5. Rework

Becoming Subjects

brief – submission – blog – feedback – rework

 It was acknowledged in response to tutor feedback,

if I were a curator I would look to cut. What might be important to choose for some audiences or people would be very different depending on so many variables. And in this case, it is under the premise of learning not exhibiting

tutor feedback

that

I included all the available slideshows in the submission … If I had a location to display the piece I would show two stumps and the bush continually – to demonstrate their prominence – then perhaps two screens of selected compiled loops.

 feedback response

My priorities, as stated in my feedback response, would be, “the two shots of the stump and, to a lesser extent, the nearby bush … [t]he Stephen Lawrence memorial [and] Eltham Palace … I have long paired it [with] the Lawrence memorial as representing two extremes of Eltham history and society”. Links to these five slideshows are repeated below, together with the reflection and references.

Photo-facsimiles

1. 1950s TVs, original image by Ben van Meerendonk
2. John Lewis, Oxford Street, 2022
3. British Heart Foundation, Sidcup, 2022
© the artists, their agents or their estates
image sources: 1. dustyoldthing.com

Slideshows

The Stump I v.3, 14th August 2022
The Stump II v.2, 14th August
The Bush v.2 15th August
Eltham Palace v.5, 14th August
Stephen Lawrence memorial v.4, 14th August

Reflection

Regarding the title, the short version is Becoming Subjects. I jotted recently that “every lengthy project deserves a title and all good titles have some ambiguity”: the short form meets that requirement. The full title is The Stump and other objects / Becoming subjects and this reflects a concern stated when I first began the degree that I was not sure if what a camera is pointed at is a subject or an object. I resolved the matter to my own satisfaction at the end of Identity & Place, concluding that the item being photographed is technically an object and that the photographer’s attention transforms it into a subject.

The genesis of this project is explained in detail both in the introduction above and in the project blog, but in essence, I have a three year archive of photographs of a nearby tree stump and was looking forward to using it for Assignment 6 of this course. Finding that 6 had been dropped in a course rewrite, I adopted it for this self-directed assignment, noting that it met the criterion of “a body of work that explores a particular place, type of space or environmental theme” (Alexander et. al, 2019, p. 191). Other local objects were added to the project which fulfilled the old A6 requirement of “transitions within the landscape” and the unifying theme was plants. As noted in the introduction, I have photographed plant use and abuse for many years and this project also explores the passage and effects of time, another preoccupation of mine. The sound track reinforces the latter, an adaptation of John Cage’s ASLSP (as slow as possible), 1987 (currently being performed in a version intended to last for 639 years ending in 2640 at St. Burchardi Church, Halberstad, Germany (Macdonald, 2021)).

Presentation of the project to my tutor and for final assessment was always going to be an issue as it comprises three long (17, 18 and 12 minute) videos and six shorter ones. A lesson learned from my tutor on the previous course is that a presentation approach should always be considered as part of the project development and that it is permissible to envisage a solution beyond the scope of a 2-month assignment project. The student should then seek a compromise solution that is appropriate to the timescale and to the OCA’s technical submission limitations.
I envisaged a part-scale recreation of a 1950s television shop display, ideally with passers-by looking into the window and the assignment videos replacing whatever was on show at the time). For submission, I have substituted stills with this effect overlaid in a 1950s shop, John Lewis Oxford Street and the British Heart Foundation charity shop in Sidcup. If there had been a charity shop in Eltham (where all the subjects are located, see fig. C1), with a bank of televisions for sale then I would have tried to persuade (or sponsor) them to let me use the TVs for a few hours of simultaneous slide-shows, but there is no such shop. I will try to submit all the videos, but in case there are problems of size, I will also provide links to online copies.

