Meanwhile, Louise Taylor

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Anyone who’s read this blog anytime over the past six months or more, would be forgiven for thinking that Wideyed has been doing little other than Mapping and Re:Mapping Flâneurs. That’s not quite true… it’s just that we’ve I’ve been a bit rubbish at sharing other news.

For example, at the end of May we should have mentioned that, with Clarita Lulic, Adam Brown, Damien Wootten and Richard Stout, Louise was awarded one of five North East Photography Network Development Bursaries! She plans to put the bursary money towards completing her hunting project ‘Shoot!’.

And Lou has been busy doing other things too, like starting a new project. Last month it was her turn to post an image on the front cover of Wideyed’s website, and the one chosen was drawn from the first photos made in the beginnings of this body of work (see first image below). But there’s a little more to it than that, so I asked her to explain for the blog – over to Lou!

Hi Lucy,

OK, here goes…..

I had some work done on my house recently, and one of the builders I employed has another life as the owner of a Clydesdale Stud. Gary and his wife, who live near me in Tow Law, breed and show their horses, and travel all over the country to compete with fellow Clydesdale enthusiasts. 

The Clydesdale is a native breed to Scotland, dating back to the mid 18th Century, and traditionally they were used for farm work. Modernisation and tractors caused these working horses to become almost redundant, and the breed’s numbers dwindled until, in 1975, the Clydesdale was categorised by the Rare Breed Survival Trust as ‘vulnerable’. Recently there’s been a small increase in numbers again, and it’s now categorised as just ‘at risk’.

I’m interested in this breed of horse, and the people who choose to own them. At this stage I’m not entirely sure of what it is that I want to document though. I think I’m drawn to the fact that it’s enjoying a revival as people become increasingly aware of more sustainable practices in farming, and new generations relearn the skills to work these animals again, generally in environmentally sensitive areas, like logging. 

I started photographing over a month ago, and last weekend put up a poster-size photo installation at a show in my village as a means of breaking the ice with Clydesdale owners – to act as an introduction, get people chatting, and hopefully help me find a way in to what I want to do. 

It’s a start…..and even just writing this down has helped me to think about the direction that I want to take.

Woooo!

Louise

All images © Louise Taylor 2011. The top image is from the series ‘Horse Power’ (working title), and the other one is an installation shot of Lou’s guerilla exhibition at the horse show in Tow Law, County Durham, Sunday 3rd July.

And yes, she hung the prints with magnets, Wideyed style… 😉

Cheers, Lucy

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Mapping more progress

February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

With only a month to go till the opening of Collectives Encounter, it’s probably time to start talking about our part of it in more detail.

First, an interesting quote from Walter Benjamin:

From a European perspective, things looked this way: In all areas of production, from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the development of technology proceeded at a much slower rate than the development of art. Art could take its time in variously assimilating the technological modes of operation. But the transformation of things that set in around 1800 dictated the tempo to art, and the more breathtaking this tempo, the more readily the dominion of fashion overspread all fields. Finally, we arrive at the present state of things: the possibility now arises that art will no longer find the time to adapt somehow to technological processes. [G1,1]

Loosely inspired by recent developments in cloud printing, Mapping the Flâneur has been conceived by Wideyed and ASA Collective as an image-based response to the fragmentary, indexical construct and content of Benjamin’s Arcades Project. Incorporating printers producing, in real time, images for exhibition as they are emailed in, the installation is partly intended to present a tangible model of online image sharing: the experimental nature of the project is also a response to ongoing critical debate about the future of print in the internet age, and will embody one possible crossover between the online and real worlds. Secondly, by inviting photography collectives around the world to join in a dialogue with each others’ work, based around key themes drawn from Benjamin’s writings, the project will present an overview of the growing photography collective movement, of contemporary photographic practices worldwide, and provide a multiplicity of responses to diverse global urban realities.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Tonight we found out where the exhibition space will be, and apparently it’s smack in the centre of Derby, and huge. When setting up at the end of this month, some thinking on our feet will be necessary. Meanwhile, we’ll continue working towards turning our plans into reality (but with increasing urgency). We’ll soon be contacting the collectives we hope will play with us, and drafting our manual… and we’ll spare you the list.

But to finish we’ll just go back to the Benjamin quote at the beginning quickly and ask, can the arts keep pace with technological advances, or have they long since lost the race? Well, we might not have the material and financial resources that industry has, but hey, flexibility and a little ingenuity can go a long, long way.

Installation shot of ‘Just in Time, or a short History of Production’, 2010, Xavier Antin [via Mrs Deane]

Although our installation won’t be quite so post-steampunk as this, we love it! so we’re adding it to our research.

[This post has also been blogged at the Collectives Encounter website.]

Preparing to flân

January 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

We’ve been thinking about street photography this week.

In the concise Oxford Hachette French-English dictionary, the translation of the verb ‘flâner’ is simply to stroll, dawdle, or idle.

Inject some Benjamin or Baudelaire into this dry definition, and you get the more poetic Flâneur, who “has been portrayed in the past as a well-dressed man, strolling leisurely through the Parisian arcades of the nineteenth century – a shopper with no intention to buy […]. Traditionally the traits that mark the flâneur are wealth, education, and idleness. He strolls to pass the time that his wealth affords him, treating the people who pass and the objects he sees as texts for his own pleasure. An anonymous face in the multitude, the flâneur is free to probe his surroundings for clues and hints that may go unnoticed by the others. […] As a member of the crowd that populates the streets, the flâneur participates physically in the text that he observes while performing a transient and aloof autonomy with a “cool but curious eye” that studies the constantly changing spectacle that parades before him. As an observer, the flâneur exists as both ‘active and intellectual’. The flâneur has no specific relationship with any individual, yet he establishes a temporary yet deeply empathetic and intimate relationship with all that he sees – an intimacy bordering on the conjugal – writing a bit of himself into the margins of the text in which he is immersed, a text devised by selective disjunction.”

