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Soldier On

As part of the ways of looking festival I was given a few set events I should really attend. One being the Stuart Griffiths talk about his new book "The Myth of the Airborne Warrior". I hadn't heard of him before and when I attended the talk to document it I saw a different side to the conflict in Ireland that is so infamous. I have previously seen Donavon Wylie's work which is exhibiting at the moment in The National Media Museum in Bradford. And so I had seen a photographer who had grown up around the times of "The Troubles" he had looked at watchtowers in Ireland, and then as they were taken down and sent over to Afghanistan to be used as watchtowers over there, he followed them. The work is stunning and moving and shows the development of crossing over views of being on one side where has said he would shout at the soldiers in the street with his friends, to walking with soldiers in Afghanistan through local villages feeling isolated and truly unwanted. Griffiths work is from the viewpoint of a soldier in Ireland in the 80s and 90s. His images sometimes are harrowing and hints at how isolated these men were who were sent to fight against the IRA.

Griffiths says in his book "The Myth of The airborne Warrior", "I did feel alot of animosity towards the IRA...but I didn't find any pride in the reality of the situation". I find this really interesting, you hear stories of soldiers who go to fight for their country but don't necessarily know what they're fighting for. Girffiths says this and implies that yes he did resent the IRA and the trouble and war that had been inflicted on Ireland but it doesn't make him feel proud to have been a part of it. With Wylie's work it is more about his journey of understanding soldiers and the pride and reasoning that goes behind it. And during a lecture held by Wylie he stated well there didn't seem much point. And I feel after reading Griffiths book that he would have similar views. He said that "95% boredom and 5% mayhem". Most of the time soldiers are sent to places just to show a presence rather that steady a seriously unbalanced society. As I am not Irish, a descendent of any close related irish people that have ever lived there I find it very interesting when photographers and artists distribute their stories and the different contrasting views they have.  An audience member during the talk asked Griffiths, What does he mean by the title of the book "The Myth of the Airborne Warrior". And Griffiths replied saying that the myth is that you go to fight and die honourably for your country when the reality is much more blurred and unrealistic to what is commonly heard about being a soldier. I looked more on his site and some of the images of soldiers affected by war are truely heartbreaking and show a darker side to just fighting for your country and taking all the physical, emotional and phsycological damage that comes with it. 

References:

Griffiths, S. (n/a). Portfolio. Available: http://www.stuartgriffiths.net/. Last accessed 24th Oct 2011. 
Griffiths, S (2011). The Myth of the Airborne Warrior. Brighton: Photoworks. p39-52.


Half Way Point

So, last Sunday was the official half way point of the Ways of Looking festival which I have been the official photographer for. Its been a bit of a whirlwind. From actually growing a pair and getting myself out there, to meeting the artists and photographers and asking them their ambitions and inspirations to having my work looked at criticised constructively and having it evaluated. I've just seen how many images I took over the course of two weeks, 8 shoots and it totals to 1,652 images. Even I am surprised I didn't think it was quite that many but I am so happy that I managed to develop the confidence to take this many images of an audience that I have had no real experience with. I will be talking more about the festival in future blogs but wanted to give an update and write down some thoughts of so far. For images of the festival go to :http://www.flickr.com/photos/waysoflooking/. And to my website: hayleysargent.co.uk

Looking Back

The new academic year begins, second year of uni starts and I already am immersed with the module 'Collaborations', basically a work experience until Christmas with an organisation or company. At first I thought it wouldn't be a good module, thinking it was to early to start actual work being a photographer. I didn't feel ready to actually be responsible for representing a company and well putting all my skills to work as I still feel like I'm learning. I managed to set up my collaborations with a renowned gallery in Bradford and photograph the "Ways of Looking" festival which is still going on! The opening weekend which has just gone was amazing and all those fears of being in-experienced did surface but dwindled as I became involved. Artists such as Red Saunders, Daniel Meadows, Donovan Wylie, The Bradford grid, Jeremy Deller and many more were all there presenting their exhibitions throughout Bradford. The opportunity to meet these artists was a privilege as they are my inspiration. The "Ways of Looking" festival is a great chance for Bradford to finally build its reputation up as it has always be infamous and well renowned for crime and violence. I had a few incidents with the public who weren't happy with me taking photographs which initially hurt me greatly as I have never been exposed to this kind of environment but made me realise I need to grow a thicker skin as yeah three people came up to me and voiced their opinions but how many didn't. These kinds of events should be documented, this is the first festival of its kind in Bradford and it was a shame that these few individuals could not see the importance. But many did, the opening night was a brilliant success with hundreds coming to see the opening exhibitions and it made me feel proud and privileged to be a part of this event. One qualm I do have is that more young people should have gone including people from my university. I saw no one from my department there which made me sad and no one from the university even volunteered to help out except at the university itself which again is a great shame as these kinds of events don't happen that often. I guess this is the whole point of the festival, to get people interested, to make people feel yes I can be a part of this community. People often think that the arts is a separate entity that they can't involve themselves with but they can. Art is for everyone.

Blake Dean - Tuesday

Right, the trip did run from Monday to Friday so why u ask is she skipping to Tuesday? Well, what was meant to be an hour stroll on the Monday after we'd all unpacked, that didn't really require a camera as we weren't going to be out long enough, turned into a six hour voyage of discovery climbing over boulders, trekking up vertical hills, rain and gale force winds. So nothing tangible was recovered from that day but many memories remain.
Many photographs were taken from Tuesdays outing. Me and a couple of others went to the Gorple Reservoirs near Hebden Bridge. Weather was cold, rainy, windy, cloudy so really perfect for photographers. Sarcasm aside I actually produced images that were eerie with the cloud sometimes being lower than us setting into the land. And sometimes the rain drops that landed on the lens would create a misty layer that created a ghostly old feeling.



