Two voices of consciousness #13

I have discovered a pleasure in writing. I used to possess it even previously, before I grew up and learned that my writings are not any good. So I have actually recovered the satisfaction I get from producing text, something I lost simultaneously with starting out with photography. It has taken me 10 years to find out, that my writing and my photography can coexist. And maybe not just coexist, but function together. I used to think of them as rivals, one better than the other, something I need to choose between. I felt that I had to choose, wether I wanted to make images or produce writing, but I could not focus on them both and develop them both at the same time. And maybe I could not have, before, but now my practice has opened up slightly and there might just be a vacant spot for some words. 

I used to write poetry and lyrics when I was a teenager. They were not that bad, naive and juvenile obviously, but not too awful. I had an interest specially for Russian poetry and a man called Jevgeni Jevtušenko, who is a 20th century poet, known for his criticism towards the Stalinist legacy. I found one of his books in the local library next to my high school, it was red and old, and I quoted parts of his poems in a word document I collected poem paragraphs in. I also enjoyed reading Alekandr Puškin.

My own poetry was very dark and sad. It spoke about loss, condemnation and through that some kind of weird, approved retribution I thought I was entitled to. I saw my life as a very battled journey and everything I faced had to result in a choice. Images or words. I chose images, on the cost of loosing my words.

I wrote my first short novel when I was at the age of ten. I loved Agatha Christies detective stories, so my first story was about a private eye called Pete Jockey. I do not have any memories of where that name came from, it probably originated in some of the girly horse mags I adored… The story about the character Pete Jockey was called “Seven Souls and Four Days”. It was a terrible tale of approximately ten pages, written on an old typewriter. Every single one of my characters ended up dead. Except Pete Jockey of course, the hero who solved the crime. I wouldn’t say I was an unhappy or sad child, I was just always very aware of my dark side and very sensitive to the darkness all together. I have later, in the rush of becoming an adult, put aside a lot of that darkness but I am not sure that you ever can. You can only choose to ignore it, but sooner or later it will track you down.

What has become clear through the writing I am engaging in today, is that my identity is strongly connected with the language I use. As a multilingual person, I am constantly choosing which language to use and that choice highly depends on the form of the writing. Using one language more than another, both disables and enables the other languages. When you are in a surrounding where one language is dominant, both your mind and your tongue starts to co operate to produce the most accurate vocabulary for that specific need. It is then quite difficult to all of a sudden, change tongue and expect the physical parts of your body that are entwined in the process of producing words, to just succumb. Writing in a language that is not “your own”, places you outside of your writing and gives you a very objective view on the chosen words. I do not possess a special emotion towards the english language, other than the notion of that english has always been the language of The Popular Culture every western born child get immersed in, and therefor I can use or miss use the language very freely. Writing outside of yourself about yourself is a very empowering experience. The writing can easily get very exclusive, if you do not know the vocabulary well enough and you are depending on the OED (= Oxford English Dictionary, the english language loves its abbreviations) and a thesaurus, but who cares! It is the freedom of just simply writing, that has helped me to complete my practice.

I sometimes use unnecessary difficult words and I occasionally use them wrongly, but there is a very deliberate reason for doing that. My writing is a constant exercise I engage with, to introduce my mind and my tongue to new words, broadening my vocabulary. I’m curious about finding new ways of expressing myself and new expressions that flourishes my articulation.

When publishing my writing online, I am aware of the fact that anyone can read the texts I produce, but I am not really sure that many do. Nevertheless, I always get very happy hearing that someone actually has read them. I still consider that I am writing purely to myself and for myself, to the outer me. But by going public I give myself a reason to strive for clear articulation. I keep having these conversations with the outside me and I am happy to give the outside you a chance to take part of this ramble.

In my previous photographic work, I combined the images with the writings of an author I especially asked to contribute with a piece for the specific body of work. That worked out well and I was planning on continuing on that note now as well. But it has become clear to me during the past months, that I must provide the writing myself in order to get both the absolute freedom and the  total control that I need to posses.

I write because a lot of the thoughts and concepts that swirls around and through my conscious mind, is impossible to transcribe into pictures. I realise I contradict myself again here. It seems like I have all of a sudden revealed an interdisciplinary practice I did not expect was lying underneath all the frustration.