The curatorial premise of Collectives Encounter 2011 is ‘The Flâneur’, and this will sit within an edition of Format Photography Festival that is dedicated to street photography so, if you gloss over the wealth and idleness (and, if you happen to be a member of the fairer sex, the well-dressed man bit), you have above what could be a near perfect description of the street photographer on the prowl?

None of us at Wideyed have ever really considered ourselves as street photographers. Louise Taylor’s practice revolves around rural issues, and Richard Glynn and myself tend to work on projects where, even if the images are made on the street, the setting is incidental, is a backdrop rather than a subject. As (with ASA Collective) we work towards the production of Mapping the Flâneur (or Map the Flân, as we’ve begun calling it), the question of how we ourselves, as photographers, are going to work on this project arises – especially as none of us is sure we understand what street photography actually is.

That’s why we went to last week’s North East Photography Network reading group. The main subject for it was street photography, and we thought we might be able to sit at the back and take notes. Suggested reading beforehand was this 18 April 2010 Guardian article by Sean O’Hagan: Why Street Photography is Facing a Moment of Truth. Take this quoted definition of street photography from the article as a starting point: “It’s essentially a way of working wherein you have to be utterly open to what happens on the street. So, no props, no models, no setting up of shots, and you always use available light. Then, it’s down to a mixture of happenstance, luck and skill.” OK, fair enough, but it’s a bit of a conversation stopper, isn’t it? Remove the words ‘the street’ from the above and it could be a description of many kinds of straight documentary. And then, apply the “always use natural light” injunction to Bruce Gilden, and a star of Format Festival should automatically be barred entry to the party. Anyway, the reading group discussion about street photography quickly (and not unsurprisingly?) meandered away in other directions, and we came home not much wiser.

We then looked on the London Street Photography Festival site, where street photography is defined as, “Candid, un-staged photography which captures, explores or questions contemporary society and the relationships between individuals and their surroundings. Situated in public environments – which are often but not exclusively, urban – street photography is perhaps more easily defined as a method than a genre. The results can fit into documentary, portraiture and other genres, but the key elements of spontaneity, careful observation and an open mind ready to capture whatever appears in the viewfinder are essential.”

Which (with the other research we’ve done) has left us wondering; has ‘street photography’, as a name either for a genre or a method of photographic practice, become something of a misnomer?

We’re hoping that Map the Flân will help us explore the boundaries of this question.

[This post has also been blogged at the Collectives Encounter website.]

Mapping progress

January 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

As part of our engagement with Collectives Encounter 2011, we’ve agreed to blog about process. Over the holiday period, Wideyed and ASA were too busy with a funding application to ACE to even think about blogging, but the application was submitted this week so, now that we’ve (more or less…) recovered from that, we’re getting back to what we were doing before, which was research. And while we can’t talk about our exhibition project in too much detail yet, we can at least start blogging by sharing some of our research progress.

Photographers contributing images to our exhibition, Mapping the Flâneur, will be asked to respond to each others’ work and to predetermined themes drawn from the writings of Walter Benjamin. So we’re currently reading Benjamin’s The Arcades Project in search of potential themes, key words, and inspiring quotes (or ‘convolutes’) we can use for the exhibition. The book is a real door-stopper, so we haven’t finished going through it yet, but just before Xmas we found several pieces we’ll transcribe a few of here as examples of the kind of guidance we’re finding in Benjamin’s text.

Streets are the dwelling place of the collective. The collective is an eternally unquiet, eternally agitated being that – in the space between the building fronts – experiences, learns, understands, and invents as much as individuals do within the privacy of their own four walls. For this collective, glossy enameled shop signs are a wall decoration as good as, if not better than, an oil painting in the drawing room of a bourgeois; walls with their “Post No Bills” are its writing desk, newspaper stands its libraries, mailboxes its bronze busts, benches its bedroom furniture, and the café terrace is the balcony from which it looks down on its household. [M3a,4]

The flâneur is the observer of the marketplace. His knowledge is akin to the occult science of industrial fluctuations. He is a spy for the capitalists in the realm of consumers. [M5,6]

The city is the realisation of that ancient dream of humanity, the labyrinth. It is this reality to which the flâneur, without knowing it, devotes himself. [M6a,4]

To leave without being forced in any way, and to follow your inspiration as if the mere fact of turning right or turning left already constituted an essentially poetic act.

Edmond Jaloux, “Le Dernier Flâneur,” Le Temps (May 22, 1936). [M9a,4]

As well as panning for gold in The Arcades Project, at some point we will also need to write some form of brief, manual, or guidebook for participating photographers to follow. As part of our research for this we’ve been looking at manifestos, to see if this is a structure we could adapt for our own use. From www.manifestos.net we found links online to a few interesting ones, like F.T. Marinetti’s famous 1909 Futurist Manifesto, Oswaldo de Andrade’s satirical 1928 Cannibal Manifesto, and the Fractalist Movement’s not-so-snappily-titled Manifesto of the Art and Complexity Group from the mid-1990s (scroll to the bottom of the page for the French version).

Something else we’d have like to see but haven’t been able to track down online, is Lettrist Isidore Isou‘s text on photography: Amos, ou Introduction à la métagraphologie (Amos, or Introduction to Metagraphology). While searching around for it, we found instead a clip from Venom and Eternity, the avant garde Lettrist film that, for fun, we’re going to close this post with. The main character does talk about photography towards the end, but it’s more for the footage of an actual Parisian flâneur in action that we’re including it here.

[This post has also been blogged at the Collectives Encounter website.]

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