Friday, January 18, 2019

Susan Sontag 'On Photography'

The book 'On Photography' published in the 1977 - a selection of Sontag's essays on the topic of visual representation of our lives by the medium. This has been an acclaimed table-book for anyone within the field, and those who are curious about how all the fuss around the 'patronizing images' had started. Divide into 6, not quite logically connected chapters, the reading is quite dense and if flooded by multiple examples from the media sphere, art history, cultural references, both contemporary and really old ones. However, it is quite difficult not to grasp the most significant idea behind all these: Sontag sees images as dominant substance of contemporary (meant 70's) society, that can distort our perception of reality and limit our ability to live our lives fully. The idea pumps up here and there in the text and ends up as a full, independent chapter 'Image World' as if summarizing all the previous journey through the history of photography.  

The first chapter is more like a general overview of the nature of photography. After drawing a parallel between Allegory the Cave and photography,  Sontag annotates what she will be talking about further, points out the most important issues. Her primary claim is that due to photography, we live in a constant voyeuristic relation to the world; we look around not with a purpose to understand, but with a purpose to fix the moment, look from the viewpoint from behind the camera. The consequence of that is lessening the realness of the moment, making it only seem significant, when, actually, it only tends to lose it's significance. Photography replaces experiences and makes us addicted to the idea of confirmation of reality and turns people into image-junkies with a constant desire to consume and produce images. 

In the second Chapter 'America seen through photographs, darkly', the author introduces the philosophical approaches that stood behind photography at the beginning. The idea of photography as a means of equalization had failed, which is explained on the example of Diana Arbuse's anthology of freaks and marginals presented at the exhibition in 1972. Sontag comes up with an explanation of freedom that photography can provide:photographer is a visitor, interested only in the unknown parts of someones'life, driven by curiosity and search for sensation. Because of that, it has a power to 'normalize', make us look at what we could not look at before. Looking at freaks not with compassion, but with 'stiffness and naivety'. 

In the next two sections 'Melancholy objects' and 'The heroism of vision' , the author discusses different characteristics of photography. Firstly, she introduces it as a Surreal art form by it's nature. Secondly, claims photographs are consumable artifacts and an embodiment of melancholic mood of American society - the moaning over something vanishing, or what has already vanished.  Thirdly, she introduces the concept of 'photographic seeing' and how the notions of beauty had been altered with popularization of photography:'The photographer's aim became the idealization of everyday life through the way of  seeing that only a camera can produce'. Consequently, the discussion moves on in the direction of photography as a tool of consumerism, that transforms subjects into objects of cultural consumption. 

The chapter 'Photographic Evangels' is more like a general educational article with an active discussion about what place is taken by photography in terms of science and art. It explains why  it is so hard to judge and categorize photograph, why the photography critique is such a slippery road and thus, why there can be not good or bad photographs. Sontag considered the amount of the individuality of the photographer that can be acceptable and the role of museums liberate attitude towards the selection of displayed photographs. 

Finally, the last chapter 'Image world', is a walk around the idea of images that are concurring and ruling our reality. The author tells about the ways of how photographs perform acquisition of reality on different levels and make it controllable. The notions of images and reality became complimentary and photographs can easily become a means of compensation of experiences and emotional substitution. Photographs can establish an illusion of participant, whereas mostly cause detachment and alienation. Sontag touches upon the topic of how different ideologies treat photography, contrasts Eastern reserved and straightforward approach and Western overwhelming and consumption-oriented approach to images. Finally she comes to conclusion that photography is a capitalistic phenomenon, a tool of mass-influence and unlimited resource. Sontag offers to approach images in a similar way that we approach other products: establish ecological habits and consume with consciousness. Because, currently, as she put it, 'it's not enough to change the world, but also to change images'.

To conclude, I would like to mention the objectiveness and theoretical approach of Sontag to the matter. She mostly excludes the existence of the viewpoint of the audience, provides an almost hard data on the issue. Even though the book is about photography, there is no single image in there to support her examples. That demonstrates that the author was interested in the photography as in the phenomenon as a whole, not in a photograph as something material. 'On Photography' is a helpful book for understanding the of some contemporary social processes and revisit the roots of our image-craze.   

