Posted in Assignment 1 - Preparation, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment One – Artist Research – Fear

The interpretation of fear is something that has been explored in many dimensions of art, for such a broad subject that encapsulates many levels it can be challenging to focus on a specific form. Whilst I have my plan of recreating the Roscharch blots through my childhood fear of trees there are many ways to go about this. I have studied the photographers below and whenever I refer it to my own practise I have highlighted my thoughts in bold.

There are the haunting photo manipulations of  Joshua Hoffine in his series ‘Basement’ where he brings to life the darkest of childhood fears by creating terrifying and disturbing evocations that have escaped the confines of a horror movie. The fact that I can’t bear to even include the photo here or look at more than one or two shows how these childhood fears still cling on to you many years later. It’s a jolt out of sense and reality. The adult sense knows images such as zombies or monsters in the mirror are not real but there is something inside of us all that only needs to see or feel something uncanny to be taken straight back to the terrified child hiding under the duvet where all things are possible, both dreams and nightmares. How could I bring this level of terror into my photography? Perhaps nightmarish faces twisted in the gargantuan tree forms, the tree branches reaching out towards my throat. Shadows reflected on my skin, embodying the fear. I notice that whilst he uses graphic images that leave nothing for the imagination, these images are shocking but the ones are that are more permeable are those that are suggestions. The silhouette of a clown against the sheet in the garden with the disillusioning bright balloons just visible. The arms creeping out from the back of the couch. 

The portrayal of fear doesn’t always have to be hypostatized so grimly, a more colourful and slightly upbeat depiction of fear, and with a focus on fighting it, is Rivane Neunschwander ‘s ‘Name of Fear’ exhibition where Neunshwander worked with school children, embodying their fears in the shape and form of cloaks which the children wore and were photographed in. They were also put in an exhibition. The manner in which they were portrayed, these cloaks hung on a rack with some on the wall resonate with me especially as the cape harks back to roots of psychoanalysis. When I suffered from OCD (which was caused by my Lymes disease as the bacteria attacked my brain)  it was the darkest time of my life, I always felt it was like a death shroud, tied around me, I was unable to escape, whenever I found the edges to hurl off it would cling to me again like an octopus coming back and consuming its prey. This is a subject I have only ever discussed with my family, it’s something that has held me in a cage and I fear to talk about it as I know the cage is in the distance but the door is still open. Perhaps now is the time to think of exploring this in an upcoming assignment, working with the landscape of OCD, with a cage, a shawl and the journey in escaping it. I never foresaw myself focusing on such dark aspects within my photography as it is something I have always been so afraid of…however, perhaps the way to escape the fear is to embrace it, objectify it and destroy it.

The Name of Fear  – Photographer – Rivane Neuenschwander

I will research this later when I work on Assignment Two, my thinking is that a cape has always been seen as a symbol of protection, of something mystical and magical, the unique trait of superheroes, fairy tale characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and fiction, Lord of the Rings feature cloaks from the elves to shield them from the enemy’s eyes.

Focusing away from photography, an unusual mixed media art exhibition by Nathan Margoni focuses on the two worlds of imagination a child inhabits, the nightmares where a child wakes up screaming from the monsters in their mind to the day time where these monsters came to life but in a different way, manifested in their childhood games. Comprised of nightmarish large scale sculptures and paintings of deformed monsters, mechnaical gnashing teeth, fleeing victims, a pustulated giant foot all brought to life with a glue gun, human hair, every detail seethes with an unsettling clamour of fear mixed with fascination and obsession with mortality. Margoni features himself both as the monster and the victim, he is the hunter and the prey enhancing the situation of childhood imagination.

“In darkness we feared demons, in light we wore their faces to make friends scream with giddiness.” 

Children, or grown up children, are able to take the reins and become the monsters, seeing through their eyes through a distorted fish eye view as their teeth chomp at broken dolls. The art piece enables you to use levers to open and close the creatures mouth. The artist, Margoni, features himself as the fleeing victim as in the piece ‘Oh no, Run for your life’ a gigantic repulsive foot mashed with the faces of squashed victims and debris is poised above the diminuitve Margoni. You can live as both the victim and the monster. It feels almost Lord of the Flies esque experiencing terror and rage, fear and hate, helplessness and brutality. It is unsettling to say the least.

