A 1: Preparation. ‘Visual culture in practice’

A 1: Preparation. ‘Visual culture in practice’ 

Brief: Write a 1,000–1,500-word essay that relates your current work (the work that you made or are making in Body of Work) to an aspect of visual culture discussed in Part One. 

1.Getting started – taking some steps backwards

1st November 2020

After talking to Ariadne and re-reading the OCA CS workbook I am a lot clearer in what is needed from me. I am due to speak to Gary in a few days. In retrospect it would have been better doing this before submitting BOW A1 to provide a supporting academic framework for that submission which was missing. At least I now know what is needed.

My A1 submission was two auto-ethnographic experiments on visualising my experience of Covid Lockdown. I have already done a few days research looking at visualising Covid and media and other representations of doctors. It is the latter which will be the meta narrative of my final work – I think. 

This week I have been concentrating on reading and studying ‘Visual Culture’ and have decided to hold off on more research, organise my research folder and reflective diary and do the exercises and reading for A1 before writing anymore. In order to justice to this essay I need the knowledge and skills to do that and reading and thinking more will help me to review my work well. 

2. NOTES from the workbook and other sources. 


  • IDEA From my notebook  after reading (D’Alleva, 2013) on modernism. Challenging the old order, the new, novel, finding inspiration “in the dazzling spectacle of the city (p143) – this triumph in technology is still a feature of health care image making – the latest breakthrough etc
  • (Benjamin, W, 1969) – Work of art in the mechanical age – Ref + analysis https://campuspress.yale.edu/modernismlab/the-work-of-art-in-the-age-of-mechanical-reproduction/“Benjamin describes the process by which modern technological reproduction strips these institutions and their iconic artworks of their aesthetic authority. Benjamin claims that in times past the role of art has been to provide a magical foundation for the cult. Here the artwork’s use value was located in its central position within ritual and religious tradition (223-4).” IE technology removes the power of institutions etc to democratise photography and film – he is mainly talking about film From the OCA notes “The point of Benjamin’s hypothesis is that the various ways something is re-presented can change he values that are ascribed to it. “P17 ? is this modernism of post modernism – modern because it is a reflection on one of the key areas of modernism which is the ascent of technology.


  • “a rejection of the rigid truths and hierarchies of modernism; an interest in past traditions…pastiche, the varied mixture of elements and motifs. And a return to figurative imagery (P144). “…master narratives – those overarching truths that claim to explain everything no longer work” P 145 e.g. humanism “no single explanation for culture is possible” – plurality, contingency, negotiated meanings. Lyotard “culture is a process than a thing” – Lyotard encourages us to explore master narratives as the hinder, hide (oppress) as much as they help, reveal or liberate. Traditions are still valued but only if they “liberate and enlarge human possibilities” Like feminism queer theory post-colonialism modernism challenges western culture (p146). Emphasis not so much on the individual but on how “codes text images and other cultural artifacts and practices shape subjectivity. Not one way to see the world. “the fragmentation of the subject replaces the alienation of modernism.”
  • P147 – challenge to originality – Cindy Sherman ‘Film Stills’ (Untitiled Film Stills. 1977-80: Seeing through photographs. Introduction by Kristen Gaylord, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Department of Photography, s.d.) Good video of her talking about her work  – takes the movie Hollywood archetype and subverts it to say something ultimately about herself – illustrate female stereotypes of women and appropriation by Aneta Greszykoska – IDEA CAN I DO SOMETHING SIMILAR I DESCRIBING STEREOTYPES OF DOCTORS>  (Fotomuseum, 2006) Aneta Greszykoska. The idea here ins intertextuality which means incorporating other texts or ideas into their work SO Postmodern is intertextual and also challenges in this case stereotypes. Also takes the ideas further – good note on P19 OCA notes. NOTE Richard prince appropriation of internet selfies – no single author for these images = postmodern
  • Baudrillard Simulacra and simulations – very important ides – the signifier can be an empty vessel without the signified – just exhibiting codes that influence and affect us. P 147 – “only surface and no depth.’ IDEA of hyperreality related reality that does not exist – IS THAT TRUE OR DOCTOR IMAGES? THE ICONIC SIGNED IMAGES ARE THERE BUT it is not reality IS IT?
  • Key theoreticians Rosaline Krauss, Baudrillard
  • https://www.figurativeartist.org/photography/ examples figurative work
  • Definition figurative – According to Tate « figurative art describes any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world and particularly to the human figure. » The term is often in contrast to abstract art. 

We can use the word “imitations,” or “realistic representation”.

The figurative art includes in its artworks line, shape, colour, light, mass, volume texture and perspective, these techniques will create an illusion of space and form. 

