Guest Lecturer: David Fathi

FINAL PROJECT – GUEST LECTURERS

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Today I had the chance to watch the video presentation released by David Fathi for our MA Photography Final Module at Falmouth. The author, with a MA Computer Science and a scientific background, presented his artistic projects “Anecdotal”, “Wolfgang” and “The last road of the immortal woman”.

Listening to his presentation has been intriguing and inspiring, since he provided me with a fresh perspective on the world of photography. His practice is based on research and he recreated, with his practice, a great connection between science and art: a multi-angle and original approach that generated a quite interesting body of work.

Fathi organised his speech by presenting his projects in a chronological order, starting from “Anecdotal”, a book, published in 2015, even if he started working on it since 2013. This project is about nuclear tests and the author was interested in this topic since most of people are unaware that thousands of nuclear bombs has been detonated all around the world, in Nevada, Siberia and Australia for instance, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is an analysis related to how Countries manage their nuclear arsenal: he represented the nuclear history from a different angle and with a new visual way, a mix of propaganda images and explosions, making them “collide” with an artistic approach.

He started his research from a quote from “Doctor Strangelove” a famous Stanley Kubrick’s political black comedy movie satirizing the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States:

 

“People do not react to abstractions, they only react to direct experience”

Stanley Kubrick, “Doctor Strangelove”, 1964, USA.

 

According to David Fathi, Kubrick was convinced that there is nothing more abstract than atomic bombs, since people relate to them as something distant, almost fictional. People conceive as real only what they can personally experience. The result of his work is a presentation of a series of anecdotes connected to images taken from documentaries, fictional movies and propaganda scenes, all with a similar “noir” post-production. A great example of what he created is a Marilyn Monroe, Miss Atomic bomb, dressed with the classic atomic mushroom. I found this photograph, with a retro style, very effective in its simplicity and it reminded me some classic 1950s propaganda images and some 1970s experimental collage at the same time.

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David Fathi, Anecdotal, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018, screenshots. ©David Fathi, 2018.

His approach is very different if we compare his work to Sarah Pickering’s “Explosions” not only because, in some cases, Fathi used actually occurred atomic explosions to create fictional images, while Pickering used pyrotechnic tests to recreate explosions that could be perceived as real; also their styles are absolutely different: Fathi’s is more retro and is connected to real anecdotes creating a link between images and texts, Pickering’s production is more surreal. While one author is analysing historical events through images, the other is showing pyrotechnic testing sites leaving readers to imagine stories behind her photographs. The documentary approach is definitely stronger in Fathi’s case.

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David Fathi, Anecdotal, 2015, Maria Inc, Paris, France. ©David Fathi, 2015./Sarah Pickering, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA. © Sarah Pickering, 2010. Selection of images from the books, slideshow.

Even more interesting his project titled “Wolfgang”, a 2016 book exploring the lines between facts and fiction.

David Fathi discovered the image-archive created by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research located Geneva. The Organisation released this archive online and it covers their work and experiments from mid-1950s to early 1980s.  Those photos are simply fascinating and, as also the author himself stated, they almost seem extrapolated from a science-fiction movie, even if they are portraying actual experiments.

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David Fathi, Wolfgang, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018. ©David Fathi, 2018. Screenshots, slideshow.

The author tried to find a common theme and the title was originated by the name of one of the founders of quantum physics, Wolfgang Pauli, who died right before the archive was created and who still lives thanks to it. At CERN they have an anecdote about the so called “Wolfgang Pauli effect”, who narrates that when he would enter a room machines would break down and experiments would fail. The fact is that some researchers seemed superstitious enough to ban him from their labs and Pauli himself started believing this as we know from a discussion occurred with Carl Jung: something that the author found extremely surprising since Pauli should have had a rigorous scientific approach to life being a physicist, and yet he was religious and interested in mystic.

He started finding accidents portrayed by the archive’s images and he related them to Pauli somehow, using “The Wolfgang Pauli effect” as a line to connect all photographs and as central theme of his research. Fathi created a fascinating photographic book narrating the story of this scientist through images, connecting science and fiction through those images and using a catchy layout. He recreated some accidents in the making of the publication and in the creation of the project itself, also during live presentations, like using glitch rather than actual photographic images.