Joe Rondone / H-P Staff

Vincent Bousserez’s pictures carry that unsettling and familiar feeling of lying awake at night as shadows were manifested as monsters and ghosts hiding in your room, creeping around the bed as you slept and seeping into your dreams transforming them into paralysising nightmares. Bousserez’s inspiration came from visiting an old house in the country, he had the parents walking around to create the disturbing shadows. The fear reflected in the childrens eyes takes you back to the time. It is something that almost everyone on the planet has once shared. Fear. I love the use of shadows to create the unsettling effect, going back to my earlier thinking of the tree shadows and silhouettes across the skin. I am loathe to create an exact depiction of my fear, I want it to be more abstract, I want viewers to find their own depictions of their lives in my work. Everyone has something that scares us and when faced with something unsettling it has an inherent and inevitable way of being incarnated into the real world. 

Photographer – Vincent Bousserez

The more I study fear the more I want to show the many levels there are, how I may have once been scared of the shapes of trees in the night or scraping down the window, how I feel no such fear anymore, how it has come circle.

Posted in 05 Photography and the city, Coursework

Exercise 1.9: Visual research and analysis – social contrasts

Find photographs depicting at least two social perspectives of the same place. Find a photograph depicting the affluent side of a city and one that shows the poorer side.

Then see if you can find two photographs where social contrasts are within single image.

One of the great subjects of landscape photography and environmental photography is the stigma of the rich and the poor, quite often we see the clash of the hierarchies, the social pyramid, rich buildings shadow ghettos and filthy slums, a rich man passes a homeless person shivering on the pavement.

Find two photographs where social are contrasts are within single image.

I couldn’t quite face to look upon the images of Dougie Wallace depicting a seedy night out in Blackpool; as the town isn’t too far from where I live I’d rather keep the illusion that the pleasant, scenic sculptured seafront (not counting the shops, chinking arcades and countless vendors trying to grab your attention to win the gigantic, dusty cuddly tiger) is something that is reiterated throughout the town. Of course, I know this isn’t true but as said in Patrick McGoohan’s, the Prisoner “Questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself.” I’m quite happy to stay in that illusion.

Instead, I recalled a quote from Doctor Who, set in the midst of the Depression in Manhattan the workers are forced to live in Hooverville, a shanty town whilst working on the Empire State building, the injustice of the situation and the quote has always stayed with me.

“How come they can do that (refering to the empire state building) when we got people starving in the heart of Manhattan?”

I searched for images taken around that time to see whether I could illustrate this quote with a photograph. I came across an exhibiton that had been released to a Jewish museum in Manhattan depicting the lives of those from 1936 to 1951.

Broken Window on South Street – Rebecca Lepkov

High rise buildings and skyscrapers soar out of the ground in an arrogant fashion lost in a fog of indifference, superiority and transcendence, the dividing line in the form of the bridge cuts through the hierarchy pyramid, separating the classes. We see the elite apex of the pyramid with the skyscrapers and the crumbling bottom in the form of the lower class area, the emotions entangled and exacerbated by the shattered window. If the hierarchy pyramid stays this way…it will shatter like a fragile glass structure.

The sign seems strangely literary, perhaps acting as warning ‘Full Stop’ It feels like something imposed by the rich. As though to say this is as far as you go. You do not belong in our world and we do not belong in yours.

The Affluent side of the city

I actually found it easier discovering images of the gritty slums and shanty towns then the affluent rich. Perhaps because photography inspires action, brings about change which wouldn’t be generated through images of the rich enjoying themselves. However when the focus is on those shivering in the slums, change is created.

Here in the image below you can see the focus on consumerism, neon lights selling all manners of goods light up the night sky, how hard was it for those suffering with empty bellies to see such images and strain on resources. While they didn’t even have a candle to keep them warm the world was lit up, diminishing the stars with flashy signs. It must have felt like a parallel world.


I couldn’t find the name of the photographer. 


The Poor side of the city

For the final two images I came across the photographer, crime reporter and reformer, Jacob Riis who captured images of the dark suffering of the New York slums through the eyes of the people and in the images I’ve selected, the children.

