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1




S, 2014



'If I must 'interpret' this image, I would say (for example) that the appearance of the figure rediscovers its mysterious virtue when it is accompanied by its reflection. In effect: a figure appearing does not evoke its own mystery except at the appearance of its appearance.'
Magritte

Magritte, The Imprudent One, 1927




Darren:
For a little background, though perhaps obvious enough, the Magritte image is what came immediately to mind with the initial image and it seemed to fit so well with the mirroring and pairing, the pears obviously adding a playful language component to that (the title even remembering that Stewart Lee gig we saw together!) The studio set up sort of recreates Magritte's surface and the background echoes both images, etc…..

Darren:
Do you mean you rephotographed the original image or that a new sky becomes like the act of photographing their sky again.



Implications (a recorded conversation), 2014


"Apprehending hiddenness requires moving away from the depth model of perception that promises to lift what is hidden into the open: instead, surface must be seen as a manifestation of hiddenness itself."

Extract from John Beck's essay 'Signs of the Sky, Signs of the Time' 2011


Stuart:
I essentially removed the two characters immediately and looked behind them at the landscape. I was thinking about how much that has changed and how the yosemite landscape has become an iconic picture of the natural environment. I was also pretty sure that Muir and Roosevelt were not talking about the sky in the same way as we understand it today. I feel that Steiglitz’s equivalents are more prominent than ever if we consider the abstract nature of the sky and clouds today. Photography remains in doubt and Steiglitz photographed a sky that was less troubled. So I essentially re-photographed the sky above their heads, in the original picture, with a big fat question mark implied by the line across my image.

Stuart:
I didn’t mean I re-photographed the sky in the original image, what i meant was conceptually speaking I photographed the same sky above them and the same sky that Steiglitz photographed but my photograph is different because the sky means something else to us today, it’s a very different sky theoretically but aesthetically it’s perhaps the same sky?







2




Two, 2014

Stuart:
Here it is. This time you get just an image, I have no references or additional texts.

Stuart:
This is great fun! I was so excited to see what you had responded with.

I didn't offer any text because I wasn't able to put any thoughts down into words and I wanted to get the process going. Perhaps the day after, as in now, I can offer some thought. In the first instance I was less drawn to the pairing of pears although that seems to be what I went for in my image but as it happens it was a co-incidence. I was thinking more abstractly about the mirror and how this is used as an idea about the photograph as both a surface and an illusion of space. I made my picture hoping that it could only render as a surface and that the context of a behind, or beyond would be left out therefore potentially squeezing the viewing space between one and the photographic surface hence denying the opportunity for the mirror to reflect back. I like images that fall dead in front of you, it limits the theatrical sense of space that a photograph can be imbued with.

And then again there are a lot of pairings in the image. My photograph is actually a photograph of a parallel circuit that powers up and controls the two fluorescent tubes. Your image also presented parallel worlds, the world in front of the camera and the world of the reflection but both are unified by the photograph. In that thought though I think that your image is more successful than mine as mine is an open system, revealed by the camera where as yours is centred on a partial revealing of both worlds hence offering a greater sense of concealment. But I like the idea of being able to photograph a system, to make that system visible and go some way towards bringing to the 'surface' an open conceptual framework for the photograph as it is itself. God knows why I'm so hooked on the idea of the things revealing the thing itself, perhaps it's a feedback loop that draws me in to an infinite thought, a cosmic power at work, I am the puppet for the seer!



After Bailes, 2014

Darren:
A man of mystery! As in, no text mystery! But there's enough pairing and verticals going on to make the translation. It's actually interesting to see even the metal shape in the background mirrors (boom) the angle of the mirror in mine. But I like how it's slammed up against the frame and any horizontal or perspective brought about from the previous landscape images are totally barred. Why, out of interest, do you not want to add additional thoughts? I'd be personally interested, whether or not it goes online with it is something we're free to decide on and edit anyway - I don't think we have to put our exact email wording up however much text we decide on including.

So. My image, affectionately titled 'After Bailes', obviously works with your rephotographing Steiglitz's clouds, though here more literally. But also in response to your quotes on hidden surface and the speculation on the end of photography, what it may or may not mean to emulate someone (hence the Levine like title)


Darren:
Dude, those are some wonderful words! I love the image BTW, not sure I expressed that before, but it's a cracker for sure! And yes, I do really like that sense of refusal of depth, of surface accentuation. I read this the other day and underlined it heavily: Perspective is the visual correlate of causality that one thing follows the next in space according to rule.

