The Society of Secretive Squirrels

Secretive and Squirrely.

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Bookages

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A book I made as a test;

The cover looks a wee bit greener in real life.

Some of my photographic subjects (vandyke pics) piled to the side
Some cyanotypes – which are a headache to mount

Another. – Yup, the blue ones are taxidermied.

Vandykes of wee plastic animals.

Tempera print of a fishing lure.

And a gum print of a model tiger.

I made that as a test to see how people reacted to a particular set of ideas – and discovered that I’m on the right track, but with a few caveats – for one, people devalue regular binding, even hand made – probably because they can pick up something that looks (superficially – but who can see past that these days?) similar for a few dollars from a discount store.

Also how much hand can be visible, and what the aesthetics should look like – As a result I’ll go more towards something like this;

The spine looks like;

This was also a test, just using some ply I pulled out of a skip bin (dumpster) and some heavy glossy card stock I hadn’t found a use for yet – bound with linen thread.

The covers are ok, need a bit of sanding and some sort of treatment Shellac or wax/oil – the thread needs to be much thicker – perhaps embroidery thread, and I’ll probably move to using Hahnemuhle bamboo for the paper stock as it’s cheap, decent quality, and is conceptually in line with the recycled covers – final piece prolly won’t have ply covers, but we shall see..

I might be making some sketch books like this – prolly with laser etched covers. I feel a squirrel rampant coming on.

Written by secretivesquirrel

October 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Photography and the icon (masters proposal Re.~1).

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Photography and the icon.

April 2011.

Introduction.

A photograph is a strange bird in that it documents a situation – yet this situation which is documented or re-presented ceases to exist, or perhaps simply diverges in existence from the time the photograph is created. As the photograph is made, an archive is created, yet as the original event or situation which is documented ceases to exist in the manner re/presented, the relationship becomes gradually less clear and the photographic document develops an aura of singularity. Thus the photograph becomes both re-presentation and original simultaneously.

A non-photographic document of an situation has a flavour of attribution which denotes and focuses it’s role as the child of the original it documents, and yet in the photographic re-production the aura of singularity problematises this relationship between referent and descendent – they might share a history, but they do not share a present, nor a future. This absence of a fixed referent is something which makes the photograph different from other re-productive strategies in that the photograph can re-order a formerly linear archive in a manner which questions the role of re-presentation.

In traditional forms of art the closest simile to this paradoxical relationship which I can find, is that of the christian icon. A painting which is intended as a reflective depiction of the ineffable seems somehow semantically close to a photograph being an image with a functionally obscured referent. It is also somewhat axiomatic in as much as people speaking of photography often refer to images as ‘icons’, or as ‘iconic’, yet these words are seldom used in more traditional plastic arts (with the noted exception of christian iconography).

I am interested, in my art practice, in investigating the concept of the photograph as a means of creating icons of things which would, or could not otherwise achieve this status.

My research question is essentially as follows;

Is there something inherent in the medium of photography which is particularly given to the making of icons from things which would not otherwise achieve this status, and does this work differently to other mediums on this level”

Proposed methodology.

As far as method and methodology goes, I have several modes of investigation which I will utilise in this study, the first of which are research strategies;

The first research strategy will be to research examples where a photo has achieved a status which could be considered iconic, Some examples of this could be Alberto Gutiérrez’s ‘Guerrillero Heroico’, better known these days simply as “Che”, Edward Westons photographs of peppers, or any of a range of other great works from photographic artists.

A second investigation will be into Photographs where the referent is consiously obscured, yet the resultant photographs don’t reach iconic status, examples being Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled film stills”, and Thomas Demand’s work with photographed constructions.

Parallel to this will be a research into traditional icons in the religious sense along with any particular secular works which also seem appropriate in order to compare them to the aforementioned photographic works, and to study the parallels and differences between them – this research will be done in a fairly organic .

In concert with these historical and academic researches I will also work with physical media in a manner to investigate and make sense of what I discover, this will be in line with my usual kinaesthetic methodology which I use to investigate concepts in my practice, this is very much an experimentation and play based strategy which I use to translate academic concepts into physical strategies.

