Assignment 4 : Is photography integral to the art of Andy Goldsworthy?

Land art is nothing new but with the advent of photography it has become more accessible. We are now able to see not only contemporary works but those that were created hundreds of years ago such as the Nazca lines of Peru which can only be seen in their entirety from the air. This essay will attempt to explore the relationship between art and photography with specific reference to the ephemeral land art of Andy Goldsworthy .

I have chosen to focus on Goldsworthy because his work both fascinates and disturbs me. I am disturbed by his re-appropriation of natural elements forming an unnaturally perfect design or structure. For example covering a rock with hundreds of red leaves, all exactly the same colour and size may be visually unusual and attractive, but for me this feels like he is imposing some sort of mechanical order on an organic environment . Perhaps it is this very tension which fascinates. As unnatural as his ephemeral sculptures are, they are still vulnerable to the forces of nature, born away by the wind or water or melted in sunlight . These ephemeral works can only be known through Goldsworthy’s photographs.

In the 1970s and in the times before that, perhaps land artists were satisfied with their own experience and did not require the appreciation of others. Perhaps the act of creating and witnessing the artwork before its natural destruction would be enough for some people, however for an artist to be recognised as such (and remunerated) their work needs to be seen. In the words of Susan Sontag writing in On Photography, “ Now all art aspires to the condition of photography.”

In the documentary entitled Rivers and Tides (2001) Goldsworthy explains that he began taking photographs of his land art as an art student. He had to show his tutors what he had been doing since he worked mostly outside. He continues to take his own photographs of his work mostly because he prefers to work alone on the ephemeral sculptures. He photographs all of his work .“…good and bad…” saying that this record of his art helps him to learn more about the landscape.  In 2015, in an interview on the American radio programme “Fresh Air” , when asked why he created ephemeral work he replied,  “Everything dies. I need to work with leaves and wind and tides.” He explained that when a solid piece is finished that’s the beginning of its life. but with an ephemeral work when it is finished that is the end of its life.

Observing Goldsworthy through the documentary and the interview, I sense his great love of the land, particularly where he lives. He says he finds the landscape “..beautiful, dangerous and unnerving”. However, my experience of his sculptures feels ordered and inviting. Even the sharply pointed ice sculptures pictured in his book Wood are intriguing rather than dangerous. I feel that although his approach may be different to the land artists of the 1970’s, his motivation may be the same – to control the environment. Our conventional knowledge of natural landscape through direct experience and also through traditional images offers a contrast to that which Goldsworthy creates and photographs. Perhaps this is the purpose of his art.

On the last page of Goldsworthy’s book, Stone, there is a piece entitled The Photograph. Here he describes that photography is his way of talking, writing and thinking about art. He says that photography creates a space between the making of his work which he does privately or with people he knows, and then the public viewing of his work.. He describes how once it is done it requires a particular light or moment which then create the conditions for the photograph.

Examining the images in three of Goldsworthy’s books, Stone, Time and Wood, I do not find much artistry in the photographs and I am surprised to read of the care he has taken. Goldsworthy says that his work can only speak through the image and I wonder if my judgement of his photography is unfair. Although I feel the photographs would be more interesting in their own right if taken from different points of view, if the purpose is to display the artwork I can see that for Goldsworthy the medium becomes secondary and does not enhance the work but simply records it.

When comparing Goldsworthy to land artist Andrew Rogers, the latter’s can be seen from different angles including an aerial view. Rogers approach is to record the process and the final work. Looking particularly at the ephemeral piece created in the Antarctic, there is almost a filmed documentary of each piece whereas Goldsworthy seems to mainly create only one image for public viewing. The Rivers and Tides film showing the sculptures in context with the wider landscape feels more complete, portraying various angles of the work which a single, still photograph does not capture.

With computer technology it is possible to manipulate images which could improve on Goldsworthy’s photography. However, it would no longer be true to him or his work. How important is this? There is a strange paradox in that the origins of the Land Art movement in the 70’s were a response to the perceived elitism of the galleries of those times. Instead of creating art from what is available in the natural environment, it may now be possible to create land art from appropriated images. If land art can be described as conceptual, then perhaps that would be an organic development with contemporary land art eventually only existing in digital images.

Exploring Andy Goldsworthy’s photography, I conclude that it is integral to his work as without this record his art would obviously be unseen. Yet a still photograph or film that captures movement such as his balancing rocks in the waves, is a work of art itself and this might be a distraction from the original work. The uneasy relationship between art and photography seems to also exist in the photograph of the artwork itself.

