Exercise 2: Case Study Analysis

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 7: Place and Time in the Archive, Research & Reflection

Susan Hiller

Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye

Ilya an Emilia Kabakov

Case Study 1: Susan Hiller, Witness (2000)

Description

Witness is a sound installation, but also an archive. The installation consists of 350 speakers suspended from the ceiling, in a darkened room, lit by artificial blue lights. Each speaker plays different audio recordings of people from all over the world recounting their experience of witnessing a UFO or similarly unexplained phenomena. The recordings are in multiple languages, and create a cacophony of voices, at times going quiet and allowing just one voice to speak. The work was initially shown in an abandoned Baptist chapel in London and has since been exhibited at multiple national and international museums and festivals. The stories, though some are read by actors where written accounts have been found or provided, are not presented with any bias from Hiller, or with extra dramatisation added for effect; they create an almost factual, documentary account.

Analysis

Susan Hiller’s Witness has many archival elements. It consists of a large number of different audio recordings and is presented not just as a playlist but in a constructed way to add to the meaning of the clips. They have a common theme around UFO stories. The archive tells a very specific curated story. The room it places the archive in a context, the room is dark with artificial blue lights to add to the atmosphere of UFOs and otherworldly experiences. The way in which the clips are presented also adds to this, they aren’t just one at a time but there are multiple languages being spoken at once, with periods of silence. This adds to the chaos and slightly spooky unsettling feeling.

By presenting this work as audio rather than text, it places the people behind the stories at the root. This is about the people as much as the stories they tell. By having the recordings by people or actors we get that human element.

The work is multilingual to show the global impact of these stories, I think it helps to unite humanity as one against UFOs. It acts as a unifier as it doesn’t matter what language you are speaking, it shows these stories span cultures and nationalities. Another example of how we often have more in common than differences. I think it also adds to the sense of chaos, that it is difficult to pick out just one character, as you listen you flit between people, accents and languages. We are encouraged to listen to the overall hum and not the individuals.

Exhibiting in a chapel builds a sense of atmosphere. There is a strange effect of having the piece at the top of a spiral staircase in a chapel. Almost like you are descending to the UFOs themselves. The space also allows shadows to play a role. Of course, it being a chapel evokes religious and spiritual feelings, are these UFOs or a calling from the heavens? In Jonathan Jones’s piece in the Guardian about the experience, he describes that “a babble of voices talk at once, muttering like the voices of the dead or the legion of the damned” (Jones, 2000).

I don’t think the work is trying to make us believe in UFOs. Rather telling the stories of those who have had an experience. There is a certain conviction in the number of stories, that how can this happen to so many people if UFOs aren’t real? However, I think this is an unbiased piece that allows us to make our own judgement.

This is different from a documentary as there is little of the artist’s own views in there. There is no narrative to go along with, just the pure experiences of the voices and the atmosphere. We aren’t informed, we are left to make a judgement.


Case Study 2: Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye, The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1993–1996)

Description

Work was made to accompany a feature-length film by Duny called The Watermelon Woman. The film follows Dunye trying to find out about the life of a black actress who has an unrecognised or uncredited role in a film called Plantation Memories, and is referred to only as ‘the watermelon woman’. Dunye’s film follows the fictional life of Fae Richards, an African American lesbian blues singer and actress, who Dunye images as the person that played the watermelon woman. This fictional film is used to highlight the fact that next to no archival information about black actresses (and no information at all about black lesbian actresses) was kept or recorded in archives, and so the artists created their own archive, The Fae Richards Photo Archive, in lieu of any actual archival findings. The work consists of 82 black and white photos that have been staged and enacted by Dunye, Leonard and other actors, alongside a cast list, and photo captions that were typed on a type-writer to give them an authentic appearance.


Analysis

The archive was made to give a voice to a marginalised group of people. That no information about black lesbian actresses was kept meant that this was imagined.

It is made to look like an old archive to give it a sense of realism that this is to represent those voices that have been lost. The idea that these could have been real photos and text lifted from a real person from history.

