Radio Lab presents 'Gonads: Sex Ed'
In this podcast episode by Radio Lab, the traditional restraints surrounding sex ed in relation to religion and culture are explored. The live audience session asks a panel where they would draw the line with what can be taught in schools. This extends to the need for owning out bodies in claiming our identity. Many of the concepts within the episode increased my knowledge on the on going debate of sex ed.
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Leeds art gallery
Female sexuality: TED talk
A TED talk by _____, she spoke about the lack of education of girls in sex ed, especially about their genitalia. Due to this, their has been a 20% increase in cliteral surgery between 2014 and 2016. Moreover, the concvertaion about hetrosexialtuy in relation to virginity becomes more confusing. Girls measure quality of sex/ orgasm based upon the enjoyment of their sexual partner. But what about queer couples? The speaker asked a lesbian in one of the schools she had taught about how she knew she had lost her virginity, she replied "I measured it by my first orgasm".
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colour over time hannah reading
9 to 5 film
early rotating cinema carousels (horse)
Price of Salt: depiction of queer relationship dynamics
Christian and catholic school videos
Gallery visit: Adama and Maya
Clock and noises, white noise
Sculpture that serves a purpose (inventions)
Name of inventions that serve small purposes,
william health robinson
Polyester Podcast: ep 1, skinhead culture / working class
INTERVIEWER: I suppose as someone who dresses that way now in your day to day life, what do you find is the most common reaction is to you, in general?
Rene Matić: as someone who dresses like a skinhead or a rude girl today, you're more likely to recognise other people who dress in similar days and mostly its like middle aged men, who were like original skinheads back in the day.
INTERVIEWER: Do you reckon that if it wasn't for your dad, you would have found have ever found skinhead culture by yourself?
Rene Matić: I think that I've always been obsessed with subculture... look for other things to grab onto, punk and altering your clothes. I didn't actually know m dad was a skinhead as such until... further reading. He listens to all the music, he's got the shoes and the swag and I kind of put two and two together.
My father listens to rock and alternative rock, so do I. For many years before he began working in the office, he wore jeans and shirts, I still find myself dressing in a similar way, I even own workwear clothes now that are very similar to what he wore when he worked in the field.
Rene Matić: I have quite an addictive personality, in the sense that if I like one thing I will find out everything about it.
I am quite similar, in respect to my working class background from my parents, I have always been obsessed with whatever my parents wore or did that seemed individual to them. My father was a mechanic when I was very young, the moment I learnt to drive it became apparent to me I had to know exactly why components of the car functioned in the way they did. I have always dressed in a similar way to my parents also, especially my dad when he use to work in the pits at the mine, whenever I have had more formal events I have tried to emulate my mothers officewear.
INTERVIEWER: ... why do you think your identity is so rooted in something from the past or something you never experienced first hand?
This again is very similar to how I feel in the respect my upbringing was from working class individuals with myself living above working class.
Rene Matić: As you grow up you grow up, you search for reasons as to why you are the way you are and a lot of people can come to conclusions about their past and their ancestry...
Though the speaker is referring to race in terms of identifying though skinhead culture (which I obviously can't identify with because my background is very different to this), I do relate to emulating the appearance of her parents because of the way you are brought up.
In relation to touch, skateboard videos and their leniency to be edited in a more outdated aesthetic (resembling that of 90's home video) have many abstract angles and close ups of motion that really interest me.
Skateboarding as a whole is of great interest to me as my father skateboarded when he was younger and I learnt to skateboard in turn, though this isn't so exclusive to the Australian working class in the 80's, biking and skateboarding are very big in the town I am from due to its spread out size. The concept of space seems very relevant to these videos and is presumably more apparent to me since I live in a confined area.
The sounds that crop up in these videos I find very calming and the longer sets of fluid movement are very visually hypnotising. They are like a visual relaxation to me.
reflective hypo art with projection
Colourfield painting: Helen Frakenthazer
COLOUR FIELD PAINTING
The term colour field painting is applied to the work of abstract painters working in the 1950s and 1960s characterised by large areas of a more or less flat single colour
The term was originally applied to the work from about 1950 of three American abstract expressionist painters Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still. ‘The colour field painters’ was the title of the chapter dealing with these artists in the American scholar Irvine Sandler’s ground-breaking history, Abstract Expressionism, published in 1970.
From around 1960 a more purely abstract form of colour field painting emerged in the work of Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Alma Thomas, Sam Gilliam and others. It differed from abstract expressionism in that these artists eliminated both the emotional, mythic or religious content of the earlier movement, and the highly personal and painterly or gestural application associated with it. In 1964 an exhibition of thirty-one artists associated with this development was organised by the critic Clement Greenberg at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He titled it Post-Painterly Abstraction, a term often also used to describe the work of the 1960 generation and their successors.
