Publicity Shoot – Building the Story

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

Vic 3

Figure 1

The breadth of the MA comes into play when, in learning how to write proposals to potential clients, I created a real one for the Birmingham Civic Society (see snap-shot Notes below) early in 2017.  This was a detailed proposal to ‘shoot’ the Victoria statue in the eponymous square at the heart of Birmingham’s civic quarter.  It proposed accessing the work, which is quite elevated, and creating composite images at full scale and exhibiting them in a gallery space as an appreciation of the sculptor’s detail and a more ‘democratic’ a way of seeing that is ordinarily denied.

All went quiet until an invitation to make images from the scaffold that had been erected for a cleaning process, part-funded by the Civic Society, came to me.

I was thus able to spend two hours at three different levels of the scaffold in May 2018, figs 1-6.

As the images could be of local interest I appointed Edwin Ellis Media to create text and link with the communications team at the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (appointed to oversee the works) and the Civic Society.  The amalgam of the texts was then issued as a press release, fig 7.  Whilst all the copyrighted images were available via a link, the one chosen by the comm’s teams to headline (not my favourite) was used by social media and the Birmingham Post newspaper.

I was pleased with the social media activity, for example, fig 8, there were 9 retweets, 17 likes and 2 comments.

The key here was deliberate mention of the Pause Project and the forthcoming exhibition.  I have always believed that a story builds, it rarely works with only one mention in the media, so the strategy here is to launch the exhibition on the basis of this mention.

I used a photograph of the half-page article in the Birmingham Post, page 11, 10th May 2018 in my social media via Twitter and Instagram.

Figures 2-6

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Figure 7

 

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Figure 8

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Figure 9

 

Notes

All images by Philip Singleton

The overview of the proposals made to the Birmingham Civic Society in 2017.

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Kiefer & Rauschenberg

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

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Figure 1

Kiefer

My tentacles are triggered by finding artists who work with imagery on ‘solid’ media. A new one for me, Anselm Kiefer.

Figure one, in the context of the Pause Project, naturally caught my eye as juxtaposed, layered concrete, reinforcing bars, imagery and the curved form encouraged my exploration.

Kiefer, born in 1945 at the end of that dreadful, global conflict, draws on a deep and often dark history of European warfare and its extreme movements. He is an artist I had not until now been exposed to.  His use of memory, messaging, sculpture and its materiality are appropriate sources of inspiration in consideration of my own practice.

He works regularly with lead, fig 2 for its properties; heaviness, malleability and longevity – a metaphor for his primary subject – the weight of war and human debt.  He often implants imagery onto the lead and in this case a photograph.  The Artstory website references “Kiefer is drawn to various and often unusual media ….. Lead also has resonance for the artist both as a medium and a subject matter. It was the base material used in alchemy and he considers it the only material heavy enough to bear the burden of history”.

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Figure 2

 

Rauschenberg

 

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Figure 3

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), I was more familiar with, but not his ‘Copperhead’ body of work, detail, fig 3.  This use of a solid, yet also malleable material, has relevance.

This quote chimed, from Gagosian Gallery for its approach to materiality “I like seeing people using materials that one’s not accustomed to seeing in art. That has a particular value. New materials have fresh associations, physical properties and qualities that have built into them the possibility of forcing you or helping you do something else.”

His silkscreen printing of imagery is cited on the Rauschenberg Foundation website “Having visited a copper mine and foundry during research for Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange/ROCI CHILE, Rauschenberg created a series of paintings using copper supports for silkscreened photographs and tarnishing agents. The Copperheads made in 1985 are part of ROCI CHILE”

Notes

On Kiefer,

(Narrow ar the Vessels) https://hyperallergic.com/245821/coming-back-to-kiefer/ (accessed 23.4.2018) notes “The title, from a line of poetry by the pseudonymous Saint-John Perse, which the artist inscribed in French on the wall, is a reference to the Trojan War (“In vain the surrounding land traces for us its narrow confines. One same wave throughout the world, one same wave since Troy rolls its haunch towards us”)”

Fig 1 accessed 23.4.2018  from https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2014/07/19/keifer-art-conjures-history-irony-and-myth-mass-moca/sIwuJT6w4YzB6XlwNkqgVI/story.html

