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.

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15 thoughts on “Assignment 2, work in progress

  1. I think this is very interesting work, and the Grosses sound like very special people indeed. Like you I find that many of the objects and the accompanying text are very affecting.

    I think it is challenging to combine images and text effectively: my next assignment will use words as well as pictures and I am currently reflecting on how to do that so this is a timely post for me. I can see you are experimenting with lots of different ways of combining images with words – I’m not sure if the intention is to settle on some common look or looks, or to make something of the differences?

    As combined images, I think the knitted clothes work particularly well: the shapes of the text seem to echo the stitches of the garments and the bright pastel colours and the nature of the garments creates some powerful emotional interplay. I also found the image of Jieb and the accompanying words very affecting.

    The tin toys in combination with text remind me of commercial work and could easily be used in advertising for the project. This is fine if that’s what you intend. If it’s meant to be more of a reflective, exploratory piece, I think it might be worth considering other options for using words and text. The two current practitioners whose names spring to mind when I think of collected objects/images and text are Taryn Simon http://www.tarynsimon.com/ and Bloomberg and Chanarin http://www.broombergchanarin.com/index.php It’s interesting to see how both have tackled this aspect of their work. Simon uses the words in a deliberate way as part of her installations/displays of the work, but doesn’t combine then on the image. Bloomberg and Chanarin do a bit of both. Both websites show installation views which are interesting and informative in themselves. Stephen Gill has a very different but equally interesting series of approaches to his collections. http://www.stephengill.co.uk/portfolio/portfolio

    I think the lack of translation in ‘Noot’ could be a good thing in itself: it raises question in my mind about how well any of the communications across continents really translate. however the way it is combined over the object makes it look almost like a decorative overlay: I think it would be more effective shown separately. Do you have the original documents with the handwriting? One strattegy might be to scan those and show them as artefacts in their own right alongside any translations and the accompanying images.

    I hope you don’t mind all these comments and suggestions: I wouldn’t normally offer so much but I do find this work interesting, and you have said you welcome comment and feedback.

    • Much appreciated Eileen, your comments are most welcome. As regards text; all the text is original: the hand written and the printed form come directly from scans – I wanted to preserve authenticity as much as possible. I am aware that there isn’t a single style yet, as I know I will be receiving more objects soon and will therefore have to make a decision on how to present the work. I have worked to make some of the printed text decrepit in some way – I have yet to print them out and will see how it vews then.
      I was aware of B&C as well as Simon, not sure about Gill, but I will follow the links you have provided (we’ll see B&C on Saturday).
      Text has become quite important to me and I am starting to ‘get-over’ not using only my own work in creating images.

  2. I have yet to get over the idea of using my own work in my pictures so I admire you for trying!

    On refection, the point I was really trying to get at but failing to express clearly is that in all the examples I mention you can see what their presentation methods add to the work. Simon, B&C and Gill are all in different ways exploring the photograph as document. What I’m not clear about is what your current presentation options add to the meaning/richness/depth of the work. To be clear, I think that using the text does add to the reading – my question is simply about how it is used in the various models above.

    How would making the text decrepit add to the reading, especially when displayed small online? How do you see the works presented – what’s your vision for the ultimate installation/presentation mode? Are the options you’re exploring essentially driven by aesthetics? What does applying the paper butterfly over the boy’s head add to the work? There’s no right or wrong answer to any of those questions, and all of them could simply reflect a failing of imagination on my part: they are certainly testament to the interest raised by the work. I offer them as food for thought.

    • I’m still working the presentation options EIleen. I appreciate that all the options denote certain thing, but I’m also aware that the viewers will all have different readings coming, as they do from different backgrounds. I need to first find a way that I think suits the series, which still has time to develop and then ‘put it out there’.
      So, maybe I’ll take some time to answer your questions….

  3. I really admire the way in which you’re experimenting with different ways of layering images. I couldn’t attempt to guess at any translation for the last one. The one with the knitted badger is so poignant. The softness of the toy helps, for me, to lessen the bluntness of the summary of Dtachu’s story, (which is actually a universal one as it still happens in our own own country). I think this slight softness of the trauma of the story can help to hold people’s attention and stop them from disassociating. Not sure whether I’m explaining this clearly but I can elaborate.
    Keeping this brief as away at the moment.
    The narrative is gaining more and more depth as those stitches combine and create this tapestry of kindness and contact.

    • Thanks Catherine. I also felt the badger image worked especially well, though I’m also drawn to the girl with a paper butterfly on her head! Though why it works for me is difficult to say for sure at the moment

  4. I’ve been pondering on them, the reason why I think anyway is that I’m unclear how you would put them out in the world. Would they go on a wall of a gallery…?
    I have this image of them as alternative kinds of marketing material for the charity, I can see them in magazines…Not sure that’s your intention though?

    • The disparate nature of the images expresses the undecided nature of how the images might communicate what I want them to do. I am aware that they might be considered ‘adverts’. I see a gallery wall. I’m not sure I want marketing material, because I feel instinctively that marketing material is as much about the image maker as it is about what the images have been set out to market – even if that is about awareness and not product.

      • Some of them look more “advert” like, its the text combined with the images, which is an advert type of format. Do you know what you are wanting to communicate? For me from an art perspective the little girl’s face covered with text and the one with the butterfly, they seem to work differently in more of an open way so that you’re thrown on yourself to try and make sense of them and I like them for that reason.
        Also the one with fred flintstone and the illegible text, that sets up a question about globalisation … that works well for me art wise as it sets up this question – I don’t have the answer to. Some of the other juxtapositions don’t set up questions in that way and I think they’re the more “advert” like ones. THe one with the taxi toy for instance is a bit too advert like for me…. I can’t exactly explain it, but the ones that work best for me do throw the onus onto me and make me ask myself what the meaning is.
        For me that is a mark of art as opposed to design, as it makes the viewer work and the viewer tires to make the meaning for themselves from their own experience and life history and then the meaning itself becomes part of them in a way and its a “real” communication rather than a “reading”.

  5. Tires! ha ha!
    There are a few explorations here. Firstly, as I think you have noticed; there is the directional power of the text and in some of these I am aware that I am not asking the viewer any questions, it is almost as if I providing an answer – or at least providing the keys to the door. The taxi picture with the text is a strong example, I have used actual text – from the data sheets that are provided for potential sponsors – because I thought that important to directly point the emotional impact of the story and make it explicit. Whereas the girl with a butterfly head and text are expressly enigmatic, in a way that says to the viewer “what do I represent?”- a sort of challenge to the viewer. I’m not sure whether either is valid or invalid. I know it is about documentary and similar to the work of Angela Kelly – http://photoparley.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/angela-kelly/ – though nowhere near as sophisticated – I wanted to keep absent some (but not all) of the narrative to an abstract plane in order to try and make the viewer question what it was they were viewing. Does that make any sense? Like the Flintstone image it has a different strength because we know it is language, but we don’t know what the hieroglyphs mean because we aren’t connected???? I could have placed the translation with those words, or even used the translation on its own, but the enigma attracted me.

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