Documenting a twelve-month Research Residency at Culpeper Community Garden
“Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles … The camera makes reality atomic.”
– Sonntag, On Photography, 1977
Generating video sequences from my slide photographs – the ‘animation’ does not create an illusion of movement; it doesn’t disguise or conceal the still images that it is composed of. Attention is drawn to the individual units (each photo) that make up the flow and the relationships / differences between them. Somewhere between stillness and movement.
The individual images (particles) are abstractions of my original experience of the garden. Glimpses enlarged, concentrated, expanded. It is not what I see, but what I see affected by optical, mechanical, chemical and digital processes that create complex new images that describe something other, something more.
A process of acquaintance, which is meticulous, repetitious; which involves examining, capturing, enlarging and re-combining tiny details of a place to establish new relationships with it.
During the projection and re-photographing process my tripod is positioned as close to the projectors as possible and I am behind the apparatus, using a remote control to trigger the shutter. I look for interesting overlays, I use my hands to obstruct or reveal portions of each image and I move towards the projection to see how the light merges with the paint on the wall, but I am distanced from the moment of capture and I don’t really discover what the camera has recorded (the level of detail, the textures, the patterns) until I take the photographs into the computer and enlarge them. A yo-yoing of relations: I look closely to take the initial photo, then I step back – the projector and camera stand between me and the image and the process is opened up – then I come back in and look closer again, carefully selecting parts of this new, mechanically constructed image.
In 1946, Maya Deren described the camera as an instrument ‘which can function, simultaneously, both in terms of discovery and invention … the direct contact between camera and reality results in a quality of observation which is quite different from that of the human being.’ (Maya Deren: An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film)
She goes on to discuss the beauty and excitement of photographic close-ups of ocean organisms, plant sections etc. taken (discovered) by scientists through microscopic observation.
“The botanist’s magnifying glass is youth recaptured. It gives him back the enlarging gaze of a child. With this glass in his hand, he returns to the garden
où les enfants regardent grand
(where children see enlarged)
Thus the minuscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire world. The details of a thing can be the sign of a new world which, like all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness. Miniature is one of the refuges of greatness.”
– Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
In The General Returns from One Place to Another by Michael Robinson, close-up shots of plants and flowers are mesmerising, seductive and deeply sinister. Rumbling bass and sounds of guns firing work with the repeating (truncated) pans to warn us away.
Axel Antas: NEW TO NATURE at Rokeby Gallery, London.
Exploring relationships between landscape and technology, nature and artifice
Chris Welsby on TECHNOLOGY AND LANDSCAPE
“In my single screen films and single channel videos the mechanics of film and video interact with the landscape in such a way that elemental processes — such as changes in light, the rise and fall of the tide or changes in wind direction — are given the space and time to participate in the process of representation. The resulting sequences of images make it possible to envisage a relationship between technology and nature based on principles other than exploitation and domination.
“The gallery installations deal with the transformations which occur when the non-Euclidean space of the landscape is imported into an architectural space based on the rules of geometry and perspective. The dimensions of the gallery, the size and scale of the image, the proportions of the video monitor or projection screen, the positioning of the monitors or screens, are primary considerations, and central to the meaning of the work. The fragmentation of image and sound, which characterises these installations, acknowledges the split between culture and nature but, at the same time, opens up the possibility of a less dualistic reading.”
I presented an ‘in progress’ version of my slide animation at Last Friday Shorts in Southend last week.
I’d spent some time before the screening expanding my 50-second edit to allow a lingering over what I realised were in many cases exceptionally brief, barely perceptible images. The resulting cut, almost 90 seconds long, is smoother and ‘quieter’ in many places, with gradual fades between shots – swells and blends that help to counter the flickering stop-start of the animated moments. It is probably still a little fast – on the big screen the shots of thorns were surprisingly agitated, violent almost.
Feedback from the screening was interesting: people commented on the closeness, the intimacy of the imagery (someone even mentioned voyeurism). And the separateness of the viewpoint: against the faraway sounds of children playing and the traffic hum, the viewer seems distanced and solitary. This reminded me of Susan Trangmar’s discussion of sociality versus solitude in shared urban spaces and seems an important aspect of the piece.