these arms were held at forty five degrees and I ‘saw’ them depicted in an aspirational perspective upright, sublimating the artwork and tool along with it. However the editing process had the perspective in landscape and the only way to incorporate the image is to flip and rotate to this perspective. It is maybe because I had the image fixed as upright that I am unsure of this choice – I will ‘sit on it’ for a short while before deciding which cover shot to use. If I had the ability to have a back cover then I think it would definitely make the cut.

Inside image 1:

Both of these two images suggest engagement. The left hand shot expressed a nurturing sentiment, the artist was shredding paper to make a ‘nest’ and gladly posed for this shot which I envisaged would suggest a caring subtext. The opposite image has a mix of youth and age, old and new and whilst the boy is facing away it is to older people and I think there is a comforting feel about his pose, helped by the ‘jaunty’ feather behind his ear. Feathers were used as markers and writing tools in the craft processes which again pulls some seams together in my view.

Inside image 2:

The boy on the left of the image is masked by his own hands, this provides two functions, firstly to anonymise the artist – important even though the necessary forms for consent have been signed and my Barring Service Check (formerly CRB) have been awarded earlier in the year. The secondary and perhaps more important purpose of the pose is to point to the work, to show the focus of the artist on the work, the narrow depth of field helps to accentuate this. The accompanying image, whilst toning well with also denotes growth and development. This model (of an island of dreams) was made by another user of the Group, but it’s accent on nurture again helps to promote the notion of investment in people.

Inside image 3:

The young girl is depicted happy and content in her creative self, her pleasant disposition is important to the character of the calendar and the image from the University Museum of the History of Science was chosen to suggest both the precision of engineering – hence underlying the measurers concept which was part of the project, but also the sense of two things coming together.

Inside image 4:

Two images from the printing section of the project. The one on the left is an oblique shot of some trees, I purposely made this picture to emphasise the notion of growth, trees are often used for this graphic purpose. It was curious that the artist decided not to create a print positive but to paint with the inks directly onto the final paper, a very positive and determined move on his part. The other image is about joy. The joy of creation and about about the joy of informing. The users were often asked to describe the work they were creating and this artist had been trying to print multi-layered images, and whilst I think he was very successful he wasn’t too impressed by his results. The image ‘roll’ towards one another which also helps the eye.

Inside image 5:

Isenbard Brunel again, with some plans tucked under his arm, cropped and marching out of the frame on some purposeful mission to meet the foursome on the other image. This other image is about inclusion, old and young and in between all working together on the project; there maybe a suggestion that the group is discussing Mr. Brunel, I am unconcerned about that (they weren’t in fact, they were discussing a Dutch painting), but their concentration  and engagement is I think, palpable and depicts the Group’s value to the community very well.

Inside image 6:

Again, another image about nurture and care. The mushroom has been created by one of the users – it was titled a “magic mushroom” and if you managed to sit under it you could wish for better things. The background is a book of Haiku poems that was brought by the lead artist as inspiration and the organic feel of the out of focus cover seems to harmonise quite well. The opposite picture seems to echo the mushroom’s pose quite well I think and they seem to blend quite well in a nurturing and caring atmosphere.

Reflections:

I have really enjoyed my work at the Echoes Group, I had wondered whether I would still be involved post the summer break, but I’m very glad to have been asked to continue with them and, I hope, for the foreseeable future. Advertising is a notion that is fully immersed in the world of commerce, something I know an awful lot about from my career, about how to ‘shift’ people around, to nudge, move or push them into places they either didn’t know about or were decidedly against. Commerce and business isn’t a gentle place. I have been in many meetings where the decisions to implement plans to ‘deliver’ stuff to a market have been backed up with the marketing department’s input, story boarding, ad’ stories, targets etc. It may have been a cottage industry in the ‘Mad-men’ days, today it is an industrial process along with many other processes which are measured in margin gain or loss, cost loadings and direct overhead (that’s workers in ordinary speech) impact (that’s redundancies in ordinary speech). Advertising is just another another process to be reviewed on it’s effectiveness in one board (bored) meeting after another that I’ve attended over many years and it was from that that I wanted to travel as far away from as I could. The tactical marketing department’s function is no worse than any other in business it’s just that I have no desire to re-connect with that function nor to it’s concomitant associates in industry or commerce. I hope to continue my work with the Echoes group and I hope to broaden the scope of my interest within the broader spectrum of Artscape involvements.

