Nam June Paik And Olafur Eliasson With The London Regional OCA Group

Got to be honest here and say that I really struggled with the Nam June Paik exhibition. My childhood was such that I went to sporting events and airshows, and have had no experience of exhibitions until recently. I think the lack of artistic culture in my formative years has left me with a lack of expertise when viewing art at exhibitions. I’m going to make a point of reading “How to read a painting” by the National Gallery.

On the whole I found the Paik exhibition to be confusing, bewildering and overwhelming. There was a cacophony of sound and light, and other exhibits that I felt little connection to. Whilst trying to connect with what the artist was trying to communicate I found my mind was left blank. I didn’t connect with his art at all. I feel almost tearful at my inadequacy when it comes to reading art, especially of this discordant and abstract nature.

However, there were two exhibits that I connected with. The first of these were a selection of artefacts from Paik’s studio.

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I may not understand what Paik is conveying, but I appreciate how ideas formulate and concepts develop, and I find the creative process to be fascinating. Ideas emerge in the space between the minutiae, little seeds germinate and creativity branches forth. Some of these will die along the way, but they still remain valuable to the branches which produce fruit.

The second exhibit that I connected with was a projected, blank, 16mm film.

hdrplZen for Film (1964)

The accompanying text states that the film represents “emptiness, boredom and random interference… events such as the shadows cast by the spectators, became part of the work.”

Bev, Johnathan and I enjoyed became part of this transient piece of art. It highlighted to me that the meaning of art changes dependant upon the setting and the viewer.

Interactive art then became the theme for the rest of the day with the Olafur Eliasson, In Real Life, exhibition.

Wow. What an experience.

Welcome to a new world Richard.

In Real Life is not an exhibition to watch and read, it was a fully immersive experience in which one interacts mentally, emotionally, physically and, dare I say, spiritually.

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IMG_20191123_115522Big Din blinde passage

“Big Din blinde passage” was 39 meters of sensory deprivation. The passage is full of fog created by food additives. I could barely see in front of myself, so much so that at one point I almost tripped over a woman with a buggy. I couldn’t see either the floor or the walls, and my sense of hearing increased. What made the experience so joyful for me was the laughter of children walking along with their parents. Sensory deprivation made the laughter so pleasurable. The taste of the fog was rather pleasant as well. When I left the tunnel I couldn’t stop smiling. The experience left me awestruck and lifted my mood so much, which was needed after the drop in my self esteem from viewing the Paik exhibition.

Most of the rest of the exhibition was enthrallingly interactive, and I very much became a part of the exhibit. I particularly like the viewing windows, in which the glass had been cut and shaped into hexagons. Each had been cut at an angle which reflected and reflected the view back as if one was looking through a kaleidoscope. Regrettably I did not record the name of these installations.

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I also enjoyed the room with the mirrored ceiling. So many people were laying on the floor and looking up at the view.

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The whole exhibition felt like play time. I will endeavour to return before the exhibition closes. Never have I found art to be so fun and inspiring.

What the experts say

Nam June Paik 

“I always thought of Nam June Paik as a livewire avant-garde figure from long ago but for decades my experience of him has been as a permanent Art Biennale fixture whose work acted as an instant soporific.

Represented by piles of TVs showing mass-media random information with no particular meaning, the sight of his name on a wall label usually sends me straight into a coma.” (Collings; 2010)

“In 1963, artist Nam June Paik had his first solo exhibition. The show took place in a three-storey villa in Wuppertal, Germany and among the works was a room packed with 13 manipulated television sets. It was the first time an artist had used television as a medium for their art. 

For five decades, Paik built upon these TV experiments and continually bridged the gap between art and technology in a way no other artist had done before.” (Fulleylove; 2019)

Olafur Eliasson

“My works demand the visitors’ engagement; they are dependent on viewers to co-produce them,” he explains. “Many of my works are not only about the visitor’s encounter with the work, but the visitors’ encounters with one another. This is endlessly fascinating.

