Project 4, Research point: Print and pattern

Two examples of the use of print and pattern come to mind immediately, one on either side of the Atlantic: Burberry's trademark scarf (below left, UK) and the Hudson Bay Company's signature blanket (below right, Canada).

Both patterns are immediately recognizable and both have been imitated. The two companies have worked hard to use the pattern to identify a unique product line that denotes tradition and high-quality, although sometimes with unintended effects. Burberry had to endure years of its pattern being associated with anti-social behaviour ("Burberry versus The Chavs") and Hudson's Bay has been accused of appropriating Indigenous culture ("HBC’s ‘Colonial Barbie’ comes with some baggage"). Both companies have extended the use of their pattern to other items.

Mary Katrantzou

The article cited on Greek fashion designer in the course materials does not seem to be available anymore. There is, however, a useful review of her 2011 Spring Ready-to-Wear show in the online edition of Vogue (accessed 22 August 2017).

As Katrantzou works on her creations she "designs in 3-D"—that is, she plans the form, volume and drape of the garment at the same time that she develops the pattern / illustration that will be screen-printed onto the fabric.

"I thought I was going to do a collection about the seventies photographs of Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newtonall those women in incredible rooms. But then I started to look at the rooms more, and suddenly, I was putting the rooms on the women instead!"

By this, I think Katrantzou meant that rather than have women serve almost as visual accessories within exotic locations, the locations could serve the women by drawing attention to their own appearance. She achieved this through the design process described above that allowed her to digitally print striking architectural images on to the clothes she created. The clothed woman is the centre of attention, not the backdrop in which she is placed (slideshow of garments in the 2011 collection, accessed 22 August 2017).

Examples from Mary Katrantzou's Spring 2011 collection

Examples from Mary Katrantzou's Spring 2011 collection

Project 3, Research point 1: Christian Boltanski

Christian Boltanski's  Personnes ; image from  Traffic Magazine

Christian Boltanski's Personnes; image from Traffic Magazine

Analysis by terms / categories:

  • Art: this is an installation that is meant to be visited in an exhibition space.
  • Temporary: the installation was in place in Paris for just over a month. 
  • Large scale: the piece is large enough to dominate and overwhelm visitors, which is likely part of the desired effect.
  • Form: Personnes formed its own shapes, in regular rectangular deposits of clothing.
  • Immersive and Distant: the installation is large enough to walk around in, but also draws some of its power from the ability to stand back and take in its scale.
  • Repetition and Shape: the work is laid out as a series of regular rectangles of clothing lying on a concrete floor.

The media release for Personnes described it as "social, religious and humanistic exploration of life, memory and the irreductible individuality of each and every human existence – together with the presence of death, the dehumanisation of the body, chance and destiny. Conceived as a work in sound and vision, Personnes takes up a new theme in Boltanski’s work, building on his earlier explorations of the limits of human existence and the vital dimension of memory : the question of fate, and the ineluctability of death. Personnes transforms the entire Nave of the Grand Palais through the creation of a coherent, intensely moving installation conceived as a gigantic animated tableau. Personnes is a one-off, ephemeral work. In accordance with the artist’s wishes, the components of the piece will all be recycled at the end of the exhibition."

Without knowing anything about the installation, my first glances at pictures of it reminded me of the large piles of sorted clothes, shoes and eyeglasses confiscated from Jewish victims of the Nazi death camps. The empty (de-personalised) clothes cannot help but speak to us of the absence of the people who once wore them. And the rectangular piles on the floor suggested to me both that the missing people were less important than their clothes and that a rational mind had created the arrangement with deliberate purpose. The use of a crane to move the clothes makes the arrangements even more mechanistic and dehumanised.

The name of the installation—Personnes—is a play on words that reflects the dehumanisation described above: the French word suggests at once the people who would have worn the clothes and their absence ("no ones").