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Two voices of consciousness #12

Most of my writing ideas and my ideas in general for that matter, comes on the bus. I love the two storey buses in Glasgow, and I usually scramble up the narrow stairs holding my bus ticket in my mouth so that both my hands can be used to grasp hold on to anything steady, because the bus rides around here are not particularly suave. I take a seat in the first row if it is vacant and I hold my bag on the other seat, very annoyingly so that no one can sit next to me. I enjoy my solitude a few meters above the traffic and the rush. Sometimes I write in my notebook, but too often I don’t, since the roads even in the city centre are so bad that I get sick if I don’t gaze out through the window towards the troposphere. And I forget about the material around me. 

What are you thinking about? That I need to settle a home. And I don’t mean a home with a  cupboard where I can place my beloved and adored designer coffee cups in (I have that!), but a home base for my practice. I realise my practice is not mature enough to be talked about in different tenses, since the core of my enterprise comprise of two bodies of work spanned throughout 5 years. During these 5 years, which can be considered the time that I have been doing what I do with a professional aim and a focused attitude, I have not done any work in Finland. Since I am very much needed on two fronts in my life, I need to find a way to combine these two elements of my existence in to one physical place. You mean your family and your studio? Yes. The battle between these two has to happen somewhere that makes sense, that is durable and continuous (since this battle is going to be relentless) and that makes me happy. If I can find a base for my studio practice and make that work, I am fine with pursuing the fight.

My work has grown because of the studio I have been lucky enough to grasp this year. I have made work inside the studio in an environment completely new to me. I think the key to my future work lies in the studio as well, if I want to make something steady something that even has a time to come, I must entwine in the studio domain. And I have actually found pleasure in producing work indoors for a change. Manipulating objects to attribute and make sense of my subject matter is new territory to me, but what an appealing territory it is!

Every new project or work I engage with, has to open up my practice slightly. Because I can’t expect to learn everything at once, to acquire some form of enlightenment all of a sudden, I must be patient and accept that there is a life long learning pattern forming here. By opening my practice one step at a time, broadens my comfort zone and maybe by the long run, makes me enjoy what I do more. Or if not that, at least makes me more comfortable in the uneasiness.

I have been away from Finland for almost a year now, and this time abroad has made me more aware of what is on stake, than I have ever been before. Gaining perspective is one thing, but realising that loosing everything you have been valuing and taking for granted, is closer than ever before, gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘gaining perspective’. I have realised that I must use my vocabulary to superimpose that new, gained perspective on my practice and make something out the result. What is the result? It remains to be seen, but there is something building up here that needs to be addressed.

Two voices of consciousness #11

What is my picture making really about? I was asked that a while back. More or less rhetorically, but I would still like to try and answer the question. My picture making is about introducing the visual to the conceptual. Too much of photography made today carries a whole lot of intellectual and conceptual value, but no visual value at all. It is like the essence of photography, the two dimensional image, has totally been forgotten underneath all the “stuff” that goes on around photography these days. I mean all the discussion about techniques, self publishing, social media etc. makes me just want to cuddle up in the corner of a sofa and start scrolling in an old fashioned book with beautiful images. And maybe some essays. That address issues relating to the images not the contemporary time, or the change of times. I love conceptual photography, but not on the cost of the visual! The activity described above is actually what I was doing today, hence the rattle.

“Introducing the visual to the conceptual”, what the hell does that mean? Why am I making photographs and what kind of photographs am I making? I am making photographs that are very much about something very intangible. Well, that did not make so much sense. My photographs are about things that concerns us people. In my notebook I have two different definitions of this, explaining or trying to explain what my images are about. The first one is “I make work about the stuff that floats around us people, without actually portraying people in their recognisable form”. Furthering this I have scribbled down, “if there is no criticism, there is no progress”…

The second quote says “I’ve been photographing the landscape without making even one landscape photograph. I’ve been making portraits, that doesn’t inhabit a single person”. This makes more sense, specially with regard to my current work. But if I am insisting on making pictures about the human condition (one could say, that this is the grand narrative of my work, just to simplify a bit), why do it in such a conceptual way that makes it very difficult to recognise. Well, I could say that the reason to do this is, that I do not want to let people get away that easily. I want to catch them and hold on to them for as long as I can. By making the audience look and figure things out, I am giving them an opportunity to reveal something about themselves as well. And about the world around them. It is not only about glancing at something once and moving on to the next thing. I want my audience to look at my work, and figure every little detail out. That is what everyone – me including – should do with their lives as well.