(1005 words)
Bibliography
Crump, J. (2015) Troublemakers: The story of land art. .
Goldsworthy, A. (1994) Stone. London: Viking.
Goldsworthy, A. (2015) Radio Interview : Sculptor turns rain, ice and trees into ‘ephemeral works’. http://www.npr.org/2015/10/08/446731282/sculptor-turns-rain-ice-and-trees-into-ephemeral-works (Accessed: 21 December 2016).
Goldsworthy, A. and Friedman, T. (1998) Wood. New York: Abrams, Harry N.
Goldsworthy, A. and Friedman, T. (2008a) Time: Andy Goldsworthy. London: Thames & Hudson.
Rogers, A. (2016) Rhythms of life Antarctica
http://www.andrewrogers.org/land-art/antarctica/rhythms-of-life-antarctica (Accessed: 21 December 2016).

Sontag, S. (1977) On photography. 3rd edition. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Riedelsheimer, T. (2001) Rivers and tides: Andy Goldsworthy working with time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZASlHKsNF4&app=desktop (Accessed: 21 December 2016).

 

Commentary

Researching and working through this section on photography I have become more aware of how photography can set a mood and convey information and emotion, or lack thereof,  through film as well as a single image such as those in Michael Kenna’s work. His use of repetition of form within the landscape image, which could be poles, arches or windmills set against extraordinary light can only be seen as serious art.

Some years ago I saw an exhibition of Steve McCurry’s work and his  ability  to capture emotion,  detail and in some cases, horror, is extraordinary. There is something so immediate about an image that is very different to reading or listening, and many of McCurry’s images have stayed with me.
I researched several different photographers in the course of this assignment,   becoming much more aware of the variety of genres of photography.

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange 1936

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange 1936

 

Comparing the photojournalism of Dorothea Lange, particularly during the Great Depression,  and the iPhoneography of today, specifically the Afghanistan war images by David Guttenfelder, I considered the accuracy of image. Guttenfelder used an app that gave his images the washed out look of an old polaroid picture, despite using an iPhone to take the photograph.  This challenges my belief that journalism or any sort of reportage needs to be true to life.

On reflection I realise that from the beginning, still photography has often been used to enhance or exaggerate reality as a way of getting a message across.   The Victorian images that I find so appealing are staged and designed.   The London street life photography of  John Thompson, while a social commentary and record, is in many cases posed and carefully considered “props” are included to add to the impact.   I can see that  the manipulation of the image is part of the creative process.

In some cases the image is not manipulated but relies on the context.  Forty Portraits in Forty Years by Nicholas Nixon is more than a sociological record, it shows relationship. Perhaps it is my imagination, but I also sense the relationship between the photographer and the subjects, as a warmth that is conveyed.

Although I am not  interested in using photography as a medium, I have become more engaged with the potential of this medium, particularly the ways in which images can be manipulated.  I took the image below, of myself, using my computer. Within 10 minutes I was able to make it look like a black and white sketch, change the shape,  lighting, clarity, warmth and add text. If this is possible with such limited experience and resources, I imagine that even I could create images of interest.

Manipulated photograph

Manipulated photograph

 

 

 

 

Working through this section has given me a greater understanding of how photography has evolved. On pages 204 and 205 of On Photography , there is a a list from Roget’s  International Thesaurus naming the different fields of photography. There are several terms that I have not heard of, and of course since the list was created there are several more fields.

(508 words)

 

 

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Commentary on Visual Communications

Studying this section on Visual Communications has alerted me to the unconscious responses and subliminal messages of advertising, and  visual communications generally . I now find myself more curious about the elements of magazine images and the television adverts . I’m also more interested in the opening film clip and credits of television programmes , something which previously I ignored . The creativity in this area is engaging and inspiring me to seek to understand this aspect of communication .

