Assignment Five reworked.

I’ve said all I want to say about PowerPoint presentations. My tutor suggested some changes to the presentation. I have decided to stop all the animations and transitions and make it a static presentation. I have written up my text (it was in manuscript format in my note book – so at least it will be readable now, whether it will, be comprehensible will be for others to decide

Assignment five 2 reworked

The link the original is here

 

The Gaze

The more I look the less I see; perhaps this is the nature of research? The more I see the more it reveals of the depth there is in the subject that I have yet to illuminate. The notion of feminism as an idea expressed though art, and maybe more specifically through a visual art medium has more hurdles, pot-holes and potential cul-de-sacs than any other subject I have considered. And these impediments in the flow of travel of knowledge have many roots, my own gender of course will provide a crucial limitation. The level of conversation entered into by women into this subject has been surprisingly (and to my mind, woefully so) limited. I have tried to engage with over a hundred women, all of whom I thought might have something to say on the subject of feminism, let alone feminist art and have had very few conversations.

The Way Home  reprinted by kind permission of the artist Tom Hunter

The Way Home
reprinted by kind permission of the artist Tom Hunter

One area with very little engagement was the area of ‘Gaze’. Berger covers it in ‘Ways of Seeing’ by writing “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” suggesting that from the Renaissance women have been portrayed as idealised visions, something that Laura Mulvey discusses further in ‘Visual pleasure and narrative cinema’. However I found very little on the concept of the female gaze. Male gaze, in a patriarchal society, has had a privileged position, but the  idea of it’s counterpart in women seemed only to present itself, to any great extent, in lesbian texts – that of Tee Corinne for example and others – which was also concerned with the female form. I was therefore interested to discover Karolin Klüppel whose work seems to address this notion head on.

Ontario, reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Ontario, reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Hunter, in his work, has often re-presented what are deemed to ‘high-art’ paintings and situated them amongst the ‘people’, those of the Hackney area where he lives, the strip clubs, pubs and has suggested that for many men -those that do not go to galleries or have access to the ready cash to commission works of art for ‘private viewing’ – the only way to see a woman, to gaze at a women, is to frequent these places. The ‘places’ of course continue to perpetuate the to position of women as subjects of Male gaze (and more),  Klüppel replaces the woman with the man and flips the objectifier to the object.

Pirus: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Pirus: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Klüppel doesn’t flinch with the notion of female gaze “…also another aspect, taking place outside oft the visual dimension of her work: contrary to the traditional depiction of the female nude, which was produced in the history of art mostly by the male artist, and is mainly the male gaze exposed the viewer, stands in this case behind this sexualized male image as a creator a woman.” from her website.

Leda, Paul Delvaux - Tate

Leda, Paul Delvaux – Tate

Arlet: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Arlet: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

These are objects presented as much for the delight of the viewer as ever Cranach’s images of ‘Eve’ disporting her genitalia for the onanistic pleasure of it’s commissioner. We are invited to consider these as objects of pleasure (the series was I think part of her final years project of her degree), I think the irony works in a different way to Hunter’s because of the ‘flipped’ roles, as she says on the press release for the work: “.. Her photographs do not only question the familiar structures of perception and stereotypes, but also succeeds an ironic revaluation and updating of certain motifs, which are transported into the present and with the distance to tradition she captures, in an amusing manner, the nature of the human condition of the presence.

In 2013 she was awarded a residency in India and discovered a remote community where the society is structured matrilineally and has produced a body of work called ‘Mädchenland’ The artist has decided to provide me some text to underpin that work which I suspect could well be an interesting context to support it, I am looking forward to that.

 

Feminism

The fifth assignment calls for a ‘PowerPoint’ presentation on any of the genre’s in the course, I have taken a little time to decide on what subject, but have come down on Feminism. I have been interested to explore this genre for some time and perhaps because perversely, most of what I have heard has been rather negative to the notion of feminism and feminist art – a term that itself apparently has connotations to the opposite extreme for some.

However I feel a slight antipathy for the means of communication.

I distinctly remember my first presentation, to somewhat over 100 electronic engineers that I felt, despite being able to call myself one and the same, knew more about the subject – Cmos and bipolar mixed signal silicon design – than I. However I felt that I had had a good grounding in performance for prior to that first presentation I had been designing integrated circuits in Texas Instruments; a company sure of it’s place as the premier supplier of integrated circuits worldwide and steeped in the machismo of late 1970’s and early ’80’s corporate, so clear about it’s destiny that any thought of allowing a female voice above that of Operator (machine) would have been a sure sign of weakness. Weakness, or any evidence of it, wasn’t tolerated in anyone who thought of climbing the ladder. Bravado, machismo and bullshit were the order of the day and the development of the ‘presentation’ was one of the measures by which the size of your balls were tested. Every three months came the P&L review and all the lead engineers, together with their teams, presented to the MD. The start of the proceedings usually began at least a month prior to the event, the ‘back-up’ slides (on acetate) would start to be sketched out and junior engineers would be given the task to print them out, draw them, research for them. The actual presentation would be limited to about twenty slides, usually less – however the back-up slides could be unlimited and it was the back-ups that reflected the virility of the presenter. It wasn’t unusual to see anything up to five hundred supplementary slides. You want an answer – it will be there.