There is something about an image of children suffering that carries a vicious hooked barb of pain into your heart. Children are innocent and care free, seeing them in such gritty and dark images act as a messages that haunt the soul.


Photograph by Jacob Riis



His images inspired change and brought realisation to the masses yet despite this, such suffering continues worldwide.

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.” Anne Frank


Posted in 03 The beautiful and the sublime, Coursework

Exercise 1.6: The Contemporary Abyss

Read Simon Morely’s essay ‘Staring into the Contemporary Abyss’


Next choose any body of work that you feel explores the sublime. It may be photographic, literay, cinematic or any other medium. Write at least 300 words describing how you believe the work you’ve selected relates to the sublime. Use Morely’s text to support your argument.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Morely’s essay, it was well structured and written in an entertaining, thought-provoking and informed manner. The little paths of inspiration led me to create a mindmap in my sketchbook where I documented not only his points but my thoughts. I find it very helpful to have a separate (rather messy and discombobulated) sketchbook to record my thoughts, ideas, gather reviews, write to-do lists and cut up random photos. It’s also full of my sketches regarding the course and I will submit it alongside my assignments for assessment. I tend to find order within chaos when it comes to brainstorming.

When it came to choosing a piece representing an experience with the sublime I found it quite challenging, I have a very wild imagination and such a zest for life. Despite having such a different and challenging life so far and being ill since I was a small child I really love my life (minus the illness) I’ve learnt to appreciate all the little things, enjoy everything and I experience everything in stunning technicolour. I’ve often been likened to an enthusiastic puppy. So I really wanted to focus on something that created a feeling even stronger than the norm.

My chosen pieces differ greatly in that one is a piece of fiction and the other is a dark story with such hope. They both carry messages about the world we live in (interestingly the real life one is about hope and courage whereas the fiction is a dark and disturbing look at human nature) but the emotions felt were quite a stark contrast.I couldn’t choose between them so decided to review both.

The first is the movie Nerve, it centres around a terrifying new game which enables one to become either a watcher or a player. Watchers watch the players and the players perform the dares they are challenged to do, for money. At first, the dares are harmless, immature and embarrassing but they soon take a darker turn risking lives, breaking laws. Near the end of the movie, it’s night, one of the main characters is dangling over a city off a crane, on a skyscraper…with one hand. Watching it I was frozen to my chair, my heart was pounding, I desperately wanted to avert my gaze but it was though I was petrified, fixated in horrified fascination. For me this felt like an encounter with the sublime, ‘an agreeable kind of horror’ the way my body reacted certainly was backing up the theory. Despite knowing that it wasn’t real that it was all green screen with wires and actors the feeling seemed no more intense than if it was a real situation. It made me think the feeling generated when one has an encounter with the sublime must surely have a scientific reasoning behind it. Perhaps it is more an internal influence, a chemical reaction than external.

Later on, the movie got more intense and took an almost Lord of the Flies theme as the crowd bayed for blood, for one of the characters to shoot the other all for the sake of a sick, twisted and psychopathic game. It threw a macabre, disturbing look at human nature. When you strip away the psyche (Sigmund Freud’s theory) all that is left behind is the impulsive ID that wants gratification immediately. It is unsettling, to say the least. This seemed a different experience, as though given an aerial view of one potential path of humanity, the helplessness to stop it, the grim reality of friends turning on friends, people against people, the reactions of people, when faced with extreme circumstances, is a concept which shows up in many works of art, Lord of the Flies, A Brave New World, the Prisoner. When I first spoke to my tutor on Skype he said he was interested in myths, at the time I thought he meant myths such as the giant on Snowdon, or the Hydra, Cerberus the Three Headed Dog however he said it was a different type of myth, the myth that we are free.  Controlling governments, controlled freedom all themes which are depicted in art such as 1984 and the Prisoner trying to escape a claustrophobic and controlling situation. Whilst these works of art are all fiction the fact that it is a theme that crops up so much is an allegory for the truth, showing us the controlling system that is warped all around us. Morely wrote, “Thus discussions of the sublime in contemporary art can sometimes be covert or camouflaged devices for talking about the kinds of things that were once addressed by religious discourses and nevertheless seem to remain pertinent within an otherwise religiously sceptical and secularised world.” They are a way of showing us a reality we may never face, generate suitable emotions, raise questions, inspire those to challenge the system. This makes me think about Morely and his statment that we all desire to be bound by no code, end rationality and be free.

