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 for me and the work I am undertaking. I have also sent Assignment Five BoW to my tutor which will provide another layer of feedback.
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 to connect.
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, I labeled them ‘Episodes’ worked in another way, in that they distracted attention from the main body. I made the decision to have these ‘Episodes’ as I had no 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 had 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 note 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 (now redacted) in the work is Boltanski’s: “In my early work I pretended to speak about my childhood, yet my real childhood had disappeared. I have lied about it so often that I no longer have a real memory of this time, and my childhood has become for me some kind of universal childhood, not a real one.”
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 inventions 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. Boltanski’s words, whilst holding the notion of what I wanted to express are related in a someone else’s voice. I have re-written that idea in my own words in the latest edit as a direct result of feedback.
Another artist Theresa Moerman Ib, whom I met at the FTN event in Glasgow spoke of her own 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 felt the texts that I had used were very strong. My story though 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/need to come to terms with. Theresa, in a later communication, mentioned an early work by Sylvia Plath “Full Fathom Five” and in particular the last line of the last verse:
“Your shelled bed I remember.
Father, this thick air is murderous.
I would breathe water.”
(last verse in full)
I, though, recognise the last two lines – or maybe it is the same ‘line’.
I now recognise of course that there are many kinds of feedback. The feedback vested in a practice that interrogates similar themes – Theresa Moerman Ib, whose personal line of inquiry has already opened up research ideas for me and I will continue to as I build that relationship. Theresa has very kindly provided a private copy of her current film “The Third Dad” (trailer) which is to get its premiere shortly at a film festival in London and I will feedback to her my feelings to her work. Feedback from practicing artists who, like Fiona Yaron-Field can provide critical distance, from a practitioner’s perspective. And the likes of Leigh-Anne, who are practice-wise distant from me, but whose development as an artist isn’t that far away. And then of course there is tutor feedback!
If there is one strong element of why feedback is important, other than expressing to another the work, it is about the development of a network. It is about finding avenues to communicate with other artists that will help to sustain a burgeoning practice.
johnumneyfeedback – Fiona Yaron-Field’s feedback
Descriptor Dec 1 – latest version of project description