Category Archives: Research

The Essential Kafka, published by Wordsworth Classics

the-essential-kafka

As part of my preparation for my final assignment, I decided to read the works of Franz Kafka in order to try and find some visual ideas for an image that was rich in metaphor.

Much of Kafka’s work was never published in his lifetime and thanks to his friend who saved his work from destruction against Kafka’s dying wishes we are able to read these stories today.

The Trial

Joseph K is a Senior Bank-Clark who one day awakens to find two men in his room to arrest him.  He does not discover for what crime he is accused of; but that his crime is serious and his guilt is assumed.  However, he is freed and informed that his case is under investigation and that he can continue to go about his normal business but he must present himself when required and he must build a defense.   Throughout the book we never discover what the crime he is accused of is, nor who accuses him or why.  He discovers that the Courts are all hidden in attics and all the Court personnel are only identified by a gold button sown to their jackets.

The whole story implies a form of neurosis of the mind.  Is K really a victim of a secret Justice system  or is he having some-kind of nervous-breakdown?  This story is full of metaphors.  I believe Leni to represent K’s idea of Justice, she is flirtatious, she is attracted to all of the Advocates clients; but she wants to help and she wants to be wanted.  The Advocate is K’s idea of a typical lawyer who does his best to string out the work as far as he can for profit.  I suspect that K meets the Judge in the Cathedral, he is the Priest and he gives K advise in the form of a story of a man who waits in vein to be admitted to the law only to discover on his death that the door he had waited at for so long was exclusively his.

I have been reading this novel as a result of my research for this course.  I learned of this novel through a essay written by Walter Benjamin and I am considering a couple of passages from this story to use as an idea to inspire an image for my last assignment.

The ideas are:

From the book The Essential Kafka, published by Wordsworth Classics.

The Trial:

First idea:  A portrait of a man sitting in a chair looking important, distinguished, implying authority, implying a Judge.  He is posed to suggest that at any-moment he is about to leap from his chair.  One hand grips the arm-rest the other holds a paper marker ‘Petition’ .  Behind his a blind-folded, pretty woman stands holding scales in her left hand and a sword in her right.  The idea is that she represents Justice; but her pose must also suggest the Greek female Goddess of hunting.  She should be dressed classically one breast exposed like that from the famous French revolutionary picture of Liberty charging forward.  (Chapter 6, The Uncle – Leni, page 81, lines 23-35 and page 109, Chapter 7, The Advocate – the Manufacturer – the Painter, line 32 to page 110 to line 11).

Second idea:  An open door, above the door is a sign that reads ‘THE LAW’ on the door a smaller sign reads ‘Restricted’.  A Doorman stands guard by the door and a Country Gentleman sits on stool looking dejected.  Behind the Doorman light appears to be streaming out from the doorway.  The Doorman must appear to look like he is on guard but is not appearing to be attempting to bar access.  (Chapter 9, In The Cathedral, page 161 – 162).

The Castle,

The hero of this story is just known as ‘K’ and is a Surveyor who arrives at the village below the castle looking for lodgings before reporting to the castle to begin work.  He discovers that he is not expected and is treated as an undesirable outsider by the villagers.  The Castle then confirms that he has been appointed and advises that he must wait for further instructions.  The castle appears to be inaccessible without permission and he is unable to find anyone who can grant him an audience with anyone in the castle.  This story is a nightmare vision of bureaucracy gone mad with tear upon tear of management that makes anything practically impossible to get done and all the servants that are the management of the castle are aloof from the villagers can only be communicated through unreliable messengers.  I believe that Kafka is describing metaphorically difficulties he had with his father and perhaps difficulties that he may have experienced as a Jew in post Austrian Hungarian Europe.  The story ends in mid-sentence as Kafka never finished the novel.

