Welcome

I am Michael Millmore and this is my learning blog for the Open College of the Arts course ‘Digital Image and Cuture’.

This is the fifth course I have studied with OCA after ‘The Art of Photography’, ‘Digital Photographic Practice’, ‘Understanding Visual Culture’ and ‘Documentary’.

I am working towards a degree in photography.

Contact: michael497132@oca.ac.uk

Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein (Hatton Gallery, Newcastle)

Roy Lichtenstein is an artist who’s work I feel a great deal of familiarity with despite not knowing a huge amount about him. Lichtenstein was a pioneer of the pop art movement and his most famous work appropriates both the content and aesthetic of the comic book, although he exaggerates and distorts by either enlarging the image to a huge size or cropping to focus on details. I like the way Hal Foster described his work as the “handmade readymade” – a description that both recognises the craft and skill that Lichtenstein put into his paintings and the conceptual underpinning of his practice:

“His work was…not industrially mechanised, but blending careful techniques of handwork (drawing, tracing, painting, emphasising brushstroke, line and Ben-Day dot) with the reproduction and screening of found images.” (Churchwell, 2013)

Two Nudes (1994) Left, Nude Reading (1994) Right

The exhibition features a couple of examples of work from the 1960s that could be classed as typical examples of pop art, but, focuses mainly on his late period work from the 1990s such as the reflection and nudes series’. As well as pop culture, Lichtenstein also applies his signature style to ‘master’ painters – responses to the work of Monet and Picasso are featured in the exhibition. While there is often irony and humour present in Lichtenstein’s work, Livingstone (2019) states that Lichtenstein took great delight in re-imaging familiar works of art. This is something I would definitely agree with, and also something that is present throughout his work – despite the clear way the source material for his paintings is directly on show, there is also a clear creative ‘voice’ present:

“There is never a sense of him trying to deceive the viewer, or of passing off a found image as his own; the pleasure, on the contrary, lies in the affectionate translation of sources clearly identifiable to educated viewers into a composition of graphic clarity and economy that rejects the personal handwriting of brushwork, but that paradoxically could not have emerged from any studio but his own.” (Livingstone, 2019)

Brushstroke (1965)
Explosion (1965-6)

Out of all of the work on show, I found the reflections series the most inspirational. Many of these revisit famous images previously made by Lichtenstein but feature metalised stripes across the composition which disrupt and abstract the image as well as making a comment about mirrors due to the reflective nature of the material. The exhibition notes draw attention to the way the stripes give a sense of depth by emphasising the foreground and background of the pictures which is normally absent in Lichtenstein’s work as it is defined by the deliberate flatness of the compositions. Lichtenstein himself is quoted as saying he made the work as an excuse to make abstract work – a typically light hearted response that does not make the more studied reading any less true.

Reflections on Minerva (1990) Left, Reflections on Conversation (1990) Right
Reflections on Crash (1990)
Reflections on the Scream (1990)
Reflections on Girl (1990)

This exhibition was a revelation to me and is particularly relevant at this moment as thoughts about how I can interpret the brief for assignment 2 is very much on my mind. The brief for this asks that we use archive or readily available images as our starting point – the way Lichtenstein transformed the work he appropriated, particularly the abstraction that is present in the reflections series, could be a way of working I can incorporate myself.

Links:

Bibliography:

Churchwell, S. (2013) Roy Lichtenstein: from heresy to visionary. The Guardian, 23rd February 2013. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/feb/23/roy-lichtenstein-heresy-to-visionary (accessed 7th January 2020)

Fentiman, C. (2019) Review – Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein. Corrridor8. Available at: https://corridor8.co.uk/article/artist-rooms-roy-lichtenstein/ (accessed 5th January 2020)

Livingstone, M. (2019) Pop goes the past. Tate etc. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-27-spring-2013/pop-goes-past (accessed 7th January 2020)

National Galleries Scotland (s.d.) Roy Lichtenstein Learning Resource. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/roy-lichtenstein-learning-resource (accessed 7th January 2020)

The Crack (2019) Art Editorial: The Art of Poise. The Crack Magazine. Available at: https://www.thecrackmagazine.com/view-editorial/6664 (accessed 5th January 2020)

Whetstone, D. (2019) Artist Rooms Roy Lichtenstein at the Hatton Gallery. Only In Newcastle. Available at: https://www.only-in-newcastle.co.uk/blog/artist-rooms-roy-lichtenstein-at-the-hatton-gallery/ (accessed 5th January 2020)

Dinh Q. Lê

The work of Dinh Q. Lê was referenced in my feedback for assignment 1 as being relevant to the work I had produced.

