Quite a simple post this time! No need for much description, here are a select few of the photographs I took whilst wandering around the curiosities of Portobello Road Market today.
”Spooling the Ethnographic” was a group exhibition by a group of Central Saint Martins 2nd year Fine Art students including myself. Ethnography is defined ”The scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences”. To begin our research we read Hal Fosters ‘Artist as Ethnographer’, in which Foster claims that anthropology, the science of the state of being other or different , has become the common language between those whose native languages are different within artistic practice. This fitted our location well, we were given a room within Iniva Gallery in which to exhibit our group work. Iniva was established in 1994 to address an imbalance in the representation of culturally diverse artists.
A great inspiration to this series of work for me was photographer Shizuka Yokomizo. For this 1998-2000 series of portraits, photographer, Yokomizo left anonymous letters on the doorsteps of random ground floor apartments with the message:
“Dear Stranger, I am an artist working on a photographic project which involves people I do not know…. I would like to take a photograph of you standing in your front room from the street in the evening.”
These letters gave simple instructions for when the artist would come and take the photograph. The only contact she had with the subjects of these voyeur portraits was when Shizuka sent the subjects a print of the image and her contact info in case they didn’t want the photograph exhibited.
My interests and areas to explore around this subject were very similar to another member of the groups so we decided to collaborate. I wanted to explore social relationships and interactions enhanced by online platforms. How and why people use social media, and the authenticity of the friendships formed there.
To begin our investigations we decided to organise and film a series of individual interviews with the rest of the group. We asked them their opinion on social media, if they like facebook, why they use facebook and if they also used any other social media platforms. We also printed out the first couple of posts and photos the interview subject ever posted on their profile, some being 6 or 7 years ago to present to them unexpectedly.
The majority of the people we spoke to did not care about facebook at first, many deleted their accounts a re-joined later. As most had either been travelling or have lived in different countries they use facebook to keep in contact easily or find people they could not find otherwise. One person even said how while she was travelling she lost her phone and did not have any phone numbers of the people she was meeting to find her hotel and luggage, the only option was to find somewhere with internet as facebook can be accessed so easily from virtually anywhere, she does not know what she would’ve done without it!
Some described facebook as self-indulgent, a guilty pleasure to gain photo and status ‘likes’ and constant comparisons to everyone else uploading the exact same potential ‘like’-provoking content. A negative side that was expressed several times was that even if you delete your profile, you can re-activate it, all of your information is stored infinitely whether you want it to or not.
When we handed the subjects the first status’s and photos they posted the reactions were varied, some were embarrassed at the things they used to share, or the way they shared it, some were emotional at the memories the posts brought back and some could not even recall posting it, or why they would’ve done.
To bring the whole groups ideas together we arranged improvisation workshops to experiment with our themes, for example writing and swapping artist statements, asking and answering questions as another group member, first impressions experiments, matching descriptions to each group member. This gave us the idea of using the group concept ‘Becoming the Other’, as it fitted in perfectly with the ideas and research we were doing on anthropology and ethnography, as well as the gallery space within Iniva.
The Iniva Website promoting our exhibition
improvisation workshops and private view
the gallery space at Iniva
My collaboration partner and I wanted to continue with using Facebook as a base to our investigations but we didn’t want to use the interview footage in a public gallery space as it’s only really effective if you know the subjects personally. We decided to create a fake facebook profile, ”Mary Ann Smith”.
For the weeks building up to the exhibition we worked on making the profile seem as real as possible, adding as many friends as we could, giving it a vaguely common name, adding photographs, ‘liking’ pages, writing generic status’s and interacting with the newsfeed of other peoples posts. As the exhibition time drew nearer we thought the best option was to set out a laptop with Mary Ann’s facebook page logged in. Instead of just letting people view it, we set out a series of instructions so to encourage the audience to participate and let Mary Ann become, in a way, the profile of the exhibition, each viewer allowed to add, like and say what they like to Mary Ann’s ‘friends’, the majority of whom did not know she was an art project.
While deciding how to curate the ‘Becoming the other’ exhibition we came to a decision that the room should have a domestic feel. All the pieces fitted well in this theme, for example there was a rail of clothes to try and fit into next to a mirror, a book to read through, a documentary style video of cooking in a kitchen, a giant cushion-y pizza in the centre of the room that acted as a meeting point to sit on and relax, and others. I put the laptop on a desk in front of a window as to imitate a homely setting. In front of it was a comfy chair with a cushion and on the floor was a rug. Around the laptop on the desk there was a pot of flowers, photo frames and a few random ornaments and the instructions were placed next to the laptop.
