MODULE 4: INFORMING CONTEXTS. WEEK 4.

Test Diptych. (NB left hand image is from Module 2: Surfaces & Strategies).
Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

A couple of days ago (in this post) I mentioned that I have started to think in more detail about how my work might be presented, especially as I will be embarking on my Final Major Project once this module has completed.

I am becoming more concerned with how my work is seen and received, its context and content hand in hand. This is completely related to the current module and this weeks concentration on Roland Barthes essay The Death of the Author (1968). Although that essay was primarily about literary creators and the use of text, we’ve been looking at it in the light of the image. And it is useful to do so as it does relate to how viewers might read images, something that I am acutely aware of in my own practice where I am seeking to provide narrative opportunities to the viewer. As Barthes states in the essay (and here I’ve replaced the word text with the word image: ‘An images (sic) unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.’

This thinking has manifested in a few experiments in my methodology over the past few days.

The first comes off the back of the use of a digital projector for looking at my work large scale in order to think about how it might be exhibited and, as it turns out, for use in the actual making of images.

UNTITLED (ARCHIPELAGO #28).
Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

I made a sequence that used the projector as a light source (see the right-hand image at the top of this post and the one directly above). Not only was I using it to illuminate my set-up, but it was projecting images (distorted by the angle of the projector) that I’ve taken across the M.A.

The main focus of this shoot was to revisit the staged meal images I’d started in my previous module and explore this further. This was a result of a Module webinar with Dr Steph Cosgrove and alumni Ashley Rose last week in which we discussed looking back at our past modules in light of what we are learning contextually at present, especially around the notion of constructed imagery.

UNTITLED (ARCHIPELAGO #3).
Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

Secondly, I began to research ways in which I might physically present work that could reinforce the narrative potential of my images in some way.

I took as my starting point Sam Taylor-Johnsons (nee Wood) famous image Soliloquy II (1998):

SOLILOQUY II.
Sam Taylor-Johnson 1998.

In this work, the artist deliberately sets up the use of panoramic (cinematic?) images underneath a larger main image which offers the viewer what might be read as a ‘monologue’ (hence the title of the series) or sequence of psychogeographic memories of the ‘protagonist’. In this instance the sleeping/dying person is referencing the 1856 painting of the death of the poet Chatterton by Henry Wallis so it is placing itself within a literary and fine art context. This work, and the wider series it is from, overtly attempts to push narrative through image relationships. Consequently, I thought this might be a good starting point for my own research into how I can present work which strengthens the idea of possible narratives and/or explores the relationship between images.

I was also inspired to do so by David Campany’s brief look at John Baldessari’s Junction Series in the book Photography and Cinema (2008). Baldessari (who died only a few weeks ago) used discarded cinema publicity stills (frequently with his own additional painted material on some of them) to create image sequences that no longer reference where the images had come from, but which physically rebuild narratives from them using juxtaposition and framing.

JUNCTION SERIES: Two Landscapes, Birds, and Soldiers.
John Balderssari 2003.

Although my attempts were not successful in the first instance (sequencing images in this way is not easy and it’s something I will have to return to) – it did get me thinking about what is necessary within the image and whether cropping (see Baldessari again) might be something to experiment with.

I have rarely cropped any of my M.A. work. Primarily because I use a medium format camera that I am so familiar with that everything is composed using the entire frame and images remain as they were shot.

However, I chose to crop some of my M.A. images to square format in the process of attempting to sequence them narratively and, although that process didn’t work out, as an experiment I decided to continue the crop across some of my M.A. images. It’s been surprising.

I have become ever more aware of the edge of the frame in recent months, and it’s ability to secure or imply narrative. It secures narrative and content overtly as it encloses what is already within the frame; but it strongly implies narrative (or external energy or events) by cropping what is at the edge, implying what is just beyond it. I like this. I like the possibilities it opens up. The ambiguity that can arise from hidden or semi-hidden objects or features.

There are also literary resonances here with the idea of trimming away the excess to get really focused on the main, important parts of the work.

I’m not sure at this stage if this will become a core part of my methodology and practice, but I am finding it an interesting process. The relevant question for me and my practice is: can this approach give further credence to the sensation of the clash between reality and fiction, and to the constructed nature of much of my work?

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Barthes, R. 1977. (Heath, S. ed). Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press.

Campany, D. 2008. Photography and Cinema. Reaktion Books, London.