Saturday, 26 December 2009

Late in the year thoughts...

I make art to explore my subject, which is high resolution image making - or, after several years of looking at the subject area, where everyone is now experiencing something of the high resolution form, I feel that I should now just refer to the area as simply, image making.

Yes there is a high form and a low form of high resolution and very much of what people are experiencing is to my mind very, very low. But then I’ve had the luxury of circumstance to experience many levels of resolution. Like Blake.

Art like everything else turns to dust in time. So, if that’s the case why do it, if your rationale was to make something that was about connecting to the eternal? That was after all my rationale as opposed to having a project that was about shape, form, structure - all that old, old stuff. I certainly have had no interest in recent yet profitable exploits of the artist/charlatan state where the kings new clothes are worn de rigueur - and with pride. Always by very very stupid people with everyone else wondering what the fuck it is all about. Well I’m here to tell you it’s about nothing - nothing at all.

I’ve come to the point (once again) where I’m standing looking up at the cosmos and thinking about my own existence. There it is and here I am. When I’m absorbed in looking at it then there’s no need to do anything - when I come to the end of my looking then there’s a need to sustain my self, food, heat, light, exchange with others and making marks which speak about the absorption I’d previously experienced whilst contemplating the immensity that we are placed within.

Why reprise that - why not just go stare at it again? For one I don’t just want to repeat myself because in that repetition are the seeds of hedonism - self-pleasuring. So I realise that a return to that contemplation can only happen once again when I’ve been refreshed or remade or changed sufficiently for that experience to once again mean something - all of which can come from sharing the experience. In that sharing comes further enlightening moments as once articulates what it was that transfixed one in the first place.


That’s a word that refers to the crucifying of the human spirt on the cross of matter. Yet actively contemplating the infinite relieves that state - and sharing that relief propagates renewing the self. It’s a circle - but then most of existence as experience, from the human point of view, is a series of circular movements and wisdom tries to speak about that - ‘there is a time for hope, there is a time for grief, everything has its time’ - say the psalms.

Art has been commodified by a value system that has fetishised commodities and so art itself within the limited and local zeitgeist has also been commodified. But we know the earth is in some kind of trouble and so we need to make art that relates to this condition. I’m not proposing a lot of eco art that will be just as local as the prior form, - rather a making of art that speaks of the eternal, right here, right now. People have found that they want to express themselves as being alive in an important way - ordinary people have extraordinary selves inside them and commodification will no longer be helpful in defining the extraordinariness of that self.

So to me it seems that we the artists must speak to that need for articulation in the ordinary person and so we must speak of the eternal - the most difficult of subjects to be clear about - and for all of those reading this with lack of understanding at this point someone else once said - if you’ve got the ears you’ll understand the message.

The Italians say: Few are called, but many answer.

Though the commodification of the world eventually implies that anyone can make ‘art’, by reducing what art is to a commodity, therefore it’s re-produceable easily- the truth is only a few can make worthwhile art and at a time when everyone is answering that call, it’ll take some time to be clear about what is good art and what is bad art. But then again one can simply see what’s there with intuitive eyes and mind and respond to the work knowing that it’s good if it speaks of the eternal and frankly, no-good if it speaks of anything less.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Time to make some good work

For an assessment of my research up until this moment, please see the blog entitled Time and Resolution: Experiments in High Definition Image Making, which outlines my work and current findings.

So a young artist, Eugene, wins ‘School for Saatchi’ - well, someone has to win - but truth to be told, Eugene’s piece was by far the best work - if you judge the idea of art within contemporary ideas of art: that it is impactful, easy to read, understandable, interpretable and also at the same time, enigmatic. The enigmatic element is what keeps the art market going. If it were not enigmatic then it would be hard to make a commodity of the work - which doesn’t fit in with the decadent end-of-civilisation stance that those who broker the value of art within the contemporary zeitgeist require. (For those unfamiliar with this TV programme, 6 artists make work week by week then get eliminated until 1 wins an exhibition with Saatchi in Moscow).