“I do not mind if people are moved by my work without knowing, or even caring, about any of the theories behind it. I think the art world often treats people patronisingly: take guided audio tours in museums, for example. I enjoy watching people interact without any of this guidance, without the instructions.” (Eliasson; in Alderson; 2015)

References

Alderson, R; 2015; It’s OK to disagree, the divisive work of artist Olafur Eliasson; Online; AT https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/its-ok-to-disagree-the-divisive-work-of-artist-olafur-eliasson

Collings, M; 2019; Nam June Paik Review, Daft, inventive energy from a weird kind of artist; Online; AT https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/nam-june-paik-tate-modern-exhibition-review-a4261856.html%3famp

Fulleylove, R; 2019; Why Nam June Paik is more than the father of video art; Online; AT https://www.creativereview.co.uk/nam-june-paik-tate-modern-retrospective/

The National Gallery; 2019; How to ‘read’ a painting; Online; AT https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/teaching-english-and-drama/how-to-read-a-painting

 

A Change If Direction

A recent health event has meant I’ve had to reconsider the direction of my life on all fronts.

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I have a heart condition, which has suddenly deteriorated, and I’ve made the decision not to have surgery. It was diagnosed several years ago, and I have known that I would need to make a decision regarding surgery for a long time. Generally the condition gets worse gradually, and mine was following the usual path until last month. After a routine scan I was held back and the registrar asked to speak to me. I wasn’t expecting the news at this stage, so it has been a shock. Creating the space to speak with my nearest and dearest has been my priority.

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My spiritual beliefs have been the bedrock of my decision to allow my life to follow its natural course. I feel a deep sense of peace with my decision.

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What I want right now is to have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible. When I consider my future a few things are important to me. My friends and family, photography and study. I had planned to move on to studying for a degree in photography, but I no longer think that this is appropriate for my health and wellbeing, so I have decided to alter my direction.

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Naturally I will still make photography and continue with personal projects, but I’ve decided to study for an Open Foundation in Creative Writing with the Open College of the Arts. I like to write, and I combine photography with my writing, especially when producing photo-essays. Converting to creative writing will minimise the stress, and it also means that during those times when I’m less able to be physically active, I will still be able to be meaningfully occupied.

Quality of life is the most important thing whilst I allow the cycle of life to play out. Daily I ask myself “What can I do today that will bring meaning to my life, and give me the opportunity to create value and culture?”

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Research For Square Mile – EYV

I haven’t signed up for the Undergraduate BA Hons Photography degree with The Open College of the Arts as yet (January), but I’m aware of the first assignment. With this knowledge I’m preparing some preliminary research.

My photography will take place in an area of London which is known as the Square Mile (also known as The City). My initial idea was to explore the disparity between visible wealth and poverty. However, with my left wing views its easy to discriminate against what my idea of the wealthy are. I’m fascinated by people and I want that fascination to be explored more fully during this assignment.

Browsing some books for sale in a church I noticed one called “The City – The Traditions And Powerful Personalities Of The World’s Greatest Financial Centre” which I will use as the starting point of my research.

IMG_20190923_091145Fig. 1. The Bank Of England (1982) “The Chief Gatekeeper and the Assistant Gatekeeper dressed in full livery and carrying the staff of office, in the entrance hall of the Bank of England.”

My research will include “Humans Of New York Stories” by Brandon Stanton. This work becomes relevant as I aim to make portraits of the people whom I encounter and involve a brief interview so that I can present image with text about the person.

 

This post is at the beginning of my research and I will update this as I progress.

 

References

Staunton, B; 2013; Humans Of New York Stories; Online; AT; https://www.humansofnewyork.com/about

Images

Figure 1 Lowe, J and McLachlan, S; 1982; The Bank Of England [Photo]; In Lowe, J and McLachlan, S; 1982; The City – The Traditions And Powerful Personalities Of The World’s Greatest Financial Centre; London; Quartet Books LTD; pp 94

Tutor Feedback For Assignment 5 – Some Emotional States Of My Anorexia And Strengths Of Recovery

Defiance/self preservation

Firstly, I would like to say that I am going to stick with the title “Some Emotional States Of My Anorexia And Strengths Of Recovery”. Initially I had some reservations about the length of the title, but I find that its appropriate as an anchor to the work which I have produced.

