Feminism

In the 1972 book “Ways of Seeing” based on the television series of the same name, John Berger (and perhaps the four other collaborators) prefaces the second essay with these words:

“According to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome, the social presence of a woman is different in kind from that of a man.”

The television series starts form another place and can be seen here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u72AIab-Gdc&list=PL872405DBCBDFF922

My concern when discussing this with others, and pointed out by the only two women in the discussion, was that I had missed a central concern from these women; that Berger had described a situation that women were in (and perhaps with too much visual imagery), but had not described a way out. My concern is now twofold:

Had I misread Berger? And; secondly, even if I had, has the intervening forty years taken any of his rhetoric and acted on it i.e. is there a likelihood that an answer is forthcoming, and if so by whom?

I have again read, reread and watched the video, but I must be missing something very basic. My understanding is that Berger was describing – albeit forty years ago – a situation that reflects societal attitudes towards women – and their concomitant rehearsed responses. By very numerous examples Berger presents the depiction of women as objects for the male gaze – no matter how, no matter where, no matter when depicted these are all, with very few exceptions, portrayed for the satisfaction of the male gaze. This disreputation of the viewer’s engagement with the objectified image is only made worse in my mind by the realization that the objectification, that Berger had described all those decades ago, hasn’t improved, rather the reverse; it is a situation that has become more widespread with the growth of the media to transport those images and the developed consumerism/globalization. Since Berger’s writing, this same means of objectification has moved to encompass not only the European (and by consequence the North American) societies, but also the Asian cultures that have been drawn into the same market led consumerist society.

The call was that Berger didn’t provide a way out, a solution; but I wonder if he would have been damned by offering one as much as he seems to have been by not offering one? Hegemonic positions aren’t altered, usually, by voluntary repatriation of power and position and perhaps Berger, from his Marxixt position, deemed that proffering ‘the solution’ would have undermined the very offering he might have posited?

My tentative research on feminism has been wholeheartedly disappointing by the lack of engagement by women, for women in the argument. And I think this issue is a societal issue that reduces the life experience for both sexes and therefore should be one that is engaged by both genders. But where should I, as a feminist, look to find engagement in the process of deconstructing the apparatus that codifies one gender over another as a form of commodity? I think the answer is not in another re-issue of Spare-Rib, the demise of which due to the lack of appreciation of the brand-worth, nor another facile argument over the burning of undergarments; but, perhaps, by the very source of the problem which had it’s origins in the pre-Beauvoir, pre-Pankhurst events in the Industrial revolution. Well that isn’t going to happen, given the current state of the position of women in Government – present almost by their absence

Berger says in his introduction “…which are at last being questioned…” my italics – Greer published “The Female Eunuch” in 1970, was this one of the questioners, almost certainly? But who is questioning now? Who has the baton? Well I would say that the ‘need’ for women to be in the marketplace has reduced the availability of volume to enable questioners to be listened to, let alone heard. The most recent rhetoric from this Government is how to ‘get women (back) into the work place’! This need is one of course to foster ‘growth’ in order to heal the ills caused by the previous administration. And what jobs one might ask? But leaving the issue of whatever employment opportunities exist for women, or men come to that, the disenfranchisement of the electorate as a whole in the process of social change which might possibly provide a discourse on women’s rights and expectations, will surely not happen – at least not with this administration and probably not the next whomever is chosen. Our issues, we are told, are due to our profligacy, but here Berger’s final essay comes to the fore; our issues aren’t to do with gender related issues nor, remotely, feminist rights if the zeitgeist is to be believed.

I have notes about feminism on these blog posts: http://umneygm.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/f4/http://umneygm.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/feminism-three/ ,http://umneygm.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/496/http://umneygm.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/art-and-feminism-edited-by-helen-reckit-with-a-survey-by-peggy-phelan/ , Judy Chicago, and here http://umneygm.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/w-s-p-u/

 

 

Surrealism and Feminism

In the one course – Gesture and Meaning it is suggested that I study feminist art, and the course notes suggest some texts and workers in that field. In the other course, Documentary, it suggested that I look at Surrealism, similarly there are texts and artists in that field to “go and explore”.

