Photography Reviews

The Discrete Channel with Noise – Claire Strand

 

This series by Clare Strand is a simple and a brilliant analogy about communications in this era. How information nowadays can be miscommunicated and misinterpreted – be it positive or negative, whether deliberate or accidental – has an ever-increasing and overwhelming effect on our everyday life. These failures of communication can lead to minor confusion, fantastic revelation or global outrage, depending when and where they occur. Her inspiration came from the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the 1971 film adaptation, Mike Teavee says: “You photograph something then the photograph is split up into millions of tiny pieces and they go whizzing through the air, then down to your TV set when they are all put together in the right order.” However, what Mike fails to foresee are the complications and disruptions that can occur in the act of transmission. When Mike transports himself via Wonka Vision he is indeed broken into a million pieces, but when put back together again he is a 10th of his original size.

Strand asked her husband, Gordon MacDonald, to select images from her archive and create a grid. They became this human machine for transmitting information of an image from one person to another. From there, he would communicate the sequence of numbers depicting the tonal code (ranging from 1-10) of each photographic element on the grid and Strand would then paint the code on the corresponding large-scale grid she had drawn up in her studio. This method was actually forseed by George H. Eckhardt during the pre-internet age where he discussed the potential for transmitting a coded photograph via telegraph to produce an accurate representation of the original image.

This work reminds us the very physics of photography and what it used to be – chemicals, papers, chemistry and shapes. And how using such primitive methods can translate to visual representations about issues happening nowadays.

References:

https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/04/clare-strand-looks-at-misinterpretation-of-information-in-the-digital-age/

http://www.cpif.net/en/Programme/the-discrete-channel-with-noise

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Photography Reviews

Girl plays with snake – Clare Strand

 

After watching the video of MACK and Clare Strand making this photobook, it got me interested to look into what the book is about and who Clare Strand is.

Clare is a conceptual artist based in Brighton. This photobook is based on a very simple idea of her conflicting love and hate of snakes. She as a person is terrified of snake yet she collects images of people, especially women, holding snakes since 30 years ago. Clare found this notion very interesting, she said, “It strikes me as rather perverse to collect what I despise.”

The book plays around with the magnified fragment of the original images, showing the intensity of the relationship between the hand and snake, followed by the original images (sometimes snakes held by women, sometimes just the snake on its own), and then a poetry which is automatically generated from the written stories on the back of the collected press images and tweeted by Strand. “Bound in a faux-snake leather cover, the book fits comfortable in the hands—its size suitably intimate. Combining dramatic full-bleed images with full-size reproductions, the book moves in and out of the images—drawing us close and then pulling away. Love. Hate. ”

On the surface, we see the book is about the relationship between girls and snake, yet deep down, the book also reflects the momentary power that women have over the snake, that split second when there’s a balance of control. As Strand mentioned in her website, “the relationship between snakes and women has a long history, which Strand acknowledges through her discussion on the work. “The snake has been the subject of allegory and metaphor since biblical times, signifying eternity when holding its own tail; suggesting cunning and temptation to Eve; the agent of suicide for Cleopatra, and even the symbol of health and healing in the rod of Asclepius, the god of medicine. The snake can represent both good and evil, wisdom and cunning, rejuvenation and death, and, of course, sexuality and the phallus.” This book is more than just about girls and snake. It can also represents our inner conflict tug of war between good and evil.

What interest me as well about this work is that we can see this work flourish from start to end. From the concept and idea to how the book is made, how the ideas and concepts are translated into book form. And then, how that same idea and concept is translated into forms of exhibitions, showing how the same concept can be played and manipulated with different forms of publications. In the “Girl plays with snake” exhibition, the poetry are instead boldly imprinted on top of the enlarged fragment of original images. “The result is an overt and graphic interplay between text and image. Alongside the framed works, another automatic poetry generator, constructed for this exhibition, is projected onto the walls of the gallery, creating new random arrangements of Strand’s poems. The automatic text is printed out as a snaking ticker tape for the audience to tear off and take away.” This is something which increases the interactions between the artwork and the audience that can be only done in the form of exhibition, but not in a book form.

