Monochrome: Painting in Black and White - National Gallery
When planning my project I began to consider more and more the importance of colour in my piece. To help me really consider the impact colour had on a piece of art I thought it would be interesting to visit the National Gallery to see the exhibition 'Monochrome: Painting in Black and White'. The exhibition was particularly interesting and useful because it highlighted how important it was to choose the right colour for something/ to choose to have no colour. Often preparatory sketches and paintings were and still are done in monochrome/ 'grisaille' are disregarded as just tests and practices but, displayed in this exhibition, many of these were particularly impactful. Choosing to use or only using greyscale as the colour pallet gives the painting a much softer, but sometimes much more sinister feel. Igres' 'Grande Odalisque' is the focus of many questions about the female nude, featuring in the most famous Guerilla Girls' campaign banner and discussed in the John Berger essay I previously discussed. The preparatory painting for the original was on display in this exhibition was incredibly striking, with the colour stripped away and the lavish surroundings simplified the focus fell much more heavily on the girl herself, bringing into question some of the themes that Berger looks at in his essay and some that I would like to focus on in my final outcome. I think this made me realise I need to consider the use of colour in this project even more carefully to make sure t really communicates the message I want to convey.
'Ways of Seeing' Essay 2 - John Berger
Ways of seeing
Notes on essay:
- This essay explores the depiction of women throughout history in art, particularly in nude painting.
- Have we become more private ? ... the idea of a ‘nude’ has become more taboo over time and is it a step backwards in sexual liberation and the free expression of the human body ?
- Charles II commissioned and naked painting of his mistress which was then put on display, free for his guests to view.
- Entirely for the wrong reasons yes... to demonstrate his dominance and her subservience and placing her almost forcefully as an object of the male gaze in order to make his guests envy her submission to him.
- HOWEVER has the focus on nudity and the right to see it meant that we have become overly precious ?
- It has now become a huge statement to display one’s own nudity, it is a political and bold statement to display or present ones own nudity etc
- Difficult question... why should it be so difficult for people to present their own nudity openly ? But equally is it the relaxation of attitudes to and the normalisation of nudity that opens, particularly women, up to exploitation?
- Does a ‘nude’ automatically’ and necessarily objectify the subject?
- Potentially ‘nakedness’ ought to be accepted... an acceptance of the human form simply without clothes
- But is it the ‘nude’, the objective image that is so problematic in terms of the permission to view it and the permission to distribute it
- The ‘nude’ should be for everyone and not just the expected patriarchal viewer... then it’s not objective anymore
- The nude itself holds so much meaning in the way that the subject is presented... it’s not just the acceptance of the naked form but the positioning and the presentation of the subject much seem mutually ‘enjoyable’ to both the subject and the viewer OR a neutral presentation- not only for the enjoyment of the viewer
- The power imbalance ... usually regarding female subjects in vulnerable and forced positions is what makes the ‘nudes’, particularly of women problematic
- Another historic representation of the power imbalance is the lack of hair painted on women... hair was associated with sexual power and passion... hence by taking it away from the women... the power is yet again placed in the men’s hands
- The nude has gained more and more weight and is so loaded now that it is difficult to display openly and liberation is harder?
- Perhaps due to the misuse of the nude and the poor purpose over the years has damaged the nude and given such negative connotations that it is so difficult for us to simply accept now.
This essay was particularly useful in the Place project as it helped me to consider the importance of context and purpose of sexual expression. Sexuality expressed in the wrong way and in the wrong place can be so counterintuitive in terms of the right to freedom of sexual expression. Instead of normalizing and celebrating sexuality it makes it inappropriate and again, taboo. I want my piece to highlight the difference between a celebration of sexuality, and the exploitation and inapropritatly explicity display of sexuality.
Marcin Dudek, Casting methods
Gabriel Garcia Roman - Queer Icons
Everything at Once - 180 The Strand
Somerset House- HASSAN HAJJAJ exhibition
Frieze Art Fair - Rineka Dijkstra
On visiting the Frieze Art fair I found this series of Portraits by Rineka Dijkstra. The plain white backgrounds highlight the focus that is put onto the people and not their surroundings, placing them against white backgrounds means that they are completely displaced from a scenario which might otherwise be seen as a something of great importance. Now, displayed in this way they are viewed completely as who they are as an individual. The only thing that gives away anything about them is the way they are dressed, perhaps if one wanted a completely unbiased and impartial judgement you would have to remove anything that gave evidence of their socioeconomic status, interests etc from the image/film. I am interested in this concept as I want to experiment with taking away material objects that we place so much emphasis and importance on from scenarios and seeing how much importance they actually really hold.
