POST Promoting

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Getting people involved in POST has been uphill struggle. I knew it was going to be a difficult task as soon as I posed the idea for the proposal. However through persistence and a little help from my friends I have got the ball rolling. In this blog I will go through all the different ways I have promoted the project to give an idea what has been happening behind the scenes!

So how do you get people interested in a project about postboxes?

I knew I needed to get people on board with this project straight away. People who would understand my plight about the digital age VS analogue tradition. People who would be happy to help.

So naturally I went to Flickr one of the largest image hosting websites full of photographs who take photographs of absolutely of everything. I have used Flickr in the past and I knew there were thousands of groups set up by users on a number of vast subjects. As I anticipated this led me to many groups on postboxes. Joining every postbox group I could find I left a message promoting the project and explaining how to get involved. Of course the majority of the groups had been inactive for a number of years but I felt it was still worth a shot.

Out of the 13 groups I joined, I only received three replies:

One offering me luck

(No indication whether they would participate in the project)

One offering me to join the letter box study group

(Which I later looked into, blog to follow shortly)

One offering to get involved!

(It was a small result at least!)

Fast forward a month later, no new replies materialised so I started looking at other ways of promoting the project and getting the word out. Using the internet to my advantage I began using Twitter and Facebook. This actually worked, as friends and people who knew of me started to respond to my status’s and direct messages.

Alongside using social networking sites I made a set of flyers which I gave out to absolutely everyone when mentioning my project. The more I talked the more it seemed to have an effect, people were getting interested in the work I was producing.

I even went as far as leaving a cryptic message in the Tate Modern’s Tanks message board!

Of course now nearing the deadline I think I could have promoted the project far better by producing a set of postcards which I could have left all over London in photography shops and stores for like minded people to find, however I simply ran out of time.

I can’t complain something must have gone right for me as I have received postcards now from as far as Canada and New York so word is getting out. Even if it was from a little help from the British Postal Museum (More on that later). With more interest being generated daily I’m sure to receive postcards of postboxes for the rest of my life now!

Psychogeography (Book)

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley has been my bible these past few months, a book which believe it or not has traveled around with me everywhere I have gone. Placed always at the foot of my bag I’ve read it on the bus, train, tube, in cafes, at uni, and even at work. Actually I don’t think I have read the book at home yet!

So what is the book about?

Well as you may of already guessed, the clue is in the title! However Merlin Coverley looks into the origins, writing about the key practitioners such as Guy Debord, William Blake, Thomas de Quincey, and Iain Sinclair. While explaining some of the terminology associated with psychogeography such as the flaneur, the derive, situationists and ley lines.

The book essentially seeks to find out what psychogeography means, while giving an in depth look into its history.

What I like about the book is it fits in very nicely with Leah’s lecture I attended before Christmas. While she touched briefly on the origins of psychogeography the majority of her lecture looked at the contemporary photographers of today working within the psychogeography field.

This book acts as the perfect supplement as not only does it fill me in on the history and theoretical background, but also focuses mainly on writers and poets. As I’m looking at postcards and words. I decided that looking into writers as as opposed to psychogeography photographers would give me a greater understanding of the poetry and creative writing side of psychogeography.

As a result I now have a better understanding of psychogeography and have applied some of the ideas and trains of thought I had whilst reading the book into my work. Above all I think psychogeography has made me look at my practice in different ways which I feel are both experimental and unique.

Aura VS Typology

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s true I haven’t been writing many blogs for the last couple of months, as my dissertation has been my top priority recently. However it has paid off in the end as this Monday I have managed to submit the dissertation without breaking a sweat. For once I did not leave it till the last minute, and gave it the time which I felt it deserved.

As it is a lengthy piece of writing and an important part of my degree I will not be uploading it online to this blog. However I have decided for those interested to write about it. Explain the concept, the question I pose and the photographers and artists that I looked at. I feel this is also worth mentioning as the dissertation is very integral to this project.