Lê is a Vietnamese artist who works in various media but is best known for applying the grass mat weaving technique that was taught to him by his aunt as a child to produce photographic collages. Lê, his mother and younger sibling, escaped Vietnam in the late 1970s, eventually settling in the US in 1978 after time in a refugee camp in Thailand. Many members of his family were not so fortunate and were either imprisoned or killed for trying to leave. His photo weavings, which often use both Vietnamese and Western war images, can be read as a comment on the duality of his American upbringing and Vietnamese heritage and show a desire to both remember and leave the past behind.

The introductory text from Lê’s exhibition ‘True Journey is Return’ at the San Jose Museum of Art says this about his practice:

“[Lê] explores themes of departure and return, the role of the artist during times of war, and reimagining symbols of American imperialism and recent histories of Vietnam through documentary videos and multichannel cinematic presentations, delicate watercolours and abstract paintings made by his artist/subjects, and architectural structures that compromise thousands of photographs abandoned by families fleeing from the ravages of war. Engaged with other Vietnamese voices and perspectives, Lê reshapes and generates new memories and images of the conflict by giving voice literally and metaphorically to those marginalized by history.”

Luong (2013) observes that identity, memory and history are the concepts that permeate Lê’s work and installations, describing him as an “artist-historian hybrid”. Much of Lê’s work is driven by a desire to preserve first hand knowledge of the Vietnam war – something that he believes the Vietnamese prefer to move on from. The current government also exert strict control on information from the war which often distorts the truth to fit its own version of past events. Tran (2015) sees Lê’s photo weaving technique and choice of source material as the antithesis of the simplistic and one sided narratives about Vietnam:

“the traditional weaving techniques act as a counter to reductionism by valuing ambivalence, being provocative but not judgemental, and both physically and intellectually breaking up the internal cohesion of the journalistic and cinematic gazes.”

Lê’s use of abstarction in his work is commented on by curator Rory Padeken:

“I’m a big fan of abstraction because I think it can speak to may issues, particularly difficult ones like loss, trauma, death. There’s no one image that’s dominating. It’s always in flux, because that’s how memory functions in the human mind.” (Myrow, 2016)

Lê is a fascinating artist and I am glad Wendy made me aware of his work in her feedback for assignment 1. It is frustrating however that he does not have his own website as I suspect there is much about his work I am missing. Lê is clearly driven by a personal desire to understand his personal history as well as explore his identity as a refugee from Vietnam. His desire to do this in a way that refutes the idea that there is a simple narrative is appealing to me as is his use of multimedia and physical presentation in his projects – this is something that can often seem superfluous but is an integral part of understanding Lê’s work.

Mot Coi Di Ve (1998):

The title of this work translates as “spending one’s life trying to find one’s way home” and was borne by Lê’s vain search to find photographs of his family when he returned to live in Vietnam in the 1990s. Unable to locate any, he instead used images of other families he acquired to produce a huge hanging quilt installation. The back of each image has either a literary quote or text taken from interviews with Vietnamese-Americans about the war.

From Vietnam to Hollywood (2003-5):

In this series of photo-tapestries, Lê juxtaposes images by photojournalists with stills from Hollywood films about the Vietnam war resulting in a composite that challenges and confronts fictionalised depictions of the war versus the reality. In an interview, Lê has this to say about his motivation to make the series:

“As a child growing up in Simi Valley, California with the distant memories of a country whose culture and imagery was being fed back to me via mainstream television and film, it was at times difficult to pinpoint which memories were mine or popularly inherited…I chose to return to Vietnam – to determine for myself my own memories and contexts of I was as a Vietnamese.” (Butt, 2010)

The Imaginary Country (2006):

‘The Imaginary Country’ is a three channel video installation which deals with Lê’s recurring concern about how the desires and fears he feels as a refugee from Vietnam is shared as a collective experience. These themes are approached metaphorically with portraits of Vietnamese clam diggers walking into the sea visualising notions of forced departure and dreams of return. (Seikaly, 2016)

Erasure (2011):

Using the same source material used by Lê to create ‘Mot Coi Di Ve’, this multimedia installation scatters the images through a bleak recreation of a shipwreck.