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David Fathi, Wolfgang, 2016, Skinnerbooks, Jesi, Italy. Selection of images from the book, slideshow. ©David Fathi, 2016.

But it is in the third project he presented that I found some similarities with “I can hear you now”.

With “The last road of the immortal woman” Fathi wanted to challenge himself and switch from his usual publication-oriented work to the creation of an art installation.

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David Fathi, The last road of the immortal woman, Installation view – Les Rencontres d’Arles, 2017, Arles, France. ©David Fathi, 2017. Slideshow.

The researcher, during his presentation, explained that this project is based on the story of Henrietta Lacks, known as “The immortal woman”, passed away from an aggressive form of cancer. Her doctor took a sample of her tumour to analyse it in his lab and, since human cells decay after a certain number of divisions, he put them in a culture and this made them double becoming “immortal”. These cells helped researchers all over the world to find a cure for Polio, to test beauty products and they have also been sent to space.

Lacks’ family was struggling with racial and economical problems, and her descendants knew nothing about the situation until a researcher went and visit them to ask some questions about their ancestor. Someone was selling their genetic material and they were completely unaware of the whole situation. They eventually tried to retake possession of their own story and some criticism and questions about ethical conduct started to arise.

The author, in his representation of the journey of the immortal woman, started from The Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore to the family cemetery in Virginia at Henrietta Lacks’ grave. Lacks was mortal and immortal at the same time: while her physical body was mortal, her cells became immortal due to researchers’ work. He wanted to represent the luminal space and the relationship between mortality and immortality, artistic and scientific, personal and political, as the author pointed out.

In the approach used in the creation of his art-installation I found the first similarity with my project: both our exhibition want to be a path to be followed. In his case viewers can walk between dark landscapes and walls full of written information and data placed in front of them, in my case the audience undertake a self-analysis path while analysing the different steps of my project. The common point is that the order in which contents should be consumed is defined, since they have been created to enhance and stimulate an emotional and intellectual response. Fathi wanted the audience to go through the space and see the artistic side and the scientific one all at once, “I can hear you now” is created to force viewers to go through a “visual space” and face the outside and the inside, themselves and “the other” at the same time.

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David Fathi, The last road of the immortal woman, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018, screenshots. ©David Fathi, 2018.

While the video Fathi created for this art-installation represented its conclusion, in my case my brief video-documentary represents a starting point, a sort of introduction of the project and visual representation of its subject matter and author at the same time.

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David Fathi, The last road of the immortal woman, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018, screenshots. ©David Fathi, 2018.

Going back to David Fathi’s work, I found fascinating his idea to photograph, in Paris, the cells of Henrietta Lacks through a microscope and then to apply those photographs on his dark, almost nocturnal, landscapes. He made them become almost a vision, unreal, and yet we are observing a scientific procedure at the same time. Each cell visually becomes almost a will-o’-the-wisp floating in those places related to Lacks’ mortal and immortal lives. Texts here are vital to make us understand what we are actually observing and in their creation the artist focused his attention on five keywords: SELECTION, CONTAMINATION, MUTATION, APPROPRIATION, SPACETIME. They are all equally important to understand the personal, scientific and artistic perspectives, even if he conceived the concept of “Appropriation” as more important, especially because he felt he was acting, at some point, as one of “those white men who come, take what they want and go away” (Fathi, 2018), something that Henrietta Lacks must have experienced not only after her death, but throughout her whole life. This uncomfortable feeling became stronger while his was photographing her grave. It is a feeling I can totally relate with: I felt uncomfortable while portraying myself or performing for my video-documentary, but at the beginning of my work I experienced this feeling especially while portraying other individuals and probably, if they would not have said that the process was actually useful to them, I would have stop in undertaking that path.

Facing David Fathi’s body of work gave me the same strong impression I experienced while observing Sarah Pickering’s projects: their works are so strong, so meaningful and so powerful that I felt almost daunt. I re-experienced that sense of awkward while observing my own practice, over-judging myself and thinking, once more, that I want to make my project stronger and that in the future I want to experiment more to reach a higher professional and artistic level.

