Positions and Practice, Project Development

Positions and Practice – Experiment 3

“The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of ‘how to do.’ The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”

– Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

 

To explore how I could digitally manipulate images utilising cropping, layering, collaging, image morphing and stylising techniques, I have produced a series of images based on feedback and ideas from others. I have also used hand illustration pre and post Photoshop editing on some of them.  In all cases I used Winsor and Newton drawing inks.

Each image is individually created based on the effect required.

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The above images have the same base image.  ‘Hybrid’ was created using pen and ink to add spines and a tail to the base image.  The photograph was printed onto semi gloss Permajet photo paper.   I scanned the inked image into the computer.  This was then manipulated, I desaturated the colours a little and a background was added.  Personally I prefer the image without the background but have definite areas for improvement in the manipulation of the inked photograph.  My next experiment trialled further manipulation techniques.

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The next manipulated image (‘Woodland Pixie’) was created from another inked photograph (printed on semi gloss Permajet photo paper).  The resulting image was again scanned, manipulated and montaged onto a background in Photoshop.  The final image is, in my opinion, a more successful product.  Others have commented that they particularly liked this image in the portfolio.  One viewer felt it was a strong manipulation that embodied what a woodland pixie might be like.

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The next image I experimented with was the mermaid fairy.  The original image (printed on canvas textured photo paper) had a dried oak leaf glued to the back of the subject.  The glue used was décopatch Paperpatch glossy glue.  Once dry, the leaf was also inked over to add colour and interest.  Once scanned, the image was manipulated and collaged onto a photograph I took earlier in the year at West Bay, also known as Bridport Harbour.  This is on the English Channel coast in Dorset, England.  The resulting mermaid image is quite successful and has an interesting composition.  A viewer has commented that the image is ‘strangely attractive but I had difficulty making sense of the image’.  They felt that the final image depicted an unexpected outcome for a mermaid.  The replacement hand looked odd to them as they expected to see a normal or webbed hand.  The viewer commented that they did not understand the ‘weird plant-like structure at the back of the mermaid’.  This is useful feedback as it provides a basis for future images.  I will experiment with expected elements (from folktales and current imagery) and unexpected elements (created in a non-structured manner).

bat-fairy
Figure 7: Sutherst 2016
troll-goat-fairy
Figure 8: Sutherst 2016

The above two images are predominantly montaged images with some manipulation in Photoshop. For both images, the subject specified what kind of creature they wanted to be.  The first is titled ‘Bat fairy with hippo feet’ and the second ‘Troll goat fairy’.  Both subjects are particularly pleased with their resulting images. Reflecting on this process, I haven’t really explored why they wanted to be these creatures.  This is a development point for future images.

strait-jacket-fairy
Figure 9: Sutherst 2016
butterfly-winged-fairy
Figure 10: Sutherst 2016
spider-fairy
Figure 11: Sutherst 2016

Each of the three above images are composites of photographs that I have previously taken. In each case, the subject has specified exactly what kind of fairy they want to be.   Each image has been well received by viewers. Feedback has been received on possible alterations to the butterfly image.  In particular, it has been suggested that I consider ‘removing the creases in the leotard’.  The subject and I did discuss the time of image capture and we decided that we wanted her to look like she had a butterfly segmented body.  I will however take this feedback on board and create a version with smoothed out creases to see what the impact is.

Again the subjects are pleased with their resulting images. I feel that these images are successful and am pleased with how they finished up. As above though, I haven’t really explored why they wanted to be these creatures. This is a development point for future images.

Moving forwards I will be engaging further with my subjects to understand why they want to be particular creatures / fairies.  I will use this in the evaluation and production of the images.  I also need to improve the level of sophistication of all images that I produce.  An experiment planned is to try to improve the overall appearance of the images by using a model covered in body paint photo rather than ink the images after.  This session will produce images that I can compare and contrast with images that are inked as part of the post-production process.

Watch this space for future blogs.