 

http://vernissage.tv/2010/01/14/christian-boltanski-personnes-monumenta-2010-at-grand-palais-paris-interview-part-1/

http://www.clg-exupery-ermont.ac-versailles.fr/IMG/pdf/fiche_prof_personnes_boltanski.pdf

http://www.domusweb.it/en/art/2010/02/01/monumenta-2010-christian-boltanski.html

Project 3, Research point 4: Wrapped Trees, Kusama, Bouroullec and Straub

Wrapped Trees

Copyright: Wolfgang Volz, ©Christo 1998

Copyright: Wolfgang Volz, ©Christo 1998

  • Starting on Friday, November 13, 1998, 178 trees were wrapped with 592,015 square feet (55,000 square meters) of woven polyester fabric (used every winter in Japan to protect trees from frost and heavy snow) and 14.3 miles (23 kilometers) of rope. The wrapping was completed on November 22. The trees are located in the park around the Fondation Beyeler and in the adjacent meadow as well as along the creek of Berower Park, northeast of Basel, at the German border. The height of the trees varied between 82 feet (25 meters) and 6.5 feet (2 meters) with a diameter from 47.5 feet (14.5 meters) to 3.3 feet (1 meter). [http://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/wrapped-trees?view=info — consulted 7 August 2017]
     
  • The wrapping was removed after a month and the materials recycled. The artists also approached the cities of St. Louis, MO and Paris concerning additional wrapping projects but were denied permission.
  • After reading the quote again in its proper context on the website (that is, it applies to all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's projects, not just the Wrapped Trees), I can appreciate the focus on the use and properties of textiles rather than on a particular technique. The two use their materials to create and enhance temporarily, large-scale structural forms, some of which exist already and others that are revealed by the application of the textile and its particular properties.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama,  Dots Obsession, Infinity mirrored Room , 1998. Installation. Les Abattoirs, Tolosa

Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession, Infinity mirrored Room, 1998. Installation. Les Abattoirs, Tolosa

  • Art
  • Temporary
  • Large scale
  • Defining and Forming
  • Immersive
  • Pattern, Colour and Repetition

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

Installation view, Bivouac, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France October 7, 2011 - July 30, 2012 Photo © studio Bouroullec

Installation view, Bivouac, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France
October 7, 2011 - July 30, 2012
Photo © studio Bouroullec

  • Art
  • Permanent
  • Large-scale
  • Transforming
  • Immersive and Distant
  • Pattern, Colour and Shape

Marianne Straub

Woven, 1949, British; Straub, Marianne for Helios Ltd. "Brisbane"

Woven, 1949, British; Straub, Marianne for Helios Ltd. "Brisbane"

Marianne Straub OBE (23 September 1909 – 8 November 1994) was one of the leading commercial designers of textiles in Britain in the period from the 1940s to 1960s. She said her overriding aim was: "to design things which people could afford. ... To remain a handweaver did not seem satisfactory in this age of mass-production." [Wikipedia, consulted 7 August 2017]

  • Design
  • Permanent
  • Small-scale
  • Defining
  • Immersive
  • Pattern, Colour and Repetition

Project 3, Research point 3: Christo and Jeanne-Claude

  • The scale of the Surrounded Islands project is impressive. And although the work appears to be simple in concept (surround 11 islands with "floating pink woven polypropylene fabric") it is clear that an enormous amount of imagination, planning, logistical support and money went into the project.
  • "The luminous pink color of the shiny fabric was in harmony with the tropical vegetation of the uninhabited verdant islands, the light of the Miami sky and the colors of the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay." This is all true, but the shade of pink also reminded me of the art deco-revival pink that was often associated with Miami in the 1980s. As just one example, the visual design of the TV show Miami Vice (1984–1990) frequently drew on the same palette:
  • The other item that caught my attention when reading about this installation had to do with the issue of impact on the environment. I wondered about the impact on the bay's wildlife, but did not expect to learn that the local flora and fauna were probably in better shape after the installation than before it. Not only did the artists exercise due diligence with a marine biologist, ornithologists and a mammal expert, but they also removed "some forty tons of varied garbage that included refrigerator doors, tires, kitchen sinks, mattresses and an abandoned boat." My expectations were entirely wrong.
  • I agree with the assessment of the Surrounded Islands project: it is a temporary, large-scale art installation that defines a series of islands by shape (although the role of striking colour should not be undervalued) and meant to be viewed at a distance.