Fig 2 accessed 23.4.2018  http://www.liarumma.it/artists/anselm-kiefer/

Quote, accessed 23.4.2018  http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kiefer-anselm.htm

On Rauschenberg,

Fig 3 (detail) and latter quote, accessed 23.4.2018 https://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/series/copperhead

 

Former Quote, accessed 23.4.2018 https://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/robert-rauschenberg–november-01-2014

 

Zine : Content

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

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Figure 1

I have made periodic references to Edgar Martins‘ practice throughout my MA studies. Meeting him at ParisPhoto in 2016 and then hearing him talk in 2017, I remain awed by his tenacious and detailed research into each body of work that he creates.

In his series ‘Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes’, 2016-2017, he introduces it thus “this project proposes to scrutinize, expose and hold in tension many of the contradictions and problems inherent in the conceptualisation, definition and depiction of death. These intentions will likely collide, overlap and blur, revealing the fragility of our perceptual and cognitive systems.” and continues by stating that it “encompasses the production of new photographic work, following both a speculative and documentary approach,  the appropriation of previously unseen archive material such as historical photographs, confidential case and medical files, crime and suicide-scene evidence, photo-installation and projection,” 

Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Martins thus captured a series of objects and photographed them in isolation from the context of the research, as if allowing the images to exude their own presence and then, by insertion back into the body of work, a rope suddenly has a sad implication, a rock too, as tools of death. His strategies for narrative are via photo-books and large-scale installations, applying the images to a build a portrayal of his study; figs 2 – 7

Whilst more modest in approach, I have, since mid-2017, been ‘liberating’ objects that summarise the Pause Project, things left behind, the abandoned items that symbolise the use that has passed, actually a form of death.  I have spent the last three days considering these items, the meaning and implications, as well as creating images of them as a way of incorporating them into the multi-media exhibition.  Today, 22nd April, I have edited the objects and cropped them all into a sqaure format (a techniue I applied for my September 2017 exhbition), fig 1.  The gaze is thus invited at parts of objects, to engage the viewer to consider their use and purpose.  They vary from a rusty fixing, to masonic regalia, signs and sex toys.

In the context of Canto‘s work as archeology, I have made images (in parallel with the visual strategy above) of a sample group of concrete shards from the demolished Conservatoire, close up, to present them as if as fossils, as the trace of reinforcing bars, paint and surface stresses are all made clear via this edit, fig 8.

 

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Figure 8

A Strategy

I have previously written about the potential for a zine concept and typology .  I remain of the view that the zine will be produced, but it needs to be viewed as a contingency for the exhibition and its launch; the priority is the media to be displayed in the gallery spaces.

However, the zine concept allows the collection of a series of writings and images and remains an important tool in the armoury of sustaining the exhibition after it closes, as a tool of capture and promotion.  It too may add to the material chosen to be shown as a strategy to illustrate the liberated objects, as there is yet to be a natural place for these in the exhibition space.  If it is created for the exhibition then it has a greater visual width and sampling than simply a repetition of the exhibition.

Fig 9 states my thinking in terms of title, Birmingham Dust, flow and content, as a draft for discussion with peers.

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Figure 9

Notes

Figures 1, 8, 9 – Philip Singleton

Figures 2 – 7 and 10 sourced from Edgar Martins’ website, accessed 22.4.2018 http://www.edgarmartins.com/work/siloquies-and-soliloquies-on-death-life-and-other-interludes/

Fig 10, below, is an illustration from ‘Destinerrance: The Place of the Dead is the Place of Photography at Centro de Arte José de Guimarães, Guimarães (Portugal)‘ showing the interplay between hung images and objects in a field as an exhibiting exemplar.

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Figure 10

Stefano Canto Installation – Rome

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

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Figure 1

I am tracking the Canto exhibition in Rome at Materia Gallery (28.3.2018 – 19.5.2018).  The latest images of the installation are now available on the website.