Helen Frankenthaler interview (1993), notable quotes:
"When you saw and met Jackson Pollock and De Kooning... what was their impact?"
"They were my New York mentors, that shock that recognition of what was going on in the art world in the early 50's was tremendous to my paintings"
"When did you first put canvas on the floor and stand their and say 'I'm going to create something different'?"
"saw his methods (Pollock) and materials... I bought a different message to it but the approach took painting literally off the easel... you felt the boundaries of the canvas the scale of it was endless, thrust of shoulder and not wrist alone was nothing compared to this handling of method and material in a different way... a beautiful picture that worked"
"What she does is beautiful... today beautiful which is always a tricky word but know it's become an incendiary word because in many ways today beauty is obsolete and not the main concern of art and you can't prove beauty it's there was a fact and you know it and you feel it and its real but you can't say it 'this has it' I might be able to say it and others might recognise it but it gives not specific message other than itself which should be able to move you into some sort of truth and insight into something beyond art and initially its pleasure that grows its not just the shock if a message once you've had it its over."
Frankenthaler goes on to speak about how she feels much of the art being put up in the Whitney Gallery in America reflects political topics (such as racism) rather than for the purpose fo beauty in the way a Monet or Pollock may. This was intresting to me as I feel there needs to be some honesty rooted within the artist as a truth before creating work, often this may link to the perusal of beauty (which alone seems a narrow path) or other topic but the appearance of the outcome is unrelated to the topic if one was to appreciate the pure beauty, she also makes this judgement after having said she hadn't seen its current collection.
Robert Rachenberg heat press
After seeing Robert Rachenbergs exhibition at the ______ I looked into the methods he used to transfer his images onto fabric
combining mediums, word for medium combination (interdisciplinary)
Staged VS candid photography
Types of cinematic shots
The valuing of art in the working class: job security
The perfect machine, 100% efficiency
Colour evolution over time
Gary reading suggestion
David Hockney joiners
Working class culture in Australia
colour theory: burnt orange and the 70's
Emma reading suggestion
Light bulb wattage, filament vs LED
The bible: creation, Adam and Eve
Heat guns on plastic
Adama and Maya gallery
The Greatest Showman: lantern scene
Whilst constructing my projector, the imagery of the film The Greatest Showman came to mind. There is a scene early on in the film where the main character (played by Hugh Jackman) constructs a lantern that spins delicately on its centre, projecting onto bedsheets nearby.
The colour choice within the scene is very interesting, the deep blues contrast intently against the soft yellows and whites of the lantern on the sheets. The entire mood of the scene is very magical and dreamlike.
I recently got back some film and had been experimenting with a flash mount for my slr. All of these pictures came back with a black top.
I was unaware of the fact that the eye of the camera opens a shutter first then the other follows, meaning if your flash is too fast or too slow, it will fire when only 1 curtain is open, causing the black band on the top or bottom. This is all down to flash-sync speed.
The max sync speed is the fastest shutter speed at which the camera is able to have both shutter curtains open long enough to fire the flash.
Essentially, you have to match the ASA settings to the flash.
Tracey Emin: Gallery at White Cube Bermendy
Bill Viola Michelangelo: gallery notes
Tracy Emin: How It Feels (1996): Gallery (White Cube)
Emin talks about this concept of the passing of time she talks about seeing "children of 5 and thinking I could have a 5 year old child, well probably 2 now".
Its the same as when I think, I will always be older than Adam and he will always be 11 days from 18.
She also talks about having "an abortion anniversary", I relate to this in having a suicide anniversary with Adam.
Again with her seeing "Autumn leaves on the ground" and thinking she would have had her baby then and they would have had their birthday.
This concept of time passing and never knowing what could have been, but still trying to make it tangible by measuring the clocking of time feels consistent to both of our works.
Within the exhibition, this video gives greater context to the supporting work and seeings it dates from 1996, it gave the feeling of the progression of Emin's work into the present.
Again, though different, Emin also talks in detail about the failure of her abortion and without intending to I can see from her expression, tone and choice of words what she was talking about. The reaction I have feels very similar to when I 'accidentally' slip into telling in detail what happened to Adam and what I saw. Often, if asked I will just say he died, and if how, I say hanging. The artist told of everything in the same way I sometimes do and it brings a dark feeling over you that doesn't let you breathe. In a backwards way it bends time backwards and it feels as if the narrative she tells happened only yesterday and she is in some strange state of shock where she is upset but doesn't scream.
The title serves the same purpose as when I tell my story, it depth. You can try in so many words to express it but the experience I have compared to another individual is likely to be different because of perspective.