Project 3, Research point 2: architectural uses of textiles

Elie Tahari Showroom, NYC —  Photographer: © Michael Moran

Elie Tahari Showroom, NYC — Photographer: © Michael Moran

DAR LUZ installation by Lars Meeß-Olsohn and Ali Heshmati in Eindhoven —  Photo © Johan Creemers

DAR LUZ installation by Lars Meeß-Olsohn and Ali Heshmati in Eindhoven — Photo © Johan Creemers

'Tubaloon' by Snohetta Architects for the Kongsberg jazz festival in Norway —  Photo © Snohetta

'Tubaloon' by Snohetta Architects for the Kongsberg jazz festival in Norway — Photo © Snohetta

Swiss pavilion at EXPO Shanghai 2010 with X-TEND steel net by Carl Stahl —  Photo © iart interactive ag, photographer: Mark Niederman

Swiss pavilion at EXPO Shanghai 2010 with X-TEND steel net by Carl Stahl — Photo © iart interactive ag, photographer: Mark Niederman

Hyparform vertical sails on a Vienna building by Planex

Hyparform vertical sails on a Vienna building by Planex

Project 3, Research point 1: prep for Assignment 5

In preparation for Assignment 5 on Textiles, I've decided that I'd like to do work on the the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. The tapestry was completed in Scotland between 2012 and 2014 and then toured the world via installations in countries with a significant population claiming Scottish heritage. The tapestry will be permanently installed in Prestonpans, Scotland. I had the opportunity to see the tapestry and photograph portions of it in Ottawa during the Canadian leg of its tour in January 2017. Assignment 5 will give me the opportunity to dig more deeply into the textile aspect of the work, rather than just the depictions of Scottish emigration and accomplishments.

A few quick shots I took of tapestry panels. These will be edited and cropped for Assignment 5.

Project 2, Research point 2

  • What is their craft and how do they approach it in their work?

I have decided to look at the work of Marcela Rosemberg, a glass-fusion artist who lives in Cobourg, Ontario. My family and I met Marcela and had the chance to tour her studio a number of years ago when she lived on Prince Edward Island.

  • Do they adhere to the ideas of Slow Design? To what extent does this allow them to take risks, experiment and innovate?

I have not been able to find any explicit reference by Marcela to Slow Design, but some of the things she says about her own artistic practice are reminiscent of the movement's commitments and principles. The following passage from the "About" page on her website is a good example: 

Beauty, simplicity, elegance and functionality are essential components in Marcela Rosemberg’s designs. At her studio, she’s always looking for that special blend of colour and texture that leads her to each piece of art she carefully designs. She treats glass as if it were a human being, by respecting it and not pushing it. This allows her to understand its flow, displacement, behavior, and action up to its most intricate inner part… Its core. That is why Marcela always says: “Each time a piece leaves my studio I feel a little bit of my soul is going with it”.  

I remember very clearly from the studio tour that Marcela is constantly experimenting with combinations of colours and pigments to be used in her fused glass creations, as well as with new forms and purposes for the finished products. She was good enough to show us some of the less successful efforts that she still had on-hand, so it was clear that she was indeed trying new things and taking risks.  

  • Is their story or the story of their work important? Why?

Marcela's story is clearly very important to her and to the artistic identity she has established over the years. As her website explains, "[t]he ocean and her Jewish faith are the main sources of inspiration in her sculptural and functional current work."

Her website goes on to explain how when Marcela left her native Argentina she relocated in Atlantic Canada and that "her colours and designs are still standing strong on the East coast where she created a brand for herself."

Marcela Rosemberg,  Dancing Vessel

Marcela Rosemberg, Dancing Vessel

 

The importance of her Jewish heritage can be seen in the beautiful pieces that are clearly designed for the Jewish community

Marcela Rosemberg,  Miracle Menorah

Marcela Rosemberg, Miracle Menorah

Marcela's emphasis on her considered and hand-made approach to her work, as well as the emotional attachment that she has to her pieces will no doubt be a part of her story that is significant to her clientele, both those who are already clients and those who would like to feel that they are buying a unique creation directly from the designer-maker.

  • Do you value ‘craft’ and craftsmanship? Why or why not?

 Certainly. I get a great deal of pleasure from seeing the work of someone who has perfected their art or craft to a high degree -- I appreciate both the amount of work that has gone into making difficult things look effortless, as well as the finished product itself (whether that is an object or a performance). And this is not a recent thing for me: I remember being fascinated at the age of 12 by the skill of a backhoe operator who was excavating the hole for the pool that was being installed in our backyard. He operated a piece of heavy machinery like it was a surgeon's scalpel, working quickly to remove earth by following a spray-painted line on the grass, never once making a false cut. I thought of that craftsman years later when I read Aristotle's view that virtue is the practised skill of living well.

  • Is there room for craft in modern society?