It's Rosalind Krauss talking about art history in Modernism's linear/causal view. But I liked the idea that there was a correlative between things/event/idea being contextualised through their historical and sequential relationship to each other and the idea that the stuff of the world is contextualised by spatial relations. So a flattening or denying of depth from a perspectival sense has time dimensional equivalent. Flattening perspective visually is like collapsing time experientially. It's an extraction from the expected and experienced flow of things - either how they appear or how they are experienced. That is a large part of my interest in some of the studio shots I sent you, still derived from that essay about abstraction & empathy, this idea of relating into the world or extracting out from it.

Good thoughts. Good stuff. Have you heard of Douglas Hofstadter? I'd been dipping in and out of his meta monster book Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid for a couple of years now. He also wrote I Am A Strange Loop - both all about recursive patterns, feedback loops and self reference. Pretty bloody complicated and I can't pretend to get a lot, but have a Google and see if anything interests. I like self-recursive ideas and self-referential ones. A while back I sort of noticed for the first time quite how regularly my work uses both….







3




Shape With Shadow, 2014

Darren:
I like your image a lot and I agree that throwing back your first one at you put you in a trickier place! It's always intriguing to see which part or aspect of an image you'll choose to respond to. Perhaps, like me, when you make one you're already anticipating what aspects I will continue, though so far whatever I've imagined these elements to be haven't proven to be the ones at all! I like this idea that the edge needs to be a space that is filled, in disrupting the document you also effectively frame another. The punctum - to use the phrase - having to be that wisp of shadow from the leaf that overlaps the white, the small thing that links and claims these two components into one image-whole....

So for my part, I found our conversation about self-reference, recursive structures and the image that refuses you access through a lack of depth to be my continuation point. So you've a shape, not dissimilar to the lighting circuit and ambiguous in its materiality. It lacks obvious dimension and is flattened against the empty background, therefore out of recognisable space and depth and - as Rosalind Krauss said in that quote - out of spatial relations. Except it's not entirely since it has its shadow behind it which - due to a not entirely obvious mix of the shape's construction and the light - intersects with the shape itself. It doesn't ground the material shape into spatial relations (in the way the shadow from your leaf does to your inserted photograph) since there's no recognisable context, but it does inextricably bind the shape to its shadow, as does the act of photographing in the first place. A kind of referent and reference collapsing.....

I think I might call it 'Shape With Shadow'.



Leaves, 2014

Stuart:
God dammit! I’ve only gone and done it… Here’s number 3 for you.

I named it ‘Leaves'. Very descriptive I know but I didn’t fancy distracting from the point. Plus I just made it so haven’t had time to process it further.

I was trying to think for ages how I wanted to respond to your 2nd entry and I have to admit I found it super tough because I just kept seeing my own picture and then I got a little bit annoyed because I thought ‘you bastard giving me my image back at me!’ haha! No I’m kidding. But it was difficult at first to see beyond the presence of my own image. In the end I gravitated towards the sense of coming away from the photograph, to step back and reveal the edges. At times I found it quite dizzying to think about the space around the negative and I couldn’t help but think about that Macaulay Culkin/Ryan Gosling t-shirt thing that went viral on the internet. I could have continued the reduction of the original by employing your approach to this entry. I kind of did in the end but found a new scenario. I wanted to try and make an image that consciously revealed the edge of the image by inserting an object into the scene to ‘disturb’ the document.









From Darren:
"Great minds think alike"



Magritte







4




Scene_Setting, 2014





Composed Images, 2014

Stuart:
So here goes another one. This time I have 2 images but in the good faith of the project I selected one for the front page and the other I’d like to offer up as a reference.

I struggled to decide between two images as I felt both were effective but they did different things. Following the experimental nature of the project I opted for the image that reveals a scene in a photographic studio where the lamps and materials are visible from a shoot I did recently. What I think I see in this image is a complex masking of surface and depth. At the first glance I see the spacial setting of the space depicted in the photograph but upon second glance I see an abstraction of that setting when I experience the rectangle in the centre falling out of the scene and giving away a heightened sense of flatness thus revealing the rendered plane of the surface of the photograph (screen!).