The concept of the dissertation boils down to two things, Aura and Typology. Two subjects which as you know I have frequently been exploring this year in my three projects. So it was only natural for me to write about them. Why they have influenced me and what direct effect they have had on my work.

You may be wondering at this point how typology fits into my work as until now I have not really mentioned it. It’s not till this year that I have realised that I have this typological style. It was when I went to Paris photo that I noticed that I was constantly being drawn to typological photographers.

I think it is a combination of the deadpan style and the subject matters being repeatedly documented that drew me into their work. I love the regimented rigidness, the methodical approach, the semiotic style and over all graphic presentation. This is what has inspired me to create a typology for POST. A massive grid of postboxes in the same nature as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Water towers.

Bernd and Hilla Becher
Water towers
(1984)

Aura as you know has been more straightforward. Ever since I read “The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin I have constantly been trying to achieve an aura to disprove Benjamin, notion that a photographic negative cannot process an aura. I do indeed feel it is possible which is why Aura has become such as massive aspect to my work.

The next stage was to pose the question. I admit I did find this difficult at first as aura and typology are two separate entities, not to mention polar opposites of each other. How could I possibly write about the essence of aura and the rigidness of typology? This was when Nigel simply said early on in the dissertation process that I simply verse them off against one another and argue whether they could coexist.

This really open my eyes to the possibilities and what has continue to inspire me as I wrote the dissertation. Aura is the essence which I have been trying to achieve in my typological style in all three projects. So to actually discover if it is indeed possible for them to coexistent was an exciting proposition.

It lead to many photographer and artists such as August Sander, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, John Stezaker, Idris Khan, Catherine Yass, and Walead Beshty just to name a few. In my research I came across so many more interesting artists such as Stepthen Gill and Eva Stenram which whom I would have loved to write about.

Thomas Ruff
Cassini
2008

I quickly realised that 4000 words was not even nearly enough to answer the question. I could have written some much more. Nevertheless I met the word count and found it to be an enjoyable experience. Can Aura VS Typology coexist? That is for you to decide I have my answers but ultimately its a question which is up for discussion. Free feel to comment on your thoughts and ideas it would be interesting to see what you all think.

Chance

•April 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Recommended to me by Leah, I decided to buy the book Chance ‘Documents of Contemporary Art’ by the Whitechapel gallery. As my projects this year have been exploring elements of chance through my unconventional methods of alteration. It was rather fitting that I should read and learn more about the spontaneous and unexpected.

The book begins with a lengthy introduction explaining the concept of chance, how it has been used in particular ways, and identifying some of the keys players who work within chances realm.

I found this book really fascinating as it introduced me to so many new and unheard of artists such as John Cage, Francis Alys, and George Brecht. As well as some well known names such as Marcel Duchamp, Ed Ruscha, and Sophie Calle.

What is also worth mentioning is the book is striped of images, which meant I spent the majority of my time reading the book beside a computer, viewing particular pieces of work when mentioned in the book.

The introduction also unearthed some really interesting stories such as the artist Bas Jan Ader, the Dutch conceptual artist who features on the front cover of the book, biking into the canal.

What was intriguing was Ader staged accidents such as falling off the roof of his house, or climbing up tree branches over streams and letting go. Ader exposed himself to gravity and chance which eventually lead to his death. His final performance “In Search of the Miraculous II” (1975) was an attempt to cross the Atlantic solo in a twelve and a half foot sail boat. His body was never found.

As crazy as that sounds Bas Jan Ader performances are captivating and alluring and I’m glad I have had the opportunity to come across his work.

After the introduction the book splits into two sections Performance, Process, Possibility and Repetitions, Retracing, Relapses. Each section is full of interviews and personal accounts the artists mentioned in the introduction give their own personal accounts, describing their work and explaining how chance effects them. The book becomes very easy to read at this point, as you can drop in and out choosing different artists to read about.