 No question. Dedication to 'craft' is needed in so many areas of our society, not only in the arts, but also in the world of work more broadly. All work has value if it is approached with an attention to perfection of a craft and the pursuit of excellence. This extends from ensuring that ancient and traditional kinds of 'know-how' are not lost, to reminding us that the mass-produced may have brought us economies of scale but that there is still great value in considered, skillful and sustainable design and making. And this is true both for the maker and for the one who receives the made good. We cannot all be craftspeople in every field and inexpensive consumer goods have their place, but we are all richer when each of us has something in our life that we pursue as a craft, for our benefit and for the benefit of others.

Project 3, Research point: New Topographics

New Topographics: "a term coined by William Jenkins in 1975 to describe a group of American photographers (such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz) whose pictures had a similar banal aesthetic, in that they were formal, mostly black and white prints of the urban landscape."

Also the title of the exhibition curated by Jenkins at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY (October 1975 to February 1976).

Mitch Epstein, American Power

  • Many of these colour images have a formal structure. They have not been taken haphazardly but show attention to composition.
  • The scenery would normally be considered particularly photogenic in terms of classic landscapes, but there is nonetheless a beauty to many of the shots in the series.
  • Several of the images seem to have been shot from a viewpoint above regular line of sight—ladder? scaffold? pole? The extra height marks a difference from the usual snapshot at eye-level—does it suggest a different way to view the landscape philosophically, as well?
  • Most images contain a lot of detail and show considerable depth of field—the viewer is invited to take in a broad field of view rather than to concentrate on small points of focus.
  • The images explore very broadly the theme of 'power' generation and transmission associated with the energy industry in the U.S.
  • At the same time, the title 'American Power' could be an ironic questioning of the vulnerabilities of the country's political 'power' because of its dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources, and because of the environmental degradation associated with the energy industry.
  • Some of the images are interesting as standalone documents, but together they form a narrative with a clear point of view.

Fay GodwinOur Forbidden Land

"Her love of walking eventually inspired her to pursue landscape photography, often photographing isolated and remote areas of the British landscape and producing many beautiful pastoral scenes as well as contrasting urban landscapes. President of the Ramblers' Association from 1987 to 1990, she was also renowned for her work as an environmentalist, her interest reflected in many of her best-known images that examine the complex relationships and tensions between man and nature." (Fay Godwin Archive)
  • Much like Epstein's pictures, Godwin's work in this series has been produced with great care.
  • All of the images have been produced in black and white—was this an aesthetic decision (documentary approach? emphasis on form and texture rather than colour?), was it due to necessity, or was it even a consideration at all?
  • The black and white approach suggests something more timeless to me than literal colour, but that may be my own bias.
  • Godwin draws attention to the separation of people in the U.K. from the land around them and to the degradation of the land. The theme is somewhat broader than Epstein's but the two probably share political sympathies.

It's possible that the work of these two photographers and some of the other New Topographers may have an influence on how I look at and photograph landscapes from now on. They point to something real that is happening to the land we share. If all we photograph is carefully framed to be pretty and shown to its best advantage, are our images 'true'? Are they a reflection of reality or do they conceal it? Or both at the same time?

Perhaps that is a good question to chew on: what do I choose not to photograph? And why not?

Research point: Documenting a journey

Paul Graham, A1: The Great North Road

http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/a1.html

From the publisher:

Photographer Paul Graham spent two years completing this documentary on the life and landscape of the Great North Road. Throughout 1981 and 1982 he made numerous trips along the A1, crossing and recrossing the length of the nation to record every aspect of life at the verge of this great road. The photographs reproduced in this book build not only into a significant documentary of the A1, but also provide a thread along which we can travel the Great North Road, deep into the nation’s heart, and weave a picture of England in the 1980s.

Stephen Shore, American Surfaces

http://stephenshore.net/photographs/seven/index.php?page=1&menu=photographs

From the publisher:

In 1972, Stephen Shore left New York City and set out with a friend to Amarillo, Texas. He didn't drive, so his first view of America was framed by the passenger's window frame. He was taken aback by the fact that his experience of life as a New Yorker had very little in common with the character and aspirations of Middle America. Later that year he set out again, this time on his own, with just a driver's licence and a Rollei 35 - a point-and-shoot camera - to explore the country through the eyes of an everyday tourist.

The project was entitled American Surfaces, in reference to the superficial nature of his brief encounters with places and people, and the underlying character of the images that he hoped to capture. Shore photographed relentlessly and returned to New York triumphant, with hundreds of rolls of film spilling from his bags. In order to remain faithful to the conceptual foundations of the project, he followed the lead of most tourists of the time and sent his film to be developed and printed in Kodak's labs in New Jersey.

