Category Archives: Research points part 2

Research point: Karen Knorr ‘Gentlemen’

Karen Knorr ‘Gentlemen’

‘Gentlemen’ images

Summary

The photographs of Karen Knorr’s series ‘Gentlemen’ (taken in the early 1980s) show the elite, (white?) male domain of exclusive gentlemen only clubs in London. This series shows the everyday life of this wealthy minority; the splendour of the surroundings, the formal suits, the paintings on the wall, the leather, the chandeliers, the silverware and the crystal.

However, Knorr’s images are accompanied by texts which make gentle fun of the situation portrayed. The text in the example below refers to the old practice of Butlers ironing the newspaper to prevent ink being transferred onto the gentlemen’s hands and results in a mocking of the privileged lifestyle by its reference to how far standards have fallen.

Similarly to Jane Austen’s opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice, ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’, Knorr’s statement that ‘newspapers are no longer ironed, coins no longer boiled. So far have standards fallen’ is an example an ironic statement where what is actually said is not exactly what is meant; both are examples of saying one thing when you mean another.

Image above is from here here

 

My response

I am very aware, and interested in, both, class privilege and gender privilege and was immediately drawn to this series. The black and white gives a timeless feel to the photographs which compliments the longevity of the aristocratic and patriarchal structure of our society.

Thinking towards the next assignment ‘photographing the unseen’ I can see a parallel in this work. Not only do we ‘see’ the furniture, the clothing, the paintings and mirrors in these images but we also ‘see’ the codes of accepted practice. The formal layout of the dinner table, the arrangements of chairs, newspapers and books to facilitate learned conversation, the bust of Margaret Thatcher and the portrait of the queen to anchor the men in an environment of power and privilege. Interestingly we do see ‘important’ females in this setting but unfortunately they are relegated to being artistic interpretations only.

 

Bibliography

Hagan, S. (2017). Gentlemen by Karen Knorr review – eminently clubbable. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/31/gentlemen-karen-knorr-london-clubs-mocking-rich-powerful [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

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Research point: Kaylyn Deveney ‘The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings’

Kaylyn Deveney

The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings

Some photographers use interviews and diaries to incorporate text with their images

Summary

Kaylyn and Alfred were neighbours and a friendship started. Kaylyn asked ‘Bert’ if he would help her with a photographic project to capture images of him and his home together with those ordinary moments that are often not considered for photography.

The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings

Kaylyn was seeking to portray those routines that ‘make us feel at home’ and are often ‘not usually considered significant enough to warrant a snapshot’ (KayLynn Deveney Photographer, 2017)

Kaylyn asked Bert to write his own captions to the photographs which often gave another dimension to their interpretation. An example could be with Bert’s pajamas folded neatly on the bed. Kaylyn may have taken this image to represent Bert’s  tidiness but Bert captions it as ‘a little bit of comfort’. The implication here is that he gets very little comfort elsewhere. These words act as relay narrative to tell us more than the image alone does.

Write down your own response

Increasingly I am spending more time in my life with older people, as members of my family become more dependent, and I love their company and domesticity and views on life. I can therefore particularly relate to Kaylyn Deveney’s work with Alfred Hastings. He reminds me of my mother in law who lives alone after being widowed and who has the same grace, calmness and stoical acceptance that I see in these images.

I think there is always a general fascination and interest in other people’s lives, their routines and in their homes. This series shows a widower living alone and getting on with those domestic tasks that we can all relate to; the ironing, the laundry, the shopping and so on. We all make snacks and cups of tea and plan what to watch on television; its just that we all do it differently and it is this personal insight in to how Alfred does it that ensures the intimacy of the series and creates an (auto)biography of an extraordinary, ordinary man.

How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative?

The work includes images taken by Kaylyn and images that Alfred owned from his past. It also includes an introductory text and handwritten captions by Alfred himself. The work is a collaboration between the subject and the photographer and we see not only a visual biography of this man but a small element of written autobiography (such as when Alfred says things like ‘ironing my laundry’) and in addition, an element of relay narrative when he adds ‘ a little bit of comfort’ and so on. The mixture of approaches work together to allow us  to enjoy what the photographer choses to depict but also to enjoy Alfred’s interpretation of her images.