In making this as a film, a book and an installation it helped to spread the word of this story. Like a real person from history may be celebrated in many ways, this gives them dimension. As though you could look up the different media to corroborate the story and make them seem more real.

There are still clues that this is fictional and that is important. As it highlights that this has had to be faked due to no real images or even knowledge of who these actresses were.


Case Study 3: Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away (1988)

Description

This work is both a piece of creative writing and an installation. The text was written in 1977, and was used to accompany an exhibition in 1988 of the same name, though it’s also known as The Garbage Man. The installation is in a small, narrow room, which, apart from a small bed, looks like a kind of museum with glass cases, cabinets and shelves filled with jars which all contain items that would usually be thrown away, like buttons, tin cans, old boots etc. Each item has a label on it with a catalogue number and a description.


Analysis


References
Art Institute Chicago (n.d.). The Fae Richards Photo Archive. [online] The Art Institute of Chicago. Available at: https://www.artic.edu/artworks/229418/the-fae-richards-photo-archive.
Hiller, S. (n.d.). SUSAN HILLER. [online] http://www.susanhiller.org. Available at: http://www.susanhiller.org/installations/witness.html [Accessed 30 Jul. 2022].
Jones, J. (2000). Susan Hiller’s Witness. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2000/may/25/art.artsfeatures [Accessed 30 Jul. 2022].
Kabakov, I. and Kabakov, E. (n.d.). The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away (The Garbage Man). [online] Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. Available at: http://www.kabakov.net/installations/2019/9/15/the-man-who-never-threw-anything-away-the-garbage-man.
Nykolak, J. (n.d.). Zoe Leonard. [online] http://www.nga.gov. Available at: https://www.nga.gov/features/exhibitions/outliers-and-american-vanguard-artist-biographies/zoe-leonard.html [Accessed 30 Jul. 2022].

Lavett Ballard

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Lavett Ballard is an American Artist, Art historian, Curator, and Author. Ballard considers her work as a re-envisioning of the narratives belonging to people of African descent.

The collaged imagery she uses explores women’s stories, reflecting social issues within a historical context. The photo collages are used with other mixed media layered onto pieces of wooden fences. The fences add another layer of meaning and connect to her roots in South America.

Ballard’s art has been featured on the cover of Time Magazine:

Ballard views her art as reimagined visual narratives of people of African descent. Her use of imagery reflects social issues affecting primarily Black Women’s stories within a historical context. She uses collaged photos adorned with paint, oil pastels and metallic foils.

References

Ballard, L. (2017). Lavett Ballard Bio. [online] lavettballardart. Available at: https://www.lavettbeart.com/bio.
http://www.uarts.edu. (n.d.). Alum Featured on TIME Magazine Cover | University of the Arts. [online] Available at: https://www.uarts.edu/lavett-ballard-time-magazine [Accessed 7 Jun. 2022].

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé is an experimental musician and multidisciplinary artist. She produces text scores, performances and publications which explore the materiality of language and engage with the particularities of different places.

OCA website

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé was born in Morocco to French parents and later moved to London. Her work PRAELUDERE was prompted by the fact that in French, a ballad is both a song and a walk. She draws the parallel between writing and walking, using simultaneous acts of marking and reading space.

PRAELUDERE

Praeludere is a set of four verbal scores that can be activated inside or outside, sitting, standing or walking or alone with others, with or without an instrument. It is part of a body of work that explores the notion of the ballad as being somewhere between a walk and a song. Writing, drawing, seeing and walking are understood as simultaneous acts of marking and reading space.

References

Rule, D., Waeckerlé, E. and Evans, T. (2015). On Reading and Walking and Thinking… [online] research.uca.ac.uk. Available at: http://research.uca.ac.uk/3512/ [Accessed 7 Jun. 2022].
Waeckerlé, E. (2015). Praeludere. [online] research.uca.ac.uk. Available at: https://research.uca.ac.uk/4635/ [Accessed 7 Jun. 2022].
Waeckerlé, E. (2022). About – Emmanuelle Waeckerlé. [online] ewaeckerle. Available at: https://ewaeckerle.com/about [Accessed 10 May 2022].