The term of figurative has been used since the arrival of abstract art in the early 20th century in order to mention artists that refer to the real world as their subject matter.

(Ballard, JG, 2011)Figurative art has been the goal of artmaking since ancient times. Traditionally, figurative artist strove to create works that were derived from real object sources and often depicted human figures. However, arguments have been made across the evolution of figurative art. Over some periods, there were some figurative artists who aimed to create images that extended from what was real, thereby inventing illusionary effects. It has allowed for this art style to include multiplicities of definitions. 

Figurative art can also be the expression of a feeling in front of nature, it’s sublime, or strange character which sometimes requires a selection in what is represented.


  • John Tagg (Tagg, 1988)(Langham, 2013) Tagg p117 0 see previous notes on Tagg
  • JG Ballard’s Book ‘Concrete Island’ – just read it – a liminal ambiguous space? where a crashed motorist gets stranded between flyovers on a motorway. All his certainties are swept away, and the city and technology produce distress and dissolution as the certainties of his former life are lost in this miasma- ‘Crash’ has similar messages. The promise of technology turns out to be dystopian (Ballard, JG, 2011)

3rd November

  • (Bull, 2010;137-141) “Postmodernism…constantly recycles recognisable (or figurative) imagery from mass culture rather than the abstract expressions of an artists mind.” – NOTE Distorted images from A1 refer to modernism and surrealist experimentation. Those images are also ‘medium specific’ and so modernist as Kerstz (Bjerke, 2018) Refers to modernist but in fact appropriated from work of (Ewing, 2006)
  • (Matzko, 2003) – the image that set me off in 2016 – Quotation Ewin face page 136 attributed to Richard Avedon ‘In focus, known; out of focus, unknown.’

(Michetti, M, 2004) – “Doubtless it is necessary to conceal a large part of the world in order to understand some small details?” Translation.

They reference another of my works – grown intertextuality. (Krauss) (Gallagher, 2016) which experimented with this in 2016 to illustrate hearing daughter was going to die of her cancer. 

(Ewing, 2006) – other examples in the chapter on access to

I think that this will go in the essay – it is postmodern approach yet using surrealist ideas an images (modernist) about exploring Jungian archetypes.

Back to Bull pages 138-141 – 

Society of the spectacle – Solomon-Godeau p160 Photography reader – (Solomon-Godeau, 2003)describing postmodern artist who “at “its cutting edge, is the common enterprise of ‘making the invisible visible’” + also “more modest and pessimistic” in what they could achieve in a p 4 society quote by Feedback “”the present age refers the sign to the thing signified” i.e. that sign is empty of reality and where the “illusion is sacred.” (Debord, 2005)

  • (Crimp, 2014) referred to by Bate and Solomon-Godeau in glowing terms – extracts from essay – Incredibly well written paper looking at how postmodernism contrast with modernism – discussion about the ‘aura’ of art which is problematic is its conception. 
  • Reached page 20 in the OCA notes – also talking about the CRIMP essay NOTES ON WHAT I have read and how they affect my practice
  • Page 93 I think that this idea of presence and absence is important – three notions of presence being there – A. in front of; B. “not there” as in a ghostly figure AND C. “a kind of increment to being there, a ghostly aspect of a presence that is tis excess, its supplement.” I think that a lot of my photography is oblique and is composed of absences of ‘not there’ and of objects in the frame that signify other things. Indeed, Crimp talks about engagement with a subject being “only through absence that we know to be the condition of representation.” He is talking about postmodernism where a film or image reproduced has the original subjects absent, yet they still have a presence. “There is distance from the original” This contrasts with the modernist notion of aura which has to do with the “presence of the original, with authenticity. CF the aura of the NPG images of lockdown versus the personal work of other photographers. The role of the museum in legitimising and controlling what is produced. 
  • Cracking paper 1980 
  • I have moved other research

3. Writing

12th November

I wrote the first draft of A1 in the middle of this research allied to the workbook – the action points or on another tab – COURSEWORK. That has been helpful, particularly the look at semiotics; I have sent for a new book to boost my knowledge more, although the issue is being able to read photographs and know how to write about them. 

I recently read a book called Maxwell Street by Tim Creswell, who is a psych geographer working in Edinburgh. The book is beautifully written – it is an ethnography – and the point he makes is that writing is research. I fully agree with that as I start writing in my mind and on paper well before the essay is needed, because it helps to shape the research and the paper. I do not think it is linear as this course suggest: that is pretend. It is a lot more open and iterative in nature. This is a ‘University’ way of seeing thinks; Alan Sekula might have called this ‘political’ control, although perhaps you need to understand all the elements of academic research in order to break some for the rules.