As to this project I hope I have achieved the outcomes I set out to deliver. I wanted to depict an aspect of the NHS that many might not be aware of, the integration of people’s that many might fear to be at large in the community – those with mental health problems and children with learning difficulties being represented as more than capable individuals. The ‘loony-bin’ is now, largely through cost reasons, a thing of the past, but people with mental health issues are, in an time when life expectancies are lengthening, on the increase. Integration is how society is being informed these individuals are to be dealt with and I wanted to show, in these few images, that these people have a value, have a place and have a contribution to make. I was pleased to see that BBC Children in need had funded this cross population project, three inner city schools (all from deprived areas in Oxford) and the Echoes Group being brought together with the purpose of creating something new was something I hope I have depicted. The concept of exhibiting user/artist and a piece of work on each sheet helped that process in my view. I tried not to portray any of the creators in a helpless or forlorn way, these people were bright, intelligent and focussed on producing work to their best ability and I didn’t want to let them down, which to me was the overriding objective with my capability of achieving the brief secondary to that task.

I know I could have projected a sadder, lost, hopeless set of images, I inadvertently made a few – which I think has been a good learning exercise – along the way, so I am aware that the underlying narrative is as malleable as the narrator decides and my bias, my convictions underscore the story I have decided to tell, so if I was to improve it would be to amplify the connotative strength of the imagery, which I am also aware is a dangerous device. Maybe a greater sense of detachment, less involvement might improve the documentary value of the piece, but this was a calendar to promote awareness? Or to be more professional about it, as my previous tutor on this course might have suggested – get in quick, get deep and get the the job done. A professional.

A note to end with. It has been agreed to exhibit this work at the Fusion Arts Centre and then afterwards at the permanent artspace at the Warneford Hospital (where I have some previous work on show). I am slightly troubled by this, not overly so, but by agreeing to participate with my work I wonder if any notoriety I may gain from having my work of them on a gallery wall will, to a certain extent, exploit the users. It is something to ponder over.

It is finished now except for the printing, proofing, one decision on the cover and shipping off to my tutor

Decisions

The Echoes Group met for the last time this year at the University History of Science Museum – the oldest purpose built museum in Europe (which probably means the world, it was the original site for what is now the Ashmolean) – to view at a private session the work they had contributed to the project (see above). Not al could make but those that did were impressed with the setting and the way that Helen had curated the pieces. It was a moving moment to see the work sublimated in this way and to see how precious they become once in a ‘gallery’ setting.

Haiku

Haiku

Discussing the work

Discussing the work

Listening to a talk given by the curator of the Museum

Listening to a talk given by the curator of the Museum

 

Getting ready to open the Museum after the private session.

Getting ready to open the Museum after the private session.

It was agreed that Fusion Arts would host an exhibition of the work, Helen will provide some of the prints that were made by the ‘users’ and I will make some prints of both the creators and of the ‘artwork they created – these will likely be combined with the Haiku pieces that were written as part of the process – some sixteen pieces in all – which will determine the number of photographic prints I will need to think about making, some thirty two, but the biggest concern is, as ever, the edit! The exhibition will likely transfer to the Artscape Gallery at the Warneford when it closes at Fusion.

I am wondering whether I could combine the calendar project with the first exhibition, in that the image editing I do might inform the edit for both…… something to think about.

Portraits

This series has been a long time coming. In the end it was a close thing whether I asked for their participation, but these portraits come quite close to what I wanted to achieve. None of the photographs are named, they are all users – though not all the users who attended on this day agreed to be photographed, but all those who did were happy to agree to pose. I had two portraits in mind, the one above that I have chosen and another square on to the camera. I felt I needed to keep the image creation time short, the sensitivity of the process was apparent in my mind, though I am quite prepared to be told that I have overplayed that sensitivity, had these not been users of the Group, then I would have encroached on more of their time. This portrait had the subject looking out of a large window that provided soft light, even in summer this window has that property, so I had envisioned the space. I wanted them to be looking to the light, I wanted them to not be smiling, a couple of the subjects had difficulty in not smiling, and this was to do with them providing a contemplative pose in an attempt to equalise them, to bring them to a similar place before the lens – to not differentiate them as either clinically needy or otherwise. The alternate pose had too much variety in the poses and the sense of artificiality seemed to me to be too evident. The users all work on ‘art’ projects and this portrait session was slotted as and when they/we completed the final piece of the current project, a large communal print:

The final print

The final print

I have been working at the centre now for most of this year. I have had some ups and downs, but mostly ups. I usually have a sense of inspiration after attending these sessions, and whilst I have a strong feeling that I am benefitting significantly from working with this group, the various artists that attend – which is allowing me to build a new network – I am very mindful that I don’t want to appear to be using them. I hope I am now trusted within the group, that I contribute from more than just another pair of hands perspective, that I bring to the group something that benefits both parties and that this final print is a signifier of that spirit of the group; all the users, including me, contributed a piece to the print and we all worked on bringing the piece to a conclusion.

