Re-viewing Modernist Criticism, Mary Kelly

Paradox of photography – Edelman. For the law of property in the nineteenth century, which ascertained that the image could only be property to the extent that it was mixed with subject, that is, represented and transformed through his creative labour. Although it can now be legally maintained that a creative subject and his purpose is installed behind the camera, this does not mean that it is generally sanctioned within the traditional institutions and discourses of fine art. Artistic practices employing film or photography as well as those using found objects, processes, or systems where creative labour is apparently absent, continue to problematise the transcendental imperatives which predominate in critical and historical literature on art.

To insist on the materiality of the print would be to undermine its founding attribute, that of illusion.

What is lost in that image, in so far as it can no longer be emphatically marked as the property of the creative subject, is gained to the extent that it is, precisely, a photograph of the artist and as the possessive subject he has the right of the photographer over the disposal of his own image. What is taken away from the pictorial text-the painterly signifier of bodily gesture, is given back in photographic form as the visible body, its peculiar gestures acceding to the status of the signifier in another space, that of pictorial quotation.

The artistic photograph; the detail, the interesting composition which displaces the record. It gives the appearance of transgression, but effectively it is a fragment, a metonymy, enveloped by the all-pervasive pictorial metaphor, addressing the reader with continued reference to the grand regime o Painting.

Henry Moore and Sherry Levine

Henry Moore was a sculptor, who took on Sherry Levine as an apprentice where he taught them to photograph the sculpture pieces in a specific way. There was the element of being able to see the work through Moore’s eyes that Levine had to learn, which is evident in the photography work that was subsequently produced. It took any years for Levine to learn to see the sculptures in this way, but it left Moore to create more artwork, and spend less time on documenting it.

Jo Spence

Jo Spence used photography to capture stages of life, looking at the way people think of words written in objects and signs, and her journey through living with cancer. Her photographs take you to the heart of the problem, putting it directly in front of you with the social queues pointing towards it. The journey that you are taken through with each individual photograph leaves you wanting more as to why that is there, such as ‘love’ written in what looks like beans in a tray. The often direct eye contact with the camera adds an emotional intensity to each of the images.

John Timberlake

John Timberlake corrects our oversight, making powerful arguments for science fiction as a visual discourse. There is an element of surreal within the photographs as you are unaware of whether you are looking at a real planet, or a made up one. Timberlake focuses on ‘imaginary topos’ of science fiction, drawing on the intersection between historical and prehistorical time. The works begin with influential historical works of visual art, whereupon the artists impression and digital environment is drawn out to produce his own works.

Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand alters perception in his photography and three-dimensional models. These look like real images of rooms, often sites that we recognise and hold social or political meanings to, but they are not real. Each model is made out of paper and cardboard to replicate those spaces. Photography was used as a part of the process to record these constructions, but now Demand creates work for the sole purpose of photographing them, altering our sense of reality. Demand uses a large format camera to capture these images and destroys the ‘life-size environments’ once this has been done, so that we never truly see the size of the room created.

Barbara Brown and Cynthia O’Brien

Barbara Brown and Cynthia O’Brien come together in a collaboration working on a combination of artistic vision. Both artists work in different mediums, but ‘both employ the changing beauty and delicacy of plants and flowers as a commemorative act and as an observance of transience, loss, remembrance, decline and rejuvenation in all living things’. The installation of their works in this environment reflect the emotional impact of living in a long-term care residence and as artists. The works reveals insights gained from this experience that they have had in this world where they had to interact with the nature around them. There is also an interactive element to the final piece seen in the back of the exhibition with a description;

Columbariun: A Consequence of Life


archival pigment print and clay

Columbarium is defined as a memorial space with niches for funeral urns. In this commemorative installation, each clay or photographic plaque represents a deceased person remembered by the artists.

The public is invited to place a person memorial note in one of the niches provided.

Tiffany April

Tiffany April is a current MFA student at the University of Ottawa whose work looks at the alien and unknown through painting, video and installation. The pieces work in conjunction with each other to produce a sense of calmness and an almost out-of-this-world experience. The soft palette of her paintings with the dispersing light from the videos and reflections from the installations, create a space that you are fully invested in, and become immersed within as each individual piece hits you one by one.

All images from Ottawa MFA Blog

Joi Arcand

Joi Arcand uses the almost lost written language of Cree as a message giver in an aesthetically beautiful form with cultural significance. There is a play on how language appears on street signs and shop windows, and the expectation that western societies hold. With depictions of how the world would look like in the Cree language, replacing all signs to create a somewhat surreal environment. There are often no translations available so then the audience have no satisfaction of having the right answer.