 
As a counsellor in my day job, communication is an essential tool . I have used a simple form of art therapy to help people express emotions that may feel too painful or scary to speak about , but this section on visual communications has opened my mind to a far greater extent and reminded me of archetypal images considered by psychiatrist/psychotherapist, Carl Jung, to be part of the collective unconscious . An example of this is the ugly witch. When seen in any context this image is most likely to arouse the same feelings . This fascinates me as the idea of an image that transcends language and western culture whilst carrying the same message

 

I enjoyed looking at the knitting projects and although I have a healthy image of knitters it was a delight to see the creativity end unexpected ideas . Perhaps the most intriguing of the exercises has been exploring images like the “Join the Navy” poster with the sailor astride the torpedo . Although in these times we openly acknowledge and recognize the torpedo as a phallic symbol, in the 1920s that acknowledgment may have not been conscious but would still have had an effect on the viewer. The unconscious message of power and strength through sexual prowess would have been there and actively affected the viewer in the same way that a more conscious response would affect a viewer today.

 

The relationship between images when re-contextualised is interesting too. I enjoy the idea of building on the familiar image  then creating something partly or entirely different. Where this may be socially-specific, for example in political satire, it becomes almost like an “in-joke” and could possibly be an image with no text.
Re – appropriated images offer a similar opportunity. When researching for the assignment online there were several images used in this way including those of the Mona Lisa, selling pizza, wearing a niqab, and even sporting a smiley face emoticon.

 
Although I do not feel drawn to study this area further, I have very much enjoyed it and learned a great deal. I have a greater appreciation of the way images are used, as well as the impact of typography which I first discovered as an art form earlier in the course. Despite having little knowledge of how to create images using technology, I have felt inspired to try. With a free app I took my chosen Vermeer image and created something different as shown here. I feel this part of the course will improve my creativity and widen my view.
(503 words)picsketch-2016-09-16-13-22-48

Assignment three : Re-appropriating images

Jan van Eyck, The Portrait of Givanni Arnolfini and his Wife Giovanna Cenami ( The Arnolfini Marriage), 1434

Jan van Eyck, The Portrait of Givanni Arnolfini and his Wife Giovanna Cenami ( The Arnolfini Marriage), 1434 ( Creative Commons)

Re-appropriated images had not caught my attention before researching for this assignment, however, I realise that artists can be greatly inspired by the work of others. I will discuss this further whilst exploring The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cemani by Jan van Eyck. I will also offer an examination of the Vermeer painting, A Girl Reading at the Open Window and the re-appropriation of that image by photographer Tom Hunter, entitled Woman Reading a Possession Order, looking at how the images relate to one another and the use of visual communication and media.

 

I was not familiar with the Jan van Eyck Arnolfini Marriage image and my first impression of it, accessed online was one of curiosity. It is so finely painted with extraordinary detail and clearly full of symbolism. It became ever more interesting as I discovered that it was painted in 1434, in Bruges, at a time when it was more usual for artists to be commissioned to paint royalty or religious figures. I wondered why it would have been painted and for whom. In some ways, the research into these questions was as fascinating as the portrait itself. Originally thought of as a record of marriage, in the same way that we might photograph a couple today, research shows that the woman in the painting might not be Giovanna Cemani after all.

 

Historian, Jacques Paviot, during unrelated research in the early 90’s, found a reference to Arnolfini’s wedding to Giovanna Cenami. placing the wedding in 1447, 13 years after the date on the portrait and six years after van Eyck’s death. Could the painting have been an idealised vision, with a younger Arnolfini and a fantasy bride?
Whilst hundreds of people might have seen the portrait in the last 500 years, it is now displayed at the National Gallery in London and available to view worldwide by anyone who has access to the internet. In addition, unlike the middle ages there are now numerous art books available to buy and to read in libraries. Online Information about the painting is freely available and translated into several languages, again giving access to millions of people. Alongside this, new information can be accessed rapidly, building more understanding of the social and political times as reflected in this and other paintings.

 

The painting remains of great historical value as it is one of the first images to portray people who lived more ordinary lives, giving the viewer something more real to identify with. The symbols of wealth shown, for example in the fur-trimmed clothing, the brass chandelier, the imported oranges (which might also signify sensuality) and the rug on the floor, demonstrate that the couple were possibly successful merchant class. Despite first appearances that the woman might be pregnant we now know that the style of the day was to have voluminous folds of fabric draped around the body. This would have been understood by viewers in the 15th century but confusing to more modern eyes.
Some of the symbolism used in paintings hundreds of years ago does, however, maintain a common interpretation. The oranges could be exchanged for apples and both might suggest temptation and sensuality.
In the re-appropriated image that I have chosen to work with, Tom Hunter’s photograph of Woman Reading Possession Order, a bowl of fruit has been replaced by a baby. This says to me that the baby is the fruit of a relationship. The photograph is a re-appropriated image of Johannes Vermeer’s A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window. In an article in The Guardian in 2009, Tom Hunter says, “ I took this in 1997, for my master’s degree show at the Royal College of Art. The 17th-century golden age of Dutch painting had had a massive impact on me: the way they dealt with ordinary people, not kings, queens and generals. I thought if I could borrow their style for squatters and travellers, it would elevate their status.” The photograph won an award and has been exhibited widely.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Vermeer, J. 1658