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing feminist art with Lucie Bromfield at a study visit – Judy Chicago – in fact the only discussion I had on the day regarding feminism, which I found curious when the study visit was to a Judy Chicago show. Lucie has shared with me her draft essay “How Has a Feminist Reading of Surrealism Dealt with the Hegemonic Imbalance Found in the Movement?”. This work has sort of stuck with me, and indeed the conversation at the gallery; so I suspect that a good deal of my thoughts written here will have some foundation in Lucie’s thoughts – so acknowledgement is given here.

Invited in the Documentary course to look at Atget’s work about whom Benjamin remarked: “In fact, Atget’s Paris photographs are the forerunners of surrealist photography, advance troops of the broader columns surrealism was able to filed….he began the liberation of the object from the aura – Walter Benjamin, 1931 pp28 “Photography in the Dock” Solomon-Godeau 2009.

Benjamin’s words, written less than a decade after the Surrealist manifesto was coined, open the chapter that discusses Atget’s work from a number of aspects, but the aspect of a feminist perspective is perhaps the one I will dwell upon most. Though, as the text was referred to from the Documentary course, one suspects the aspect of authorship was in the mind of the author of the course. Be that as it may.

Despite Berenice Abbott’s intent on bring Atget’s work to the fore in 1928/29, it wasn’t until Szarkowski in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s did Atget gain the notoriety that he, Szarkowski, determined that he deserved. Indeed Abbott’s determined refusal to find a path in the surrealist genre – despite being introduced to Atget by Man Ray – may have contributed to her decision to sell the work in order to live. “Whatever the nature of the social, professional, and artistic positions Abbott occupied in relation to the surrealist milieu, the fact that she was a woman artist (and not a wife, mistress, or model) could only have been anomalous in the boys’-club (not to say misogynous) ambience of surrealism. Abbott’s embrace of Atget in 1928 must be understood as expressing a multiple refusal – a simultaneous refusal of surrealism, of art photography, and perhaps even of expatriatism (Abbott returned permanently [from France] to America in 1929). Ibid pp 35.

It was Abbott that brought Atget’s work to the attention of the American market, though it was Szarkowski who iconized the Frenchman’s work:

“What also became apparent from this feminist reading of Surrealism was that two further poles were to evolve; one that was to reject psychoanalysis and Freudianism; the second, that psychoanalysis was needed in order to more fully understand the roles assigned to women in society and art, because, as Juliet Mitchell would point out, “psychoanalysis is not a recommendation for a patriarchal society, but rather an analysis of one.” (Mitchell, 2000, back cover)” Lucie Bromfield, unpublished from: How Has a Feminist Reading of Surrealism Dealt with the Hegemonic Imbalance Found in the Movement?”.

Bromfield goes on to discuss these twin streams, also how female artists work ‘alongside’ the surrealists, but as for their collective importance to the origin of the movement, Bromfield goes on to cite Chadwick:

“The meeting in 1928 by male members of the Surrealists which lead to the 11th issue of this publication [La Revolution Surrealiste] was with the aim to conduct a “formal enquiry into sexuality”. The fact that there were no women present in the meeting was only commented upon by Louis Aragon “who apparently felt inhibited about discussing woman’s sexuality in her absence” (Chadwick, 1985, p.103). Along with their rejection of bestiality they also excluded homosexuality, though there was a paradoxical tolerance towards lesbianism.” Ibid Bromfield.