 

REFERENCES

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy quotes – Art Quotes . 2017. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy quotes – Art Quotes . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.art-quotes.com/auth_search.php?authid=4664#.WHY69mSLQlU. [Accessed 11 January 2017].

Positions and Practice, Project Development

Positions and Practice – Experiment 2

“The thread acts as a connection between the person and myself or place that I have photographed. I always think of the photograph as something from the past and the thread as a reaction to the past and present. The thread makes the photograph more personal to me and allows me to meditate on the image. Combining the two mediums (photography and sewing) allows me to reinvent the photograph; to visually react to a person or a place.”

– Melissa Zexter

“As long as something creates a reaction it’s alive”

– Maurizio Anzeri

 

Using Maurizio Anzeri and Melissa Zexter as inspiration, I trialed the addition of embroidery on a few images.  Anzeri embroiders found photographs with coloured thread, whilst Zexter uses photographs she has taken herself to sew onto.  I decided to follow Zexter’s example and use my own photographs to stitch onto.

The tricky part was selecting images from my previous work to use.  I did not want to try and shoot images especially for this as this would make the work too prescriptive.  So I searched and chose images I thought would work well and allow me to add a layer of narrative to add additional meaning and emotion.

The next stage was to consider how the embroidered aspect would interact with the image. My intent was that the embroidery would be a reaction to the photographic image and bring an additional layer of narrative, adding add emotion to the image.

Like Melissa Zexter, my starting point was to work on ideas in my sketchbook.  I printed out my images on standard printer paper and sketched my plans for the embroidery onto them.

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2016
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Figure 2: Sutherst 2016

After deciding which images to produce, choosing the correct thread colour was the next challenge.  In the images where the emotion needed to be strong and powerful, 4 strands of red DMC Mouliné Stranded Cotton (colour 13) were used.

I printed out the photographs onto semi-gloss Permajet photo paper.  Initially, I tried to stitch in a normal fashion, pushing the needle through the paper.  This proved to be very difficult due to the thickness of the paper as it was tough to push the needle through the paper accurately and without pain to my thumb.  I very quickly realised that I would need a different method.

I trialed using a thimble on my thumb to help push the needle and thread through the paper.  This method was much better than the first method, but still lacked a level of accuracy which I wanted for the placement of the thread.

I decided to trial pushing holes through the photograph, using a needle and thimble to push the holes through from the front and I used a cutting mat underneath the paper.  This method allowed control and accuracy of the hole positions.  Once the holes were all punched, I just threaded the cotton through them.  The ends of the cotton thread were secured in place with sellotape as knotting the ends would have shown through the front of the image once mounted.

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Figure 3: Sutherst Headache 2016
anguish
Figure 4: Sutherst Anguish 2016
anguish-2
Figure 5: Sutherst Anguish Version 2 2016
verbal
Figure 6: Sutherst Verbal 2016

For the eye expression images, 4 strands of black DMC Mouliné Stranded Cotton (colour 939) were used. I also chose to add a small bead to every other line in the image with the embroidery just under the eyes.  This was to give additional texture to the image and add interest to counterbalance the bright expressive false pink lashes worn by the subject.

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Figure 7: Sutherst Stare 2016
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Figure 8: Sutherst Looking pretty 2016

Reflecting on this experiment, I feel I have areas of technique to work on.  The most successful image for me was ‘Headache’.  The strands of cotton thread really express to me how powerful the headache is. The positioning of the threads starting from the forehead really emphasise the pain that the subject is going through and that the headache is extensive.

I also feel that the ‘Anguish’ and ‘Verbal’ images also successfully portray the emotion and narrative I was aiming for.  However, I feel that the 2 eye images are the least successful.  Whilst the embroidery has added to the images, I feel that the effect is more aesthetic than emotional.

Feedback from others reflects my opinions.  The comments I have received about ‘Headache’ include “the image really speaks to me about bad this man’s headache is – I really feel his pain” and “this is a really successful manipulation of the image.  It works”.