Whilst reading bits and pieces, the parts that really stood out to me was the personal accounts of Tacita Dean and Sophie Calle and how chance has effected their lives and works. It’s also worth mention how surprised I was to find so many Fluxus artists within the book as I never considered before when researching Fluxus how they too also embody chance.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the book and can’t recommend it enough to anyone also interested in. The book has made me more wear of the key artists, as well as explaining the complexities of chance. It has also made me realise why I personally use chance in creation of my work.

I guess what I find attracts me to chance is this feeling of the uncertain. Taking a gamble and never knowing how my projects will turn out. I guess I’m a very curious person and use chance to help answer questions. This is why I’m using disposable cameras and posting photographs which people generally think of as precious objects into perilous situations and environments.

Chance

RCA Secret

•April 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Each year unbeknown to me the Royal College of Art holds RCA Secret, an exhibition and sale of postcard sized artworks. In keeping with the subject of postcards I found the event to be quiet relevant and worth visiting. Unfortunately by the time I was aware of RCA Secret it was the day before the exhibitions final day. While I originally planned to go into London for the day to check it out, the heavens decided to open up and a snow blizzard erupted in the early hours of morning deterring me from leaving the house. So in the end I missed out!

Peter Shenai

Peter Shenai

Luckily for me RCA Secret displays all the work which was in the exhibit on their website. The event contained 2700 works by 1034 artists including some famous faces such as Yinka Shonibare, Paula Rego, John Baldessari, David Bailey, Christo, Paula Rego, Frank Bowling and Julian Opie all made special works for them, as well as architect Zaha Hadid, fashion designers Christopher Bailey, Manolo Blahnik and Paul Smith, and Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park.

Jean Macalpine

Jean Macalpine

Personally I would have loved David Bailey’s postcard being a favorite photographer of mine. However the ‘secret’ is you don’t know the identity of each piece of work as the name suggests. The artist is hidden on the back of the postcard which means you could be paying for a work by Bailey or an unknown artist. It’s a gamble! All the money raised by postcard sales go to back into the RCA Fine Art Student Award Fund. Which is pretty cool for the disadvantaged students.

Andy Altmann

Andy Altmann

The more I thought about the RCA Secret, the more I thought about what would I submit as an entry. Would a photograph of a postbox cut it? Maybe I would need to do something a little more creative!

Below I leave you a piece of creative writing by Giulia Damiani which I found rather compelling as well as a selection of this years postcards. The text and the images can all be found on RCA Secret website.

What can happen on a rectangular shape?

On postcards, colours are sewn up to dress the world. Threads, seemingly without meaning, are made into elaborate inventive garments. Material forms come into view and frame concrete figures, outlining actions and things so that they become easily recognisable, revealing the unfolding of a playful mind. Tangible objects disappear and leave room for the abstract lines and fragments made by their creator. The here and now can be taken back to faraway places and moments. A postcard may recall childish feelings and events, or images seen once on TV. Something of our habits, manias and favorite symbols can be revealed too. Postcards are collected, sometimes becoming fetishes. They can reveal those layers of our selves, those characteristics and peculiarities on which we rarely linger. Thus, a thought is roused.

– Giulia Damiani Critical Writing in Art & Design, RCA

Hans-Jörg Pochmann

Postcards

•April 9, 2013 • 2 Comments

Something which I didn’t touch upon in my Mail Art blog was postcards. As you may already know the photographs that I am posting are 6×4 sized. The most common size to photographers and general families alike. It is the bog standard size for your snapshots and in my opinion closely resembles the sizes of a postcard.

When I was researching Mail Art I happened to discover a chapter of a thesis by Michael Lumb in 1998. He basically wrote about Fluxus and mail art, as he is an active practitioner and wanted to explore the connection between the two. What was of interest was a small section where Lumb wrote about Postcards, their history and the reason why they are the purest form of mail art.