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Psycho-geographical map

For Psycho - geographical analysis, I have chosen the street that I live on for more than two years already. I witnessed this street in various conditions during that time. That is why it could be a perfect specimen for exploration. To ease my task, I decided to take a look at the street in the time of the day that I've seen it the least - early morning. The first thing I noticed was the pressure of absolute silence. 6 am is not that early, and normally you can hear the birds or someone already going to work. This time I could not hear anything at all on the street, which is a weird experience in residential area. Nevertheless I noticed that the opposite side of the house was still louder that mine.

Another unusual thing that I have found out - I hardly ever looked at the house where I live in. I know the house on the opposite side of the street pretty well because I see it through the window. But the one I live in is hidden from my side, as I never walk the opposite side of the street. I found the window the I look through everyday, and tried to imagine that I don't know who lives there. I noticed the color the house has, if somebody asked me before I would hesitate to answer.

I have been waking down the street multiple times and decided to update my general experience of being there, as it's always nice to have a fresh look at something familiar. The street was sleeping and it was very empty. For a while the street seemed even more empty - when I started to re-experience it. Suddenly a word 'boring' came to my mind. That's what I would say if I saw the street -at least my side of the street -  for the first time again. There is no colorfulness, no character to that part of the street, as it is actually the very end of it. It is calm and it is sleepy even during the day, which is ironic due to it's closeness to the cemetery.

The street is quite spacious with wide pavements on the both side, that look even wider without people. After a while, some people started to appear - people with dogs. The street resembles a river - it ends with a small square, which, thanks to the dogs, shreds some live to the street. I noticed that the square is more like an agora for the residents of this part of the street: a pace for family-time, dog-time and even party-time.

For the assignment I have put these notices I've made - sound, color of my house, liveliness of the both sides of the street and appearance of dogs -  to the image of the street I was observing. in a form of icons and color: intensiveness of red indicates the liveliness, my house is the only one that is coloured on the picture, the amount of sound and dogs are marked by the size of the icons.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Visual content analysis: SAD magazine

For the content analysis I have chosen a Canadian rt magazine SAD. I realized that I don't know much about Canadian art scene and would like to have at least general impression on what is going on there. The magazine described as the one promoting for young emerging artists in different spheres. It can be assumed that the magazine will be highly illustrative and modern. I also expect the magazine to be liberal and has a high level of diversity in concern to represented individuals. I took an issue 24/2018 which consists 64 pages.

Visual content analysis


All in all I have counted 75 pictures in the magazine. 


photos: 13 = 17.33%
paintings:7 = 9.33%
illustrations: 29 = 38.67%, of which 13 - typography elements  = 17.33%, 3- logos = 4%
collages:16 = 21.33%

People (13 pictures  - 17.33% of all):
 11 = 84.62% - Caucasian, 1 =7.69% -Asian, 1=7.69%- Black

Age: 25-35 - 100%

Male: 3 = 23.08% of the whole
100% Caucasian

Female: 10 = 76.92%
8 - 80% Caucasian, 1 - 10% - Asian, 1 -10% - Black

Environment spaces (17 pictures - 22.67% of all)
Space: 3 - 17.65%
City Buildings: 10 - 58.82%
City nooks: 2 - 11.76%
Restaurant: 1- 5.88%
Nature:1- 5.88%

Objects (20 pictures - 26.67% of all)
House: 2 - 10%
Everyday objects: 6 - 30%
Printed materials: 9 - 45%
Wood: 2 - 10%
Telescope: 1 - 5%


Art related
Female audience oriented

The magazine turned out to be very artsy. It had surprisingly many illustrations and collages. There are also some examples of modern poetry. It's possible to assume that these types of media are trending in Canada now. There is some commercial, but it's mostly related to the art world. Several articles are devoted to space, not only in scientific understanding, but also popular, like astrology. That responds to the typical women magazine, as all of them have horoscope sections. The magazine is created and edited by women - young art professionals. Thus, it can be assumed that female art scene in Canada is quite developed. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Image if the city: Vinohradska

Vinohradska, is a street I visit the most after the one I live in. There is a specific part of the street that has always fascinated me. A part at the tram stop Radostska. As it is a residential area, it seems to be very fitting that the amount and variety of shops and services on the block should be quite broad. This small quarter accommodates 9 different shops. In a separate building it could become a mini-mall. Such saturation of signboards of various sizes, style and colors lead to a great inconsistency of visual information and aesthetic view of the street. One can find some really old elements of signboards, some cheap design standing together with more contemporary and clean. As the shopping line had concurred the whole part of the street from one road to another, it would make sense to create a homogeneous design for the whole array of places. 