‘Anguish’ and ‘Anguish Version 2’ were both liked by others.  However, views differed on whether the image should be cropped as in ‘Anguish’ or not as in the second version.  Personally, I prefer version 2 as it gives more character to the subject.  On reflection, the blue background could be adjusted to give more emphasis to the subject.  I will consider this in the next version of the image.

Another person commented that the image ‘Verbal’ appears to portrays quite an aggressive character, who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. This wasn’t entirely the effect I was going for.  I was intending to demonstrate that the subject was confident and not afraid to speak her mind.  I had not intended her to be portrayed as aggressive.  I can see how the embroidered layered has added this narrative to the image.  I need to be mindful of different interpretations of my work as I progress through the project.

For both the eye images, viewers were confused about the narrative I was trying to portray.  I have to agree with them that these images are the least successful in this experiment.  They do not have a clear message unlike the other images.  Moving forwards, I need to ensure that each image has a purpose and that this is clearly expressed in the embroidery added.

One final reflection point, is that I feel that some of these images lack a degree of sophistication in the style of embroidery added.  This is an area for development and improvement.  I will need to improve and develop my embroidery skill level to enable me to tackle more intricate and considered designs.  I also plan to develop machine stitching techniques as well as hand stitching techniques.

Further experiment results will be posted in blogs once they are completed and evaluated.

 

REFERENCES

Anzeri, M. From Yatzer. 2017. The Embroidered Secrets of Maurizio Anzeri | Yatzer. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.yatzer.com/The-embroidered-secrets-of-Maurizio-Anzeri. [Accessed 11 January 2017].

Zexter, M. From TextileArtist.org. 2017. Melissa Zexter interview: Embroidered photography – TextileArtist.org. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.textileartist.org/melissa-zexter-interview-embroidered-photography/. [Accessed 11 January 2017].

 

Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Experiment 1

To evaluate how well I can intervene with my images, I have carried out some experiments with diluted bleach and ink.

Onto the surface of an image printed on 5 different papers, I used a pipette to add droplets of diluted bleach (50% water).  I allowed this to dry and then added drops of different coloured drawing ink – red, blue and green.

I allowed the work to dry naturally.

experiments
Figure 1: Sutherst 2016

The resulting images were not what I had expected.  The bleach did not affect the surface of the photo paper as much as I would have liked.  I believe this is due to the sealing lacquer on the surface of the paper.

The printer paper and both cartridge papers wrinkled during the experiment due the added moisture. For future planned Photoshop manipulations, this wrinkling is an undesired effect and is evident when the image is scanned into the computer.  The bleach reacted well with these papers and produced an interesting result when combined with the inks.

The bleach and ink took longest to dry on the art canvas which resulted in the ink running.

None of the resulting images were what I was aiming for.  I was aiming for the bleach to spread out and even eat through the paper at points.  I will be repeating the experiment using the planned developments below to see if it is possible to achieve this.

 

Further developments and next steps.

Development 1:

  1. I will attempt to soften the top layer of the images by soaking them briefly in water. Next I will rub the parts of the photos I am going to alter with medium grit sandpaper while they are still damp.
  2. I will trial spots, streaks or lines of bleach with a pipette or brush.
  3. After a short period of time(around a minute), I will rinse the bleach off really well. I will use some mild soap as well to make sure that all the bleach is gone.
  4. I will then add ink to the images to get the effect I am after.

 

Development 2:

  1. I will use undiluted bleach on a image to determine if this makes a difference to the spread of the bleach.

 

Development 3:

  1. I will scratch the surface of the image with a scalpel and then add bleach to the image to see if this makes a difference to the effect on the photo.

 

Development 4:

  1. Trial different photographic papers to see if that makes a difference to the absorption of the bleach.

 

I will post the results of the further experiments in a future blog.

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Quote

“The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of ‘how to do.’ The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”

– Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

 

REFERENCE

Moholy-Nagy, L. from Quotes about Experiments, Experiments quotations. 2016. Quotes about Experiments, Experiments quotations. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.art-quotes.com/getquotes.php?catid=106#.WEPhvmSLQlU. [Accessed 04 December 2016].

