Thoughts on the feedback on Assignment Two

Pondering on the feedback from Assignment two.

Overall reaction: Probably better than I expected, but an insightful set of comments and recommendations that I find interesting and challenging.

The closing statement reads:

“Ask yourself what is the journey that all this research with the Gross’ is taking you on. All your writing and other works have been about you in some way – memories. I wonder what the connection is here? This may take you in a completely different direction. That’s fine.”

I don’t plan to directly quote from the report any more in this reflection, but these few last sentences seem to reverberate quite loudly and I’m sure I’ll return to them shortly.

Making any sort of statement in a personal blog is like talking to oneself; but because it is public and my tutor has remarked on it I want to make something very clear. And it is about how I feel about Ann and Carl Gross, their work and the children/charities they support. Put simply I am in awe of what they do, by what they have achieved and their continuing ‘givingness’. This may all be informed by their spiritual beliefs – which are at odds with my own lack of any faith whatsoever – or that they are just built that way, to continue to pour out love to those who seem often bereft of it.

I am concerned, in that it does concern me, by the possible view of equating these orphans simply as some kind of commodity. And it was pointed out that some of my work, through these first two assignments, could be confused as representing the orphans as such in the way that these charities present them (and by the means, I suspect of how I re-present them). That I was experimenting with describing my own feelings towards these children and what they represent, both to me and how I see them being represented to the world as a whole, is something that I can rightly be accused of. There was a definite intent in the expression of equivalence, the purposeful balancing of the fiscal value with the implied worth of the child, and I accept it may have been too blunt with the possible effect of implying that the work I was documenting had a similar trope to mine. I meant no disservice to their work through my experimentation.

There was something though in the report that did strike a chord, in that if anything, I did want to make an effort to help in some way, to make a difference, however pompous that may sound. I appreciate that to do so would have been hugely ambitious, and extremely unlikely that it could ever happen. But there it is.

I do though now have a conundrum to solve, which is how to move forward with assignment three. The brief is straightforward, and could literally be done in a host of different ways, but my objective would be to try and thread these assignments together with a conceptual cord that develops an idea, maybe even a consistent narrative through the course that I feel has investigated a few ideas and presented some responses to it. I don’t expect any major eureka moments, but I instinctively feel that by wrestling with a singular track of thought I will likely confront more intellectual obstacles than if I dart about with trying to fit the brief in a literal way. I want the work that I do to inform the assignment briefs rather than the other way round. I want the work to continue a conversation that may or may not find a response to the first argument raised in assignment one, but allowing the discourse to develop and follow a natural extension of development.

I am therefore, as I stated earlier, pondering. I have an abiding notion that all work is a self-portrait and so I am exercised by the earlier statement from my tutor about memories. Memories are fictions I think, mediated through time of course, through perspectives. An assignment based on memories would be a break completely from how the work has progressed so far, focusing as it has on the plight of these orphans as relayed by the Gross’ – though that of course is a work based on reminiscence. But aren’t all photographs memories? History? As Barthes says “memento mori”? So any project is work mediated already by memory and is therefore a memory project?

Perhaps I need to think it out again.

Of course I could just spring into memory, because that’s where the course has led me! The memories project I did with the Echoes Group, under the auspices of Gesture and Meaning, will of course inform me – why wouldn’t it? So things are leading me towards memory, however I have no idea what, or where, those junctions might lead to, let alone what they may comprise of in terms of narrative, context or subject. Perhaps the long train journey to and from Arles might help release something.

One of the comments that my tutor made was about how the visual language, or perhaps as I understand the comment, vernacular, of marketing might be employed better in my imagery – to draw people in for the ‘sucker punch’. How the tropes of advertising could then perhaps be subverted in order to put my message across. Well herein lies the rub. I have studiously avoided all, or at least as much as I am able to, connections with my previous life in business. Whilst I am fully aware that I am what I am; built up from decades of existence and experience, and to deny any of it would be to deny part of myself. The thought of exploiting an area of me that had, for most of those previous decades, sought to manipulate, coerce, position and, yes sometimes, exploit, is one that I have resisted. I have used words, both written and spoken to ‘develop’ business most of my professional life. I have an innate understanding that I can, and have, as I say, move people around because that is what I did. I feel distinctly uncomfortable in doing this with my art.

But then there is fiction! I am in favour of fiction. The tale can develop an idea much clearer than non-fiction can deliver a truth and I now fully realize that all work is based on a fiction. All Art, all creation is at the very least an embellishment of a reality. For just as the photograph struggles with the truth due to it’s unhappy connection with a single viewpoint , narrow perspective and four square walls; the truth is just as likely to masked in a veil of happenstance somewhere out of reach of veracity.

I am now wondering whether I should investigate the truth with lies, fact through fiction. These children’s lives through the shutter and lens; just as maybe, Frank did with his journey through America, as Hunter did in Hackney and the National Gallery. How McCullin does in the Somerset levels. How Cohen did with Songs of Love and Hate, how Brahms did with either of his Cello Concertos and and, and and.


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