Her more renowned work about digital misinterpretation “The Discrete Channel with Noise”  will be discussed next.

 

References:

http://blog.photoeye.com/2017/01/book-review-girl-plays-with-snake.html

https://www.clarestrand.co.uk/exhibitions/?id=352

https://mackbooks.co.uk/products/girl-plays-with-snake-br-clare-strand

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Artist Inspirations

Bill Viola (II)

Passion, is a kind of surging wave that comes up through people and comes out into the world that you have no control over. How do you represent extreme emotional states, which by their definition involve loosing control, loosing sense of self?

Bill Viola’s work uses water as the medium to talk about birth, death, and life in general. The universal themes that we all get to experience in our lives. And the language he chose to speak through is via video and moving images.

Another piece of work that was displayed in a church is called “Ocean without a shore”.

The piece is intriguingly beautiful in that, at the beginning, the person was visually presented black and white representing death. And through a thin sheet of water wall, this person walks through it and became “colourful” and alive, metaphoring the resurrection of christ. These pieces of art were displayed on the altars, where in Christianity they are places of the dead that makes connection with the living. I don’t think I described it as well as Viola in the video. This piece stunned me in that the idea, the execution of the moving images, and where the plasma screens were placed were all thoroughly thought out and in complete harmony with each other. The work feels very united and whole. It makes sense in every single level. This is the kind of work which is what I called “bringing what’s universal with a cutting edge method“. And I know deep down, I want my work to be towards this direction. I just know. It’s passion.

His other pieces “The Passing” and “Nantes Triptych” are both about birth and death, but more personal bringing videos of his mother as well. He mentioned that,

If you are going to make true art, it’s gotta be one thing. It can’t be like Mr. famous artist here and then something else over there. You can’t keep those things apart. If you want to live your life to the fullest.

 

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Artist Inspirations

Bill Viola (I)

 

Bill Viola, a renowned video artist which I’ve known for a while, but never really get to study a bit more about his pieces and how he comes to connect with these pieces. And then, his name popped up again by someone I knew and she highly recommended me to study his work, and draws inspiration from his work. So I did.

I couldn’t really find work of his on the internet, only glimpses of his work, but I’ve been watching a lot of his videos and how he talks about his different pieces of work. And then I realised that, the reason why his work are always about water came from the accident he had when he was 6 years old.

“The Dreamers” is a set of video installation work combining photography and videos together. From the youtube interview I got a chance to look at the work through that. They are images of people eye closed, seems like lying down somewhere at the bottom of the stream and breathing, indicated by the occasional bubbles popping up from their nostrils or mouth. Viola said,

“In ancient time, when people go drink water in the stream, that’s their first time to see reflections of themselves, and for the first time they acquire a sense of self for the very first time.”

So the medium of water comes to build our self-knowledge even before mirrors, which Jacques Lacan refers to as the “mirror stage”. And that water is a crucial element for humanity, not only are we 70% made up of water but also because of this reflection stage which leads us to discover ourselves for the very first time.

The work itself I have so many questions with. First of course is, how the heck did he make those moving images? I am super intrigued by the technical side of it as surely he didn’t ask participants to really lie down on the bottom of a shallow stream and video it. Then the more I look at each installed image, the more I feel meditative and calm, like the rhythm of their breathing was in sync with mine, and as Viola said, it does mimic as though we were dreaming.

Some of the words he says I agree with totally with my heart,

“Human beings need to touch the ground. There’s a reason why this is called Mother Earth. And the grounding is absolutely crucial for making connections.”

And then there was his work “Martyrs” which I like very much also. It is capturing (using moving images) to portray the 4 basic elements: earth, water, wind and fire. And this work was showcased at St Paul’s Cathedral. Again, so many questions arise from how he make those moving images, to how he comes up with ideas to represent the 4 elements and then how it can be transformed and displayed in a Cathedral which brings another level of impact with the work (because of the history and the element of religion). This work will totally be read different if it was displayed in a gallery.

 

To be continued… (since too much of his work needs to be discussed and written down)

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