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Vermeer, J. 1658 (Google Cultural Institute))

Woman Reading a Possession Order. Hunter,T 1997

Woman Reading Possession Order. Hunter,T 1997 (http://www.tomhunter.org/persons-unknown/)

 

 

 

 

Like the Vermeer painting, Hunter shows a woman standing at a window with a play of light bringing the outside into the room. In both images the window is an essential symbol but I think that in the Vermeer painting, the window is confining, holding the “girl” within a relationship that she would perhaps prefer to leave. The woman reading the possession notice in the photograph is about to lose the safety of her home where she has been a squatter. For her the window might signify protection from the outside world. Hunter describes his work as a piece of propaganda, as he  highlights the plight of squatters being evicted at that time.
The Vermeer image is now displayed at The Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden. Painted towards the end of the 1650’s, the “girl” is pictured with a bowl of fruit as mentioned earlier. The fruit tumbles from a dish onto a brightly coloured rug on a table. One of the pieces of fruit has been cut open revealing the stone. Could this signify more than temptation and perhaps an illicit relationship has begun?   In both images the artist has captured a sense of stillness in the women as they read their respective letters. They stand in similar postures, with similar hairstyles and colouring. Each wears a serious expression and from the viewer’s perspective the letter inspires curiosity. What does the letter say?  What does it mean for the woman reading it?

 

In conclusion, there is much to say about the value of using a familiar image to add a layer of information to a re-appropriated image. The original symbolism may be altered or embellished whilst developing a more overt message. The context of the image tells the viewer more about the event as well as describing something of the social mores of the day. When the title is explanatory, such as the Hunter photograph, it adds to the message of the image.

Bibliography

The National Gallery

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait (Accessed 14/09/16)

A Picture worth Many Thousand Words Buchholz, S. 2000 University of Massachusetts Amherst Archives.
http://www.umass.edu/chronicle/archives/00/04-14/harbison28.html

(Accessed 14/09/16)

Tom Hunter website showing image
http://www.tomhunter.org/persons-unknown/ (Accessed 14/09/16)

Google Cultural Institute
https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/girl-reading-a-letter-by-an-open-window/3wFQaidzxA5mqg?hl=en  (Accessed 14/09/16)

Essential Vermeer
http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/girl_reading_a_letter_by_an_open_window.html#.V9WYmo-cHIU (Accessed 14/09/16)

Tom Hunter My Best Shot Pulver,A. 2009 The Guardian newspaper article.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/nov/04/photography-tom-hunter-best-shot ( Accessed 14/09/16)

Tom Hunter website
http://www.tomhunter.org/info/ ( Accessed 14/09/16)
Response to the Tutor Report

The feedback was disappointing. I found the assignment a real challenge to respond to what I imagined were questions requiring answers, and to keep it within the 1,000 word limit It seems that I misunderstood what was required. What I learn from this is that I could have queried the areas that confused me.

I began with the Arnolfini Marriage discussion as there appeared to be questions pertaining to it in the assignment. The final point asked for a 1000 word essay reflecting on the questions posed.
The main learning for me though, is that I tend to accept the artist’s comments or statements about their work without question. I imagine that the artist has some sort of right to describe the work and that I have no right to question. It has been useful for me to explore that way of thinking.

 

With Hunter’s photograph of “Woman Reading a Possession Order”, I offered his rationale which was to support those squatters who faced eviction. I have no way of knowing if this was true or not, however I did not question it. What do I think about it? I think it is possibly true.

 

Looking at his website, I see that Hunter has been largely expressing socio-political images and representing people whom he feels are marginalised in some way.. I do think that “Woman Reading a Possession Order” is a beautiful image and that it might be perceived in this way as a first response. However, in the context of the original exhibition which was called Persons Unknown, it is more likely to have been viewed as a statement, given the political mood of the times. The young woman does look well dressed and well-groomed which might give cause for doubt as to her status as a squatter. However, we do not know how long she has been in this situation . The image might also intentionally challenge prejudice about what  a squatter should look like.
The difference between Hunter’s photograph and the Vermeer painting to which it refers, is largely accessibility. The photograph can be reproduced, enlarged, miniaturized, the colours altered, whereas the painting is a steadfast image (apart from possible fading of pigment). Both images show everyday people and invite speculation which I find interesting.
My referencing has been tortuous and I think I have a better idea of how to link to online references.
I feel disappointed generally with the assignment as I had been fully engaged in Part Three and thought I had gained from it.

