Assignment Four

And the wheel turns. It’s been a reflective day; I have posted my assignment four to my new tutor and, as usual, feel a little loss at it’s departing. Earlier today I found out that someone I was quite close to in my adolescence died five years ago.

There are things that I might change in the assignment, but I decided to deliberately let it go because I want the feedback to help to inform me about how the work is being read. It is purposefully as ‘open’ as I thought I could allow. I have had some feedback from a video I made, which shows a static representation, and I was very glad to receive it – the video also has certain issues. I also made this video to illustrate how the box might be opened.

I hadn’t been in contact with the friend who died of cancer, we had gone our separate ways and clearly neither of us felt compelled to keep or get back in contact. However the passing has had an effect and I think it is because it was five years ago, and I never knew. And I have a sense that I am to blame for not knowing, curious about my feelings and perhaps a little foolish.

I have also injected some energy into the studies by enrolling on SYP, this happened yesterday. I had wanted to enroll earlier but I think the timing is right and I have the same tutor as for the last two assignments for BoW. I had ‘known’ how my work was going to be presented at the end of ‘SYP’ for a while now, but in an initial conversation with my new tutor I mentioned that I have become aware and perhaps, at an initial stage, involved with Family Ties Network, a loose organization of artists and academics making work around the subject of ‘Family’. The next meeting is in November and I pan to go along. I expressed a lofty ambition to perhaps present my work there – it will certainly need to be developed from where it is at present – but the idea is starting to germinate that this could be the way I take the work to the ‘world’.

I encountered my friend’s family on-line today, raising money and awareness around cancer in the name of their lost loved one; and so I started to wonder the worth of my introspection in light of real loss and the catastrophes that surround untimely departure. Perhaps I just internalize it and move on, add it to the canon of experience for future reference.

My notes accompanying the submission are here:


 Dear Wendy,

Please find Assignment Four Body of Work: 

I came to a decision about the direction of this work a month or so back, and whilst the changes in tutor have been a distraction, it was about committing to the work and to complete an edit, this edit – far more difficult than I first imagined. Nevertheless here are my thoughts to accompany it:

The landscape imagery/s are still vested in my psychological response to the space called Purgatory. With very little graphic editing – none for the most part in terms of what I found in the viewfinder – these photographs depict what I felt as I have wandered the Purgatory landscape. I suspect I will continue to walk there and make more work as I close this part of the course and move towards the end of my studies.

The artifacts, that were my father’s, I have tried to make representations of them as if they were archaeological finds. I took advice from and archivist who recently retired from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and presented them as if they had no personal connection. I wanted to try and create a distance between what they are and what they might connote.

Similarly the texts – which have been researched from literature on the subject, largely, of father son relationships (though not all) are meant to ask questions of the viewer. The vexatious quality of the texts, if it works, will test whether the relationship between father and son and, son and father, is healthy or otherwise. I have references for the texts, but wanted to test the idea before imparting them as I feel it might ‘lead’ the viewer.

The editing process was, I felt, always going to be the most challenging. I didn’t want to ‘lead’ the viewer through the work, I wanted the viewer to develop emotional responses to the work, and if it worked well, for those emotions to be varied and mixed. The difficulty in that purpose was to not make it too diverse and obviously conflicting – it is this that I think I need to do more work on. Having the context of my father’s personal effects – all that is left of him – clearly brings a very personal note to the work, but within the work itself I wanted the viewer to be able to transcend that notion and engage with their own personal narratives.

I edited on various levels; there were visual harmonies – landscape number two and then the necklace for example, the darkness of the black stone in the ring echoed with the dark hedge row of it’s previous image &c. The visual aesthetics of the landscape imagery I think is consistent – subdued with, what I hope, is a sense of ambivalence – as compared to the artifacts which are quite contrasty, which tends to suggest to me a didactic quality which I suspect is important aspect of historical evidence. The intervention of the texts was decided upon after the image series was concluded in the main – I made one alteration. The texts were placed where they appealed to me, which I suppose denotes my meta-narrative.