Blake Dean - Prologue

Seems like forever now but I'm just getting round to sorting out my photographs taken on a photography end of year trip to the lovely Blake Dean. I remember being somewhat apprehensive prior to the trip as I am not a fitness fanatic so the idea of walking around the Yorkshire moors all day for five days was not appealing. But, it opened my eyes to landscape as I had never really ventured out properly and taken my own images representing the outdoor environment. The trip entailed visiting several reservoirs and local tourist hotspots in the wilderness and the experience completely changed my views on landscape and me as a photographer. Also, it gave me and my group to really get to know each other properly as we lived in a cabin together throughout the trip. Spending all your time solid around people who have similar if not the same ambitions and outlook as you is very refreshing. We all bounced ideas of each other and helped each other throughout the trip. There was the threat that because most of us were out in the same area at the same time that we would get identical images. But this is not the case, we are each very individual and took stunning photographs in our own right. The next few blogs will be of what I took on the Blake Dean trip.

Critical Evaluation


Critical Evaluation Of Own Media Product

Introduction
I have always been consumed with interest about the body and mind, especially when it concerns the senses. I have previously investigated the relationship between the brain and the ear and interpreted the connection through photography and animation. Looking at how we as humans have developed a way of being able to cope with so many different interactions within our environment flawlessly. With a new project beginning I felt it was a perfect opportunity to look into another key sense that has always interested me, sight. I wanted to look at how we see and how our brains cope with the endless amount of information almost unnoticeably and portray it into a media product.

The Idea
After reading John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” and watching the accompanying series where Vertov said, “I’m an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world only I can see it” (The ways of seeing, 2008). Dziga Vertov, a film director, talks about the film camera, how it is a portal of vision and acts methodically, like a hunter on its subject. The camera shows what is there in a way only it sees it. I wrote a couple of blogs about John Berger and Vertov who featured in his series and I realised how in my media product I wanted the camera to have an actor’s or leading role, more of a purpose and sense of place and awareness in the scene. The camera is personified; it has taken on human like qualities and interacts with the viewer. The camera lens has often been compared to an eye and in my final piece I wanted it to be the “preying eye” dominant of the situation, leading it, being the most important element at first. I also knew I wanted to create an animation using photographs to portray my idea.

Eye and Brain
Our brains control every aspect of bodies including movement, emotion, sensation, experience and thought. It is the one part of our body scientists and doctors do not fully understand, as there are areas untouchable whilst alive otherwise it would cause damage the brain as Gregory states “the brain has been described as the only lump of matter we know from the inside” (1966:p60). It is quite beautiful that there is still a part of us that is still ours and secret from exploration especially being our brain as it is our mind. When you think of your own brain you don’t imagine the material and structure of it. You see in pictures, colours, words, sound it’s like thousands of films from everything you’ve dreamt and seen in your life. It is a well-built machine programmed to receive, interpret and understand so many different types of information simultaneously. Gregory discusses how the brain and its complicated collection of nerve cells are like a machine “Like a computer the brain accepts information, and makes decisions according to the available information” (1966:p64). Yet again our bodies are compared to that of machines. So many of our technology today has been built out of the basic foundations of our bodies, artificial intelligence to make unemotional versions of humans. In relation to my media product, it made me think of the electrical pulses that shoot and connect within our brains because of stimulation caused by light changes. Sight is so important and vital and often taken for granted as Slacks describes “we are not given the world: we make our world trough incessant experience, categorization, memory, reconnection” (2002:p10). We grow up, adapt and become accustomed to the environment we live in. But when we are challenged with something new and unknown we become confused and frustrated. Brains are puzzle solvers and must decipher anything it doesn’t comprehend. This is what I wanted to portray. This sense of curiosity and requirement for understanding is what influences and spurs my work on. As Furniss has said “an artist in some respects depicts himself or herself within a work” (2007:p165). I completely agree, especially with the kind of photography I participate in, stop motion. I set up the scene; I control the camera, light the subject, and animate all the pieces together for hours. In a blog I wrote about Muybridge “At this time and even today it was revolutionary to be able to use this technique to actually change the way we see the world” (2011). It was Muybridge that really spurred on the interest to turn my love for photography into something moving, something more than just a photograph, something real. Of course I will be portrayed in my work, as the piece I create is a tangible thought process that I have had. It is something I have wondered about, researched, planned and developed into something so that people can see what happens in my head. It is a piece of footage of my mind.


Meaning
In the beginning of the video, the figure wakes up, blinks and becomes aware of the camera. He is hesitant but also inquisitive; people are constantly learning and investigating. As he draws closer to the camera, which represents the eyes, he absorbs flashes of light. The viewer becomes aware that something inside his mind is happening, shown below in the images that were used to create the sequence.







Eye to Brain (2011)


























People are wary not only of the camera, but situations they are not in control of. Using slow shutter speeds, a torch and a very still model I created something that wasn’t there. If the shutter on the camera were left open you would see the room he was in. I wanted the darkness and blackness to keep the viewer absolutely fixed on him. He is the subject. He is the signifier, and what is signified is that he is the brain; he is a portrayal of himself in his own mind looking through his eyes (the camera) into the world outside. The brain is a never-ending vacuum searching for information and the emptiness around him signifies this endless limit of space. He is unsure of his surroundings when he is stimulated by the world outside and investigates like creatures do. The sphere of light is his brain, as shown below, a cell absorbing thoughts, feelings and senses. We follow one thought and its path to its destination.
I wanted it to look surreal. As we have no actual footage of the brain’s electrical pulses I felt I had a free rein. There are thousands of charts and readings proving brain activity and the impulses themselves but people can only relate to what they know to make sense of something unimaginable. Evidently I have the luxury of being as imaginative as I want to re-create what it may be like inside. There is an irony to writing and thinking about the electrical pulses in your own brain. Because as you do it, your brain has sent thousands of impulses of thinking about these pulses trying to comprehend what it would be like as shown below.


