24-30 September – Rework and Refinement

Fresh off the critique of last week it seemed I had my work cut out for me. I had to rework both the videos I had completed and rethink completely my approach to including some wildlife photos in the exhibit. I tried a few approaches to the intro video eliminating the photos completely, but it seemed too much to lack context.  I then tried leaving some photos and reducing the number of words.  I used animation effects to bring the key words in and out with a select group of photos and it had the effect of reducing the overall time to less than 2 minutes and serving as a perfect trailer to introduce the key themes of my work without telling the whole story. I plan to set this up at the exhibition entrance so it is the first thing people see when they enter the space and it will be positioned next to the artist’ statement.

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The second video to be reworked was the Changing Faces piece that had already been through several iterations.  I took the suggestion to consider using synchronous view in PowerPoint and the result was quite effective.  Rather than requiring a viewer to stand and wait for the next sequence and either ‘forget’ the prior comparators or get bored and walk away before seeing what I would like them to see, the synchronous view allows four separate seasons to be viewed simultaneously.  The message of change is unmissable and it has the advantage of keeping the eyes moving from frame to frame looking for comparisons.  It also has the advantage of three of the four frames being essentially identical in their perspective and timing.  There are slight variations due to wind and other flight affecting factors but they are close enough so as not to be a distraction.  The fourth frame was a video created before I had pre-planned mission profiles that provided the repeatability of the other three videos and while it starts off differently than the other three it synchs up rather closely toward the middle section where the differences in the four scenes are the most dramatic.  The changing perspective of the first frame also contributes to the need for the viewer to keep their eyes moving between frames and creates attention holding interest that causes the 8 minutes to go by rather quicker than realised.

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I also did a revision to my Artist’s Statement to put it into first person rather than third person narrative.  I did create some new aerial work, still images and sound recording to augment the final video expect to capture next week with the new mission profile I created that overflies all of Coul Links perimeter of the proposed development area capturing video rather than the still images of the typical profile.

For the wildlife photos, I created on A3 paper a 4 x 5 grid of images and printed three sheets (60 images) that are 5 x 6.5 cm and are sufficiently large to be able to see what they are if one gets close enough.  I considered different ways of displaying these images ranging from mounting them all on one large board with windows in the top mounting board to mounting on one board with a slight stand off to create some additional dimensionality.  In the end I decided to mount them individually on foam core board and distribute them randomly around the exhibit including suspending some so they ‘floated’ in space.  This approach does two things.  First, the scale of the landscape to wildlife in actuality is more closely approximated by the scales of the landscape to wildlife photos.  The birds occupy a very small segment of the landscape and are constantly moving with in it.  Which leads to the second point and that is the random distribution of the small wildlife photos is again a metaphor for how they exist in nature.  One never knows exactly what one might encounter and when.

Another week with significant tangible progress.  Next week the large format printing and mounting will be done along with one more new capture video showing the overview of Coul Links.  I hope to have the exhibition layout completed next week and all of the technical issues sorted with respect to projecting the video imagery in conjunction with the still images in the exhibition space.

16-23 Sep – New Work and Unseen Amsterdam

I finally caught a break with some good weather at the right time of day and was able to make some new work with which I am very pleased and some additional sound recording.  In fact I am so pleased with the new work that two have been added to the edit of large format photos that I will be printing the first week of October.

The first part of the week was also spent doing proof prints after recalibrating the computer, both monitors and the printers.  Lots of prints with different print profiles were made to determine the most faithful rendition of what I see on my screens.  After about 10 prints of the same photo that had a particularly rich set of colours, I arrived at best my printer could produce and began the proof prints in A4.  I would be taking them to Amsterdam for the portfolio review.  The multimedia files were also refined some more and in the case of “The Changing Faces of Coul Links” reworked completely after some peer feedback.  I leave for Amsterdam feeling pretty good about the work so far, and am anxious for some tutor feedback on how I can make it better.