Light and Belief: Voices and Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War (2012):

This installation piece compromises a video documentary which is presented alongside over 100 drawings made by Vietnamese artist-soldiers during the war at moments of rest between battles. Butt (2013) reads the work as an attempt to explore the complex relationship between art, history and society using a methodology that both builds a collective memory and questions the purpose, structure and interpretability of cultural archives while probing the stereotypes generated by popular media and national myth. Myrow (2016) describes the work as simultaneously documentary and fiction – the resulting narratives that are built from the work being as fictional as Hollywood films such as ‘Apocalypse Now’. The the difference however is that these are not fictions from a Western perspective but depictions of how the men and women shown would want to be remembered in the event of the death in war – a genuine, if contested, version of history.

Crossing the Farther Shore (2014):

Video of Dinh Q. Lê discussing ‘Crossing the Farther Shore’ here.

This installation strings together thousands of found vernacular Vietnamese family photographs from the 1940s-1980s into structures that resemble mosquito nets. Seikaly (2016) has this to say about the work:

“Candid snapshots of tourists in front of monuments mingle with baby and wedding and school photos, all portraying relatable everyday events and underscoring the misery through which Vietnamese people lived as the conflict ground on. One armature is constructed of woven images that face inward. The “absent” images are all the more alluring when compared to other structures in which images facing outward and inward are woven together. It’s a visual experience akin to hearing a fragmented conversation; it leaves one wanting more, and the want is never satisfied.”

The Colony (2016):

This video installation explores the trade and colonial history of the guano trade – the practice of mining bird excrement to be used as fertiliser. Lê presents a number of different stories with the overarching theme of the battle for the worlds resources: guano covered islands are filmed by drones with grim evidence of how this was mined in the past being shown through abandoned areas and physical evidence; online footage showing disputes about territorial rights between Chinese and Vietnamese fishing boats are presented in small screens laid on the floor; the work is soundtracked with a cacophony of squawking birds, shouting sailors and arguments between American air crews and Chinese officials.

Links:

Bibliography:

Butt, Z. (2010) Interview with Dinh Q. Le, artist and co-founder of San Art, Ho Chi Minh City. POST: Independent Curators International. Available at: https://curatorsintl.org/posts/interview_with_dinh_q_le_artist_and_co_founder_of_san_art_ho_chi_minh_city [accessed 24th November 2019]

Butt, Z. (2013) Dinh Q. Lê in conversation with Zoe Butt. Guggenheim website. Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/blogs/map/dinh-q-le-in-conversation-with-zoe-butt [accessed 24th November 2019]

Luong, R. (2013) Where I Work: Dinh Q. Lê. ArtAsiaPacific Magazine, Sep/Oct 2013. Available at: http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/85/DinhQLe [accessed 24th November 2019]

Myrow, R. (2016) Dinh Q. Lê and the art of weaving memory. KQED Arts. Availble at: https://www.kqed.org/arts/13850950/dinh-q-le-and-the-art-of-weaving-memory [accessed 24th November 2019]

Searle, A. (2016) Dinh Q Lê: The Colony review – a messy meditation on the Pacific guano trade. The Guardian, 2nd September 2016. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/feb/02/dinh-q-le-the-colony-review-rich-messy-melange-history-technology [accessed 24th November 2019]

Seikaly, R. (2016) Memories shape a possible future in Dinh Q. Lê’s ‘True Journey is Return. KQED Arts. Available at: https://www.kqed.org/arts/13841461/memories-shape-a-possible-future-in-dinh-q-les-true-journey-is-return [accessed 27th December 2019]

Tran, L. J. (2015) Dinh Q. Le’s art of nuanced criticism. The Japan Times, August 4th 2015. Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/08/04/arts/dinh-q-les-art-nuanced-criticism/#.XdrB9C-caFU [accessed 24th November 2015]

Samin Ahmadzadeh

The work of Samin Ahmadzadeh was referred to in my feedback for assignment one as being relevant to the work I had produced.