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Paris Photo 2016

The iconic Grand Palais is located in the heart of Paris on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It was built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 and was dedicated to the glory of French art.

The Grand Palais was the venue for over 180 galleries and art book dealers that made up Paris Photo 2016.

After a protracted detour due to French security measures on the anniversary of the Bataclan massacre, we waited outside in the queue with great excitement. Once the security checks were done and we were inside, our eyes were drawn upwards.  The scale of the glass roof of the Grand Palais was overwhelming.

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The nave of the Grand Palais has a glass domed roof constructed of iron, steel and glass.  The roof reaches a height of 45 metres and spans over 200 metres. It is impressive to say the least. I found myself looking upwards many times throughout the day.

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Paris Photo presents a visual plethora of images from all the genres you can imagine (and more).  Each gallery presents their images in a way that tries to tempt the viewers to buy the images.  I was fascinated by the different presentation methods used and the presentation can influence the interpretation of the images.  As I walked round, I found the array of printing mediums used overwhelming.  Until that point I hadn’t considered the beauty and depth of black and white of silver gelatin prints. I also enjoyed the scale and hue of massive cyanotype prints, some taller than me!

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A fellow student, Simon Fremont, captured several of the galleries using his gimbal and iPhone.  The resulting amazing panoramic images can be seen on his Twitter feed https://twitter.com/simonfremont

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Figure 16: Sutherst 2016

I did find myself people watching at times and was intrigued by some of the fashion on show.

Figure 17: Sutherst 2016

A highlight of the show for me was to get a photobook signed by Roger Ballen and Asger Carlsen.  A video of this was taken by Simon Fremont and can be viewed at https://www.skypixel.com/share/video/the-full-book-signing

The vast arrays of work on display took nearly 7 hours to walk around and digest.  At the end I was mentally and physically exhausted.  In order to review and digest the vast amount of work displayed, I chose to purchase the catalogue to study and digest further. This was important for me to do because reviewing the exhibition content will be helpful to my project development and enable me to consider the work of other photographers to help improve my practice. I intend to blog at a later point on my findings.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition at http://www.parisphoto.com/fr/paris/visite-virtuelle-2016#/accueil/

Positions and Practice, Project Development

Positions and Practice – My Practice

My current practice is about self-expression. My goal is to invite the viewer into a fantasy world where they can forget the reality of the conflict and darkness of real life. I see life as a performance. It is a world where fairies and mythical creatures occupy the same reality as everyday life.

I make pictures for adults that take them on a journey to revisit the fairy tales and stories of their childhood. I aim to create dreamlike images in which fiction and reality merge, and meanings shift. This work allows me to explore hidden areas of my imagination and to express my interpretation of life and the fantasy world. I operate in a world where light-heartedness dominates and where rules are meant to be broken.

In the creation of my images, I often attempt to blur the line between photography, embroidery and art. By focusing on techniques and materials, I intend my work to present a perfect finish and tactile nature. I enjoy experimenting and developing my work based on the results. I often create several practically identical images, develop different techniques on these and repeat my ‘mistakes’ in order to perfect my vision for the image.

With influences as diverse as Caravaggio and Roger Ballen, my work explores the relationships between stereotypes and the depiction of fantasy creatures in modern culture. Through multilayered images, I intend to astonish and manipulate the viewer to leave them with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts.

 

 

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice -Provoke, Le Bal Refection

Visit to the Le Bal to see the Provoke exhibition.  The strap line for this exhibition is ‘Between protest and performance – photography in Japan 1960-1975.’

This exhibition in two rooms, retraces the history of the short-lived, yet cult avant-garde Japanese photography magazine Provoke.