Without Software these presentations would often not hang together aesthetically, similar data would be required but it would be delivered in a range of colours/styles and often (if not always) in manuscript form. The entry into the automated office of personal computers, most notably Apples, allowed the introduction of what later became PowerPoint to provide that standard, the ‘gold’ standard, well to all intents and purposes the only presentation software which has found its way from California in the late 80’s to probably most companies with an ambition to ‘communicate’. The ppt. is a male dominated sport. The ppt. ‘jockeys’ are both revered and reviled almost in equal measure from one department to another; the size of the file is one of the defining characteristics of the medium as much as the slide count and the image source material, the presentation animation, the feature set, the transitions, the template. I suspect the I will need to have ‘impact’, but maybe I’ll try and soften the piece and provide more of a pinkish tone.

I need to check whether I film myself delivering the prevention, or whether the presentation will be delivered from a file embedded in a blog-post, either way the missing ingredient is an audience. A presentation is best served to someone – an audience, there would be no point in the ‘back-ups’ if there were no-one to question/query. Slides are static devices, despite the introduction of animations of various sorts, slides are digital – on or off – the progression of the narrative on the slide will inexorably roll-on until it ‘flips’ to the next one and without an audience to interrupt it’s flow and develop the narrative it is essentially, a dumb waiter whether adorned with video or audio. I need to check this with my tutor and then just get on with it.

I have found the research into feminism quite contrary. My initial forays at the beginning of the course yielded very little engagement, most women I spoke to had either discounted it’s value to them or condemned them (the feminists) as either out of date or meaningless. The recent discussions I have had with other artists have developed my thoughts, but it has been my personal research, books, articles that have started to shape a fuller understanding both about the nature of feminism – which I suspect I had a natural affinity for (though it now appears rather roughly hewn), about the nature of feminist art. I have trod very carefully into this genre, for I have no doubt that I am institutionally sexist, that despite my being surrounded by women seemingly all my life and instinctively feeling a great deal of empathy for their cause, my perspective is coloured by a society that is as structurally sexist today (and some may say more so) that it was a generation or two ago. That the twenty first century’s opportunity base for women in the west is being challenged in a way that the first second and third wave feminists could not have foreseen. The the expressions of artists wanting  to explore this phenomena of status equivalence are finding it both more and more difficult to become heard and less and less easy to combat economically structured barriers to that engagement. The odds seem stacked against them, but the more I research the more I feel the need for them to be heard becomes greater.

Art in Oxford

Art

This is a piece of Art

Last week I went to three exhibitions in Oxford. The first was to the O3 Gallery where they have an exhibition entitled ‘Fashion Stories’ – part of ‘Oxford Fashion Week’, the blurb goes on to say “An exhibition of photography that showcases fashion in an unexpected setting and which, in various ways, can challenge our conceptions about fashion.
The way we present ourselves to the world tells a story. A story about how we see ourselves, how we want others to see and how we feel. Oxford Fashion Week presents an exhibition of photography and sculpture that invites the viewer to journey into that story.

I think ten photographers, each with one print. Two of those photographers were women, none of the models were women; one of the women photographers had an image which seemed to proudly state that her model was a thirteen year old who was made to look fully sexually mature. I asked the Gallery for an explanation, I was referred to the Director of Oxford Fashion Weeks – who they felt sure would come back to me. I’m still waiting and somewhat incredulous that the Gallery had no comment to make on the subject.

Moving on to Modern Art Oxford which had two artist’s work: Hannah Rickards and Roelof Louw.

Louw has exhibited at MAO before – in 1969 – and his “Pyramid (Soul City) (1967) has been remounted for this exhibition. It consists ”  ... of 6000 oranges in a pyramid and invites viewers to take a piece of fruit, until, eventually they disappear.” The orange above is an image I made of the orange that I took from the exhibit. “He envisaged visitors participating in the work, “serially changing its order, all the time“.

I asked one of the museum staff to pose by the oranges and indicate the height she thought the pyramid of oranges had been. I was told that the oranges are periodically cycled (within the confines of the wooden base) in order that they remain fresh. I was reminded of Jason Evans whose exhibitions had ‘giveaways’, that he wanted the viewers of his work to take something of that work with them. I’m not sure that Louw had the same intention, but I shall consume the orange. It will be recycled. The work will be disseminated.

Hannah Rickards work was complex and varied. 

And whilst Louw’s work was orange tinted, colour was also very important to Rickards’ work, at least inasmuch as it seemed to anchor a good deal of it. There were six pieces of work on the gallery floor. If art relies, to a greater or lesser extent on the senses, then these pieces all seem to want to relate to those senses in a particularly singular way.  One part of the gallery space was given over to green. The skylights and windows were covered in a green gel, the prints had green ink:

green1c2

Green wallc2

Green floorc2

Green2c2This last image depicts the outer of one of the two video installations that I found particularly interesting: Inside were two large screens each with a video projection of conversations between different people on what they remembered about some images they had been invited to view and then respond to, I think, some questions unheard or unseen. These responses all seemed to discuss narrative; how the viewers, there were eight or nine of them, would try and interpret what they remembered of the images they had seen, wanting to fill in the ‘gaps’ of their comprehension – make the images make sense. These people weren’t artists, they didn’t possess the vernacular of the artist, but they were able to describe what it was they thought they remembered and tried to make sense of it. This seemed interesting to me in the work I have been doing on ‘Light‘, how narratives will be developed independently by the historical perspective of the viewer, something I’m also researching with “The Open Work” by Umberto Eco.