Eye to Brain (2011)

Bordwell has talked about when a spectator looks at a film and tries to make some kind of sense of it there are four different types of people that try and interpret it. The first one interested me the most “the spectator draws not only on knowledge of filmic and extra filmic conventions but also conceptions of causality, space, and time and on concrete items of information” (1989:p8). He talks of films but it relates to looking at any artwork. A person will try and search for any established knowledge they have to relate and connect to the work they see before them. Art is subjective and interpretive to an individual person and each person will see something different. This is true not only to art but life in general. Each person will look at a situation, and comprehend it in there own unique way. Their brains may keep it catalogued as memory whilst others forget, as it isn’t as important to them.
When the figure draws in light I wanted it firstly to signify the inspiration of art and photography. Having looked through the lens and coming away having felt apart of it, using its lens as your own and seeing the world as an eye. I secondly wanted it to signify memory. The signifier is the camera which documents life, be it a real or fake situation, it still documents a specific piece of time. The links aren’t obvious as they are created through convention so it is iconic. As he, the brain, has acknowledged the outside world and comprehended it through the eyes, he draws a camera and takes a photograph of the environment as part of the record of events that happened through his life as shown below.


Eye to Brain (2011)

I didn’t want to make what he actually looks at through the camera important, because that’s not what this piece is about. It’s not about what he is looking at but what happens once his eyes have acknowledged the situation and sent the signals back to him to comprehend so he can deal with it. He starts unhappy; because as humans we are uncomfortable with situations we don’t understand. But by the end he understands and smiles, happy with the surroundings and documents it with a memory.

Conclusion
In this piece I wanted to show the connection between the eyes and brain, between sight and thought. I wanted to show the importance of the connection of sight and memory with the camera. Its how I look at life, how I want to document it. I want a career in taking photographs, which are memories and when I try to comprehend a subject and demonstrate it I do it visually and through the camera and increasingly more through stop motion animation. I really enjoyed this project, writing the blogs really helped me organise my thoughts and make them more comprehendible. The final piece was a 1minute 18 second video consisting of 197 photographs animated together. I feel I achieved everything I wanted to and it has spurred me onto continue this subject in future projects.
References
Bordwell, D (1989). Making Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p8.

Furniss, M (2007). Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics. 2nd Ed. Eastleigh: John Libbey Publishing. p165.

Gregory, R (1966). Eye and Brain: The psychology of seeing. Milan: Librex. p60.

Gregory, R (1966). Eye and Brain: The psychology of seeing. Milan: Librex. p64.

hsargent2011, (2011). Eye to Brain [Video Online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFU8_ANVqzc&feature=player_embedded [Accessed 14 April 2011]

Manwithaplan999, 2008.The ways of seeing [video online] Available at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnfB-pUm3eI&feature=player_embedded>[Accessed 14 April 2011]

Sargent, H, (2011). Visual Diary: I’m an Eye [blog] http://hayley-visual-diary.blogspot.com/2011/02/im-eye.html [accessed 14 April 2011]

Weber, J (2002). The Judgement of the eye. 3rd ed. Bonen: Springer-Verlag/Wien. P10.


Bibliography
Arnheim, R (1974). Art and visual perception: A psychology of the creative eye. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Bronfen, E. Felix, Z. and Schwender, M (1995). Cindy Sherman. Munchen: Schirmer Art Books.

Carroll, J (1980). Toward a structural psychology of cinema. 2nd Ed. The Hague: Motion Publishers.

Chion, M (1994). Audio vision: Sound on screen. New York: Columbia University Press.

Muybridge, E (1955). The human figure in motion. 2nd Ed. Mineola: Dover Publications, inc.

Scholes, R (1982). Semiotics and Interpretation. Binghampton: The Vail-Ballow Press.

Szarkowski, J (2007). The Photographer's eye. 3rd Ed. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.

Final Media Product

 
For larger version click on video to take you to YouTube

"Eye to Brain"  is my final media product for visual communication. It is a stop motion animation using photographs to portray the relationship between the eye and the brain. This 1 minute 18 second animation consists of 197 photographs and was made using slow shutter speeds in a light-less room using only a wind up torch to illuminate the figure's face and create the light spears and orbs. The figure represents the mind, he is himself in his mind, the camera is his eyes. He becomes uncertain of the camera in front of him, his eyes that have shown him something on the outside that the isn't familiar with. He looks through his eyes and the electrical pulses inside his brain that travels to his cells, he comprehends the new environment that is front of him. He then takes a photograph which represents a memory. The music used is "Philosophy of Time Travel" by Michael Andrews. The music is calming and slow and surreal which I felt really fits in with the feeling if the sequence. I am really happy with the result of this project and I feel that I have started a concept I want to use in future projects.

Eye to Brain - The Shoot

I did this shoot last Saturday and it went really well. A few things were changed like in the sequence I don't circulate around him, it just starts with the figure sat in the center blinking and becoming uncertain of the camera. As said before I used slow shutter speeds of 8-10 seconds and as the shutter was open I would run up to the figure and move the torch around his face. An image from the sequence is shown below.

The effect of the torch on his face is beautiful, water-like and peaceful. In this particular shot he does look very calm, it is before he opens his eyes and sees the camera. He is so unnerved because he wasn't aware of its presence.

" I'm an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it."

Dziga Vertov, 1923

The camera is perception, it is vision, it is subjective to each individual and in this sequence it represents the eye. I am the eye, he is the brain and the mind in which I, the doorway to his mind ,will let him see what is there. I can only show him what is known and it is up to him, the brain, to understand it and interpret in his way unique to him and do what he will with the information I give him. He is unsure and inquisitive of the eye and its information as it is new to him.  The figure is inside his own mind, the eye shows him information and an environment on the outside that he doesn't understand, he walks up to it looks through his eyes (the camera) and the sequence goes to the electrical pulses between him and his eyes which are feeding him the data. He opens them now adapting to his surroundings and takes a photo representing a memory being established. Photography documents what is there, or what is wanted to be shown, in this sequence it represents memory and how he has put the new information learnt into a memory trace. Its about understanding and the connection between the eyes sending messages to the brain to learn new information or even establish old information. He is a little man inside his own head representing the mind. Overall, I really enjoyed exploring the relationship between the eye and the brain and interpreting it through a stop motion animation using photographs.

