Reflecting back over the course, this module has finally given me the means to work in my own practice that allows me to make work other than representational images. I have managed to move from representational photography to the abstract with an aim and a reason for doing abstract work.
In the past, I did abstract work because I enjoyed it. I have since come to learn that enjoyment of it is not enough, that one has to be critical about one’s practice and informed. It may be on some level if I am making artwork for myself that I will never show to anyone, however, as I am aiming for the museum and the gallery domains and this means of consumption requires primarily that I understand my own work, that I can communicate to consumers and readers of the work so that they can understand it, and that I am making images for more reasons than just the pure aesthetic of it.
This module was very difficult for me, the ideas and concepts were in my mind but I felt linguistically paralyzed. It is the strangest feeling of not being able to communicate a feeling, however, communication an abstract is not easy. The most important things I learned in this module are: image construction, image farming, and hunting and how symbols are communicated. Just as a symbol has to be culturally learned, so does an abstract image. Red means stop, had to be learned and taught in order for it to become culturally accepted as a color of danger and the color that connotes stop at a traffic light. This is why individual take driving education, in order to learn what symbols mean. Icons are a little different. The image shows enough information for a person to know that the image of a deer crossing a road means that there is wild-life present and caution must be exercised, however, and amber light on a traffic light, has to be taught that it mean caution.
Being able to communicate abstract images by means of connotation and poetry so far has been a good way to do it. This was a direct result of Jeff Wall.
My interest lies in the area of galleries and museums primarily. My background is in cinema, and basically photography might be an extension of my current profession in one way or another, where the work is made then exhibited in the theatre or on TV/Cable/Online.
The main difference between the two mediums is that film is a very crew and cast dependent medium. A film cannot be made on your own, unless an art film. This is the reason I am becoming more attracted to the photographic medium because it there is a direct relationship between myself and the camera. Working in this way is far more enjoyable for me than having to rely on a crew when anything needs to be done.
Also, the public arena for exhibiting films seems to be on the decline, cinemas are closing at a rapid rate, as the consumer watches more and more content on the computer and home video systems. With the gallery and the museum circuit the exhibition spaces are on the rise, with new buildings being constructed older museums like LACMA, is soon going to be completely rebuilt. The new SFMOMA id a very popular museum visited my many individuals throughout the year.
I like public showing of my work, and think that the museum and gallery circuit will have a much longer survival rate than the cinema. I have to take this into consideration. Plus, photography is more of a personal art-form like writing and painting. I do not need anyone besides myself to make art.
Man Ray says it best: “Inwardly, I resented the idea of doing any work, even with only one other person. In the pursuit of pleasure, I was willing to collaborate with one other person.”
This week has been talking more about the AIM of my practice. I had to present a 2 minute engage in discourse about it. I felt that it was a little more co-hesive than it was in the past and gets to the subject matter in relation to the metaphor it represents and how I go about it.
I want to make it simple and connected. Fences = Metaphor for challenges, and using abstraction to overcome challenges by abstracting the fence out of the image. Playing on the adage: ‘out of site, out of mind.’ Remnants of the fence are still visible in the final images, this is partly due to the fact that any problem that exists, is never completely eradicated. The memory of the experience will always remain. However the fence becomes a stepping stone, a building block to move forward, it is no longer a dominant, paralyzing obstacle it once was. This is what the fence symbolizes, it is that faint memory of the challenge that once existed.
I did get some good feedback, so feel good about being on track with the AIM. I have come to realize that the AIM or the INTENT of the work is what gives it the controlled direction it need to go. Two similar shots of Los Angeles look the same but the intent and the context of the images is what separates one from the other, ad if I want to pursue a practice in this direction, these aims have to be clearly defined. My work is heading in the direction of pure aesthetic, so I will see how the AIM changes when that occurs.
This week went went fairly well. Had to prepare an AIM for my practice, presented it to Steph and fellow peers, but felt it was not very clear, or difficult to understand, still needs work.
Finding it difficult to explain the abstract images in terms of mental emotions advice versa. I ordered the book by Alan Trachtenburg, Classic essays on Photography, on film essay recommended by Steph and hopefully once I delve into more criticism it may make things a little more clear.
As the course is progressing, I am finally making the shift from subject matter to subject. I have been working on shifting from the objective to the non-objective (representational to the abstract) This has taken me a year, plus half this module to get to this point in my practice. It has been a very difficult shift. I have always been able to make/create representational as well as abstract images, however, in the past, they were a ‘one off’ and I was caught up in the image making process. (the technical side of it) Now, the image making is linked to my feelings and critical thoughts, in other words, I think about an image, then I go out and make it. (Spiritual side) It’s not a perfect system yet, I still land up with a decisive moment, a lucky or serendipitous flash, luck, as well as other spontaneous moments, however these have become secondary occurrences, or slightly retarded to what the process was a year ago. My critical image making process is now my primary way of working.
