Week Six: Lecture and Resources – Further Thoughts

LECTURE:

Looking, Seeing and Capturing – Susanna Edwards
This weeks lecture provided a range of resources and references. Some were more clear to me than others, therefore I have refined to the ones I wish to look further into and that interested me the most.

Stephen Gill – Hackney Flowers
Gill’s work stood out to me instantly through combining a photographical element, with technically a physical one, in this case the pressed flowers. The idea of combing two aspects that would be ‘seen’ differently helps to add new depth and meaning to the work overall. It showcases Gill’s way of seeing, in that he replaces or adds to original things he has seen (photographed), with pressed flowers to enhance the message or meaning. The work throughout this book is vibrant, colourful and visually pleasing, with a new form of character via the process he has undertaken.

Gill uses ‘his surrounding as inspiration’ (Stephen Gill. n.d.) and although I feel like this phrase is used repetitively in the creative industry, Gill takes it to a new level by combining what he has seen into his work, or somehow uses it within the process. He also has a series called ‘Buried’ in which he the area he photographed, he later buried the photographs and let the natural weathering decide on the response of the photograph – this is an interesting approach and one that allows character from the area to be built into the process. Gill regularly sees and then acts upon this, but also collects and records in interesting and unique ways – it’s a fresh approach in comparison to the common digital responses of photography regularly seen today.

Whilst researching into Stephen Gill, I came across Melissa Zexter, a photographer who records what she has seen in a compelling way to add character and allows a debatable conversation to start when viewing her work. Zexter produces photography combined with embroidery and is ‘concerned with the interaction between hand and eye in relation to the photographic image, Zexter’s complex works explore memory and personal experience while manipulating the generic qualities of the photographic print.’ Again, this is a unique way of seeing and recording, the idea of the relation between the hand and eye comes under another sub section of the whole ‘seeing and looking’ aspect of this weeks theme. Due to the embroidery being purely memory and a personal response, it can allow for a different way of seeing each time, one of which can be interpreted in many different ways by others.

I like the idea of adding to original formats from memory, this allows for a whole new way of seeing, as memory often changes what we think we have seen. As Zexter states ‘the use of embroidery is a reaction to the photographs and is a process that aids in the transformation of identity of the person or place being photographed.’ (Pitcher, J. 2016). On a personal view, this is like Zexter is seeing her photographic element all over again, but this time not through a camera, then responding to the new version she is seeing currently along with memory, potentially changing perception and giving the photograph a whole new meaning than when originally captured.

Powers of Ten – Charles and Ray Eames
I recognise this! Where from? I’ve seen it before? Oh, The Simpsons. Not the most reliable of sources, but then again The Simpsons are known to predict the future – maybe that’s another way of seeing for this weeks theme?

The Powers of Ten was a video that afterwards I stared at my blank expression in the blackness of my computer screen. What. Just, what. Obviously, I knew space, time, all that stuff existed but the way it is portrayed in this video is mind blowing and shows the extremes of how we can see things, but also how we ‘see’ things that aren’t there, strongly linking to the idea of this weeks theme ‘noticing the ignored’.

I initially took this as seeing doesn’t have to be physically in-front of you or visible to the naked eye. But the purpose of the video was to visualise the importance of scale through illustrating ‘the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery.’  (Eames Office. n.d.).

I believe the concept and production of this video is remarkable and can provide influence for a lot of concepts and directions. The communication of message is clear and provides, although mind blowing, a strong and useful concept to take forward. The power of adding 0 to anything. It provides a new way of seeing, considering and imagining. It leaves a lasting impression with the idea of you can see anything, technically.

The film has since been updated with the original being nearly 40 years old. Although it still holds the same concept, how it is ‘seen’ or ‘looked at’ has changed, due to the natural progression of humans. Although, I do prefer the original it has more character and seems less forced; opening up the realisation of how much we have to view, see, consider and use for influence.

Iain Sinclair – Memo Roi with Emily Richardson
This is a journey through Hackney tracing loss and disappearance. With the format of capturing being purely on video, I feel based around the overall concept of loss/disappearance, a more effective format could have been used to showcase what had been captured or perhaps further developed from the video.

The reasoning behind this is that the video provokes emotion, it allows you to see past the initial abandoned allotment and begins to suggest emotion and character to each shed about to be destroyed. Although the video works in regards to the over voice, home made style and stillness / quietness, I just think it could have had a more powerful response to portray the message to a more memorable standard.

However, it has still impacted on my thought process in regards to seeing things differently, considering emotion or the history of elements. This video focuses on the perspective of seeing things in a different frame of mind or situation, rather than physically seeing something different. Both of which, I believe, are just as important.

An example of seeing things differently physically is artist Vincent Bal who calls himself a ‘Shadowist’, he creates new elements from the shadows of other physical elements, thus, seeing beyond the original element – looking and capturing in a different frame of mind. His instagram showcases a wide range of examples of his way of seeing and producing work from this. His style is playful and creates a personality from his own way of seeing.

RESOURCES:

John Berger – Ways of Seeing (linking to lecture also)
‘There is never a point where there isn’t anything to collect and if it gets to that point, that’s bad!’

