The study abroad exhibition was a hit success with works being displayed by Romaisa Bhatti, Celdice James, Hira Syed, Zoë Lee, Christine Glover and myself. We had a wide range of practices coming together in two locations to create a flowing exhibition, showcasing the work done while on study abroad in the previous term. I initially had concerns with my photography pieces being opposite windows due to reflection, however this was a smaller problem than first thought. I also felt that it was wise that I did not frame any of the pieces, as the uniform bulldog clips that I had practised in the exhibition preparation worked well for all of the pieces of work. Overall, I was happy to be part of the exhibition and found it a success. In the future, I aim to be more aware of the flow of people especially when there is work between two locations that are blocked by a locked door.
Challenging stereotypes, one label at a time
Recently, in my term abroad at the University of Ottawa, I completed a collection of black and white photographs looking at breaking stereotypes. This work has now been published on the university’s website, along with a small written piece by Robert Greeley, for all to realise that ‘I Am Not The Label You Give Me‘.
“Is Charlotte Abraham a nerd? The third-year international exchange student included herself in a suite of photos titled “I Am Not the Label You Give Me” that challenges us to stop and question common stereotypes.
Abraham, who studied at uOttawa in the fall, recently returned to Britain to complete her degree in art and psychology at the University of Reading. However, toward the end of her semester here, she embraced the opportunity to take part in an exposition, hosted by International House, called “Don’t Feed the Stereotype.” The campaign took a pop culture approach to promoting diversity by debunking stereotypes.
Submissions could be in any medium, so Abraham decided to use the 35mm photography skills she had learned in a uOttawa art class. She loaded her camera with black and white film to create a collection of striking 8” x 10” images.
“‘I Am Not the Label You Give Me’ wants to get those who make stereotypical judgments to think about what they say and how it might affect those they are talking about,” Abraham says. “Pointing out that people are not always the stereotypical labels you give them is just a small step in the march to equality.””
Sculpture: Wood and Metal Assignment
This is the second of the sculpture assignments, looking at the use of the wood and metal workshops within the University of Ottawa. The project demanded two chairs as part of the brief, and I found two small children’s chairs that I soon wanted to make a curled up child, natural in form, such as the bodies of Kiki Smith. I wanted to attempt something more abstract, with inspiration from Ai Weiwei and Marc Sparfel, but found myself drawn to the more natural sculpture of Brian Jungen‘s plastic garden chair whales. After assessing the wood that I had, I found that the design was not compatible, and I moved onto what I thought would be easier; making part of a tortoise shell.
After choose a tortoise shell, I found that manipulating the wood into the forms that I wished it to go in was more difficult than anticipated, and several times I did not find it suitable to continue. Keeping all the smaller off cuts, I was able to salvage them into a smaller element of the shell that the larger element sat on. The final result of the wood was at first disappointing, as it was not what I had in mind. I initially wanted a smooth and formal shell that hid its imperfections, but as the project grew larger and time shorter, I found that the mismatch of the pieces was what made it unique and special. The metal created a hollow element to the shell, that was previously unavailable, and allows the audience to see through the wood, as well as at it. It was quite not of this world, much like the exploratory work of Tiffany April, whose work invites you in, much like this does. Balancing on its own also simulates the important balancing technique of Ben Woodeson, as the wood and metal are not connected to one another.
The final result named Show Me Your Insides, is a balancing empty shell, visible from all angles. It is an invitational piece that comments on the manipulation of material and trying to understand more than what is presented. The depiction of a natural shell in man made and natural materials adds to the unknown, especially of that within the animal kingdom.
I Am Not The Label You Give Me
Don’t Feed the Stereotype was a pop up exhibition with artwork by international students, and is continued campaign at the University Ottawa. This exhibition took a popular culture or religious approach to addressing issues of diversity, in an effort to promote a positive approach to diversity on campus.
