Is photography simply providing an authentic record of the artwork or is it part of the artwork itself?
The role of photography in the works of The First Woman on the Moon (1999)and Self- burial (1969) are certainly important on many levels. Keith Arnatt with his Self- burial project very much linked the work to appearing and disappearing on television. The fact that the nine images were shown with no explanation, context or information would have made the project that much more interesting. Given that it was about disappearance and the impermanence of life, I think in this particular project the photographs were the part of the artwork itself. Using television as a medium at that time contributed to the ephemeral aspect as there were few home video recorders in 1969 so once the image left the screen it was gone.
The First Woman on the Moon was an intriguing project. The use of language at the time of the first moon landing would be considered sexist today, with the first man on the moon talking about “One small step for man and one giant step for mankind”. I can see Aleksandra Mir’s complex motivations for creating the project so many years later with still no female moonwalkers.
The photography conveyed so much about the creation, particularly the relationship between Aleksandra and the men with the digger . I found the whole approach to be a sort of sadly amusing statement of society at that time although the project was created in 1999 . By then women had been in space though not to the moon and yet sexism was and is still alive and well in 2016. (We can see this today with the presidential debates in America and the comments made by one of the candidates.)
The photographs and film clips recorded the event as if it were authentic, showing that the only material we have from the 1969 moon landing was also photographs and film clips. This too could have been a piece of art and it was suggested at one time that the moon landing was a hoax and had been created in a studio. How do we know this is not true? If photography in some way represents the artwork, can we trust it?
Richard Long’s method of documenting his walking through photography , mapmaking , text and books is the only way most people would witness his work . Having seen an exhibition at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol , I found some of the exhibition quite engaging but I did not feel inspired by it . I think photography as a medium to express that which has gone before has to be of a particularly high standard, not only informative. For much of Richard Long’s work the photography feels more like an illustration of the work rather than a piece of art in itself. The idea of a human being participating in the landscape, measuring himself in terms of time and space against the landscape , would perhaps be difficult to express only through photography.
Reflecting on this, in my opinion, Richard Long is expressing a personal view of his experience in the landscape and he is not trying to be of the landscape. His work is more about himself against the elements and not about himself within the elements. I think this is a distinction that makes his work perhaps too intellectual for my taste. Having said that, he does create interesting natural land art on some of his walks which without being photographed, would not be visible to others. Listening to the curator’s talk and the questions afterwards, I did resonate with question about the elitism of this art form, particularly given the vary expensive camping equipment, clothing and travel costs of his walks abroad.
Exploring other walking artists such as Janet Cardiff, I see that her site specific audio and film walks are orientated to an audience almost like a guided walk. Because of this, the lack of many lasting impressions such as still photography makes her work ephemeral.
I enjoyed Hamish Fulton’s website and found his talk on his work given at the Tate had some interesting points. He spoke of the dates of his walks resonating with people experiencing his work. They could have experienced some personal life event, or remembered a world event. Watching the film with Fulton talking about his experiences, the equipment he bought, the places he travelled to, again it felt more like a documentary and too intellectual for me.
What then, is my view on documentaries? Are they art forms?
Arnatt, K. Self – burial
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-self-burial-television-interference-project-t01747 (accessed 24 October 2016)
Cardiff, J. WALKS
http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/index.html (accessed 24 October 2016)
Fulton, H. Walking Journey talk at The Tate
http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/hamish-fulton-walking-journey (accessed 24 October 2016)
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/richard-long-1525 (accessed 24 October 2016)
Mir, A. First Woman on the Moon
http://www.aleksandramir.info/projects/first-woman-on-the-moon/ (accessed 24 October 2016)