It is known that the extensive amount of choice effects negatively to our will-power and causes stress. Therefore, making the visual information more consistent, can help to establish better citizen experience. I suggest either restore the elements of old design that are still present, for example the board: GARAZE, which is a sign for unexciting place, but visually responds to the aesthetics of 80-90s and can be reused for the rest of the shops. Another option is to destroy everything and make a clean and contemporary design and infrastructure that which will be comfortable for locals.  Such renovation will be beneficial for the street view as Vinohradska is a long and lively street that starts in the center and is normally full of traffic. Thus the street is popular and the street is visible not only by those who live nearby. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Mike Hoolbroom's reflection of the imitation

A 10-parts experimental movie 'Imitations of Life' by Mike Hoolboom is a variation on the topic of photo & video representation of our lives, are they able to replace real experiences, do they help to remember or just distract us from the most important moments. The debate had started from Sontags' 'On Photography' and continues to contemporary digital era, when images seem to rule the world. The film is perceived as a demonstration of the authors' personal archive: home videos, commercials, movies than has been extracted from the author's shelf. Experimental art is initially a type of art that is different from traditional. In the extreme understanding of the concept, stand the denial or confrontation with the set laws and rules of production. In order to break them, one has to know them. That is why it is not relevant to call experimental art as something that promotes low standards, is shallow or is simply a nonsense. 

I have chosen the second part of the movie which is called 'Jack'. This part made me think about the idea of 'distracted perception', which is also stressed by some replicas of small Jack and can be better explained by this extract:

“Jack says technology is the knack of arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it, that the change we call progress is just another obstacle to joy and that stories have no point unless they absorb our terror. Jack tells me life swarms with innocent monsters”

There is no linear narration in this part of the movie, even though the are check-points in a form of special dates mentioned by the narrator. There are characters, but they have no voice. No consistent visual style: monochrome replaced with sepia, than replaced with colours; quality varies from high to grainy and blurry; most-likely, the range of equipment used for the filming was wider than normally is as well. It is possible to trace how the technological progress went on throughout the years of Jack's growing up. Whereas, in the fiction the visual style tends to stay mostly the same throughout the whole piece - trademark, individual style, recognizability. 

In terms of editing, the film demonstrate similarly broad variety of tricks. Probably the most obvious is constantly repeating close-ups. By filming his nephew from a very close distance, the director makes the ties between the narration and the picture even stronger. All the words start to be more intimate and  creates the imaginary door into the life of the boy. However, sometimes it also created some discomfort, as it gets too close and too often. 

Another distinctive feature of the film is that how the author draws parallels between casual moments of child's life with the theoretical knowledge from different spheres, like psychoanalysis, sociology, religion. Its not a typical approach that can be found in fiction: drawing links between sentimental, family moments with some distant and, sometimes unpleasant, concepts, like child's game and apocalypse. By doing this, he creates an illustrative contrast between a new, blooming life and how the camera is able to reproduce it. Such contrast is strengthened by the idea of fragmentation that is present in the short: the episodes of Jack's life are translated with a year gaps - just like the camera is only able to capture random, scarce pieces of the whole. The mere fact that the director had captured some, in his understanding, significant moments, already shows the effect of filtering the reality - we see Jack, but we see him only from the perspective of his uncle. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Comic hero: One night of Day

The story of creation of my comics started from the idea to base it on my own Instagram stories and to relate it somehow to the topic of social networks, how it changes our communication habits and touches upon other spheres of our lives. I am personally not super active Instagram user, but I love to post stories. That's why I though it would be interesting to base the comics on the stories I have posted. I looked up at them and realized that I had a lot of nigh images, videos of lights and not that much of me there. That's when the idea about light came to my mind. 

From conceptual point of view, I decided to dwell on the idea of privacy of our online identities. Social network profiles are used as tools for identification and construction of identity. It is paradoxical that there can be any amount of privacy in the public account. However, it is truth: we are able to regulate the level of accessibility of others into your life, show merely the sides of our lives that we want to show, and still remain in the shadow. Consequently, balancing on the edge between real and virtual lives becomes a kind of advantageous skill to acquire. 

