Assignment four reflections post feedback

Images (as opposed to the images of texts):

Landscapes are working, the size is fine and work within the context of the work.

Artifacts: the placement and the scaling of the objects need to be refined. The current variability in the printed page is incoherent and the scale makes them more difficult to ‘read’. Maybe central, although critical to the work is the impression of emotional ‘distance’. Life size is just too small – maybe workshop, or test other presentations to gauge how to develop a stronger visual strategy. “Play with scale” and have a consistent (probably centralized) depiction. Suggestion to look at the work of Raphaël Dallaporta.

Texts: Critical area for consideration. Overall the diversity of the texts created an overdeveloped richness in the narrative which confuses and misleads the viewer. The inconsistency of the sources is perhaps at the heart of these criticisms, whilst the placing of the texts on the page also added to it. The suggestion would be to research a body of work that I might use: suggestions were temporal – a relevant subject from one time to another, or topical. The use of one personal text could be developed into multiple. Either way, refining the source is vital for the work.

A suggestion to present this work at an informal session at the next Family Ties Network in Glasgow, in November, was suggested. Wendy has already opened the way by mentioning the work – though not sharing it – with Dr. Nicky Bird one of the principle organisers of the group.

Responses:

I’m pleased that the scale of the landscape images are working, and that the imagery seems to be as well. No suggestion was made to alter the image edit/sequence – though I think it is implicit that that is a significant possibility after more work is done on the artifacts and texts, which are in need of a lot of work. I will continue to work in Purgatory to look for more imagery and expect to rework the sequencing on a regular basis. No comment was made on the sequencing strategy, perhaps I should find a way to gauge it’s validity?

I am also less concerned with the artifacts, I agree that the placing of the imagery is vital and will look at scale. I’ll discuss with the archivist that I spoke to from the Ashmolean as to placement etc. Wendy said something about scratches, wear &c. on the objects, about how important/significant they are. I will think about that as my concern is critical distance between those items that were his, and which are now, by legacy, mine.

As regards the texts, I think I need to re-think the whole strategy. Texts are vital to the work, they bring context and possibly direction, but the ‘scattergun’ approach I had employed, which tried to weave ‘absence’ ‘love’ ‘paternalism’ &c., did not succeed. I have a notion that I will revert to very personal recollections.

I am now in conversation with Dr. Nicky Bird about an informal ‘New Voices” presentation at the forthcoming FTN event in November. Excited and daunted.

 

 

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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:

5.10.15

 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,

Best,

John

Curating the evidence

As advised by Chris from the Ashmolean in Oxford, having a ruler to describe the size of an artefact is part of an archivist’s standard process when cataloguing finds. I have made composites of various items and created images of single items as if they were evidence. I have spent some time to try and ensure that the scale is correct – although their depiction is clearly different. The number of items left of him become, seemingly fewer. These objects are a selection of a very few personal possessions of my father after he died some years ago.

The next stage is to sequence the landscapes, artefacts and texts into a ‘tighter edit’ for assignment four. The scales can clearly be seen to be different on these images, but I’m interested to see what, if any reaction, people might have to the scaling – is larger more effective than smaller?

 

re-photographing what’s left

 

 

 

I have spent the afternoon in make-shift studio (the builder we have in at the moment has commandeered where I would normally go!). A few of these objects will need tweaking to resolve the discrepancies between colour temperature and brightness &c. Overall I am quite pleased with the consistency. Thinking about this now, the paper choice will be important as I want to have the flexibility to place these objects on a page on their own but aligned to a landscape. The ruler might be used to provide a scale – not entirely sure about that yet.

My next assignment (4) will be to edit the landscape images,  these objects and the texts that I have collected in a sequenced edit. My thoughts are that the landscape images from Purgatory won’t be very large – perhaps no bigger than A5. I want these objects though to be near ‘life-size’ – which, when they are presented next to the landscapes, will introduce a dynamic to do with scale, and maybe the ‘real’. I need to find more texts.

 

 

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They fuck you up

A little while ago I met up with John, he had been to the exhibition at the South Street Gallery and had commissioned a print – unframed and unmounted. He has been a support for my work and has several prints of mine which he only buys as described – I wonder where he stores them. John and I chatted about a few things, I think he misses conversation as he wife is now in care-home to which he visits every day, and he seemed genuinely interested in my work, how I had contextualised it and how I have envisaged it as a body of work – at Oxford John had had tutorials by JRR Tolkien and was at school with Tolkien’s son Christopher, I mention this to situate his place in time and space.

When I collaborated with John in making a self portrait he provided me with a file of 36 images of his books, which I then mixed with an image of him, I was very pleased with the outcome and so when I received another email from him recently with some literary references for my work I was thrilled but not surprised.

There were three ‘father and son’ references which came to mind, but none of them involve physical violence. The motivation for all of them seems to me much more trivial than what you appear to have in mind, but you might, nevertheless, be able to make use of quotations from them.