So in essence, my research will lead, but will be translated into physical work so that this can be returned to the theoretical in such a manner that each may feed or edit the other reflexively – thus making the aspects of my practice work in concert and hopefully in a self sustaining manner.

Proposed output.

At this point I cannot be sure as I intend to be working in a range of technologies during the process of producing the works, thus intending one output over another at this point would unnecessarily limit my reflexivity whilst working through the proposed processes.

Timeline;

For the first three months approximately of the school year I will gather information fairly rapidly and to do a fair amount of experimentation

in order to build up a largish body of work and an archive which I could analyse.

At that point I would intend to spend time analysing what I have, and working out the boundaries of my proposed research for the remaining time. This would be a point of consolidation and reflexive analysis which I would use to define my path of study, and to possibly redefine my research question.

I cannot be a great deal more expansive than that with regards to a proposed timeline as the research that I am proposing to undertake would be variably referential rather than based on a rigid proposal and thus timeline.

I do also have several outside exhibitions which I can use to test work in the public arena over this time as well, this is an integral part of my working practice.

Contribution to the field.

I intend to elucidate on the relationship between the photograph and the icon.

Ethical standards.

At this point I do not see any major ethical or legal hurdles which will cause undue problems, there are some potential (mainly moral) issues around using images of people, but I am not intending to do this, so essentially I’ll negotiate any decisions as they arise.

Preliminary References.

I’m referencing people rather than books as most of these people have written multiple essays in their respective fields, this is a start point.

J. Derrida I am Interested in his concepts around the referent, his thoughts on photography, but also iterability as well as his thoughts around resistance and hauntology – Particularly relevant is the text “Copy, Archive, Signature”.

R. Barthes I am particularly in his text “Camera Lucida” and his writing on existential phenomenology with regards to photography.

H. G. Gadamer I am interested especially in this thoughts around hermenuetics and the assignation of meaning to objects. His writings around the concept of ‘historically effected consciousness’ in particular are of interest to me, as well as ‘Wirkungsgeschichte‘ or ‘history of effects’.

M. Heidegger I am interested in Heidegger’s writings about the relationship between metaphysics and aesthetics, as well as concealment and the referent. His text “The Origin of the Artwork” is of especial interest to me.

J. Kristeva I am interested in what she has written especially about intertextuality, as well as semiotic systems and assignation of value to signs.

M. Foucault I’m interested in his discussions around ‘truth’ and ‘meaning’, rather than the historical digging that Gadamer does, he seems more interested in the logic that lies behind ‘claims’ to truth then in the actual truthfulness of the claim itself, this structure of the claim is interesting to me. His writings on societal norms and paradigms is also peripherally interesting.

W. Benjamin Although I don’t agree with some of what Benjamin says with regards to the separation of art and literature – his analysis of technological

reproduction and his thoughts around translation and the philosophy of history overlap in ways that are interesting and helpful to me.

U. Eco Eco has written quite a lot about the problems inherent in translation between systems of signs, his focus is essentially intralinguistic for the most part, but it is useful when it comes to the framing of questions around intersemiotic translation.

As for works of art: They would be works such as Alberto Gutiérrez’s ‘Guerrillero Heroico’ , much of the most famous work of the photo succession and the f64 group. There is a very broad scope for seeking out materials which are appropriate to the task at hand, this as well as traditional eastern orthodox icons as well.

 

[Addendum]

I think this needs a bit more clarification, but this is how it’s being handed in for a first draft – I’ll rework it further, especially with regards to the idea that an icon can be personal, and does not have to be cultural or ‘group based’ – an example of a personal icon could be mortuary photography in the 19th century – which could well be only for one or a couple of people – also that an icon can be secular and still invoke a personal response. This is fruitful ground, and many people have written their tracks across this territory as they’ve attempted to chart it’s geography, but there’s an interesting lack of agreement even in basic terms… Fun no?

Written by secretivesquirrel

April 6, 2011 at 8:24 am

Anticipated artsy thingees.