The title of my current series, The Great Because, will probably never open itself up to most people. And that is perfectly fine with me. But the story behind it, is so intriguing that it would be such a waste not to use it. Even if it’s just me and a handful of Scots actually knowing what it refers to.

So why am I making pictures and what is my picture making about. It is about finding the purpose of my life. Not through these grand events I am talking about in my photographic series, but through the image making itself. Even if the world is already polluted with photographs, it is not polluted by people’s vision. A single picture doesn’t mean anything, a person’s vision means everything. I am not threatened by all the 800 billion pictures taken each year.

“Introducing the visual to the conceptual” could mean something like starting out with one and ending up with both.

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?

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.

Two voices of consciousness #7

Feels like ages when we last spoke, how are you? Oh, I can not even start to explain. Time is running and I am just trying to catch up. I feel like I am balancing on a very thin spread, being careful not to tip over to any side. What is down there? It is not that much about what is down there, as it is about what is on either side. On one side there is full clarity, while on the other side there is complexity. On the other side there is the concept, and on the other side the method. But does not all of those four link to each other? Should they not relate? Absolutely, that is why I am balancing in between, looking here, looking there, looking everywhere. I can tell you it is frustrating and difficult, and you need to understand these words in their deepest meaning. I think I am doing something right, that I am about to figure it all out, only to find out that there is several more options to consider, and that probably the thought I initially had, is only a start. I never get anywhere. I never get to full stop. But, that is why you do what you do, right? It is all about trying to figure something out, when you have done that, you need to start all over again somewhere else. When you have figured it all out, you might as well stop. Right? Right?? Right. And I know, once I do get this, it is going to be great. Because I am great.

Going one way or another, that is truly the key point in my work at the moment. I just hope, I would be a bit more sure by now. You know, I have never in my life had the need to satisfy someone as much as I have right now. At the same time, while I feel like I am loosing something, I feel that I am gaining something else. So it is not a bad thing? No, maybe not. Because it is only temporary. But what happens when I leave this place, I have no clue. I might just be able to pull it off, or I sink. I might be able to stay on the thin spread, or I tip over. Is this what my life will be like for the rest of my life?

But that has to be the whole point about me being here. Otherwise I might just as well be somewhere else, doing something else.

 

 

Diptych_white

Two voices of consciousness #6

We should probably discuss my work, I should sum up some things. Well, go ahead. I need to consider a few issues and sort them in my mind.

Flower arrangements/plants/still lives/Ikebana

There is a couple called the Herrigle’s. He is a German philosopher who wrote a book called “Zen in the Art of Archery” and she, sadly mainly known as his wife, wrote a book called “ Zen in the Art of Flower Arrangement”. I should get those books. Ikebana, which is the Japanese art of flower arrangement is something I should look into. A brief googling on the subject matter gives some interesting results, “Ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together” and “Silence is a must during practices of ikebana.” Sounds exactly like my cup of tea.

I should also study still lives, even though I am not completely sure what exactly it is I should study. The form? The colour? The why?

I should elaborate my forest with some carefully considered items. Maybe a plant. I should consider making it more versatile, adding the odd one out for example.

Maybe do another group with flower arrangements.

 

Groups/Typologies/Singularities in groups

I kind of suspected it would come down to this. It is like I cast a fishing line as far as I possible could and now I am winding it back in again. Typologies of trees. I should think about trees and particularly types of trees. I should collect groups of trees and also contemplate the singular tree in relation to a group of trees. The dying one, the young one, the short one, the tall one. Otherwise I am just randomly shooting trees, which is exactly what I have been doing so far and I have loved it! My tree library has got rather wide already, so I have material to work with.

 

Origami in the space

It is apparent that the origamis will be presented as objects. But in which way. The origami water bombs are like sockets. And sockets are left on the ground. Randomly? For people to pick up? The origami water bombs are like balls. Like lottery balls, you either get YES or NO? The origami water bombs are like weapons. They can be thrown at you or by you.