Reading suggestion ester
Touch, The Science of the Sense that Makes Us Human: David J. Linden
Exposure to touch from birth can reduce a babies need for injections, susceptibility to illness and likelihood to live through initial postpartum care. Mothers can do this by holding their babies using the 'joey method' when a mother is nude from her top up and the baby is wearing only a nappy to increase skin-on-skin contact. They have also found that orphaned children benefitted from 20-40 minutes of touch per day in reducing issues associated with short-staffing at orphanages.
Barbican: lost Property
An installation I recently saw at the Barbican, titled Lost Property was a very interesting look into the past. My interest in past design and intimacy (particularly physical touch) made this exhibition very relevant as many items had very visible signs of wear and many had been rendered 'useless' or 'out of date' in modern times. The collection of cameras I found very interesting, 35mm film cameras much like the one I was holding just lay discarded. When piled together in this way, they seemed far more like parts than working machines. The entire exhibit was highly categorised and seemed much like a collection of objects rather than an artwork. The instillation was made with the intention of emphasising the need for young people to consider the fact they will grow old and there is good reason to consider how we approach ageing, though, this was not something I took away from the exhibit, for me it was much more like looking into my grandmothers 'crap draw' full of funny bits and bobs that haven't been used for decades.
With the help of talking shoes, binoculars that let you see through someone else’s eyes and books that read to you, the often untold stories of what it’s like to grow old in the UK today are brought vividly to life.
Feminists what were they thinking
A documentary I recently watched on Netflix spoke a lot about women in the 70's and 80's and the wave of liberation that began to form during their time. A photographer had gone about photographing women, particularly those that identified as feminists. The documentary follows up the lives of these women, many of which who were artists, advocates or even queer individuals.
What stuck with me most was how little these women seemed to care in their photographs, they seemed painfully honest. Many women wearing little to no clothing and seemingly completely content in their own bodies.
To the Bone: Film
Maggie Rodgers: Back in My Body Documentary
A 12 minute documentary about Maggie Rodgers creative process throughout the beginning of her adult life. IN the beginning she speaks about with music, needing to know yourself before you can begin the creative process of actually making. This feels especially relevant to me right now, in figuring out who I am and what I want to create within this unit and where it will lead me.
The shots are beautiful, many shots of outdoor areas of Alaska. Where there is so much space for movement, the colours are all so similar in blues and greens. It appears completely untouched by humans and that seems like the most beautiful part for me.
I particularly am drawn to the hand written cut-scenes of song lyrics.
There are many birds eye shots, slow and calm, something I'm interested in recreating in my work relating to touch.
Weirdly, one of the extra shows she added was in Juno, which is also my favourite film and it too has a very flowing storyline (similar to the documentary) that focuses on family life and identity also.
"I had a tough time with it at first because suddenly I felt like a lot of it was out of my control and there was suddenly expectation of who I would be and you never want to disappoint people but you also just can't anything other than who you are."
Objects of Desire
This podcast speaks to a hoarder about the things she owns and why, including 700 pairs of shoes, but the point is made that an art collector can have 700 paintings but for someone to have 700 pairs of shoes they are viewed differently. Moreover, they are not almost in another category but people assume it must be cause for concern when it should essentially concern only the owner.
I love my necklaces, I wear them everyday. An argument Daniel Miller, an anthropologist who works on material culture at University College London, says it is possible to love an object. We are critiqued for materialism, as they should not be on the same plane as humans, it is at the expense of the relationship to people many assume. According to his research it is the opposite, those able to form deep attachments with objects are equally able to with people.
Objects can carry meaning, rather than their purpose. This seems like symbolism to me and is something I am interested in. I would like to see how I can incorporate this into my work.
I am still determining how this links to me and my ongoing project.
Insomnia can make you feel negative and impact your ability to function in day to day, during the process of grieving, suffering from insomnia (the inability to fall asleep, or to stay asleep (usually in my case, both)) makes it incredibly difficult to feel like time is passing. Sleep for me often feels like a fresh start. Insomnia can increase the likelihood of suffering from depression, lessened performance at work and ability to focus (seeing as I have ADHD, this only makes it worse).
PPP Draft 1
Oxytocin benefits in mental disorders
The oxytocin (OXT) system has an impact on many of the regulatory models that guide behavior. Intranasal OXT administration is proposed to improve social‐cognitive characteristics in humans, such as emotion recognition and social memory. Furthermore, it has therapeutic potential for the treatment of a number of mental disorders [Guastella et al., 2010; Gordon et al., 2011].
My general function is likely to improve because of the presence of oxytocin.
