[10Jan22, p.79] This chapter starts with a remarkably banal series, Liz Nicol's, The Rubber Band Project (1997) (fig. A1) in which she and her son collected rubber bands dropped by postmen and made cyanotypes with them. This might have had some worth in interesting her child in the craft but the cmat.'s claims of linking to Anna Atkins (first photo book) and Lyons' "an imprint of an event, like islands in the sea" are a stretch. The only more banal project I can recall is Nick Cave's' The Little Book of Lost Gloves.
Multi-image layering is also practiced by three cited but not detailed artists (LPE p.80) Idris Khan (fig. A3, Every … page from Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida, 2004; Every...Bernd And Hilla Becher Gable Sided Houses, 2004, etc.), Jon Spencer (fig. A4) and Isidro Ramirez (fig. A5).
My personal view on Brown, Spencer and Ramirez is that juxtaposition adds nothing to the component images - the sum is no greater than the parts.
Khan, on the other hand had a brilliant idea that he is selling for all it is worth: it works well with the Becher sets and even adds to our knowledge of the Bechers' work. Some of Khan's other pieces, such as all Shakespeare's sonnets (which I think he's done) is of as little value as the output of a skipping photocopier, and yet it paves the way for all the pages from Barthes which is a pleasing hybrid of photography and literature. There is a secure link between Khan and Nancy Burson and both are in my Nichers category.
[11Jan] The use of Google Street View (GSV) for photo-projects is quite common and we encountered the RAKE Collective in I&P research using it document the sites of police interventions in protest activities (fig. C1).
Somewhere I have an old Google Street View portrait of me locking the front door and my partner sitting in the front seat of the car as they passed - not sure where that's got to. What Google have currently available on file are:
1. September 2008, fig. B1 when we still had the camper - I'm coming out of the front door on that one too, see fig. B2, detail.
2. May 2012, with our red Honda, no personal appearances (fig. B3).
3. August 2014, bin day (fig. B4).
4. June 2019, bin day again and the red Volvo (fig. B5). Here's the current view (June 2019),
As the cmat. states Google has been criticised for the potentially and sometimes actually intrusive nature of the system, but some artists have embraced it. Again the cmat., disappointingly, just lists some names without any details, Michael Wolf, Jon Rafman and Doug Rickard, stating that the precedent for their work dates back to Duchamp's urinal (Part 1, Page 3), then Warhol's use of photographs and paintings in his prints, Sherrie Levine's copies and Richard Prince (IP, Assignment 2 essay).
This GSV image-diving may be seen as the precise opposite of Fox Talbot's charm of the clock dial - instead of a photographer delighting in an originally unnoticed detail, these artists take no photographs but search (arguably) anonymous sources for someone else's detail.
Photojournalism was yet-again re-defined earlier this year when Michael Wolf was awarded an honorable mention in the World Press Photo competition for photographs he took of his computer screen… The final body of work, which he titled, A Series of Unfortunate Events, is completely composed of selected personal calamities (in progress, or about to happen) caught by random chance by the automatic cameras of Google Street View roving vans from around the world — and the results are often quite astonishing and amusing.
It’s an obsessively clever idea, like high-tech dumpster diving, or sorting through junk at a flea market to find a hidden gem. But the “legitimate” world of photojournalists took offense at his award, and it therefore created quite a bit of controversy.
Jim Casper, LensCulture (n.d.)
Rafman's GSV project was Nine Eyes of Google Street View, started in 2008 and labelled "ongoing" on his web site. It takes a broader spread of incidents than Ricard or Henner and includes sex-workers, minor accidents and seemingly whatever catches his eye (fig. C3).
Rickard founded the web site American Suburb X in 2008. Rickard's GSV piece is A New American Picture . The striking thing about Rickard's images is that, unlike those of the other members in this section, they are worthwhile pictures in their own right, irrespective of their source. The book of the series is the very last entry in Parr & Badger's The Photobook: A History Volume III (2014, pp.310-11) (fig. C4). The book narrative reads,
A New American Picture
Doug Rickard's astute title, A New American Picture, says it all. Like Walker Evans's American Photographs (1938), it declares immediately that Rickard's book is about America, but also about the medium, about picturing America through photographs.
The images are both Rickard's and not Rickard's, for this is the pre-eminent book so far made by photographing the computer monitor, capturing views found by trawling Google Street View. It is an image-appropriation project, but that is only its beginning. Rickard 'travels' to the ghettos and 'trailer-trash' areas of America, making urban landscapes and portraits of people many miles away without leaving his desk. This immediately raises issues of invasion of privacy and surveillance, but the major player in that regard, and cause for concern, is surely Google, not Rickard, who is doing little more than the average street photographer in voyeuristic mode.