The result was hundreds and hundreds of exquisitely composed colour pictures, that became the benchmark for documenting our fast-living, consumer-orientated world. The corpus of his work - following on from Walker Evans' and Robert Frank's epic experiences of crossing America - influenced photographers such as Martin Parr and Bernd & Hilla Becher, who in turn introduced a new generation of students to Shore's work.

Alec Soth, Sleeping by the Mississippi

http://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=14

From the publisher:

Evolving from a series of road trips along the Mississippi River, Alec Soth's "Sleeping by the Mississippi" captures America's iconic yet oft-neglected "third coast". Soth's richly descriptive, large-format color photographs present an eclectic mix of individuals, landscapes, and interiors. Sensuous in detail and raw in subject, "Sleeping by the Mississippi" elicits a consistent mood of loneliness, longing, and reverie. "In the book's 46 ruthlessly edited pictures," writes Anne Wilkes Tucker, "Soth alludes to illness, procreation, race, crime, learning, art, music, death, religion, redemption, politics, and cheap sex." Like Robert Frank's classic "The Americans", "Sleeping by the Mississippi" merges a documentary style with poetic sensibility. The Mississippi is less the subject of the book than its organizing structure. Not bound by a rigid concept or ideology, the series is created out of a quintessentially American spirit of wanderlust.

Robert Frank, The Americans

https://steidl.de/Artists/Robert-Frank-1013194243.html

From the publisher:

First published in France in 1958, then in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank’s The Americans changed the course of twentieth-century photography. In eighty-three photographs, Frank looked beneath the surface of American life to reveal a people plagued by racism, ill-served by their politicians, and rendered numb by a rapidly expanding culture of consumption. Yet he also found novel areas of beauty in simple, overlooked corners of American life. And it was not just Frank’s subject matter—cars, jukeboxes, and even the road itself—that redefined the icons of America; it was also his seemingly intuitive, immediate, off-kilter style, as well as his method of brilliantly linking his photographs together thematically, conceptually, formally, and linguistically, that made The Americans so innovative. More of an ode or a poem than a literal document, the book is as powerful and provocative today as it was fifty-six years ago.

Kevin McElvaney, #Refugeecameras

http://kevin-mcelvaney.com/refugeecameras/

Photographer Kevin McElvaney gave refugees cameras in Izmir, Lesbos, Athens and Idomeni. Of the 15 cameras he distributed, seven were returned and McElvaney displayed the resulting images on his website. The goal for the project was to ensure that refugees were able to describe their trip from their own perspective, rather than from the viewpoint of an outsider who did not share the experience. I found this a very compelling series and wondered how different our documentary and news narratives would look if they were told from within rather than from without.

24 Photography

http://www.24photography.org/about/

This project is organized around a rule of “24 hours. 24 photographers. 24 images. 24 years.” Starting in 2004, a collective of 24 then-student photographers documented the first 24 hours of each New Year in multiple locations—in other words, a documented journey through both time and space. Although many of the photographs are taken in the UK a substantial number are not, and the organisation of the project demonstrates that while we share a common calendar there are many other things that we do not share. It is a fascinating visual trip to work through the years and see the points of convergence and divergence.

Research Point: Dealing with the flood

For me, photography has been a hobby and not something I have used in the context of my work life. I have had pictures published in magazines and sold a few prints, but I use social media daily and regularly post images on several different platforms: Flickr (I've had an account for 12 years), Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and this website. I post pictures to share with friends and family (some publicly, some privately), to document my travels, to illustrate some of the things I write, to learn with other photographers, to keep a record of my own progress and, frankly, because I feel the need to share the things I see.

Some of my pictures are 'social' in nature (friends, family, events), but most have been for my own interest. In that sense, I suppose many of them could be viewed as leaning toward the artistic side, although I have never used that term myself. (A friend did once tell me, however, that she didn't 'get' my pictures but understood that they were 'meant to be artsy-fartsy.' I wasn't sure what she meant at first but gradually realized that, for her, a good photograph usually has family members in it.)