I would like to thank my tutor Jayne Taylor for the level and quality of feedback and interaction that I have received from her throughout the course. I would also like to thank the Open College of the Arts for the standard of the coursework, and for their excellent support and kindness with regards to the difficulties that I have experienced with my health, and the impact which this has had on my ability to study. If you are considering studying any of the creative arts, at foundation or undergraduate level then I would highly recommend the Open College of the Arts. You will not be disappointed. Although the OCA is based in the UK, they also accept international student. All of the courses are open/distance learning. Please check out their website here for further information.

Here is the link to the full tutor feedback

Defiance/self preservation
Defiance/self preservation

There a few points that I would like to comment upon

“It was very significant that you allowed the strong autobiographical themes to emerge through your work, and the leap forward can be seen through your assignment output across the course. You’ve worked incredibly hard and have put a lot of time and energy into your work, and this is all very evident here – well done indeed.”

The coursework leading up to assignment three was a turning point for me. It was during this section that I began to explore how I could use photography to explore and express my experience of life. The course material gave me the opportunity to try the exercises in the style of different photographers, and I was able to create a mini photobook called A Hermits Journey, and a sequence called Sick of Bulimia. I gave of myself in both of these pieces of work, and A Hermits Journey was featured in WordPress Discover and received over 1,000 hits.

There were many bullet points relating to Jaynes perspective of the of my assignment in which she draws out my methodology and how thorough I have been with my preparation and progress. But I would like to comment upon this

“The use of your own self-portraits in the work shows immense growth in your confidence, both personally and as an artist, and this is heartening to see.”

For me to use self-portraits is a scary experience. I have been working up to this over the past two years, gradually taking more steps from using my shadow, the use of face masks, and now revealing my face. My reticence to present and exhibit this piece of work, but I do aim to exhibit my work, I have a gallery in mind, and I am going to need Jaynes advice on how to approach them. I believe in the quality of the expression and technique, and this work deserves exhibition. I am worth it, despite my fears of showing my face.

“You had some reservations about how to make the embroidered snake have the same visual impact as the other works – hopefully the Google image search we did has helped you see how a stronger silhouette might be all that’s needed to make this work. The important thing is to keep looking until you find an image you feel enthusiastic about working with. The snake image seems to have special significance, being linked to medicine and alluding to the transition from sickness into health – so take your time and enjoy it! (Might a gold thread work here, as a kind of alchemical effect, maybe?)”

In Native American Shamanism, the rattlesnake, called Utsonati, symbolises medicine, which I interoperate as turning poison into medicine. It would have made an excellent finale to the series. However, all of the embroidered animals so far have been flying animals, and I think it’s important to provide visual consistency, and the snake would offset this. So, I am considering embroidering a stalk onto the final portrait, with the stalk symbolising new life, and recovery from an eating disorder is in many ways developing a new life.

“Good documentation of your process all the way through.  Nothing to add, except to say that the process is as important as the end result, especially while studying, so this is an excellent practice to maintain.”

The process is the most important part for me, and I love how an idea can change, alter and develop given time and space. During this assignment I have rarely embroidered for more than two hours per day, and I have had a break after the first hour, often a few hours before returning to the embroidery. When I begin to sew in the morning, I spend time looking at the developing artwork before stitching, and looking at the guide photo. I thoroughly look and see what I am producing. Without the seeing the quality of what I am producing would be diminished. Working more than a couple of hours per day would be unwise for the same reasons, because the level of focus upon the embroidery becomes too narrow and fixed.

The research was also important to me, and I have tried this exercise using three different styles, two of which have been a permitted collaboration which makes use of Laura Letinsky’s series Ill Form and Void Full. Although I have decided not to use them for this assignment, I will show them here at some point in the future. My research was thorough for this assignment and included exploring other photographers who work with hand stitching on photography, shamanism and the use of masks.