I always feel like the sublime is about experiencing something so wonderful, emotional or terrifying that one transcends to another level, not necessarily a spiritual level, but a level that is somehow different. It is a physical change in your body.

My second experience of the sublime wasn’t an ‘agreeable kind of horror’ but of a strong, almost indescribable feeling of being so moved that you feel the sublime in your chest trying to break free. I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and several days ago was researching the best way to learn morse code. I came across a website  stating why one should learn morse code in the modern age. There were two stories of how morse code had been used to save lives, the first of an American soldier who’s plane was shot down in the Vietnamese war; captured and tortured he was forced to take part in a televised press conference, to pretend everything was ok and say he was being well treated. He did exactly this but that wasn’t the only message he was sending, through the blinking of his eyes he communicated a message back home in the form of morse code over and over again. One word repeated. T.O.R.T.U.R.E His actions changed the course of the Vietnamese War and revealed the suspected truth that the prisoners were being tortured. He was eventually rescued.

The story I am focusing on however is very similar and happened in Columbia, 2010. A communist Guerilla movement kidnapped many soldiers, imprisoning them in a brutal camp. Many were rescued and another rescue was planned but Colonel Jose Espejo needed to find a way to reach the soldiers, to send a message of hope, telling them to stay strong, that a rescue was underway. Their saviour came in the form of radio, the Guerilla camps always had music playing which the prisoners could hear. The Colonel teamed up with composers, the radio station and musicians to create a song, the lyrics pointed to listening to the riff. And hidden like an enigma inside the riff was the message. In morse code.

“19 people rescued, you’re next. Don’t lose hope.”

The song reached the Guerilla camps but as most of them were farmers they had no knowledge of morse code yet the captured soldiers did. Their message of hope was received, they were able to alert other prisoners and many escaped to safety.

Below is the song and I feel the experience of the sublime, personally, comes from hearing the riff. At first, it sounds like standard music but then when you know the story, your mind shifts the right gears like an enigma machine decoding it and the morse code stands out. When I first listened I couldn’t describe the feeling, which is why I feel it was an experience of the sublime, it was so powerful, so indescribable like something was trying to break out of my body with sheer hope. What it meant for the prisoners, the surge of fear for them as to whether they would hear it, whether the guerrillas would detect it. It may be a feeling you feel when you watch an especially intense movie like James Bond but with the realism that this is a true story, it makes the feeling even more intense. The sublime is something you can’t describe, something that defies words, it’s something you feel but can’t say. Like being told an incredible secret but then losing your tongue so you will never be able to explain it. Perhaps that is where the feeling comes from.

Posted in Coursework, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime, Research and Reflection

Freidrich’s – Wanderer above the Mist

I went on quite a journey with this painting as my thoughts and personal interpretations shifted and changed like the eternal flowing of the mist. 


A man dressed in formal attire stands at the apex of a rock gazing out at the uncertain world before him. The world is whipped into a foaming tongue lashing at the rocks, disappearing into the mist-strewn background. It is uncertain whether the man is gazing out at mist covered mountains or perhaps a tumultuous ocean. Is this oil painting( by German artist, Caspar David Friedrich) an encounter of the sublime? We do not know. The mystery comes from the ambiguity, we do not see the Wanderers face so how can we determine or speculate what his expression is? Is he terrified, horrified, staring stoically or impassively. Does he feel like he is the commander of all he surveys? Does he feel like a God as he gazes out at this fearsome landscape?

There are several ways in which this image can be interpreted.

  1. Awe. The appreciation and fascination of the sublime and natures unrivalled power.
  2. Terror. The Wanderer stares in sheer horror (one theory of the sublime is that it is a feeling of terror but in a positive, such as the thrill of fear such as standing at the edge of a precipice waving your foot into oblivion. It is not certain that you will fall and die but it is still a possibility which sends the body into fight and flight response.
  3. Control – Standing in a powerful pose, acting as a God or conqueror.