Assignment two: close reading and commentary

light between oceans coverExtract from first chapter of The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman for assignment two

 

1926
On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge tending the small, newly made driftwood cross. A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below. Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted.

“…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” she whispered.

For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant’s cry. She dismissed the illusion, her eye drawn instead by a pod of whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in the warmer waters, emerging now and again with the fluke of their tails like needles through tapestry. She heard the crying again, louder this time on the early-morning breeze. Impossible.

 
From the side of the island, there was only vastness, all the way to Africa. Here the Indian Ocean washed into the Great Southern Ocean and together they stretched like an edgeless carpet below the cliffs . On days like this it seems so solid she had the impression she could walk to Madagascar in a journey of blue upon blue . (198 words)

Assignment Two
The Light Between Oceans is M L Stedman’s first novel. Set in Australia, it won several prizes including the Australian Indie Awards for Best Debut Novel and Book of the Year. Following a close reading of the opening three paragraphs of novel, this essay will offer a personal interpretation and explore the themes of time and place, whilst also examining the plot, structure, character, use of language, and narrator.

 
The novel has an omniscient narrator, giving the reader a wide view as this voice knows all that is happening in the story. The title of the novel refers to the light from a lighthouse on the island and the Australian lighthouses at that time were staffed by single men or married couple who spent solitary months at a time. The plot so far is with the protagonist, Isabel, on the cliff edge tending a new grave with a small cross. She hears crying and dismisses it as her mind playing tricks and allows herself to be distracted by a group of whales. When she hears the crying again, once more she dismisses it as “ impossible”, distracting herself again by looking out at the sea. This seems to speak of a grieving woman and I wonder what it is she seeks.

 
The first chapter heading states that the year is 1926. It is an early morning in late April and by the description of the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean the reader knows that the setting is the western coast of Australia. From this I now also know that it is autumn in the southern hemisphere. I enjoyed reading and finding my way to that fact through the information given rather than it being obviously stated. There is a sense of solitude and space and perhaps some danger. The protagonist, Isabel, is at the cliff’s edge of an island. Although there is a blue sky …”a mirror of the ocean below…”, and the sea seems “ solid”, this apparent peacefulness is not reflected in Isabel who is at a new grave of a child. The atmosphere feels unsettled with the tension between emptiness and open spaces and fullness of emotion. The season ( autumn) also suggests a fullness before a loss.

 

 

In these opening lines there is powerful religious symbolism which I found useful as ways of creating a context for the story. The day the protagonist is kneeling at a newly made cross is described as the day of the “miracle”. She is sprinkling water on a newly planted rosemary bush and whispering The Lord’s Prayer . The specific lines mentioned are “…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” .and suggest that there may be some tension between good and evil in the narrative, and a moral dilemma to be faced with a background of Christianity.

 

I found the rosemary an intriguing symbol with several meanings. The botanical name for the rosemary plant is Rosmarinus officinalis, which means “rose of the sea,” and sometimes interpreted as “mist of the sea” In religious symbolism the Virgin Mary laid her cloak on a rosemary bush and the flowers turned blue. More recent folklore gives us” rosemary for remembrance”. All of these symbolise the importance of rosemary in the story but perhaps even more interesting is that rosemary is specifically used on Anzac day in Australia to remember the fallen soldiers .

 
Later in the novel we learn about the antagonist as a survivor of WW1, but in these early lines Isabel is the only character. She has possibly buried a baby, and there is a sense of her distraction, sadness, and perhaps a fantasy of leaving the place where she is by “ walking to Madagascar” across the ocean . She does not trust what she heard when twice there was a sound of an infant crying. From this I surmise that the grave did hold an infant as she felt her mind had tricked her, that her own child was dead and could not be crying.. Her mistrust could also indicate that she did not trust herself or is in some way untrustworthy. When reading this I felt sympathy for Isabel and before  knowing the character in any depth , I was prepared to like her.