I Am Not The Label You Give Me was my project response to this, showing how we are quick to judge people and give them stereotypical labels, even though these are often far from the truth. I chose 10 participants to write down a stereotypical word, phrase or question that they have been told or asked in the past. This could have commented on gender, sexual orientation, religion, career choice, and many other factors. This work was inspired by the six-hundred photograph series Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say by Gillian Wearing. Jo Spence also provided inspiration with her works that use found objects to display words. I wished to display it in a grid formation, such as the systematic formulation of Arnaud Maggs.
The photographs were taken with a 35mm camera and black and white film. I developed the film and photographs on hand, producing twenty 8×10″ photographs.
These prints are not perfect, and I understand that as there are scratches and marks on the negatives, and some needed a stronger filter than others. I would have liked extreme detail in my photographs, such as the ones Richard Learoyd produces, but I knew that this may not be the case. Despite these technical difficulties, I believe that the overall piece is still able to project the central idea, that people do not live under the stereotypical labels that we may give them.
I, unfortunately, had little say in the display of the prints within the pop up exhibition. I ultimately wanted them framed and on the wall, however due to the small space with no walls, the choice was to display them in a photo book. This allowed the piece to be more interactive than I perhaps originally anticipated, but did not have the same impact that I wished for. When displaying again, I will have them in frames and up on the wall in a grid formation.
Sans Camera Exhibition
The Sans Camera exhibition was a two-week long exhibition held at Galerie 5.6 at the art department, University of Ottawa. This was a student effort, collaborating to curate a themed exhibition. The work chosen was from out first photography assignment, using pinhole cameras as well as photograms and invented negatives. Working as a group, we were able to choose two works from each person, selecting out of the ones the student wanted to exhibit. The photograms and invented negatives were then displayed in a portrait manner, laid across one wall with the pinhole photography reflecting them on the other side. The exhibition even went around the corner and down the corridor, enticing people to see it when they were walking through the department. To further entice those in the department to take a look at the exhibition, the pinhole cameras were displayed on a wall upstairs on the main floor, with instructions to go downstairs and see the photos that these cameras produced.
Those who came to the exhibition reception, held at the end of the exhibition, found viewing the cameras very exciting as they were not anticipating cardboard boxes and coffee tins. Holding the exhibition in Galerie 5.6 also allowed those visiting to gain more of an idea of our process and areas that we work in, allowing them to somewhat appreciate the work further.
The two works I submitted to the exhibition were “to pytalise” , an invented negative of my saliva, and Churchgoers, a pinhole photograph of cars lined up by the nearby church. These suited the theme of the exhibition, but also stood out, especially that of “to pytalise”, due to its subject matter.
The exhibition has now moved to Paradigm(e) Gallery, which is the Dean’s gallery at the University of Ottawa until the end of February, where they are all on sale.
Photography Assignment Two
The second photography assignment took us into 35mm black and white photography, where we were to develop both the film and the images ourselves. The assignment was to photograph things that we have never seen before, or objects in a way that we have never seen before. I felt as though I had a small advantage as I was new to the country. While walking around the city, I found different objects and scenes that I was able to photograph in high detail. The project also stretched my knowledge of SLR cameras and photography, as well as the way in which I arrange myself when taking a photograph to manipulate the final result.
For the photographs of stairs, I was inspired by the photography of Andrew Wright, who photographs trees to put them in their vertical position. This made the photographs of the stairs somewhat confusing, as you wished to tilt your head for the background to be horizontal, but the crop of the image would make it feel abnormal, making you look at the image as it is presented. This fragmented reality through careful cropping and imaging is also seen in the work of Pascal Grandmaison.
Within the dark room, I was able to display my use of the filters within the enlarger, breaking up the number of greys within the image – this is seen in the image of the bin. Dodging and burning was a technique I utilised throughout the development of the images to provide better contrast in certain areas. The final images were clear, crisp and included a high range of tones. The project not only expanded my knowledge of 35mm photography, but also my knowledge of the city of Ottawa.