Bibliography

KayLynn Deveney Photographer. (2017). The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings. [online] Available at: https://kaylynndeveney.com/the-day-to-day-life-of-albert-hastings [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

Research point: Sophy Rickett’s ‘Objects in the Field’

Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field’

Example of ‘relay’ in contemporary photographic practice

Summary

A meeting of science with art. Sophy Rickett worked with Dr Roderick Willstrop in the production of her series ‘Objects in the Field’. Willstrop was a retired astronomer who in the 1980s designed and built a three mirror camera telescope. His lenses reflected light from the stars on to black and white film to produce a negative of the sky at night. Rickett used the negatives as a starting point for producing her own prints which emphasised the aesthetic rather than the scientific.

Sharon Boothroyd explains that Rickett’s project ‘consists of several series of photographs, a monitor based video and a text, each of which reflects in some way upon her encounter with Dr Roderick Willstrop'(PhoPhotoparley.wordpress.com. 2017).

The collaboration between the scientist and the artist searched for a way to combine the two disciplines but often it didn’t succeed. Rickett did relate to the idea of using lenses to ‘extend the limits of our vision’ (ibid) and made comparisons to her childhood experience of having her eyes tested and listening to the language used in that environment but Willstrop was ‘quite adamant that what I was doing was of no scientific value’ and Rickett herself says that ‘there is a kind of resistance between us and the work we do’ (ibid).

Investigate the rationale behind the work and see if you can find any critical responses to it

Rickett’s says of her work that it ‘looks at my attempts to find ways of aligning our very different practices, as well as my work as an artist with his as a scientist’. (PhoPhotoparley.wordpress.com. 2017). Rickett worked with different/opposing approaches to the same subject and I am reminded of Sophie Calle’s work which embraces the different approaches of 107 women in response to her letter of rejection from her boyfriend. Science and art are often considered to be polar opposites between fact and emotion but they each have apart to play in helping us understand the world around us so there is an element of connection between the disciplines.

Write down your own responses

I find Rickett’s work interesting but obscure to the point that I don’t really engage with it. Her rationale is puzzling. I don’t really understand WHY she wanted to merge the disciplines in this way. I understand that she is interested in interpretation and that she and Dr Willstrop are working with the same original subject (the night sky) and depicting it in different ways but to me the end results are not sufficiently dissimilar; to a casual observer the images retain a scientific feel. The relay narrative is invaluable in telling of Rickett’s experience with the eye clinic and her exposure to optical terminology and lenses. The narrative allows us to understand where her interest originated and why she was interested in representing the astronomer’s work. However, as opposed to Sophie Calle’s work in response to her ‘dumping’ letter, I find the subject matter one that is perhaps far less relatable to people in general.

How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative

The melding of the two disciplines and the different art forms (images, video and text) reflect a post modern approach. The relay text provides additional information and context and introduces the artists memories from childhood (having her eye tested), alongside descriptions of the view of stars from the train as she makes her way to Asia. She jumps from childhood to ‘years later’ then to her meeting with Dr Willstrop; on to being on the train at a seaside station. This is fragmented narrative is in line with post modern techniques.

Sophie included in the work a written text to accompany the prints. Below is an excerpt from the wording:

The machine in the corner of the consulting room is on wheels. There is a chinrest with a pad of disposable paper strips, so that my skin won’t have to make contact with the same surface that someone else’s has.
I might put my chin on the rest and it might get warm, and the paper strips might buckle.
‘Put your chin on the rest’
I don’t want to put my chin on the rest.
‘Put your chin on the rest’
I put my chin on the rest and it feels unnatural, my neck strains.

Below is another excerpt:

Back at home I put on my new glasses and for the first time I can see clearly beyond the middle distance

and another one:

Through the double glass window of the moving train, I am transfixed.
I see the younger boy begin to take the long slow turn to face his friend.
I see just the beginning of what is to pass between them, a fragment of story as it begins to unfold.
And the train speeds up and then I have gone.

(Little Toller Books, 2017)

This depiction of seemingly unconnected events and memories is typical of the modernist and post modernist approach that reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s writing and the way it can jump from one apparently random thought to another. Postmodernists argued that nothing can be original anymore and emphasised the creation of something new from something that previously existed, and Sophie’s use of Dr Willstrop’s negatives epitomises this technique. 