Inspiration in the End

As said before in the previous blog I am somewhat unsure what I want the figure to draw with light. When I say drawing with light I mean having the camera on a slow shutter speed and using a torch slowly move it in a certain direction capturing its path. I decided to draw a mind map to help get the creative juices flowing.


On the mind map are ideas like drawing a camera, a canvas, himself, the sphere. At this moment I am more inclined towards either the sphere as it could represent how he has understand his thoughts and draws out what is in his mind. Or the camera, since it is the camera that first made him unsure as he was preyed on the thought maybe be an understanding. The camera is a representation of vision, it is a basic eye and watches and documents memories. The thought could be this understanding of perception that he was uncertain of but now is content with. I feel once I actually start the shoot I will get a feel of what is right and suitable for the sequence.

Idea - Part 3

Now I need to figure out what happens after this thought has gone inside the cell/brain. Firstly I want to look at what this thought is perhaps. Since reading John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" it has inspired me too actually look at things in a new and different way and also how we look at things, literally. Because I am an artist I am very visual and interpret my ideas better through very visual mediums. So the thought that will feature will be something of an artistic nature and will be showed at the end of the sequence. The illustration below shows what I am talking about.


1. Eye closed.
2. Slams open after hit with thought.
3. Comes out slowly.
4. Smiles as he understands the camera being present.
5. Goes to draw something, picks up hand to draw.
6. ?

So as can be seen, we go from the sphere with the lights being sucked straight to a shot of his eye being closed. He opens, having only being a second perhaps but comes to realise what he has to do. In the first part of the sequence I want there to be a sense of uncertainty from the figure, the camera is this machine inspecting him and he questions its relevance. In the third part he becomes comfortable and smiles sitting back in ease and lifts his hand to draw something with light. I'm not sure what yet. But all what I want from this is this idea of their being this uncertainty of the environment he's in at the start and then their being an understanding in the end all from this one thought that has traveled through his mind and changed his perception of this prying eye.

Idea - Part 2

So, I decided in a previous blog how I wanted to enter the eye. And really those drawings are only a rough guide to myself how it will go, usually it changes when I actually come to the shoot as I have so many different strands of ideas running around. But I became stuck when I had to think about going inside the actual brain. I didn't want to be too scientific and make an actual brain and run around in it. And I didn't want to be too abstract. After reading "Eye and Brain" by Gregory it gave me a great foundation to work on. I wanted to represent the flashes of light pulsing through our brains. Traveling with it. So, when the figure gets close to the camera lens, something enters, an idea, an inspiration. This will be in the form of a light spread like practiced with before and we travel with this particular thought through its journey with the buzz of many other thoughts around it. The drawing below illustrates what I am talking about.


1. Darkness.
2. Flashes of light spheres.
3. Following the thought that entered the eye and brain.
4. Orb of light.
5. Other lights and light being followed into orb
6. Sucked in, represents thought conceived, idea generated.

For the actual brain or the cell that engulfs these electronic pulses which generate ideas, thoughts feelings, actions I want to create a sphere of light where all the surrounding lights swirl in. I want the darkness because the brain is this mysterious unknown place that is undiscovered and like a universe never ending really as it is ever learning and ever adapting taking in information and interpreting it with past, present and future data.

The Eye and Visual Perception

To further my research I looked at a book called "Art and visual perception" by Rudolf Arnheim. After the research on how the brain and eye literally are linked I wanted to look at a more psychological and perhaps philosophical view and interpretation of their relationship. I looked at the chapter on movement. It speaks about motion, how the eye interprets motion as being a recognition of change in surroundings and environment and that it requires reaction, "And since the sense of vision has developed as an instrument of survival it is keyed to its task". It talks about the way we instinctively know there is a change in our sight because it is almost tribal, a hunters skill. To survive all your senses need to be sharpened as it is the fittest who succeed. I agree and disagree with this. My grandad was blind and what he lacked in sight he gained in instinct using his hearing and touch. He knew if you were near him and if you were hunting through the fridge as quiet as you can he'd know and bollock you to shut the door. All the senses are related and they grow stronger if one has failed. After writing this it has made me think about what blind people see. I had a discussion with someone about this whether it would be better to be born blind or to go blind when your older and you have at least experienced some of the world. My grandad was born with perfect vision and as he grew older it depleted stating off with glasses and eventually losing his driving license as it got that bad. Eventually he lost his sight completely and grew angry and distressed for years about it, so I have been told. But by the time I came around I never saw him as being less able than anyone else. He could still cook, light is cigarette with a match, feel our faces and heads to know our height and which one we were. And like I said he almost became a super person as he instinctively knew where you were, what you were doing, if you should or shouldn't be doing it. He at least saw the world before his sight went, saw colours, nature, his family, some of his grandchildren. But someone born blind would never know, there are developing experiments to send these messages to the brain. But maybe you can't miss what you never had. My grandad grew angry because he had been given sight until his mid 30's and then it was taken away. Its hard to say which is crueler as I haven't personally experienced any sight problems, but it makes you appreciate what you have.
After reading more from this chapter there was a section that I really liked:

"The percepts and feelings, not only of yesterday but of a second ago, are gone. They survive only to the extent that within us they have left remnants, i.e. memory traces..."

 It really stuck in my mind and made sense to me. When we see we forget what we have just seen, it is past, but it is there subconsciously contributing to what you are seeing now and what you are about to see. It sounds confusing but it makes sense, and it only makes the mind and brain seem more brilliant as it processes all this information and turns it into understanding and a functioning coherency of what is happening in the world around us. 

"Whatever the nature of these traces in the brain, they certainly persist in spatial simultaneity, influence one another and are modified by new arrivals"

All these traces wok together simultaneously and are ever changing by new information developing the situation and environment. And everything that you once thought changes continuously and is adapted by the new arrivals. "in the brain everything has an address, but no date" everything in their is like a bank of films and photographs, traces of your life and others lives, everything that you have looked at, touched, eaten, smelt lives in there in a big catalogue which you can access to a degree and it constantly changes how you perceive the world and usually without you even realising it.