A couple of words about the comic hero I used as an inspiration - Jessica Jones. She is from Marvel Universe and is somehow connected to the story of Spider-man. What I like about her is that she is very real, even though she has a power of being super-strong and can kick any bad-ass easily. She has been through a lot, but preserved a good heart and humanity in spite of her powers. She is also an image of feminist representation of a women character, without over-exaggeration.  

The comic hero I created is also a girl in a city. She lives her life socially, but undercover. The thing is that no one ever saw her out in the day light, because she never was. There is nothing mysterious or tragic that prevents her to expose herself to the daylight, it is just the way she is. Fortunately, she leads quite normal after-dark existence. Her passion, hobby and job is a collector of rare lights, which is the most suitable type of activity for her lifestyle. However, she doesn’t like the word ‘collector’ and says that it sounds dry as if it excludes the emotional side of the process. When she gets out to hunt, she meets many other night owls, some of them are her regular companions, some of them are just one-night guests. Everybody is glad to see her around, even though her face has an unusual ability to elude from one’s memory quite quickly. This is the weirdest part about that person - she is famous, but unseen. Her  personal Instagram page has around 5k followers, that almost never saw her face...Though everyone knows her name is Day. 

Her day starts normally at 8 pm. Even though it is a reversed schedule, she fills pretty comfortable with it and tries to keep to a typical day routine. She makes herself a nice vegan bowl around 9. It is followed by a cup of coffee with rich amount of coconut cream and listens to  Day lives in the studio flat, partially brick-lined, partially white. Probably there is no another person who loves white color as much as this person. And no other person has ever owned that many white pillows. A remarkable feature of her studio flat - a small closet, which is always closed. At least nobody ever witnessed Day opening it and nobody ever dared to do this without permission.  A short while ago the door of the closet acquired a middle-sized, silver padlock that looks quite old, but is perfectly shiny regardless.

The story of how the locker appeared is trivial, but important is one would like to know what is actually stored in this closet. Of all her possessions, Day has only one think of black colour, not exactly the thing, not exactly she has. So it is/was a Shadow - her cat. Shadow is the one, the one who knows what's in the closet since that summer day when a fat black fly flew into the flat. Driven either by a desire to be the only black spot in the place, or his predator instincts, Shadow started his wild hunt. After a while, being very excited with the process, the cat saw a fly landed on the door handle of the closet. At the next moment he jumped over it, the door opened slightly and...the fly was caught, yes. The only thing is that Day was looking for the Shadow for quite a long time, until she realized that some of her brightest lights was missing. It leaked through the small gap in the doorway...Now she realized - she is probably the only owner of an overexposed cat. Shadow, if it's relevant to call him like that now, was the same perfectly white colour - not  single black dot, including the eyes - that the rest of the flat. Day was surprised about the cat, frustrated about the lost light, as she already found a person to sell it to, but also saw new possibilities. It was a while since she decided to make a Shadow his personal Instagram page. Now it would be just a blast she said: a first, the one and the only page of an over-saturated cat! 'A perfect pet page for a girl with a face-less Instagram page',- she thought and opened the window to let some moonlight in.  

#daysday #lightsarelove #thebrightestlight #shinebright

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Graphic poem 'The Risk'

Choosing the poem I searched for something short, something deep, but not too corny. I came across the poem 'The risk' by Ana├»s Nin by chance. To me it seemed very relevant for some periods in everyone's' life. It talks shortly in a metaphorical for about the necessity of changes, development and the harm of standing still, frozen by fear to move on. The poet associates the process of changes with the process of flower blossoming. Quite a corny metaphor, but, surprisingly, doesn't sound that bad in this poem. However, compared to flower, the similar process can be repeated multiple times by the same person in the same situation.  

And then the day came,when the riskto remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Because the verse symbolizes a process, I decided to make an appropriate visualization: a GIF animation. The main feature of GIF format is that it is looped, that is relevant for the concept of constant development, blossoming as many time as you can. The GIF consists of two words 'blossom' and 'bud' that form an image of flower. The flower is hardly can be seen fully - the sign of permanent nature of the development process.