I also want to continue along the same conceptual lines (self-reference, recursive structures and the perception of depth) to see where we might end up a few images down the line. I feel that my image satisfies my interest in these conceptual realms at the same time they dissapoints because the illusion is difficult to see. That’s why I included a second image as it satisfies something else relating to these ideas. It is an example of an image that ‘performs' some element of these thoughts, perhaps in a more silent way, whereas the image I opted for attempts to ‘reveal’ conceptual elements of the photograph.

It’s called ‘Scene_Setting’ by the way.



BUG, 2014



Alternate 1



Alternate 2

Darren:
So this is interesting - we've both pulled back from the surface and included something of the construct and of technology within the images, in spite of their different streams. That's an intriguing thing to see happening, overlap in the parallel too. I think you chose the right one of your two to focus on for sure (and again, it's interesting seeing that composition in relationship to your Leaves one I've been working from). I get what you mean about the illusional aspect of that central panel - it's like repeating a word so it loses meaning, staring at the studio set up so that it becomes composition and surfaces. I can take it on!

So on my part for number four there were a few things I couldn't escape from in trying to extend your Leaves image. That point of overlap between the world and the image - as represented by that leaf edging into the frame - the Magritte comparison and the tagline 'iPhone photo'. The latter, coming after the 5x4 negative and the earlier talk around the end of photography and appropriation made me conscious of wanting to somehow steer my entry towards the digital, replace the material in your piece with something of the pixel and the screen. In thinking about how to combine this with that overlap of world and image I had the idea I've given you. It's your central image on my iPhone, with the plants around it reflecting in the screen, hiding/revealing/entwining with your piece there (and also, as another point of possible interest, the cracked glass of my screen joining the image behind it too!)

I shot a bunch of variants and I worried that the subject matter was all simply too close to yours, that your responses have been more subject-tangental and mine more literal, hence trying another with the more formal stair railings as the screen image and reflection. But I think I'll stick (though as I'm writing this I'm still wavering!) with the fauna. I like the surface slipping from your last one to mine, where the white frame and black image come forward and introduce depth to this sequence (another variant I wavered over kept the phone against a flatter surface. I'll include that too since there's something interesting in seeing that, though the flowers looked kinda pretty in it which distracted me). But more than anything above I adore that little insect that's wondered into shot. I'll leave you to make of that what you will or ignore its little presence entirely! But I'm gonna call the image 'Bug.' Which amuses me ;)







5




Block, 2014



Darren:
What struck me most about the studio image you sent was the delineation of things into three primary planes, the lights and reflectors making a distinct foreground, the apparent subject creating the mid ground and its shadows the background. I wanted to make an image that was about these three planes, originally wondering if I could give them all equal weight. I thought about solidifying and reducing them into distinct blocks and experimented with various chunks of things I had lying around to see if lighting them from contrasting points could render their relative positions indeterminate, positioning a combination of surfaces and shadows so that those three proximity points appeared interchangeable somehow.

However, the crab element of our title soon takes over and the piece scuttles sideways a little as making a composition and an image begins to compete with pursuing an initial idea. I'm not sure the final image does exactly what I set out to since the concrete block became a clear subject. It seems instead to have become more about how the subject is embedded into the image, being 'held' by both the foreground and background. So perhaps the subject retains a distinct appearance but not necessarily its spatial relationship as mid-ground. The small triangular shadow becomes a focus that doesn't entirely allow everything to flatten, perhaps neither does the gradating shadow on the left but I like the overall sense of depth being both compressed as well as acknowledged.



Shards, 2014

Stuart:
I thought it was intersting how you created an image that I felt had such a clear hierachy. From the bug to the table, then from the bushes to the image reflected in the telephone screen. That is what I took as my starting point so I started working with squared paper, I thought that was resembling the unity that I feel in a formal organisation, perhaps thinking about the office and paperwork, although perhaps nobody uses paper in an office today?

When i saw the image reflected on your phone I thought about the phone and started to muse on how so much of my life I view through that little black object, it's a scanner that can read almost anything. I thought about the image in the glass and set about creating an image directly onto glass which would be captured as a reflection through the process. I borrowed a technique from our friend Simon Ward and made a type of digital photogram using a scanner.

The difficulty with photograms is to achieve a sense of depth. I made many images but felt that the simplisty of this image worked for me, it creates a 3-dimensional image-space which I relate back to our conversations in our other strand about the perception of depth in an image.







