Narrative – Project 2: Image and text – Research point

Research Point

Examples of relay in contemporary photographic practice include Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field (see interview in the Appendix to this course guide) where clashes of understanding or interpretation work together to create a perhaps incomplete but nonetheless enriching dialogue between artist and viewer.

Look these pieces up online. Investigate the rationale behind the pieces and see if you can find any critical responses to them. Write down your own responses in your learning log.

Take Care of Yourself – Sophie Calle

At face value, Sophie Calle appears to be an artist who is adept at turning emotional turmoil into art as a means to minimise any potential pain and suffering.  The rationale behind Take Care of Yourself appears is just that. Initially, it could be assumed that the body of work is a form of revenge, taken out on her ex boyfriend for dumping her by email. In actual fact, it’s an exploration and detailed investigation into the feminine response of 107 people (including a parrot!) into the email that ended “take care of yourself”. It’s very difficult to get a full view of the work online, with most search results returning interviews, book purchases or youtube video’s of her installations. The many interviews help to provide an insight into Calle’s rationale. The text that is used in conjunction with Calle’s images and video’s is a combination of extracts from the original email, or responses from the women that she invited to examine the work, many of whom were wordsmiths in one form or another, from Crossword compilers to Grammar experts, each chosen to provide their response based on their profession. Each piece of work is thought provoking, as it is the response of an individual. How many of these women have been scorned themselves? How much objectivity did they bring to their response in light of Calle’s request? Not much it would seem, but then I believe that this is the whole point, as the meaning of the work is dependant heavily on the subjectivity of the viewer and the artist.

Objects in the Field – Sophy Rickett

Although undoubtably a colourful character (see her body of work entitled ‘Pissing Women’), I found ‘Objects in the Field’ to be rather dull. Rickett’s work is a strange fusion of science and art. Without the inclusion of her written text (which can be found in the references below) and the audio soundtrack to the accompanying film ‘Afterword’, it would appear to solely be an archive of astrology images. The rationale behind the body of work was an Associateship at the Institute of Astronomy, coupled with an interest in some film negatives from a 3 Mirror Telescope, fuelled by an artistic/scientific relationship with the telescopes inventor, along with memories of childhood. The best critical response to Ricketts work can be found coming from the artist herself, in an interview with Sharon Boothroyd. Personally, I find it hard to connect with the work. The narrative is ambiguous and incomplete, as is the case with much contemporary work, but in this instance, I as the viewer have very little to bring to these images in order to conclude any relevant meaning. The use of Dr Willstrop to do the voice over creates a sense of joint authorship, but with his differing viewpoint on her work, it just adds to the sense of confusion in the narrative. From her interview, I gather that the confusion is intentional, and a part of the narrative, which I relate to the postmodern style, but it’s an essay that makes too little sense to me, no matter how hard I try to derive meaning. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still find the work interesting. I find the individual images interesting from an astrology point of view, and the details of a tenuous relationship between a scietist and artist, along with their differing viewpoints quite humorous.

• How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?

For starters, they defy convention. They are not linear, and do not contain a structured Beginning, Middle and End. Rather than photo ‘Stories’, they are ‘Essays’, which attempt to involve the viewer, inviting them to draw their own meaning from the combination of image, video, text and audio, all complimenting each other and working in Relay. Endings are open, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions. The postmodernist approach has been used to create the enriching dialogue between the artist and the viewer, provided the viewer has something to bring to the conversation.

• Another way to incorporate text into an image-based project is to include interviews or audio.

The New York Times has a simple but effective project online called One in 8 Million about the inhabitants of New York. It includes images of people from different walks of life and professions with audio clips overlaid to give a voice to the subject. It is a clever way of celebrating the richness and diversity of a city with such cultural and social diversity.

Some photographers use interviews and diaries to incorporate text with their images.

Have a look at these examples:

Kaylyn Deveney – The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings [accessed 24/02/14]

Karen Knorr – Gentlemen [accessed 24/02/14]

One in Eight Million is a fantastic project, and although it does not use text, the use of voice over really adds an element of depth to the narratives and project as a whole. It is quite an epic piece of work to get through, and I have barely scratched the surface with the few stories I’ve watched/listened to. It will take me some time to get through the rest.

I absolutely love Deveney’s work. The text in this set works to both anchor and relay meaning, enough to allow some interpretation by the viewer, but also enough for the artist and her subject to retain enough Authorship and tell their story. Deveney is a contemporary artist that I will definitely return to look at in the future.

Karen Knorr’s work is equally interesting yet is more ambiguous and open to interpretation. There is definite humour, and  a sense of probing inquisition in to the institutions of ‘mens clubs’. The chosen text, from speeches made in parliament or from political news are married to the images in order to challenge the possible narratives. As for Deveney’s work, I will no doubt re-visit Knorr for inspiration at a later date.

References: [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15] [accessed 16/04/15]      [accessed 16/04/15]


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