The final print is likely to be included in the exhibition of the project that I have documented to date, the exhibition will be a ‘Group’ show. I will make a lot of prints and perhaps a book and we will include work from the users (both prints, and text). The next few weeks will decide on whether the show will go ahead; the exhibition will probably take three months to put together and it might be a project for the group early next year, or a joint project between Helen and myself to be hosted at Fusion Arts, who appear to be positive about the idea.

Calendar project

 

 

 

 

First downselects and trying out different formats, some with text. I’m not overly happy with either of the formats and whilst I think that some of the individual images are ok I’m unsure of the couplings, much more work to do I think. I have a lot of image resource and have another session with the group next week. In two weeks time we return to the Museum of the History of Science where they have invited us to a private showing of the artwork made in the overall project – the schools and Echoes Group – which will be the final session of the project and of this calendar year. Continue reading

Assignment 4, The Calendar

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

I have to be honest, the prospect of creating a calendar using photographs that might be considered as a vehicle for presenting by a company as a means to promote itself didn’t fill me with any enthusiasm. I wrestled for some time to try and work out ways in which I might subvert the whole process and perhaps myself in the process. I have created, and had printed, calendars before; they sold quite well and had lots of pretty pictures in them, in fact six more than the requirement for this assignment!

From session two

From session two

After some considerable thought, which included a web based face to face conversation with my tutor who thought my idea was potentially sound, I have come up with an idea to use the current project with the Echoes Group as a vehicle for both the calendar and the ‘Oral Presentation’.

At the museum

At the museum

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

Leaving aside the ‘Oral Presentation’ for assignment six, I shall try and develop a set of images that describe some of my feelings that have now rooted from my work in Artscape, and in particular the ‘Echoes Group’ that I volunteer for as part of the contract I have with the NHS.

At the museum

At the museum

The brief for the calendar images require seven images, one for the cover and another six that would be set against two monthly periods in the year. I have discussed this with my tutor and have agreed that I won’t be printing the days/dates on my artwork – though I will try and use the Artscape logo which I feel will be very straightforward to obtain and include, though what it will add to the series I’m not sure.

From session one

From session one

At the museum

At the museum

The current project I am working on at the Group is called ‘The Measurers’ and involves three inner city schools as well as the ‘users’ of the Group. The participants have had talks from one of the University museums – The Museum of the history of Science and have visited the museum to gain some inspiration before developing some artwork. The participants were asked to make a piece that illustrates an invention they would like see. I have been asked to ‘document’ the project with an aim to either put on an exhibition sometime in the New Year (the project has been running since early September and will run until the end of the current academic term) or develop a book – and maybe both. So I’m making lots of images, printing them and showing and discussing them with the users and the artist lead who is running the project.

From session one

From session one

A little while after deciding on the subject matter for the calendar it occurred to me that underlying the narrative of ‘The Measurers’ document was another thread about ‘time’. That a calendar is a measure of time seemed to chime very nicely which gave me a renewed confidence that the current project at the Group was an appropriate subject.

My concept at this stage is to place not one, but two images per page as diptychs. The twin images will be contrived to open a dialogue for the viewer to try and maybe interrogate their comprehension of the juxtapositioning of those images. Each diptych will have a ‘user’ and either a piece that has been used as an inspiration (from the Museum or otherwise) or an artwork that has been created in the project. My aim would be for a dialogue to opened by the slight disjuncture of the image, or perhaps by the inclusion of some text. Text was a suggestion from my tutor as I had concerns over the formatting of the twin images – there maybe instance where the coupling might contain a landscape and a portrait pairing which would leave some white space and so, by adding some text (which I think is a real opportunity for me) I can perhaps compensate graphically over the whole of the work.

I am now looking forward to this assignment in a way that I hadn’t expected to.