The opening exercise Gary McCleod conceived was very engaging and interesting and served as a great way to get to know some of the other MA students who were attending as well as facilitate some critical thinking about one’s own work and that of others through an interrogatory process.

An afternoon visit to Huis Marseilles, brought me my first exposure to the brilliance of Berenice Abbott.  As was not uncommon in that time here work spanned several genres, but that she was a woman pushing boundaries was.  Her portrait work had a way of feeling as though she captured the personality of her subjects, but her architectural and science work were fascinating.

I did a review of my FMP work with Gary McCleod and Paul Clements the first evening since I was commuting from outside Rotterdam and was hoping to not have to come in Sunday just for a portfolio review.  And a solo review turned out to be exactly what I needed since a group review would not have allowed the time to get to the depth we did.

There was no question about the quality of the work, but there were many questions about how I was presenting it and whether I had a clear narrative. Gary specifically noted that I needed to be bold and radical and elevate the sophistication of the exhibition.  While some of the ideas they suggested seemed quite radical redirects, they insisted they were only refinements. Some specifics were:

  • The Beyond the Noise video that I was thinking about as the centrepiece that set the tone for the exhibition Gary thought I should remove all of the images and just use the words. He suggested that it might be better placed as an introduction and that I should revisit the video considering the images and the pacing.  It would require some extra thinking and experimentation next week.
  • When I explained I would be doing the principal photos in large format A1 or A0 and some of the wildlife photos small in A4, I was informed that A4 is not small and rather these were ‘too loud’ in the overall context and that they were confusing the story. They suggested ‘small’ so people would stop and look so that too would require some rethinking, but I quickly warmed to the concept and have several ideas on how to execute.
  • On the Changing Faces video which I had reworked several times, Gary suggested I try synchronous view in PowerPoint; a feature of which I had not been aware. It is something I wanted to do but wasn’t able to make it happen with Adobe Premiere so far. Again back to the computer to see what I can make because this approach solves a couple of the nagging reservations I had about this particular video which I believe is important to my narrative, but needs to be captivating as it is shown.
  • The last major point Gary had for me was to think about the experience from the viewer’s perspective. Take them on a journey and don’t be tempted to spoon feed them along the way.  This was the essence behind his suggestion of removing the photos from the Beyond the Noise video.  He also enjoined me to be sure what was the ‘main meal’ I was serving and to not let the story get muddled with the fact that I am using various media to communicate it.

On Saturday, I visited the Unseen Exhibition and found it much more enjoyable than last year’s show. While there were quite a number of cyanotypes, they were different enough so as not feel like a trope and the rest of the work was sufficiently diverse to really keep my interest.  I thought there was a much better mix of genres this year than last and was happy to see landscapes represented.

I also took in the exhibit that was on at FOAM.  We had some intense and interesting discussions about the non-photographic work, but I found the Brassai work again quite interesting and was particularly amazed that there was a sharpness of focus that was not always common among his contemporaries using the large format cameras.  His night time Paris work is an especially good example.

My last event of the day was a super visit with Liz Halls and Addie Elliot at the Elliot Halls Gallery.  Liz was very generous with her time and we had a lovely discussion about the work they had on exhibit and even a bit about how my worked related to it and Matthew Murray’s work.  I was very excited to find they had copies of Saddleworth as I had been looking for nearly a year for one.

 

9-15 Sep Preparation for Exhibition continued

I have been continuing work on the multimedia bits of my upcoming exhibition and completed two videos that I plan to review in Amsterdam in the portfolio review.

I have also been working on an invitation list and the advertising posters, and have been writing the artist’s statement that will accompany the exhibition.

I feel a bit behind in writing as I have been so busy doing and yet the weather has been highly uncooperative for getting the remaining drone footage I would like to have.