The intent of my work is to communicate “Being in the moment” whatever challenges, joys, or disasters come at you. It’s about enlightenment, and how to use it in a practical way in our lives. This concept is as old as the hills, “Be here now.” “Enjoy the journey” “All you have is now” I have lived with these abstracts my whole life, however, over the past year, the application of critical thinking has enabled me to align with my spiritual life with my physical life and to-gether they work synergistically. And I wish to use my series “Fences” as a celebration of this breakthrough. I became spiritually enlightened about six months ago, and critical thinking has been a part of the process to achieve it. Critical thinking is the white collar equivalent of Spiritual Enlightenment. To-gether they seem to re-inforce each other.
Aesthetics, Subject Matter, Technical Approach:
I love aesthetics it is a very powerful attractor. In the past, I liked to look at beautiful art, in all domains, but mainly in: painting, photography, film. Lately, my gaze has shifted. I am beginning to enjoy the making/creating process more. This module has made this shift possible. Up until this time, I have not had the balance between control and loss of control that I have now. I am quite happy to let go, or take charge and sometimes both at the same time. Before it was all take charge, and I felt I was losing 50% power in the creative process but never knew why. However when one learns to let go, it is replaced with something else. I always understood the concept of it, but was not able to put it into practice. Now, I put it into practice.
My subject matter was always contained something objective, something fully recognizable in the real world, transformed into the image. However this module a change has occurred. I am content with the subject matter of ‘Fences’ however, I had no subject, no theme, no connotation in image form, even though I had it as a concept in my mind. (For example the fence as a metaphor.) However the images were still too literal: A picture of a fence, is a picture of a fence, is a picture of a fence!
For the past two weeks, I have been working on a technical way to make abstractions of fence subject matter, and so far it working pretty well. I made 8×10 prints. I took about 30 prints and threw them out to the wind and rain. I went back a few hours later and much to my surprise the images became wonderfully destroyed, the ink began to run, the wind blew it across the pages, as they blew around the yard they become water logged and scratched, and the subject matter of “Fences” began to fade and dissolve into the background. I left some out for a few hours, some for a few days and the rest for the week.
I scooped them up, let them dry, scanned them, and put them through the rack of light-room, and extracted the abstractions of “Fences” that I liked, the images, like Paul Klee had the remembrances of the objective representation, but it was a stretch to see. I just “let go” and the images bounced back in a way I really like.
As I move through the MA, old ideologies are starting to fall away. Regarding novel, unique and one of a kind, as the only means of value is now starting to be questioned. I have always appreciated the unique, and the novel, especially in term of value and interns of dollar value in particular.
The fact that an Andreas Gursky or a Cindy Sherman can command prices of 3 million and up, has always lead me to believe the single great idea, the single great image is the way to go. This is particularly true with painters, more than phtographers. However with sea of images, and particularly the work of Andy Warhol, is bringing the question on “one of a kind” into the light for more examination. His image of ‘Thirty are better than One’ which commanded over 2 million dollars, shows that aesthetics, culture and society can raise the stakes of a work, even if it’s mass produced.
I am leaning that it good to shake up old ideas and systems of ideas every once in a while, and to open up to the complete opposite of what one believes, and their may lie the answer to many art and creative related problems.
As the MA progresses, I am moving from the objective (representational) to the non-objective (abstract) I have been abstracting more and more over the past year and hope by the end of the MA to have abstracted completely. Changing from the importance of the subject matter to the importance of the subject, moving from the denotative to the connotative and from the explicit to the implied.
The look of the work will become very important and feel that it is important for my images to be consumed not only from an aesthetic point of view but from an emotional point of view as well. The transition has not been easy. I have understood this intellectually for a long time, however making the work to show it concretely has been extremely challenging. I do not want to rely on techniques, gimmicks, shock value or other cheap ways of working, I have already done that, and my work felt hollow and deceitful. I felt more like a snake-oil salesman than an artist. However, as the module and the MA progresses, a lot of change is coming about. I have let got of the control of the image and let other forces come into play to shape the work, and it seems to be working.
Cannot say that this weeks tasks and coursework has challenged my practice as much as the week on signs has, however, I will be looking into other visual practices and may incorporate other media in the making or constructing of my images as the module progresses. Will be incorporating elements of design, and other forms to help create the abstractions.
As the week draws to a close, it has once again been very informative as far as the MLO hours have been. Stressing the importance of informing my practice and understanding the module in terms of the learning outcomes. So really enjoying the module as it progresses. Webinar was informative with Michelle. Helped me keep on track with the abstracts. I have a tendency to gravitate back to the objective and the representational, but this week I will not sway back in that direction, keep on moving in the direction of the abstract. Paul was also a great help in keeping me on track. I have an appointment with the curator of the Weston Gallery in Carmel with Richard Gadd, was a little concerned how to present my work in progress, Paul suggested to stay with the abstract. Regardless of the outcome, not sell out with the Zone system prints. It will be tough, so I think I will just go up there with my abstract work present it as WIP and let the cards fall where they may.