Although attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are recognized as neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairment in executive functions, impairments in social functioning are often accompanied by ADHD. Oxytocin (OT) has been investigated in a number of psychiatric disorders owing to its effects on social interactions. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between aggression, empathy and OT levels in children with ADHD. Forty male patients with ADHD, ranging in age from 7 to 18 years, and 40 healthy age-matched and sex-matched individuals were included in this study. The patients and healthy controls filled in the Buss–Perry Aggression Questionnaire and Bryant’s Empathy Index for Children and Adolescents; the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test was then completed. Blood samples were collected for OT at the beginning of the study. Lower serum OT levels were observed in patients with ADHD compared with the healthy controls. Moreover, there was a negative correlation between serum OT level and aggression scores and a positive correlation between the serum OT level and empathy scores in patients with ADHD. We conclude that OT may play a role in aggression and empathy skills, affecting the social life of those with ADHD.
I have gathered the effect of oxytocin on myself is likely to make me a more socially assimilated person and less likely to be aggressive, I would say I am very intimate in my relationships and physically express my appreciation for my friends often (which is known to release oxytocin) and is arguably the reason I am not chracteristically aggressive.
David Hockney Joiners
Don Mcgullen DOCCO
The English photographer, Don McGullen, originating from Finsbury Park (where i currently live) has an exhibition on at Tate Britain showcasing some of his work. Below are quotes and stills from his recent documentary with BBC.
DEVELOPING PICTURES IMAGE OR QUOTE
I was unaware you could 'light and dodge' outside of Photoshop, watching McGullen use his hands to emphasis areas of his image was something entirely new to me. When I go into a film shop and have my film developed, I wasn't aware the people developing it would be making decisions that affect the way my print develops.
Don Mcgullen GALLERY
I recently saw the work of Bill Viola at the Royal Academy alongside Michelangelo. these are some notes i took
The Home That 2 Built: interior design 60s
A series of stills taken from The Home that 2 Built, a documentary recounting the evolution of BBC2, I have gravitated towards the stills below that depict a more domestic life. I am planning on looking further into 60s trends and fashions as I would like to shoot staged photography in an environment inspired by this era.
The podcast 'Strangers' by Leah Taul has been a show I listened to from the age of 13 until it ended early last year. The host, Leah, would interview people living in America who had stories to share, these could be ranging from stories of joy to extreme loss. They were very personal in so many obscure ways for a podcast, seeing as every guest (or guests in some cases) were from different background the stories told were like little slices into society. They offered insight that would otherwise only be disclosed to very close friends and family.
Mark Wallenger: reflection in water
Becky Beasley: physical form in photography
Becky Beasley’s large hand-printed silver gelatin photographs bear the unevenness of their darkroom origins - her process is arrived at through experimentation and an unusually physical approach to darkroom printing. In around 2004, she began to design, fabricate and photograph her own objects instead of focusing on found motifs.
I am very interested in candid photography versus staged photography, I am not aesthetically attracted to Beasley's work though her transcribing of photography into the sculptural interests me, especially since I want to incorporate found materials into my practise.
Since this time she has developed her practice through a deep engagement with a series of literary works and, more recently, historical episodes.
Following the speech with Mark Wallinger, I have been more interested in the exploration of historical episodes as it occurred to me depicting past that is indirectly related to me is equally as valid as more modern concerns.
This close reading of a source allows Beasley to investigate how her own photographs, sculptures and limited edition books deal with the way image, object and language operate in relation to each other. Rather than setting one subject aside for the next, each enhances the relevance of its successor and is in turn enhanced by it. Her literary ‘godfathers’ include William Faulkner, Herman Melville, Bernard Malamud and Thomas Bernhard. Through the writing and presence of these figures, Beasley’s work has touched upon a wide but consistent range of concerns such as the anxieties of decision-making, sanctuary, the history of photography and the approach of death.
I do not know in what context the artist explores decision making but it is something I have more experienced with photography than any other medium because it is so quick to press a shutter as opposed to paint a picture.
Following a visit to the private apartment of the Italian architect and designer Carlo Mollino in Turin, Beasley discovered two texts that he had published in 1949: one a beautifully produced book, Il Messaggio Dalla Camera Oscura (Message from the Darkroom), the first history of photography published in Italy, the other a two-part essay on the history of the interior published in consecutive issues of the magazine Domus under the title ‘Utopia e Ambientazione’ (‘Utopia and Setting’). These texts along with the interior of Mollino’s apartment became a rich pretext for the body of work titled The Outside.