 

The theme of water mentioned in each of the three paragraphs brought to mind emotions and overwhelm. The possibility of drowning in emotions. I felt there was also something of a theme of loss and escape. Isabel distracted herself by looking out to sea and watching the whales moving up the coast. She knows that they are moving to warmer waters to give birth, almost as if she is in the cold water and without a baby. Then she fantasises about the oceans looking like “an edgeless carpet” and that she could “walk to Madagascar”. She is on an island which feels remote and perhaps she wants to leave. There is a related theme of blue in the skies, ocean and the blue of the flowers of rosemary, creating a vastness, space and perhaps emptiness.

 

I found the language created a sense of looking back, reflecting, almost with nostalgia particularly the opening sentence “On the day of the miracle…” “A single fat cloud snailed across the sky…” slows the pace. Using “snailed” instead of the more usual “sailed” caught my attention and literally slowed down my reading. The use of the letter w in alliteration “…whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in warmer waters..” , gives a gentle, slow sound unlike the use of the letter c which is harder. The use of s in “…seems so solid ..” describing the sea, has an onomatopoeic effect of soft waves against the shore.

 
The fluke of the whales’ tails “…like needles through tapestry…” was a little confusing to me. The metaphor describes the smooth dipping in and out of the water but my mind conjures up a tail that is not needle-like, but with two parts and splayed. The sky “…stretched above the island like a mirror of the ocean below …” immediately surrounded me with a peaceful blueness. The repetition of ”…blue upon blue..” contributes to that peace. The metaphor of the two oceans stretching “…like an edgeless carpet…” indicates the stillness of the day. I wonder if the two oceans represent the protagonist and the antagonist.

 
The longer structure of the sentences generally continues the sense of nostalgia and slow reflection, except for the one word sentence of “Impossible”. The use of this sharpness was almost as if Isabel had harshly shaken her head to dismiss the thoughts that may have arisen as she heard the crying of an infant. I am curious to know more about those thoughts and why she dismisses them.

 

In summary, I found Stedman’s physical descriptions of the place and her use of symbolism set a strong scene when juxtaposed with the protagonist’s unsettled frame of mind. There is a substantial sense of place, with the vastness (…”all the way to Africa…”) of space which sometimes feels empty and sometimes full. The tension between these opposites is woven through the text. The poetic devices work to create a mood and slow pace. I feel it sets the scene for what is to come and invites questions about the crying, the grave, and how the narrative might unfold.
(1,227 words)

Random House Books, Australia
http://www.randomhouse.com.au/authors/ml-stedman.aspx

 
Commentary from writer’s diary

I am curious about creating meaning from marks, making a story which is then re-created in the mind of another, and with marks ( words) that might invoke meaning other than that imagined by the writer. Does this matter? Is it important that the reader understands precisely what the author means? In non-fiction this would be the case, but there is something very exciting about the reader making their own interpretation based on their own life experience, background and education. If there is an unspoken understanding of the basics of a story, following a recognisable structure and an identifiable plot, then the mood, symbolism and emotional qualities may differ depending on the reader.

 
Yet reading the article entitled Tradition and Individual Talent by TS Eliot, I feel moved by the idea that excellence in crafting a poem goes beyond the personality or the background of the poet. It is as if the poet empties herself of all that stands between her and expression, and the reader receives it in the context of his own life and experience. I am pondering this.

 
How does one know if a piece of writing is good? Is all writing structured, following the rules of Aristotle’s first four elements? Are poetic devices carefully contrived and do I need to write well with wordy alliteration, or examine my work minutely like some sort of scientist with a magnifying glass? When I read Dylan Thomas, or better still, listen to his own reading of his work, I am astonished by the skill and beauty of the language and the ease with which it flows. And I see the devices, structure and care.

 
The role of the reader excites me. Why would this be any different to the role of the viewer at a gallery? This is one of the aspects of this part of the course which I have enjoyed most. When I question my assumptions and find a new path opening, it gives me great hope that I might continue to learn and grow.

 
In writing the essay for assignment two, I attempted to make my own writing more interesting. I considered the reader ( tutor) and aimed for clarity as well as hopefully well-structured sentences . Although initially I intended to follow a plan for the essay, it seemed that it ended differently to how I intended. Tutor feedback will help me determine if this is a problem. (405 words)

 

Self assessment
I found this a fascinating experience. As an avid reader I now see how much I miss when reading too quickly. In less than 200 words, Stedman offered a wealth of information, setting the scene and already inviting the reader to make judgements about the protagonist.