Samin Ahmadzadeh is an Iranian photographer/artist now based in London. Her practice was initially concerned with street and documentary photography, and was particularly concerned with cultural and sociological matters in Iran. Studying for an MA at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design, Ahmadzadeh was influenced by the work produced fine art students and her practice became more conceptual. She began to create collages from photographs from her family’s archive. Bahadur (2016) makes this observation:

“[Ahmadzadeh’s] objective is to make personal and intimate photographic collections transcend the memorial function and open them for further social, cultural and historical analysis and interpretations.”

Ahmadzadeh uses a technique she describes as ‘photo weaving’ in her collages initially inspired by the idea of multiculturalism and particularly her fathers experience of being both Iranian and going to boarding school in England. Looking at the family archive, she recognised how her fathers identity was informed by both Eastern and Western cultures and wanted to find a way to capture this in a single image:

“With the photo weaving technique, I was able to combine the captured moments that have shaped his persona and identity as a result of being raised in two completely different cultures. Two photographs that represent the different upbringings are shredded and weaved together. With the shredding of the images I recreate the fragmentation of a memory. The two photographs are then combined as a weaving. This final abstracted image can be interpreted as a recall of his unconsciousness being formed through his life experiences in between Eastern and a Western society.” (Made In Mind, s.d.)

Bahadur (2016) has this to say about the work:

“The past appears in a fragmented visual style, much like how we have it stored in our minds. The final artistic products are multi-layered images, each containing a mix of several figures and stories, gently conveying to us the message that one individual is really a composite of many influences and experiences.”

The presentation of the finished work has evolved to the point that creating an interesting object in its own right is a central concern for Ahmadzadeh. Often, the compositions are ‘finished’ by being mounted on wood, varnished and then polished which gives the compositions a permanence and makes them a one of a kind project. (Ahmadzadeh can be seen making work this way in this film.) The process of weaving the images is time consuming and the end result is always surprising – sometimes the finished pieces can turn out completely differently than they were at first envisaged which is exciting and unpredictable. In an interview, Ahmadzadeh describes her interest in abstraction:

“I’m interested in how abstract art has experimented with colour pattern, shape and composition as a form of visual language, often breaking down a composition to its basic elements. For me looking at abstraction in art has allowed me to focus more on exploring the relationship between forms and colour in my work to present my ideas on memory, something that itself can be quite abstract.” (Turner, s.d.)

Memento:

This project was initiated as part of Ahmadzadeh’s final MA project – two images of her father are interwoven in an attempt for her to understand how his childhood living between Iran and English boarding school affected him, informed his identity and how this was passed to her. Apart from seeing the family photo archive, Ahmadzadeh knew little about this part of her fathers life and she chose to begin the project with detailed interviews where he recounted every single memory of when he was in the UK:

“Hearing all that, it made me understand and relate to the story. I realized the variety of concepts that I could explore, while at the same time focusing on the idea of storytelling. I began to think about a person’s identity, the effect of family and cultural history on one’s personality and the idea of multiculturalism.” (Made In Mind, s.d.)

10,000 Faces:

the inspiration for this series comes from an idea Ahmadzadeh came across that posited the limits of human memory limit mean that we only have the potential to recall 10,000 faces in our life times. Two archive head shots of celebrities and everyday people are woven together to create a new image which seems both familiar and alien. The collages are immediately identifiable, and yet, the ability to read them is frustrated. As I try to make out the people in the photographs, the more I look the less able I am to do so. Strangely, they also seem completely familiar – the result perhaps of being able to recognise the language employed by the studio photographer.

Recollection (2016-17):

This work is a 500 piece installation commissioned by Nottingham Museum and Art Gallery which incorporates Ahmadzadeh’s own family archive with that of Brighton based photographer Tim Andrews. Andrews saw Ahmadzadeh’s work on Twitter and invited her to use his archive as source material. Both archives are from a similar time period and by bringing both of them together Ahmadzadeh is able to show that there is a large similarity between East and West.