Research is a large component of the artists practise
Mollino’s writing is both instructive and highly personal and offers an insight into the existence of his clandestine apartment, Casa Mollino. Having purchased it in 1960, Mollino spent the last 13 years of his life decorating and photographing it, without ever actually living there. At the time of his death in 1973 his friends were unaware that it had been completed. This private mausoleum is perhaps indicative of his strong interest in theEgyptianMuseum inTurin. To a large extent the apartment existed through its photographic renditions. This idea of a photographic print being both representation and an object in its own right resonates strongly with Beasley’s own interests in photography.
It is an intresting concept to have an apartment belong to someone, privately without the knowledge of ones friends and photograph it for enough years that it is arguably 'yours' simply through the act of photographing it. Does it make it more or less of ones home? Does one have to sleep there in order for it to be considered home?
A photographic print cab be a representation (visual) and still an object in itself, does the artist believe this as the moment has passed and part of it has been taken in a photograph forever?
As this show demonstrates, Beasley carefully choreographs the relationship between her two and three-dimensional works. Here she has devised a linoleum floor design as a key element of the installation and as an original artwork for the leaflet. The inspiration for the design is described in Beasley’s text ‘The Yellow Circle’. The circle within a square, evocative of an eye or camera lens, plays on the fact that ‘camera’ is also the Italian word for ‘room’, and its effect is to emphasise the symmetry and intense interiority of this perfectly square, windowless room.
The dimensions and hinge-details of the cedar-framed prints that are either presented hung on the wall or as freestanding multi-part objects are derived from a blueprint Beasley discovered for a pair of swing doors Mollino had designed but never built. Each loosely hanging photograph represents a fragment of the negative that depicts a shelved trapezoid unit Beasley constructed. In the panelled sculptural works the white backs of the photographic paper are also visible, collapsing the notion of front and back. Adjacent prints depict a photographed section of white Chantillylace that features in Mollino’s apartment. Colour is added by the simple addition of a pinkish-orange acrylic glaze that brings vibrancy and emotional resonance to these otherwise monochromatic works. The artist describes the visual encounter with the work as ‘like a Chinese paper game’, in which the individual elements ‘seem to fold into and out of one another, each time anew.’ Two piles of offset litho prints of the Chantillylace image are an integral part of one of the sculptural works and are available for the visitor to take away. The remaining two small, identical sculptures, Perinde Ac Cadaver (Latin for ‘in the manner of a corpse’) directly embody Beasley’s fascination with Mollino’s work, with exactitude in copying and the question of interior and exterior. Meticulously made from black lacquered cedar wood and glass, their volume derives from the footprint of Casa Mollino and the spine dimensions of Il Messaggio Della Camera Oscura. In some way a reliquary, they relate to an earlier piece, Sleep, Night, that came out of Beasley’s response to William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying, in which a dying woman lies in a bed by a window in order to oversee the coffin her son is building for her, a drawing of which appears as a symbol in the published text. As Christy Lange has written, ‘as mute and minimal as they often appear, Beasley’s works unexpectedly open onto literary worlds.’
This seems very similar to Florence Welch's song 'My Boy Builds Coffins', in which a mother describes her son a being a builder of coffins and their appearance as an artwork that can never be appreciated fully as they are destined for the ground, whether belonging to the rich or the poor. Florence also says her son has built a coffin for her also.
The Outside is concerned with a space which is ultimately deeply interior. The abstract forms imaged in photographs or made as sculpture, do not spell out their underlying theme, yet there is a strong sense of a set of narrative coordinates that have informed their conception. The 1:1 scale of Beasley’s seductive prints and the anthropomorphic dimensions of her objects hold an autonomous reality of their own, whilst the referent for each body of work makes available another dimension for the viewer, should they wish to access it.
The history of Technicolor: how saturation can be adjusted
Originally, 'coloured' film was shot in red and green, which were merged together to create imagery like this:
Coloured film has been around since the early 1900's but was often hand-painted.
As Technicolor started it would take 3 negatives in different colours that could be layered. Then flipped into positives and then soaked with dyes of complimentary colours (cyan, yellow and magenta). Then the dye was transferred onto one to make a technicolor image. When an image is flipped to a positive, you can expect the colour red for example, to be light before cyan is added. There will be less cyan than red because it is like an 'anti-red' so to speak. This way when combined you get much more magenta and yellow than cyan, which makes the red brighter.
Previously 'the key' was added, which was a black and white layer under the final technicolour image to make the contrast brighter. I would imagine this is why so many of the older footage shoot with technicolor used 'the key' in the process.
In films such as the Wizard of Oz, to have the scene look as bright and alive as it was, it had to be incredibly well it in order to have all 3 rolls of film developing properly. Because of this, audio was also an issue and sound cancelling material was built around the camera (which was already larger than an ordinary camera).
Films from the same year had the ability to appear different not just because of creative processes in front of the camera but also the choice of the developers who could adjust the cyan, magenta and yellow bath to suit the tone of the film.