 
I feel I have read this extract  closely, several times, and found that which I sought. I am still not clear on how to present the plot. Whereas I think I understand that the plot is a series of linear linked events, I am unsure that I have presented that correctly. Looking for the poetic devices helped me to understand why some language seems to flow more than others. My own great pleasure in poetry can only be enhanced by this way of reading.

Feedback Assignment One

The feedback gave me food for thought . To consider the artist’s bias was an important aspect that I feel I had missed perhaps because my own bias was aligned with his . It seemed clear to me that the miners were extremely badly treated, however, I have not looked at this objectively and explored the other side of the argument.

Using a medium such as film that is familiar to most people, with connotations of news clips and therefore accuracy, is indeed a way of focusing attention of the audience . How truthful is this ? What is the role of the artist – is it to be truthful ? Is it to present a piece which is thought-provoking and free of societal expectations? In the Battle of Orgreave is there a moral obligation to re-enact with accuracy ? Has Jeremy Deller suggested this is an accurate portrayal ? There does seem to be a sense of accuracy around it especially with the additional material of historical books, notes and memoirs.

In reflecting on the motivation for people to become part of the re-enactment in this event , I wonder about the different people involved. Where some people there to create accurate social history and therefore did they feel this had been achieved? Would those who had witnessed or been part of the original event feel that they had been well represented ?

I’m beginning to understand the value and importance of the choice of medium as a communication tool and will reflect more on this . Is the medium selected because of the artist’s preference and style or does the topic dictate the medium . I recently viewed a clip of the work of installation and conceptual artist, Martin Creed, where he seemed to be deeply influenced by the space and the medium evolves through that.

Assignment one Part A

Reflective Learning

My initial response to the question what is art, was to ask more questions , for example if handcrafted exclusive jewellery is art . If a hand painted tea set is art . I still don’t know the answer to these questions but I have a much broader sense now of art forms which I had not really considered much in the past . I had , I suspect , fallen into the conditioning of considering painting and classical sculpture to be art of the highest order and that contemporary art such as sound installation didn’t rate very highly . I now feel quite differently and have a much stronger sense of the value of art in society as a whole and the role of the artist as communicator . This is an important change to a more conscious approach to art and to understanding my own responses and how they can be better informed. ( 155 words)

 
I would like to improve my study skills, in particular academic reading . I find that no matter how interesting the material might be I am slow in reading it and don’t seem to remember it . I intend to find a method of note-taking that will help, perhaps mind-mapping or similar. In looking more closely at bronze sculpture I would like to learn more about the material and how it works . One of the aspects of pot one pot one pot of this work has been to arouse curiosity in me regarding materials and why specific choices are made . (102 words)

 
My learning log has been slow to get off the ground . Setting it up was very challenging and time-consuming . Now that I’m more familiar  with it I will focus more on content . Having discussed this with my tutor I feel more confident about what should be included, perhaps more reflection in a type of weekly diary.  It would be good to consider myself both as apprentice artist and writer , and perhaps in time this will be true .  I have felt inspired by some of the examples given . I have  come to appreciate that there are small things that I create which could be considered art forms although in the past I would not have recognised this.  It would be useful for me to use the log to hone writing skills but up to now I have not felt that I had the time to do this. (152 words)

Assignment One Part B: Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave

In this essay I will offer a personal interpretation of Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave. (Artangel 2001) It will be important to address time and place within this piece as well as reflecting on Deller’s choice of format. I will also consider the subsequent exhibition of associated items that are part of the piece. Citing this piece within the context of Jeremy Deller’s other work will potentially help with the overall interpretation.

 

My initial impressions when watching The Battle of Orgreave were amazement at the
scale of the event and the way that I felt completely engaged with the activity, shocked by the realism of the aggression and transported to 1985. Although rationally I knew it was a piece of performance art, the police presence felt terrifying particularly the vast numbers, the uniforms and the military tactics. The miners in contrast looked vulnerable and although angry, they seemed powerless. I wondered how the people of Orgreave had received this re-enactment of a deeply troubled part of their recent history and what impression it might have made on those who remembered the events. It was therefore not surprising to discover that Deller had been affected by seeing news coverage of the 1985 event as a young man. (Artangel. The English Civil War: Part II)

 

We see how extremely effective it is to create a re-enactment of a battle within living memory in the exact spot where the event first took place. Using the word Battle in the title indicates that Deller saw this as some sort of war. The use of film for this site-specific piece gives a sense of involvement and immediacy, particularly around the violence. Views of police on horseback, clearly at an advantage, contribute to the menace while the sound of angry voices, the loud drumming of police truncheons on the shields, and then the addition of music makes the piece a particularly sensory experience. The glimpses of actual photographic stills from 1984, which intercut the re-enactment film are like flashbacks, give a sense of falling back in time. It is perhaps intended as a reminder that despite the distance in time, the effects of an event such as this, impacts on the future not only on those involved, but on society.