Fathi, talking with Professor McMurdo about his work with archives, stated that it is important not being seduced and controlled by images but to define what we want to represent and select and use them according to our aims and goals: this is something I am already doing and I realised how difficult is to select only some images and contents among the ones we create. We can be fascinated by a vast amount of images or to experience a sense of attachment to the work we make, but we must remember that only some of our photographs and videos can be released in the public domain to make our projects become actually effective.

 

References:

CERN, The Wolfgang Pauli Archive, http://library.cern/archives/Pauli_archive

Fathi David, Anecdotal, 2015, Maria Inc, Paris, France.

Fathi David/McMurdo Wendy, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi, 2018, video released on Canvas for academic purposes.

Fathi David, official website http://www.davidfathi.com/

Fathi David, Wolfgang, with an essay by Jeffrey Ladd, 2016, Skinnerbooks, Jesi, Italy.

Kubrick Stanley, Doctor Strangelove, 1964, Prod. By Stanley Kucbrick and distributed by Columbia Picture, USA/UK.

Pickering Sarah, official website http://www.sarahpickering.co.uk/index.html

Pickering Sarah, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA.

Guest Lecturer: Sarah Pickering

FINAL MODULE – GUEST LECTURERS

During this Module we are having  the chance to attend some lectures released on Canvas by Professor McMurdo who interviewed some artists who presented their projects and discussed the creative process behind them.

The first lecturer participating to this activity was the photographer Sarah Pickering who introduced a selection of her works, also explaining the research behind them. Being also an educator, the projects she presented were not only photographic ones, as a matter of fact she started with her 2016 “Pickpocket performance” which was, as the artists herself defined it, “a professional development workshop for artists” (Pickering, 2016) created in collaboration with Christophe Ambre who is, as we can read into the workshop’s manifesto, a professional Pickpocket and Consultant.

The aims of this workshops are presented into the manifesto itself:

  • Widen your skills portfolio to be market ready
  • Generate alternative streams of income for creative talent
  • Transcend the art world and make money
  • Practical tips on how to creatively remove valuable items from collectors, gallery directors and funders
  • Avoid being victim of pickpockets while thinking about artistic matters.

As Pickering explained during her presentation, most of artists make other jobs in order to fund their own artistic projects, this is why she decided to help them in understanding how to generate and manage those mentioned alternative incomes, in order to help them using her experience. Participating to such a workshop would be interesting to me, not only because it is a fascinating and ironic combination of performance art and business practice, but also because I am very interested in learning more about those topics and learning in a creative way, in my opinion, is very useful since we are not discussing about a collection of notions, but about a learning process through art. What is engaging here, as also Professor McMurdo noticed, is the thin and subtle line between legal and unlegal, between serious and facetious.

Among the projects she presented, I found three of them different and intriguing.

The first one is “Public Order”, that Pickering created between 2002 and 2005 during her MA. She photographed places at the Metropolitan Police Public Order Training Centre, a simulated urban environment nearby London. As she stated, the photographs portray very flat spaces and we can sense almost a sense of “past”. Those buildings have been created for a specific purpose, and we can observe that from some objects left behind after those trainings: no one lives there, we can feel that something occurred in those places and yet they seem frozen in time, because at the time of the shootings they were unnaturally calm. I love the non-literal approach to Public Order and in the way she portrayed the controlled environment in which officers train themselves to manage situations of public disorder: she did not photograph the training-sessions themselves, she found an alternative way to represent them, combining documentation and art. The cover of her publication related to this project, later included in her 2010 book “Explosions, Fires and Public Order”, depicts a scheme of the “Disorder model” representing how public order forces consider the different levels of disorder-situations, from the most manageable one “Tension”, passing through a second level, “Disorder”, to the last one, the most severe case, “Serious disorder (riot)”. It was based on a police manifesto and Pickering herself found it as a very simplistic way to consider the situation. I found this piece of work captivating since I have always been interested in Criminology. In 2016, before my adventure at Falmouth started, I had to decide if to apply for a MA Photography or a MA Criminology since they are my two biggest interests and since I potentially had an appropriate formative background. I must admit that I still would love to have the chance to apply for an MA Criminology and make my passions matching in the future so that I will have the chance to create more reasoned projects related to  subject matters related to this field of investigation.

