Monthly Archives: March 2017

Slide and negative projectors

Just started to buy components for a new series of slide projectors

The idea is to make the frame from openbuild aluminium  and components which will make the projector easier to align and adjust.

the condenser is from a Rollei 6x6cm enlarger so it should be possible to project MF slides and negatives

larger condensers from 5×4 even 10×8 enlargers could be used (link here to Kubricks front projection on 2001)

Projection lens could be from enlargers (slow) or MF enlargers (fast).

What does this open up?  Very high quality projections – with tonal range and detail you can’t get from a digital projector. Also a material quality which is lacking in digital.

Possibility of making own slides on a sensible scale ie 6x6cm or larger



Negatives – starting from Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff states that he became interested in the negative after making photograms. For me it was the other way around.

A photogram is also a negative .

The disappearence of the negative as a tool of reproduction is also a time when it becomes a thing of interest in itself.

Ruff made his negatives from historical sepia toned positives, so the negative appears blue. Reversing the positive back into the original point of reproduction.

I’m interested in the materiality of the negative and also the general aesthetic qualities also discussed by Ruff.

Unfamiliar tonality, reversal etc.

to quote George Baker’s The Black Mirror – on Paul Sietsema. (October 158, Fall 2016) on the negative again.

“suspended between negative and positive, Degas’ between images body forth the negative as medium, middle space relay between photograph and object, camera and image. But in this ‘medium’ we find something medium specificity was never supposed to allow: the opening, through inversion, of photography to film, drawing, writing, even to sculpture ( as cast, double, ….it is this afterimage of the afterimage, this opening of the open image, that Sietsema has claimed in his play with the negative today.”

Not light and dark but opacity and transparency – the negative



Photograms – next steps

I’m developing the previous post’s themes to consider how to develop photograms further

  1. What is the relation between the photogram and my existing practice?
  2.  What is the potential of the photogram – what is to be done?  picking up on the observation that photograms encourage a position to be taken.

1. This is going to develop but there is already a link with previous experiments relating to screens and digital photography which allowed the original setup to be done in a day. The fact that I am asking 2 it follows  that 1 will be answered as a result.  The photogram position will assert its place in my practice and not the other way around.

The potential of the digital photogram at a practical level relates to scale, colour, immediacy, animation, and a wider range of materials that can be used with the screen (could be wet for example which might disrupt normal photopaper)

scale – any size but needs a glass sheet and space for lighting and camera to be positioned.

orientation in production – flatbed but could be vertical.

Colour – could result from objects or lighting.

post-production- change of tonal curve, colour.

reproduction – can be reproduced in various ways (transparency – lightbox, projection- as well as digital printing) could be produced as a negative and printed onto photo paper on any scale.

immediacy – exposure can be set on the computer

animation – what is animated? (objects, lighting) and why?

materiality – found materials -could be wet, subject to processes on the screen, organic etc

These practical possibilities open up a significant space beyond conventional photograms.

The potential of the photogram will result for me from the above space and a consideration of how I want to develop the photogram as a position i.e a more theoretical approach.

Various aspects;

The lack of a lens where the lens is a tool of perspective and ordering of space.

Resistance to straightforward analysis

Photogram and proximity – to a screen – tactility.

Relationship between screen and conventional cinematic projection.

Could be projected as a negative (created from digital) on a larger scale.  The materiality of the photogram scaled up – not like a conventional image which may scale naturally.

Chance.. – picking up on the agency of chance.

Flexible arrangements – part chance part design.

Model –  manufacturing large quantities of objects by laser cutting. flat or 3 dimensional.

Found materials – particularly organic materials, glass ornaments,  shards,

The forensic photogram – picking up on the material and chance qualities together.







Photograms – starting from Ruff

The digital photogram seems to point in a number of directions.  I’m becoming aware of a history related to how people have used photograms in the past (recent and not so recent).

The photogram as a basis for a manifesto. The photogram as a statement of intent.

Thomas Ruff started with the idea of computing a photogram – rendering a photogram using a high end rendering package.  Objects drawn and positioned digitally, material and optical properties are programmed.

Ended up using a supercomputer. The element of chance arose from the time it took to render rather than in the positioning of objects.

States that the interest was in creating coloured photograms on a large scale, well beyond what would normally be materially possible.

The end result does look like a scaled up  complex photogram and the range of colour is beyond anything I have seen with an analog photogram.

What’s missing from this kind of photogram?   The result seems to lack materiality and a sense of close contact with the screen.  Analog photograms seem to have this, as do the hybrid digital photograms I have been making. Instead there is an almost architectural quality and sense of scale.