Saatchi is an ad man - he shapes art in his own image, his own understanding. In McLuhan’s world in which he grew up, things need to be impactful to get through in the global village, they have to be fairly direct to be able to sell the moment where everything is clamoring for your attention. No blame - it’s just the way he is and because he had money he could shape the work of artists by functioning as the demand element of the supply and demand equation. Artists cannot be blamed either. They had to eat. Some of them engorged, but some of them are trying to make amends (if they truly understood their acts in the past) and Hirsts paintings for instance are creating opprobrium amongst the critics and curators because they of course, are behind the wave.

It’s a problem we all have to deal with - the intervention of the artist, the relationship to an audience of a work; the relationship of ideas to objects.

As an artist I’m of course interested in all of that and it is disconcerting to be ‘unrecognised’ and probably were the contemporary curator to consign me to oblivion as an artist then it would be affecting of my confidence - however, all of that must not matter in pursuit of what art might actually be in relationship to the Mammalian/Homo Sapien project - which of course may or may not be existent - but I like to think that it does: that we are an improving species and that ‘art’ is in fact a galvanizing and improving force in relation to the goals of the project - that the artist is in cahoots with the project to make work which reveals something about the truths of life for those that are busy living it.

I’m pretty sure that when I exhibit, I exhibit in some kind of vacuum. The vacuum is my own set of beliefs - see above - and that though I understand about the space in which a young artist is dealing in, the assets and the real estate and the property bonds, the stocks and shares of art, the determining concepts as raised by Duchamp, outlined by Magritte and articulated by Warhol - then utilised by Koons and Hirst - etcetera - I have a responsibility to do more - and I also have to accept my own pre-disposition to the cultural and historical continuum in which I have been placed - but, within that understanding I use my chosen form, video - electronic cinematography - which has a relationship to single image, single frame photography, to photochemical forms... I still have to take the space as did Eugene with impactful work, but then create work which has deeper meanings and resonances for the public, deeper than the flimsy, frothy expressions of concepts (as being as weighty as materials) and going beyond those concerns reveals the deeper empathy of people made sentient within a human frame.

I’ve played with ways of getting at that state and sometimes made work that resonates with that inner tension found in a ll sentient, conscious beings. Now, however, I have to challenge myself to be bold enough, creative enough, brave enough to go beyond my own form and thoughts, transcend my own condition to reveal work which itself reveals everything said above and more.

That’s my manifesto - I have intimations of things that I have to do. I have first to make ‘The Way North’ which I’m part way through making, then I have to make The Crucifixion and use the symbolism in that mithraic and christian idea (and Babylonian and Egyptian come to that) to demonstrate where we stand in history - which as usual, is crucified on our own lack of ability to see beyond our own state - the cross is usually the cross of matter - but we now have to face the fact that the cross is made of everything that constitutes our own blind spot.

‘The Way North’ or as it’s subtitled ‘Until I’m Gone’, is about my own passing on the basis that we really should get used to the idea of death, that just as we were born so shall we die. The Crucifixion is the crucifixion of an ape - because that’s what we are in terms of genus - seen as Dali saw the son of man, from above. At the apes feet there will be the carcass of a cow in a vegetable plot, because it’s time to stop eating living sentient beings, turn the planet over to the production of vegetables, limit the amount of people on the planet and find pleasure in doing real things and stop consuming experience (and things) - because it’s now time. We don’t need ‘The Age of Stupid’ to know what we have to do. True there are a lot of men attached to the idea that they need to eat meat to be a man and carry along their womenfolk in that belief, much as grandmothers commit the actual act of circumcising the young women for the culture - those who should least be involved - but it’s time to stop or terminate the planet (as we now know it to be).

Not that there isn’t a zillion earth-like planets out there and we should also get over our own ‘specialness’ - but our own particular backyard needs tending simply because some of us do not want to be wanton, some of us always wanted to care for the environment, some of us knew from the very beginning that animals should be spared - not just because they too feel as we feel (in every respect), but how could we look ourselves in the mirror if we committed an act of cannibalism ? It’s just time to change, that’s all - and art has to reflect that decision to mean anything to anyone in a world that just might seem to be dying.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A friends questionnaire

Bristol University 1921 - from a a recent Portraits Project

A friend asked me to complete a questionnaire on the subject of 'Art' and I realised I've been thinking about this subject area a lot lately and needed to commit myself to 'paper' no matter how pompous it seemed. I write this just having examined the latest thoughts on exposure and compression in wavelet transforms (as used in Red One). So though there's not a technical note at all in what follows, it's written with a mind to the technicalities of producing moving image art with todays digital media.