Aesthetically, Ahmadzadeh chose to present the images in the form of circles which is based partly on her interest in geometrical factors used in art, particularly Islamic art, and also because she wanted to use the form of the circle to represent unity and harmony – something that is significant given she is bringing two sets of family archives together.

The journey Ahmadzadeh has followed in her practice – from an interest in traditional forms of photography that is based on the real to conceptually based work that is based on the archive and appropriation resonates with me as I beginning to suspect this is where my own interests are heading. I admire the way she has arrived at a way of working involving weaving images together and then has developed this subtly forward in both form and content. There is also an authenticity to her work that comes from her wanting to explore her family history which elevates the work above being either a technical or aesthetic exercise.

Bibliography:

Bahadur, T. (2016) All Woven Up. On Art and Aesthetics. Available at: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2016/12/03/all-woven-up/ [accessed 24th November 2019]

Made In Mind (s.d.) Samin Ahmadzadeh. Made In Mind Magazine. Available at: https://www.madeinmindmagazine.com/saminahmadzadeh/ [accessed 24th November 2019]

Recollection (2017) Dir: Vrublevska, V. Available at: https://vimeo.com/219810522/3975cb0cf6

Turner, A. (s.d.) Q&A: Samin Ahmadzadeh. Strange Fire. Available at: http://www.strangefirecollective.com/qa-samin-ahmadzadeh [accessed 24th November 2019]

Andy Warhol and Learning Logs…

While researching artist Samin Ahmadzadeh, I came across a quote from Andy Warhol that I found inspiring. I am noting this here after reading various discussions regarding the learning log following a presentation by OCA tutor Andrea Norrington on the subject. (See OCA discuss forum thread here and Simon Chirgwin’s blog post here.)

I was unable to attend the zoom call presentation but was keen to understand what was discussed. Much seems to have been made about how the learning log is different, and separate, from the blog. The learning log provides context and the material should be from the coursework and assignments. It should record work as it is being done, for example, notes, sketches and physical work in progress. Two important points are made that particularly resonate with me – learning log entries do not need to be finished writing (they can use abbreviations and even emojis) and they should not take a long time to write or read. As noted in my reflection on part one, time taken on the course is a major concern for me – this information is perhaps the ‘kick’ I need to put thoughts about what I need to do to progress faster into practice…so, here is the quote from Warhol that previously I would have filed somewhere and forgotten about. Perhaps I should print it and stick above my desk…

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether it is good or bad, whether they love or hate it. While they’re deciding, make even more art.”

Andy Warhol (Bahadur, 2016)

Bibliography:

Bahadur, T. (2016) All Woven Up. On Art and Aesthetics. Available at: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2016/12/03/all-woven-up/ [accessed 24th November 2019]

Chirgwin, S. (2019) Logs and that. Digital Image and Culture – Simon Chirgwin, 24th November 2019. Available at: https://chirgwinphoto.wordpress.com/2019/11/24/logs-and-that/ [accessed 24th November 2019]

OCA North Study Day – Halifax – 10th November 2019

I made the journey to Halifax for the bi-monthly OCA North study day in Halifax. OCA tutor Andrew Conroy made an excellent presentation about his photographic practice and ways of working – particularly his thoughts about collaboration. Andrew describes himself as being interested in space and place and is particularly drawn to urban edgelands because of what he describes as his ambivalent relationship with nature. He resists the label psychogeographer, both because he feels the element of ‘drift’ (derive) this implies does not apply to his way of working, and also because he has an aversion to labels in general. He finds that talking to people as he makes work can influence how it develops – often key information or a different viewpoint can spark the imagination or unlock something that would otherwise have remained hidden. Much of what Andrew said resonated with me, particularly his way of working which involves going back again and again to the same area. He encouraged us not to overthink and just to make work, however, he also pointed out that research should be used to force ideas as these do not come from nowhere. He summarised this with the advise to widen our research but narrow our focus. Reassuringly, he said it was important not to be driven to make every project a magnum opus as this can be stifling to creativity. It was encouraging to learn that some of his own work either ends up going nowhere or is only resolved when a conscious decision is made to bring it to an end. Strategies that work for him include imposing a time limit on completion of a particular project or limiting the number of images series – he mentioned 12 as being a number he often returns to. He showed some recent videos he had made using a ‘glitch’ app which he described as ‘micro films’. He did not know if these would develop into anything else but were the result of limiting himself to make a small film in one day using his smart phone.