“Whilst the importance of mailart lies in bringing people together, the postcard, having no protective packaging, is prey to the ravages of its journey through the post. The postcard, therefore, is the most pure form of mailart. Ideologically, it truly functions as mailart by being open to be ‘read’ by all the postal workers who handle it and any casual passers-by who may see it on the door mat before it is received by the ‘intended’ recipient…”

Lumb made a good point postcards are visible, to be seen and read. I have even made a point of this by trying to get the postman to interact with my postcards. Writing questions for them to answer, boxes to tick, certain tasks to complete such as crumpling the photograph. Of course all results so far are inconclusive. No boxes have been ticked, questions remain unanswered, tasks such as crumpling the photograph have returned in mint condition.

This has lead me to believe that the postman who have come across my postcards so far are incredibly shy or voyeuristic. Either way I shall persist in my endeavors and try to make communication with our faithful yet nosy mail men and women and blog about my results at a later date.

Lumb also summarised in his thesis a little about the history of the postcard which I found rather insightful. Who knew that handmade postcards first made an appearance in England in 1894, until that time postcards could only be made by the government.

After conducting a little postcard research of my own I discovered that the earliest known picture postcard was a hand-painted design on card, posted in London to the writer Theodore Hook in 1840 bearing a penny black stamp (First stamp that was created in England). Apparently he created and posted the card to himself as a practical joke on the postal service, as the image was a caricature of workers in the post office. I guess Hook and I share something in common…

Theodore Hook
1840

I also discovered:

  • The word ‘Deltiology’ is the study and collection of postcards, which I guess makes me a deltiologist.
  • Django Fontina is the term for a postcard written to a stranger, typically as a means of disseminating poetry.
  • While the word Postcardese is a style of writing used on postcards; short sentences, jumping from one subject to another.

Last but not least I came across this quote which I believe is from the book The Tourist Image: Myths and Myth Making in Tourism by Elizabeth Edwards (1996). Where she writes about the contemporary postcard, I found it rather fitting for my project!

“These still photographs made the invisible visible, the unnoticed noticed, the complex simple and the simple complex. The power of the still photograph forms symbolic structures and make the image a reality.”

So there you have it a blog about all things Postcards, some really interesting information has been unearth and I cannot wait to incorporate it all into my work. Expect to see some Postcardese and Django Fontina themed postcards of my own!

Mail Art & I

•April 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Now that you have seen a glimpse into the history of both Fluxus and Mail also the work George Maciunas and Ray Johnson produced. You get an idea of how they both had similarities to my project, as well as some differences. Researching both Fluxus and Mail art was a real interesting experience, I had no idea that they are both two counter culture art movements. The way that Maciunas and Johnson did their own thing outside of the art word is really inspiring, yet thought provoking.

One of the big differences between my own work which I’m producing, is that it lacks the collage aesthetics which you see in a lot, if not all of Mail art. Of course my project is more photography based, yet I could see the effort some artists would pour into their tiny creations, never to be seen again, and interestingly to be given to someone that they did not entirely know. As a result I decided to try and be more creative in my psychogeography approach to the project. If I out wondering the streets in search of postboxes, I might use images to describe my experience instead of words. This way I can utilize the collage effect, as a sort of homage to Ray Johnson yet still reflect my psychogeography experience. Maybe I’ll find that images can speak loader then words!

What I also realized was that in a sense POST is and is not a mail art project. I could work perfectly fine with me as the sole contributor, a more personal psychogeography project. However I felt compelled to get others involved to see how strangers and friends would react to this project. To read what they write, to see how they compose an image. To take part in a project which on the surface appears nuts and banal but has a meaning which hopefully people take note of.

Can people turn back to analogy tradition in a digital word?

I do feel my project has that kookiness seen in Fluxes and Mail art projects, I hope my project can bring people together in the same way.

I also felt bad as I have not given anything back to my contributors, yet in some cases mail art artists created works of art with the full intention that they might not get anything in return. I guess when they did, it meant even more to them.

Finally I would like to mention how interesting my project is becoming. I never expected it to share so many styles, to comment upon so many things.

Is it a psychogeography project?

Is it a Mail Art project?

Is it a typology project

Is it a project on materiality of the photograph?

Is it a project about chance?

For me POST answers is all of these and at the same time is something more!