The work at Art Jericho was a show by Kim Shaw. Of all the work I saw on the day this set of images had the most beauty about it. Monochrome images printed with great dexterity and craft using a variety of camera mediums, but sticking with film these images were a joy to look at. However they did seem to me to be ‘pretty pictures’. I have nothing against ‘pretty pictures’ and their prices ranged from £500 up to £1500 each – though there were some smaller reproductions around £200 each. Whether these images are just a paean to the physicality of the medium of film image making I’m not sure, but they didn’t go any deeper than that for me. I was glad that these images were the last I saw and not the ‘new way to see ourselves’ that the O3 gallery was mounting. If I thought this was how I looked, if I thought this was the way we, as a society was trending towards, than I think we are plummeting in a downward spiral.

Harry and Eleanor

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Harry Callahan is one of those ‘people’ in the history of photography, a name synonymous with the art and craft of it all and associated with the development of the medium as an art form. Teaching at the Chicago Institute before moving on to the Rhode Island school he will have met and worked with some the major luminaries of the world of photography. So it was with a sense of excitement that I ventured up to the fourth floor of the Tate Modern to see a display of his work and a sizeable selection of his work at that. This show, extracted from the relatively few images he printed, seemed somewhat eclectic, with no great theme holding them together – though as I went to the Tate primarily to view Richard Hamilton’s huge retrospective, it’s degrees of variation paled by comparison.

The first image I saw: ‘ Vogue Collage’ had me somewhat excited as I saw it as an image of representation, no doubt it was, hundreds of female portraits, culled, I presume, from the the pages of Vogue magazine and collaged for the male gaze, representing not only our (the male’s) traditional view of the other, but also perhaps questioning it; flooding the viewer’s senses with images of ‘beautiful’ women, from an archetypical purveyor of capitalism’s view of women’s own representation of women. These were passive representations of women

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Vogue Collage circa 1956 printed 1990 – 9 printed on aluminium                             Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

and I am there now in the frame as a silent observer. My initial excitement waned considerably though as I moved into the exhibition rooms. This may be in part because of what’s in my mind currently, what it is that I’m concerning myself with, in this course, and that is the representation of women, feminism and photography’s part in it all.

Callahan’s work on the white walls here disappointed me. The prints were, by and large, very beautiful, he was a more than accomplished printer and the influence of Ansel Adams was very clear to see:

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

There were a lot of these passive, flaccid works of nature, skilfully exposed and printed in exquisitely described warm tones of ‘nature’, the ‘great outdoors’ and I had a deal of fun re-toning them to re-present them here in similar tones. That Callahan left almost no notes of his practice or contemporaneous thoughts left me wondering why these images and not others – though what others might be included I’m not sure. I could find no sense of narrative, there seemed to be almost no contextual structuring to the show. And so to Eleanor:

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

Reproduced by kind permission of the gallery

There is a room dedicated to his wife, and I suppose muse, Eleanor. The portraits/studies were from a large selection that Callahan made of his wife for over twenty years; nude and clothed, inside and outside (in the world and hidden from it). Eleanor comes as part of the package, to know Harry as a photographer is to know Eleanor, she is there. And what I got from this work is that whilst she was there she was there for him; again skating on what may be the thin ice of comprehension of female representation, I found that all of the images of Eleanor were based on the premise of submissive passivity. Whilst the image above of the light touching her nude form, which spoke to me off my own recent work about light,  Eleanor seemed to be portrayed as an expression of Callahan’s position of dominance, facing away from the lens. The power equation never seemed to balance, Eleanor seemed mute in these images. I couldn’t discern any sense of the person within expressing a sense of their own person through the images. This sense of submission was there even in the fully clothed portraits. I fully accept that my ‘reading’ of these images is a product of my own concerns and prejudices. I watched ‘Bailey’s Stardust’ (was there ever such an attempt to lionise oneself by the deliberate exclusion of a name to present oneself as a name – well not until ‘Rankin’ I suppose) recently about the ‘blockbuster at the NPG where he has a wall of a couple of his wives – ‘it’s good share‘ – was how he described why he would want to display nude studies of his current and previous spouses. As Tom Hunter expressed about the ‘sexist pig’ in an interview with Robert Elms recently – ‘we can’t judge them by today’s moral compass‘. Why not? I wouldn’t bracket Callahan with Bailey as I don’t think Callahan had as many chips on his shoulders as Bailey, but I wasn’t sure about why we needed to see these images, the show was eclectic as it was without Eleanor or perhaps without Eleanor Callahan wasn’t half the person that he was with her and to describe him without her wouldn’t tell half the story.