1.How did your recent Portrait project come about?

I began in photography when I was a student – so the still image is my starting point (in some ways). Having made many documentaries which examine ‘real issues and real people’ and having come to the conclusion that the only thing a documentary documents is the attitude of the maker at the time of making to their subject, I put the documentation of the real on the back burner and became more involved with fiction and with art in the moving image. Having gone through many ideas over 20 years I became interested in doing the opposite to what you should do with moving images – move the camera and change the shots: so moving image portraiture became of interest because you neither moved the camera, not the shot. Portaits iof the Somerset Canivals is my fourth portraiture project and there will be more of these plus developments of the form – Monumental Portraits of the working people of the Somerset levels being the next. In this I’ll turn the screen portrait at 20 feet x 10 feet to aggrandize the subject. It’s a socialist perspective.

2. Where would be the ideal place for you to show Portraits of the Somerset Carnival?

Tow ideal places: The Rural Life Museum because it contrasts the past and contemporary technology and the second would be any foreign environment because using the ‘strangeness of others’ is a useful and impactful staging of work. When Portraits of the Tor was shown in Venice, the Venetians loved it – and – when Ritratti di Cannaregio (Portraits of Cannaregio) showed in Glastonbury, Somerset people love that too. Therefore ‘difference’ works as a staging tool.

3.Do you think the location of where your films are played makes a difference to how people think about your film?

This only appears to be a film – it is s movement of light and a movement of sound which we choose to see as an ‘image’. So I reject ‘film’ as a description – also it doesn’t describe this technology but the late 19th century invention of celluloid. As for the place where people are exposed to this play of light and sound, it is as key as where it was shot and what was shot. The artists selects the subject, the form, the description and where the audience apprehends all of these. Sometimes the artist has to randomize their own preconceptions (as above with the use of ‘the other’). However all you’re trying to do as an artist is to display, depict, transmit your own intuition about the work as clearly as you can – I don’t mean intellectual clarity – that’s an academic position which is explicitly centered on how we apprehend via the frontal lobes of the brain. I’m more interested in the whole or gestalt experience of the audience. If the artwork is ‘true’ to the artists original intuition and realized without too much personal baggage attached, and then staged knowingly, then the audience will receive the ‘transmission’, the artwork, as the artist originally intended (baring in mind that the artists intentions are very wide of the mark in terms of what’s good for their own work – it’s a minefield)

4.What do you think when choosing an angle to film?

So far I utilize western aesthetics – ‘the golden mean’, said to derive from our sensory condition and how ‘beauty’ is derived from the fact of photo-sites, optic nerve weave, data rates of transmission, receptor cells, brain capacity – all that western stuff which like everything else is simply a narrative to tell ourselves how it is for us within the human form. For 30 years I’ve been pointing a camera in professional situations and therefore have experienced the norms of depiction. If you’ve done this enough you can frame with your eyes closed, just listening.

Having said that – I go for pure and direct naturalistic framing with a balanced frame simply to acknowledge the above and not be mired in any of the various ‘problems’ of alternative framing choices.

5.Which is more important to you, the subject for your film, or how it was filmed?

These two are one.

6.What moves you most in life? (Inspires or upsets you)

Art is the only important thing in life. It is the eternal in the now. This very moment, the acknowledgement of which, is the art of the moment. Whether contemporary art school training is turning out artists or ‘noticers’ of the fashions of the mammals and the apes is another question. For those that have managed to not be bogged down in that question – everything is possible. The collegiate of artists, greater or lesser, are people I understand. Anyone who has realized that this is not all that there is is moved to speak about that – and ehat they speak about is art, with greater or lesser talent. The rest are the ones that didn’t volunteer for the job, for one reason or another. Art is a painful route sometimes – as you’ll no doubt know.

I should’ve written this up as a blog…..