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The exhibition covers the three issues of the magazine and features the photographic work  of its members:-

  • Moriyama Daidō
  • Nakahira Takuma
  • Okada Takahiko
  • Takanashi Yutaka
  • Taki Kōji

The exhibition features predominantly black and white images which are presented in various ways dependent on the effect and interpretation intended.  The two rooms feel quite crowded as a guided group tour was taking place when we were there.  I found this somewhat distracting when viewing images.

I was however fascinated that a series of just 3 magazines could have such a profound effect on photography’s position in reacting to changing political and social conditions.  Again, in order to fully appreciate this body of work and the 3 years of collaborative research that went into it, I have bought the book that accompanies the exhibition.  I will be studying this further and intend to discuss my thoughts in another blog.

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Soulevements / Uprisings – Reflection

Visit to Jeu de Paume, Paris to see the Uprising exhibition.

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2016

A multi-disciplined exhibition. Uprisings is based around the theme of human gestures of rising up against the world or to raising up the world and to imply a better world.

The exhibition is an interesting and thought provoking mix that includes photographs, paintings, drawings, video installations and posters amongst others.  There is no delineation of the mediums.

There is a sequence throughout the exhibition:-

  • ELEMENTS (UNLEASHED)
    • The elements become unleashed, time falls out of joint.
    • And if the imagination made mountains rise up
  • GESTURES (INTENSE)
    • From burden to uprising.
    • With hammer blows.
    • Arms rise up.
    • The pasión.
    • When bodies say no.
    • Mouths for exclaiming.
  • WORDS (EXCLAIMED)
    • Poetic insurrections.
    • The message of the butterflies.
    • Newspapers.
    • Making a book of resistance.
    • The walls speak up.
  • CONFLICTS (FLARED UP)
    • To go on strike is not to do nothing.
    • Demonstrating, showing oneself.
    • Vandal joys.
    • Building barricades.
    • Dying from injustice.
  • DESIRES (INDESTRUCTIBLES)
    • The hope of one condemned to death.
    • Mothers rise up.
    • They are your own children.
    • They who go through walls.

The exhibition is jam packed with visual stimulus and I became immersed in the messages of each section. I recorded all the section titles as above.  Some sections were difficult for me to view.  I was particularly uncomfortable viewing an image depicting soldiers firing over the top of a makeshift barricade made from the stacked bodies of dead horses.  As a horse owner and equine photographer, the thought of horses dying in a human conflict is abhorrent to me.

An image showing children playing ‘war’ was truly horrifying to me.  The children were playing firing squad.  3 children stood on rocks playing the part of the condemned prisoners. Others faced them playing the part of the firing squad.  Some were hooded. I struggle to comprehend a situation where this subject is so commonplace that the children reenact the scene as play.

Photographs are not allowed to be taken inside the exhibition, so I chose to purchase the catalogue to study and digest further. This was important for me to do because the exhibition content disturbed me at times. I intend to sit down and study some of these images further to understand my strong negative feelings towards the imagery.  I hope that this will be helpful to my project development and enable me to make sure that my images are received in a positive manner in keeping with my subject. I intend to blog at a later point on my findings.

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Quote

‘Because photography is such an easy medium to master technically, especially with today’s cameras, people don’t realize that it’s not just being able to pick up a camera. When I lift that camera up to take a picture, I’ve gone through thousands of steps to get to that point. That’s what you’re really seeing; it’s a complex view of the world, through my imagination, through my experiences.’

– Roger Ballen

 

REFERENCE

Ballen, R. From photoquotations.com. 2016. photoquotations.com  ⁄  roger ballen. [ONLINE] Available at:http://photoquotations.com/a/811/Roger+Ballen/2. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

 

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Le Grand Orchestre des Animaux / The Great Animal Orchestra Reflection

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2016

Visit to the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris to see the exhibition ‘The Great Animal Orchestra’, based on the work of Bernie Krause.

Bernie Krause is an American bioacoustician, scientist and musician. Over the last 50 years he has collected over 5,000 hours of recording of natural habitats, including more than 15,000 wild species from all around the world.  The Great Animal Orchestra is split into 3 sections.