I am aware that with this presentation I am controlling, to an extent, the narrative flow, much as a video I have made of it – I will publish a link to it later – and whilst I harbour some concerns about that control, it is because I currently envisage a book publication for SYP that I wanted to test this strategy out. An alternative would be a gallery exhibition, however in that case I would want to reconsider the placement of both text/image, and possibly artifact in a physical form. The idea of presenting at FTN though does seem a really interesting potential for this project…..

Overall I am pleased with this assignment. However whilst I begin to consider the final assignment I do not anticipate this form of presentation to be how I will finish the work for BoW, let alone SYP.

I look forward to discussing this with you,




20 thoughts on “Assignment Four

  1. I am sure you have already looked at it, but both Todd Hido and Christian Patterson allow themselves to create very different installation in galleries about works which are initially designed to be photobooks.
    For example, what they both did separately at the Transformer Station in Cleveland shows the type of liberty they take, like including new works, objects, re-sequencing, creating collage, working sometimes in radical different ways.

  2. Slow, poignant, the lighter colours and mist adding to the sense of memories unfolding. The pace of the video is just about right.
    I have some of my father’s small personal possessions so it was originally a shock to see the box, cuff links and the gold chain – they brought back such sad memories of losing him.
    I know you had a different relationship with your father but it shows how ‘open’ these personal object s can be, particularly when presented in a ‘forensic’ fashion.
    Wishing you well if you do decide to present the work at the FTN meeting – it will certainly be a different form of presentation.
    Opening the box. Is that the box containing the objects, the book, or the memories – or all of them?

  3. I like the video a lot… The phrase ‘I keep looking for him, I think I always will’ is haunting… In places I would have liked more space to dwell on the thoughts stimulated by the texts and as such I might have preferred more time with a single contemplative image rather than a flow from one image to the next. I also wondered if there might be too much text on some of the slides. I felt rushed trying to read through the longer sections. In book format where I the reader would be in control the situation would be quite different. I could deal with a flow of images and longer texts in my own time. I had thought that the disjuncture between the personal items (what is left of him) and the landscapes might jar….it did not. I found myself continuing and developing my train of thought set up by the texts and facilitated by the landscape images….if that makes sense.

    • Thanks for the comments Keith, much appreciated. I tried a number of edits with regards to timing (after the sequencing was done) and the text images were all edited to be varying lengths dependent on content. And of course you are right that a physical manifestation would enable the reader much more flexibility. But I’m glad you were taken with that particular text as it proves to me that it is inherently Open.
      Looking forward to next week.

  4. This feels like a big stride forward from where you were a few weeks ago, John; you must (and should) feel some sense of satisfaction with that. The quality of the effort that you have put into selection, sequencing, presentation – of both images and text – comes through strongly, and I like it (though I sense that you will ultimately be ‘happier’ with something that leaves more scope for the viewer/readers’ contemplation than is possible with a video; understandably). I have a similar response, personally, to the one I’ve expressed before – that I don’t get the sense of resonance that I/you might expect from a viewer – and I’ve thought about it before commenting, reaching the conclusion that it has far more to do with me than with the work – trully! One aspect of that (though not the only one – my own personality/experience has much to do with it as well, of course) is that, because I know the work is very personal to you, I can’t seem to get past that in ‘reading’ it. That isn’t your fault, or the works, or mine I suppose, but it might inform future presentation in some way as you take the work forward; which is why I’m making this comment. I repeat that I like it, that it ‘works’, that it is a high quality piece of work with which you should be pleased, and I can also sense that you will go on developing/extending it. I hope this has come across as positively as I have intended! 🙂

    • I’m happy if you get any reaction! It is of course an autobiographical piece, but I hope I have – or at least in the process of – made something that people will enter into. It was the personal that impelled me, of course; what happens after it leaves me is not something I can or want to control. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Just looked at this in preparation for our Google hang out later this morning John. As I said before – I am a last minute person! I think the addition of the personal effects – the remnants of him – and the text all transform the work completely and to my mind make it a much more personal narrative. I did wonder about the text panels, some had quotation marks and some didn’t. Some feel like text from a book, although they could be your voice too, and some don’t. I can see that it would be tricky with the longer captions and timing. The first long text that appeared had me rushing to read it before it disappeared and when it didn’t disappear I was checking to see if the video had frozen. Of course that would not be an issue in either book or installation/ exhibition format. Its a really strong, personal piece of work and I will be revisiting it again.

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