Monthly Archives: November 2017

Artistic research papers

The following articles deal with artistic research as a kind of liminal activity, working along boundaries – by Henk Borgdoff

1. Artistic research as boundary work

1. Boundary Work- An Interview

Experimental systems is a good resource – highlights links between research processes and experimental sciences.

1. Experimental Systems Future Knowledge in Artistic Research


Negative and positive – liminality

The negative image has been of interest for some time- for example  I have tried digitally blending abstract positive and negative video clips with a variety of blend modes.  Recently I stepped back and tried something simpler – combining positive and negative projections of slides with the aim of creating a grey image..

I was interested in the way in which bodies or objects shadowing the projections could then create positive or negative images of their own, but what turned out to be as intriguing was the effect of cancellation – which is imperfect.   This kind of faint grey image seeping through seems like a liminal image.  An image on the threshold of visibility.

Reviewing the reflective journal for Unit 1

I’m thinking about the extent to which the blog has captured my reflections as and when they happen.

In the first place I think the first place important reflections tend to happen either when I’m moving or travelling or at night.  Consequently I’m not always in of the computer or by the phone when they happen.  When I do get to write then down they are invariably diagrammatic and physical.  They take shape on the notebook or on post-it notes.  I have  20 pages of post-it notes in a file which I have either scanned or written up and  posted on the blog.  So there’s always a kind of translation going on.  I’m thinking about reducing the lag between thinking and posting and the extent of translation going on.  The first step might be to use use a sketch program for both writing, diagrams and drawings and to try posting directly from that.  I now have a stylus pen for use with the iPad and I’m going to experiment with that.

Overall I think that the blog has captured the most important points but some of the texture is missing. On the other hand filling out that texture might create an unwieldy blog – it would at least require some editing.

Reflective journal



This is a reflection on the reflections in the blog. Here I will address some of the main themes that have arisen from from my research during Unit 1, show how they relate to the research paper and the practice research, and how the project proposal changed as a result. I have also recently posted on the reflective aspects of the blog in Unit 1 here,  looking at the extent to which reflections have found their way onto the blog or not and why.

A semi-chronological review of the blog to date

Odradek started as a kind of mascot for the blog.

In Kafka’s short story he hangs around in the periphery of vision, in the stairwell and on the landing.  A kind of liminal figure who seems to have forseen the current theme of the project.

In the early stages of the course I was looking for a thematic driver for my work and started to explore spectrality; the main sources and blog notes are below while the project proposal v1 document is the best summary of how I intended to implement this in my work.

I discuss this in the project proposal review post  in detail, but over term 2 spectrality faded out as a thematic driver in my work.  I think the main issue may be that it comes with a cultural and philosophical perspective that lines up well with an essayistic way of working, but I haven’t really taken that up in my practice.  Alternatively spectrality of media – noise, the phantasmagoria etc  – is something I’m now actively working against.  It seems culturally over determined and limiting.

One of the benefits of reading the material on spectrality was that it lead off in a number of interesting directions, in particular to the trace.


I had been fascinated by the motion photography of Marey (as opposed to Muybridge) for some time without really understanding why.  I started to investigate Marey and trace  in more detail.

It soon became clear that trace was a multi-dimensional concept itself that you could pursue in a number of directions; history, memory, photographic theory, forensics, motion capture technology, sound etc.

For example I started to look at traces in Rachel Whiteread (which also led to the negative)

traces in Mark Bradford

while Marta Braun’s book on Marey was a key resource.

Trace also got me thinking about the photogram as a trace and the relationship to conventional photography.  The following paper was a good starting point for thinking about this.

I subsequently found Agamben’s Notes on Gesture which begins with a discussion of Marey’s motion photography.  This became an important starting point in looking at gesture and also led me to Jill Bennett’s paper on Intermediality. Together these papers, along with William Kentridge, ended up forming the core of my research paper.  It could have just as easily been about trace itself but I felt it was too broad a subject to tackle and possibly not going to really influence my practice.


Thinking about Whiteread’s casts also led to further thoughts on the photographic negative and I decided to try to understand my fascination with the negative in more depth.

The following papers were key in helping me to understand the negative better, including its relationship to casting.

Nyblin’s negatives of paintings helped me to appreciate the role of the negative in intermediality.

while Thomas Ruff linked the negative with the photogram (which is a form of negative). Also read George Baker on Paul Sietsema where he identifies the negative as an intermedial element.

Reading around the photogram lead on naturally from the negative and also complemented the studio work I was doing at the time.

The following post summarises my thinking on the photogram at the end of March.

Mid-point review- video, transcript and thoughts

The midpoint review focused on my photogram work in the studio and also dealt with my interest in intermedia and Rosalind Krauss’ essay a Voyage on the North Sea.  All this ended up feeding into the research paper.


I started to read about intermedia in more detail (preparation for the research paper) and found the following papers to be key references.

The following posts about Krauss’ essay and intermedia informed the research paper and how it was written.


Gesture became another area of interest which is still developing into an exploration of embodiment and performance.

For the purposes of Unit 1 the key reference was Agamben’s gestural theory and my incorporation of these ideas into the research paper via Jill Bennett’s paper on intermediality.