When using a material such as foam there is a complex texture that results from the transmission and reflection of light from the surface.  This is very difficult to do computationally and Ruff spend all his time rendering the optical properties of the photogram while the material aspects were sketched in.

I am thinking of the problems of the problems getting a good CGI rendering of cheese – translucency and sense of material – in an animated film I can’t remember the title of.

The other missing element seems to be randomness between objects – I don’t read the Ruff photograms in that way.  Although they couldn’t predict all the results they did place the objects rather than drop them.  Dropping a load of things in a convincing way, under gravity, is difficult digitally. There is something strange about processes where arrangement is combined with randomness.

So I end up relating this back to the early photograms of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy.

Man Ray – there is a sense of randomness or automatism (abandonment to unconscious processes) in many of the photograms.  I found this aspect discussed at length in an article in October-

Flou; Rayographs and Dada

This contrasts with a cooler, constructivist approach from Moholoy-Nagy. He is interested in the way the photogram creates a space based on a kind of ‘pure’ light based mediality.

Even earlier, photograms were termed light drawings by Fox-Talbot and used as botanical records by Anna Atkins (see Ocean Flowers published by the Drawing Centre, NY). Emphasis on the indexical quality of the photogram as a direct record of ‘reality’

What comes out of this is perhaps a recognition that the photogram seems to elicit a kind of position from anybody who employs it ‘with intent’ . There is a link here with my reading and notes on Krauss ‘Voyage on the North Sea’

A genealogy might look something like

Early days of photography – the photogram lacks a name, it is a form of photography without a lens.  Emphasis on the ability of the photogram to record objects in outline.  Replaced by conventional lens photography which is consolidated.

Rediscovery by Schad, Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy. A programmatic tool; Man Ray automatism and the unconscious (Dada, Surrealism)  Moholy-Nagy – ‘painting with light’ utopian position.

Avante-garde extensions into film – Man Ray, Thermersons.

becomes a tool used by a minority of experimental photographers (contemporary review – Shadowcatchers exhibition)

Taken up by Thomas Ruff – asks the question- What if I simulate the photogram and push the boundaries within this space?

João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva at Camden Arts Centre

I’m revisiting this show at Camden Arts Centre – quality of lightness in the work.  Seems to have a kind of underlying metaphysics.   Cumulative effect of multiple 16mm projections with none of the sometimes oppressive sophistication of multi-screen projections.  Animated camera obscure installations.

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva – Papagaio was at Camden Arts Centre, London NW3 until 29 March 2015

Adrian Searle in the Guardian…

What a peculiar world the Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva inhabit. Populated by birds, fish and animals, cyclists, smokers and donkey-riders, it is a place of abstractions and illusions, the everyday and the impossible.

Bristling with ideas, snatches of reality, optical tricks and enigmatic moments, this magical, mesmerising exhibition is alive with the whirring hum of an orchestra of 16mm film projectors. Images spill across the walls in room after room. I don’t recognise the galleries at Camden Arts Centre, and very often I have no idea what I am looking at, or why.

Part of an international touring exhibition that changes from venue to venue, Papagaio (Portuguese for parrot) is both a compendium of films and an immersive installation that takes us from the artists’ studio to Lisbon zoo, from a voodoo ceremony in the Gulf of Guinea to outer space – or at least a photographic version of it.

A white stone raises its long hair, as if by some strange electromagnetic force. Do boulders have hair? It looks like a weird creature haunting a cluttered corridor. Is it terrified, defending itself, lonely? Look. It’s doing it again. In another film, a live cowfish sits on a plate, squirting water from its mouth and slithering around. Three suns set over the sea and three eggs (eggs are a recurrent motif) fry in a pan. Maybe it’s the same egg, superimposed on itself. A nearby closeup shows a man at the barbershop having a bald spot shaved into his scalp. But as soon as you detect a theme, it’s gone.

Lit by the multiple projections of 19 silent films, many running concurrently, the spaces of Camden Arts Centre have been plunged into cinema darkness. Some films are short and very simple. A baker makes croissants, flipping each triangle of dough and rolling it around in mid-air. I am amazed by his skill, as he flicks the dough towards the camera like a lizard’s tongue. How much sculpture there is in the baker’s craft.

Heat Ray, 2010, by Gusmão + Paiva

A blind man eats a papaya, screwing up his face at the texture and taste. The man looks like Goya’s Saturn, devouring one of his children. This is a somehow terrifying scene. Sometimes staged, or shot on the hoof, Gusmão + Paiva’s films are mostly only a few minutes long, yet time stretches as we watch. They are slower than reality. This slowing down, and the use of high-definition film, gives everything the artists do a sense of expectation and gravity. What will happen next?