Personally, my initial feelings were that his body language was not attributed to that of fear, but more of control.  One foot is raised higher on the rock, in a commanding pose, almost like he was addressing his troops, spurring them on with a motivational speech, preparing a battle cry; the landscape is his army. He is placed in the foreground, central everything points to him being the dominant element. There is such a sense of power in this image, the way the sea seethes over the rocks, whipping through the man’s hair, though this is the only true indication that the sea is creating any effect on him.

It is interesting that the rocky precipice the man stands on is believed to be part of the Kaiserkrone in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Saxony, Germany. Kaiserkrone means ‘imperial crown‘ Perhaps if my theory that the Wanderer is not as such as a wanderer but a conquerer, then this is symbolic of his possible thoughts, that he has dominium over the landscape.  Man, has played a part in both the formation and destruction of the plateau, perhaps this painting bears homage to the Eternal struggle between man and nature to conquer and destroy.

Yet the more you review this image, looking past its face value, I don’t think there is such a dominant possession here.

My perceptions of the painting changed as I researched Romanticism, the art movement that revolutionised art, music, poetry, in fact in the age of the Industrial revolution Romanticism rose up, every aspect of life was altered by Romanticism and therefore it can not really be called an art movement more so, a revolutionary movement. There are some who believe we still live in an age with the effects and elements of Romanticism. Romanticism was inspired by the sublime, awed by an appreciation of nature, finding a way expressing oneself, it was about photographing what was inside rather the exterior of life.This image is a powerful representation of the sublime.

The more I looked at the image and the more I read about Romanticism my thoughts shifted like ripples in a pool reaching out to new ideas and exploring new paths, I feel the image isn’t so much about conquering nature, as more standing in awe at the vast creation before us, the majesty, and how small and insignificant we feel when we compare ourselves to the natural world. This can be seen in Thomas Cole’s paintings of the sublime, I studied one of his paintings earlier in the course, Ox Bow Lake, and analysed how he’d included himself. The inclusion of small figures in a vast scene is something that is very typical of Cole’s works and also Friedrichs, for example the below image, Chalk Cliffs on Rügen. We see the scale of nature compared against man and again there is contemplation and appreciation from the figures who have their backs turned. Creating a sense of ambiguity.  The fact that the Wanderer too, has his back to the viewer allows an intimate look into the world, to look beyond the figure and to the nature, the appreciation of it which is what Romantics would have wished.

To be a romantic is to take the side of nature against industry, it’s to prefer a daffodil to a viaduct, a tree to a factory, at the moment when huge swathes of Britain are being covered in the often monsterous new cities that are making new cities reach.” William Wordsworth. 

The ambiguity of the figure allows a connection but the viewer is able to explore new vistas, new meanings, perhaps finding their own symbolism. The figure acts almost like a photographic full stop allowing the eye to rest on the figure, explore the vista and so on.


Friedrich experienced a terrible encounter with the sublime as a child. He and his brother were skating on a frozen part of the Baltic but the ice gave way and he was plunged into the cruel waters. As he fought for his life his brother tried to rescue him and tragically died. Friedrich was targeted by depression and tried to slit his throat on one occasion. With this in mind could the image be interpreted as an almost spirtital realm, is he looking out thinking of his lost brother, trying to reconnect through nature and the sublime. Is this a portrayal of a man about to end his life?

Friedrich was adamant that “self-expression had to be associated with physical and spiritual isolation.” and he himself was fascinated and in awe of nature, beautiful vistas and isolated landscapes.  This is just as the Romantics intended nature and the psyche to be viewed as. Others saw it as a “spectator who cannot intervene, (who) looks at the turbulent and unpredictable of the natural world.”


Those are my personal opinions of Wanderer in the Mist yet as beauty is in the eye of beholder, so true is the meaning or intepretation of a work of art. The viewer acts as an element in the painting, they are just as much as part of the art as the painting itself. A  painting is just a piece of pigment on canvas without a viewer. There is a quote about this but I can’t seem to find it.  Just like the most complexing and infuriating books or tv programmes, if something is left ambigious then one can speculate and speculate as seasons change and worlds shift but we will never know. Perhaps that is where the beauty lies, we will never know but that doesn’t stop us from exploring.

