describing an arc: thoughts on feedback

my formative feedback on the work i presented for assessment before xmas was generally very positive.

i agree wholeheartedly that presenting the disparate pieces as a coherent, integrated show will take a lot of thought and consideration on the curatorial side. i need to bear the interrelationship between the works in mind as i move on, hopefully using each piece to inform the others in some way, and to draw out similarities or contrasts between them.

i want to address the feedback on the book don’t panic in particular.

How does the audio add to the content…can more value be added through a more mixed approach to the audio content, greater synergy perhaps between the image and audio, perhaps the sound of deep space, white noise etc …  clarify what is the primary intention inrelation to the viewer. To inform, engage…cause wonder. Be very clear on this, the objects need to achieve this…

to my mind the audio was very carefully chosen and specific/relevant to each individual image. the images present various different forms of scientific imagery, each describing a spiral or arc. most of the audio clips are taken from mid c20th educational films, although i’ve also included more recent material. many of the images are somewhat ambiguous in nature, it is only the audio that gives the essential context. there is approx. 1hr 20 of audio content in total.

my intention in including the audio element was one of storytelling. i only played a fraction of the tracks in the assessment and as such i may not have conveyed that intention strongly enough. the inclusion of such a great length of audio per page reflects the amount of information that can unfold from a single image, the number of interrelated stories each one can generate.

all my work for the final show explores elements of my relationship with my dad, who died recently. the work with lenses and mirrors is drawn from a box of sextant parts bequeathed to me, and his experiences as a sailor (and navigator?). some of the images in don’t panic are taken from another inherited item: the book “meteorology for glider pilots” as he also flew gliders. my love of photography was forged in a make-shift darkroom, together, using his dad’s old equipment.

one of my greatest comforts – when everything’s a mess, when i’m trying my hardest to not panic – is science documentaries. drawing on the childhood experience of a dad who could explain anything and everything in scientific terms. for sure i didn’t always follow his explanations, but the story itself, the sound of his voice, was enough. this is the element that i hope the audio brings to the book – an authoritative figure confidently explaining “how things work”.

i’ve also included individual elements from the audio landscape of my childhood: war of the worlds, hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, the shipping forecast, and a nod to the technology of the times with the speaker and cable…

my use of outdated source material partly reflects my interest in outmoded, analogue, technologies; partly the scientific understanding (of the 40s, 50s and 60s) that my dad was drawing on; and partly the recognition that such confident explanations are in fact always based on partial information and are subject to amendment at any time as the body of scientific knowledge increases.

being very close to such a personal project i probably haven’t given enough thought to the viewer’s experience or what understanding they might take from it. ultimately my aim is to embody my own experience as vividly as possible, but this assessment has encouraged me to think beyond that where i can. perhaps the use of a supporting statement or other material might be helpful.

Have you considered using paper mechanics within the book as part of the electronic trigger, it may help with the sound trigger as well as an interactive nature…something to consider.

the technical issue of the audio trigger is a tricky one. i was hoping to have minimal intervention – each track triggered by the turn of the page – which is an avenue i haven’t totally exhausted yet.

it seemed that flipping the image – to see what’s underneath – was the least “tricksy” way of triggering the hardware (which has the advantage of being much more compact than any similar options and as such can be included in the structure of the book reasonably unobtrusively). to my mind a book is interactive by its very nature and that adding circuits that are complicated by further mechanics starts to take the book away from my primary intention – the beauty of the images, the poetry of the audio, the – almost! – seamless integration of technology into an emphatically hand made object.

none of this discussion dismisses the advice/questions, i will bear in mind all these issues/suggestions as i go forward, but i wanted to make clear the decision-making process that led to where i am now.

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