The second project that captured my attention was “Explosion”, created between 2004 and 2009. This is her most well-known project and it is made up of photographs created into pyrotechnic testing sites. The visual result is quite surreal: we can observe dreamlike landscapes in which clouds seems to be alive and to land on the ground or, in one case, a home. Very interesting also those portrayed controlled explosions that almost seem natural events.  Even more surreal the indoor-shots, created into domestic environments. Those controlled fires have been generated to train forces to identify their origin and yet viewers can imagine a story  behind them, so they give space to a more active role to the audience. This is something that, in a very different way, I am trying to do with my project “I can hear you now” in which the audience is asked to understand what they observe and, possibly, empathise with my sitters. In the case of “Explosion”, in my opinion, while some stories behind the shots could be simply imagined as simple domestic accidents, some others could be read as more disturbing. These stills are the ones that made me think more about a “behind the scenes” of a film and they stimulated my imagination and attracted my attention.

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Sarah Pickering, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA. Selection of images from the publication, slideshow. ©Sarah Pickering, 2010.

I felt a similar attraction by observing her “Celestial Objects” (2013), in which the artist recreated images of constellations using her photographs of fires and smoke created in total darkness. These work is her most abstract one, in my opinion, and yet there is a sense of continuity in her works, like an invisible line that starts from her first work and link all that follow.

Looking at my past and present practice I can observe variety and diversity, but I can’t really see many connections among my projects: this is why I am now wondering which projects I should include into a portfolio and which ones not. As artists we feel a sort of sentimental attachment to all our works even if we know that some of them are not effective enough to be included among others into a presentation. I am my worst critic, I have to admit that, but observing the intensity of the photographic materials created by artists like Pickering, who was able to generate a great balance between all her works, I realised I should better evaluate how to conceive and manage my future projects. It is a quite depressing situation, because I am almost at the end of my MA Photography at Falmouth and I still feel that sense of awkward while observing my own practice. It is like I am never satisfied and if my new way of understanding and perceiving the photographic image is not the one I used to experience two years ago. This could be seen as a progress, of course, but this condition still leaves me with a sense of desolation as soon as I must confront myself with other photographers. My hope is that in the future, using the notions I have learned during this MA, I will be able to intrigue the audience as Sarah Pickering’s works intrigued me.

 

References:

Manifesta 11, Sarah Pickering – Pickpocket – A free professional development workshop for artists, released on June 2016 on Manifesta 11 official website, events section http://m11.manifesta.org/en/event/770

Pickering Sarah, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA.

Pickering Sarah/McMurdo Wendy, Guest Lecture (Research) – Sarah Pickering, 2018, video released on Canvas for academic purposes.

Pickering Sarah, official website http://www.sarahpickering.co.uk/

IoP Symposium 2018 at Penryn

FINAL PROJECT – INDIPENDENT REFLECTION

Last month I had the chance to participate to IoP Symposium at Falmouth University and it has been a very interesting and challenging experience. It has been fascinating listening to well-established photographers discussing their artistic experiences and explaining how they developed their projects into a publication or an exhibition: I did not only have the chance to meet new artists, but also to better know the works created by some of my Professors and Tutors. A very intriguing experience.

Some of those speeches made me reflect and consider different solutions that could be use to improve the way a potential audience could “consume” my project “I can hear you now” and I came back home with new ideas that now I am trying to insert into my body of work.

I have been fascinated by the enthusiastic approach to Photography of Jenny Lewis who, once more, highlighted the importance of Social Media, Instragram especially, and of networking to support a project and join a wider public (something that might be impossible with a printed publication only, a way to publish that she defined as “elitist”). She also made me better understand the importance of collaborating with professionals such as designers and writers to release a final high-standard product, this is why I am now considering how to better use the Facebook and Instagram pages I created months ago to launch my project into the public domain and I am also improving those collaborations I already established with different professionals and artists.