The inception od Surrealism then was guided by the absence of women, which is something that Solomon-Godeau goes on to discuss: “In making what might seem to be an ad feminin reference to a sexual division of labor along the lines of scholarship and stewardship, I mean to enforce, once again, the connection between canons, fathers, authority, and patriarchy. One of the the conspicuous features of virtually all canons in the field of cultural production is the relative absence of women and, needless to say, all other Others.” pp39 Solomon-Godeau

What I suggest here, is that, even if Atget was the forerunner of Surrealism that Benjamin suggests – a contention not without it’s detractors, but not discussed here – the movement was critically flawed by it’s singularity of exclusion to any Other representation. That Szarkowski, by his position of King maker at the MoMA, had iconized the relatively unknown French photographer from his position as the patriarchal head of a gender biased organization and art culture as much for his own determined position that he himself couldn’t. As Solomon-Godeau says “What distinguishes a photographi arbiter like Szarkowski from the other curators and critics has to do, first with the power of the position (not for nothing has Marth Rosler dubbed MoMA “the Kremlin of Modernism”) and, second, with his having produced a critical framework to justify, promote, and pedigree his preferences”. pp 39 Solomon-Godeau.

And whilst I find difficulty in not conflating the gender biased curation, including the exclusion to some extent of Abbott’s work to foster the worth of Atget and the opening of an art movement deliberately starved of any Other representation; I am well aware that there will be many attempts, in fact have been, to rewrite the history from other aspects. But I wonder how another archive might spin the orbit of Atget’s contribution to both the Documentarist tradition and the Surrealist which the post-Szarkowski discovery of the work of Vivian Maier. An archive of greater proportion, perhaps therefore greater significance through greater exploration of singular narratives over time. An archive whose existence has produced an exigency unparalleled with even Atget’s oeuvre, the majority of which lies within the French art establishment. That ‘Surrealism’ is a term often appended to ‘quirky’ images, odd juxtapositions and ‘clever’ framing denies the origin of it’s creation as an art movement. But those terms are as readily in the frame in Maier’s work as they ever were in Atges’, that they were taken by a woman recalls to mind, as Solomon-Godeau does when discussing the effect of the authorship of Szarkowski in relation to Atget’s work:

“You cannot value [the poet] alone: you must set him [sic], for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he should cohere, is not onesided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which proceeded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them… whoever has this idea of order… will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.” T.S.Eliot. “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in selected prose of T.S.Eliot, ed, Frank Kermode (New York:Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1975) 109

More work on assignment 2

Generating some more images in preparation for assignment two. I spent some time with the Thai Children’s Charity at a reception on London recently – link here – where I met their Chairman and their Chief Executive and began the discussion regarding background information. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m told that at least one of the images from assignment one has been included in their latest newsletter:

Shelter

Shelter – has been used on the latest newsletter for the Thai Children’s trust

These new images – below and the top one – all incorporate text of one sort or another (except the opening image). This first image is about equivalency, how the toy is deemed of similar worth to the orphan Jieb. I have used a lot of Jieb’s background in these images – she is close to the Gross’ – and has, probably in the same way as all the orphans, a quite poignant story.

Three versions of a similar image – links to do with physical disability. I am inclined to think the last one, with the ‘ghosted’ image of Jieb is the strongest graphically, but that isn’t really what I’m after. I think I want to present images that the viewer can build their own narrative around it; using the elements within the frame to construct for themselves. More and more I am becoming concerned that these images may be too descriptive, not ambiguous (?) enough or perhaps are too accomplished in their delivery – too much like advertising shots. This next one I have deliberately tried to counter this trend:

I am a little concerned though with this image that the obviousness of the ‘cutting’ of the text still places the image in a commercial setting. The bootee was made made for me by Ann Gross when I had asked if her knitting circle had any to give – she felt it was easier to make them than ask!

This one is further again along the abstract route:

I quite like the clear addressing of the letter to the Gross’, and the butterfly image is narratively opaque, the viewer has to contrive a connection between the words and the image in the frame.

Back to the commercial world with these last images:

I’ll have to down-select and prepare for the assignment soon and I’m hopeful that I can get some feedback at the TV group meeting soon.

Salgado and the Chocolate factory

Image from ‘A Ruptured Duck’at the Menier Gallery by Chrissie Westgate and featuring Sophie Weaver. Reprinted by kind permission of the artist: Chrissie Westgate

Image from ‘A Ruptured Duck’ at the Menier Gallery by Chrissie Westgate and featuring Sophie Weaver.
Reprinted by kind permission of the artist: Chrissie Westgate

I went to two exhibitions today. Genesis, the ‘blockbuster’ by Salgado at the Natural History Museum and the annual Arena exhibition at Menier Gallery in the Chocolate Factory in Southwark.