An Analysis

I have translated the citation, (pasted in below as a footnote for the record).  Canto cites Zygmunt Bauman (on ‘liquid modernity’) and Marc Augé (on place, non-place and supermodernity) stating that contemporary society dwells in the present, chasing the shiny new and losing reference to the past, steeped in existential insecurity.  Thus, Canto identifies the era of now as characterised by continuous change and the principles of the ephemeral and impermanent as key concepts to apply.  This thinking applies to my work, the Pause Project, about loss, time held and the displacement by the new.

Canto observes an overlap between the archaeologist, as one who brings objects back to life and the artist who creates objects.  He sees this blend of interpreter and creator as relevant to now  His installation “Under the Influence of the River.  Sediment” is seen as the next chapter in the body of work known as, to translate, “Archaeology of the Ephemera” started in 2016.  In the latest work, the Tiber features as the point of observation and a kind of accidental selection of the metropolis of Rome as the history of objects gather and flow with the presence of the currents. 

I take this to mean that the city that discards and loses the objects of life that sink into a bed of thick but richly embodied time or indeed timelessness, like a magma kept viscous by the constant presence of the fluvial flow; a narrative of the city is suspended in an emission of fine, grey mud. 

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Figure 2

Canto presents these objects in a ‘store-room’ like shelving configuration, fig 2, in the gallery, ready to be referenced as dredged pieces, as a metaphor of time and place and then recreates the sedimentation process with large trays of organic and inorganic objects positioned on the gallery floor with an overhead conical machine, fig 1, that emits cement powder thus accelerating the process of sedimentation creating “emblematic fossils of our time”.  It is a form of kinetic art creation.

My analysis of the text and the images provoke numerous questions and I am planning on meeting both the gallery owner Niccolò Fano and Canto at the installation in early May 2018.  For example the tension between the ephemeral and the memorial.

Figures 3, 4

The manner of display in figure 1 caused me to reflect on a visit made in March 2018 to the Lapworth Museum of Geology to view its display modes. The Canto shelving has some similarity to these with items placed in a ‘wall’ of shelving and in this instance viewable from each side which exemplified the three-dimensional nature of the pieces, figs 3, 4, and also showed the natural light across the surfaces from each view point.

 

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Figure 5

Practice Development

This study has caused me to reveal the fragments of concrete I obtained two weeks ago from the Conservatoire demolition site in Birmingham and begin to consider how they may be configured to exemplify the fractured, dusty metaphor for my city’s liquid state of renewal and causing off its recent past.  Notably, the trace of the reinforcing bars can be seen on a number of the pieces, particularly the bottom left in fig 5.

I am pondering creating a memoriam and incorporating the archival images I captured in 2017, as a parallel to by concrete tablet memoriam.

Footnote

Images 3, 4 and 5 Philip Singleton

Images (figs 1 and 2) and citation obtained from the Materia Gallery website, accessed 16.4.2018

https://www.materiagallery.com/

Nell’epoca contemporanea, caratterizzata da rapidi e continui mutamenti, l’effimero e l’impermanente possono essere identificati come concetti chiave nella comprensione della condizione attuale dell’essere umano.

Nella definizione di modernità liquida, il sociologo polacco Zygmunt Bauman associa alla realtà contemporanea alcune peculiarità distintive tra le quali transitorietà permanente, effimero durevole, ruoli sociali inadeguati, futuro incerto, posizione sociale fragile e insicurezza esistenziale.

Nella vita liquida tutto è in continuo cambiamento e rinnovamento, il concetto di passato tende a perdere senso e quello di futuro a non esistere o ad essere molto lontano, irraggiungibile. Questa condizione di precarietà è stata evidenziata anche da Marc Augé, il quale sostiene che la società contemporanea “non mira all’eternità, ma al presente: un presente, tuttavia, insuperabile”. E aggiunge: “Essa non anela all’eternità di un sogno di pietra, ma a un presente ‘sostituibile’ all’infinito”.

Le parole di Bauman e di Augé restituiscono un quadro chiaro della nostra realtà e sottolineano l’importanza dei concetti di effimero e di impermanente come strumenti indispensabili per l’osservazione del contemporaneo.