Jenny Lewis, snapshots from the IoP Symposium 2018 at Falmouth University. Images taken by Dayana S. Marconi, February 2018.

Carrie Thompson presented her project “Notes from my therapist” and I simply found intriguing not only the visual dialogue between the artist and her psychologist, but also the way in which she recreated the waiting room of her therapist’s office to exhibit her work.

Carrie Thompson, snapshots from the IoP Symposium 2018 at Falmouth University. Images taken by Dayana S. Marconi, February 2018.

Some elements of her work, like the use of white noise and the balance between text and narrative, captured my interest: this is why I am considering to include (or improve) them, somehow, into my body of work.

Carrie Thompson, Waiting room exhibition, video released on Youtube in October 2015. ©Carrie Thompson, 2015.

A very encouraging speech was John Spinks’ one: he openly discussed about the struggle in publishing his project as a book. It was his biggest desire and it took him several years in which he had to photograph and re-photograph the same locations always with a fresh perspective. This has been encouraging to me because he reinforced my will to improve the quality and diversity of my practice and he also made me understand that I must be patient if I do want to create something that actually matters.

Another interesting speech was the one released by Christiane Monarchi, who presented her project Photomonitor, an online publication featuring artists living or operating in the UK and Ireland. I had the chance to see that Photomonitor website has a Portfolio section and it could be interesting, once my exhibitions and my website will be set-up, to submit my work to her attention and, even if I will not be published, have the chance to receive a professional feedback from her.

I must also thank Professor Gary McLeod, who also interviewed me for his re-photography project, and Stella Baraklianou who presented their works and made me become more and more interested in art residenciea as a potential experience to live after this MA.

Stella Baraklianou/Gary McLeod/Christiane Monarchi/John Spinks, snapshots from the IoP Symposium 2018 at Falmouth University. Images taken by Dayana S. Marconi, February 2018.

Before the Symposium I had the chance to participate to different workshops and meet some of my peers in person. A special thank must go to my Tutor Paul Clements, not only because he has been very supportive with me during those days, but also because he made me go back into a darkroom giving me the chance to re-discovered, once more, the fascination of analogue photography, the starting point of my photographic career. I has been a very long time since last time I entered into a darkroom and thanks to him I had the chance to remember why I have always been so intrigued by the photographic process. In all its phases.

The bigger thank you, I think, must go to my peer Josie Purcell: she supported me during a hard moment, she taught me more about cyanotypes, sharing her great skills with me, and we experimented together at the beach at Falmouth Docks. It has been interesting, it has been fascinating and it has been fun. She is not only a great camera-less artist, but also a great educator in my opinion: she knows how to engage someone’s attention and how to transform work in pure fun! She also helped me with my project, since I had the chance to portray her. I have been pleased to read what she wrote about the experience into her CRJ: “One of the most fun elements of the session was meeting my fellow student from Italy, Dayana Marconi. We spent some time messing about with cyanotypes on the Saturday, and I took part in her project on the Sunday. Her patience and ability to get me to generate negative emotions  into a scream were awesome. I say this because having had many a trail and tribulation in my life, and one of those being a major contributing factor for my reason for applying for the MA, at present there is only one irksome element to life (which is not yet being able to work full-time again in a photographic context) and I struggled to muster any negative response at first. This in itself for me was a wonderful bonus as I feel I have come from a very negative life experience to a place that is positive and empowering” (Purcell, 2018). Her words made me understand once again that even if can be difficult to absorb other people’s negative emotions, especially if expressed with a strong act like a scream, the support I can offer worth the experience. I could not be more grateful.

