MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects. Research.
Partaking in two symposia in close series has provided me with a moment of review of other artists’ work, all of which held my a theme which I call “Melancholia and Image Therapy”.
During the Tate Cartographies session in 2017, Susan Philipsz extolled her sound art projects. In these, audio, with meaning locked into the locale, is set across landscapes at a city level (Edinburgh) but then across huge tracts of land in Scandinavia. Perhaps her work at the Kassel Hauptbahnhof, Study for Strings for Documenta 13, in 2012 was the most steeped in a dreadful history. The contemporary reworking of a piece composed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp which was performed by detainees who were then all killed by the Nazis, with the exception of the conductor. The reworking, with silences and reduced score, to emulate the death of the participants, was played across the station platforms in 2012 via the PA system, figure 1. Philipsz visually records all her work via still and moving image which provides a remnant of the perforative work for review but also captures the people witnessing the sounds and their responses. Philipsz naturally responds to place and its history with her work with deeply researched feel for human history.
A few weeks later at the Grain ‘Responding to Landscape’ symposium in Birmingham, two presentations echoed the human tribulation and the response of making images as a way of dealing with family illness and death. Matthew Murray has made a series of work on Saddleworth Moor, a place with an etched meaning for anyone in the UK with a sense of twentieth century history. Murray spent days and nights with his assistant walking up, over, down and around the moors, image making, whilst a member of his family was dealing with tragic illnesses, perhaps as a counterpoint and empathy to that heaviness and sadness. See one example of his work in figure 2.
figure 3, 4
Murray was followed by Jem Southam who eloquently expressed his response to a bereavement by walking along rivers and by ponds with his camera and making work about place over and over again, figures 3, 4. Walking and walking was expressed in his imagery. His voice cracked as he retold his method as he gently rolled through a series of images. One could not help but feel the sadness but also the beauty and infused pathos in the making and walking.
It was perhaps not necessary for me to look for wider affirmation that walking and looking through the lens to deal with life’s tough stuff is manifest; these visually powerful examples offer evidence alone and I add to that my own history; yet this piece my Bryce Evans in PsychCentral, about the saving nature of camera-work cites these outcomes “motivation to get outside and connect with nature, provides a shift in perspective (you’re literally looking through a new/different lens, often seeing the world differently), you begin searching for and finding beauty in the world”.
One concludes, making images is a therapeutic activity.
References (all accessed 10. 12. 2017)
Tate Symposium http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/conference/urban-encounters-2017-cartographies