Of course the one exhibition provided a glimpse of absolute beauty, dealing with issues that are current in an exemplary environment. The quality of the prints matching the ambitions of the photographer in a way that could be described as inspirational; the human condition, the fragile environment all presented in a way as to reflect the ambitions of the photographer and, one suspects the organization behind the exhibition. But enough of the Menier gallery, which I will come to again shortly.

The Genesis (was there ever an exhibition that so surely falters on it’s own title as badly as this one does?) stalls at the first image. Grandly entitled and with the stated ambition to provide a view of the world as it was before life inhabited it, we see several (quite poorly printed) images with countless thousands of inhabitants striving for a remnant of space in an already overcrowded world.

Genesis is an attempt to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions.

Genesis is about seeing and marvelling (sic), about understanding the necessity for the protection of all this; and finally it is about inspiring action for this preservation.” http://www.amazonasimages.com/grands-travaux

That it took a large crew since 2004, travelling a few times around the globe to get these shots is one to consider, that the exhibition is set up to deliver imagery from the position of a God-like importance is yet another, that the prints are generally poorly executed and mostly over-processed yet another consideration, that we discover the sensuous curves of women for the delight of the gaze is just one more on the list. That these considerations all combine to suggest to this viewer that Salgado doesn’t really care enough about the viewer, and if so, why should we believe that he cares about what he (I suppose) pointed his Canon or Leica at?

Salgado, one assumes, is freighted around the planet and provided privileged views of vistas that the normal Joe Doe photographer could only wonder at. And what has he delivered with this privilege?

I went to the museum expecting to come away with some sense of awe and wonder. I expected to experience a great worker in the tradition of documentary. I came away wondering why so many of the prints were falling apart at the seams. I wondered, at first, whether this crumbling of the image was a kind of metaphor for the way the world is starting to crumble under the weight of expectation of it’s inhabitants, but then how did that excuse the leaden post processing and the  very tenuous narrative linkage between both the images and the series as a whole. The use of captions needed some believing: To an image of a whale’s tail – “At times only the tails of the Southern Right whales are visible”. And, well I’ll leave this to the imagination “Unusually the Sothern Right Whales have two separate blow-holes. As a result, a cloud of vapour in a distinctive V-shape appears when these whales surface.” At least we know now what it is are seeing, it is an instruction.

The ‘Male-gaze’ was fully served by the ample nudity on display, and for the life of me I can’t think of a good reason for any of it. Nudes objectified with no apparent justification, other than Salgado was in a position to ‘take’ their images and display them in a gallery. If someone could describe the validity of Namibia 2005 to me, with all the very apparent post processing I would be very grateful!

I did get student discount, which was about the best part of the exhibition for me.

By comparison the Arena show at the Menier Gallery at the Chocolate Factory was very good. Arena are a disparate group of photographers who are linked by a common thread of excellent printing over a range of genre’s. The wildlife photography every bit an equal to anything Salgado produced. Of particular note was Mark Megilley, Chrissie Westgate’s work with Sophie Weaver (whose work I hope to illustrate this blog entry with), Colin Summers and Tim Rudman. It would be very difficult to elaborate on all of these photographers, suffice to say that I’m glad I went there after the Natural History Museum (but no student discount though).

Armenian archive 7 – an answer

I received a new batch of photographs and cards today. Initially I thought they were all going to be mundane. I don’t mind mundane – mundane is how things normally are, we can have too much excitement – until I saw this card which of course provides an answer to a picture I viewed a few weeks ago and which I wrote about here. Richard and I do not discuss the pictures or the index cards, he knows I will bring back what I have each week and will exchange them for new boxes or bundles. So I had no idea what he would bring, nor he, I think, what I had viewed from the selection box he chose.