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I guess this is where I do the ghost of Christmas future, having done present and past. Though to be honest I watched the Dr Who version of that story recently and am currently thinking of the flying shark, so, be warned, I may not be channelling Dickens in an academically appropriate manner.

In my art practice, what are my ongoing concerns;

Firstly the very idea of representation, and re-presentation are important – the former is a means of denoting something that stands for a meme or an idea it is conceptual – much in the manner that a (ostensibly female) model could stand for femininity (or a range of feminine ideals), the god awful “The two ways of life” (which admittedly someone had to do so I shouldn’t be too derisive of poor Oscar, dear chap) stands as an allegory for the choices that upright Christians must necessarily make between the left and right paths and suchlike – it is allegory, and metaphor, and as somebody who loves writing (note I didn’t say ‘good writing’) this interests me deeply.

Re-presentation on the other hand – and this is a purely personal distinction in terms – is when something is taken from it’s natural state (indeed, it’s original presentation) and re~presented by an outside agency as an original artefact, realistic and whole – think of how different contentious (or merely targeted) demographics have been promoted by their detractors – this also intrigues me, though I feel that somehow it is necessary to differentiate these terms, they are problematic in that each shades to the other, but identifying the extremes is nevertheless a worthwhile use of intellectual energy, even if it does lead to tone arguments and arbitrary distinctions.

The Photographic – the writing with light, or even Skiagraphic – writing with shadow (I have no idea how to format that sentence formally), is a fascination of mine also – this entails a whole spectra of options, from human vision to human failure of vision – to set arbitrary boundaries which are pseudobinaristic, but more properly merely a spectrum – I am fascinated by Light, Vision, Articulation, and the boundaries of my own senses. The Claude glass, and the infra spectral.

Sensory phenomena – not merely visual – I have hearing loss in a major way, though compensated otherwise, and work daily with a range of perception issues – some give me a sensory deficit, and some give me extra ordinary senses (as in more than usual, but they’re ordinary to me – colours glow complimentary in darkness (dimness?) for instance and I can track chocolate like a champion). Much of the video/audio work that I have done is along these lines. I still have no idea how to present smell adequately as a painting medium, despite having attempted and failed at this since circa 2000 – (the chocolate secret is all mine (my prechusss).

Yes, I am fascinated with the semantic, and the semiotic. these distinctions, when used thoughtfully can lead to a crystalline elegance in description – I appreciate the difficulty of stepping into this wavelength, but the elegance of distinction is more than worth it when I get it right – I know that a few people can follow what I say, even if many cannot, or perhaps simply cannot be bothered.

And media (see what I did there,? no?), I am simply in thrall of media, I love… not the stuff – as someone recently stated, but, what can be done with the stuff (‘stuffness’ is not a real word btw). Camera’s are neat, but so are paint brushes, and they’re a damn sight easier to learn how to make. I have a lot of media which I will draw from. I like physicality, both in art media, but also in myself and the world at large – from the martial arts I have done, I would say that the most important thing I’ve learned is where my body ends and the world begins – the extent of my influence as it were. My body, my art, what i make, and what i leave behind – these are important in terms of the trace i leave. Media is broad.

Though I am not entirely sure that identity politics (arguing them at least) is important, I am interested in how identity sits within the world. Personal, national, sexual, whichever. As a means of distinction this ties straight back into representation – and there we have a loop, already, after a mere seven hundred fifty odd words.

And I hope you know that my answer would be different tomorrow, cos my interests aren’t narrow at all – even if I am capable of focussing them rather sharply as need be.

Written by secretivesquirrel

April 2, 2011 at 9:22 am

Past presentations.

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Some of the meta themes I’ve worked with in the past.
Perhaps I didn’t state it clearly enough in the first essay, but What I find compelling about photography as an artistic medium is it’s facility as a storytelling medium. To me sketching is analogous to this sensibility, as such much of what I have looked at through the lens, as it were, of photography is the snippets of information, the traces which imply the presence of a greater narrative.


These traces are the basis of a fair chunk of my work to date, I seek out the traces that people leave behind in their daily lives and frame them in a manner which allows extrapolation from any viewer. Obviously I use a photographic vernacular in framing these images, composition, printing techniques, and presentation strategies which are of, or have been co-opted by photographic sensibilities.


When I first began to play with photography as a medium I began with pinhole imagery, speed of vision is something we are very much stuck with, to slow down or to speed up vision is very much the domain of photography, perhaps more-so than just seeking particular lighting.

I’m more interested in exploring things that re-present to me a reality which our senses cannot percieve. The hyper fast, the super slow, the spectrally invisible, these are all of a realm, which is to us, extrasensory, this fascinates me in that I am learning whilst making such images, to perceive the world at large in a different manner to that which my naked senses suggest.


In making use of these photographic and non-human visualities I have, of necessity, experimented extensively with the medium of photography at large, these experiments ranging from learning new printing methods, or the capabilities of different technical modalities (camera’s, lenses, etc), through to physically rebuilding (cheap) digital camera’s in such ways that their descriptive abilities no longer match a nominally human view point.


As I have gathered images, negatives, prints and digital files I have started to see themes which emerge, and which bend under the weight of their neighbors. The intertextual and the semiotic have developed interesting complexities within my archives, and this has fed back into long standing (considerably pre-dating my engagement with the photographic idiom) fascinations with linguistics, language, translation, language, and the persistence of archetypical presentations.


One thing which I have not worked with to any great degree yet (and do not intend to start with now) is photographing people, this is due to the fact that I am intensely aware that to frame something in a photograph is to speak for it, to re-present the thing in a nuanced manner. When I am doing this with a trace that a person has left I am comfortable, because I am not challenging a pre-existing narrative, I am not speaking over something attempting to speak for itself.


However I am aware that when I frame a person photographically, then I speak for them in a manner which is authoritative. This, in and of itself, is not problematic, it is, after all the point of having a photographer at a wedding – however I do not personally seek to make stories of people, nor to have people act out stories for the camera. This aspect of re-presentation is something which I am intensely aware of and is something which I am looking to work more deliberately with at this point.

Written by secretivesquirrel

March 27, 2011 at 2:51 am

More stuff.

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Stuff? Well,now have a shiny new exposure unit (The Squirrel Mk.2?) – it’s made of custom wood, glue, sticky tape and paint;

Actually looks kinda fancy, it’s 10×12 format, for a bit of space with 8×10’s – it seems to cover it’s area pretty well – at least with cyanotype and gum bichromate, seems to work as well as expensive stuff, albeit somewhat more slowly.

I also now have cyanotype chemistry to play with, I’ll need to calibrate stuff, but i did a print of a branch just for kicks – this is what it looked like before washing out (after exposure);

And this is after washing (inverted);

It goes darker over a few days – this if straight out of the wash (hence the shiny water, yup 😛 )

I’ve also re-started another project, which is about images rather than techie printing stuff, photographing wee animal facsimiles (only been on that topic since 2009 😀 ). This is one from the very end of last year;

I’m using a 1/4 plate camera for this, I’ve modified it to take 3×4 graflex holders, I spent the afternoon at home attempting to get a result with camera flashes and a bedside lamp, the results were predictably enough rather shite;

That’s a (somewhat shoddy) digital inversion, so I should be able to scrape an image out of that neg with a bit of pencil work (You can draw on the backs of paper negs to get highlight detail, pencil is a good tool for this). I then sucked it up and went into school and set up some proper lights, and a proper tripod, which looked like so;

You can see the basic set up here – light tent, about 1000w of painfully frigging bright lighting, and my camera – yup, the view glass is hand made, seems to work ok *shrug*

Gratuitous shot of the focussing glass – the red is a sweater I was using to cut down reflections.;

Yes, upside down, which actually makes it easier to compose in some strange way – not sure what the reflection is of, might be my hair. The marker lines make it easier for me to line stuff up for different formats.