I’m really pleased with the outcome, there were so many interactions and posts, even private messages exchanging details with unknowing facebook recipients although some worked it out eventually! Here’s a few examples…
visit or add Mary Ann at https://www.facebook.com/inivaethnography
About a year ago I visited an exhibition in the Barbican Curve Gallery by Geoffrey Farmer called ‘The Surgeon and The Photographer’ which gave me the idea of sculptural or upstanding collage. Geoffrey’s exhibition was full of hundreds of little collaged figures, almost puppet like balancing on sticks.
As I had been animating the city and urban landscapes I thought this would be a good and simple base to attempt 3D work just for fun, I was curious as to how it would turn out and needed an opportunity to put to use all the paper buildings I had been collecting.
I fixed paper buildings onto cardboard for stability and masking-taped them onto the board to easily change their positions. I also folded some and stood them under paper cuttings to bridge gaps and laid buildings flat to build up the landscape and surface. From above it looked messy and random, to view it piece together as a city-scape you had to be eye-level and centered. For the background I just propped up a canvas of ripped newsprint and images to be a blurred sky-like image for the meantime although I would like to improve on this.
from the front;
‘Intimacy’ Hostel Experience Group Members
Anna Pickles Harvey
Jason Nicholas Selby
-Eight members of the group from cross-pathways spent two days and two nights in a London hostel – Please note: As group members were from different pathways within the university, only a few knew each other socially before. Most had never spoken to the others before
-The entire experience was filmed using seven laptop webcams
-The group members spent the entire time together, unless showering or using the toilet
-Mobile phones (except for emergencies) were banned
-Internet access was banned on laptops
-Smart phones were allowed for photographs only but internet access had to be switched off
-Music played on speakers was allowed. Headphones were not
-All group members must sleep in the same dorm room
-The group was split into meal time cooking teams
-Outside excursions were allowed with a time limit of one, to one and a half hours.
-When using public areas within the hostel, group members were not allowed to interact with residents
-When outside of the hostel group members were not allowed to interact with the general public
-When purchasing items from stores, group members were not allowed to make small talk with sales staff
-Art materials – sketch books and pens were allowed
-Overalls with each group members university ID number written on the back had to be worn at all times except when sleeping
-All group decisions regarding the event, rules and installation to follow were made democratically by voting
The group in the hostel
Before entering the hostel I was quite nervous having never stayed in a hostel before and not really knowing the people I’d be with too well. I didn’t know what to expect and it’s a long time to be secluded from your home comforts if I found myself not enjoying it!
The reality was completely different, we all arrived and were shown to our 8 bunkbed dorm, celebrating our arrival with a bottle of Cava. The group clicked immediately in my opinion, the conversation (and wine!) flowed so easily, we were so lucky to have such a lovely group. The time in the hostel went surprisingly fast (although the room was uncomfortably hot at times and I had difficulty sleeping) we passed the time going on a group walk, sketching, evening pub visits (avoiding interaction with the public), doing makeovers and generally chatting and getting to know one another.
At first it was strange seeing yourself on a screen being filmed everywhere you turned within the room but after a while it didn’t seem to be on my mind, in a way I even forgot they were there.
Building the structure
We decided to show our piece as an installation, an enclosed large cube structure with the overalls hanging on one side. Two of the walls were built with small holes to look through to view the footage of our hostel experience which was projected upon two of the inside walls.
filling in the historical documentary gaps with paper (well sort of…not really)
I had the idea to create this video from the building works going on around university and London in general. I had returned to University after the long summer break to find the depressed looking construction sites had emerged and grown into yet more vast towering grey metal blocks, exactly what London needed more of! It made me think about the way places and buildings were constantly changing, the cycle of construction/destruction/development/demolition repeated and repeated. I first made a few collages to illustrate my ideas.
To develop this further and make the work more interesting to view I decided to animate the collages, this involved cutting out hundreds and hundreds of buildings, a set of coloured buildings and a set of black and white to illustrate the changes in time.
This time though, I would find video clips of London through time and tailor the animations to try and blend together. It was extremely difficult and took many days but I’m not as disappointed with the outcome as I thought i’d be. I still want to improve and take this technique further but this time i’ll find an updated editing software and stop-motion creator.
Here are some examples of animations I made a year or so ago…
On the 29th of January I went to the Joiners in Southampton to watch Burning House play their first gig in a couple of years. As usual they were full of noise and pedals and all the goodness that makes your ears ring for the next day or so (haha).
Give them a listen here: https://soundcloud.com/burning-house
Here’s a few photos I took on the night.
I haven’t had this camera for long so I was a bit slow adjusting the lighting levels but I think they’ll do for now…
was browsing a photography blog and got very confused when I saw this photograph until I realised it was the original image I once found in an old book and used sections for two of my montages… it’s so odd seeing it in it’s untouched way!
The top picture is the image I began with, it was in a ‘child photography’ textbook. It was taken by Arthur Freed in 1970, entitled Paul & Eric. I liked it so much that I recycled the contents into two of my pieces, shown below.