Monday, 6 February 2017

Reflections on a workshop with Dr Anna Powell, University of Huddersfield, Friday, 3 February.

Anna's background is in the study of the History of Art, and she achieved her Bachelor of Arts degree and then her Master's Degree in that subject before continuing to study at a doctorate level the issues of Art and Design Theory.

The purpose of her lecture was to help us to conceptualise and to contextualise our own artworks in respect to current trends. Ostensibly, this is to get new ideas and also to stimulate discussion for further consideration. Dr Powell has kindly agreed to give three further sessions at the end of this term as tutorials for each of us, during week 30, 31 and 32.

Today's lecture and open discussion were centred around "postproduction".

The learning outcomes from this lecture are;
what do we mean by postproduction?
In what ways can postproduction be manifested?
How can we learn from the application of post production?

Postproduction is an umbrella thematic term. Broadly speaking it is about getting data, cutting it, rearranging it, filtering and selecting it, and then shaping it into new work.

In the case of Digital Media, which is electronically machine readable, the idea of postproduction can be applied particularly well. Digital Media can be created, viewed, modified and distributed through various mechanisms and channels.

According to Nicholas Bourriaud in his book regarding Postproduction: Culture and Screenplay; how art reprograms the world. Bourriaud explains that the idea of Postproduction is very much immersed in the notion of reconfiguration and also is intertwined with the concept of the simulacrum, that is; copy, of a copy, of a copy.
As a reaction to the democratisation of computers, and their availability on a universal scale to society, the idea of capture and reconfiguration becomes both diluted the one hand, and yet on the other even more important for us to attempt to understand.
It is no longer about repurposing Ephemera any more; society is now all about repurposing theories and ideology!

Consider, though, that history is still written by the ones who select what is to be written. This statement holds, right now, just as much as it did 200 years ago, before the advent of photography, or indeed any form of recording device.
In my opinion, the nugget of valuable gold is often lost in a stream of noise when it comes to capturing and archiving information. I liken this metaphor very much to how information is stored on the Internet. Nevertheless for further thought, who is it who says, who dictates, when something becomes, or is valuable?

Moreover, expanding on the idea of searching a broad horizon; this concept of a 'massive field' with which we are confronted with; to find this grain of gold, is not dissimilar to any pursuit of searching or quest.

For example, in the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum, there are works of art that have never been exposed to the public, indeed never been seen by anyone, other than the original artist and a small select few.

Consider further the ideas of Psychogeography. I had explored some of these issues before, raised initially by the French writer Guy Debord. He wrote the book The Society of the Spectacle, (1968) and while we are now 50 years from that date, much of the contents still have high resonance.

These elements of information, of data, and cultural use go beyond their traditional roles in new digital mediums. Rather than a representation, art has become an activation to challenge passive culture.
"Precariousness" is at the centre of the human universe. Everything is moving, continually changing. In today's society, driven by social networks and digital media, it is an encounter that is now recorded. However, who are the audience? What do they take away? How do they filter and select value?

In the book by Mark Amerika "Remix of the Book" (2011), he provides a critique of Nicholas Bourriaud's ideas. The author also has an Internet site as well which is useful as a reference. Within his writings, he challenges the ideas of what the contemporary artist is, and describes an activity he calls "Culture Jamming". A kind of modern-day graffiti, where there is a concept of "hacking" a traditional or well-recognised brand image and inserting a levelling statement or "hack" as a reminder to capitalism.

A good example might be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hack of an existing image. This can be conceived as a gorilla style attack that often uses parody as its vehicle of dissent.

So let us consider how our cultural practitioners are hybridising postproduction?
This is usually done through repurposing; and Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practice (I M AP). I find this an unusual abbreviation which has been adopted by the art world...  I wonder if they genuinely realise that these four letters are also an abbreviation of the technology on which much of our social media networks rely upon? That is, the Internet Mail Application Protocol (IMAP)!

Taking ourselves back to historical events in the development of art, consider Michelle Duchamp's Fountain (1917).
In thinking about his work at the time in 1917 to 19, he described the action "to create" as "taking something that already exists and re-contextualising it. To consider it a character in a narrative. Moreover, therefore blurring the original, versus the 'Ready-Made'."

Furthermore in the words of Marcel Duchamp, (cited by Nicholas Bourriaud), "Art is a game of all men, in all eras".