Often, not much. A turtle’s head emerges from under its shell, giving us its round, shining eye. A man rides a donkey across a town square in Kenya, seen from a high, distant vantage point. The camera looks through a car’s windscreen on a rainy day; the windscreen wipers move with metronomic slowness as the car turns a corner. The end. This last little vignette is called A Day Without Filming: somehow, the artists just couldn’t resist. They can make a drama out of nothing and art out of anything. The voodoo ceremony, at 42 minutes, is much too long. It takes eons. Sometimes, the artists film the drinking and dancing, and people rolling around in the dust in trance-like fits, and sometimes participants hold the camera themselves, jerking it around, swooping wildly.

The show opens with a space devoted to a short film of a gorgeous pet macaw, who occasionally takes flight in an explosion of colour, and sometimes hides out of sight. There’s a metaphor here somewhere. In another gallery, the projectors point this way and that from a clever arrangement of plinths and little seats. As soon as you focus on one work, another catches your eye and you have to move.

At their best, Gusmão + Paiva return us to that sense of wonder that spectators of early film must have felt as they watched the world unfold before them in the dark. Seeing a shadow play of bicycle wheels turning on the wall, I realise it isn’t a film, but a projection from a camera obscura. Squinting through several bright lenses set into a false wall, I could see the wheels and moving lights in the hidden space beyond. I’m reminded of Duchamp, who liked to keep his arrangement of a bicycle wheel and a stool in his studio for the pleasure of watching the wheel idly turn.

Motion of Astronomical Bodies by Gusmão + Paiva at Camden Arts Centre, London.

A second camera obscura throws the image of a room, and a view into what seems to be a moonlit garden, on to the gallery wall. The light shifts as we watch, like the passing of time. This is magical, understated, and oddly spellbinding. Even when you know how the illusion is achieved (looking back through the holes in the gallery wall, to the inverted model beyond) it retains an air of strangeness.

Camera obscura display by Gusmão + Paiva

What does it all mean? Part of me doesn’t want to know. The book Teoria Extraterrestre, which accompanies the exhibition (it’s much more than your bog-standard catalogue) is full of little stories, anecdotes, jokes, quotations from philosophers, and imaginary conversations. Here is Walter Benjamin, from his famous essay on being out of his head in Marseille, ordering oysters while stoned on hashish. And here is an imaginary conversation between a wine taster and the blind man who ate the papaya. Spoof philosophies, real quotations, cod science and bits of arcane text accompany numerous commentaries on the works. It’s a labyrinth. I’m sure Borges is in here somewhere, and now and again the great Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa makes an appearance.

The more I try to make sense of Gusmão + Paiva, the more I balk at explanation. At some point, my inner critic leaves. What a relief. I stand gawping for hours. When I eventually leave, too, and cross the traffic on the hectic Finchley Road, the world is unhinged.

Elad Lassry

White Cube description

Elad Lassry creates or rediscovers images from a vast array of sources, redeploying them in a variety of media, including photography, film, drawing and sculpture. Despite the diversity of his approach, Lassry has developed one of the most distinctive visual idioms in contemporary art and a rigorously focussed practice that investigates the nature of our perception and the meaning of the contemporary image.

Lassry describes his pictures, which are all exactly the same scale, as ‘something that’s suspended between a sculpture and an image’. The artist achieves this through a play of virtual and actual space. The image in each picture proposes a virtual space, while the frame, which is not a supplement to the image but an extension of it, carves out an actual space for the object to occupy. The images might be found – anything from a magazine snapshot to a Hollywood headshot – or photographed in studio conditions that reflect many of the concerns of traditional still life. Lassry then deploys the image as an ambiguous, free-floating signifier, which combines with the frame to create a new set of conditions. This hybrid entity becomes a kind of epistemological puzzle, engaging the viewer’s perceptual faculties. How does its objecthood affect our reading of the image? How does the subject matter of the image affect our perception of the object?

This disruptive play between image and object extends into his film and sculpture. In the 16mm film Zebra and Woman, the camera begins at the animal’s tail before panning across its striped hide, examining the nuances of colour and form as if it were a mid-century abstraction. Passing the animal’s head, the viewer is plunged, briefly, into blackness before the incongruous appearance of an attractive woman again dislocates the pictorial space.

This set of conditions is typical of the artist’s concerns: close-looking, the indistinct space between abstraction and figuration, the combination of flatness and depth, all combining to examine how the mind reacts to different visual stimuli.

Lassry brings this set of concerns to bear on a body of sculptural work based on cabinets that further explore a range of perceptual paradoxes. Produced on a scale that reflects the unchanging dimensions of his pictures, the cabinets look both utilitarian and ornamental, both a functional object and its representation.