 Bibliography

Little Toller Books. (2017). Sophy Rickett – Objects in the Field – Little Toller Books. [online] Available at: https://www.littletoller.co.uk/the-clearing/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ [Accessed 18 Oct. 2017].

Photoparley.wordpress.com. (2017). Sophy Rickett | photoparley. [online] Available at: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/category/sophy-rickett/ [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].

 

Research point: Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’

Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’

Example of ‘relay’ in contemporary photographic practice

A summary

Sophie Calle was dumped by her boyfriend, by email, and was heartbroken. After a couple of days she had the idea to turn the email into art; a form of therapy and way of coping. Calle asked over a hundred professional women to interpret the email in keeping with their work. So, for instance, a copy editor analysed the grammar, and an etiquette consultant analysed the boyfriend’s manners; a lawyer defended the boyfriend’s actions and a mediator tried to secure a reconciliation, etc.

Investigate the rational behind the work and see if you can find any critical responses to it

The reason for the work was therapy at first and her way of ‘dealing with the suffering the world throws at her’ (Chrisafis, 2017). Calle had previously turned to art when she learned that her mother only had a month to live. She was so concerned with being there at the end that she set up a camera to catch the last moment if for some reason she wasn’t there when her mother died. With her project ‘Take Care of Yourself’, Calle’s network of 107 ‘colleagues’ may have served as a support group in turning the pain into a physical object that enables a distance to be put between the event and the suffering. The project itself would have been a distraction and a focus to move her attention away from her grief; a purging of emotion.

Clare Harris at the Artists Information Company says that the work is ‘an emotional incident that before our eyes has been objectified and neatly dismembered, in a sense worked through by a sisterhood of supporters’ . (The Artists Information Company, 2017)

Write down your own responses

I was fascinated to read that one of the 107 women, a markswoman ‘simply shot the letter’. (The Artists Information Company, 2017). To me this epitomised the vast range of different interpretations of the email.  When my sister’s husband ‘dumped’ her about sixteen years ago she was devastated and I remember that she kept all the letters, cards and emails that she received from family and friends who wrote of their support and sent their thoughts. I can see this now as a way of coping, of having something tangible as a cathartic release and as grief being ‘worked through by a sisterhood of supporters’.

How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative

Postmodernist rejected a linear approach to narrative and embraced fragmentation and stream of consciousness, different interpretations and ambiguity. Calle’s work reflects the post modern approach by considering a multitude of opinions and many different art forms. The work includes 107 outsiders’ interpretations of the email, performers acted out the email, singers were filmed, there are multiple different papers used, booklets, envelopes, film and images. The work brings together 107 different ways of seeing the same event.

It is not an exhibit that one can easily slip into. Disheartened, to find myself battling to read and understand the responses; the intellect and expertise of some of the women soared above my head. As well as being at times visually difficult, particularly the presentation high on the wall, the choice of font, context of language, overlays of writing and the use of perspex hindered my progress as I struggled to read and digest some of the information

(The Artists Information Company, 2017)

Reading this review section above I immediately thought of the work of Virginia Woolf. Her modernist novels are also difficult to interpret and are ( I want to say eclectic, but I’m not sure if that is right) perhaps I mean ‘refracted’, with ideas going off at tangents and characters’ soliloquies jumping from one to the other (like in The Waves).  Calle’s project utilises many interpretations to give a  complexity and freedom of expression and layering that is typical of a post modern approach.

See an interview with the artist below

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=sophie+calle+take+care+of+yourself&qpvt=sophie+calle+take+care+of+yourself&view=detail&mid=009D5EBEB96A8A6867FF009D5EBEB96A8A6867FF&FORM=VRDGAR

https://www.a-n.co.uk/reviews/sophie-calle-take-care-of-yourself

Bibliography

The Artists Information Company. (2017). Sophie Calle, Take Care of Yourself – a-n The Artists Information Company. [online] Available at: https://www.a-n.co.uk/reviews/sophie-calle-take-care-of-yourself [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].

Chrisafis, A. (2017). Interview: Sophie Calle. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].