3366 "The Head Butcher"

3366
“The Head Butcher”

Now the card generates more questions, some perhaps posed when viewing the photograph; who are the veiled women? Was he called the “Head butcher” for a reason? The 80-90 years ago is now 100-110 tears ago.

It is what I had thought.

So who then was this photographer that enabled him to position himself where the ‘head butcher’ would look to, as maybe a Roman gladiator might do to the sitting dignitary in an arena in the Roman times, to receive notice that he had performed and performed well. What have we, as viewers to this scene, witnessed – as Catherine might suggest.

I have agreed with Richard that we will sit down and discuss this archive. I need to know about how he came upon it, what his connection to it is and what, if any, his expectations are.

Deutsche Borse finalists study visit

In J.J. Long’s essay “Paratextual Profusion: Photography and Text in Bertolt Brecht’s War Primer” Poetics Today (Spring 2008) pp 206 he states:

“Under capitalism, then, the ubiquitous forms of the commodity and the photograph are highly complex because they conceal the true nature of social relations beneath an almost indecipherable surface. Brecht’s War Primer sets itself the explicit task of undoing this obfuscation by providing the reader with a method for deciphering the meaning of photographs. And in line with the theoretical reflections on the medium that we find in the writings of Brecht and Benjamin, the technique it employs is the caption: the mystifying power of the image, which easily deceives the clueless (nichtsahnend) viewer, can be countered only by a recourse to language.”

I had read this essay again on the journey to The Photgraphers Gallery to look (again for me) at the Deutsche Borse prize finalists for 2013, and so, I suspect, it’s resonance stayed with me as I reflected on the work I had seen. I have written about one of the finalists before here, so I won’t consider that very much more. One of the questions we, as students, was asked, was about the prize winner – and I suspect therefore to some extent the other finalists, felt about the work in relation to contemporary photography.

Statement for Killip's work

Statement for Killip’s work

The work on the fourth floor was that of Chris Killip and Mishka Henner, the one of the 1970’s/80’s and the other a contemporaneous series. Killip has been part of the British photographic scene for the best part of half a century, so it may seem curious that his work has been selected, more so still, that the work is situated in the North East of England of the ‘70’s and 80’s working class of the North-East. Strange as well for  people in the room, whom most may not have been born when this work was created and more so again that when they were delivered on this planet it was on another continent. It’s like someone of my generation looking at Strand’s or Evans’ work – displaced by a generation and a culture. That Killip was influenced heavily by both of these twin American photographic pioneers indicates the narrowness of the genre is perhaps, no more than interesting.

This work exhibits to this viewer a depiction of an epoch, a way of life that was already in a state of collapse at the beginning of the series and by the time the ‘80’s came, the writing was literally on the wall of Wallsend. I wrote in my note-book about the aesthetic of the monochrome image, gritty and grimy – a ‘mirror’ of the industrial, heavy industry, heritage of the North-East; that it had all but dissipated by the end of this work couldn’t have been predicted, but then no-one had predicted Thatcherism.

Killip panel

Killip panel

I continued: “Avowedly working class – we can see by looking backwards to the ‘rise’ of the destruction of the working class, and the inevitability of the commodified society.” I think this notion of the commodification of the avenues of society is something that I felt through these three finalists, Broomberg and Chanarin, Killip and Henner.

The Killip images were beautifully printed and displayed, but somewhat disparately, as some were digital inkjet prints and others seemingly silver gelatin prints, the latter prints had a soft warm tone, reminiscent of Agfa Portriga, perhaps Brovira. I suppose there was a good reason for this, maybe Killip didn’t have the digital files for some images, so he offered extant gelatin images? It wasn’t a big issue; the tonal disparities were only slight and didn’t jar.

On the same floor was Mishka Henner’s work – “No-man’s land”. At the Leeds study weekend in 2012 Henner presented and discussed this work, so this the third time I had viewed it, and the words of J. J. Long came to me most strongly when I reflected on this work.