Episode One of John Berger’s ‘Ways of seeing’ (BBC – 1972):
I’ll be honest, at first when the programme started with ‘assumptions about the tradition of European painting’, I didn’t see how it linked, but this 30 minute episode was super informative, and along with the other resources for this week has made me really consider how I look and see, as well as how to look in other ways.

The first part of the documentary that got me thinking was where he stated that we are the first people in the 2nd half of the 20th century to see these old paintings in the way we do. Assuming he meant from the perspective we see things due to life as it is now, e.g. computers, technology and way of living in general. We, as humans, think, see and act different in comparison hundreds of years ago when the paintings were first created. This would seem to strongly link with how easily humans are influence by their surroundings. Which is a whole other avenue to discover.

Berger refers to the camera as a point of comparison. ‘The eye can only be in one place, and perspective makes the eye the center of the visible world’. But the invention of the camera allowed us to see the same thing in different places, at different times, by different people. All of which have external factors that change the perspective of the same ‘thing’ that is being seen by many different people. He later expands on this by discussing impact from outer sources, such as what is seen before, after or next to something. It shows how things can be manipulated into a set context and how our brain process can be alters to cause assumption.

Leading on from this is his discussion about silence and stillness. After showing on screen a series of images with silence accompanying them – it was quite a shock. Yes you have silence, but pure silence is very rare – when imagery is placed into this context it seems to allow for us to think more, discover the meaning and considering it more via seeing differently. But Berger states there’s a danger with silence, as it can manipulate and interpret the meaning as the story is no longer attached when we view it. It opens up debate and allows discussion of meaning. This part of the programme made me consider how music affects meaning, not just in paintings – more so, taking me back to my media days in school where we watched Jaws 1,000 times to analyse the music and if it wasn’t for the famous do do do, would it be as scary or intense? No. Music enhances the message or feelings towards the aspect that is being viewed. Paintings, movies, adverts, and so on.

From John Berger’s episode it has made me consider another way of looking; to try eliminate noise, or add it, would that change how I see something? Very likely. In addition to the sound aspect of seeing, comes the camera way of seeing, then linking onto screens and much more, we can all view the same thing, but from different outputs, which naturally, will change the view whether it be subtly or obviously. Considering this, it can help influence my ways of looking and seeing, opening up to curiosity and keeping an open mind.


I would like to watch his other documentary ‘The Art of Looking’ – however, it seems impossible to find online due to copyright from the BBC!

Sketchbooks – Richard Brereton (2012)
My sketchbook is a witness of what I am experiencing, scribbling things whenever they happen. – Vincent Van Gogh

I’ve always found sketchbooks as an automatic way of recording; thoughts, ideas, visuals and notes – don’t think, just do. It shows a visual journey whether it’s a project sketchbook or a personal sketchbook. It can provide reminders, memories or the start of new ideas. I find myself regularly reminding my own students to put EVERYTHING in their sketchbook, whether it looks rubbish or not, a lot of them struggle with this and the idea of placing ‘bad’ work into them, but again, that’s another discussion.

From this section of research, regularly recommended (as by our tutors too) is to carry a sketchbook around and constantly use it – now I understand why, if you draw, sketch, stick, anything and everything, it will allow you to begin to see past the obvious, consider the ignored. As recommended by the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, carrying a small sketchbook around, makes it more accessible and therefore, as stated by the author ‘this meant I was studying more of the world than I had previously.’ (Artinstitutes.edu. 2018). Seeing the unseen, the ignored.  

Pg. 52 – Freferique Daubal states ‘once something is in my sketchbook I can forget about it and find it later’ – although I do this myself, and it’s more a way of helping my horrendous memory, which I’m blaming on what I learnt last week of the way creative people use their brains, it allows you to revisit the information recorded and see it in a different way, look at it with fresh eyes and consider other perspectives. Another part from this page I found interesting was how it states ‘I use my sketchbooks as tools to record my moods and thoughts’ – this linked instantly with my own students. I can tell their personality, the thoughts, the mood of the day via their sketchbooks – it allows you to see them in a different perspective, as well as underlying aspects of their life.

A good example of personality and how people see differently is The Sketchbook Project, that began in 2006 – it ‘has been able to collect more than 30,000 sketchbooks offered up by individuals spanning 130 countries and six continents’ (Brooks, 2017) all of which showcase a wide variety of personalities and allow an insight of how each individual sees the world around them, or how we think they see at least. In comparison to say, photographs, that allow us to see more specifically of what is there in a moment (yes, I know this could be argued with effects, angles, and so on but you get the point), a sketchbook allows a personal view of the moment, how someone really sees something.

Below are some examples I gathered from my students for their current project sketchbooks – I asked for a ‘good day’ and ‘bad day’ of their work and the reasons behind it. A lot referred to mental health or difficulty of the task. Naturally, knowing the personalities of these students makes this more relevant, but interesting to see anyway as often visually it’s clear to see effort and motivation. This could be viewed as ‘seeing’ differently in regards to people and their personalities. Or in more considered terms, you could argue that you, as the teacher, can ‘see the ignored’, the emotions or situations that a student may be hiding.