My ideas and research can be viewed here as well as here.

Throughout this assignment I have recorded how my ideas have been refined as well as reporting on my progress and the processes. When I view fellow students work, I love to see the process of how they make photography, from the initial idea to the end result, which is often reworked. I have also had the opportunity to receive feedback on my progress from fellow students at the OCA London Regional group.

I have to be honest and say that I am proud of how much effort I have put into this assignment, and amazed at what I am producing. I did not expect this when I began this assignment. My sole aim was to see if I could develop a new technique to carry forward into the undergraduate degree in photography, and I was willing for this assignment to be a failure. It has been entirely the opposite.

Review Of The Second London Regional OCA Group

What a fabulous time I had last weekend. Six of us met at the Hayward Gallery to see the exhibition Kiss My Genders, to have a social chat and to critique work that we had brought along.

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Kiss My Genders was a wonderful combination of photography, art, collage, film and installations by 35 artists from around the world. The exhibition explores gender identity, the politicalisation of gender, gender fluidity, and discrimination. “Crime Scene” by Zanele Muholi portrays the horrific murder and violence committed against the black lesbian and transgender community in South Africa. Hard Hitting!

qrfCrime Scene by Zanele Muholi

The whole exhibition was fascinating and has left me with questions; What is gender? Who decides or claims ownership of my gender by labelling me? Why do people commit violence against people who don’t conform to historic social norms?

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I identify as gender fluid and currently living in the male role, I’ve questioned my gender and identity a lot over the course, so it was a refreshing exhibition for me. However, I did feel that the exhibition lacked some emotional depth in places, and portrayed gender fluid and transgender people as being about clothing, make up, and performance (drag). Gender and identity are so much more than these limited aspects.

hdrplA View from Elsewhere, Act 1, and She Postures in Context – installation by Victoria Sin

Seeing the exhibition before we had coffee/tea/lunch etc, was a wonderful way to break the ice. It provides a platform for discussion and that cut through the nervous tension of being in a group. I need that because I struggle with being around people, but I settled and I really enjoyed myself.

Two of us had brought photography for critique and a third person had brought a draft exhibition proposal to be reviewed. What I liked about this part of the afternoon was the non critical way the critique was given. Questions were asked rather than statements being made. I particularly liked the feedback I was given on one of my embroidered photographs. It helped me to clearly see how I’ve moved from the technical approach of learning a new skill, into bringing my emotion to the forefront of my art.

The next London Regional OCA Group will be in September, although we’re unsure of the date and venue. We are a cross genre group so any OCA student is welcome to attend.

 

On Completing Foundations In Photography

Firstly, I must say that although I’ve now completed Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts, I have not finished the 5th Assignment. However, I had my final tutorial last week, and the assignment continues as part of a body of work on eating disorders. I intend to continue with “My Emotional States of Anorexia and Strengths in Recovery”, of which I am still embroidering on the photography. Once completed I will write an artists statement and an exhibition proposal.

Sounds big to me, and what’s amazing is that exhibiting my photographs is a possibility, a possibility which I would never have imagined when I started Foundations in Photography.

One year prior to enrolling on the course I was desperate, scared and unable to leave my home for more than a five minute trip to the chemist to pick up my medication. A good friend said that I needed to do something different to rebuild my mental health, and so I bought a camera. My camera gave me a life. With a camera in front of my face I was able to gradually build up the time I spent outside. On top of this I discovered the peace and mindfulness of photography.

I set myself small projects to try and develop technique and style. Photography became a passion, it set fire to my soul. That spark is the reason that I enrolled on Foundations in Photography.

Being on a low income meant that I was worried that I couldn’t afford to apply for the course, so I applied for the Open College of the Arts bursary. I put together a written statement which was accompanied by 10 photos, with explanations of why I had taken them. I recieved the full bursary, which is half of the course fee’s. Looking back on those photos I can see that they were pretty poor, but I had a good understanding of why I had made them.