The first section is essentially a large dark underground room with a visual display of animal and natural world ambient sound vocalisations represented as spectrograms (green lines and dots of light). The display covers 3 walls and at the base of the display walls is a shallow water pool, shining like a highly polished surface.  As I entered the room, I could see other visitors sat on large cushion cubes or lying on the floor.

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This installation is a sensory experience, almost meditative.  It evokes emotion in the viewer.  Recordings of animals and the environment from various places including Africa and America are played and represented by the spectrograms and reflected in the water pools.  The experience is mesmerising and immersive.  The ambient soundscape is punctuated with explosions of sound from animals.  Bernie Krause intends his work to consider the environmental issues of the twenty first century, and the immersive experience of this room helped me to think about the natural world.

The next section is another dark room that contains Plankton, A Drifting World at the Origin of Life.  This is a video installation which features both aural and visual elements.  Artist Shiro Takatani, worked in collaboration with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce a beautiful and mesmerising trip through the beauty of marine micro-organisms.  Sitting on the steps inside the room, I was astonished at how stunning the images of the plankton were.  Whilst I enjoyed this installation immensely, I did at times have difficulty in making sense of the aural aspects.  Sakamoto’s composition is beautiful in its own right yet I struggled at times to make links to the visual elements.  Nonetheless, the installation is stunning and demonstrates that how work is presented can affect our interpretation and appreciation of the subject.

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Figure 5: Luc Boegly. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, “The Great Animal Orchestra” Installation view

The final section is on the ground floor of the stunning transparent building of the Fondation Cartier. The exhibition in this section is dominated on one side by a gigantic artwork by Cai Guo-Qiang.  The work, White Tone, was created using Qiang’s favourite medium – gunpowder.  Qiang drew the animal outlines with black gunpowder before he set them alight.  The final artwork appearance reminded me a prehistoric cave painting.

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Figure 6: Luc Bogey. Installation view of Cai Guo-Qiang’s White Tone at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2016.
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Figure 6: Shu-Wen Lin.

A video installation close to the gigantic work explains Qiang’s process for producing the work.  This covers the source inspiration for the work – it is a two-dimensional take on Heritage, a large installation of life-size replicas of animals (both predator and prey) gathered around a water hole, that was commissioned by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in 2013.  What is not explained and if left for the viewer to wonder about is why Qiang has chosen to reimagine the installation as a gunpowder drawing .

The other half of the ground floor features paintings, ceramics, photographs and videos focused on the animal world.  The presentation of the work reflects the orchestra feel with the use of varying heights for the images and seating and presentation walls made from terracotta bricks (designed by Mexican architects Gabriela Carrillo and Mauricio Rocha).  The circular form adds to the orchestra feel.

On one presentation space, beautiful dioramas occupied my gaze for a not insignificant amount of time.  The terracotta seating opposite this image was inviting and a great place from which to admire the work and discuss the MA Photography course with a fellow student.  Inspired by the work, we discussed our practice to date, how we arrived on the course and our aspirations for the future.

‘The Great Animal Orchestra’ is an inspiring and stimulating exhibition that has demonstrated to me that how work is presented can affect how it is interpreted and appreciated.

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Figure 7: Sutherst 2016

 

REFERENCES

Figure 5: Boegly, L. From artnet News. 2016. Fondation Cartier Stages Oddest Summer Show – artnet News. [ONLINE] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/great-animal-orchestra-exhibition-fondation-cartier-541805. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Figure 6: Boegly, L. From Inexhibit. 2016. “The Great Animal Orchestra” at the Fondation Cartier Paris. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.inexhibit.com/case-studies/the-great-animal-orchestra-at-the-fondation-cartier-paris/. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Figure 7: Shu-Wen Lin. From Cultured Magazine. 2016. Sonic Boom: Cai Guo-Qiang | Cultured Magazine. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.culturedmag.com/cai-guo-qiang-fondation-cartier/. [Accessed 23 November 2016].