Artist Presentation – Nancy Holt
Within Introduction to Sculpture, we were asked to present a PowerPoint to the group about a contemporary sculptor, looking at 6 – 10 artworks of theirs. I chose Nancy Holt, who is known for her large scale and public sculptures.
The PowerPoint used, can be found here; Nancy Holt – Artist Presentation.
Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1938. Her father was a chemical engineer, her mother was a homemaker and she graduated from Tufts University in 1960 as a biology major. Holt moved to New York and worked alongside Michael Heizer, Carl Andre, Eva Hesse, Richard Serra and her husband, Robert Smithson.
Holt was a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements, and helped to develop unique aesthetic of perception. This enables visitors to her sites to engage with the landscape in new and challenging ways. Working in many mediums, she was a pioneer of site-specific installation and film and video work.
There was an exploration and revision of the ways people viewed the world around them, and Holt wanted to make it simpler –
“I wanted to bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale. I had no desire to make a megalithic monument. The panoramic view of the landscape is too overwhelming to take in without visual reference points… through the tunnels, parts of the landscape are framed and come into focus… the work encloses surrounds…”
Concrete Visions (1967)
Composite inkjet print of archival rag paper taken from original 126 format black and white negatives; printed 2012. 35 x 35 inches; 88.9 x 88.9 cm.
Holt’s early photographs laid the foundation for her sculpture work. She photographed the sites where Smithson would obtain the materials for his work. There is an exploration of perception, seeing frames within frames. By arranging the work in sequences, it offers multiple perspective compromising the whole of art, and rejects one-point perspective.
Western Graveyards (1968)
60 inkjet prints on archival rag paper, printed from original 126 format transparencies; printed 2012. 18 x 18 inches; 45.7 x 45.7 cm.
This work compromises of old cemeteries in the deserts of Nevada and California, many fenced off and overgrown. Holt uses this work as an anthropological study through photography. Holt takes the grave and makes it a work of art, making graves gallery shots. Holt was drawn to the graves because they captured “how people thought about space out the West; their last desire was to delineate a little plot of their own because there was so much vastness.” This reflects her ongoing interest in human interventions in the landscape.
Hydra’s Head (1974)
This work is much of an unknown, as documentation of the work has been kept to a minimum. It is an arrangement of concrete cylinders in a riverbank that corresponds to the constellation above. Holt’s work consistently sets us on the ground, only to have us look up at the sky.
Pine Barrens (1975)
30:24 min; colour, sound, film on HD video.
This video shows the desolate sand and pipe landscapes of central New Jersey. The visual work is combined with audio of local music and interviews with residents, known as ‘Pineys’. What is heard is feelings about the land, their attitudes to city life and myths of the area. It adds a psychological dimension to the landscape. Holt is concerned with evoking a wilderness in south-central New Jersey. The camera is always in motion – tracking, pivoting and walking through landscape.
Sun Tunnels (1973-6)
Concrete, steel, earth, 111 x 822 x 636 in.; 281.9 x 2087.9 x 1615.4 cm.
This is Holt’s most infamous large scale installation works in Great Basic Desert, Utah. It composes of four large concrete cylinders, arranged on the desert floor in a cross pattern, that align with the sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices. Each of the cylinders are pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations; Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn. Holt’s design allows for an ever-changing play of light and shadow upon the surfaces of her work. The work focuses our vision and challenging our understanding of an environment. Holt’s work draws our attention to the complexities of our relationship with the landscape we inhabit and act upon.
Sculptural sites allow the viewer the channel vastness of nature into human scale while creating contemplative, subjective experience grounded in a specific location in real time.