Reflecting on the ‘intent’ of my work is an interesting way to look at it. After watching the video’s on the commercial aspect of the photographic domain, I am quite pleased not to be involved in that aspect of it. The business is far to gender and populous control oriented for my liking. However, I think no matter what one’s position in their practice is, some sort of control over the consumer needs to be exercised. Even as an artist, the works, pieces, or products, have to be sold in order to sustain one’s well being, so in the end it is all commercial in one form or another.
My work as an artist, (a word I never used before, but getting braver as I get further along in the MA takes a lot of courage.) involves the mind. I have always been interested in creativity, success, failure, fear, challenges and obstacles with regards to art. What it is, where it comes from, and why it favors some more than others more positively or negatively. I would better have been a psychologist, but have ‘been chosen’ (another enigma) to figure it out through art.
I look at it from a spiritual, epistemological, and an ontological perspective, trying to solve some of the most complex questions we as human beings need to answer. For example, what is success exactly, what is creativity, can it be achieved, earned, or is one born with it, luck, inherited? Is everyone creative? It’s a very scary question, and as yet has not been answered.
With my project ‘Fences’ I am attempting to figure ways to answer some of these questions, and to cross personal creative barriers in my own work and creative live. mOne in particular is moving from realist photography to the abstract. Not necessarily completely abstract, limited only to form or color, but where the image is abstracted enough so that its iconography is challenged.
The problem I am encountering is that they are completely different languages (image and emotions) emotions and abstractions such as fear, love, success, failure can be more easily expressed in words than by image. I am thinking of combining image with text to get my message across. I looked at the work of Kaylynn Deveney, Martha Rosler, and Chris Coekin (who was a guest lecturer this week) who all use text to accompany the image. In Chris Coekin’s series titled “Blind Vision” he has people who he photographed write what annoys them most about what they could not see, they wrote it down and he put it alongside their images. Thus the level of the image id taken to new level. Ironic how the test gives a ‘new vision’ to his images.
I am thinking of using text, I would never have done this before, however in doing research, I see other practitioners using it with great success. Words will never replace experience, however, I think it can bring a viewer closer to understanding what I am attempting to communicate, seemingly unable through image alone.
I have posted an image of one of my fences, and waiting for responses. I do have one so far from: Ella Rivett and she says: “This makes me think of territories – with the wires and the odd shoe – I am sure that this is something to do with drug gangs (I might be wrong however) marking their territory as a warning to others? I have the feeling we are not allowed to go to the other side of the fence and enjoy the sunny countryside?
I find it interesting that she sees the beauty of the other side, and understands this boundary of the fence. Many people perceive it as a physical boundary alone, however the true boundary lies in the mind: warnings, not allowed, which all falls under the umbrella of fear.
A fence is a very simple boundary. This one above can easily be passed through, cut, jumped over, but we don’t do it. The fence itself is a signifier: all boundaries are simple, sometimes even inviting one through a hole cut in it, or a break. I am exploring this signifiers.
Webinar with Michelle, was interesting and insightful this week. Suggested that I stress the physical images of the fence, shoot at night/flash. Look at the works of Todd Hido.
One of the students mentioned that I am using it as an excuse. Which is very interesting to me… because it’s true. It’s time to ‘tear down’ the fence…’mentally.’ It’s time to get rid of the “Fences” in my life, it’s up to me, not to look for the “Hole” or the “Cut” or the “Break” but to destroy it, the question is how?
This week draws to a close even more amazingly. I had a webinar with tutor Paul. Somehow the subject of Adventure Playgrounds surfaces. He tells me about theses places that existed in the UK when he was a kid and there where no rules as to what kids could do. How they used to bash up cars and burn tires and makes fires and totally destroy the place. Then they would build something new. And how he used to climb under the ‘fence’ at night to go play when the place was closed. Fires, burnings, connotes new beginnings, the rise of the phoenix.
The whole aim of this module, is how to figure how to use and apply what we are reading and learning to out own practice: Something clicked about fire and fences with me in Paul’s recount of his experience. He had passed from signifier to signified to referent. As yet I have not experienced the referent, but remain stuck in the realm of the signifier.
This thing about fire interested me, and suddenly it dawned on me that’s the way the fence needs to be destroyed, (a sybolic fence, a mental fence.) The symbolic meaning of destroying by fire goes a long way, from the alchemists, to the modern day smelter, all impurities are removed. Tested by fire.
The end of the week. Been a fantastic week overall. Had a good webinar with Steph to-day giving us a heads up for the coming week on the gaze. For me, this particular module has really got the creative juices flowing, and today, did some experimenting with abstracting my fence series.
The real fence for me is a creative one. Finding a way to extrude the most out of photography without resorting to gimmicks and using other people work on which to build. I have never liked that. Be it appropriation, intertextual, homage, or however it is coated.
There has to be a connection with the transcendent Other and for me, until that day comes I will be trying to convince and persuade my self that nothing is new, that everything is built on something else. For 99% of this I agree, however, I still believe there are instances where the creature and the creator meet: (the doldrums is one area this happens, the shadow another.) That reaching out of Adam to God in the Sistine chapel, is exactly what this is about. There is a desire of a true creative connection with the Divine. The rest is a pale transformation, appropriation, homage, borrowing or theft.