Research: The Eye and the Brain

As I want to explore the relationship between the eye and the brain I thought it best to further what I already understand with some reading. From Biology lessons I always remembered how the brain is basically a great matter of electronic pulses sending messages to the correct areas of the brain directing our actions, emotions, senses. After reading parts of the book "Eye and Brain the psychology of seeing" by R. L Gregory,  I began to understand more in depth about their relationship. From what I read the brain is a system of nerve cells consisting of cell bodies each having an axon. An axon is a "long slender projection of a nerve cell" an it basically is what conducts electrical pulses from the cell. This obviously interested me as it is provoked memories from biology and started making a rough picture in my own mind of what happens inside my brain. I found it ironic as I was reading about a brain and how it conducts electrical pulses to send messages, how my brain would be sending information about itself, making me understand more, how I was reading information that made me understand how I work as a machine.
As I read on and found out more about the electrical pulses it made me think of different ways I could produce this in a piece. Using light in darkness, light drawing on slow shutter speeds and dragging the light across the frame of the image to show a lightning bolt of thought. These electrical pulses are created when the eye sees something stimulating and there is an "alteration in the ion permeability of the cell membrane". So, in layman's terms before we see something that stimulates the eye for example a flash of light the center of the fibre of the cell in your brain is negative, after we see a light flash it turns positive initiating a flow of current which continues down the nerve. I read that this pulse is slower than electricity, which is interesting as when I was told about the impulses at school the first thing you do is relate it to something you already know, electricity. We cannot see these impulses or touch them so you are left to your imagination to break down what it would be like in your brain. Something that interested me and helped me in deciphering the relationship between the brain and the eye is this statement in the book:

"The Brain has been described as the only lump of matter we know from the inside"

It interested me because its like trying to work out a puzzle without ever seeing what you are trying to solve. With the brain, neurosurgeons are only allowed to access and touch specific parts of a live brain otherwise it would cause damage to that person. I found it quite beautiful that we aren't allowed access to certain places of the brain and mind, its curious and inspiring to investigate it further as you aren't allowed to see it all when it is still active. It interested me because in my piece I will be demonstrating what it would be like inside the brain, but in art there is a free rein as to how I interpret it as it is exactly that, an interpretation. And no-one knows precisely what it looks like when a brain is active and stimulated. There are endless charts and readings that can tell you the amount of current flowing and activity within a cell or group of cells in the brain but no footage or visual evidence of the scene itself. Again, it makes the subject more curious as it could be anything. To further my research I will look at perception and the way the eye perceives events and interprets them in the brain.
I was so inspired by the idea of electrical light pulsing through brains I experimented with a torch and a dark room, slow shutter speeds with my SLR digital camera and a tripod.  Below are some of the results.



I have used this kind of technique before in previous work and I really like the outcome. Its surreal, and unusual almost dream-like. I can imagine when a few are manipulated together it being quite slow and calming because of the blackness behind. To carry on the project I will do more research and try my ideas out through photography to get a better understanding of what I want.

Signs within an image

After reading excerpts from Roland Barthes "Rhetoric of the Image" I have become more interested in the semiotics of images, the signs within them to signify a meaning. In his book he looks at advertising, images that are purely created to have meaning and connote a message and he talks about the stereotypes of countries and how people subconsciously match up the relationship between the objects and the meaning. I want to look at a separate image and breakdown the meaning and message behind it. I am going to look at a television advert for hovis bread where a little boy goes out to get a loaf of bread for his mum and runs back to get home and takes a journey through Britain's history from Victorian times to present.









Firstly its undeniable that this advert makes you feel good after watching it. Being British, its easy to relate the the scenes shown even though I didn't experience a lot of them as it is taught thoroughly throughout history lessons. The titanic, women's rights, the World Wars, the mining strike. You begin watching the advert with facts and also devastation and it reminds you of when your parents tell you about these events. My Grandad was in World War 2 although he doesn't talk much about it as it upsets him too much, but I have still heard stories from him and other people that served in the war. I have heard many stories about the mining strikes from my parents as they lived through it in the 80's and just with these simple sequences in the film people immediately understand the meaning. Bread is a compulsory product in a household usually and represents this whole heartiness and warmth and family togetherness. All these events have brought us to where we are today. The little boy changes clothes according the era and fashion but he stays the same. This could be a message about how people stay the same but the environment changes. And in correlation to the advertisement its how hovis has stayed with the people throughout the ages and the "tough times" only the environment changes. Its touching and memorable and ends with a glorious firework display signifying the millennium and celebration of a new millennium. The boy smiles quirkily as he gets in understanding his journey and being pleased with himself. Its a successful advert as it is humble and underlies the message of buying a product that has been with us since 1886 and has been present for over a century.

Putting Pen to Paper

To get me started on the planning for the animation I firstly did a mind map thinking about the idea and what sparked off from it.


And then I started drawing a storyboard roughly figuring out what kinds of shots I want. Bearing in mind that each shot I take will be on a very slow shutter speed and there will be several taken for each one slowly edging towards the next part of the scene to get a gradual build up. Here are a few scans of the drawings.





The images aren't great as they are scanned but it gives a rough idea of what I want. These drawings show how I want to have a male figure sitting, opening his eyes and seeing me, the camera and following where I move. After reading in John Berger's The Ways of Seeing the quote from Dziga Vertov I'm an eye, I found this concept of the camera being the moving interacting machine that captures the world and demonstrates it, creeping under and catching you by surprise very inspiring. Its the way I feel about photography. Its this ever expanding medium that shows the truth but also can create a false sense of reality. It is a moving painting but a still film, it is a moment in time captured and held onto forever even if it is destroyed a piece of time is captured. This idea I find glorious and I feel it has been the foundation of the final major project. The camera being this knowledgeable eye that transports you to another place. With this piece it will be surreal and perhaps even false but it stands for an idea that is factual and true. I will have the camera creep into the eye but I am not yet sure what the inside of the mind will look like, how I will interpret it but I will draw more ideas and display them. 