Posted in 03 The beautiful and the sublime, Coursework, Research and Reflection

The Sublime and Taoism

Approaching Assignment One I have decided to focus on my interpretation of the sublime. At first, I had intended to focus on beauty, after all, it is something that is believed to be innate to all, we have our own perception and definition of it and therefore can convey what it means to us. However the more I researched the sublime the more I found myself drawn down the path. Perhaps the element that most intrigues me is the fact that it is a term that breaches human comprehension, there is no set definition of the sublime, despite all the complex investigations and analysis there doesn’t seem to be an agreed or determined meaning. In that sense, it feels almost spiritual, unearthly, transcending into a new level. The course states that the sublime is something that we may have all felt at some point in our lives yet we have been unable to articulate the feeling into words. Recently I was researching Philosophy and religions in National Geographics ‘Knowledge Book’ and was introduced to Taoism in Chinese religion and philosophy.

Originating in fourth century B.C, Taoism is believed to have been founded by Tao Tzu who authored the Tao Te Ching (A piece of writing consists of 81 verses discussing the Tao) Tao means simply,  ‘way‘ and each person has their own Tao which should not be tainted or disturbed by immoral, corrupt or sinful acts. This makes me think of the Super Ego in Sigmund Freud diagram of the psyche (with the ID being impulsive and impatient, the Ego, ensuring that the ID is thoughtful and balanced and the Super Ego where moral lessons, family lessons and judgement lie.

The Tao is not a God which people, especially in Western cultures, can be led to believe (though there are deities in Taoism that are worshipped they are part of the Universe and bear references to historical figures)

“There was something undifferentiated and yet complete,
Which existed before Heaven and Earth.
Soundless and formless it depends on nothing and does not change.
It operates everywhere and is free from danger.
It may be considered the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name; I call it Tao.”

– Tao Te Ching

The Tao has no being, it is the blueprint of life in the Universe, yet it is more of that, it existed before the Universe, before Heaven and Earth, before life and death. It is described as the nameless yet it’s origin and meaning are a less significant, more important so is living at one with the Tao, the Universe, using it almost as a teaching to leave in harmony and peace which Taoism promotes. Some view it as a system of guidance. A way to go beyond the world and discover a place of peace.

Stepping past the limitations of the purely rational mind reveal a world very different to the one most of us believe to be real. A world less rooted in dominance, control, oppression and violence than the world created by the purely rational mind. Damien Walters

In my personal opinion I feel that the Tao and the Sublime are inextricably linked (and the psyche too) both are open to interpretations and exist I feel on a higher level beyond human comprehension.  The Sublime is articulated quite well through  The Tao Chin. This version below has been translated by Stephen Mitchell though there are many variations.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realise the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

– Tao Te Ching

Though I am new to Chinese Philosophy and Taoism, it feels to me like what is described here is not just the Tao, but the unconscious mind, the psyche and in regards to this assignment, the sublime too. Something that is heavenly, ethereal, transcendental. “The unnameable is the eternally real” in short, to put it into words would make it redundant and strip away such powers of majesty and wonder.

“No true translation can ever be achieved because the subject itself is beyond communication in language” Le Guin

Therefore it cannot exist when it is written down and forced to become a theory, an analysis or a definition. It is like catching clouds, you can’t pin a cloud down just as you can’t pin the Tao down or the sublime.  And in that respect this is why I feel the sublime is in the same genre, it is something that is spiritual and powerful, a feeling that many, if not everyone, has felt at some point, yet its power is realised in the fact that it cannot be articulated. The Sublime resists comprehension and understanding, throughout this learning log I often refer to my metaphorical butterfly, I feel there is no better way for to convey my thoughts on the subject  The more something is pinned down and classified the more it will fail to be beautiful or ethereal and will be surely a calculation, a mathematical equation. Like a butterfly once free and now impaled in a frame for all to admire or stare in horror at. Just like the butterfly, if the sublime was to possess a cemented definition then it would fail to become the sublime as it’s beauty comes from its resistance, from being devoid of control, devoid from classification. And as ‘The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao,’ the sublime that can be described is indeed, not the sublime.