Images from the series ‘1984’

Andrew’s series ‘1984’, which he describes as a long term aftermath project, resonated with me immediately as the subject matter of the legacy of the coal industry is something I have explored myself in my local area and something that continues to interest me. The title is loaded with significance as it refers to the Miner’s strike of that year and marks the beginning of the end of the coal mining in the UK. The series of 12 photographs are taken at the former site of the Orgreave colliery that was a key flash point during the strike – the so called ‘battle of Orgreave’ remains controversial to this day. The transformation of the are into a major housing development and nature area can be read as an attempt to conceal the trauma of the sites history which remains unresolved – despite attempts to erase the industrial past the area remains Orgreave. The project’s culmination was a self published book with a limited edition of 10 – 5 of these were left in the area that the photographs were made for people to take, or not, or to be eventually taken by the elements. A follow up is planned if an enquiry into the events at Orgreave is ever granted.

Postcard featuring a still from Indices of Irregular Return

‘Indices of Irregular Return’ is an abstract video made in collaboration with poet, artist and soundscape artist Linda Kemp. The interesting aspect of each of the collaborative projects Andrew discussed is that none of these involved working directly with the other artist. In this instance, Andrew took a track from Linda Kemp’s band camp site and used this as the soundtrack to the video without her knowledge. Another example involves the Andrew sending photocopied photographs of an area that was the site of a second world war POW camp in Yorkshire to artist Chris Graham who then paints over the top of them. Graham’s style is overtly political and loud and often involves the use of found materials and even the destruction of work – something that is at odds with the quiet nature of Andrew’s images. Andrew described initially feeling shocked by the way the photographs were transformed, but ultimately, and as the work developed, recognised the unexpected directions it was taken. Not being precious about your work is an important, even essential, aspect of successful collaboration.

An example of artist Chris Graham’s politically driven work – Donald Duck/Donald Trump

‘The Drive’ is a work that was made in collaboration with poet laureate Simon Armitage, although Andrew has not met or even spoken to him. Armitage sent Andrew a sound file of him reading a piece from his collection ‘The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in it’s Own Right’ – his only involvement in the project. Originally, Andrew had envisaged a slideshow piece that would last around 15 minutes, the reading of the poem however only came in at over 2 minutes which meant he had to radically rethink what he was going to do. Armitage’s distinctive delivery is accompanied by a slideshow of grainy, black and white images images that were taken during car journeys in rainy conditions. A soundscape by Ian Baxter completes the piece. For me, this is a great example different artists coming together, albeit separately, to create a work that is greater than the sum of its parts. The images, words and evocative soundscape combine to make a piece that reminds me of so many car journeys I have taken – the feeling of the mind wandering as you look in a detached way out of the windows to the grey world beyond – it is melancholy, but beautiful, both a celebration of the everyday and lament for wasted time.

The meeting ended with a chance to chat to the other students present in an informal way and view some of each others work. Rather than present the work formally as we had at previous meetings, it was placed around the room which led to some interesting and informal discussion. I took along my work for assignment 1 which was well received, previously, I have been reluctant to take work and have been racked with anxiety about showing it. On this occasion I felt quite relaxed which I feel is a major breakthrough and shows a growing confidence in putting myself ‘out there’. Andrew made a couple of interesting suggestions – he said the images would look good blown up to a giant size and displayed upon the wall, and following from a discussion about how I had been influenced by early Dada collages, he suggested I revisit the hand made work and drop the individual strips randomly before photographing the resulting arrangements.

Level 3 photography student Hazel Bingham brought her body of work submission which was a photobook exploring a particular urban landscape in London and had strong political intent. It was fascinating to hear Hazel’s plans to exhibition her work as part of her ‘Sustaining Your Practice’ submission and to listen to her share her experience of her photographic journey with the OCA.