Idea

I had initially struggled to think of what to create for my final media product. Actually, I knew in what way I wanted to create but not the subject. I know I want to create an animation using photographs, stop motion photography. And I knew I wanted to create it in the same lighting conditions as Floating Motion shown in an earlier blog. Which is dark if not no light using only a torch to illuminate the subject. I really like the darkness and the slow shutter speeds used. Its difficult and time consuming but also beautiful and I get to create something that isn't there. After thinking about how to relate it to the books we have been set I thought about which one I had taken to the most which was John Berger's The way of Seeing. I've always had the fascination with the senses and the relationships between them. I had previously done an animation again using photographs looking at the relationship between speech and the brain. How our minds subconsciously take in hearing and dissect the information and select what is necessary. So, for visual communication I want to investigate the relationship between sight and the mind. Our brains our intensely packed with information and are handling, processing and understanding what has been presented. As humans we question everything we see or think about and usually handle it flawlessly.  As I sit here writing this blog I am also listening to music and am able to hear other people around me, not listening to them but I here them and zone them out. With sight, and investigating sight we see and interpret like a camera but more sophisticated. Our sight is fixed, we read the world like its stopped, colours enter into the brain and most our vision predicts the colours to the side of our eyes rather than knowing for sure. We are like a pin hole camera seeing the world upside down but our brain flips it back to the "right" way. With a camera you can keep the shutter open and engulf all the glorious colours of the world and watch them appear on paper.I find it so interesting how mechanical yet creative our bodies work and I want to find a way to interpret that into a final major piece.

Writer Relevance

I recently read a piece from the book by Walter Benjamin "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and there was a certain part of it that I found interesting. He talks about how the reader has become more and more confident and able to share their opinion. This is taken from the book:


 "At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer. As expert,
which he had to become willy-nilly in an extremely specialized work process, even if only
in some minor respect, the reader gains access to authorship."

He discusses how because of the media and press have grown significantly sharing and expressing views and opinions of the world, and how people's opinions have been encouraged to be brought forward about these issues to be presented in newspapers. Does it make an educated professional opinion less valid or as valid as someone who's opinion isn't educated? I found it difficult because I do believe in freedom of speech and feel that the availability to people to demonstrate their opinion is liberating. But, especially now and with the technological developments of the internet and social networking where people's opinions are welcomed, it can become a problem. Some people get a kind of power craze once given a facebook account and a keyboard and go crazy with their opinions usually socially but sometimes about political, religious views and so on. They join "groups" for these views trying to make them seem more unique and more interesting than others. Because its in this detached environment where you aren't discussing your views with an actual human being it can be translated and seen badly and also be unnecessary. For example, I had a friend who joined the facebook group for the British National Party. I as well as others were really quite offended by this because of everything that the BNP stood for and the fact she would join seemed out of character and shocking. On one hand she is completely entitled to her opinion as does everyone and she can choose whatever political group she wishes. On the other hand I felt like she was boasting about this and didn't consider other people's feelings and how it would affect them. I know this has gone of my original beginnings but what Walter said sparked off this memory and linked with today's society of ambushing each other with opinions that can be out of context and unconsidered. We are in an age where everyone and anyone can voice their opinions but sometimes at what cost? And do some of these people have the knowledge and understanding to be able to make these thoughts known? Do I know enough about what I am writing about to be saying its wrong? Maybe not, but when I write about something I am always considerate and careful not to preach my opinions but merely present them. Until next time...

Ways of Seeing

I recently watched the first episode of "Ways of Seeing" presented by John Berger which was made and shown at the same time the book was released in 1972. He discusses the assumptions people make when looking at a painting as it has changed radically over the years since the ability to reproduce the paintings has come about, via the camera. Before the camera and the mass reproductions of paintings there was you and the painting in a room, that's it. And then came along the camera which gave people the accessibility to look at paintings. John Berger discusses that because something is lost between the viewer and being able to see the original. When looking at a painting you feel its presence, its sense of history and place, a time unknown by many as it has longed since past but it brought back into your time. And in museums these painting are situated to make you look and become personal with the original, its context is within the museum. What I found interesting in the programme was this sense of place and context. Berger demonstrated how if a painting is placed in a church it holds a completely different feel if its hung on a bedroom wall. If you do have reproductions, it becomes part of the environment and its meaning therefore adapts radically. Appearances of paintings could travel across the world and you weren't the only one looking and interpreting them. When you look at a painting in a museum Berger describes the "uninterrupted silence" that is created which is soundless. I feel this too, recently I visited Paris and went to museums such as The Louvre, Orangerie Museum, Musee D'Orsay and one artist who is mentioned in the episode Vincent Van Gogh after seeing his work in "real life" at the Musee D'Orsay changed my whole view on him. In reproductions you get this tiny little JPEG on your screen that you print and stick in your book and write about and you don't get the chance to experience what the painter is saying. How they've painted. Why have they used these techniques? What are they trying to say? One painting I saw really changed my perception of Van Gogh.

The Siesta by Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Before I saw this Painting, I had studied works of Van Gogh before and hadn't really appreciated them fully. When I came to the section dedicated to his work I became lost in his work, everything surrounding me faded as me and this painting connected and I was seeing a production made by this man over a hundred years ago. There's nothing quite like seeing a painting and then seeing a replica of it, even looking at the image above gives you no where near the same feeling as what you get from almost being able to touch it. Context and this sense of place manipulates the meaning and makes it into something else. As you walk around this darkly lit room seeing his work you really got a sense of his life and the sadness that he unfortunately had to endure. When I came back I became so inspired by him and studied further and to me having that effect on a person is what an artist works for. All he ever wanted was acceptance and all he ever got was rejection. He was alienated and now there have been suggestions that his characteristics were something similar to someone suffering with Bipolar disorder but back then the understanding of these difficulties were not around. 
One last thing I liked about the episode was Berger's encouragement of being sceptical. Even about what he was saying.
"I Hope you consider what I have arranged, but be sceptical"