These are ground-breaking, frankly gorgeous images,
as much painterly as photographic, and American Picture is a major photobook. But what it says about the world rather than the medium is its most important attribute. The pictures' fascination is that they function as credible, if quirky, documents, recording the look of the American environment during a particularly difficult economic period. Many images are from the 'wrong side the tracks', featuring the kind of anonymous people that Paul Graham photographed in A Shimmer of Possibility …
They possibly exhibit the same kind of subtle, subversive political agenda too, drawing attention to an America of recalcitrant racism, capitalist greed and social inequality. That is not the whole America, but it is the America of many peoples' daily experience - the real America, and not the America of Walt Disney.
Parr & Badger, 2014, p.310
The one GSV user the cmat. does document is Mishka Henner whose No Man’s Land (2011) shows roadside sex-workers in Italy and Spain (fig. C5) - the cmat. states,
Those who interpret Henner’s images as exploitative and voyeuristic overlook the point that through this work he draws to our attention the relentless, indiscriminate and inescapable eye of the Street View camera, and the power that is wielded by Google. The title of the work refers to the irony that, despite these women’s apparent wish to attract men, there are no men to be found within Henner’s views. But there is surely also a reference to ideas about territory and ownership, which is perhaps infringed upon b y t he Street View camera.
GSV & Appropriation
[12Jan] This is the opening of Exercise 2.3.
Read Geoff Dyer’s article on photographers using Google Street View by
searching “ How Google Street View is inspiring new photography ” on The Guardian
Website. You can also read blog posts on the weareoca website by searching:
“ Appropriation: photography into tapestry ” and “ Who’s Afraid of Appropriation? ”...
This is a typical Dyer piece, providing a vehicle to demonstrate his knowledge of photo-world highlights through name-dropping. He claims, "I only became aware of this breakthrough when Michael Wolf … received an honourable mention in the 2011 World Press Photo Awards for work made sitting in front of his computer terminal, photographing – and cropping and blowing up – moments from Google's Street View" and, who knows, it might be true. In any case, Dyer provides an entertaining romp through the field and covers the same ground as the cmat.
Michael Wolf, from The Transparent City (2008)
Dyer also mentions Wolf's The Transparent City (2008) where he photographs high-rise buildings looking for windows framing interesting contents. Dyer wonders whether they were all happenstance or some might have been organised with "an element of Doisneau-esque contrivance". See also LensCulture, fig. D1. The project calls to mind Gursky's Paris, Montparnasse, 1993, the image that brought me back to photography, and also Merry Alpern'sDirty Windows, 1994
Dyer goes on to mention Rafman, Dyer writes, "One gets the impression not simply that he lacks Wolf's formation as an old-school photographer but that he has, quite possibly, never set foot outdoors, that his knowledge of the world derives entirely from representations of it" and quotes Rafman, "By reintroducing the human gaze, I reassert the importance, the uniqueness of the individual." Rickard - Dyer writes, "Any doubts as to the artistic – rather than ethical or conceptual – merits of this new way of working were definitively settled by Rickard's pictures." - quote
Marc Quinn The Creation of History (2013)
The first WeAreOCA link,Appropriation: photography into tapestry is available as an archive but the links within the article are dead. It concerns a piece by Marc Quinn (also known for a sculpture of his own head made from his own frozen blood, and the Fourth Plinth statue of disabled artist Alison Lapper). After the 2011 London riots, having obtained the rights from the photographer Kerim Okten, Quinn printed a well-known photograph as a tapestry (paintings and sculpture too) and called it The Creation of History (2013, fig. E1). Photo-derived tapestries from Chuck Close and Pae White are also mentioned.
There is only one student comments on the article posted in 2013, commenting on the stitch → pixel connection and grain could be inserted between the two.
My two views on the Quinn work are: 1. he was wise to pay for the reproduction rights; 2. there is not much creativity evidenced on Quinn's part, although his other works mentioned suggest scope and purpose.
The second OCA link Who’s Afraid of Appropriation? garners more comments. It is a more general piece that mentions artists' efforts since C18th to protect their intellectual property; how Harvard Referencing seeks to control plagiarism; how the internet has loosened control and enabled a profusion of appropriation.
Amongst artists, there are centuries of precedents of influence → borrowing → theft, "Andy Warhol, Damian Hirst , Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Glen Brown and Richard Prince , are particularly good at using other peoples images, without permission and have often ending up in court as a result. The defence of ‘fair use’ is often sited [sic]".
I wrote about fair use at some length in I&P, centring on Richard Prince and a Patrick Cariou image from Yes Rasta, 2000 - that case was in progress while the OCA piece was written. I note that the UK equivalent of the US's 'fair use' is ‘fair dealing’, defined in Sections 29 and 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
A (then) forthcoming Roy Lichtenstein show at Tate Modern is mentioned, noting that Lichtenstein has never acknowledged his debt to comic artists "Tony Abruzzo, Russ Jeath, Ross Andre, John Romita, Joe Kubert and Milt Kaniff".
There is a flurry of discussion, all from 2013. Three topics are covered: 1. Artists' use of assistants to make their work for them; 2. the OCA's rights and approach in displaying students' work; 3. various, sometimes conflicting, opinions on the workings of copyright.