Social media have contributed to the democratization of photography, along with other technologies, particularly the availability of digital cameras and the vastly-improved quality of sensors in mobile phones. I have heard photographers and critics complain about the sheer volume of trivial and poor pictures and am sometimes sympathetic to their concerns (I get tired of seeing pictures of cats, selfies, garish sunsets and cups of coffee), but I don't think that they devalue photography. The cream rises to the top and a remarkable image still stands apart from the pack without the help of photo snobbery.

I suppose this means that I am contributing to the flood and it occasionally occurs to me that the world doesn't really need another mediocre picture. Nevertheless, I get pleasure out of taking, editing and sharing pictures and enjoy seeing the work of others, too. None of us will improve our photographic and artistic skills without practice, so I will continue to make photographs—they may not be the best, but I can see my progress.

Research point: Context and meaning

Notes on John A. Walker, "Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning"

  • Walker distinguishes between 'immanent structure' (immediate, local context) and the broader context outside the frame of an artwork. The frame itself is a form of self-containment or bracketing of meaning and can lead us to ignore the wider context within which a work appears and is understood.
  • A given work can have multiple contexts. These have different impacts on the connotations of a work but are less likely to affect denotation.
  • When context changes there is potential for a 'third-effect' meaning created by relationships with items in the surrounding context.
  • Change of context became particularly important as artworks were less often attached to a specific place. (John Berger makes the same point in "Ways of Seeing," noting that it used to be common for works to be created for, and installed in, specific settings. Often, these were places of worship.) Now, media context is more important than 'architectural setting.'
  • Walker uses the terms 'circulation' and 'currency' to describe the ebbs and flows in the life of a work as it changes contexts.
  • The different locations in which Jo Spence's project—Beyond the Family Album, Private Images, Public Conventionshas been seen demonstrate the impact that context has for setting an interpretive frame.
  • Walker states that if we are going to talk about the "efficacy" of the exhibit we would need to know about the viewers. But which viewers? Spence's 'ideal viewer' or someone else? I don't know how useful this would be as a line of inquiry. If we can't always be sure about the intent of the artist (as though there were just one and the artist herself could articulate it perfectly), and context has an important role in the creation of meaning, why do we think that knowing about the 'viewer' (as though there were just one) is helpful?
  • Just as context can shape interpretation of a work, so the work can shape interpretation of its context. This is a good point and Walker's example is worth copying here:

If display context can influence the meaning of a photograph, the photograph
can influence the meaning of the context. This reasoning lay behind John X.
Bcrger's comment at a Hayward Gallery evening discussion that the socialist and
feminist photography 'had radicalised the gallery space'. But the influence is twoway:
it could also be argued that the gallery—a High Art cultural institution
serving the interests of the bourgeoisie—had de-radicalised radical photography!

  • Walker then describes the 'mental context' of the viewer. Much of this seems like basic communications or rhetorical theory: how is the viewer/listener disposed to the work/message? He then spends a few paragraphs pointing out that we are not all just individuals but share common opinions, values and viewpoints. In other words, there must be sufficient commonality between communicator and audience to allow communication to happen. 
  • This seems like a fairly obvious point to me, but it may still need to be made explicit. People regularly claim that advertising has no effect, but it must: commercial enterprises and governments wouldn't pay what they do if advertising had no impact. Perhaps this is a more insidious side of imagery if we are not even aware of its effects.
  • Walker closes his article with a brief discussion of the frustration that some artists have of losing control of the meaning of their work, given that they cannot always choose the context within which it will be viewed. (Sounds to me to be a bit like having children. We bring them into the world and do our best to raise them well, but we don't own them and we cannot control them. You must accept it.)

Project 1, Research Point

William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844-1846

Fox Talbot's cameras, collection of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television 

Fox Talbot's cameras, collection of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television 

Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was originally inspired in his experiments by his difficulties in assisted-drawing with a Camera Lucida. Not being able to master the technique involved, he began to consider how he might permanently fix the images on paper produced by a Camera Obscura. Fox Talbot sees both techniques as aids to drawing but hints at how fixed images derived from photographic techniques might have potential beyond 'naturally' recording images. Although he is interested as a scientist in achieving consistent results, he allows room for esthetic concerns:

These tints, however, might undoubtedly be brought nearer to uniformity, if any great advantage appeared likely to result: but, several persons of taste having been consulted on the point, viz. which tint on the whole deserved a preference, it was found that their opinions offered nothing approaching to unanimity, and therefore, as the process presents us spontaneously with a variety of shades of colour, it was thought best to admit whichever appeared pleasing to the eye, without aiming at an uniformity which is hardly attainable.
— William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, Section ii.