 

References:

Baraklianou Stella, official website http://www.stellabaraklianou.com/

Lewis Jenny, One day young, on Jenny Lewis’ official website http://jennylewis.net/one-day-young/one-day-young-the-book/2845

McLeod Gary, official website http://www.garymcleod.co.uk/

Monarchi Christiane, Photomonitor, project’s official website https://www.photomonitor.co.uk/

O’Hagan Sean, The New Village by John Spinks – review, The Guardian, June 2017 issue https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/25/the-new-village-john-spinks-photography-book-of-the-month-review

Purcell Josie, IoP Symposium 2018, on Shutterpod Ma in Photography Critical Research Journal https://josiepurcellphotographyma.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/iop-symposium-2018/

Spinks John, The New Village, with an essay by David Chandler, 2017, London, UK.

Thompson Carrie Elisabeth, Notes from my therapist, 2016, images from the artist’s website http://carriethompson.com/notes-from-my-therapist-2/wme0cljshc2hkb99fv14e80o81jibb

Thompson Carrie Elisabeth, Notes from my therapist, 2016, designed by Jenny Tondera, self-published using Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1243268630/notes-from-my-therapist

Thompson Carrie Elisabeth, Waiting room exhibition, video released on Youtube in October 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RegkTz4xBA8

Case study 2: Dzhangal and Drowning Worlds by Gideon Mendel

FINAL MODULE – CASE STUDY

In this second case study, Professor Wendy McMurdo analysed the interesting work done by the photographer Gideon Mendel. We can find some similarities if we compare Dana Lixemberg’s “Imperial Courts” and Mendel’s “Dzhangal” (2016) and “Drowning Worlds” (2007): both were initially photographed on analogue and lately moving images have been incorporated into their bodies of work and all these projects have been published on several platforms once their audiences have been identified.

This is the same thing I am trying to do with my major project “I can hear you now” (2016-2018) and, following the suggestion provided by the artist Jenny Lewis during the Symposium at Penryn last February, I am publishing materials online too, in order to reach a wider audience, using social media and creating a dedicated website. At the same time, what said about these three projects can be said about mine: even if I didn’t start working on analogue, I started creating stills structured in triptychs, then my photographs evolved with the use of long-exposure and I incorporated videos, music and sounds to provide a wider context to my subject matter and to enhance its multi-faceted structure.

At this stage, I had to ask myself: Who is my audience?

Basically, I am working to engage the interest of Galleries, Curators and general public too, creating materials that can be easily displayed as a solo exhibition, as a collective one, published online on different platforms, on Magazines and maybe, in the future, as a book. This is why I am both refining its structure and creating new materials.

Going back to Mendel’s work, I found interesting the fact that he studied Psychology and only later he became a photographer: I have a BA in Intercultural studies, with a focus on foreign Languages and Mass Media, and I wrote a dissertation related to Social Psychology applied to Blog Communities, so I was fascinated to see that such a great artist started from a different background and this also encouraged me as practitioner.

Even if the focus of this case study was on “Dzhangal”, I have been intrigued by “Drowning worlds” mostly. From 2007 to 2012 he has been working on this project visiting six different flood-zones, including UK. He started creating carefully staged “Submerged portraits”, depicting locals physically immersed in flooded locations and, subsequently, he started filming those “Water Portraits” involving in its work the movements created by water in the flooded environment. He also collected some water-damaged photographs he found in those areas, including them in its project with thetitle of “Watermarks”. As he collected those stills, for “I can hear you now” I am collecting words that explain the emotional status of my sitters before, during and after the act of screaming and I will re-write them in three small hand-made antiqued books: the aim of this process is to start explaining my audience the background of what they are observing. As Mendel’s “Watermarks” have been damaged by the action of water, I am now creating a self-portrait that I will print in series and physically disrupt in different ways to depict those mentioned words related to the reasons why my subjects are screaming.

As Professor McMurdo stated, “Mendel is adept at taking separate but linked strands of his project and weaving them together in a variety of ways to promote the project over several platforms” (McMurdo, 2018). His work is structured in different layers:

  • Traditional high-definition portraiture;
  • Filmed interviews;
  • Video-pieces;
  • Watermarks.

This is why he was able to transform an editorial into a worldwide touring exhibition. Professor McMurdo explained us that many projects started in a small way to be developed in time and I found this statement very encouraging again.

