Week 10 Uta Barth Light looking 29.03.20
At the start of her 2012 interview Uta Barthes made reference to the following piece of music by Brian Eno , entitled Apollo : Atmospheres and soundtracks , and how much it was connected to her work, the idea of ‘ambient music’ and how it spoke of the same things as her images, that focusing “on an unoccupied point in space” (Barthes 2012) . The album is absolutely beautiful, and it is no wonder she was inspired by it, it is simply poetical, and you can literally feel that floating, that weightlessness. When looking at the images on my wall of my WIP, listening to this music, it changed their context for me. I began to see, alternative meanings. The dominant reading is yes about the education, but the oppositional reading once I was viewing these images with the music on, and thinking about Barth’s words about the in-between space, these images of mine, they are about love, about the comfort, the intoxicating, peaceful, and earthly love.
The two starting and ending images are a sort of self-portrait, they became not starting and ending images , but absent embraces. They are self portraits without me I there, they talk of the absence I feel doing the MA and not being 100% with my children, they talk of the sadness and possibility that comes with it. The images are flanked by end pages each with an image of all four of my children. My self portraits embrace the images of them, the images of them embrace me.
The images on the wall became poetry, a conversation between myself and the emotions that surround, engulf and suspend you in the context of parenting.
Barth’s speaks of how “the process of making photographs ” forced her to “learn to truly see, to see the light, to study how things in an image relate to the edge, how to crop and frame the most mundane and incidental subject matter into a compelling image.” (Barth ; 2012) This is something I think about a lot with my images , how to create a compelling image, how to frame to create the visually most interesting images, and how the light in the scene interacts with the objects in the frame to add to that.
Barth talks of a teacher of hers in her past talking about creating engaging photographs from ordinary things, and ordinary photographs of engaging things and how impacted her practice.
I have been experimenting with this a lot this module, photographing traces of the children in the books and work they left around the house, trying to photograph the traces of their education , these ordinary incidental things in emotive and intriguing ways that tell a story of glimpses of our lives.
I really loved how Barth’s said “most every serious artist here teaches, not just for a job, but to be engaged.” (Barth ; 2012) and how this relates to both my project, and also to my wider practice outside of the MA that also includes running art history classes for home educated children in Cornwall.
Intrestingly Barth’s says she has “deep political and sociopolitical convictions, but I do not find the art world to be the best place to exercise them.” This relates to my project as my research obviously has political and sociopolitical threads running through it, however , I am not sure I am trying to create anything with that. I am trying to show that all forms of education are valid, there are as many ways of educating as there are children to be educated, but I am definitely not trying to say one way is better or more worthy of praise than the other. Would then this make this point null and void. Surely all work, even unpolitical work, or work certainly not motivated by politics comes from a person who does in fact have political view points. As we have learnt this module, we cannot see something without all that background information on us, informing our views, so certainly the same is said with work, whether we wish it to be political or not, by it’s very essence it is. Barth’s does hit on a very valid point though, that we are likely preaching to the converted, there is surely a higher percentage of creative people that are left leaning, that believe in equality, freedom of thought, speech and religion , therefore , almost she is saying why bother. Which seems a little lazy to me. Not to mention it implies only one sort of people view art. For my own project I am wanting the people who do not know about home education, or alternative education to discuss it, evaluate their thoughts on it, to question it. It would be a very lazy thing for me to present it as an answer rather than a question to only people who are already converted to it.
Intrinsic to my own wider practice, and something I discussed last module was the intent of my wider work. Read says in finding and knowing “the artist may or may not recognise their own motivations when they start out, or may come to recognise it across Time, and across bodies of work. “(Read, 2016) this thread for me is motherhood, my practice centers around it from stories of birth and pregnancy, to photographing the mothers role within her child’s education. Barth says “Every project I have made has taken a different stab at the same question.” (Barth ; 2012) and “Every project I have made has a different strategy for doing this, but the intention is always the same.” (Barth ; 2012)
For me though what is that question? I know it centers on my own journey as a mother, and what it means to me, how I experience it, battle with it, adore it, struggle with it, get scared by it, feel freedom because of it, but what that question is I am trying to ask with my work I don’t quite know yet. I suppose in it’s most basic form, it is a question, does everyone else feel as much as me, as deeply as me, as passionately as me. Whilst reading this essay, and looking at my WIP on the walls, I came to ask the question , is my work, this body of work even about the education, is it not just about feelings? Yes they are feelings that the education invokes but still, is it ABOUT the education. Is it not about the fear, the pressure, the unnaturalness of examinations, and how those fears infiltrate our lives and sometimes against our better selves, and better judgement over power us? Ar my images not all about this overpowering, all consuming peaceful love? I question looking at them on the wall whether they are even photographs like that at all, as when I see them all together on the wall, and I see the emotions I was feeling at the time, I see them as I said earlier, as poetry, visual poetry, a telling of an emotional story, visually.
Still centering on this Barth states “I think serious artists repeatedly engage in the same central questions, but this should not be confused with a consistent style. O am always excited when a change of signature style opens new doors for exploring a core idea.” (Barth ; 2012)
Regarding her own practice , I am going to highlight the following quotes by Barth’s that I was especially drawn to in reflection of her own work, and also that I felt helped both inform my own more deeply and discussed things I was especially interested in.
“People often refer to my work as ‘out of focus’ and I always counter that it is perfectly in focus, the camera just happens to be focused on an unoccupied point in space. So I am photographing the volume of a room instead of it’s walls, the atmosphere of a rainstorm instead of the landscape it falls on.” (Barth ; 2012) I would be hard pressed to find any of my images I think that are in any way visually akin to Barth’s, however, this quote to me speaks so much of the work I am doing with my own family. The things I am photographing, it may look like a book, but it is not a book. It is a period in the day that we set aside, half an hour where all my children and I came together, to listen to a story, to fall into another world and to leave this one behind, to be taken on adventures’ and transported, not just tot he other times in those books, but into the times of the author who wrote it, into his or her mind, listening to stories, is listening to another person, really listening, and seeing their deepest thoughts and imaginings, that is what I am photographing when it is just a book. That is a hard thing to translate to a tutor, and never one I have tried too, because I am not sure I even need too. Do they really need to understand everything I am trying to say ? An English teacher, a book lover, a home ed parent who does read-aloud every day, would understand these things, it isn’t necessarily my job to explain every single image to every single person. Maybe it is, like with Barth’s comment above, either something you can see, or you can’t.
Finally Barth’s had this final comment on teach which I thought was beautiful, and something that speaks to me both about my own practice within the MA, and my own work, but also my role as an educator.
“I think the most important thing I know about teaching, I learnt from Robert Heinecken when I was a graduate student at UCLA. He had a way of taking my work as serious or even more seriously than I could myself. He engaged in my ideas with great attention and thereby gave me the self-confidence to take my own work to be more meaningful and to invest myself fully. It taught me to set the bar very high. After years of teaching I know how to do that for students, and I also know how to teach them how to develop a dialog with their own work, to get the work to speak back to them, and to build ideas from the last to the next, instead of jumping around when they hit the block in the road.” (Barth ; 2012)
I think this is wonderful sentiments for both teaching , and working by. To trust in oneself, to bolster those you educate, to see the seriousness, meaningfulness and the beauty in others lives and work.
Mirlesse, Sabine. 2012. Light looking, Uta Barth by Sabine Mirlesse.
Read. Shirley. 2016. Finding and knowing, thinking about ideas. Photographers and research.