Crossing Lines & Possible Planes

August 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Possible Planes

A hidden message for A Loose Traverse & in the spirit of …

The September issue of Crossing Lines will be held at The Greenwich Gallery at Linear House in Greenwich where two of our group will be in residence with the exhibition ‘Possible Planes’ created by Michael Rodgers & Nick Scammell  & with the filmic presence of Simon Head, who will be screening a structural film, recording the gallery space during the exhibition’s installation.

Michael & Nick will be presenting each others’ work and are making a call-out for an additional participant to present work/ideas (of their own or of others) that relate to the imagination’s role in photography.

Here’s how Michael & Nick introduce their installation:

Possible Planes takes its title from Vilém Flusser’s reminder that photographs do not represent tangible objects, but possibilities. Michael Rodgers and Nick Scammell explore the photograph’s potential as a site of play and experiment, while retaining its connection to the world via their own particular engagement with the image. Scammell combines his ‘poor’ photographs with everyday materials, objects, texts and processes to create improvised photo-installations. Rodgers’ etched, torn and coloured photos confuse relationships within the frame and propose the imaginative space of the picture as more real than the scene depicted. Both Rodgers and Scammell treat photography as a starting point, a substrate upon which elements clash and cohere, where every photograph is a fresh possibility.

And here’s what they are looking for:

We would like to discuss the roles photography can play in the urban experience.   More specifically: beyond documenting processes of change, how can photographs initiate their own processes that reflect/direct the author’s psychological involvement with the urban environment?  In a general sense this is a question of how photographs can be activated to express a personal condition, as opposed to organising them for objective observation.  Much of the work on show is derived from walks/rambles in urban space (and London in particular) and perhaps discussion in this area could inform activites for A Loose Traverse, offering different ideas on how walks can be approached and the resulting photographs treated.

Essentially, Michael & Nick are looking for another to engage with the installation and/or contribute to the session’s consideration of imagination & play in the field of image creation. Your role will be that of a discussant in partnership with the artists for this edition of Crossing Lines.

Contact: john.levett1@gmail.com

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Back to Life

April 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

I’ve been absent from proceedings for a little while, as I struggled to find inspiration for further contribution.  But perhaps it’s healthy to take time out.

Peter’s Download 2 posting revived me, as he managed to convey more eloquently than I could possibly have done some of what I wanted to express in my previous contributions.  And succinctly, too: “our attention should be directed out there, not as an accident of abstract process but consciously, deliberately, as chosen task, an intent. Curation brings it to fulfilment.”

And after hearing John’s repeated defense of the curatorial approach, I was heartened to read in his Garbo/Dietrich analogy an acknowledgement of the possibility of Form (John’s Curation) and Content (Peter’s Task/Intent) being inseparable.

At least that’s how I read the anecdote.  For the heavy emphasis on starting from curation frustrated me.  I kept thinking of a sculptor planning the next work.  The sculptor thinks ‘I’ve made many sculptures in my time.  This time I want to make a statue.’  The natural follow-on from this declaration is ‘A statue of what?’  There is no sense determining a form without understanding its content.  Otherwise the proverbial shoe-horn might make an appearance.

Peter reminded me of Crossing Lines’ appeal in its combination of urban studies and photography.  Last month I also looked up in my archives the first proposals for Crossing Lines.  Indeed the text echoes the collaborative intentions emphasised here in this blog.  I must admit I never considered Crossing Lines in this way.  Yes, it is an opportunity for personal collaboration, but the emphasis for me was on a group of people meeting to discuss and share work on a focused subject matter, and on the larger intellectual collaboration between LIP (Photographers) and CUCR (Urban Studies).  So Peter’s acknowledgement should not be subsumed by the emphasis on personal collaboration (which of course Peter does not deny, and is in fact encouraging collaboration in his Swanscombe project).  There is room for both in the activities of Crossing Lines.

I recall the very first Crossing Lines meeting.  It was like a photographer’s speed-dating event.  We all submitted brief personal details beforehand, and then in the room we rotated in small groups to introduce each other, discuss our likes & dislikes, etc.  It was a bit too much at times.  A person in one of my groups was desparate to declare the three of us as a collaboration, as if the pressure was on to have a definite project by the end of the hour.  I also remember a proposed subject for the start of Crossing Lines was London Villages . . .

My point in these recollections is that it did not serve me well to look back at the start of Crossing Lines for answers on what is best for its projects now.  Without the present, the past is a mute and static thing.  As John says in his latest posting: ‘try thinking back to front’.