 

Sounds like you have a lot of work to do. Your concept has expanded a bit? It has, but is that not quite normal? I guess so. To have it all figured out before hand becomes tedious. I do fear sometimes. ? That I do not have the answers. That I do what I do so intuitively that it lacks any formal substance and that I can not defend it, in case of an attack. You can not defend the work? Yes, and through that, myself. Why do you fear an attack? Because I often feel outsmarted by other people. I feel that the minute I turn my back, I get questioned. That someone is out there to get me. You are paranoid. I am, but I do not consider it as a weakness, quite the opposite actually. I do not want to leave any holes for someone else to fill, I want to fill them myself. With? With matter, with subject matter. That is why I keep dragging the referendum with me, that is my protection. When I feel I am on a dry spot, I can let it go.

Indoor Forest

Two voices of consciousness #5

Have you become a silent partner. No, I have just been busy. Busy with practicalities regarding my private life and things I have going on elsewhere. Being here is so intense, that I easily forget that I existed before I came here and I will exist again when I go back. You feel like you have neglected some other areas in you life? I sometimes feel self-indulgent doing what I do, which at some points makes no sense. Ah yes, you mean the existential crisis every artist goes through once in a while, you think about all the terrible things people experience out there in the real world while you are sitting in you cozy studio, next to your Ikea lamp, and writing some very introversive rumble. Yeah, kind of just that.

But that reminds me of our seminar topic today, which was beauty vs. ugly. My argument was that beauty is not appreciated enough. We read Kathleen Marie Higgins article “Whatever Happened to Beauty?” prior class and I highlighted a phrase, where she actually quotes Arthur C. Danto saying “It is as though beauty were a kind of catalyst, transforming raw grief into tranquil sadness”. I think contemporary art practice could make more use out of beauty in this meaning. People do not want to confront uncomfortableness, because it is disturbing to them. They don’t want to get disturbed. So you think beauty could be used to transmit the message of uncomfortable subject matter into peoples consciousness? Exactly, isn’t that what art was originally developed to do? Art has been beautiful, and acceptable as beautiful all they way until the 20th century, when beauty all of a sudden became something we reject. Why is that then? Maybe because of in the 20th century we managed to do a lot of horrible things. Higgins writes in her article that “ After the World Wars and the Holocaust, after the many wars and atrocities since, we cannot, like God in Genesis, pronounce the world entirely good. To the extent that beauty says otherwise, we see beauty as kitsch.”. Humankind polluted beauty to the extent that it disappeared from the contemporary art practice. Only art work from the time before was allowed to remain beautiful. Time before? You know, the Past, the History, the Origin. The Western Canon. The subject matter in these pieces are often horrible, but it is beauty we see when we are looking at them. Beauty is used to make an unaccessible “thing” more accessible. Beauty can be the messenger, without being the message in itself.

Higgins also writes that “Nature, accordingly, provides the paradigm of beauty. Art is beautiful to the extent that it resembles the order of nature”. Nature is beautiful because it is not made by humankind. True wilderness is even more beautiful, because it has not even been affected by humankind. Art is always made by humankind, even if it represents nature, and can therefor never be truly beautiful?

Someone threw a notion in the air, that the contemporary art practice is about to transform when it comes to it’s relationship to beauty. That it is becoming more acceptable to work with beauty, even as subject matter, than it was before. Art about beauty is often critical, it plays around with the concept of beauty and ugliness, rather than addressing either one.

So what about you, where do you stand in the question relating to beauty in contemporary art practice? I am interested in beauty and I actually strive towards beauty. I find it pleasant and comforting, but it does not mean that there is no substance. As artist we have to work harder in order to find the balance. Just stating that beauty prevails anything that matters, is negligence. I think beautiful images are very difficult to make, and in the matter of fact, the moment I stopped trying to make them, they started coming to me. I find my current images very beautiful.

Photography is a very difficult medium when it comes to beauty. What is an ugly image? Maybe it is an image that is not appropriately exposed, not appropriately focused and not appropriately printed. So, an ugly image is a failed one? If it has failed in it’s attempts, then yes, it is ugly. Anything that has failed in it’s attempts, is ugly? Also humans? I don’t know, I haven’t read the article on ugliness yet. I get back to you when I have. But mainly the issue with photography is, that you can make an absolutely stunningly gorgeous photograph of something very ugly, and that does not make the image ugly. It is still a beautiful image. But it also bugs me, when you see a bad (=ugly) photograph of something beautiful, and it is considered to be a very beautiful image. You should not mix those two things up. Form and subject matter? Yes.

But what I want to say about beauty is, that it can be a hammer rather than wrapping paper if used correctly.

Amen. And actually I don’t suffer from an existential crisis, rather from an ephemeral one.