Ben Woodeson

Ben Woodeson came to the University of Ottawa for a short term in residence, where he held an artist talk to explain his practice and journey since art school. Woodeson knew he was a sculptor from the first time he made something. As part of his work practice, he would find things, buy items and just make something out of this. At his graduate show, he strung up electric heaters with ceramic mugs full of tea sat on top of them, commenting on the domestic. Throughout the talk, Woodeson exclaimed that he didn’t know what he was doing there, and he still doesn’t.

In Piccadilly Station, London, he used 400 tins of tomato pulp as a battery source. When travelling to another residence in Toronto, they were unable to get the tomatoes due to price, so they had to pulp old tomatoes thrown away by farmers, by hand. This process led Woodeson to the thought of energy. In his MA, he accidentally made an induction coil, expanding the metal column, and slowly raised the roof. Now he felt like he was onto something and travelled back to Canada where he made a magnet inside of a wall. There was a nail, with its tip pointing toward the wall, and this was the only thing in the gallery space, showing the powerful effect of magnets.

Woodeson then got invited to do a solo show in London, which was a steep learning curve for him. He rigged microphones all around the gallery, which fed into one set of headphones placed at one point. People in the gallery reacted badly to this and often crowded around one table in the cafe that was not rigged. Another piece listened to a conversation at the reception desk, then ran it through processors to spell out the conversation at the other end of the gallery. The timing was too quick for you to run through, so people collaborated to see what they said. In this exhibition, there was a continued commentary on energy and magnetism with Morse code from self-help books being played on handmade conductors.

There was a large period that Woodeson wanted to make dangerous work. One of his first dangerous pieces he produced was 34,000 ball bearings that you are invited to walk on. He was very surprised when people signed the waver and braved the room where they were all placed on the floor – people loved it! The work then extended into dangerous kinetic works, so he went back to thrift stores for source material and continued to work with electricity.

From here, his pieces shift to working in response to a material and trying to push it to its limits. He did not want to hurt people but wants to challenge them, and the health and safety limits of the galleries that he exhibits in. This led him to glass, balancing it in corners and dangling from bungee cords attached to the ceiling. With the volume of glass that he went through on a regular basis, Woodeson wanted to move to something that would be less dangerous if something did go wrong.

Teaching was in his books, so Woodeson had to send instructions for his piece to be replicated. What was then seen in the exhibition was an interpretation of these instructions by the curators. There was a reaction to materials, which has been seen throughout his work, but now also in the written word. This is a reflection of his studio also – a collection of bits that need a home because he is reacting to them. Another university then invited him to teach, and here he created Rat Trap Neon, which used the precarious once again. If you had touched it, it was so delicate that it would break the piece and cause a chain reaction.

Woodeson took up an iron residency in Minnesota where he continued to play with the material and to stretch limits. There was play with scattered pieces that would most certainly trip someone up if they weren’t looking where they were going. He also choreographed step shingles in New Mexico, balancing them like a stack of cards. The precarious element made a return with this work as there were no fixings, nor were there any fixings throughout his work.

For now, Woodeson is working on several projects that work with the material and continuing to stretch it to its limits. Colour has also made an appearance along with glitter, and he uses these with cast iron items that are impromptu and dipped to set. Woodeson finds the smaller pieces covered in glitter attractive and sexy, while also being beautiful traps. He bought the balancing glass back with this along with cyanotypes. The world of VR has also come into play and Woodeson is playing with more technological artworks by creating it in this environment and then 3D printing the result.

All his artwork takes time to construct, and yet it is instantly made. There is always a constant process that occurs. The precarious element within Woodeson’s work will remain there, but the colour of it may change.

Harold Edgerton

Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton is known for his inventive use of a strobe light in photography to capture high-speed motion in photographs. This technique allowed him to freeze everyday objects and phenomena in motion, in both black and white and coloured film. Not only did Edgerton use the strobe light, but he also used a high shutter speed and allowed the film to roll through the camera as though it was a motion picture camera. It must be remembered, however, that the strobe light was key in capturing the motion.

He was first interested in photography through his uncle, Ralph Edgerton, who produced studio photography. Edgerton then went as far as producing his Engineering PhD paper on the use of strobe lighting in photography. He was interested in the extraordinary in the every day, capturing simple moments in a new perspective. Edgerton also made his first flash photograph without a motor, photographing running water, which transformed into crystal in the speed of the flash.

He used an exposure of up to 1/1,000,000 of a second, demonstrating everything from depressions of tennis balls and rackets to the controlled shuffling of cards between hands. The strobe light was still key here, with the momentary flash on the subject producing the image in the rolling film.