“There’s a certain beauty in your resistance, your defiance of categorisation…but it’s a beauty we can’t afford.”  Jeanine – Divergent 



The Tao that can be told is not the true Tao


National Geographic – The Knowledge

Pears Encyclopedia



Posted in Coursework, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime, Research and Reflection

Challenging the name of art

“Beauty and art were once thought of as belonging together, with beauty as among arts principal aims and art as beauty’s highest calling.” Beech 2009

This quote proposes that once, the existence of art was purely for the benefit of creating something beautiful and the most potent way for this to be realised was through art. And this quote has even more weight nowadays, in the 21st century where greed, vanity and strong subjective views run rampant, the artists that rise to the top are generally those that aren’t visions of beauty but more so works of art that are created to shock. A quick look at Tracy Urmins works is enough to unsettle your stomach, a closer analysis would probably create a Tracy Urmin art work in your mouth! She is the perfect example of the state of the art world, her works may seem standard, random, you may think nothing of it if these objects were placed out of context on table or in a home but placed in the critical context of art Urmin’s works are twisted, morbid and vulgar depictions dripping with dark, distasteful meaning and full frontal sexual innuendos.

This of course is just one layer seen in the art world (of course not all spectators rave about such things, but for the benefit of this discussion, I am focusing on the ones who are drawn in by this illusion) it would seem that to be noticed you have to have a degree of shock, to bring something new that has not been seen before. In the case of Urmin’s the Unmade Bed, critics said it was a farce and that anyone could create something like that. She responded with “Well, they didn’t, did they?” No one had ever done that before.  The more deranged and distorted art is produced the more the bar is raised until it becomes a bar in a parallell dystopian world, more disturbing, startling art is produced, more madness concealed in grotesque shapes, rotting animal corpses and direct sexual references in seemingly innocent objects.

Perhaps anything given the name of art can be immortilised, beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. Is this a strange game we are all playing?  No-one wants to admit they don’t see anything for fear of being outcast by society. This is what Marchel Duchamp’s ground breaking experiment in 1917 brought to light. Duchamp had recently submitted a nude portrait to the gallery but several days before the exhibition opened, he was instructed to remove it. Perhaps this motivated him and become the reason he sent ‘Fountain’ the Urinal to the Society of Independent Artists that had just been established. He submitted the Urinal under a pseudonym, R.Mutt which he scrawled on the implement. Despite the gallery being unorthodox in that they must accept every submission, it was refused. However Duchamp had it photographed and it was put on display at Stieglitz studio and soon it reached the publics eyes.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 

The Fountain may be a very useful object in its place, but its place is not in an art exhibition and it is, by no definition, a work of art.” was a statement given by the official board when approached by the press.

It raises questions, are we seeing this as a piece of work in itself or the message it conveys, and the ridicule it places on those who see the elite or sublime in it? In that sense it became a piece of art in itself, become a beacon, scorning the art industry and those that scrutinise it.

An experiment similar to Marchel Duchamp was initated in SanFrancisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Two American teenagers, Kevin Nguyen and TJ Khayatan were so Unimpressed by the standard of art at the gallery that they decided to prove whether they could pass off an innocent object as a piece of revered art work. They placed Nguyen’s glasses on the floor of the gallery and stepped back.

Photo by TJ Khayatan/Twitter

It began as a joke, as visitors started taking photos of the glasses and the teenagers in turn retweeted these photos on their Twitter page but what this prank goes to prove is that within this practical jokes, a hidden metaphor comes to light , is there such a high bar that it is all in actual fact, a joke? Is Big Brother watching, laughing at everyone’s fight and desperation to see hidden meanings?  Yet no matter how high the bar is raised it feels like we are on a rollercoaster, clamped in, unable to get off this ride,  Why must everything be so deep, why cannot it exist for the pure purpose of being beautiful?

Such experiments challenge perceptions of art and make a mockery of the art world degrading other works in the gallery showing it was all due to elite subjective POV and perhaps due to the mounting pressure of wanting to see something they didn’t, yet pretending to anyway.