What we do with an Art Piece, what we take from it, how we make sense of it - is key to understanding the concepts of postproduction. Challenging the accepted notions of what art is in other words.
These are then thoughts about ideas, rather than a celebration of manual craftsmanship or skilled application of tools and techniques.

The whole concept therefore of Post-production is taking the idea and re-conceptualising it.
This can even be applied to the work of Duchamp himself. Duchamp commissioned Alfred Stieglitz to photograph the "Fountain", the urinal that Duchamp bought from local ironmongers. As a result of Stieglitz's photograph, the image itself became a "beautiful" object.
This was totally against Duchamp's original intention and illustrates well the idea of postproduction of Duchamp's work.
So its' reconceptualisation, in a way, made a certain level of mockery in backlash to Duchamp's original attempt to mock the salons of the bourgeois French art elite.
[By the way, the signature on Duchamp's urinal "the Fountain" was R.Mutt, where the word MUTT comes from the name "MOTT" as in Mott works; the vitreous enamel factory. Furthermore, the word mutt, derives from a cartoon, Mutt and Jeff, originally conceived during the First World War.
The letter R comes from the German word meaning wealth].

So Duchamp's, in 1917 Fountain, was a game changer on so many levels and has become an incredible talking point making it highly significant in the artistic discussion. For further review of Duchamp's critique, see the essay "The Creative Act".

Turning now to consider postproduction as "dialogue": further information can be read in Tacita Dean' s book "Trying to Find Spiral Jetty (1997)."

This takes the original works by Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty" work from the 1960s as a catalyst for postproduction and post reassembly of ideas. The original Spiral Jetty has enticed many curious viewers to attempt to relocate or find this work and search for it, somewhere located in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA.
Considering the notion that this piece of work is covered over with water and has, therefore, overtime, disappeared and re-emerged makes Tacita Dean's enquiry almost "farcical". The original 1960's Salt Lake City version Spiral Jetty has long since dissolved. It has become a myth, therefore, not unlike the Loch Ness Monster.
Nevertheless, the satellite images generated by Google suggest the existence of the jetty. The Google version becomes something real and tangible, whereas, in fact, it is not.

Each Google search for the Spiral Jetty suggests that it is real, but this "time and space" liminality becomes playful and farcical.

The artists Barney and Castre went on to parody the idea of the Spiral Jetty by setting up an art piece where they staged the hitting of golf balls into this mythical artistic object, in the Great Salt Lake. So now, by doing such an activity, it has enhanced a new layer of interaction.

Consider further the film by Tacita Dean and her enquiry of JG Ballard (Voices of Time) in which she discusses influences such as the Fibonacci sequence and the spiral galaxy.

A textual analysis of the ideas above, rather than just extracting an actual quote, becomes much more productive for an artist. Inter-textual interventions become grey in themselves. As individuals, we play with, and as, art itself; which therefore leads to new social discourse.

In an interview with Tacita Dean on the subject of JG Ballard, (which can be found through the Guardian newspaper), she describes it as "pushing the boundaries of boredom".

I can almost liken this in my reflection to the ideas from cosmology and physics, that of entropy; that is everything deconstructs to dust eventually. The social relationship between time, space and material are always blurred.

Dr Powell then asked us to consider some work that she was doing about Vannevar Bush and his writing about analogue computers. He describes the idea of the M I M E X machine, in a paper which has gone on to suggest that his writings could well have influenced the emergence of the Internet and HTML and many other social media ideas, which we count on today.

For an artistic interpretation of this idea of a relationship between time, space and material, see the internet work "The Archive of Nothingness" by Paul Hayes and Anna Powell.

Also, finally, in this lecture, we talked about postproduction and the notions of Bricolage. This is a French term, which in description suggests there is no intended outcome, there are several ingredients with which we can make anything out of anything... In digital media studies, this might be likened to the idea of web 2.0.

Consider further the work of Lucy Kimbell, the University of Arts, London and her readings of postproduction. See the website HTTP:// Kimbell/…
On this site, she re-purposes Nicholas Bourriaud's writing as another new Art Form.

And finally going back to the work of Mark Amerika along with curator Rick Silva, they invited over 25 contributing artists together. By bringing those various artists pieces together and then re-mashing the works to make new pieces and outputs enabled him to create further work. See the website

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