It is so refreshing to hear an artist and art critic say those sweet words! Art is subjective. Yet there is this massive pressure to please and understand and be right. Who knows what the real meaning of any work is unless the artist has actually written it down? Art is an interpretation of how the artist perceives the world and its issues. Its frustrating especially as you go through the education system having studied Art and Photography at A level, a foundation in art and design and now a degree how some teachers, not all, say your work is your own unique creation that must be thought out properly but its an interpretation, and then mark you down because you haven;t interpreted it "right". I get it, if the system was run like that everyone would be leaving with A's and I must have done something right as I did leave with an A and distinction but there is a hint of hypocrisy about art and art critics that say it is your interpretation, well who are you to tell me my work is wrong? I made it for me not for you, you are just here to sooth my ego and give me money or destroy my reputation and take it away. Throughout the blogs I keep coming across all the hardships that being an artist I have and will have to endure. Does it stop me? Never.
Overall, I feel I have related to significantly to what Berger has said and will watch further episodes to learn more. One interesting thing is the time it was presented in the early 1970's and yet how much it has become relevant to our time if not more so now with the rapid development of technology.Until next time...

Deadly Art

I recently watched a documentary about the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Honestly,  I didn't know much about him. When his life ended February 2010 I knew who he was but never really researched much into his work.  As I watch this documentary and see his image he is the complete opposite of what I expected. He was so average looking, when you think of fashion designers you imagine scrawny odd balls with quirky outfits and head pieces but at the start of his career it was baggy jeans and t-shirts. The documentary shows his career and his influences. The major muse being fashion stylist Isabella Blow. When I saw Blow I instantly thought of Lady Gaga and how much they reminded me of each other.






At the top, Isabella Blow, at the bottom, Lady Gaga. The documentary was about the success of McQueen's career, but also the dramatic downfall of it. McQueen produced collection after collection, took cocaine to keep awake at night and work and become more successful and rich which only made him more resentful to the system. Always struggling to be the best even better himself with each collection. Each collection was described more as an artistic demonstration rather than a range of clothes to sell which also put pressure on him as his employers Givenchy wanted clothes to sell. His close relationship with Blow had effected him as she slowly deteriorated as her own career struggled to regenerate an reinvent itself and as she slipped into a deep depression. She began almost monthly trying to take her own life. This  made their relationship conflicted as she was his inspiration, she had discovered him and bought his graduation collection catapulting him into the industry. When Blow committed suicide in May 2007, McQueen and other designers felt a knock-on effect. In 2010,  nine days after his mother who he was very close to had died of cancer, he hung himself inside his wardrobe and left a suicide note inside a book. Previous years he had taken overdoses and harmed himself and the point of this blog is that it scared me into seeing the relationship and trend beginning. When I saw Blow, like I said before I instantly thought of Gaga. The dress she is wearing was worn in memory of McQueen and performed a song in his memory at the Brit awards in 2010 which I remember watching and remember being moved and yet disturbed by her performance. After watching this documentary and examples of his shows I can see an obvious connection. Many of his shows were exploiting women rather than trying to make them look beautiful. And the way musicians like Gaga almost discriminate women but also let their sense of womanhood flourish. She is an ugly beauty Lady Gaga, without the make up and rags and props she is beautiful but makes herself hideous. Blow, especially during her depression would wear these headdresses that shielded her away from the world, protecting herself from the harsh criticism she had to endure. But are they asking for it? Artists crave attention especially fashion designers like peacocks flourishing their feathers demonstrating the prowess and then shy away and resent it almost. How dare you look and judge me but please tell me that you like it.

The pressure of the fashion industry and many other art industries are fierce and fickle. One minute your someone's tea bitch the next you're working for Gucci and one mistake and you're disregarded and forgotten. Yesterday's news.  How many times has this story been heard of artists and dramatic ends difficult lives always striving and struggling to be better addicted to everything and addicted to success? 

As I carry out my degree part of me is here to explore every avenue and discover new possibilities of my craft. Another, thinks about the future and the dangerous competition I will face and the massive possibility I will never become everything I want to be. And after looking at some at these people it does make you open your eyes and see this world that is created for artists. This constrictive and ever changing world that actually has little freedom and often you are coaxed out of your dream to make money. I can safely say and perhaps naively that I will never become a sell out to my art but I can't be sure at this stage where I will end up. Fashion isn't where I am looking to go right now but its a craft I admire and respect but also perhaps shield away from as well because of its infamous reputation. Who knows what will happen. Watch this space...

I'm an eye

I checked out a book a couple of weeks ago and it has sparked my interest. It is part of the reading list for this module and I've found it can be related to a lot of the ways I think about the world. "The ways of seeing" by John Berger. The book is about the way we look at art and the relationship that is created between a viewer and the art. It is also about the conventions of the way we look at art, the assumptions that we have made and the formula that has been created in order for you to realise and appreciate art. Well, that's what I got from it. There are several passages that I have found interesting but one I re-read today and realised I had read it before in another article in the "British journal of photography annual 1975".

" I'm an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I'm in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse's mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations."

                                                                                                                                      Dziga Vertov, 1923

He talks about the camera and being a film director he will be talking about the film camera. But I really like this statement, it breaks down what a photographer with a camera is. We are explorers, demonstrating the world in which we see it and how we interpret the world around us. We are voyeurs of the world and we gain pleasure from being immersed in it. We are in movement with it, not fighting against the current but flowing with it examining and documenting every step of the way. I have always said which many others do not agree with that photography and science go hand in hand. Photography is the bridge between art and science not just for the chemical reactions and light side but it helped people explore the world and create a tangible memory. Art and science have always fought but in my opinion photography filled in the gap and also helped skeptics become a part of the art world.  People are usually afraid and ignorant of something they do not understand. The godfather of film and animation Eadweard Muybridge helped build this bridge and it was all because of a bet. "The horse in motion" was a bet made by horse owner and governor of California Leland Stanford in 1872 that at least one of the horse's hooves stay on the ground at one point. So, Muybridge set up a series of camera with timers to take a series of shots demonstrating the way a horse runs.