The interim show

My thoughts on the work I made for the interim show and observing/helping with the final show setup are here;

Review of year 1

This is my review of how year 1 developed

The summer break was mainly taken up with finishing the research paper, a holiday and various work commitments.  By the beginning of term 4 I realised I needed to rewrite the project proposal from the bottom up.  I wanted to respond to the research paper and also identify a better thematic driver. This wasn’t really a complete change of direction, more a question of recontextualising the original proposal v0 and incorporating some aspects of v1. This is discussed in the project proposal section in more detail.  The identification of a thematic driver was more of an issue because it required a kind of balance between personal interests that synergised with the more objective media-philosophical approach of the research paper. I eventually realised that the answer was more or less in front of me – liminality.

Liminality and artistic research 

Liminality is a concept that travels across anthropology, geography, architecture, performance, psychology and medicine.  The following papers guided me through this.

The value of liminality as a thematic is that forms a natural dialog with the intermedial working processes I have been developing, while also being something I have strong interest in and have in fact explored over the years in a number of places (not at that time identified as liminal).  It is also interesting as a travelling concept because it changes in different fields and so forms a suitable lens for an artistic research process.

I am currently using the liminal as a tool to think back on the work in the studio and forward to plan for the next 2 terms.  What is liminal intermediality?  In the post below I explore the idea of the screen as a threshold, learning from the photogram work I did previously and extending this to the space within projected images.  This opens up the potential to exploit this space in a number of ways.

The combination of negative and positive projections is also interesting.

I am also starting to think about artistic research processes both in terms of experimental studio work and also in guiding fieldwork into liminality.

Finally, all reflective journal notes can be found categorised here

Practice based research


The following narrative and links focuses on processes in the studio, the results and the main conclusions I drew from them.  In practice there was a more complex interplay with the reading and parallel activity outside the studio which is only alluded to here but that should be more apparent from postings in the full blog.

Work in the studio began with a brief period of working in constructed photography, continuing with a process and methods already in place before the course began.  Some of this work featured in the Raum gallery show.

During the low residency I spent a day in the darkroom making photograms and that experience triggered a new phase of work.

I had previously been working with thin white styrene as a screen and I realised that material (free of texture) could be used in place of photographic paper with a digital camera underneath tethered to a computer recording the photogram. The analogy is not exact because you need to invert the digital image to get to a photogram and there are also subtle differences between the diffusion of light through the styrene and the more direct exposure of the conventional photogram on photographic paper.

The freedom of working with digital images lead to an extended period of experimentation where I was able to explore the language of the photogram in a way that would have been impossible with the traditional approach.

I eventually stopped making photograms at the point I felt I had covered enough ground.  I wasn’t planning to focus on conventional photography in my practice although it felt like I might have veered off in that direction, in dialog with the more abstract photograms.  Instead I took away some more theoretical ideas from the photograms about screens and projected images.  This insight has been really productive and has probably partially inspired the current theme of the project – liminality.

The final phase of the photogram related work exploited the fact that the Canon Eos utility can also be used in video mode.  I realised that it would be possible to move the light source (LED) which was usually static to animate the photogram.  I did this by attaching the LED to a slider driven by a stepper motor which I had made some time ago.  I also found that for some photograms there wasn’t enough light so I used a slow frame rate video mode on the camera using magic lantern (a public domain firmware modification). With the right combination of objects and light path I found some interesting effects could be achieved but didn’t pursue this further apart from making the interim show work in term 3.

The next phase of studio research developed naturally from the rostrum camera configuration, using the linear slider to move the camera instead of the light source.  I became interested in making detailed tiled photographs of surfaces by scanning the camera over the surface and taking multiple shots.  I had originally intended this as a kind of forensic photography where surfaces could be printed out on a large scale like wallpaper (there was some inspiration here from the Wolfgang Tillmans show at the Tate).   I also reversed in to this setup some work I had done prior to the course with fine powders and pigments.  I had also subsequently discovered an exhibition and book which provided a new context for this work – also going back to Man Ray (Dust breeding photograph).

The static distribution of pigment and powder on surfaces was taken a step further with a shallow flatbed perspex tank filled with water.

The photographs were interesting but (unlike the photograms) the video development of the work was more productive, once the flatbed tank was replaced by a deeper perspex box.  This just required a macro lens on the DSLR for some shots and suitable close range lighting from LED torches.

The video work with pigments immediately felt important but it took some time before the relevence of it became clearer. see link below

In parallel with the studio work I had been thinking about sound in my practice.  I had joined Call and Response (gallery and sound art space with a membership system in Deptford) and did 2 workshops with them on 3D audio.

In total this was 4 days of work with their 16 channel system + binaural and ambisonic microphones.  My main interest here was in soundscapes, recorded and synthetic.  I could see the 16 channel system would be great for 3D sound but challenging to implement anything as good in a gallery space.  Another way of looking at it would be to use the setup as a way of simulating  or to rehearse what a space would actually sound like and mixing the work accordingly.  At the same time I was looking at low budget setups that might be used to control video, light and sound installations without the need of a computer.