Henner doesn’t offer a great deal of text with his work, just a title that indicates where the picture was taken. Again, from my notes. “ (Henner) forces us to confront these images, challenges us (the viewers) to reflect on how these images came about – come about in the sense of why these women are here – that they may be there because of Google view – that the communication systems of the internet and commerce that drive infrastructure to create “highways” that commodify their trade.”

Henner didn’t randomly look through the billions of images that Google view produce and luckily come upon these images; as he explained in Leeds, there are internet sites that promote places where travellers might happen upon prostitutes, and these sites discuss the sorts of things a truck driver, a travelling salesman, a punter might be able to find. Henner simply looked ‘through the prism’ of Google view and found these images. The Internet provides both the place for the uninitiated and initiated to come upon these places. It is the ‘home shopping channel’ for sex workers and beggers the question: ‘would those sex workers be there without the ability of the Internet to advertise their wares. The vernacular here is common to both the trade and the means by which the trade is consummated; highways, commerce, traffic, routes, hubs.

Of course the images also ask other questions, about the vulnerability of the women, about the projection of the viewer’s family perhaps into the position of these women. About the role the male gaze in art of any kind and indeed life in general.

And whilst Killip’s work was about the telling of a specific geographic story of an epoch (or perhaps an end of an epoch), the reportage/documentary work of both Killip and Henner was similar in my perception. Both these photographers delivered to this viewer a narrative that caused me to consider a great many responses to these images. My response to Killip’s work had some resonances as my mother’s family come from the mining community in Durham, forced south in the depression – I’m not sure whatever bike’s were available in the mid ‘80’s that many were able to get on one…. And to Henner’s it was about the commodification of women in a trade as old as the hills but kept contemporaneous by the advent of technology. Both sets are moving accounts of what a society can do to a fragment of itself and we are left to gaze at the resultant images from the safe environs of a gallery wall.

Upstairs was Bloomberg and Chanarin’s work War Primer 2. It is difficult to know why or how a work has an effect, but these images had an immediate effect on me when I first saw the work. I found it deeply moving and the more I have researched the work the stronger the work seems to get for me. It could be the apparent simplicity of the piece. To take a previously published work that had challenged the Western dogma, delivered by the democratic ‘free’ nations on the ‘winning’ of the Second World War, re-presented with a Marxist perspective. And then re-present that piece of work with one that discusses the West’s preoccupation with the notion that it is at war with an adversary whose value systems are at odds with it’s own; notwithstanding the West’s need for stability in a region that holds considerable mineral wealth. However, leaving aside those political issues, this work presents the viewer with a number of dilemmas: How is it that Brecht’s original quatrains seem as apposite today as they did 50 years ago? Broomberg and Chanarin don’t attempt to re-appraise or re-vitalize these four line verses for a contemporary audience; what they did, seemingly, was to find images that worked against the text, as J.J. Long suggests the caption provides the ‘undoing of the obfuscation of the image’ The words will direct the viewer, much as Brecht was intent on doing, Broomberg and Chanarin want to propose an alternate view from the commodified version of the ‘facts’ that we are fed with on a daily basis from the news channels, the majority of which are owned by Western corporations who are vested in the notion that the ‘democracy’ that is enjoyed in a  ‘free western civilization’ is valuable enough to send troops half way across the globe to safeguard it’s existence.

That's how the world was going to be run The other nations mastered him except (in case you think the battle has been won) The womb is fertile still from which that crept. Brecht "War Primer"

That’s how the world was going to be run
The other nations mastered him
except (in case you think the battle has been won)
The womb is fertile still from which that crept.
Brecht “War Primer”

Broomberg and Chanarin War Primer 2

Broomberg and Chanarin War Primer 2

I have been, for some time, thinking that the directional power of text is highly important. This visit, or at least the study of the works, and in particular that of Broomberg and Chanarin, continue to emphasise that artistic device. Henner’s almost absence of text, is, for me, the absence of the presence of text – which I don’t feel is a ‘cop-out’ on my behalf because the context of the means of creation allows/enables me to welcome the challenge that Henner seems to offer me when viewing this work. It is a responsibility that I accept, to work out what my reaction is to these narratives that ensure that I confront from my position as a male, in a western capitalist society, the worth of these road-side objects. With Killip, I feel that with his statement about not creating a document regarding history, but by ‘telling it as it is and leaving the viewer to contextualise the images with the viewers ability to ‘fill-in the narrative is a means of its time and so, despite it being a strong piece of work, it fails to deliver anything more than a history; albeit beautifully delivered.