The first is a memoir aptly enough entitled “Father and Son” by Edmund Gosse. It was published in 1907 and is an account of the battle of wills between an a Victorian scientist/academic and his son on the role of religious belief in life. It is written from the viewpoint of the son and the father emerges from the book as a sort of monster determined to impose his own extreme religious bigotry on his offspring. It is a literary classic and once you have adjusted to the somewhat dated style of writing, well worth the read. It may well contain quoteable passages for your purpose. It should be readily available from the library, but, if not, you are welcome to make use of my copy.
My second author is John Betjeman. There are references dotted around his poems to the strained relationship which developed between him and  his father. It stemmed from his adolescent refusal to follow in his father’s footsteps as the director of the family business.
     Fourth generation, John – they’ll look to you…………
     I was a poet. That was why I failed……………………..
     Black waves of hate went racing round the room.
     My gorge was stuck with undigested toast.
     And did this woman once adore this man?
     And did he love her for her form and face?
     I drew my arm across my eyes to hide
     The horror in them at the wicked thoughts.
These are quotations from Summoned by Bells, chapters 2 and 8, which deal mainly with his estrangement from his father.
My last literary reference is to Philip Larkin’s poem “This Be The Verse” (They fuck you up, your mum and dad).
It is a pretty obvious quote, but if it is apt for your purpose I see no reason why you should not use it. It is a wildly over-the-top response to Larkin’s feelings of embarrassment about his parents. In actual life he recognised their virtues as much as their deficiencies and respected them both.
Best wishes
John”
The weather has been too nice to wander to Purgatory and I’m hoping it will deteriorate soon; but I continue to walk around my home and purposefully take a camera with me. John’s references are of a specific time and place, though Larkin’s fuller text seems as apposite as any I’ve read:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
This summer’s determination to make imagery and follow the course I’ve set for the course I am undertaking is still holding. Though the news that Sharon is moving on will likely test that resolve. Good luck Sharon and my best wishes for wherever you land. Pretty pictures….

 

Fathers and Sons

 

‘I ought to tell you, I . . . idolise my son . . . but I dare not show my feelings before him, because he doesn’t like it. He is averse to every kind of demonstration of feeling; many people even find fault with him for such firmness of character, and regard it as a proof of pride or lack of feeling, but men like him ought not to be judged by the common standard, ought they? And here, for example, many another fellow in his place would have been a constant drag on his parents; but he, would you believe it? has never from the day he was born taken a farthing more than he could help,..’ ‘Fathers and Sons’, Ivan Turgenev

more evidence

Collecting evidence. There isn’t a lot more, but I wanted to start to build technique on depth of focus and posing. Colour temperature is still an issue, but not insurmountable, i may have to wait for a completely cloudless day as I’m using daylight at present. I could use a soft box source which would make it much easier, but I’m unsure and I’m not sure why I’m unsure. Perhaps something to do with truth.

 

All that’s left of him

“I remember my dad taking me to school, when I was very young, when my mother was ill.

The feel of his huge hand wrapped around mine, rough and hard and warm.

The length of his strides, and having to run to keep up.

The very cold days when he’d wrap his scarf around my face until it almost covered my eyes, and when I breathed in I could smell him in my mouth, damp cigarettes and boot wax and the same smell as his hair when he said goodnight.

I remember how safe I felt, wrapped up like that, blinded.”

“if nobody speaks of remarkable things” John McGregor.

” I just did the objects as we moved and packed them at the Ash (Ashmolean), tiny things to large quern stones, with a photographic stand etc, most of them turned out okay, but they were for record purposes only, not studio type photos.  And the light was not always good, the sun came across the roof so we got shiny bits on the photos.  For arch (archive?) objects we always do the back and front if appropriate, ie coins. Obviously as close up as possible to see the detail, but avoiding unfocusing. I also used small bits of plastozote (firm foam type material) to hold small objects like rings if I wanted to photo the front, (the intaglio or jewel in the centre), otherwise the photos would see the rings or such objects on their sides if not held in place..” Christine E, retired archivist Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The colour temperature isn’t matched, the scale is slightly different – but I suspect it is, like most things, about practice and I shall continue to do so. I wanted to start with his signet ring. It was cut, along with another ring, from his fingers. Signet rings are about identity, usually engraved with initials, I can only see the slightest possibility of an identifier. What I see clearly is a very thin band covered in evidences of work.

More on fictions

It is an invented memory that is exhausting me, and which I cannot liberate myself from. For this reason, I will uncover some parts of my archive, hoping that – by making it public – I can get rid of this weight. This will be my attempt to destroy a memory that doesn’t know how to erase itself.

Rabin Mroue, text for the performance ‘Make Me Stop Smoking’.

It’s all a fiction

In my early work I pretended to speak about my childhood, yet my real childhood had disappeared. I have lied about it so often that I no longer have a real memory of this time, and my childhood has become for me some kind of universal childhood, not a real one.  – Christian Boltanski

___________________________________

“I keep looking for him.

I think I always will.”

from “Inventing my Fatherby Diana Markosian