Andrew Proctor, currently studying his first OCA photography course, brought work from the other end of the spectrum for his first assignment. Andrew had chosen to shoot on film and printed his own work as a practical response to the brief of the decisive moment as limiting how many images he could take and not being able to view them until they are printed forced him to really consider each time he pressed the shutter. Along with his final selection he also brought ‘real’ contact sheets – it was great to see these being so used to viewing everything digitally. For me, these could make the assignment submission itself or form part of another project – I love the idea of going out of your way to limit yourself to the confines of the decisive moment and then to subvert this by presenting everything that has been shot!

One of the things I love about OCA North is that it is multi disciplinary and it was great to say some paintings from Emma Wilson and Helen Jones. Emma is currently studying UVC, and although the course has been rewritten since I did it, I was glad she was enjoying it and finding her thinking stretched. We came to the consensus that this sort of course should be compulsory, and I certainly think that the challenge of the course has meant I have been able to progress unperturbed by research and challenging academic writing – the difficulty of which is a common complaint from students as they progress through the levels. To her credit Emma has also managed to keep making work while studying UVC – something I did not manage to do and the canvasses she brought had a contemplative and claiming feel. Helen presented 4 large paintings and asked everyone to respond to specific questions:

1. what is the first impression?

The 4 pieces are bright abstract works that immediately attracted my attention and made me want to consider what they were about and how they made me feel.

2. Do they make a cohesive group?

There are natural motifs and shapes in the individual paintings that unify them even though they are different both stylistically and through the use of colour. One of the pictures has what appears to be an horizon line which is not present in the others and felt out of place to me.

3. What are they about?

Initially they appear to be about the natural world – landscape and sky perhaps. The use of colour had an emotional effect upon me the more I viewed them an I wondered if representing different emotions was the intention.

4. What should they be called?

No idea! perhaps they should be untitled to maintain their ambiguity – this is certainly an aspect of the work that I appreciate and attracts me to them.

This exercise really forced me to consider the work and Helen’s intention – this might be something I consider to try myself in the future.

All in all, a fantastically invigorating meeting and trip out. With 9 attendees on the day (second highest since the group started last year) the indication seems to be that having a fixed location and planning when the meetings are happening in advance is paying dividends. As with all of these types of groups the main success is the building of networks – hopefully we will be able to work towards a collaborative exhibition over the next year. In short, well worth the 250 mile round trip!

Reflection on Part One

Completing of the first part of the course has taken me much longer than I expected and had planned for – in order to complete the course I am going to have to increase my pace significantly otherwise I am in real danger of running out of time. With this in mind, I decided to brain storm all of the positive and negative aspects of my study so far on the course. The aim of this is that by acknowledging what is going well and facing in to the things that impact me and have stopped me from progressing I will be able to make changes to my ways of working…of course, this could be another example of deferral!

Documentary:

I now acknowledge it was a mistake to enrol on the course before I had completed my assessment submission for Documentary. Going back to this was both a drain on time and motivation – I was so unhappy with what I put together for my submission that I seriously considered not sending it at all. This had the knock on effect of slowing down my progress with DI&C as I became seriously demotivated. The fact is however, that even if I was unhappy with the mark I received for Documentary I passed the course and the eventual effect was that this negative experience focused my mind on what I need to do differently with DI&C.

Time:

With a busy family and work life I often consider why I would want to invest so much of my free time on study. The amount of time I have versus the amount of time I would like to be able to spend on the course is a major issue for me. Simply – I need to moderate this and set myself clear deadlines for completing coursework to make sure I have the right balance with most of my time spent on the assignments rather than the exercises. Keeping motivated can be a struggle, but I have found that working little and often helps with this. It is also important not just to confine working on the course to my days off as invariably something will come up and before I know it a week has passed without doing anything. Also, if even a week passes without looking at the course, getting back into the swing of things can take a while so I need to avoid falling into this trap. Recently I have been trying to spend some time each day on some aspect of the course and I have found this is helping me keep a more even pace.