Metamorphosis – The Transformation of Gregor Samsa

Was this the dark foresight of a German speaking Czech Jew of the 1920’s?   Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find that he has become an giant beetle, he can no longer be understood by his family and his new physique repulses them and he is forced to live imprisoned in his bedroom with only his younger sister brave enough to show enough compassion to feed him and clean his room.  Kafka uses a dark sense of humor in his writing and provides no happy ending but suggests that as one thing comes to an end there is always the beauty of a brighter tomorrow.

The judgement

We are first told that the hero of this story is a successful business man living and working in partnership with his father and is writing to his friend in St. Peters-burg about his impending marriage.  These facts are all thrown in to doubt when he discusses his letter and engagement with his ailing father.

Letter To My Father

This is a letter that Kafka wrote to his father but never gave to him.  Addressing his feeling towards his father and venting his frustrations and anger to a man he has grown up to fear and resent.  In this letter we learn a little of what has influenced Kafka’s writings and imagination.  There is a very useful visual metaphor in this text.  Page 590, line 26.

The idea

To the left a man stands facing a sheer cliff-face that he is trying to climb; to his right a flight of stairs is being climbed by another.  there is a barrier between the two men; so preventing the man on the left from using the same path to ascend.

Julie Cockburn

Julie Cockburn

I learned of this artist through a fellow student  on Facebook.  Cockburn appears to specialize in ‘found photographs’ that she embellishes with embroidery, etc. often to disguise or obliterate the face / identity of the person in the picture.  She has exhibited and sells her picture for large sums http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/juliecockburn.  Like the lady in the picture, I can say no more about this artist.

As artist we are a funny breed! I was recently told by an artist that most artists are Socialists and I often hear them talk about the evils of Capitalism and then I go and find that artist will find someone else’s old photos and scribble, scratch, embroider or simply add a title to alter their meaning and put them up for sale for large sums of money.  Seems to me without the evil Capitalist world we would be starving or more likely simply not doing art!

Salvador Dali was kicked out of the Surrealist movement for supporting Franco, perhaps his real crime was that he just couldn’t be hypercritical enough for his fellow contemporaries.

 

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

I learned about the existence of this essay from a text-book I read a few weeks ago (Reading Photographs by AVA Publications) whilst on holiday and thought it useful to get a copy and read it for myself.

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey has only recently been published as a book accompanied by an illustrated essay by  Rachel Rose.  This essay has apparently been very influential in the world of cinema since it’s first publication in ‘Screen’ 1975.  So I thought it important to read it.

The essay discusses a similar argument to John Berger in his famous ‘The Way of Seeing’ regarding how woman have been used in the arts and media as sexual voyeuristic objects. that employed and seen on the movie screen.  Mulvey goes on to argue that women on the cinema screen represent castration due to their lack of the male sexual organ and also objects of desire by way of their glamour.  Mulvey suggests that the audience is encouraged to become voyeurs by the the theater that puts them in the dark; so that they can feel that they can look in private.  She also goes on to consider the ideas of voyeurism that she believes has been explored by the great Hollywood Directors, Sternberg and Hitchcock, in their movies, Morocco and Dishonored by Sternberg and ‘Vertigo’, ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Marnie’.  Much of Mulvey’s essay is now regarded as out of date regarding how women are now portrayed in modern films (by Mulvey’s own admission as a footnote).

A small book of about only 30 readable pages, interesting and I am sure that if I didn’t read it now I would find myself reading it later in my degree course.

 

Public Information, Desire, Disaster, Document.