 
With a static medium I feel the emotion would be more reflective as experienced by the subsequent exhibition of artefacts with the film. This installation, now at The Tate in London, is entitled The Battle of Orgreave Archive : An Injury to One is an Injury to All . The title, a slogan used by many industrial unions, reflects Deller’s interest in groups and communities and this particular installation draws attention to the emotional and physical injuries sustained by the mining community.

 
Viewing historical artefacts in the Orgreave archive would draw me to the event and complements the film. Displaying  items of miner’s clothing, a riot shield, newspaper reports of the 1985 event, short videos setting the scene etc, gives context to the video showing in an adjacent room. Part of that context reflects the divisions between groups in society. The archive includes books such as the memoirs of Margaret Thatcher, a staunch supporter of the police force, sitting beside an account of the event by Ian MacGregor highlighting the rift between classes.

 
This is further emphasised in a recording of union representative David Douglass describing the divisions within the miner’s union itself. (Artangel. Spoken Testimonies) That these divisions were not only between strikers and non strikers but also between the left and right and different internal groups is reflected in the polarity in the newspaper reportage.

 
Interestingly, in order to create the re-enactment of the battle, Deller and his team had to build bridges. Michael Morris co-director of Artangel says, “We gave ourselves a year in which to build bridges of trust with the community of former miners in South Yorkshire and resolved to abandon the project at the first sign of hostility.” ( Artangel. Making the Battle of Orgreave 2002) The fact that several former miners and some former policeman took part in the re-enactment contributes to the credibility of the film whilst possibly giving a new and different perspective to those individuals.

 

That the day was meticulously planned and yet the film captures the violent and chaotic nature of such an event is extraordinary. It is a reminder of the spoken and unspoken agreements between people. The actual Orgreave clash was also planned albeit as a picket line (Artangel Soundcloud) the opposing sides knew where to meet and that it would be a violent clash of ideologies, although it is doubtful that the level of violence would have been predicted. In the film, as in reality, the vulnerability of the miners, some bare chested, compared to the police covered from head to toe in riot gear is a stark reminder of the power of the State.

 

The Battle of Orgreave is a political statement of power and class. More importantly it reflects Deller’s passion for people and specific communities. We see this interest again in Deller’s piece that followed called After the Goldrush, 2002 in California, and again in Folk Archive, 2005. More recently Deller’s performance art piece entitled Iggy Pop Life Class, 2016 features a selected community of New York artists at a life drawing class. This community of artists would belong to a specific socio-economic class. Deller’s skill lies in gaining the trust of these communities as Jonathan Jones writes in his review in The Guardian.
In conclusion, Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave is a political piece representing a specific time in the history of the coal mining industry and the cultural changes generally in the 1980s. It remains relevant in terms of the social aspects of the class system in Britain, and the divisions between government at Westminster and the workers literally and figuratively “at the coal face”.

 

(988 words)

Bibliography
Artangel
At https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/the-battle-of-orgreave/ (accessed 9 June 2016)
Artangel
https://soundcloud.com/artangel-2/sets/the-battle-of-orgreave (accessed 10 June 2016)
Deller, J
At http://www.jeremydeller.org
Deller, J
At http://jeremydeller.org/IggyPop/IggyPop.php (accessed 10 June 2016)
Jones, J. The Guardian. 19 June 2001
At https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/jun/19/artsfeatures (accessed 10 June 2016)
Tate
At http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/deller-the-battle-of-orgreave-archive-an-injury-to-one-is-an-injury-to-all-t12185 (accessed 9 June 2016)

Self evaluation
I found this assignment quite challenging on many levels. I have not written academic essays and I am not sure if I am doing it correctly. Is this actually an interpretation or have I fallen more into reviewing? Do I present my interpretations in this way or do they need to be more cautious? The feedback will be very useful.