The idea of found footage interested me and made me think of artist Rineka Dijkstra, who’s video installation I had seen over the summer at the Stedlijke Museum of modern art in Amsterdam. Dijkstra discusses ‘The Buzz Club’ video in this interview (http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/rineke-dijkstra-artists-talk) and the concept of finding her footage and finding where to shoot it is discussed . Although shot herself the idea of finding these people in their natural setting and then removing them from it made it seem almost as if the had found the people in the club and removed them from the normal club scene setting seen in footage of people dancing. This idea of removing and detaching things in video interested me too. Dijkstra selected teenagers in ‘The Buzz Club’ to feature in her video and filmed them dancing or doing whatever they would be doing in the club. The detachment from the club setting paced all the focus on the people themselves and this is something that I would like to experiment with, playing with where the focus in a video is and how I can manipulate that.
The Infinate Mix - Hayward Gallery
I visited The Infinite Mix exhibition, an exhibition displaying 10 short films. The films ranged in length but all were hugely engaging in the kind of mesmerising, hypnotic way I mentioned in my analysis of Wallinger's 'Threshold to the Kingdom'. It seems difficult to gain originality in film art, with a huge number of techniques and styles now being overused and dull. These films were all interesting topics or styles that had not seen so successfully used before.
“The Infinite Mix is proof that video and film are the most consistently creative artistic fields of this century. It’s a contender for the show of the year”
“You’ll find ten of the most engaging pieces of visual art you’ll see together all year. They’re full of passion, innovation, love, cleverness and emotion"
“The Infinite Mix feels – believe me – like a total blast. Urgent, important, infectious, and fresh, it offers a compelling advertisement for the dynamic possibilities of this mercurial art form”
“Sound and vision combine in The Infinite Mix to create a brilliant, funny, moving, weird art show, which shouldn’t be missed”
One of my favourite pieces in the show was Ugo Rondinone's 'THANX 4 NOTHING' (2015). ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuP4rVLj8a0 )Made up simply of poet John Giorno reading a poem composed by himself on his 70th birthday, I liked how it initially seemed to be made through simple and straightforward editing. It looks as though he has simply recorded himself on a stage reading the poem and then displayed it as an installation on various screens and projections. However, the longer I spent in the room, the more I observed the different videos- they were not, in fact, all the same video one was shot in a black suit and one in white, however the movements were almost identical and the syncing of the words was so near perfect I really questioned whether it was the same clip simply with inverted colours. This subtle difference, though simple, made the already philosophical piece even more interesting and intriguing. The other visitors too seemed transfixed and reluctant to leave the immersive space, the simplicity of the first impression this piece gave combined with the high-speed and complex editing and syncing emphasises Giorno’s theatrical delivery and draws attention to the poem’s many rhetorical twists and turns engaging the viewer completely.
Mark Wallenger -'Threshold to the Kingdom'
When presented with the video editing task this was the first piece of video art to spring to mind. I saw this video installation at the Tate Britain years ago but it made a lasting impression on me. I think what is the most interesting is the mundane nature of the video shown, normally watching people exiting an aport terminal would be fairly uninteresting and dull but Wallenger has slowed down the footage to such an extent (paired with composer Allegri's 'Miserere Mei, Deus') where it becomes transfixing, almost hypnotic. The slow movements of the people alongside the music transforms the arrivals into seemingly more graceful and poised dancers.
Daily Telegraph art critic Martin Gayford wrote of the effect of the artwork:
' It gets its strange power from the conflation of Allegri’s soaringly spiritual music with the banal, anonymous setting of an international airport. Yes, the gates of heaven might be like this – ordinary, yet marvellous.'
Simple the adjustment of speed and the addition of music in this video completely subverted a dull ordinary scene into something homogenous with heaven. This effect is something I would like to achieve and experiment with in my video.
Tom Friedman - Soap sculptures
Marcin Dudek - Steps and Marches
Allora & Calzadilla - Petrified petrol pump
This idea of 'setting something in stone', really encapsulates the idea of a) preserving something in time... 'fossilising' it as Allora & Calzadilla view it, and b) making it more permanent. When people talk about something being 'set in stone' they generally refer to something being 'very difficult or impossible to change', it is permanent. By setting business cards 'in stone' they become even more permanent and official, there is no reason why these cards should not be more of a part of peoples life since they are used so often.
