Review of Year 1- from project proposal to research paper
In my original project proposal I proposed to explore the use of the model in contemporary art practice with particular focus on the following aspects;
- An exploration of the role of the medium as a mode always ‘inbetween’. The use of processes of recording and reproduction as an integral aspect of the generative system. Cast and mould, negative and positive.
- The relationship between the digital and the analog, the role of the digital in facilitating new processes of transposition, mapping and transformation.
- The phenomenology of space and the relationship between the space of projection, the installation and the model. Limits and margins, surface and depth, near and far.
- The potential of the model as an open, generative system.
The initial phase of the project was focused on an intensive phase of reading which has generated a range of ideas and interests which to some extent have been (or possibly will be) picked up at later stages of the course.
As a result of this reading I produced a mind map of the project which significantly broadened it’s scope – at least in principle. The new features included an interest in diagrams and drawing, the concept of the trace (as a form of indexical diagram a la Marey, and also the idea of atmosphere which was a constellation of ideas borrowed from architectural writing.
I identified the overlap between the trace and atmosphere as ‘the spectral’. Consequently I rewrote the project proposal completely around this idea with the concept of the model forming a part. In retrospect this development was overly driven by theory rather than practice but it did open up a range of reading around concepts of the trace as well as the wide literature on spectrality. This project proposal is now on the shelf as version 2, partly forgotten or absorbed into later work.
Studio work really began in the second term during the low residency week when I had the opportunity to make classic photograms in the darkroom. This initiated a research phase where I developed a technique which I called the digital photogram in which the photographic paper is replaced by a flat sheet of translucent white styrene, which is then photographed by a DSLR. The digitisation of the photogram opened up a new space for experimentation because the DSLR provides direct feedback via the computer, while the digital negative also allowing scope for manipulation in Photoshop. I also became aware of the attraction of the negative which is a fundamental feature of the photogram, and reading also allowed me to link the negative with the mould and casting.
By the time I reached the mid-point review, the background reading and studio work had returned me to considerations of the nature of intermediality which was always closely associated with the concept of the model. I presented my work on the photogram alongside a discussion of Rosalind Krauss’ essay – A Voyage on the North Sea and Marcel Broodthaers film of the same name. This really allowed me to focus on the issues raised by Krauss; the concept of the medium, the role of contraints and improvisation, the need for each artist to invent their own medium.
The photogram work led on to further experimentation in the studio, where the common theme was a kind of ‘flatbed’ approach, where imagery is generated from a flat surface in an improvised manner. One example was a thin water tank in which interfence pigments where added alongside other dust materials.
The flatbed concept has now established itself as a working approach in the studio, as a kind of notebook that can generate a range of still and possibly video imagery through a process of improvisation and intermedial processes.
By the time of the third term we were asked to start to define the subject of the research paper. I was faced with a number of possible routes back through some of the reading I had mapped out in the second term. There were two main thematics; the concept of the trace which I had developed out of the reading on spectrality, and the issues around the medium which focused on Krauss’ writings.
I decided to go down the medium route but in the end it turned out that both readings closely inter related for reasons that were not clear at the time.
The interim show at the end of term 3 was an interesting learning experience, 50% of which came from the parallel exposure to the second years final show which they setup in parallel. This was an opportunity to help and discuss their views about the course in the 2nd year. Overall I felt relatively unprepared to present work in the interim show, especially with the constraints of the space available. This was partly due to the fact that the studio work to date had been mentally filed under experimental and I hadn’t spent time articulating what work to be presented might look like, and how that might be done under varying constraints (space, lighting sound etc). Consequently I went through several iterations including a few failed concepts based on transmission and transistor radios. The final result was a development of the video photogram work, but interestingly (in retrospect) contained a kind of gestural lanaguage absent from the early work. There was also a sound track which drew on previous work. Overall I was happy with the work as far as it went but not so impressed by the actual installation – it would have worked better in a large darker space.
I drew a number of lessons from this experience; (i) the need for a range of work that is established and thought through in its final form to some extent (ii) the idea of the installation as a set of components that can be reconfigured (improvised) according to the needs of each space, their inter-relations changing (iii) the need to distinguish between experimental notebook-like activity and work directed towards an endpoint (iv) there is not a lot of time in year two to prepare for the final show – think about it from now onwards!
The research paper was launched in parallel with the lead up to the interim show. I found myself having to do a lot of work organising the material I had and trying to narrow the scope of the paper down to a manageable level compatible with the 4000 word limit. As a result there was a paper that was written and several others that weren’t, or were only written in my mind. Also writing in practice is quite different from writing in theory, so I need to do something with the unwritten material.
By the end of July – early August I had worked through several rough drafts, way ahead of schedule but I knew August and early September were going to be occupied with holiday and work commitments. The paper had nucleated initially around a discussion of intermediality and media from the point of view of Krauss’ writings. In response to this I had developed an approach to intermediality based on Agamben’s Notes on Gesture and its application in film theory by a number of academics- this originally arose from my readings in trace, amongst other things. As a result of the generality of Agamben’s position, I found myself redrafting to place more emphasis on the broader picture around medium, placing Krauss in context but with a certain pride of place in the discussion.
The discussion of Agamben was challenging, due to the philosophical framework and the need to take these abstract ideas and apply them to concrete works of art. The paper only really came together when I had worked through the artist case studies – 6 of them – and realised that they actually made sense and in fact interlocked together in a meaningful way.