This may seem a rather grim and morbid look at the future of art, yet, just as a pair of glasses on a museum floor or a urinal in an exhibition, can be perceived in one way, like two ends of a magnet there is always another different perception. On one hand it can be presented as mocking the system but on the other, it can, at the same time, be used to enlighten and to overall, inspire others to realise that anything given the chance can be art.

At the end of the day, when it comes to art, it’s not about what’s popular, what’s just sold for £150,000 dollars or what the art world is raving over, it comes down to that one subjective viewpoint, yours, it’s what you feel, what you enjoy, what you are drawn to. So this goes to prove that art is simply a two or three-dimensional object, the story comes from the viewer.

Posted in Assignment 6 ~ Transitions, Coursework, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime

Exercise – 1.5 Visualising Assignment Six: Transitions

For this exercise, you’ll begin working on Assignment SixL Transitions.

To get started you’ll need to choose a location or specific view that you’ll revisit through the duration of this course

If you decide to revisit a very particular view, then this activity will test your skills of pre visualisation. You’ll need to try to imagine how the view might look throughout the year under different weather and lighting conditions, and whether there are any other factors that will affect your camera’s view. You may, of course, try a few different angles or vantage points but in any case, pay very close attention to how you compose the frame as you’ll need to commit to this for the duration of the course.

You’re strongly recommended to consider shooting a backup location so that you have a plan B in case anything hinders the development of your project.

Document your work within your learning log. You may wish to ask your tutor for feedback; do this when you submit your other assignments for feedback.

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better” Albert Einstein 

I feel it important to label a project with a title so for the moment I shall be calling it ‘After‘  In the book ‘Behind the Image’ by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana they stressed the importance of a title and how it defines the viewer’s response to an image.  The example given has always stood out in my mind, a photographic series of abandoned and boarded-up terrace houses was entitled, Nummianus. Without background knowledge, the name seems obscure however we learn it is taken from a Latin inscription discovered in a house destroyed by Pompeii. With this it takes on new meaning, we compare the people who lost their homes in the past to the present housing market decline.


Numianus – by Steffi Klenz 


There have been several factors that have caused the inspiration and brainchild for this assignment, the majority of those factors stemmed from Steve Backshall’s wild world show, which I will be reviewing, though the main inspiration came from a Christmas Present. Shark Seas,  by Steve Backshall which I will include a review ofIn the story, the main character Saker needed to hide from the enemy and hid out in the abandoned city of Chenobyl. As Saker explored the city the imagery and descriptive writing was so vivid I was transfixed. Transported to this haunting world, perhaps an echo of what we may expect the future to reflect, what really held me was that now in the heart of such a tragic disaster nature was thriving.


A sapling had sprung up through the floorboards and was sprouting spring leaves out through the windows, growing from inside the building to outside. The wooden windowsill had rotted away and shoots and flowers had sprung through the mulch making bizzare natural window boxes.”

He entered a space where the ceiling had fallen through a room above that had clearly been a library. The floor was littered with tumble books, their paper pages yellowing and curling. A child doll stared blankly at Saker from its blue plastic eyes.”

How much better the world is without us…Chernobyl was perhaps our greatest mistake, our most destructive moment but nature bounced back…even here in this scorched, violated place, without man and his ceaseless desire to take take take…nature had found a way to return.”


Photography by Gerd Ludwig

We take over nature but nature will take over us. It doesn’t need us to survive though we can not live without it. This is my thinking for the assignment.


The Plan

  • Purchase model house or dolls house (I ran the idea past a fellow course mate and he said a dolls house may work better to show more change. I looked at some of my old toys and found a Playmobil house)
  • Monitor the house over the year to see the changes it undergoes. I don’t want to focus on the changing of the seasons but the change physically happening to the house
  • Will it disappear into the undergrowth? Will flowers sprout inside or insects inhabit the empty rooms?
  • Perhaps I could go one step further and include furniture instead of composing from the outside of the house.
  • I could incorporate a deeper meaning.


  • Photographers focusing on change, decay, the environment, abandonment.
  • Read poetry, books, explore the history of hidden places, photography employing model houses




Behind the Image – Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana