Assignment 4: Response to tutor feedback

My feedback for assignment four was given over the telephone and then followed up by a brief written report.  I have never received telephone feedback on one of my assignments before but I found the process really useful.

Overall, my tutor seemed pleased with both the concept and the execution of my project.  He thought that it was an interesting and engaging idea that demonstrated my “individual approach”.  He also said that the combination of the personal and the professional worked well.

There were several points made by my tutor that I would like to reflect on here.  Specifically the following:

“Think about how you have used photography in the past to document and record within your professional and academic career.”

Okay.  Over the course of my academic career, I have used photography in two main ways, in the field and in the lab.  In the field, I used photographs to document structures and relationships.  This may have been for my own personal use (e.g., as a memory aid) or as evidence for subsequent research.  In the lab, I also occasionally used photographs as a memory aid, but more often than not, they were used as documentation and evidence (e.g., photographs for taxanomic identification, or as proof of preservation).  These photographs could be of hand specimens, or they could have been taken under any number of microscopes, each of which would highlight different key features.  What all of these photographs have in common though, is the need for a scale (either a scale bar under a microscope or something like a geological hammer in the field) and the need for a caption (it’s no good publishing a photograph if no one understands what it is).  Clearly, these are two things that must be incorporated into my kusudama project.

“Consider in more detail the reference to scientific documentation.”

My tutor and I discussed this in quite a lot of detail over the phone.  He thought that it would be a good idea to draw more heavily on my scientific/academic background as I work towards completing this project.  So essentially, what we discussed with regards to presentation and dissemination, was the idea of binding my kusudama images into an academic-looking publication.  They would act as photographic plates, within a classically bound academic text.  Probably, something like a short thesis, which would be linen bound (in perhaps black, dark blue or green), with small gold/silver lettering embossed on the cover and spine.

“Would black and white be more appropriate?…Do the present pastel shades deflect away from the scientific approach?”

This is a really interesting idea that I simply wouldn’t have considered on my own.  Black and white, would be very in-keeping with the presentation of traditional palaeontological plates.  Such plates are black and white for two key reasons, firstly because of the restrictions of the equipment, and secondly, because colour is largely irrelevant for fossils.  Colour does not aid identification or classification, if anything, it can actually obscure important morphological details, which is why it is typically removed.  Interestingly though, the same rationale does not apply to the field of mineralogy, where colour is an extremely important identifier.  I suppose for my project, I could reasonably go either way, since much of my research background is in palaeontology, but most of the geological images that I have considered for my kusudama, are mineralogical.  Clearly, I will need to experiment with my approach.

“Also consider what the personal is within the final image, does it always have to be body parts?  Consider alternatives – archive images, personal objects etc.”

This is a very good point.  At the time of speaking to my tutor, I had already constructed an additional two kusudama, made using photographs of my ears and eyes.  I had also been toying with the idea of using one of my published, peer-reviewed, journal articles to represent the “personal”, which I think I will definitely have to try now.  Other things that I might be able to incorporate, are things like my wedding or engagement ring, my glasses, my watch, essentially things that I wear all of the time.

“Make sure that you also evidence the input into the construction of the kusudama – document the process – highlight this to the assessment team.”

Yes absolutely, this is a really good idea.  I am aware of just how much work goes into constructing each individual object (at the moment around 10-12 hours per kusudama!) but, unless I show them, the assessors will not be.  Also, showing them the process may help to highlight the 3D nature of the kusudama.  I could add this to the publication in the form of an appendix, which would be in-keeping the academic mode of presentation.

“Black background is appropriate in line with how you have presented scientific observations.  However, indication of object surface is also engaging from art perspective, traditional still-life approach – reflect upon this.”

I hadn’t really considered this.  My mind went straight to my academic experience/background and I didn’t stop to think about the artistic still-life tradition.  It could actually be interesting to present the work in this way; it might act as a signifier for my movement from a world of science to one of art.  Having said that, I suppose that the act of using photographs to construct the kusudama, is in itself an allusion to my increasing interest in photography and the arts.  Perhaps it also says something about me to the viewer that I feel far more comfortable with the scientific form of presentation than an arts one.

“Think about the essay – could be artists statement or academic approach about the work – written by you using alternative persona (think Fontcuberta) or actually ask someone to write it.”

I really like the idea of writing an academic-style essay to accompany the photographs.  What I think I will do, is write a research article as a third person who has perhaps discovered the kusudama and is trying to determine what they say about an unknown/elusive artist.  For example, this one tells us her approximate age, this one tells us that she might have been married.  I could even misdirect the reader (like Fontcuberta) and they would never be certain what is truth and what is fiction.

Finally, and with regards to extending the research around this project, my tutor suggested reflecting again on the work of Joan Fontcuberta, Sophy Rickett and Johan Rosenmenthe (Tectonic), all of whom I have previously discussed on my blog.  In addition, he recommended two new artists, specifically:

Yto Barrada (Faux Guide)

Hiroshi Sugimoto (On the beach and PPTRD)

Please follow the links to see my thoughts about these artists and their work.