Mid Point video presentation – Term 2
My practice is broadly based in photography, sculpture, moving image, light and sound installation. More recently I have become focused on exploring the ways in which images are produced and employed. In practical terms this has involved making constructed photographs and videos in the studio based on sculptures, models and animation rigs.
I have become interested in the use of the model as a subject of photography, as a kind of vector pointing away from the work. Photography seemed to have the capability of radically transforming a model as in early Soviet constructivism, architectural modernism or situationist utopias.
In the New Babylon project or Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s Light-space-modulator the model sits at the centre of a series of intermedia transformations between media – a sculpture generates a film etc.
I wanted to better understand the attraction of these transformations for me.
At the same time I have been looking in broad terms at how artists develop a relationship with media and the technological context in which they work.
A key text that has guided this reading has been ‘A Voyage on the North Sea’ by Rosalind Krauss.
This book is an extended discussion of Marcel Broodthaer’s film of the same name and the ‘post-medium condition’.
Several key points arise from Krauss’ book – it’s not easy to summarise these in the time available
- A medium is something to be made by the artist, it has a complex recursive structure
- This structure generates a set of conventions that provide space for improvisation
- The artist employs a deconstructive attitude towards technology
- The utopian promise of technology is fulfilled at the time of it’s obsolescence
I have been reading around this text in an attempt to critique and develop the ideas further.
I have also been using these concepts as an experimental framework in the studio where I have continued to work with models and constructed photography.
I recently rediscovered photograms on the residency workshop where we made conventional darkroom photograms using photopaper and an enlarger.
I decided to explore photograms further…
The photogram has a classic modernist heritage in the work of Man Ray and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.
Thomas Ruff has recently revisited the photogram and made a series of photograms which are created completely digitally using digital models and software that can trace rays of light from light sources to a screen.
His work questions what a photogram might be and also the role of computer generated imagery.
So in general the photogram seems to be an interesting platform for re-engaging with some fundamental aspects of image making.
I decided to make photograms using physical materials, but replacing the photopaper with a digital equivalent – an hybrid analog-digital photogram.
The light source is a LED torch instead of a photographic enlarger. The photographic paper is replaced by a thin translucent white styrene sheet which has minimal texture.
A camera is placed underneath the styrene sheet and focused on the surface of the sheet.
The camera is under the screen so I controlled it from a computer which set the shutter speed and provided a live feed of the photogram on the screen.
I found this setup opened up a range of possibilites that are impossible with darkroom processing. You can make animations (no need to take the paper away for development for each frame), colour is no more expensive than black and white, and if you shoot in raw there is a some flexibility in adjusting the tonal mapping. You can also see what you are doing in realtime – which is not necessarily a advantage!
The only significant digital manipulation to these images is that they have been inverted so they look like the original photopaper negatives.
The materials used in this sequence are very simple and were lying around the studio – styrofoam, plaster, perspex, glass and silver foil.
It is also possible to animate photograms.
This photogram video was made by moving the light source on a slider over the objects resting on the styrene sheet. The actual video was recorded at a frame rate of 1 frame per second because the light levels were low and the total video sequence took around 20 minutes to acquire at this slow frame rate.
The complexity of the projected photogram results from a very simple combination of objects – 4 clear perspex tubes standing on a styrene sheet. Some of the features are recognisable as surface caustics, while other features such as the ridges appear to come from within the material of the acrylic itself.
I am interested in the way digital photograms, despite their abstraction, generate a material and tactile imagery quite different from lens based images.
Going forward I see photograms as a newl strand of activity in the studio (or outdoors) and I’m starting to think about how to link them with other aspects of my practice.
Some questions or thoughts you might want to respond to
What is the relation between the photogram and lens based imagery?
Is there such a thing as abstraction and does it matter?
What are the limits of digital simulation in the photogram – Ruff versus real world?
Photograph/photogram as trace?
The photogram as a language of residuals and margins, randomness and order
Is there an analogy with sound in space – for example stereo (lens) and surround sound (photogram)