Betwitched: TV series (1964 - 1972)
When I was very young and my grandmother would mind me, she would often watch day time television which mostly played re-runs. Bewitched is my favourite TV show, I can't remember a time when it wasn't. I have always loved the character of Samantha played by Elizabeth Mongomery. The show was originally shot in black and white, the TV mostly aired the older (or colourised) version of the show, the colours were so saturated and alive, partly attributed to it being a family show and the characters having bright and personality defining wardrobes and pushing home the 'American Dream'. The shows element of magic allowed for vibrant and interesting cut scenes. I believe this is where I get my era based influence that repetitively crops up in my photography.
I remember the colour having been done my Technicolor (as many shows of the time were), I am going to research further into this as I am curious about the reason for the vibrance in colour. It seems to correspond with magazines of the period also, which sold a much more vibrant style of photography than what I have seen today.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5qp3vAVX9s (this is a link to one of the 'magic' scenes that were frequently used throughout the show, the roles of husband and wife are particularly obvious in this scene in the expectation Sam will take longer to get ready than Darren, he also had a 'no magic' rule when marrying Sam. Arguably, which surpasses her character thought the show however her very breaking of that rule is often what gives each episode its issue and resolve)
Ray's A Laugh: Richard Billingham
I saw this collection of images a few months back at the Sacchi Gallery, the particular image below is so intimate and uncomfortable for me. The ambiguity of the image is what attracts me to it, I haven't ever seen a photo taken like this, but the dirty condition of the floor repulses me. It's the same level of intimacy I want to capture in my work. It has such a homely and nostalgic quality, being it was taken on film and the post production is minimal seeing as the dog still has red eyes which is another element of the image I really like. It feels real, unstated and believable.
Down from his home in Stourbridge briefly for a meeting of this year's Turner Prize nominees at Tate Britain, Richard Billingham is looking and sounding mildly perplexed, still not quite sure that he belongs in the same category as the other candidates, maybe more than a shade suspicious of the big city's fickle, predatory art world and of all the nasty surprises it might have in store for him. I should probably admit from the outset that he doesn't seem all that trusting of my motives, either. "I don't want you to write all anecdotal stuff, what I'm saying," he warns me sternly. "I don't want you to just write, like, a story..."
Thrown by this unexpected command, I am incapable of mustering any of those dazzlingly eloquent defences of narrative as a mode of knowledge that will subsequently occur to me in the insomniac watches of the following nights, and simply mumble something feeble about how people like reading stories.
Anyway, still incorrigibly wedded to the anecdotal method by temperament as well as trade, my first inclination here is to report that, when asked how he felt when he heard about the nomination, Billingham says that it made him feel anxious: "I was thinking whether to accept or not, because, you know, it's a lot of stress..."
At first, I suspect that he must simply be play-acting the role of diffident provincial innocent here, exaggerating the degree to which all this media attention is a worry-inducing novelty. You don't get swept up by the Turner Prize mechanism from nowhere, and Billingham is already pretty well known in artistic circles; it's only a couple of months since his photographs filled a large wall at the Saatchi Gallery for the I Am a Camera show. Before long, though, it becomes apparent that he is either a) a brilliantly deadpan performer, or b) genuinely the character he presents himself as being idealistically committed to the art of picture-making, socially guileless, and wary in the extreme of being misrepresented and misunderstood.
It's not hard to sympathise, especially because, once you get past the defensiveness, he seems like a nice enough chap. Still in the early years of his career (he was born in 1970, and looks more boyish than you might expect), Billingham is already in danger of being typecast, permanently identified with a body of work that he's now left behind for good: the intimate studies of his parents collected in a book entitled Ray's a Laugh (1996). Its title was a punning allusion to the old BBC comedy show starring the wholesome entertainer Ted Ray, and also to the photographer's father, Ray Billingham, who at the time was rather too fond of a drink or seven. One shot, unlikely to find its way on to an RSPCA appeal calendar, shows Mr B angrily hurling a cat across the room.
Ray's a Laugh drew a great deal of enthusiastic attention from press and critics. Some of it was sickly, over-educated gush about the dense patterns of art-historical references in his compositions (most of which, he admits, are indeed there, "like the Goya one of my mum stretched out on the sofa...", but which were arrived at in a manner more intuitive than calculated). But much of the attention was fixated on the content, which, if you find that sort of thing sordid, was sordid: slimy stains on the walls; copiously overflowing ashtrays and other signs of a relaxed attitude to the niceties of housekeeping; Mrs B's more-than-Rubensesque proportions and lively forearm tattoos; and other details likely to provoke concern in the social worker, titillation in the social voyeur and queasy misgivings in those who cherish ideals of family privacy.