Public_Information_Desire_Disaster_Document

Earlier in this course I was asked to research an essay from this book, I was fortunate enough to find a copy on Amazon as this book is currently out-of-print.  I have just fully read the book and found it useful for both future reference and current understanding of contemporary art as practiced by the current established photographic artists.  I say photographic artist but this includes artist who have used photography to inspire their work,  for example: Andy Warhol,.Gerhard Ritcher and Cady Noland.  This book documents a large exhibition project conducted in 1995 and the linking subjects are in the title: Public Information for example questioning the media in Stan Douglas’ exhibition, Desire as presented by Nan Goldin, Disaster as illustrated by Andy Warhol, Document as famously recorded by Robert Frank’s journey across America in the late 1950’s.  This book begins with a number of essays discussing the topics that these works touch.  The first is that of the title, Public Information, Desire, Disaster, Document by Gary Garrels; Wrong by Jim Lewis; Meditations on the Document by Sandra S Phillips; Desiring Machines (Notes on Commodity, Celebrity, and Death in the Early Work of Andy Warhol) by Christopher Phillips; Inside / Out by Abigail Solomon-Godeau; Leave Proof (Media and Public Information)  by Robert R Riley.  the rest of the book covers examples of the work presented by the artist for the project with a short introduction of the artist and the work.

The participating artist were: Robert Frank, Andy Warhol, Richard Richter,Edward Ruscha, John Baldessari, Dan Graham, Martha Rosler, Larry Clark, Jeff Wall, James Coleman, Chantel Akerman, Nan Goldin, Stan Douglas, Cady Noland, Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

The Fae Richards Photo Archive

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

The artist Zoe Leonard and film-maker Cheryl Dunye collaborated to produce a project about a fictional American-African movie star called Fae Richards of the early 20th century and create an album of photographs charting her life and history from childhood at the turn of the 20th century through her glamorous carrier as a Hollywood movie star to her involvement with the civil-rights movement of the 50’s in to her old age.

The purpose was to question the truth of achievement and how history is recorded.  To ask, who gets included in written histories and why?  Who is left out and why? Who is in control of the information?

This is a cleaver project and required actors, carefully chosen costumes props and locations as well as authentic looking photography.

Broomberg and Chanarin, ‘People in Trouble….Dots

http://www.choppedliver.info/people-in-trouble/

This is an interesting piece of work that is mentioned in my coarse material, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin worked together on a project using found images archived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, documenting the troubles and lives of ordinary people taken by photojournalist and the public.  When Broomber and Chanarin examined this archive they found a number of photos with coloured Dot type stickers attached over some of the images, these had been marked for their suitability for publication.  The stickers had been randomly applied but inevitably covered an area of the picture.  Broomberg and Chanarin uncovered these areas and reproduced pictures of only the round area that had been hidden by the coloured Dot.  By displaying these images without the rest of the picture the meaning of the image changes and a new narrative is created.

Research Point – Gregory Crewdson

Fascinating documentary following the work of Gregory Crewdsen as he prepares and takes the photos of his cinematic scale images using cinematic-lights a film-crew of up to 60, professional actors, cranes, assistance from police and fire departments, closure of streets exactly as a scene from a movie would be organized, staged and shot only instead of a cinematic movie camera Crewdson uses a large-format still camera.  He will then take the best examples and merge them together in Photoshop collage them in to one final perfect image.

Do I think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

yes, I find his images both beautiful and disturbing, as I believe, is his intention in order to create an interesting and engaging narrative.

Do I think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’?  What does this mean?

Yes, I do.  His pictures are almost dream like, the scenes are very surreal.  They encourage the audience to wonder what is happening? what has just happened? what is about to happen?  They are like that moment in a dream that is taking that turn in to the nightmare.  This touches on our own imagination, our own fears, our own anxieties.

What is your main goal when making pictures?  Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal?  Why or why not?

My main goal is to make interesting pictures, if the subject matter is beauty then that is what I want to create, if the subject matter is not then I want to make the image suitable for the subject with a choice of composition that holds the audience at least for a little while.  I do not think that there is anything wrong in making beautiful pictures; but it can become a little dull and boring if we can not vary the subject matter and produce images that offer some kind of narrative or symbiotic meaning that can engage, challenge and even entertain the audience in some way.

I like Crewdson’s pictures they may not be as subtle as Wall or DiCorcia but they are very well made and they can appeal to a public that doesn’t have to first have an acquired taste or understanding of art to appreciate the picture that they are viewing.