Whereas the Broomberg and Chanarin work will continue to deliver more and more, like the proverbial onion, the layers of meaning and substance will reward the viewer’s endeavour in studying this work. The prize was well placed.

Here’s another view of the prize http://www.disphotic.lewisbush.com/2013/06/17/broomberg-and-chanarin-and-the-politics-of-appropriation/

 

Adam Broomberg can be heard here discussing his work http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02x62sr towards the end of the programme.

Assignment 2, work in progress

I had a long and interesting meeting this week with Ann and Carl to discuss the project and to try and find a way forward. I am continually amazed and humbled by the amount that these two give – they never say no to an opportunity to talk about the work they do and they seem very keen to provide support to this work. I have a loose notion about how the two countries interweave their selves with gifts and kindness and asked if they could provide any Thai’ property they have brought back to the UK and I also talked and asked about the ‘knitters’. The ‘knitters’ are two groups of women who have volunteered to knit for the children in Thailand, principally baby clothes and toys. I also wanted to work with other artefacts that come from Thailand and try and bring them together with the UK objects to develop the narrative. What I didn’t expect was the level and depth of the material that Ann and Carl provided. I have started to bring these objects and words together to try and develop my response to the brief in assignment 2.

Maybe being a parent/grandparent has made this piece of work more emotional, probably, but so far this part of the work has, and is, quite moving. I am very concerned that this piece doesn’t become mawkish or trivialise the plight of these children in Thailand.

This work to date is  the start. I have been looking at merging these objects, knowing that I will be supplied with some more material shortly. I have also been asked to accompany the Gross’ to a reception in London on Tuesday evening, which will celebrate some of the work the charities that they work with have achieved, with some Thai workers who are in the UK for the event. I expect this will inform me as well.

Faay

Jieb

The Thai’ script is in Jieb’s hand, a direct personal connection to the image. The type written script is a direct copy from the sponsor documents that provide information on those who are in need of sponsorship. A polio sufferer and orphaned after her father left her mother before Jieb was born and the mother abandoned her to find work in Bangkok.

Taxi

Taxi

This taxi toy was made in one of the orphanages and sold to tourists, a piece of trivia which collides with the details of KoKo.

Cardigan

Cardigan

The text, handwritten by Faay who is a girl sponsored by the Gross’. The note, for which I have a translation was written after the Gross’ visited (most sponsors tend not to travel to Thailand to see the children (and adults) they sponsor). The cardigan is one of a batch that the ‘knitters’ have donated. I have asked for some additional clothing to be made to help create a more complete set of clothing.

Handicraft

Handicraft

Only certain orphanages work with HIV infected children. These handicrafts are sold to visitors and tourists, though it has to be said that the children are kept away from the tourists. I wanted to bring a child to the visitor, the strong declaration by this child, that these trite objects are created by, to help keep them fed and supplied with the medicines and provisions that will provide them a life expectancy unavailable to them without donations.

Badger

Badger

The strongest text – taken directly from the details of the orphan – merged with the one of the softest images. The badger is one of a set of woollen knitted toys that are made and sent to Thailand. The toys used to be made for UK hospitals but are now not wanted due to H & S issues apparently.

work5c2

More hand-made toys from Thailand merged with actual texts and translations.

Lifec2

This matinee jacket sits on a bar of soap. The soap is made by ex-prostitutes who are trying to break free by learning a trade.

Noot

Noot

No attempt has been made to provide the translation, wondering whether the absence of a recognisable script helps or subverts the intent of the image. I have the translation.

This will be updated a few times before submission. Any thoughts would be gratefully appreciated.