"I'm sure a lot of people were looking at them for the wrong reasons," Billingham now concedes. "I don't think this happens in the art world because people can look properly. But they caught the general public's eye because they were looking at the subject matter... I soon clocked on to this, after a couple of months. See, I thought everybody could read photographs, but they can't... I was shocked when I realised it, that people can't read photographs. It was 'Oh, look at those stains on the wall, look at his mum's tattoos...' and I never saw none of that, honestly, that just happened to be there. People weren't seeing any beauty underneath, none of the composition, none of the pattern." (And, for what it's worth, I find myself entirely convinced by this guileless account of his motives.)
The Ray's a Laugh series came about as a sort of by-product, when he was collecting materials for some paintings he was engaged in as an art student in the early 1990s. "I didn't want to paint my family specifically, it's just that it's hard to get somebody to sit for you for long periods of time. I wanted to do some paintings, a bit like Sickert, of figures in interiors, they way they relate to the space and so on, and taking the photographs was just a good source of reference material..."
This is very similar to my original intention, I was very set on painting what I'd photographed, I have always seen myself as a painter.
He began his formal training with a foundation year at Bournville College, not far from his family's home, and enjoyed the old-fashioned nature of its teaching. "I learned more in one year there than on three years of my degree course. At least they taught you to draw, still lifes and models and so on: it teaches you to look. Henry Moore said that drawing the life model is the act that requires the most concentration..."
He went on to art college in Sunderland: "The only art school I could get into. Not that I was thick or anything... The reason I didn't get into the other 16 art schools I applied to was because when it came to A-levels I wanted to do sciences. So I did chemistry, physics, biology and art. I'm sure it worked against me, because it looked like I didn't know what I was doing... But I did." Is he still interested in science? "Yes, but... It's more like nature, now, looking at the beauty of the natural world."
I point out that all this unfashionable talk of beauty and nature and skill puts him in danger of sounding like John Ruskin. "Ruskin was my favourite critic when I was at Sunderland... I read a lot of it through [the writings of the late English art critic] Peter Fuller, he opened my eyes to Ruskin." (Even more surprisingly, Billingham reveals that he went through a brief but passionate immersion in the conservative aesthetics of Roger Scruton.)
On graduation in 1994, he moved back down to the Midlands, working in a supermarket by day and pursuing painting and photography in his free time. Ray's a Laugh happened by something very close to sheer fluke. "There was this visiting lecturer at Sunderland, and he saw some of these photographs lying on my studio floor... and was picking them up, saying, 'These are great photographs.' I did have a fantasy early on about exhibiting some of these photographs large, in galleries, but honestly, where I come from I had no idea what the art world was, I had no idea what an artist was, and I didn't know you could exhibit big photographs in a gallery. I thought I'd have to exhibit them alongside paintings in order to justify them as art... Then the book was published and the phone never stopped ringing. I thought, 'What's the big deal?' you know?"
This is my feeling exactly towards photography, I often feel as if I'm not as justified or worthy enough as an artist to exhibit.
With immediate success also came immediate stereotyping as the kid from the scruffy, boozed-up family, and the recognition that he needed to find a radical new turn or be trapped. He turned to videotape, and to a large-format camera with which he could take sweeping, if somewhat featureless landscapes of his home turf in the Midlands. "I thought that if I take photographs of where I grew up and choose the most boring subjects I could think of and still make them good, take a photograph of nothing but still make it good, then there's no surface, nothing that..." You mean, no anecdotal content to fuss about? Right. "They can't look at a stain on the wall or a dog licking the floor, so if people do like these photographs then they'll genuinely like them for what they are..."
I have been thinking about buying an old video camera to shoot with, I would like to make these cinematic shots I take into movies in the future when I feel the more stationary works I'm currently making have been explored enough.
Fortunately, some people at least do seem to like them, and to be willing to let him develop in his own way. He's been awarded a brace of residences from November this year onwards, first in Dublin and then in the British School in Rome, and he's planning to use the studio space they offer for a major return to painting. Meanwhile, he's just going to have to sweat out the "anxious" time between now and the Turner Prize awards, while declaring his own indifference to the eventual outcome. And his parents? Well, they like the sound of the £20,000, but are otherwise as little interested in this stage of his career as they were in the fuss about Ray's a Laugh.
Time to wind up the interview with the usual professions of thanks and other such social lubrication. For some reason, The Independent's photographer, Nick, brings out a copy of Gogol's Dead Souls and enthuses about its brilliance. Playing "snap", I pull out a copy of Nabokov's Gogol biography. Billingham joins in the game, reaches into his pack and reveals his current train reading; an American edition of George Steiner's critico-philosophical treatise Real Presences. This, I realise, is nothing more than a small anecdotal detail, but I can't help suspecting that it says something revealing about him.