Research/blog:

I have really enjoyed the research, particularly looking at artists, and readings for the first part, however, this is in danger of becoming my comfort zone and a distraction from making work. I have been able to stop myself form spending lots of time on writing posts about the papers we are asked to read as this can often be time consuming, it may also be helpful to try and make my research posts more like notes and not be overly worried about how they read. I am also concerned that there is not enough personal response to the course material – I struggle with the diary aspects of the learning log, I am not sure of this is an issue or not however. I remember my first tutor saying that the blog was not something that needed to be ‘weighed in’ for assessment and that there was a limited amount of time to look at them. If I keep the emphasis on the assignments as the most important parts of the course then this should help me keep the balance right.

Experimentation:

Experimenting more, and showing this on my blog, was a key goal for me starting this course, and I am pleased with how much more of this I have done. Looking back however, I recognise I could still do more – lots of ideas occurred to me during this section and I have only acted on a few of them. Pushing this will help me significantly going forward as a simple idea that initailly seems of little worth can easily morph into a larger biody of work.

Assignment 1:

It has simply taken too long to get this done and I am struggling to really understand why. My idea for the assignment developed organically alongside my research and context and self doubt which is something that usually impacts me significantly was kept largely at bay. Something just stopped me getting down and finishing it – I need to be acutely aware of this working on assignment 2.

Peer interaction:

This has gone well and although a drain on time, is something that I need to continue with as it keeps my motivation going and is a real help with the isolating nature of distance learning. I participate in a regular course hangout group, am a committee member for OCA North with meetings held every two months and meet up with students locally to visit exhibitions and have a chat over a coffee every three months or so. Again, I have tried to limit the amount of time I spend writing about these on my blog as it is the attendance that matters here.

Exhibitions:

Visiting exhibitions is an important part of both my OCA learning and also wider understanding about art, photography and visual culture as a whole. At the point of writing this post however, I have only noted one of these visits on my blog. I am trying too hard to complete major research following exhibition visits, and while doing some wider reading about the artists and work I have seen is something I will continue doing, I am beginning to recognise that translating all of this into a definitive blog post is not practical. Going forward I will try to write blog posts about exhibition visits as soon as I can following after seeing the work and attempt to keep the emphasis on my personal reaction to the work.

This exercise in trying to be honest about where I am with my studies and what I need to do differently feels like it is helpful – only time will tell however – hopefully I will look back at the end of part two and find that the actions I have decided upon here have been followed through and also made a difference.

Summary:

  • Keep up the momentum – work little and often and do not confine working on the course to particular days (e.g. days off).
  • Do something course related everyday no matter how small – e.g. reading, note taking, even take some pictures!
  • Set a time limit for research and writing blog posts.
  • Remember that the assignments are the most important parts of the course and this should be reflected on the amount of time spent on these rather than the coursework. Doing this will hopefully mean time management will take care of itself.
  • Keep experimenting – make work without considering too closely where it will go. Translate research into practitioners into practical work, e.g. techniques used.
  • Make blog posts on exhibition visits more about my personal response rather than an attempt to be a definitive analysis of the work.

Exercise 2.1

Notes on artists cited in this section of the course notes can be found here:


This exercise asks us to bring together a typology of 12 images, either appropriated from the internet or from our own archive, and present them an appropriate way, such as grid form, single images or as a slideshow.

Typically, I have gone a little over this by selecting 224 screenshots of various pieces of ‘wisdom’ that have appeared on my Facebook feed over the period of a couple of days. These vary from pseudo psychology to irreverent, incorporating the profane and the banal. The sharing of these memes and quotes is something that I normally pay little attention to as I scroll through my social media feeds, when I started taking screen shots however, they became something of an obsession. I have been surprised by how much I have been influenced by the work of Joachim Schmid, and perhaps just as importantly, his philosophy as an artist. Putting a large amount of images together in some way seems to increase their power.

For presentation I have experimented with both a grid format (created in Photoshop using the contact sheet action) and a slideshow (created in Lightroom). The effect I am going for is for the amount of images shown to be both overwhelming an difficult to read – something that for me represents the superficial way this type of visual data washes over us. The slideshow has a deliberately short transition of 1 second between each slide – for some of the images this is not enough time to even read the text, and even when it can be read, the transition to next one is so quick that it is impossible to fully take anything in.

Link to Vimeo here