Dark Star Park (1979-84)
This was publicly commissioned by Arlington County, Virginia, in conjunction with an urban renewal project. Holt transformed two thirds of an acre that was once a gas station and dilapidated warehouse into a municipal park with pools, spheres tunnels. The forms are a contrast to the busy and highly developed commercial area that surrounds the space. the materials are common to the area and used as building materials. It is an interactive space where the work alters the viewer’s perception by using curvilnear forms. The work explores the concept of time and out relationship with the universe, inked to Holt’s obsession with solar eclipses. Each year at 9:32am on August 1, the date in 1860 on which the land became Rosslyn was purchased, the natural shadows of the sculptures align with the fabricated shadows.
“It’s called Dark Star Park because in my imagination there spheres are like stars that have fallen to the ground – they no longer shine – so I think of the park/artwork in a somewhat celestial way.”
Solar Rotary (1995)
University of South Florida, Tampa
This is a public art installation of eight connected poles and benches arranged in a circular plaza. It is influences by the sun’s movement and the summer solstice. The piece includes several elements including a central circular stone with a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite, seats at North South East West and five plaques and benches commemorating significant events in Florida’s history with considerate planting. On any given day, Solar Rotary will cast its dynamic sun symbol shadow in a continuously changing pattern on the pavement below, highlighting plaques on their corresponding dates.
Sculpture: Plaster Assignment
Introduction to sculpture was a module that looked at the manipulation of new and found materials. This manipulation was to stretch both us and the material, stretching and growing both our knowledge of the material, and how comfortable we were with it. Within the plaster project, the consistency of material was played within the techniques of relief mould, two-part mould, alginate casts, and a basic flat cast. I wanted to create pieces that create both the senses of confusion, but also an element of comfort. This was inspired by the work of Tiffany April, whose installation and painting work provided calmness, but also confusion. My sketchbook designs were based around this, but were often drawn up after creating the plaster element. This prevented planning, so that I could completely be at one with the plaster, instead of following a plan.
Sticking My Pieces to You has introduced the manipulation and exploration of materials, developing ideas around bodily and world views. The ripped maps on the plaster head highlights the ‘unnatural’ contours of the face, ones that people may not see, adding a layer of movement that brings you around the head. The use of text within the piece was unique and added a strange juxtaposition between the torn up maps of the world, showing chaos and destruction, and the calm and orderly chocolate pot.
Overall, I was very pleased with the plaster head project. It allowed me to explore the use of plaster in a different environment, and stretched what I thought it was capable of doing. The balance of the piece, I believe to be successful, as the piece shows the delicacy of the world that we currently live in, while giving us some piece of mind with a hot chocolate.
Photography Assignment One
There were two main elements to the first photography assignment; pinhole or constructed camera photography and photograms and ‘invented’ negative photography. These projects primarily looked at the process of using the dark room and found objects. Photograms and invented negatives allowed the play of light and objects at different heights to the photographic paper. The play of materials allowed for a greater thought process outside of the normal box that photography sits in, in order to manipulate an image. An inspiration point for the manipulation of objects was Oscar Rejlander, also known as the grandfather of photography. Rejlander manipulated negatives of images to produce several versions of the same image.
Pinhole camera photography, on the other hand, used a homemade camera with the same principles of an SLR camera. There was a manual control over the five minute shutter speed I had, with an important step of inserting the photographic paper at the back of the camera, in the dark room. This part of the project allowed the exploration of the unknown, especially with composition, as you were never entirely sure where the camera was pointing and whether it was at an angle. Some of the more successful pinhole photographs were those perched from strange, or unsought of places. The experience of viewing the work, and even the process, was mediated by the act of capturing the image, much like the work of Pascal Grandmaison.
Each had their own difficulties, as I found I had a block as to what I can use as a subject – my mind was relatively closed throughout the project, and I did not step too far out of my comfort zone. Because of this, I was only okay with the selection that I handed in for this first assignment. I felt that it showed the diversity of all the pieces that I created, while also displaying my technical skills both in and out of the darkroom. If I were to do the project again, I would have looked at a wider variety of simple photograms and invented negatives, as this worked best. I would also try to get a cleaner developing technique as a streak of black can be seen on many of the pinhole camera positives.