Printing of the large format photos will the week after returning from Amsterdam.  I have settled on the edit and am comfortable with my choices.  The chosen work includes a cross section of the work I have accomplished while on the MA with a heavy weighting toward more recent work, but I felt the context provided by some of the earlier work was important to the overall narrative.

Week 9 – Curating an Exhibition

I had the opportunity to curate the hanging of the exhibition of the East Sutherland Camera Club (ESCC) at the Grace of Dornoch Café and Deli.  The photo collection was comprised of the regular contest winners in the three categories of colour, monochrome, and creative (altered reality), along with the club’s selected entries for the Highland Challenge, an annual interclub competition among a half dozen or so camera clubs in the Highland’s.

While in the past ESCC has only shown their work in the Brora Library during the month of August, the committee (of which I am part) was convinced to exhibit in other communities to promote the club and showcase the excellent work of local photographers.  As I had done an exhibition of my own work last August at the Grace Café I was able to secure the space again this year for the ESCC show.  In the past, the exhibition was always hung in the 4 categories in conventionally oriented fashion without necessarily considered visual or topical continuity. For the Grace exhibit I was given free rein to organise the show as I saw fit, so I chose to group the work differently and to arrange it with an eye to visual continuities and transitions.

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At the extreme right are a group of portraits.  At the center is a puffin, while surrounding are 4 portraits of people arranged such that their gaze is directed a the puffin.  To the left of that grouping are the landscapes with the upper row arranged such that there is a gradual transition through the colour palette and the horizons are roughly aligned.  The lower row is slightly more eclectic mix of photos in the landscape category that include colour, monochrome and some altered reality photos.

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One next wall to the left are a grouping that are based around a theme of circular forms and next that grouping another of more linear geometric forms.

The two photos that did not fit into any of these other groupings, an owl and a highly manipulated image of a boy gazing at the sea each got their own space on a smaller section of wall.

 

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I am pleased to say the exhibit was generating a good bit of interest and discussion among café customers on the opening day and hopefully will continue to generate footfall as the word of mouth and the social media advertising take hold.

I believe these opportunities to think critically about how work should be exhibited and viewed to develop a hang plan as well as the logistics involved with securing locations, planning the use of space and the actual logistics and process of getting work on the wall are valuable bits of education and experience that will continue to serve me well in future.

 

FMP Research – Week 4

I travelled to the Netherlands and Belgium to visit museums and galleries in Rotterdam and Antwerp to further research how work was being exhibited and how those techniques might be applied to my work for FMP.  I also looked at many photobooks and had the benefit of the principal exhibition in the Fotomuseum Antwerp be about the history of Belgian Photobooks.

My first stop was Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. The main exhibit was a retrospective of the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elksen titled “Lust for Life.”  It was quite differently curated and hung than the Cas Oorthuis, “Dit is Cas” exhibition I saw last September, and I appreciated how the museum’s curatorial staff adapted their techniques to the suit the artist’s work so effectively. Several aspects stood out in the “Lust for Life” exhibition: 1) Simplicity of the photographic installation – edge to edge printing, no mounting except very thin backing board (Fig 1);

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Figure 1- Minimal mounting

2) How effective both solid white and solid black walls were in making the colour photos stand out with neither being more or less effective or detracting (Fig 2);

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Figure 2- Black and White Walls

3) The use of simply constructed temporary modules to augment fixed wall space and to direct flow (Figs 3-5). Simple, relatively inexpensive, but effective construction that served multiple purposes as display space and traffic director.  Being exposed also provided a contemporary and almost casual feel that suited Ed van der Elksen’s style and subject matter;

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Figure 3- Temporary Walls

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Figure 4 – Temporary Wall construction

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Figure 5 -Temporary construction

4) How effective projected images with either some narration or music were (Fig 6);

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Figure 6 – Projected Images with Temporary Construction

and 5) Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibition was a multi-screen projected  series of images set to music and introduced with text slides at the major transition points presented in a ‘living room’ setting with a mix of sofas and chairs randomly arranged (Fig 7).  Viewers were provided with headsets to listen to the music that accompanied the images and it made the viewing very intimate and personal.