So while we’re quoting rap lyrics:

back to life, back to reality
back to life, back to reality
back to life, back to reality
back to the here and now

show me how, decide what you want from me
tell me, maybe i could be there for you

how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me

back to life, back to the present time
back from a fantasy
tell me now take the initiative
ill leave it in your hands until your ready

how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me

live at the top of the block
no more room for trouble and fuss
need a change a positive change
look its me writing on the wall

how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me

back to life, back to the day we have
lets end this foolish game
hear me out, dont let me waste away
make up your mind so i know where i stand

how ever do you want me how
how ever do you need me
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me how
how ever do you want me
how ever do you need me

back to life, back to reality
back to the here and now yeah
show me how, decide what you want from me
tell me maybe i could be there for you

Michael Rodgers

Understand Collective Curation

March 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Within & Against

March 9, 2013 § 1 Comment

I enjoyed John Levett’s early posting about Dolby vs Phuture, the one imagining a synthesizer that could produces sounds from thought; the other producing unimagined sounds from an existing machine.  It reminded me of Vilem Flusser’s question (In Toward a Philosophy of Photography) of whether the camera is a tool or a plaything.  The synthesizer provides a similar question in this case.  One the one hand, Dolby views the sythesizer as a tool – the artist imagines a sound, then seeks an instrument to produce it.  Phuture engage with the synthesizer as a plaything – a pre-made set of parameters to be explored and exploited.  Ultimately Flusser rests on the plaything, or – as people who do not work in the traditional sense but ‘create, process, and store symbols,’ photographers play with the camera rather than use it as a traditional tool.  Or, as ‘smart tools’, cameras ‘replace human work and liberate human beings from the obligation to work: From then on they are free to play.’  The interest for Flusser is the nature of this play – ‘Yet photographers do not play with their plaything but against it.’

Flusser again on the symbolic nature of photography: ‘Even though the last vestiges of materiality are attached to photographs, their value does not lie in the thing but in the information on their surface’.  The photograph is a presentation of a concept more than anything else, as Burnside gives example to in his article on Peter Fraser, that items such as two buckets ‘are tranformed into reminders’.  Indeed, photographs can present the concept of beauty to be found in the everyday, but it seems strage to associate a photographer’s work with the endeavour of ‘refusing to be governed, the first step in imagining a world that nobody owns’.  Afterall, what medium is more governed, more embedded in a world of ownership than photography?  

So I would return Burnside’s ‘perverse’ notion of Fraser’s art as political with perversity: it does not separate us from the realm of the governed, but hides us further within it.  What appeals about these photographs, and leads us to marvel at the beauty of the everyday, are the very seductive, parametric qualities of photography – the qualities that are governed by the choice of film, lens, saturation, etc.  These qualities are not programmed by the individual, but selected.  Could here be the notion of playing within and against?  That these photographs use the governed to banish the governed?  In this instance, personally, I feel it is a mask.  Fraser’s photographs can be interesting, but not because they are ‘wild’ and outside the realms of governance.  You could, however, argue that they were, like Eggleston’s pictures, at one time outside the mundane rules of the photographic establishment, and there may lie the ‘within and against’.  30 years on, you could then ask the question: do photographs such as Fraser’s help people to discover their own perception of beauty in everyday objects, or to learn how everyday objects could look like Fraser’s photographs?

Knowing John’s predilections for things socialist, I’d been wondering whether he senses the title November as I feel it could be read: a post-October, a post-socialism, a What Happens Next?  The large emphasis on collaboration naturally fits into a scoialist rhetoric.  And I see how the use of a collaborative strategy makes sense for breaking downnotions of ownership, identity, etc.  Socialist ideals of the collective have often appealed to me, but in practice I’ve not found much success.  Ultimately I know that I struggle with the proposed notion of collaboaration within this project.  Despite recognising the theoretical value of such a proposition, I know the reality is that I do not trust nor desire my work to be ‘remixed’ by the group.  I do not see this as any fault on my part, as a ‘I know I should, but I’m just not up to it’ situation.  For me, collaborations begin with a recognition of a common purpose within a group, not from the concept of collaboration in itself.

Maybe my role to play is The Doubter; perhaps that is necessary.  I often find myself there!

Within & Against, M

Photo Shooting

February 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

At such an early phase of a project, it’s good to explode things a little.  Where better to start than with the first sentence of the proposal?

I agree that a ‘a riposte to the current state of Street Photography’ would be a fine thing.  I am generally repulsed by anything labelled ‘Street Photography’ these days, despite making most of my work on the street and about urban space.

BUT

A) Declaring to make a riposte is different from ignoring the rest and just getting on with what you do.  One sets things up for examination when declaring war.  People look less at what you are doing in your work itself, and what it is doing to support the war you have declared.  So what’s the riposte?  Is it worth it?  Is it not better to embrace the popularity of Street Photography and draw people into other ways of looking at urban space?  To expand their horizons?  Which leads to my next question…

B) The qualities  SPACE        LIGHT        GRAPHICS          SURFACE         ARCHITECTURE SOCIETY        REGENERATION         RENEWAL       DECAY       DESTRUCTION       CLUES      MYSTERIES        THE BANAL        THE MARVELLOUS

Are they not the qualities of the current state of Street Photography?  Aren’t the current popular themes the marvellous mystery of the banal?  The graphic quality of surface & architecture?  Regeneration and renewal contrasted with decay and destruction (a.k.a. Hackney)?

Where’s the riposte?  What is the riposte against, and what is it offering?

Michael