Drug Dealer Business Cards
The irony of these cards is that there is still an attempt to be discrete and not directly mention the things they are actually advertising. I think it would work well to make one of these sort of cards out of plaster, making it as permanent as any other business that people would refer back to again and again to repeatedly use the service.
Original Article (The Observer... also features in The Guardian online)
The article seems surprised by the use of business cards by drug dealers, however, it does not acknowledge the fact that drug dealers are essentially businessmen and so aim, like any other business to promote their business. Again I wanted to subvert this idea and include a card of this type amongst the other business cards that people would use and refer to frequently, hence there being a need for them to be more permanent.
Collection Book Research
Susan Hiller - 'After the Freud Museum'
Susan Hiller similarly organizes a collection of artifacts in a very scientific way. The irony of this piece is that the items themselves that have been collected have no real connection, they are just a collection of random objects which are then cataloged to give them a connection and an order.
'On one level, my vitrine installation is a collection of things evoking cultural and historical points of slippage – psychic, ethnic, sexual, and political disturbances. Individual items in my collection range from macabre through sentimental to banal. Many of the objects are personal, things I’ve kept for years as private relics and talismans, mementoes, references to unresolved issues in earlier works, or even as jokes. Sigmund Freud’s impressive collection of classical art and artefacts inspired me to formalise and focus my project. But if Freud’s collection is a kind of index to the version of Western civilisation’s heritage he was claiming, then my collection taken as a whole, is an archive of misunderstandings, crises, and ambivalences that complicate any such notion of heritage.' (Hiller cited in McShine 1999, p.93.)
The idea of numbering items in order to give them some kind of meaning interested me. When something is categorized with a number it is often seen as more 'official'. People seem to then take it more seriously and pay more attention to it - it gains more importance.
Disenchantment - Eckart Bartnik
In this photography series, Eckart Bartnik, a photographer, and scientist chronicles and documents the vending machines of Germany. I found the photo series particularly interesting due to Bartnik's combination of photo types, not only did he photograph the gumball machines, he places spotlights on them to draw attention to these, often, unnoticed objects which inhabit what he refers to as 'non-places'. The French anthropologist Marc Auge? coined the term ‘non-places’, meaning mono-functional areas that lack their own history, relationships, and identity. By photographing them and creating this collection Batnik gives the 'non-spaces' a beauty and meaning of their own. As well as documenting the gumball machines themselves, Bartnik, given his scientific background, also photographs the contents of one of these machines, against a black background, in very high quality- almost like a scientific specimen.
Skin Research Book
Suspend, further research, Florian Mehnert
When looking in a book entitled 'Watched' I considered the concept of capturing time, as is the eternal capturing of moments on CCTV. In one piece in this book, by artist Florian Mehnert, a microphone was suspended in a forest, capturing the sounds around it. Again, this made me consider the concept of moments in time being captured and suspended in time. The sounds of the forest that would normally pass by unnoted, were being captured by this suspended microphone and were therefore saved for, in theory, eternity. I wanted to include some kind of concept of 'moments captured' in my final outcome.
The word 'suspend' immediately lead me and most of my group to consider hanging objects. 'Hanging' is often done with rope or thread and this reminded me of a gallery I visited many years ago which was displaying an installation by artist Chiharu Shiota. This intallation involved bultiple burn chairs and a grand piato all surrounded almost 'suspended' in thread/string. This again lead me to think about preserving and suspending things in time. For example, burnt buildings, items etc are often disposed of or cleared away yet by involving the thread and rope in this peice of art the burnt chairs and piano were suspended in time, as they were when they were burnt.
Initial material research
I began my research by looking at the practical and obvious origins of fur as a material and what it is used for. Looking in the Encyclopaedia of Textiles the information was primarily about the traditional uses of fur. It noted how the use of fake fur became popular in ‘The Depression’. It was cheaper than real fur of course but gave the illusion of wealth and prosperity. This lead me to question quite why it was such a sought after and admired material. It is, after all, a natural material, and like I discussed with my group, there is a human equivalent… hair. Why then, had the use of human hair not been explored as a useful and popular material. Perhaps it is because, it is a part of another human being and so it makes people uncomfortable to see a physical part of another person on someone else. This, as a process, seemed an even more interesting process to explore and experiment with.
I also began to read about the less obvious uses for fur, and those that did not spring to mind immediately when considering fur. For example the use of fur in hats, footwear, home furnishing, stuffed toys, cosmetic puffs and brushes etc. Developing on the groups initial ideas, these items gave me ideas of the sort of objects I could potentially make out of hair to be suspended.