More outings for the work

 

This weekend I shared the current edit of the work with two groups; on Saturday with the Thames Valley Group and on Sunday with Forum, a print group I set up over a decade ago.

For both groups I wanted the viewers to have individual experiences of the work, not a coupled sharing where two or more viewers looked at the work at the same time. Similarly I wanted any discussion on the work to take place after the work had been reviewed by all of each group.

Overall I am pleased that most, if not all, of the viewers found in the work an emotional response, but more than that, it evoked differing responses as much as their individual experiences with their own fathers had been. I had contextualized the work similarly in each case, saying only that the work deals with the on-going relationship I have with my deceased father.

There was common accord with readers in evoking memories of their relationships with their fathers, I am very pleased with that, and whilst the TVG spent some time discussing the text, both as a pacing element as much as contextualising the narrative – both as a positive and negative reading of that relationship – it was Forum who also inquired about the artefacts as much as the text. I wonder if it is because of their practiced craft of printing that distinguished the different aesthetics of artefacts over landscapes; inquiring about the deliberate setting of both. I had made that decision, to image the artefacts coldly; full tone renditions and holding nothing back in terms of information. Whereas the landscapes are all muted, deliberately ambiguous, withholding evidence for the viewer.

Additionally the Forum group focused on the interruptive effect of the artefacts, the use of the jewellery to interrupt the flow – add punctuation – and to introduce ‘him’ to the conversation “it is your father”.

One thing that did concern me was one of the texts. Both the groups had at least one viewer discuss that the text about the ha’penny provided a nuanced vision of my father, something that “I had wanted to portray” about him and to some extent, according to one viewer it presented a sentimental narrative – something I hadn’t either expected or craved. I will consider very carefully about editing this text/removing or replacing it.

Advertisements

Thoughts on presentation

envelope2c2

In her commentary on my final assignment for BoW Wendy, my tutor, suggested I reflect on the presentation modes I have used and am thinking of. When I completed Assignment Five I presented the edit in a cardboard box that I half covered in brown paper and utilised ribbons to lift the work and present it to the viewer. And it was in this boxed form that I took the next edit to the Family Ties Event at the Glasgow School of Art presentation and whilst I provided some thoughts on presentation in my accompanying note for Assignment Five, it was suggested that I make it more explicit.

The image above (and below) show the envelopes that I produced as part of the FTN event, they were to accompany the full edit in the cardboard box. I decided to adopt this strategy as I wasn’t sure of the space or environs at the event. I had five envelopes, each labelled with an Episode number; 1 through 5. Viewers to my work engaged in both the box of prints and the envelopes – I was concerned at one stage whether they were focussing on the envelopes only! I had selected sub-edits, that I termed episodic narratives and included a set format of prints, texts and artefacts into each envelope.

Whilst there is no specific temporal narrative in the work as a whole, viewers seemed keen to develop one in the order 1 to 5, which I found interesting; Wendy noted how it emphasised the mutability of memory, which is a theme of my work and my dissertation. However I will settle on a box for the assessment and I am working with someone, who has greater carpentry skills than I, to design and make a box intended to present the images to their best advantage.

 

Envelope1c2

The envelopes worked, but not as I had expected and it was a useful exercise in presentation.

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.

 

 

claspc2 copper studc2 ring4c2 ring3c2 ring1c2 ring 2c2 necklacec2 cufflinks2c2 cufflinks1c2 ring5c2 ring6c2 ring7c2 ring8c2 scalec2 stud1c2 stud2c2 studsc2 studs3c2 studs2c2 stud7c2 stud6c2 stud5c2 stud4c2

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

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 

Purgatory exhibition

 

The exhibition space at the South Street Gallery allows for two A4 size paper inserts. One is expected to describe the work – some kind of artist statement – and the other with pricing and contact information. I have decided to be guided on the statement by the Churchill exhibition staff, so about half of the words in the statement belong to them, this relinquishing of editorial control comes after the episode at the Nuffield where some of the work was required to be taken down. The staff had contacted me about the notion of Purgatory – not wanting it to be ‘morbid’ – and it is for that reason that I have included an excerpt from a OS pathfinder map to ‘situate’ it as a physical presence, though I do reflect on it’s psychological ‘space’.