Beggining Foundations in Photography was a daunting experience, but I found the course material to be clear. My approach was to follow it to the letter as I was afraid of getting it wrong. I had no idea of how to use my camera in manual mode, but I soon got used to it by following the guidance in the course handbook.

British Touring Cars Championship
100 photos {2017)

The first assignment was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise. It was the first serious attempt that I made on researching and planning a photo shoot. I managed to produce three or four strong photo’s.

York :- A Photographic HistoryAssignment One (2017)

However, I really came to life during the third section of the coursework, specifically exercises 3.3. I broke away from the brief, I tried a few different styles of photography, and developed my own interpretation of the exercise.

Bulimia
Sick of Bulimia (2018)
Whitby Abbey
A Hermits Journey (2018)

My best photo’s come from a place of authenticity and exploration of self. That’s not the only Photography that I do though. I’ve explored portrait, and I am improving in this area, and I love macro and events photography. Going out and making developers my photographic eye, and keeps my enthusiasm going. The OCA encourages that we continue shooting for our own enjoyment outside of study.

My favourite assignment was the fourth one, Responding to a Theme. I produced a hard hitting piece of work on the themes of self hatred and self love.

Self-Hatred-and-Self-LoveSelf Hatred – Self Love (2018)

Although I’ve now completed the course, I am continuing with assignment Five, which is part of a body of work exploring which I’m producing about eating disorders. This is a mixed media art project in which I’m embroidering on photography. I wouldn’t have had the idea or confidence to attempt to learn an additional skill if I hadn’t studied Foundations in Photography.

One of the most important aspects of my development has come from the Foundations group email. It developed into an opportunity to critique each others work. It’s been such a helpful practice. It’s not easy to have my work critiqued and to analyse others photography, but it’s developed the way in which I view photo’s, and consequently, the planning and production of my own work.

The written aspects of the course have been enjoyable as well. I like to think and write, I find studying to be rewardingso I’ve put a lot of effort into it. My use of Photoshop and Lightroom were poor at the start of the course, I still have a long way to go in this regard, but I have developed some useful skills and techniques as well.

My tutor has been invaluable. Not only have I been given guidance and feedback on the assignments, I’ve also recieved ideas and information for further development, and suggestions on which photographers to research and review. This feedback has been tailored to the work that I am producing and my personal developmental needs. Thank you Jayne.

The student support services have been on hand as well. I became ill during the course, and needed to seek an extension. They took my difficulties into account and they checked up on my health and well being every few weeks. The level of care and compassion was wonderful. Thank you Lia.

My goal now is to complete my current project about anorexia and then sign up for the BA in Photography, and I’m going to study again with the Open College of the Arts. Open learning suits me very well and the OCA coursework and support has been top notch. Studying this way suits my life style and keeps the pressure off of me. I’m feeling very grateful this morning. Thank you OCA

Illustrations

100 photo’s (here)

Assignment One – Square Mile (here)

Sick of Bulimia (here)

A Hermits Journey (here)

Self Hatred – Self Love (here)

 

Assignment Five Update

This piece of embroidery has not been easy. Once I had pricked the photo I was overwhelmed with the amount of holes and the complexity. It’s necessary to make all of the holes before trying to work out where the hell to embroider and which threads to use. This photo has been demanding in terms of energy and focus.

The process is enjoyable though. I’m seeing the commitment as running parallel to the effort I have to put into recovery from my eating disorder.

My working title remains as “emotional States of my anorexia”, however the embroidery is about recovery, change and growth, and this needs to be reflected in the title.

Embroidering onto my self portraits has started to feel like an act of self love, whereas initially I felt neutral towards the process of pricking and sewing upon myself.

My tutor and I will be discussing my progress next week, and I look forward to her guidance, especially in relation to one of the remaining animals (I’m not happy with the snake) and with regards to mounting them. The electrical tape which I use to secure threads is bulky in the areas where I’ve taped several loose ends.

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Encouragement From Jessa Fairbrother

I approached Jessa Fairbrother via email in order to receive feedback/advice about how best to keep the reverse of my embroidered photography tidy.

