Tuesday, 15 February 2011


as part of the project for rewind i have been looking at family photographs – the idea would be to print these on sheer fabric – see application below -

What is your story, our story? It is the story of all of us, centred on the idea of ‘unfound’ photographs.

What does the past look like? What does memory feel like? The disjoined photograph presents a fragmented experience, there is no before or after only a frozen timeless moment. The work could be seen as a puzzle – with the role of the viewer one of completing the uncompleted narrative. Not in the physical sense, with the hand but in the mind. The work enables its audience to build their own story, to imagine, to impose.

The work recognises our individual need to connect, to make sense of our existence and presents us with the opportunity to reflect on this phenomenon enabling us to build our own world, to develop our relationship with the past, making sense of one’s own past through the history of others. The work also provides a space for private contemplation to reflect on one’s own sense of loss, mourning for the past of others and the possible futures for ourselves.

Who are the people in these photographs? Do they talk to us? What do they say? What are they telling us? The once meaningful photographs have lost their position. The dead do not speak and often we find ourselves waiting too late to ask questions of the people with answers. But are the thoughts and recollections of the elderly the truth or one of many truths? The facts, figures, dates and partly remembered names and relationships never really add up to a satisfactory experience for the questioner. What are we asking and why do we want answers? There is a need to connect, to have a context. This loss of history, loss of story means that we find ourselves imposing a narrative. The photograph presents us with the evidence, the opportunity to connect with the idea of legacy, to leave behind a mark a permanent statement, although it too will be something that will disappear over time.

We as individual artists present and in fact represent monumental movements and events in 20th century human experience. Les Bicknell’s images talk of the industrial revolution, his families and the western world’s migration from rural to urban living, the move from farming to industry and the factory mechanisation. Caroline McNamara’s images add to our understanding of the global Jewish experience. Her personal archive of images taken by long dead relatives in a hospital in Poland run by the Austrian Army in the middle of the First World War talk of the extraordinary in the ordinary, the everyday activities and objects that stand for all of our lives.

The physical qualities of the materials used in the work are very particular. The photographs are digitally printed on semi-transparent fabric enabling the image to be both present and absent. As the audience moves around and between the pieces the fabrics fragility creates a luminal surface of impermanence. Its physical presence constantly changes inventing and reinventing the audience’s experience. Because of the quality of the material the images are printed on various areas of several separate images combine in space to become a hybrid image of the past.

The light shade, an everyday object from the photograph has been re-made and used as a device to animate the image. They have been wired up to provide a light source. This light both illuminates and obliterates the image. The concept of illumination acts as a metaphor for the act of looking. Illuminating the past, shining a light both on the image and the person looking. The texts made physical by light, through the cutting of text in the material, reference the idea of the authority of knowledge and its power to enlighten.

The text physically joined to the image (1) acts as both a text label, a framework for the understanding of the work and also a text in its own right, a starting point for a discussion around the imagery. This text can be read and reread on multiple levels with multiple narratives in any order.

Within the installation as a whole there is a sense of revelation in how the work is encountered. As the individual viewer looks at the hanging pieces the idea of the work as an expanded book, revealing and concealing, folding and unfolding is informed by the idea and the possibility of the ‘page book’ experience as the viewer walks through the large scale ‘pages’ of the ‘book’. The room itself becomes a book – creating a new way of reading which will envelop the reader and presenting an all-encompassing viewing experience.