The Skin Deep
I have recently watched parts of a Youtube series in which couples ask each other questions on cards. The cards are designed to prompt and stimulate deep and meaningful questions to further establish fundamental components of their relationships. I enjoy watching them as they are honest and incredibly intimate, the couples are required to disclose information that not only would make them potentially uncomfortable in front of their partner but also the online viewers.
I am very interested in staging photography, however, my interests also suggest it would be worth initiating activities to promote intimacy and visually documenting it.
The interviews linked below are my most favourite seeing as the same couple was interviewed months apart and the mood between both videos is dramatically different. I am fascinated in the shift and growth between the couple.
Still from videos linked below.
The science behind intimacy in relation to ASMR
I experience ASMR, I think it is the reason I am so intoxicated by watching other people complete gentle, repetitive gestures with their hands. I also believe my ADHD and my connected ability to hyper focus influences my interest in relaxation style videos (namely ASMR) I was researching why this is and what I've gathered is it releases 'good hormones' like oxytocin and endorphins.
- Oxytocin is not just a "love" or "cuddle" hormone - it is a powerful anti-stress hormone that lowers cortisol, blood pressure, and more. ... Textbooks typically refer to oxytocin as a bonding hormone that is released during breastfeeding, or after an orgasm.
Human relationships, especially intimate ones often produce oxytocin, I am an incredibly social person and wonder if this is the reason why I am so attracted to the concept of indirect intimacy on demand (in the form of relaxation videos). Which is associated with people who are really close to each other, it shows in the form of long hugs and physical affection.
People who suffer from anxiety (myself included) also may benefit from ASMR, this leads me to gather my interest in intimacy is arguably down to its calming affect on my brain. They also aid in reducing insomnia, something that also effects me.
Darcia Narvaez, a professor of psychology at University of Notre Dame, says that there are two main ways that not being touched can affect a growing body: it can lead to an underdeveloped vagus nerve, a bundle of nerves that runs from the spinal cord to the abdomen, which research shows can decrease people’s ability to be intimate or compassionate, and can lead to an underdeveloped oxytocin system, the glands which release the oxytocin hormone that can help humans form bonds with other people.
Gesture in video
I have been interviewing many students from my classes but have struggled to find information regarding visual relaxation, the calming motion of hands and my primary interest in them in relation to intimacy. I have found older videos that show more human actions (before the age of heavy digital and technological replacement of humans) are more visually interesting to me than current 4D edits.
The video Globe Making (1955) (linked below) is heavily gestural as it shows the production process and is the type of physical gesture that absorbs my full attention and calms me, I want to use this element in my own work. The colours of the footage are also very rich and dated, they bring about a similar sense of nostalgia to what I experience when I look at family photos.
Above are some of the stills that interest me most.
Reoccurring cinematic themes
Untitled – May 1997
122 x 152 cm
Of all of Starky's work, this photograph is arguably my favourite. I have noticed, Starky's work is staged, in the same way a scene in a cinema. Her work in my eyes also has the aesthetics of cinematic stills. I have collected some cinematic stills below which have appealed to my personal aesthetics in relation to cinema and their potential for staging. These are angles I am interested in recreating, I have noticed when linking them together, there is a strong cohesion between the two, they are both primarily of women, colour and give minimal detail of their respected surroundings (with the exception of Pride).
Still taken from the show Atypical
Still taken from the show Sex Education
Still from the film Pride
Still from the film Carol
Involuntary found image recreation
This image is from an op shop in Finsbury Park near where I live, back in October of 2018 I based a painting on it. Out of all the found imagery I own this is perhaps my most favourite, there is something incredibly loving about the positioning of the couple, in particular the woman. I took a photo of my friend recently and when I have received it back from development it looked strikingly similar, the woman's expression in particular sprung to mind when I first saw it. I was aware I was being influenced by cinema, but to see how much of an impression this image has made upon me gives me more of an idea to what extent. I would like to explore how restaging may bring up the safe affection towards the image in myself.
Blue is the Warmest Color: Scene still
I was watching Blue is the Warmest Color recently, there is a singular still that I am love with the composition of. There is also an emotional link throughout the entirely of the film with the colour blue, for this reason I think I am more attached to this film as this reoccurring colour much like the intimate moments I try and capture in my photos. I think this still can still be appreciated by itself but with this emotional connection I believe its even richer artistically. The figurative element is also very interesting to me, especially considering I have been mostly capturing sections of people, not whole bodies. There is something so casual in her placement. I wonder whether I could capture a staged photo like this and make it believable.