Although she didn’t give direct guidance, she did say that I was clearly doing things ‘right’ and that we all sew differently, and my development would come with time and exparience.

Part of me feels child-like by asking for direction, as though I can’t stand on my own two feet. However, the reality is that I wish to be an exhibiting photographer, and I will benefit from seeking and accepting the critique of others.

ConstellationsFig. 1. Minor Constellation 1; 2018

Jessa Fairbrother sews on top of photographs to use “the body-as-site to explore communal meanings and is concerned with making explicit the moment when performed gesture and gaze of the viewer collide.” (Fairbrother; 2019). She uses needlework as exploration and reclamation of her body.

Illustration

Figure 1 Fairbrother, J; 2018; Minor Constellation I [Silver Gelatin Print and hand sewn tbread]; AT: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/print-sales/explore-artworks/minor-constellation-i-2018

References

Fairbrother, J; 2019; About/Contact; Online: AT: http://www.jessafairbrother.com/about.html

In Conversation With: John Stezaker And Margaret Iversen

The National Portrait Gallery hosts a regular Friday night activity, and this week it hosted a conversation between Margaret Iversen, professor of art history and theory at Essex University, and John Stezaker, artist and photographer.

Stezaker has an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery which includes collage from found photography and a film called Marriage. The film is shot at 24 frames per second and is made of still photos. The photos are collages of a male and famale face which have been joined together.

john_stezaker_2Fig. 1. Marriage VIII (2006)

Stezaker believes the series encourages the viewer to find a way to reconcile the two imdovidials and return them to being a couple.

It’s not what I see. The collages leave me asking what has happened to the couple that leaves them broken and on the point of divorce. There’s a good learning point here for me as a photographer :- I can never know how the viewer will interpret my photography.

john_stezaker_1Fig. 2. Marriage 1 (2006)

Here are some bullet points from the evening.

Collages
Masks
Couples sepetating
Viewer naturally wants to reconcile them
Found photos, postcards, newspapers, magazines
Fascinated with images since childhood
Not a conceptual photographer – the image is all there is
Not surrealist
Curator
Collector of images
Portrait
Collages don’t need to align precisely
Analogue – to much of a temptation for precision with digital

Although I am working with masks in very different ways, I am reconciling my innersel by producing masks to explore my mental health. I aim to produce an opportunity for my viewers to explore their mental health and the qualities they have which help them through their difficulties

Collages
Masks
Couples sepetating
Viewer naturally wants to reconcile them
Found photos, postcards, newspapers, magazines
Fascinated with images since childhood
Not conceptual photographer – the image is all there is
Not surrealist
Curator
Collector of images??? Image library?
Portrait
Collages don’t need to align precisely
Analogue – to much r temptation for precision with digital
Although I am working with masks in very different ways, I am reconciling my strengths by producing masks
I aim to produce an opportunity for my viewers to explore their mental health and the qualities they have which help them through their difficulties

Illustrations

Figure 2 Stezaker, J; 2006: Marriage VIII [Collage]; Online: AT https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/john_stezaker.htm

Figure 2 Stezaker, J; 2006; Marriage 1 [Collage]; Online: AT https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/john_stezaker_1.htm

Catching The Big Fish – David Lynch

David Lynch is best known as a film maker/director (Blue Velvet; 1986) and (Mulholland Drive; 2001). He has written TV shows and he’s a photographer.

My tutor suggested that I read his book, Catching The Big Fish because he discusses how he uses meditation as part of his creativity. The “big fish” are those big creative ideas, which then refine themselves as he is producing film. He practices transcendental meditation.

It was a wonderful read for me because I use meditation as part of my idea creation and development. That’s not technically accurate, I meditate because I enjoy it, but I know my creativity will develop as a result. Sometimes ideas come up during the meditation, but mostly they develop because my mind is clearer. As a result of reading Catching The Big Fish, I am going to learn transcendental meditation this weekend.

David Lynch; 2006; Catching The Big Fish; Tarcher