It seems clear to me that photography is both mechanical and creative and I don't see any inherent contradiction in that. Any art—and perhaps any human product—involves the use of tools, materials and processes, some of which may be mechanical and some not. Photography is far from being the objective 'pencil of nature' and some of Fox Talbot's early work already shows an awareness of the role the human operator plays in creating the camera, preparing the paper, mixing the chemicals, timing the exposure and positioning the camera. The camera and its related processes may be more complex than those employed in some arts, but the roles of imagination and human action are no less important.

Research point—visual communications

[Note: the Oxford Art Online website has not been accessible to OCA students for some weeks while the contract is being renegotiated. The notes below were made before access to the website was closed.]

Whitney Davis, ‘Communication theory’

http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T018901

Davis provides a broad outline of communication theory’s major concepts and elements. Important distinction to be made between “information” (understanding that can be derived from perception) and “communication” (the intentional delivery of a message). It is interesting to see how authorial intent can pop in and out of discussions in the art world, depending upon which theorist happens to be invoked.

Communication, according to Roman Jakobson’s scheme, has six major factors: ‘addresser’, ‘addressee’, ‘message’, ‘code’, ‘context’ and ‘contact’. Code and context are particularly important, for they describe the interpretive framework within which communication can occur. Too great a gap in code or context between addresser and addressee, and communication will be ineffective or impossible.

Stephen Bann, ‘Semiotics’

http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T077528

Term referring to the analysis of signs and their use. Major theorists are Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) and Roland Barthes.

“Saussure has been called ‘the father of modern linguistics’. He drew a crucial distinction between the linguistic system and its actual manifestations in speech (between ‘langue’ and ‘parole’). He further distinguished between the referential dimension of language, the ‘signified’ (‘signifié’), and the phonic substance of speech, or visible traces on the page, the ‘signifier’ (‘signifiant’).”

Jan Mukarovsky later translated Saussure’s linguistic insights into the esthetic realm to distinguish the ‘sensuously perceivable “work-thing”’ and the ‘aesthetic object’ existing ‘in the consciousness of the whole collectivity’.

Peirce developed a taxonomy of signs to all things and began to classify them by a tripartite division: icon, symbol and index: “the icon relates to its referent by resemblance, the symbol by convention and the index by existential connection.”

Penny Sparke, ‘Design’

http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T022395

Current sense of “design” originated with expansion of industrial revolution and the related separation of of conception from manufacture. Early on, design was largely embellishment or decoration of objects produced by mass processes, so schools of design were primarily interested in developing the drawing skills of students. The emphasis on style and decoration helped to fuel consumerism and sparked a reaction among people like John Ruskin, William Morris and what came to be known as the “Arts and Crafts” movement, “epitomized by such tenets as ‘fitness to purpose’ and ‘truth to materials’.” The movement helped give greater place to ethics and esthetics in design.

Another impact of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century was the “democratization of design” and the rise of schools and guilds dedicated to it and related principles. Significant figures and groups in this modernist period include Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, the Wiener Werkstätte, C. R. Ashbee and his Guild of Handicrafts, Peter Behrens, Richard Riemerschmid, Henry Van de Velde, and the Deutscher Werkbund.

In the Americas, as industrial production expanded into assembly line mass creation of consumer goods, standardization was the rule. This was not satisfying to consumers for long, so there was a move to greater esthetic detail on the one hand (consumer demand) and the explosion of advertising on the other (consumer awareness). Although some of the same trends could be seen in other parts of the world, “designers in Europe during the inter-war years continued to be more interested in the metaphorical and aesthetic implications of contemporary life and in evolving objects that were appropriate to it” (Le Corbusier, Bauhaus).

Modern movement and later the “International Movement”: “applied to the architecture of simple geometrical forms and plain undecorated surfaces, free of historical styles, that developed mainly in Europe in the late 19th century and the early 20th prior to World War II” (Modern Movement).

Margaret M. Smith and John Newel Lewis, ‘Book illustration’

Originally, all illustration was created by hand. Later techniques included woodcuts (before 1600;  allowed both text and illustration on a single page), copper engraving (second half of 16th century) and other “intaglio” techniques (17th century; printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink). It was difficult to employ both intaglio and movable type on a single page, so text and image were usually on separate pages. Wood engraving was popular in the 18th century, while colour printing and lithography appeared in the 19th century.