6




Composition no.VI, 2014



Stuart:
What I like the most about your image is of course that little triangular shadow. It causes all kinds of problems to the image and to the setting of the parts. I’m looking at it and seeing how it creates the whole illusion in one instant and the next my eyes re-focus and see that it makes the illusion collapse. I like how the horiztonal block is both a physical object photographed and within it is a complex image created by the texture of the block. It slices into the image as though it has been montaged onto the studio scene. In some ways it is a very classical composition with an object in the foreground set against a background/back drop.

Composition no. VI, as I have named it, is a re-imaginging of your own image. It is a very minimal image barely given any sense of the material or space that is featured within it’s frame. I’ve always been interested in the transfer from material to photographic surface, how materials in photographs take on new form, colour, texture, scale etc. The very nature of the photograph warps our perception of things, we allow it to become much more than it is. Photographs invite me to create a material fantasy in a world where things lose meaning through lack of context. Perhaps this concept is closest we can get to some ‘truth’ in photography. This simple image gives me space and time to wonder, to follow my instincts and respond accordingly, it activates me in ways that the world cannot. This is a peaceful place. Although i agree not much is happening and perhaps one would ask of more from an artist and from a photograph but for now this is all I can offer you, it is after all a complex image with a simple appearance.

I really like the light in my image because it appears to come from nowhere as though there is no light or it appears like light lingering from a distant reflection. For once light isn’t directing how I should be looking at this scene there isn't a narrative of shadows. But it could also be an image of light that in it’s muted state reveals its light as form, as a physical thing. Photography is often referred to as a light work and I think that is because the photograph gives form to light, perhaps that is the aura that i sense especially when I’m looking at a print? And it’s funny that I felt it necessary to specify a ‘print’ when talking about the photograph because right now, and for the project to date, we have been dealing with the LED back light glow from our computers. This is what has lit our images so far which is very different from direct and ambient light that touches the surface of a print, and the negative for that matter. Perhaps we can start to consider this and in in some way you could respond to that in the next entry? It does feel strange to have analogue black and white photographs that we publish online to be seen only via a computer screen (at this point anyways)...

And I have to admit that the image is taken from a collection of sketches from the studio, I think I made this image last year in fact, hope you don’t mind!



Back Turned, 2014

Darren:
Your image sent me thinking about contact, the direct touch of something material, the paper against the scanner glass. Photography being a technical process removed from its subject, not having the gestural touch say painting or sculpture has... I was trying to think about possibly responding with something that tried to express the absence of contact but then veered off towards ideas around the original and the copy. Each scan is a direct evidence of contact, each requiring the original, though conversely it does directly 'copy' the original. These thoughts found someone else's words when I happened on Rosalind Krauss' essay 'The Originality of the Avant-Garde (And Other Modernist Myths)'. It's intriguing in light of her discussion on - and your visual recourse to - the grid. She talks about the grid as a recurring feature in modern art (apparently utterly absent in art history), a point of continual rediscovery with artists trying to reject subject and expose surface, seen as an ironic 'discovery' of the avant-garde artists, in the sense that it has no origin and is forever a copy of itself, restrictive by its nature yet used to champion the liberation of painting in the pursuit of art's autonomy. Also fascinating since the stream your scanned image comes in has continually dealt with originals and copies: your homage to Steiglitz; mine to you through using the negative, the 'original'; your print rephotographed; copied on my phone's screen; set into an original point of contact of paper and glass with your scanned grid....

I think I might labour and copy out a few parts of the essay by way of introducing my contribution:

'The absolute stasis of the grid, its lack of heiarchy, of centre, of inflection, emphasises not only its anti-referentail character, but - more importantly - its hostility to narrative. This structure, impervious to both time and to incident, will not permit the projection of language into the domain of the visual, and the result is silence.'
'...no one could claim to have invented it, so once one is involved in deploying it, the grid is extremely difficult to use in the service of invention.'
'Structurally, logically, axiomatically, the grid can only be repeated.....the illusion is not of the originality of the artist, but of the originality of the picture surface.
This origin is what the genius of the grid is supposed to manifest to us as viewers: an indisputable zero-ground beyond which there is no further model, or referent or text. Except that this experience of originariness, felt by generations of artists, critics, and viewers is itself false, a fiction. The canvas surface and the grid that scores it do not fuse into that absolute unity necessary to the notion of an origin. For the grid follows the canvas surface, doubles it. It is a representation of the surface, mapped, it is true, onto the same surface it represents, but even so, the grid remains a figure, picturing various aspects of the 'originary' object....the grid thus does not reveal the surface, laying it bare at last; rather it veils it through a repetition.'

