Attraction as a distraction – feedback from GSofA

I’m now receiving feedback for the BoW in its current edit. The FTN event at the Glagow School of Art provided a wonderful opportunity to engage the work with a lot of academics and practicing artists, all of whom have either a practice engaged in the subject of ‘family’ or have at least more than a passing interest.

Having the work on display worked to spark conversations about the work, what I was trying to say and what ‘it’ said to the viewers/readers of the work. I am under no illusion about the work, but I know it affected some of those who engaged with it judging by some of their remarks – I have since had connection requests via twitter and F/B.

I am sure that the print presentation worked, the intimacy involved in the handling of the prints in the format provided worked well, in my opinion. Several viewers commented such. The envelopes with sub-edits that I had labeled ‘Episodes’ worked in another way, in that they distracted attention from the main body of work. I made the decision to have these ‘Episodes’ as I had way of knowing if more than one person might want to engage with the work, so the envelopes were made to allow a limited interaction. I think they worked a little too well, the colour – bright red – attracted people to them and even those who viewed the work subsequently succumbed to the attraction of these scarlet containers. I had also taken all the artefacts in the original box that I was given by my mother, but these appeared to be overlooked in favour of the envelopes.

A common reaction was that the texts were quite compelling and I’m wondering about whether they are too strong. They do contrast very strongly with the landscape imagery, whose aesthetic is quite muted; the harshness of these texts was made to echo in the treatment of the artefacts – strong, unambiguous, sure of themselves. I have also asked for feedback from a recent graduate in photography; Leigh-Anne gained a first from UWE last year and some of her reflections tend to agree with how I have made the work:

This has a really strong message!! I think the narrative is really well written to go alongside the images. I think it intrigues the reader and if you had the descriptor with this body of work I would try to ensure it was read after seeing the images with the narrative. 

There is a strong contrast between the elusive and mysterious landscape shots, that are beautiful but have a sense of sadness about them, and the bleak and clinical shots of the rings and cufflinks. Almost like imagination versus reality?

In the words of my mentor Shaun… “Is it a book?” I know we discussed how books were being made a lot by my course but I think the narrative could make a wonderful short book. I think there would be something in the page turning to reveal more of your memories. I think it also makes a good digital piece as you scroll down you reveal more of the story? I can’t imagine it as prints but maybe that’s because I haven’t got them in front of me??”

There were a few in Glasgow who spoke of the melancholic nature of the landscape imagery – and I was pleased to that this was recognised, but I was particularly struck by the notion that Leigh-Anne expressed as “Almost like imagination versus reality?”

One of the texts that I have used in the work is Boltanski’s:


This idea is about the fictive nature of this work. I make no claims of truth about my early years; my (re)telling is mediated through a porous memory. As Anne Brodie discussed in her presentation at the FTN event, there are memories that arrive in the early years that will last forever, however there are some in the late teen’s and early twenties that will be ‘pruned’ never to resurface. Bridging memories demands invention, and it isn’t that invention aren’t falsehoods, its just they aren’t facts, merely suppositions. They aren’t lies repeated to deceive, just contextual leaps of conjecture, to give meaning. To make ends meet.

Another artist Theresa Moerman Ib spoke of her toxic relationship with her father and her work references Boltanski’s writing in a similar way, providing a sense of reassurance to my line of research. It was Theresa who, amongst others, felt the texts were very strong… Leigh-Anne’s idea chimes very strongly I feel with Boltanski’s idea of an invented narrative. My story isn’t a history, but a way to describe how I feel about myself in regard to a relationship that describes who I am now and what I want to come to terms with. Theresa dealt (and deals) with that personal relationship in a different way to me – her fiction is her own to develop.

I am awaiting one more piece of feedback to enable me to write up assignment one for this course and, almost certainly, assignment five BoW.


4 thoughts on “Attraction as a distraction – feedback from GSofA

  1. It sounds a most satisfactory visit with a lot gained in terms of additional validation of the work you’re doing.
    I can understand about the red envelopes – do you think a different colour would have made a difference (thinking of the future)?
    Regarding fiction and truth. I think that if the work feels true to your sense of yourself then that’s the most important aspect. Wondering as well on whether/how much cathartic work changes sense of self so that the past is re-framed. I’m not thinking in terms of changing memories but of altering the perspective on it. Just musing – not looking for an answer.
    I’m really pleased for you that it went well.


    • As regards to envelopes I had a couple of chats with people and if I did it again they would be grey or brown, but my overriding thought is that they distracted. Worth investigating nevertheless.
      I spoke with an artist who also worked on her relationship with her father (not a good one) and she seemed to agree with my contention that it wasn’t cathartic, it was in fact ‘shit’. A load to continue to carry, but at least it was ‘out-there’ now. There was a lot of discussion on how memory morphs and changes, goes missing and sometimes (albeit rarely) returns, I think you would have enjoyed that aspect a lot.


  2. Seems to have gone very well John. Lots of useful feedback and networking with kindred spirits. I have been thinking about the comment about the melancholic nature of the landscapes. Looking at them in isolation of the texts I had never seen them in this way. The misty images do have a sense of absence about them, perhaps a sense of loss. Others with the sun shining seem to be more optimistic. Alongside the texts the sense of something lost is reinforced. Did you figure out why you chose red for the envelopes?


    • Decision on envelopes was easy, no other colour available!
      I’ve just received some feedback from Fiona Yaron-Field that I will talk about soon, some of her comments chime strongly with your view. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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