Nel contesto di una società che nega l’esistenza di un passato e di un futuro, per restare intrappolata in un eterno presente, le figure dell’archeologo (colui che riporta in vita l’oggetto artistico) e dell’artista (colui che lo crea) sembrano sovrapporsi. Ne deriva l’immagine di un artista-archeologo che assume un ruolo chiave, racchiudendo in sé due aspetti fondamentali: quello dell’interprete dei segni di una civiltà sospesa nel tempo e quella del promotore di processi progettuali e creativi, garante quindi di una continuità ciclica della creazione artistica.

In questo preciso ambito s’inserisce la mostra “Sotto l’influenza del Fiume. Sedimento”, nuovo capitolo del corpus di lavori dal titolo “Archeologia dell’Effimero”, iniziato nel 2016 ma che trova le sue cellule germinali in un progetto di qualche anno prima, “Geografia in Contrazione” (2011), dove elementi vegetali prelevati da contesti incontaminati della città venivano inglobati in blocchi di cemento per farne degli illeggibili archivi del paesaggio.

In “Sotto l’influenza del Fiume. Sedimento” il Tevere diventa il punto di osservazione e riflessione sulla metropoli contemporanea ed il suo fondo, il luogo in cui si configura la città nella sua vera forma. Materie organiche e inorganiche di diverso genere e frammenti architettonici di ogni epoca si accumulano e confondono in una unica omogenea massa grigia fatta di infiniti strati in continuo movimento e rimodellamento.

Questo magma architettonico trova la sua solidificazione (litificazione) all’interno di grandi vasche poste in galleria dove viene ricreato il microcosmo del Tevere. Grazie alla polvere di cemento rilasciata da una macchina sopraelevata e appositamente progettata, si attiva così un processo fortemente accelerato di costruzione di sedimenti della città “liquida”, fossili emblematici del nostro tempo.

Stefano Canto

A shoot – the Pause Project – Junction Works

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

I continue to shoot and build the body of work that is the Pause Project.

On 9th April I gained access to the Junction Works is at the heart of Digbeth in Birmingham, on Fazeley Street and part of what is known as Warwick Bar.

The building has a typical two storey street frontage, opening out to large warehouse spaces to the rear, one assumes served by the canal system.

The building was largely empty, making the Pause Project images in these spaces more about the materiality and spatial quality before its likely new life as an art gallery space – which is a thrilling prospect.

To Par Away

Research : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

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Figure 1

A Synthesis

The current BBC series, Civilisations provides historic and cultural contexts for artistic expression. During episode 6, series 1, ‘First Contact’, the historian David Olusoga sets out the flow of people, ideas and visual techniques via trade and the immediacy of expression via the paintings, sculpture and drawings that capture the diffusion that sparked new thinking.

Of particular note was the work by the late Eighteen Century Japanese artist, Maruyama Okyo who, based in Kyoto, a trading city with the Europeans,  makes a rather beautiful work known as Cracked Ice, fig 1.  This is made using ink on paper and it is a cultural synthesis of technique, the simple line of the ink pen on paper but with the added ‘visual depth’ allowing the eye is drawn deep across the scant, icy surface by the thinning of each line.  This was opposed to the flat, two-dimensional representation of typical Japanese art.  Olusoga notes that the work “Imperfections and impermanence typical of Buddhism and Japanese philosophy”, this appeals to me; the cracks are the imperfections in the purity of the ice sheet, the impermanence of the melt mean the scene would soon simply melt into a changed state; the solid simply passes the melting point and cracks have no place to be.  A metaphor for life, human and environmental, for the liminal moment, for the pause state, hence my fascination with it. 

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Figure 2

Within my practice, I seek to place the lens to achieve a sense of place (the perspective, fig 2) and evoke the surface (as if the ink, fig 3), often in a frame that compresses and excludes the peripheral to draw the eye to the essence.

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Figure 3

On Taking Tea

The Maruyama Okyo piece is cited by the British Museum website, where it is held, thus “Painting, two-fold screen for tea ceremony (furosaki byobu). Cracked ice: patch of ice just beginning to form; lines of ink along white surface. Ink on paper with sprinkled mica. Signed and sealed”

There are curator’s comments by Smith et al 1990, “As a young man, Okyo was employed by a Kyoto toy merchant, Nakajima Kambei, to design prints and paintings incorporating Western-style ‘vanishing-point’ perspective, for use with novelty viewing machines that contained a mirror and a lens to accentuate the three-dimensionality of the images. Okyo applied the lessons of these early experiments to his mature works which, for the first time in the history of Japanese art, have a structure based on integrated spatial recession”.