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Figure 7 – Multi-Screen projected display

This images projected were in many cases the same as those shown in the main gallery upstairs as individual images on the walls, but I found this to be very engaging and dynamic as the images changed at different times on each of the screens and required the viewers eyes to move quickly between images in contrast to upstairs where one could linger with an image and study it in detail.  While upstairs didn’t promote a narrative and the photos were somewhat randomly arranged in terms of location and time frame, the downstairs projected version was far more narrative and organised in logical segments, topically or chronologically.

I can see this as a very viable approach to exhibiting my work if I can find the appropriate space and solve the technological aspects as it would allow a fast paced, coherent narrative approach while the still image prints in another section would allow the viewer to engage with specific images more fully.

Antwerp was the next stop and I took in several venues while there.  Fotomuseum Antwerp was largely between major exhibitions and was a flurry of activity preparing for 3 openings the following week.  However, the exhibit that was open was on the history of the photobook in Belgium. Figure 8 is an except from the exhibition introduction. It describes the significance of the photobook as a media form as well as the history of the place the photobook has held in Belgian history.

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Figure 8 – Photobook Belge Exhibition Introduction

Many of the books were understandably behind glass cases, but the curators used tablet computers with video of the books being turned page by page which I found a clever way of allowing the public to see inside these rare books.  There we also a number of books located throughout the exhibition that were available to the visitor to sit and look through selected books.  A large number of the books on exhibit were created during the colonial period and dealt with the African colonies and their inhabitants.  Many were propaganda and the curators addressed the notion of “colonial gaze” head on in the introduction to that section of the exhibit.

Mounted on one wall were pages from a 1911 book that chronicled a vegetation survey in the various districts of Belgium (Fig 9-10).  I found this interesting and relevant in its similarity to work I have been undertaking, but also in something that I have perhaps been remiss in recording in my work; latitude and longitude information.  That is an omission I intend to correct, particularly since the camera can be set to record that information in the metadata automatically.

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Figure 9 – 1911 Vegetation Survey Plate

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Figure 10 – 1911 Vegetation Survey Plate

The exhibition also touched on the inter-relationship between words and images.  I thought the introduction to this section displayed in Figures 11 and 12 summarised the issue well.

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Figure 11 – Photobook Belge exhibit section

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Figure 12 – Detail of above

So while the prints in the Nederlands Fotomuseum exhibition were unframed and uniform in size and placement, the Saul Lieter exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE and the exhibits in the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA) were decidedly different.  While the Lieter photos were all mounted and framed in a similar way, they were not all the same size and they were hung quite differently on different walls.  Some were evenly spaced and set at uniform height, while others were arranged in patterns nearly symmetrical, but not quite (Fig 13).

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Figure 13- Lieter Exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE

I was unable to discern a reason for the arrangement and order in which these photos were hung, but it shows that it is not essential to have symmetry in a hanging plan.  Similarly at M HKA there were exhibits that demonstrated asymmetry, but also there were others that were more traditionally arranged (Figs 14-16).

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Figure 14 – M HKA asymmetry example 1

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Figure 15 – M HKA asymmetry example 2

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Figure 16 – M HKA symmetry example 1

As is evident in Figures 14-16 all the photos were mounted and framed in a similar way, however, in other areas, simple thin backing with edge to edge prints were used (Fig 17), and in another area bordered prints were pinned to the wall with no mounting at all (Fig 18).

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Figure 17 – M HKA thin backing, edge to edge print

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Figure 18 – M HKA pinned print

The final point from M HKA was an installation of newspaper clippings that occupied 4 walls in a large section of the gallery.  The clippings were seemingly each randomly mounted on coloured backing paper and then arranged according to the colour together on one wall (Fig 19).