'What would it look like not to repress the concept of the copy? What would it look like to produce a work that acted out the discourse of reproductions without originals...'

So my image is a photograph of a grid (originally it was a grid made from cutting up the negative I took of your your first work for my second - but the grid created looked a bit childishly sloppy so I shot one created on the laptop instead), printed in the darkroom onto screwed up photographic paper. In light of what proceeds this piece in its particular image stream I'm going to pun off another of Krauss' lines as a title, her description of the grid as 'what happens when art turns its back on nature.'







7




Edge, 2015



Darren:
So then. Your last image proved difficult! I really appreciated the minimalism and the elegance of it, being almost like a stripping away of my last one to bare elements, lines and tonal planes. Actually a lot like colour field painting (in greyscale!) - Barnett Newman, post painterly abstraction, etc. And as with that type of work and ideology, the question of what comes next is incredibly hard. When you reduce a work/idea to its essence, what do you do next? It felt a little bit like a chapter closer, a full stop that I should start over again from...

But I didn't start over, rather I thought more about the primary element I think this stream has become about - photographic depth, particularly the collapsing of space into the surface of the image. Our subjects have remained remarkably parallel to the camera and - true to the style of our general practices - sharp and focussed. It's a way I like to use the camera, since it's closest to vision and therefore makes the actual idiom of the camera's language less noticeable - a central focused subject seen from the front presents the least distortion to a lens, the subject looks most like it does in the world and the camera is less visible. By that I mean your attention is drawn primarily to the subject rather than a style or technique of the medium, the world and image are closest together. Blur belongs to the lens rather than to vision and signifies depth in an image, so my primary thinking here was to tilt the plane of vision into a more horizontal one, stretching away from the camera and obscuring rather than revealing its apparent subject.



Turning Back, 2015

Stuart:
I'm picking up from where you left off and responding in the opposite order... I was most struck by the last quote 'what happens when art turns its back on nature'. My first instinct was to get outside with the camera and find something natural to work with. Perhaps set-up a grid in the grass (Richard Long) or set out a series of branches into a grid in a field (Anthony McCall & the form of his fire performances). I also shot some images through a grid hoping to disect the image into seperate images like a contact sheet. But that didn't work, my arm wasn't long enough...

I went back to my 'darkroom' and switched on the scanner. While producing a series of contacted images directly onto the scanners surface I received a corrupt image which illustrated some unexpected digital fuzz grids. After some pondering and faffing I printed this new image as I wanted to bring it back into the world of things and remove it from the screen. Now I have made a photograph that is organised from the unexpected digital fuzz grid and, continuing your crumpled paper theme, a crumpled piece of paper. What I like about the crumpled piece of paper in both of our images is that, for me, it does return the grid back to nature. Hence I called this image 'Turning Back' also to echo of your 'Back Turned'.

There is a lot of touching going on in your image, I can almost see your finger marks. But I can't work out if your work is really the scanned image or the scrumpled print itself? I think I would prefer the scrumpled paper, it doesn't need to be ironed by the scanner. What's probably most dissappointing about my image is that I've arrested the crumple image in the photograph. For a minute you might have escaped but not my image. Poor image.

I liked your reference to the Rosalind Kruass essay and those are some great hightlights that you sent me! Lewis Baltz (RIP) in my opinion was a genius at creating presentations of photographs in grids. It was a powerful yet simple mode of seeing photographs. His photographs never really struck me as being modern or contemporary art but his presentation and his awareness of that mode of presentation certainly put him into the field.

I should flag up the idea you drafted about the 'original' as both of our images have been through a process to arrive. We started with an original, if one can even say that, which was turned into something else. Both origins are well out of sight now and the initial form I used is lost (to the trash, it was the negative form that was holding all the Carcosonne tiles!) The prospects of tracing and re-creating from or towards the 'original' is horryfying in that it is endless. I've seen other artists re-using the same source material over and over to raise questions of the original. I don't like it, it gets boring quickly. So knowing this I'm happy to be sharing this discourse and creating responses with somebody else to stop ourselves from only repeating our own images.





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