Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1982. ISBN 009922541 7

The French philosopher Barthes talks about photography as if he is trying to understand it from an amateur's point of view .He states the operator is the photographer and the spectator is ourselves .

The target of the photographer is the object or spectrum or spectacle .

He describes how people are never their true selves when a photo is taken as they are imitating themselves , and as they are being watched they are presenting themselves for the viewer .

 

Barthes states that for him to be interested in a photograph it has to display adventure and animation . For him a photo has to have 2 elements the first 'studium' (a Latin word) an enthusiastic commitment or interest and the 2nd ‘punctum ‘ a sting , speck ,cut or pierce . He says that most photos bore him and do not have ‘punctum‘

 

In his moving recollections of looking for punctum in old photos of his mother just after her death he explains he can not find her essence in the photos. He is looking for  the photo that animates him , he finds it in 'Winter garden' a photo of his mother taken when she was 5 years old that he had not seen before , he thinks it transcends time and helps him grieve , I agree with him when he says that ‘ the photo is never in essence a memory ..,it actually blocks memory becoming a counter memory . I have experienced this when looking at old photos of my children as they do not match up with my memory of them . Occasionally I have seen a photo that I have not seen before such as  my mother and her brother and I can see her in the photo , but I wouldn't say it's how she looks. But it has something of her in the way it reminds me of her personality.

 I read this book twice as I found it so enjoyable, I found it a  deeply personal and moving account of how a photographic image can affect you and to hear Barthes recollections not just  of his Mothers death but reflective thoughts of life itself a really enjoyable and informative read.

ART CRITS: 20 QUESTIONS A POCKET GUIDE- Interviews collected by Sarah Rowles, Giles Bunch, Siobhan Clay,Laura North and Jhemi Arboine

Edited by Sarah Rowles

(This book accompanies the talk facilitated by Sarah Rowles  at the Mall Galleries on Jan 9th 2019 which I have documented under ‘Talks’)

 

This pocket guide demystifies the ‘art crit’ in a clear concise language with contributions from lecturers  across the UK.

Edited by Sarah Rowles , the director of Q-Art and  lecturer at Bournemouth university of the Arts, Rowles breaks the subject down into short chapters  that are jargon free and accessible for all. With titles such as The Purpose of the Art Crit, Finding the Right Approach, Barriers and solutions and How Things Have Changed Rowles invited lecturer’s to share good practice and reflect on their own experiences as student and lecturers.

 

From defining a ‘crit’ ‘Crits are discussion’s around an art work’ Hamnlyn J.P19

 and ‘Crits are the sharing of a practice’ Blair B.p20 to discussing what crits  are for:

 

The main purpose of a crit is to enable an artist to gain critical distance from their emerging artwork’Hunter R. p 20,

 this pocket guide sets out a clear example  of what to expect in the UK’s art schools in the present time.

This book allowed me to reflect on my own experiences as an art student in the 80s and the 90s where the Crit was a varied experience depending on the tutor leading the group. When I studied Art  pre Foundation, I remember there being a very good tutor but  as a 17 year old this was really daunting. It didn’t really change during subsequent courses and there didn’t seem to be a structure in place or model for what would be discussed. 

In my teaching career, I taught groups in further education up to degree level and this book would have been really helpful to refer to .

 

 

 This book shows the relationship between the film maker Andrei Tarkovsky and his son Arsenii, it was a beautiful recollection of poems and this is how I first became aware of Andrei Tarkovsky and decided to then watch all his films and they informed  my work 

The Ministry of Nostalgia- Owen Hatherley Verso 206 

In this book Owen Hatherley talks about how our past is being repackaged and austerity has been resold as the new 1940s and how the austerity of 2009/10 was the direct opposite caused by the banking crash but rebranded as a nostalgia trip down memory lane.

What started with the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ movement ,gained traction and developed into Retro chic. This subliminal appropriation of the past  hides politics and Hatherley asks in this book ‘what may happen when we stop keeping calm and carrying on?’

Interestingly the keep calm and carry on poster wasn’t mass produced until 2008, and has become a nightmarish symbol for Hatherley and when he saw it mass produced in Poland it seemed to cement his fears of a distorted  nostalgic past.

More alarmingly is his observation that ‘Legislated Nostalgia is ‘to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess’ all this adds up to the premise that no matter how hard it gets its ok because we are all in this together.

This nostalgia chimed for me with Hauntology ,  a term first mentioned in Jaques Deridda book ‘ Spectres of Marx’ where the past keeps haunting us as it is unresolved, trapping us in a cycle of repetition where we can only look backwards . A  nostalgia for lost futures as we can’t move forward as the past is unfulfilled. This book covers Jamie Oliver, The Turner prize and brutalist architecture and is a call to arms to rethink how the ‘Keep calm and carry on ‘movement has been sold to our society. 

Torpor

Chris Kraus

 I read this book while travelling by train from Vienna to Bratisalva to  Budapest to Prague this Summer.

This mirrored the travelling in the book where  the characters Sylvie and Jermone in 1991 travel across Eastern Europe  with a vague idea of adopting an Romanian orphan. In a crumbling marriage which mimics the disintegration of the Communist era , this is narrated with dark humour and some of it made me laugh out a loud as it was unflinchingly  true. A record of  social identity ,cultural history against the back drop of the former Soviet block it took me back to the events of 1991 . The perfect travel companion through Eastern Europe.

A collection of texts including Marina Abramovic, Doug Aitken, Francis Alys, Matthew Buckingham , Janet Cardiff, Paul Chan, Moya Davey, Dexter Sinister asking questions about what time is.

This book investigates ideas of memory association, reappearance, mnemonic repetition, remembrance and active forgetting. Artists who contributed include Marina Abramovic, Uta Barth,Tom Burr,Sophie Calle,Luc Tymans,Kara Walker

© Copyright Caroline Streatfield 2019