Research Task: Relay

To begin with I chose to review Sophy Rickett’s ​’Objects in the Field

Objects in the Field.jpg

Prior to searching for the work on Google my immediate thoughts were that the title creates the expectation of the literal meaning of ‘Object in the Field’ in which I was envisioning found items from a certain area. In a way this is true, Rickett ‘finds’ a selection of negatives from a now unused observatory, located in a field. Also we see a play on words in which the astronomic community use the word ‘object’ to describe the bodies observed in space and the word field is how a specific type of scientific study is described. One could also refer to space being the ‘field’ albeit in reference to the common understanding of the word.

The series of images are accompanied by a video and a written essay.

In the written essay Rickett references her own life, memories of her being described glasses and the difference it made to her vision and the discomfort of the process of being tested. She links this with her interest in photography and further to how the knowledge of optics is her one connection to the astronomic community. Ending with commentary on observing two boys playing on a. sea wall through the glass of the train she is on.

I feel she is taking on the role of curator and interpreter in this series of work. The selection of the images is some 20 years since their capture and therefore relatively worthless to the astronomical community yet through her selection, processing and presenting is giving the images a new life as an artistic rather than scientific object. Her writing speaks often of how we live through optics, either through being able to see, being able to see the unseen or being able to frame the world. Is this alluding the idea that with a big enough camera we can capture everything that happens everywhere at all times. A goal of astronomy is to continually push the boundaries of technology to capture more and more of the universe.

In writing this piece ideas are forming and my appreciation for the work is growing but, initially I was very aware of the aesthetic and felt that the images themselves were little more than visually pleasing yet forgettable. In regards to several images on display in the observatory Rickett writes ‘I look at the photographs critically, thinking only of aesthetics, no real idea what I’m looking at, and despite the captions, much understanding of their significance.’ A sentiment I shared until I started writing.

Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself​‘ is a much harder collection to view online unfortunately. A collection of 106 elements comprising film, print and written works the collection recounts the artists break up experience through the words and visuals of a selected group of women across many fields and age groups. Dozens of portraits of each woman reading the break up letter Calle received via email are some of the most immediately engaging parts of the collection, displayed in Lightbox in wide grids of both landscape and portrait orientation with singular images adorning other ways of the galleries the collection went on to be exhibited in.

Overall from the interviews with Calle and the pieces written on the work the project has a feel of catharsis for the artist. By crowd sourcing dozens of opinions on the letter itself, the writer of the letter and the individual responses to the letter, Calle is able to re-frame the break up as a project which can be completed and by doing so creates a timeline to working through her emotions. I don’t believe she set out with malice or an intent to belittle the source of her inspiration for this project but to process the event in her own way. The letter was originally sent via email, in 2007 a relatively new form of communication and considered very informal, lacking the usual perceived respect offered by a hand written letter. The collection seems to also be a response to this lack of formality and finality. The letter ending the discussion and relationship in one fell swoop, even quoting the artist ‘There was another rule that you laid down at the beginning of our affair: the day we
stopped being lovers you would no longer be able to envisage seeing me.’ A manipulative technique to silence the artist. The crowding of the female voices to response is also a way giving women a voice to the situations were men shut them down. ‘Take Care of Yourself’ as a title made me think of health and wellbeing but her we see it as the artists rallying cry to continue with her work and continue promoting women’s rights.

Post-Modern Narratives

Both of the above works utilise techniques which have been defined as being part of the post-modernist artistic approaches, specifically the use of text and video predominantly within a larger mixed media collection. further to this the use of traditional styles juxtaposed also lends itself to post-modern art, both artists use formal and informal photography, sometimes reappropriated from others. Beyond the physical manifestation of the works, the collections themselves adopt post-modern literature approaches as well, in that the stories the artists seek to tell can be seen as being non-linear and even from unreliable narrators. This is due to the nature of Calle’s story being told through the ‘voice’ of pre-selected others and Ricketts story being built on her own emotional and experiential relationship to the subject rather than the ‘facts’ of the subject. Rickett is also quite self-referential in the work in that the art is a story of creating the art.

Similarly the work of Kaylyn Deveney – ​’The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings‘ and Karen Knorr – ​’Gentlemen‘ continues the use of text through both collections. Deveney pushing that to include a handwritten note on lined paper captioning each image as part of the frame and Knorr utilising heavy white borders providing ample room for her haiku style writings. Both utilise different styles, one handwritten in what I recognise as my grandmothers script, the other challenging the reader with oddly placed capitalisation and punctuation, again an unreliable narrator through the evident lack of proof reading.

Considering these different approaches to the narrative, I find that whilst I appreciate the collections I have reviewed for this research and have found work that I would not have normally seen which as been enjoyable both in the discovery and the viewing, I am not drawn to creating these particular styles of mixed media. For assignment 4 of EYV I used the idea of black bars from matted film stock and inserted the captions as if they were subtitles to a foreign language film which I now see is inline with the post-modern approach but also much more to my personal taste of cinema and subtlety, the idea that we take subtitles as we see them but forget the difficulty of translating an entire culture to another which may be necessary to communicate the actual subtext of a sentence is very interesting and going forward I will probably incorporate something of this technique agin, especially as the context and narrative of images is something that I find extremely interesting.

References

Chrisafis, A. (2007) Interview: Sophie Calle. At: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Photos + Text: Objects in the Field, 2014 (s.d.) At: https://sophyrickett.com/objects-in-the-field-1 (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Røed, K. (s.d.) ‘Sophie Calle’ In: Frieze (156) At: https://frieze.com/article/sophie-calle-1 (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Take care of yourself | Slow Words (s.d.) At: https://www.slow-words.com/take-care-of-yourself/ (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Tate (s.d.) Sophie Calle: Dumped by email – TateShots. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/sophie-calle-2692/sophie-calle-dumped-email (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Bert Grid (s.d.) At: https://kaylynndeveney.com/bert-grid (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Gentlemen | Karen Knorr (s.d.) At: https://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen/ (Accessed 28/05/2020).

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