Talking about the main topic of this case study, the project “Dzhangal”, which means “Jungle”, it has been developed between May and October 2016, a relative short period of time, and it started as a collaborative work. It meant to represent the life-conditions of the refugees living in Calais’ camp, in France. Most of those refugees have been skeptical or even openly hostile with photographers, Mendel included, because they were firmly convinced that their project was useful to the artists only and they were also afraid that, being identified, they could have been deported in their Countries of origin, devastated by that war they were escaping from. This perspective is something I considered thinking about my work and this is why, before and after the shootings, I usually engage an open and deep discussion with my sitters also asking them if screaming in front of a camera, exposing themselves to the world, could be considered as a useful process in their opinion and I have been pleased by their positive response.

When Calais’ camp has been demolished, about 9000 refugees were living there and their living conditions were absolutely unhealthy. From this moment, Mendel decided to portray their living conditions from a different point of view and he started collecting objects used in their everyday life and it used them for his publication and to create art-installations.

Into his book, published by Gost Books, he included texts written by refugees, by the writer Paul Mason and by the Art historian Dominique Malais: this is another analogy with my current practice that includes the mentioned words and articles written by a neuropsychologist operating in Italy and a medievalist working as researcher in Italy and France, a fact that also allowed me to increase the intercultural approach started with my “Introductive video” described into some previous articles. Mendel’s book has been published in 2017, alongside his exhibitions made of large-scale photographs and art-installations created with those found objects. To create them, he shot those objects in a studio using a solid-black background, almost isolating them and decontextualising them so to capture viewers’ attention with their strong visual impact. I must admit that this is a simply brilliant way to approach this subject matter because it leaves a door open to personal interpretation forcing his audience to use their imagination to understand the living conditions of the mentioned refugees comparing those objects, the conditions in which they have been found, and the same ones they use on a daily basis. In my opinion, there is a great dose of genius behind this idea.

But this “format” did not come out of nothing: it is the result of a meticulous research related to this sensitive subject matter and this is why the final result was so effective. Alongside this research, we must also consider the collaboration with other artists that obviously strengthened his work providing him with different perspectives. This is something I always applied to my project: working with a filmmaker, a film composer, other practitioners and different professionals, I had the chance to widen my perspective and my approach to its subject matter and I believe that without their collaboration my project would not be the same. They taught me a lot while they accepted my ideas and suggestions for their own works: the collaboration has always been mutual for these last two years and they made me improve not only as photographers, but as individual as well.

 

References:

Autograph ABP, Gideon Mendel: Dzhangal, exhibition’s page on Autograph ABP website http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/dzhangal

Lixenberg Dana, Imperial Courts, 2015, Roma Publication, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Lixenberg Dana, Imperial Courts, official website http://www.imperialcourtsproject.com/

Marconi Dayana S., I can hear you now: Introductive video, May 2017, video released on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/213764162

McMurdo Wendy, Publishing your FMP – Case Study 2  (Gideon Mendel), January 2018, video published on Canvas for the Final Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible.

Mendel Gideon, Drowning worlds, project on Mendel’s official website http://gideonmendel.com/submerged-portraits/

Mendel Gideon, Dzhangal, 2017, Gost Books, London, UK.

Mendel Gideon, Dzhangal, project on Mendel’s official website http://gideonmendel.com/dzhangal/

Mendel Gideon, official website http://gideonmendel.com/

Case study 1: Dana Lixenberg’s Imperial Courts project

FINAL PROJECT – CASE STUDY

Imperial Courts, 1993-2015 is a project by photographer Dana Lixenberg about Imperial Courts, a social housing project in Watts, Los Angeles. The project contains work made over a period of 22 years and consists of a book, exhibition and web documentary” (Lixenberg, 2015).

In this first case study, I had the chance to observe the work created by the photographer and her “multi-faceted approach to publishing” (McMurdo, 2017) and, while I found similarities between Lixenberg’s approach and mine, I have been inspired by the structure of her website, exhibitions and publication.

At this stage, I am both refining the work done so far in order to make thoughtful decisions related to its final release and creating new images, also to substitute the ones previously created for the “Behind a scream” section of my project (to be renamed) because, as previously stated, my Tutors suggested me to provide a wider variety in the editorial style of my project.