Under ‘further reading’ the site references Saint Louis Art Museum, ‘Okyo and the Maruyama-Shijo School of Japanese Painting’, Saint Louis, 1980.Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 1′ “This work was likely used as a ‘furosaki’, or small, low screen placed near the hearth in a room devoted to the tea ceremony.”

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Figure 4

With the reference to the tea ceremony, I am reminded about the writings of Juniper on Wabi Sabi, the Art of Japanese Impermanence (2003:40-42) the liturgy of the tea serving is epitomised by another son of Kyoto, Sen no Rikyo, who had trained as a Zen monk and became known as the master of masters, centred on this ritual.  He eschewed the decorative chinoiserie elemental parts and chose to have simple clay utensils crafted for his routine. He created spaces to undertake the procedures in a “tearoom inspired by the simple and restrained designs of Zen temples. At every turn he aimed to par away everything that was not strictly necessary to leave only the most austere and yet sublimely refined the environment in which to enjoy the sharing of tea”. The cleanliness and preparation were epitomised by the account that Sen no Rikyo asked his son to spend a whole day preparing the steps and spaces in readiness for a ceremony; after triple cleansing the son was satisfied that perfection had been achieved, yet “Rikyo then went over to a Maple tree that was crimson with the autumn leaf and shook it so that some of its beautiful leaves fell randomly to the floor. He let the artistry of nature put the finishing touches to the earnest in endeavours of the son, and in so doing a perfect balance between the two. Wabi Sabi is not solely the work done by nature, nor is it solely to work done by man. It is a symbiosis of the two”.

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Figure 5

In the method applied to the Pause Project, the handcrafted line, surface, space is often counterpointed by the unexpected or the unintended; the dust, the litter, the random, fig 5, that simply is, not designed, not crafted, just left, fig 6.

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Figure 6

References

Civilisations, BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05xyfg6 (accessed 30.3.2018)

Juniper A. 2003. Wabi Sabi, the Art of Japanese Impermanence. Tuttle Press.  Tokyo

Okyo, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=1378563001&objectId=781277&partId=1  (accessed 30.3.2018)

Figures

1 British Museum – see above

2 Philip Singleton, Great Hampton Street, 2018

3 Philip Singleton, Snow, Harborne, 2018

4 From Wabi Sabi, the Art of Japanese Impermanence, see above.  PP 32.

5 Philip Singleton, Spaghetti Junction, 2017

6 Philip Singleton, Roundhouse, 2017

 

 

 

Hockney & Bradford

Research : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

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Figure 1

I took the opportunity to spend some time in a city I had long since visited, Bradford, this week.  From its Centenary Square water feature, fig 1, to the launch of Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds, fig 2, it was a visually stimulating few days.

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Figure 2

I always take the time to visit the galleries and in this instance Cartwright Hall where the diverse range of David Hockney’s work is staged in the city of his birth.  This was a treat as I had not previously seen the array of his media from photographs to sketches to collage to paper mache.

It was, as ever, useful to observe numerous things that are applicable to my own thinking.  One of the man thematic panels was illustrated with text and select images, enabling the related section (Hockey and Fashion) to be contextualised, fig 3.

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Figure 3

Hockney’s “Le Plongeur (Paper Pool 18) 1978. Colored and pressed paper pulp 72 x 171″ caused me to halt and look very closely at the surface and the modular nature of the method used to create this vibrant piece, fig 4.  A technique for a printing background to be tested post-MA.

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Figure 4
Figures 5, 6

His collage technique applied the view of his Mother at Bolton Abbey, 1982 caused me to take a close up of his pumps; the artist appearing in his own work and thus he links himself to his forebear, figs 5, 6.

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Figure 7

The Hockney quote about the city of his birth, fig 7, is applicable to my Pause Project centred on Birmingham; “there is a magic in it if you look closely”

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Figure 8

Finally, the map used to locate Hockney’s work was a powerful panel and underlines my own thinking about using a map.

All images my own using an iPhone.