Month: April, 2014

Two voices of consciousness #10

Photography is always an external experience. Or, an objectification of something that has been on the outside of you. Where as painting is something internal. As a painter you must have full control of your picture plain, every single millimetre from the bottom right corner to the top left corner has to have equal value to you. When you make photographs, the relationship to your picture plain changes. The respect changes. It is not longer you who systematically orchestrate everything that goes on in the image, you give the image in itself some power as well. You let the image engage in its own birth. Photography is a very democratic medium. I am so happy that there is such a enormous variety of practices in the photographic world. Some makers work like painters, and remain in full control of their canvas while others are more generous and values accidents and coincidence. 

I put my foot down somewhere in the middle. In my previous work I composed the image very carefully, I took every corner in consideration and I looked at the image in my viewfinder (one of the benefits of working with bigger formats) for a very long time before pressing the shutter. Since I made the drastic change to digital technique (you can read about this in an earlier post), my whole practice changed. Now I am happy with happenstance, and I even comfort myself in it. Meaning, I can go to a site quite carefree and trust to come back with something. And if the image doesn’t work with me at that point, if it doesn’t reveal itself, I simply let it be. It is not only about me making images anymore, it is more about me starting a conversation with the images I have. Recognising the good stuff from the bad, and I have gained some confidence in that throughout this year. Almost to the extent, where I am eager to start a new project, where I can steer all my new skills directly towards something creative.

Photography is always about the external?

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Two voices of consciousness #9

I feel so very much different from everyone else here. I have a practice that is well structured, organised and focused, and it seems like in this context that is not desirable. I get almost pressured to change that, and I can’t for the sake of me understand why. It might be, that I intentionally let pass of something by not getting involved in some interesting things, because I do not feel obligated to attend social events of almost any kind. But at the same time I feel like I gain a lot as well, I feel that I get something no one else gets. Lack of professional attitude and behaviour is something that really pisses me off here. People are not on time, they talk about each other behind their backs, they change hats and coats and faces and what not in matter of minutes.

After having a very fertile session with the second year students a while ago, I feel so reluctant to speak about anything else than photography. I think everything else is just so pretentious! I probably feel like this because I spend most of my time alone, without any kind of influence going on to one side or another. And these two things goes together, the lack of professionalism and pretentious art. If you are not really sure about who you are and what your place in this world is, you are more likely to get so influenced by others that you loose your own voice. And this combined with a practice that is not that well specified is a countdown for catastrophe. A lot of people are just hanging around, making work that can’t justify its own presence in any way. And this goes on in all disciplines, I must add, also in the one closest to my heart.

But isn’t the community a big part of art school, isn’t that why people decide to attend various courses on different levels, to get influenced by others? You talk about it like it was a bad thing. I recall that was one of the reasons you chose to do a postgraduate course as well. It was, but maybe because the reality in my case turned out to be very different, I started to think about this very differently as well. If you spend your time in art school hanging around with your friends, how does that prepare you for the life after art school? Christ how cynical you have become. Well, to start with, the critiques. You do not get critiques like the kind you get in art school anywhere else. You do not get that kind of direct, honest  and immediate feedback anywhere else. That is true, if critiques in art school would actually be direct, honest and immediate. All the critiques I have attended so far, have not been. Because people want to remain friends, but still they are not good enough friends which would enable them to speak honestly to each other. They are hanging somewhere in the middle, and so the critiques tend to get stuck somewhere in the middle as well, between group tutorials, everyday small talk and, sometimes something that slightly resembles critiques. Everything is just very generic, middle grey and mainstream. I thought you weren’t a big fan of contradictions and that in the matter of fact, a quite conventional art practice is what you have in mind for yourself? I was and it is, I’m just proclaiming general attitude, you know, the kind you get of just simply keeping your eyes and ears open about what is going on around you.

So your solution would be not to make any friends in art school? Well, one of the students in the student group I was working with actually suggested that and everyone else slightly laughed awkwardly. I think there lies something in that, even though being that harsh is maybe to exaggerate. I had a lot of fun dong my undergraduate degree, and I made friends for life during those years but I also feel we spoke very honestly about each others work as well. Maybe it is a cultural thing, to speak your mind and know that you can get away with that. My point is, that being over polite takes the edge out of your studies at art school. And what is wrong with crying in a critique session? The crying in itself is only a reaction to something, and is that not what the critiques are meant to do? Provoke reaction. People who cry during crits are usually the same people and of course crying is not anything that should be the purpose of the sessions, but I think that he crying is often a bigger problem for the people that do not cry, than for the person who actually is brave enough to show genuine emotion and attitude.

Two voices of consciousness #8

I find it strange to hear that artists are having fun while working. They are just fooling around, enjoying themselves, experimenting and what not. That is so unfamiliar to me. When I am working, fun is the very last word I would describe my workflow with. Most of the time I am fighting against something, windmills if you like. I am fighting against the weather, against the equipment, against my potential audience, against my own thoughts and this is the bloodiest fight of them all. I am attacking and defensive my own mind on a regular basis, trying to resolve issues that arise from resolving other issues. I am on a continuous battlefield that eventually culminates in a ready image. That is not fun! Why do you do it? Because it matters. Because I have something to say and I want the world to hear it. I am not a writer, hence I make images. If I would be a writer, I would make text. So do you argue, that the artists who have fun while making, their art doesn’t matter? I do not know if I want to state that, it is just something I was thinking about today during our critique session. It appears to me, that some artists have difficulties separating themselves from their work. Where does the artist end and the work begin? Do you need to separate that? I’ve had the impression that art is about the lone maker who lives for her work and work for her life. That those two things, the work and the maker, in fact are one entity. Yes, in a way that is true. But what I am trying to say, is that at some point you have to step back, snap out of it, and consider what you have done and really contemplate whether that makes any sense at all.

I do not enjoy working as an artist and at the same time I enjoy it so much that I am willing to make a whole bunch of sacrifices, and I am engaging my family into those sacrifices as well, to be able to do what I do. I do what I do, because if I would do something else, I would not feel content. And the one most important thing that I get out of my work, is freedom. And that freedom is my legacy, if nothing else.

But is it not tearing to be involved in these battles all the time? Yes, and that is why I am so precise in my work, why my images are so precise, if I am doomed to go through this hell of producing new work, I must at least be sure it is going to be well made. This constant balancing act of not stating the obvious but not being exclusive either, have to in the end lead to something good. Lead to the truth.

But I became humble today as well. I became aware of my own cynicism. When I am standing in front of a painting, I have absolutely nothing to say. Not because the painting is bad, I do not have any tools to identify a good painting from a bad, but simply because I do not know what I am looking at. Or, what I should be looking at. I have no experience in producing paintings myself, hence I have no understanding of the materials used or the issues resolved. I do not understand half of the terminology used. I have nothing to say, because I do not know what it is I should be questioning. So why should I expect people from a painting background to understand or talk critically about photography? But I am not, oppose to many of my colleagues who’s life mission it appears to be, interested in educating people in becoming more informed about my medium, because I think that is the ultimate medium. Why should I, since I am not interested in enlighten myself with the secrets of painting either. It might sound like a very juvenile perspective on art, and I guess this is just another matter I need to set upon.