Category Archives: 05 Photography

Who are you where you are?

Following on from my discussion with Shane a couple of weeks back, I have done my first test of an ‘ephemeral’ temporary sculpture out on site (I wouldn’t really call it site-responsive as such). Since I made the weaving it hasn’t stopped raining / drizzling, so have been a bit delayed in getting out to take some shots. Interesting results in the end though.

  • I like: the camera, my latest obsession is providing a lot of fun, although I’m still not great, I’m getting better at scene setting.
  • I like: the atmosphere of the resulting photos, I have tested a few different approaches to the light, so they don’t stand as a set – but this is an experiment after all!

But where do I take the photos? Somewhere “meaningful” or somewhere random? Does this make a difference to the viewer? If I don’t tell you (dear blog readers) where these photos were taken, does it matter? What do they say to you?

DSC_0376

DSC_0379 copy

DSC_0382

Thought for the day

A thought for the day from Chris Durey, Land artist:

“A wave does not in itself exist, it is a movement made by water
Wind does not in itself exist, it is a movement of air
Mind itself does not exist, it is a movement of thought
When there is no wind, there are no waves on the lake,
which becomes a mirror reflecting land and sky
When thought dies away, the mind is a mirror of the universe”

2015-04-11 13.28.20

Psychogeography: deciphering the dérive

I have been working more with my idea of the haunted place. I wanted to see how I interpreted the idea of making something “site-specific” before researching what others mean by this term. I started by directly using materials which are sourced from within a specific area in order to make impressions / marks / imprints which capture the feeling of the genius loci (spirits of place). Progress going ok so far with this, I currently have a range of samples of natural dyed calico which are in various stages of steeping and drying. There are a number of artists who work by using materials which they find in situ – either directly (such as land artists Richard Long or Chris Durey) or for mark marking (Helen Goodwin).

I thought I would take this idea one step further and look into the idea of capturing the genius loci and “site-specific-materials” from psychogeographic inspired urban wandering – or dérive. In a location where one feels placeless – without belonging or connection with the surroundings – understanding the place through experiencing it is perhaps a first step to gaining a new narrative. The basic ideas of psychogeography are somewhat ambigous, with various people describing it as confusing, nonsensical, or only understood in the mind of the psychogeographer. Well, before I tried it out myself, I thought at least it worth an understanding of a little history.

Historically, Guy Debord defined Psychogeography in 1955 as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.” This history along with the writings of Monsieur Debord are tied up with the radical mid-20th century Situationists who were heavily influenced by Marxism, surrealism, Dadaism and revolutionary architecture. Monsieur Debord was the founder of Situationist International he (and others) gave psychogeography much intellectual theory and discourse. Martin Coverley offers the following expansion, that psychogeography is “…reflecting a wider awareness of ‘spirit of place’ through which landscape, whether urban or rural, can be imbued with a sense of the histories of previous inhabitants and the events that have been played out against them…This visionary continuity is described as a ‘chronological resonance’ and is the point at which place, history and identity converge…”[1]

The landscape outside of the city is easier to understand and relate to places from a deep, sort of tribal like human perspective. The sea, sky and earth as raw elements are much neater than than the horizonless place of the cityscape, with people, history, stories, buildings, vehicles, commerce, past, future and present overlapping in an endless motion of change. Psychogeography apparently offers a way to explore this challenge and see the unseen, harnessing the unintentional. “a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities… just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.” [2]

This quote refers to the practice of urban wandering developed by the situationists from the concept of the flâneur from the poetry of Charles Baudelaire; the “man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.” The practice is the dérive, a technique of an unplanned journey through varied ambiences (usually urban), letting go of your everyday identity and allowing yourself be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters you find there.

So if you can only understand through practice, I decided to go out on my own dérive to see what I would find without any preconceived plan – just a camera and a carrier bag. I printed off a street map of the area directly around my house and randomly drew a circle on it, then wandered off to try to walk that circle as closely as possible – going round any obstacles I found in my way. This is the record of the wandering:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, as I was going I picked up a few things found left on the pavement which caught my attention, each with its on story; why was there a seashell tucked into the gravel at the side of the railway embankment?

2015-04-10 21.18.11

I have to say I thought it a fascinating experience and notably different from an ordinary stroll. I think you do notice things you wouldn’t otherwise see when you allow your mind and feet to wander away. Perhaps there are some elements of the local genius loci in there as well. My next plan is to take the things I collected and make something, perhaps also using them to imprint another piece of my plain calico stash.

References: 

[1] Psychogepgraphy, Martin Coverley
[2] http://www.utne.com/community/a-new-way-of-walking.aspx https://adcochrane.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/psychogeography-and-how-it-can-help-you/
https://libcom.org/thought/situationists-an-introduction
http://newleftreview.org/II/8/peter-wollen-situationists-and-architecture

‘Ritual’ exhibition by World Wide Women

An exhibition on ‘Ritual’ from the creative collective of female photographers, World Wide Women, was held just before Christmas.  I was gutted to have missed it since coming back to my proposal topic on the same theme. However, as luck would have it, the exhibition is now showing at Grace, Belgravia, so I had a chance to pop in and take a look.

The exhibition theme: “Ritual: an homage to that which is lost but not forgotten, a prayer to that which is desired but not realised. Ritual promises to answer endless questions and offers escape from an unfulfilled reality. It is an act of veneration for the bird that has flown away, and for the hope of its return. The photographs, videos, and works on paper in this exhibition tell the story of a woman longing for that, which has gone, and craving that which has not yet arrived. A ritual requires physical imitation, but does not arise out of it. The infusion of pure emotion and true belief is what elevates the act to ritual. The action, in-and-of itself pure mimicry, is simply a part of the ritual as a whole. It is the combination of the conviction in the unknown and the intangible that makes it so. Ritual is arranged in a spectrum of colour and emotion, representing the different stages of a ritual: memory, sacrifice, reverence, and longing. The experience of viewing the show takes the observer through this journey, giving access to the wholly personal act of ritual as experienced by each of the artists: one in which the active body is not alone, but joined by an unnamed force.”

It was a fascinating collection of photographs looking at different aspects of ritual, and some more of the female experience. Considering I have been reading up on the rise of feminist performance art in the 1970’s, there are a lot of similarities even now. I wonder how others look at these pictures? What do different people see in them?

You are always going to like some works and not others, but I thought there were a few special ones felt very poignant and well done. If I had a few spare grand under the sofa I might have taken some home. I think it is the sense of spirit you get from them; distant, quiet, and in some cases a bit psychedelic. Others dark and intense. My favourites are below (photos taken from artists’ websites). Firstly, photographer Michaela Meadow:

ritual MichaelaMeadowHighRes4_1024 Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

And a couple I really liked from Anouska Beckwith…
ritual 10922568_562709323864534_3317141403307417280_n ritual 10424314_565672946901505_4814448460292242392_n

A couple others which caught my attention: Edie Sunday, who “prefers the in-between state of dreaming and waking life”

ritual edie-sunday-interview-photography-09

 

and Aëla Labbé, ritual dance.

ritual 1

I think that it will be inescapable to look at some aspects of the female experience while looking at ritual. Even if I’m not seeking to make a feminist statement, it will be important to understand the context of where my work fits – the goddess movement, the sacred feminine – and not withstanding the fact that I am working in a craft practice very much associated with women. You never know, after all my claims to the contrary, I may even want to make a statement though my art in the end.