And as the video shows, all four hooves do lift from the ground and shows the horse almost gliding through the air at one point in its run. Muybridge had made history and changed the way scientists thought the animal moved. At this time and even today it was revolutionary to be able to use this technique to actually change the way we see the world. Muybridge spent a lot of his career looking at the way the human body moved conducting a series of experiments involving people throwing objects, walking up and down stairs, watching the way the body moved and how it reacted with the world. Many artists including Francis bacon used his sequences to create paintings.

    
                      Paralytic Child walking on all fours (from Muybridge) 1961, Francis Bacon


Infantile paralysis; child walking on hands and feet, plate 539 from 'Animal Locomotion', 1887

As can be seen, Bacon has used the sequence of this child walking and transformed it into a painting. Bacon frequently used his sequences from the books "The human figure in motion" and "Animal Locomotion". I find it fascinating how this collaboration was used to understand the human body and also the deterioration of the body, something Bacon had also dealt with frequently in his work as well as mental deterioration. After seeing Muybridge's work a few years ago it inspired me to create my own animations using photographs which can be seen in "Floating Motion" on an earlier blog. I feel for my final media product for this module the outcome will become some kind of animation and/or a series of images/stills, but on what topic I am not certain of as of yet. Until next time...

Shell shock

I was thinking about the posts I wrote of recent this morning, in particular the Gohar Dashti entry. And I started thinking about war and a film I watched a while ago that unsettled me. "The Pianist" directed by Roman Polanski is an autobiography of a Polish Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman who struggles to survive in Warsaw, Poland during World War II. I'm not a great lover or war films but this one hit a nerve. One critical point in the film is when he and all of his family and many other Jewish people are being led to their unfortunate future, a friend who has turned and fights for the other side for survival rescues Szpilman. He lives but is distraught that he can't bring his family with him and the scene where he is trying to fight to get back to them is harrowing and distressing and very moving. He is alone. I can't imagine what I would do if I had to do that.

A scene from "The Pianist"

Throughout our childhoods we are taught continuously about the Wars and yet I am still shocked when I see films or documentaries or images like these. I wasn't even there and yet its as if it brings bad memories, a scar in my mind that has not yet healed. It is so unimaginable that these kinds of events happen that its almost unbelievable, I don't want to believe the cruelty. So imagine how someone who was there felt. My grandfather fought in the second World War in the Navy. And to this day he still won't talk about it. I've seen him get very emotional about it when me or my sister innocently have said what was it like. My father tells me that my grandfather had been to some of the concentration camps and freed some of the prisoners. Even writing about it I feel like I am betraying his wishes as it is so personal to him. He owns those memories and they are his. 
Both sides suffered of course, it wasn't so black and white. Below is an example though of the people fighting back.

Gestapo informer, Dessau,Germany, 1945
Both taken by Henri Cartier Bresson
In the first image, Cartier Bresson depicts the moment the tables turn on the Gestapo informer who would have previously been rounding up the Jewish community and sending them to concentration camps. Now that the war has ended the people have her in their hands. The informer's face against the woman that's holding on to her is painfully different. Her's is ashamed, disgusted, defeated where as the other woman is elated. The second image shows the people almost torturing her, throwing water and beating with sticks. Is this justice? I wasn't there so I can not say as to what the correct punishment would have been but I both understand and object to the treatment. If I had found the person that had sent my people to their death then I don't know what I would do. But this woman was caught up in a war and perhaps the only way she thought she could survive was for fighting for the other side. It does not excuse the actions and crimes committed. It's difficult trying not to offend each side because don't know how I would have reacted. All I know is that people today who saw the horrifying crimes committed can't speak about it, and my grandfather is a renowned storyteller but this is one he will not share. Until next time...

Godwin's Land

Today, I went to a tour around the Fay Godwin Exhibition at the Bradford Media Museum hosted by the curator of the show. I had already been a couple of months ago to see the pieces of work but this was an opportunity to be told more in-depth about Godwin, her work, her life and what else she had achieved throughout her life. The show was "Land Revisited" and it was the 25th anniversary of the the work "Land" which was shown in 1985 at the museum. The curator talked about how Fay had started her career which was on distressing circumstances, she had divorced from her husband and was left to bring up her family and at the same time she was diagnosed with cancer. And how she came into photography was to try and earn some money to keep her family a float. She firstly took pictures of authors for their books, a complete 180 degrees away from what she is now predominantly known for today. And she then became interested in the other areas of photography like landscape. Below are some images from the exhibition "Land".

Single Stone, 1979

Flooded Tree, 1981

Rotting Car, 1982

Her work celebrates the landscape and ranges from all across England to over the seas in Sicily. The curator explained that she had acquired a reputation for herself that some people would describe her as aggressive, particular and difficult to work with. But he disagreed and said what all this was, was passion. She loved what she did and if someone was slacking she wasn't afraid to let them know about it. Honesty is the best policy. When the curator was talking you could see the admiration he had for her and her work which was touching. He also talked about how Fay didn't want to bring people into the landscape because she wanted the images to be timeless. And they are, when you look at them you don't think ah yes that lake looks like a 1970's lake, there is no obvious context, they could be taken at any time and still be related to modern times which I admire. Also it was made clear that Landscape was not her only forte, she was a keen painter and drawer and worked in colour photography and in cities. She was also part of the Bradford fellow in photography 1987-88 and she used this chance to really explore other avenues. Now, this may seem odd but I try not to find out when artists have died because it changes my whole outlook on their work, some of my fellow classmates were a bit shocked when I didn't know she had passed on but its my philosophy so tough. And I thought Fay may have passed away but didn't want to check for sure, when he said she had in 2005 my heart sank because all I feel is sadness for her and her work because she is no longer here to carry on her work and share her ideas with the rest of the world. She is gone and her work is left behind as her mark on the land. And what a legacy she left behind. The tour was insightful, informative and very enjoyable and has helped me develop my understanding of landscape for my project in conventions of photography. Until next time...