Pg. 204 – Peter Saville’s take on sketchbooks seems to be more written based, to some extent more of a journal with structure, he mentions he has a mix of visual elements but also the notes are predominately discussions with himself. Again, I feel like I can relate to this due to keeping a plan and staying organised / trying to remember things – my sketchbooks consist of notes; notes on notes, checklists, expansion on original notes – it’s quite chaotic when I think about it, but to me, it keeps me on track and often when I revisit the notes provides another direction, thought or way of interpretating my own original thought.

Ex – Formation – Kenya Hara (2015) 
‘Knowledge is merely the entrance to thought’ – Pg 10 – 11

At first, I couldn’t get my head around the book name, then it clicked; Ex-formation, opposite idea of in-formation, taking away what we know. Making the world unknown. Ahh! Quite a lot of quotes and ideas from this that have stuck with me, that I want to try in my own teaching practice. Begins to create consideration of actually how much do we know? Do we all know the same thing? Or do we know the same thing in a different way? Is knowledge really power, or arrogance?

Pg. 06-07 – ‘Curiosity…the driving force for the student’s confrontation with themselves, their own power of imagination, and the condition for creatively implementing their visions’. I found this quote really nice in terms of a way of thinking about curiosity, as teachers, whatever level, I believe it is our job to continue to curiosity within students, encourage it and support it. As Couros mentions, ‘curiosity is often what leads to challenge. We often ask questions about the things we don’t know (but want to) and finding answers to those questions is part of what leads to growth within education and after.’ (Couros, G. 2018).

From education, this curiosity should continue, however as the book discusses too many people state ‘I know, I know’. As adults our curiosity seems to fade or is it our arrogance grows? Guilty of this myself, I need to start being more curious, not just within design but life, as ‘to know something is to cause to our sensory perceptions the fertilisation of an inspirational, pounding emotion’ (Pg. 08 -09). An experiment by Elizabeth Newton in 1990 supports this quote, in that she discovers the curse of knowledge, which ‘refers to the natural psychological tendency to forget what it is like not to know something once we have become expert at it. As a result, it becomes virtually impossible for us to share our knowledge with others since we are incapable of re-creating our listeners’ state of mind.’
(Sanspeur, 2010)

So in short; stay curious, look, see, be open minded and always, always be prepared to learn, discover and share. Oh, and be humble, as ‘the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing’. (Pg. 16 -17)

https://www.slideshare.net/ShaliniBahl/coming-to-our-senses-how-contemplative-education-can-transform-our-classrooms-students-the-world-80313726

REFERENCES:
Artinstitutes.edu. (2018). The Importance of Using a Sketchbook in the Creative Process. [online] Available at: https://www.artinstitutes.edu/online/about/blog/aipod-sketchbooking [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Brooks, K. (2017). ‘The Sketchbook Project’ Takes Readers Around The World In Doodles. [online] Huffingtonpost.co.uk. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/05/05/the-sketchbook-project_n_7213128.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACYwGYraJPPnW0xgxL4mEo632nFzgdTX35dg04RIxmoQXFp8cXEYHPkkRuacDBm2XdwYDd0X9DdlOapQ4ul1asZx18gggRCZMfpam7QRxpkTbgWpttNeVFgqvAjy3Hx06GagACOe2d3hpT124zyKOye9RShiBA5ixNHwiOhB5uAy#gallery/423240/9 [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Costandi, M. (2011). Memory contaminates perception | Mo Costandi. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2011/aug/17/memory-contaminates-perception [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Couros, G. (2018). the importance of curiosity in education – The Principal of Change. [online] Georgecouros.ca. Available at: https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/tag/the-importance-of-curiosity-in-education [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Eames Office. (n.d.). POWERS OF TEN AND THE RELATIVE SIZE OF THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE. [online] Available at: http://www.eamesoffice.com/the-work/powers-of-ten/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Oppong, T. (2018). The Curious Brain (Why Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence). [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-curious-brain-why-curiosity-is-as-important-as-intelligence-d41799cae42d [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Pitcher, J. (2016). Melissa Zexter interview: Embroidered photography – TextileArtist.org. [online] TextileArtist.org. Available at: https://www.textileartist.org/melissa-zexter-interview-embroidered-photography [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Pomeranian, F. (2014). The Invention of the “Snapshot” Changed the Way We Viewed the World. [online] Smithsonian. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/invention-snapshot-changed-way-we-viewed-world-180952435/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Sanspeur, Y. (2010). The Curse of Knowledge: the problem with knowing too much …. [online] lexpress.mu. Available at: https://www.lexpress.mu/idee/curse-knowledge-problem-knowing-too-much-%E2%80%A6 [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Stephen Gill. (n.d.). Hackney Flowers Stephen Gill. [online] Available at: https://www.nobodybooks.com/product/hackney-flowers [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Whitbourne, S. (2015). Why We Remember Things the Way We Want to Remember Them. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201502/why-we-remember-things-the-way-we-want-remember-them [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Zexter, M. (n.d.). Home – Melissa Zexter Photography. [online] Melissa Zexter Photography. Available at: http://www.melissazexter.com/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

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