Janet Cardiff

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Janet Cardiff is a Canadian artist who works with immersive multimedia, sound and audio/video walks (Miller, 2022). She often collaborates with Georges Bures Miller on the video walks to create alternative realities for the audience who listen to (and view) the constructed narrative, layered with background sounds and directions.

I spent some time looking at the different walks on their website. I selected Thought Experiments in F# Minor, described as “A labyrinthine video walk that takes you inside and outside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A”.


The piece is genuinely captivating. It is difficult to explain in words and is something people should experience for themselves. I was left questioning reality, what it means to watch something, and how time and place interact. There is a ghost-like quality to watching a video of someone watching a location where previous interactions took place. The impact is enormous on the audience.

The same place is used in the video, but there is previous footage of past events being shown at the same time as someone walking the tour. In addition, there are more fantastical elements, such as the cat conductor. The cat also links to the idea of reality in Schrodingers cat. What is real? Is video footage real? The people in the video are both alive and also not necessarily. An image or video always shows the past. We can then meet the person, the person has aged, changed, or in some cases, they may even have passed away, but the photo still exists.

Ideas for my Own Work

I find this piece very inspirational. I wonder if I could incorporate some time shifts in my own piece about mapping digital pieces. Superimposes two days of work on top of each other.

References
Miller, J.C. & G.B. (2022). Biography. [online] Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. Available at: https://cardiffmiller.com/biography/ [Accessed 3 Apr 2022].

Reflect, Review, and Refine

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection
  • What are the main areas or ideas for reflection from the feedback you received?
    • Something that stands out to me is how my tutor really liked the pieces I didn’t particularly think were strong. I experimented with taking photos with wires on my screen, and I wasn’t happy with how they turned out, but my tutor really thought they were powerful. This makes me want to be more experimental and take a few more risks. Post work that I perhaps don’t think is finished and get feedback on it.

      Creating any piece of work is a risk, and it exposes you to criticism, something nobody enjoys, but it is how we all learn and develop. It is something I definitely need to get better at. I could be braver with what I post here and open myself up for feedback more instead of waiting for a polished piece of work.
  • How will you develop and refine your work and ideas in response?
    • As mentioned, I want to be more creative and experimental. I need to get back into playing with ideas and not necessarily only post on here the ones that feel finished.

      One thing I could do a lot more of is using my sketchbook to develop ideas and show how I get to my finished pieces.

      Another aspect my tutor mentioned was to explain my thinking a little more.
  • Which sections of your work do you want to explore in more detail, and how might you do that?
    • I really want to explore this idea of the internet and time spent and now bring in place too. The internet is a place that perhaps doesn’t meet the conventional understanding of place, but we all curate our own little corners of the web. There isn’t a physical space but a digital space. How can I explore this?
  • What elements of your work start to reflect something about the place you chose to work in, and how might you build on that?
    • My work was based around my desk and where I work. How it is all digital and not something with a physical presence. Is this still a place?

A Reflection on Meaningful Locations

Coursework, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Tim Cresswell’s book describes place as a “meaningful location”.

For me, this is a difficult concept as I have moved around a lot in my life and I struggle to make meaningful connections to a particular location.

I have always felt happier when travelling and exploring, maybe because I don’t have a strong connection to anywhere else.

Even at the moment, I have a sense of wanting to move again.

I think that I may find this unit difficult but it might also give me an opportunity to explore a sense of not belonging anywhere too.

What is Place?

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Place is difficult to define. I decided to create a mind map with all the ideas I think about when I consider the word place. Place is home, it is linked to people and culture but there is also a sense of movement about it. Place never remains still. Just like time. There is constant change, boundaries change, people and things move in the place, time changes places like the seasons, climate, there is growth and shrinking.

I don’t think I am any clearer about what place is. Can we even define it?

David’s Oath of the Horatii

Books & reading, history of art, Notes, Research & Reflection

Oath of the Horatii is a neoclassical oil painting by Jacques-Loui David (1784). It is currently on display in the Louvre, Paris. It is an example of the history genre which was considered to be at the top of the hierarchy of genres.