I am not aware of any direct influences or parallels on the subject or approach of this project. Much of the Part 5 coursework deals with the use of photography in depicting and publicising ecological harm (Jordan, Epstein, Ouedraogo and, of course, Andy Hughes): I think it is important to illustrate how such harms are embedded in our daily lives and they will continue until far-reaching fundamental changes are made, both individually and as a society. I was particularly struck by Agnes Denes’ 1982 Wheatfield … project — I had not encountered it before and look forward to exploring it in more detail when I complete the Part 5 exercises.

On Learning Outcomes:

L01 visual and conceptual strategies – I have been running with the core subjects in this project for three years and will certainly continue to do so so long as I am living in Eltham †. The additional subjects integrate well with the theme and I think it likely that I will continue to photograph them all every month or so. Transmission of the project through slideshow videos is effective and the sound tracks enhance the effect. I regard the conceived display format as appropriate and look forward to comments.

L02 social, cultural and ethical considerations – the use and abuse of plants is a significant issue and this project, examining routine local examples, helps to illustrate the breadth of the problem. The Stephen Lawrence memorial is particularly poignant — his death in 1993, the subsequent police investigation (or lack of it) and the Macpherson enquiry constitute (or should have) this country’s George Floyd moment. It is appropriate that Lawrence’s life and death are remembered and commemorated, but flowers, the quaint and absurd traditional method of doing so, involves a global industry and distribution infrastructure devoted to unnatural plant growth and resulting in enormous energy usage. This was seen at its most remarkable on the death of Diana Windsor and is repeated daily at family funerals and roadside shrines. Although (subjectively ‡ ) less unpleasant than the associated greetings card racket, the cut flower industry is far more wasteful. (PetalRepublic, 2022; dontsendmeacard.com, 2022)

L03 exploring a range of ideas – I believe that I have presented an interesting, albeit localised, range of relevant and related subjects and that these have been delivered in a creative way. My suggestion for the final presentation format is unlikely to ever be realised, nevertheless, it is important to outline such details and a sensible compromise solution has been identified and implemented.

L04 research, managing time and resources – This is the largest and most complex assignment I have undertaken with the longest learning curve. My knowledge of three software packages — iMovie (for slideshows), Sibelius notation and GarageBand (for midi files) — has progressed from a state of complete ignorance to a status of enthusiastic beginner.

L05 autonomy, voice, and communication – interaction with fellow students continues in the monthly chat and some individual correspondences. There are some broader discussions coming up, organised by the Student Association, on distance learning.
I continue to volunteer at Courtaulds in an increasing range of roles.
Regarding voice, my view on the matter was described in previous reflections and has not changed: my understanding of the concept has deepened as the course has progressed.

† Direct intervention is also planned as there has been no recent sign of life at the stump. Starting next Spring, the site will be seed-bombed and the outcomes documented.

‡ The process of taking a flower, a thing of beauty, subjecting it to industrial farming, then killing it and shipping it urgently around the world so that someone else, in celebration, can watch it decay is absurd. The greetings card industry, based on a similar premise, is almost entirely pointless though less energy intensive. Apart from the provision of employment and the pursuit of profit, neither have utilitarian merit, although there is pleasure to be gained from the beauty of a flower.

LPE Assignment 5 References

Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Blackburn, N. (2019) The use and abuse of plants [online]. eyv.baphot.co.uk. Available from http://eyv.baphot.co.uk/?page_id=139 [Accessed 23 August 2022].

dontsendmeacard.com (2022) Infographic [online]. dontsendmeacard.com. Available from https://www.dontsendmeacard.com/docs/infographic.html [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Macdonald, K. (2021) A 639-year-long John Cage organ piece had a very rare chord change. And it was quite an event. [online]. classicfm.com. Available from https://www.classicfm.com/composers/cage/as-slow-as-possible-organ-chord-change/ [Accessed 26 August 2022].

Petal Republic (2022) Floristry and Floriculture Industry Statistics & Trends [online]. petalrepublic.com. Available from https://www.petalrepublic.com/floristry-and-floriculture-statistics/ [Accessed 27 August 2022].