None of these sketches were put into practice but I am interested in investing time in understanding how to set something up.  The basic point is that in any work where you have video there is an issue how you control and synchronise sound, movement and other light sources to it.  The other point is that video editing programmes are great ways to design installations.  So is there any way to make a video (+surround sound) the main control source without having to resort to a computer and MaxMSP or equivalent, or having to program an arduino?  Somebody must have done this..

The interim show highlighted the fact that most of my work to date had been pure practice research and I didn’t want to present this as finished work.  Consequently I needed to make new work – after thinking about using radio for a sound work I settled on developing the animated photograms with a new sound track.

This didn’t feel like an indication of where I was going to be going in the next year but it was an interesting dry run for the final show. I also want to return to the radios in the future as well.

At the beginning of term 4  I was able to look back over the work in the first year.  I gave the general approach the name ‘flatbed’ –  after the printing setup.  I subsequently discovered this had already been used decades ago by Leo Steinberg in a paper on Robert Rauschenberg.

By the end of term 3, the research paper and summer break + holiday created a natural gap in studio work.  By the time I returned to the studio I had decided to reconsider how I worked there and the relationship with the project proposal itself.  The following posting  describes how this might work in the future.

The latest practice research now reflects the updated project proposal v2 which will significantly change the work I am making in the studio and outside it.  The first piece of work is concerned with composite video projections – this is early stage but the interest is in making work in which bodies moving through a space filled with multiple projections producing the work through their own interacting shadows and gestures.

Finally, all the practice research on the blog can be found as a category at

Project proposals 0, 1, 2.

Project proposal development

There are three versions of the project proposal, each of which has been rewritten from the start. I have started to consider how and why that came about in general terms in the following blog post.

A more detailed narrative on the three versions now follows.

Version 0 of the project proposal is the initial draft I submitted for the application to the MA (I’m calling it 0 because it predated the course). This proposal was focused on the role of the model in contemporary art as a kind of in-between state between media.

Project proposal for MA application Version 0 26_07_2016

Version 1 developed from a period of intensive reading in Term1.  I was looking for a broader thematic driver  with a theoretical underpinning which was not developed in Version 0.  I decided to focus on the spectral and reorientated the proposal around that theme.

Project proposal version 1 2016_10_31

Version 1 wasn’t so productive as a thematic driver as I had hoped.  There were two reasons behind this, in retrospect.  Firstly, spectrality as a concept can map on to media in a slightly reductive way – for example film/video projection = phantasmagoria.  Artists such as Tony Oursler or Joachim Koester are good examples of artists who I like who explore this.  I didn’t find enough space for myself in all of this, or a way of engaging the practical work in the studio with the theme in a consistent way. Secondly, spectrality as a broader cultural concept remains interesting to me but feels restrictive in the kind of affective atmosphere it generates for me.

The research paper helped to resolve some of the issues around media.  Drawing on aspects of my reading in spectrality, I then looked in some depth at the theoretical debate around intermediality, an important practical aspect of version 0.  This had the effect of clarifying some of the processes in the studio work and enabled me to stand back from activity in the studio to think about it more strategically.   At the same time this interest with media and bondaries pointed towards a possible thematic in the liminal.  The advantage of adopting the liminal as a theme (over the spectral) is that it comes with less media/philosophical baggage, while it also marries in a potentially productive way with the intermedial processes in the studio and outside.  It offers the potential for fieldwork and artistic research at a variety of sites and recontextualises some places I am interested in, now recognised as liminal places.  It also extends across to possible studies in embodiment and medicine, other areas I am interested in.

To summarise, Version 2 (linked below)  broadens out some of the approaches already practically identified in version 0, recontextualising them in terms of a media framework I am terming the intermedial gesture.  This framework is then used in a research based artistic practice with the liminal as a thematic driver behind the work.

Project proposal version 2 2017_11_14


Screen/image as threshold – lessons from the photogram

The photograms made using the digital setup replaced the photographic paper with a styrene sheet.  Previously the styrene sheet had been used as a material for rear projection.

While the digital photograms looked similar to conventional photograms I was struck by the relationship to projection.  In rear projection the image is focused on the screen, or there is a shadow play or equivalent (refractive elements etc).  The photogram is therefore a limit case with objects placed in close proximity or in contact with the screen.

In making these photograms – they are very interactive because the image is displayed on a computer in realtime – you become  aware of the passage of light in 3D.  The screen is a kind of cross section through this light field, which is complex and carries a material trace. You play around with this material.

In rear projection the emphasis is on the focused image on the screen and the defocused space in front of it is an aberration or a means to an end.  The logic of the photogram would see this defocused area as just as important, because the photogram is already unfocused.

Another way of putting it would be to see the image existing in 3D in front of the screen with a focused image coinciding with the screen  when  conventionally focused.  Another way of reading a defocused image would be to see it as part of the 3D space, as something in transition towards or away from focus.

So the screen is a kind of threshold in which the 3d light passes into a 2D space. The screen is also architecturally a threshold as well.

Front or rear projection is not just a means to an end.  The space of projection is important and can be played with.  The photogram or unfocused image is in a kind of liminal state.  The screen is a form of threshold.