History Genre

History paintings are a form of narrative or ‘istoria’ that go back as far as the Renaissance. Acts of human virtue and intellect by moral heroes, including those in Christian stories (the dominant religion in Europe), were placed at the top of what would become the hierarchy of genres. History paintings were usually large-scale works depicting a subject based on classical history, literature or mythology from ancient Greece and Rome, a scene from the Bible, or real historical events.

History paintings were ideally suited to public spaces and large canvases. The scenes depicted were usually heroic or noble, the aim of these works being to elevate viewers’ morals. It was important that they provided the opportunity to depict the human figure – often nude or partially nude – since this subject was believed to require the greatest artistic skill. From the fifteenth until the nineteenth century, these enactments of human virtue were placed at the top of what would become the hierarchy of genres, and as a result, many artists aspired to be history painters.

The Renaissance values had a hierarchy on what they considered to be the “best” types of art. ‘History’ painting was considered to be the grande genre because, unlike the lower-ranked genres, it provided the artist with the opportunity to demonstrate (and the viewer to experience) moral force and imagination.

David’s Oath of the Horatii

Jacques-Louis David – The Oath of the Horatii, 1784, oil on canvas, Paris, Musee de Louvre

Materials and techniques

  • Oil painting on canvas.
  • Monumental scale – each figure is life-size.
  • Required great skill, especially to depict the human body with anatomical accuracy.
  • Disguised brushwork (difficult to tell from a reproduction).

David’s technique was time-consuming and challenging. He had a palette of only six pigments – black, white, vermilion (red), Prussian blue, yellow ochre and burnt umber/sienna. He applied his paint meticulously with small brushes, so no strokes are visible on the finished work. This highly finished technique is typical of the Neoclassical style, which in turn is highly appropriate for the ancient Roman subject. The figures look like painted sculptures.

Subject

  • A form of narrative painting known as history painting.
  • History painting is top of the hierarchy of subject matter known as genres.
  • Based on classical history from ancient pagan Rome.
  • Focus on noble male heroes and acts of virtue, both moral and intellectual.
  • Inspired by the writing of Livy (59 BCE–17 CE) which was designed to establish the Emperor Augustus’ validity after the fall of the republic.
  • Also inspired by French dramatist Corneille’s play Horace of 1640 which David saw performed.
  • The three Horatii brothers are preparing to do battle with three brothers from the Curiatii family in Alba to settle the dispute between their cities. The scene depicts them swearing on their swords, held aloft by their father, to defend the city of Rome to the death.
  • Scene of stoic bravery and masculinity.
  • The apparent subject matter is Roman heroism, the real content is a comment on the French state. 

Formal elements of style

  • David wanted a serious, academic style.
  • Geometric precise composition organised around groups of three – three arches, three figure groups, three brothers, three women, three swords.
  • Linear perspective (emphaised by chequerboard floor) to suggest an accurate illusion of three-dimensional space (a mathematical system). 
  • Strong outline to each figure. 
  • Single light source from left (which casts long strong shadows on the ground showing it is early morning).
  • Figures look solid and three-dimensional.
  • Figures show mass and volume and look sculptural. The muscularity of the men is heightened by the angle at which the light (which enters from upper left) rakes across the surface of their bodies, sharply delineating mass and volume.
  • Highlights and shadows – chiaroscuro.
  • Influenced by ancient classical sculpture – the plain classical Doric order of architecture (considered ‘masculine’).

The Human Form

The depiction of the human figure lies at the heart of the European art tradition. How the human figure is represented is a key to understanding any style.

Proportions

The classical ideal of head : body ratio, as used for the Horatii, is 1:7.

Gesture

The active heroic salute of the Horatii brothers; the limp arms of the women.

Pose

The Horatii stand strong and upright and take up space; the women are seated, in contained poses.

Expression

The stern, serious Horatii actively looking towards their father are based on the classical ideal of male beauty.