That’s what the camera looks like now, you can see that I’m using it at near full extension, the back was designed originally for septums, which after 100 odd years don’t really exist any more, so I removed the back and rebuilt it to take graflex 3×4 double dark slides – they’re just held in place by friction with velvet, so I’ll never have sub millimeter precision, but it does 1:1 macro happily enough below f22. The bit in the back is the removable focus screen, the inside is hardwood that I’ve sanded to the right thickness, a piece of sanded glass, and some cheap customwood for the actual back – I might get around to painting that one day. it’s not original, but it works rather well.

 

Finally, I found a cheap knockoff etch a sketch sort of toy with candy in it today (the sort with a magnetic stylus) for 39 cents, so I snaffled it up happily enough (they’re kinda fun, and candy is nice), but waiting for me inside was this dire warning;

Holy fucking hell! As a warning that’s even more frightening than the picture of some poor sap getting body slammed by a coke machine after they tried to rock n’ rob the sucker.

Unhappy face indeed.

Written by secretivesquirrel

March 10, 2011 at 9:10 am

Signs & Signifiers

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I have a truckload of photos, so I’m gonna make up arbitrary categories and post some.First up, Signs, just cos I find them endlessly amusing.

First time I’ve used the gallery feature, see how it goes.

Seems to work.

Written by secretivesquirrel

December 27, 2010 at 8:11 am

Contact Sheets and editing

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This is more or less how the editing process works for me – it’s an abvreiviated version.
Step One – Film; I expose the film and develop it – I don’t bother to look at it at this time, and usually develop a dozen or so films at a time – it’s not one of my favorite tasks.
Step one – Digital; After capture the shots are put into dated folders so that I can retrieve them at will.
Step two – Film; I make a contact sheet of the whole film onto a sheet of 8×10 photo paper. I tend to do this for 20 – 25 sheets at a time
Step two – Digital; Skip to step three.
Step three – Film; When I have 50 or more contact sheets unedited I put them all up onto a pinboard (or this year staplegun them to my studio wall) – I then go through all of the shots that I don’t want seen at all and cross them out with black ink – then all of the ones that I can’t print due to copyright considerations, permission, or ethical considerations (these things can change) and put a cross on them with a red wax pencil (chinagraph). From here I go through and mark all of the frames that I think look good enough that I want a closer look with a white line (all with waxpencils) around the frames that I want.



Step three – Digital; I change the folder properties so that the icons for the images are larger, thus I can consider the images at a slightly larger scale – i use preview to look closer at marginal images. I then select the images that I want to see as prints and copy them to a new filder before returning the folder back to a normal status and filing the folder – from this point on I work with the new folder with the original folder backed up externally.
Step Four – Film; I then print all of the selected prints as 4×5 prints on black and white proof paper (RC silver paper), and then tape them together as concertina books – I don’t make a point of inspecting them at this stage.
Step Four – Digital; I then Go through the folders of selected files and photoshop them so that they make cohesive sets and are ready for printing (this is my least favorite part of working with digital images). I then print all of the selected prints using a digital printing service – usually for around 12 cents a print – I don’t make a point of inspecting them at this stage. I don’t make concertina books of these.

Step Five – Film; When I have several of these books I lay them out and go through them deciding what to label them as – the labels (apart from rejects are for each of the projects or subjects I’m currently keeping a file for – some images make it to more than one file)
Step Five – Digital; a good stack of these I lay them out and go through them deciding how to group them – the groups (apart from rejects) are for each of the projects or subjects I’m currently keeping a file for – some images make it to more than one file. I move them around in the folders for sorting and delete the rejects (this is why I work with copies).
Step Six – Film; I then break the books up and recreate them as selected subject books – I haven’t gotten to this stage yet in my current project
Step Six – Digital; These are now ready for final selection and being ready for printing.
Step Seven – Film; I then Go into the darkroom and go through the process of making exhibition prints – I tend to make one print as an AP (artist proof) so that I can see how to print the final image and then two final prints of which one will be presented.

It’s not so terribly exciting to see something like this laid out as a step by step process, in practice I find that neither digital nor film is cheaper to work with, and due to experience and a degree of procrastination I’m slightly quicker and more efficient getting silver exhibition prints done than digital exhibition prints.

Written by secretivesquirrel

June 2, 2010 at 6:03 am