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Figure 19 – M HKA Newspaper clippings

As I am considering using references to on-line and print media as part of my exhibition, this was informative.  I don’t believe I would choose to replicate this format, but it was interesting to see how current news was gathered and collated to create an art installation.

In summary, this research provided some valuable insights into the ways exhibitions can be staged and proof that there is no one correct way to stage a successful exhibition.  It also offered some stimulating ideas that I plan to explore further in coming weeks.

Research – Exhibitions

Over the next week I will be visiting museums and galleries in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Liege and Brussels with an eye toward seeing different ways of exhibiting work that will help to inform the way that I will chose to exhibit my FMP.  I will be looking specifically for effective exhibition strategies, particularly with a series of work that includes a narrative sequence.  I want to see how artists and curators create a visual narrative and to see how much it depends on explanatory or accompanying text, or whether it can also be done without.

As I refine the theme of my FMP and begin to collect the work that will be required, I am also considering how it will be edited, curated and displayed. Among the ideas for my exhibition is a concept published in my FMP proposal and repeated below.

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I look forward to reporting on what I will have seen next week.

Exhibitions – Closing out Surfaces & Strategies and transitioning into Sustainable Prospects

As part of Surfaces and Strategies we were meant to put on a physical exhibition.  Due to timing issues with the exhibition space, I was unable to do my exhibition until the week after assignments were submitted.  Nonetheless, I did hold a physical exhibition at a local cafe where the owner was very pleased to have my work and asked that it stay on beyond the original week that was planned, and has asked to have some of my work permanently available for display and sale.

I selected work in three categories and organised the work accordingly.  I chose the groupings because I wanted to not only show some of the project work on Coul Links which is a topic of interest locally, but also to show work that I suspected would appeal to the people who might view the exhibition.  The section on the left showed elements of my repeat photography work and how noticeably the landscape changed with the seasons, while the section on the right introduced elements of how Coul Links is used today.  The centre section was devoted primarily to macro and super macro work because I thought it would capture the interest of the viewers.

Organising how the the pieces of work were to be displayed was accomplished on the floor of a spare bedroom where I laid out and kept shifting the work until I thought it was thematically and visually cohesive and coherent.  In order to facilitate the hanging, as we had a fairly small time window to get everything on the wall, I made spacing templates out of mounting board that would allow consistent spacing between the photos in each group.  I also made caption placards and descriptive placards for the the sections that explained in more detail what was being shown.  We used a string and a level to get the top line established and from there used the spacing templates to efficiently and quickly mount the photos on the wall.

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Additionally, on the evening of the opening reception I had a video set to music of aerial drone footage running on loop and that drew a great deal of interest.  The video provided views of Coul Links that even those who were familiar with the land had never seen.  The opening reception on 27 September 2018 was a great success.  It was attended by about 30 people before the evening was out. I sold two copies of my 19 Sutherland Bridges book and had several expressions of interest in purchasing photos that were being displayed.

I found it interesting how different images resonated with different people.  Some people really liked the landscapes, while others loved the sheep, but the greatest share of strong positive reactions were for various images in the super macro work.  I had initially resisted the idea of doing the physical exhibition, but in the end was very glad that I did even if it didn’t happen until the assessment period.  I am indebted to Donald Goldsmith, the owner of Grace of Dornoch Cafe and Deli for making his establishment available and catering the opening reception all at no cost to me.

On 24 September I was invited by the Dornoch Chapter of the Scottish Women’s Institute to give a 45 minute talk and exhibition of my landscape and wildlife work.  While I brought some of the photos used in the prior exhibition, this event was primarily and slideshow of 90 pieces of work and accompanying commentary.  This evening also went exceptionally well and the attendees were interested and engaged throughout. I received a large number of positive comments and lovely letter after the event.

I am looking forward to the next opportunity to display my work and hope to be able to have even larger prints than the A3 and A4 sizes I used in these events.  I do need to sort out how to properly value my work so I can set prices prior to beginning an exhibit.