Lixenberg’s case is interesting because we can see how a project commissioned by a Magazine later became a multi-faceted, experimental and a wider body of work. As explained into the About section of her website, Imperial Courts is divided in three main areas: Portraits, Stories and residents’ contributions. Here I found the first similarity between our two projects, even if I would not dare to compare such a potent body of work to mine: “I can hear you now” is divided in three main areas too, that are: still images related to the act of screaming, videos that present the project from different perspectives and a section narrating those stories behind the act itself in a symbolic way. Two other similarities are the use of different visual solutions and the collaborative approach, both with sitters and other artists or professionals.

Both projects focus on portraying a community ignored, in different ways and for different reasons, by Society: in “Imperial Courts” we can observe a neighborhood that became a ghetto, characterized by racial discrimination and social isolation, the same social isolation that represented one of the starting points of my practice, even if I focused my attention on my sitters’ psychological situation and on the difficulty of individuals in releasing their negative emotions because Society constantly require people, with its high-standard models to follow, to hide them. The two works portray individuals, their stories, their realities but, of course, in different ways.

Lixenberg started with a focus on sitters only and later she introduced elements of the environment that became even more predominant in the progression of her practice, an artistic decision I definitely can relate with. Each area of her work could easily become a separated project itself but, at the same time, they perfectly work together. This is the first thing I found inspirational, because it is something I am desperately trying to reach.

As she had to face the initial reluctance of her sitters, I experienced the same situation myself and while my work was progressing, like in Lixenberg’s case, some people directly asked me to be included in it or they decided to be portrayed in more than one occasion. As said, I realise that compared to “Imperial Courts” my work is just a drop in the ocean, but I wish that an effective use of the dedicated website, exhibition and publication, like the ones made by Lixenberg herself, will enhance its impact on viewers.

Visiting her website I found intriguing the introductive page, presenting the project with its title and a few words only. Here, users are immediately asked to make an initial choice between a video-intro and  the chance to directly discover the project. It is something I am considering for my website, too: since I am working on a brief video with a documentary style to present the whole project, I could also create, thanks to the support of the video-maker I am collaborating with,  a sort of trailer using the skills acquired during these last Modules of my MA and structuring it as a sort of brief “Oral Presentation” of my practice. Due to the “Itinerary” I am trying to create, the similarities in the websites’ structure will stop there, since the images-sliders I am conceiving allow me to provide a brief explanation related to each step, while a more comprehensive presentation of the project will be included into the About page.

Focusing on the exhibition, I loved how she created images-connections among main portraits to the smaller ones related to those individuals connected to the person photographed: she provided a strong context with a solution that could appear simple but that, as a matter of fact, it has been absolutely well-conceived and demonstrated a strong ability in representing the stories behind her sitters and her meticulousness at the same time.

The exhibition results reinforced by the style of her book, which is concise, precise and well-structured. It shows a variety of esthetical and editorial choices but cohesiveness at the same time.

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Dana Lixenberg, Imperial Courts, 2015, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Selection of different pages from the photographer’s book. ©Dana Lixenberg, 2015.

In is interesting and engaging and I wish that, supported by a designer, because it is important to ask a professional support to who is more experienced and skilled than me, I will have the chance to create something effective that can strengthen, rather than weaken, my imagery. According to my personal opinion, this is a quite tricky step since the layout must support the vision of my project and without the support of video materials I am afraid that my work could results less vigorous.

So how to include video materials into my final publication? Is it a book the best choice? Could a website only represent a sort of publication? Are publications on Magazines, online and off-line, an effective way to reinforce the main one? Can they be considered as a form of publication themselves? These are questions that still do not have a proper answer, but “Imperial Courts” has been a great starting point to consider potential solutions.

 

References:

Lixenberg Dana, Imperial Courts, 2015 Roma Publication, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Lixenberg Dana, Imperial Courts, official website http://www.imperialcourtsproject.com/

McMurdo Wendy, Publishing your FMP – Case Study 1 (Dana Lixemberg), January 2018, video published on Canvas for the Final Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible.