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Anti-Mimesis

anti mimesis

I posted the above image on my social media account and had a comment from a freind that set me thinking. Angus’ comment simply said ‘Are you sure its not diegesis?’

With the  typical self doubt of a creative producer, I thought am I?

I spent significant time thinking about the inception of this piece of work. So I felt confident I had made the right decision. This entry will take a closer look at the history and contexts of the  issues it draws upon, if only to set it straight in my mind.

The two words we are examining are ‘diegesis’ and ‘mimesis’ and how they do or do not apply to this image. The two terms are from drama and narrative theory and are credited as having been introduced by Socrates in relation to Plato’s Republic 329c ff. to help categorise different ways of presenting a story. In the stated instance it denotes narrative in the wider generic sense of discourse that communicates information keyed to a temporal framework (events “past, present, or future,” Republic 392d). Contemporary usage has converted diegesis into a narratological category denoting the imagined story-universe as opposed to the discursive or textual constituents of a narration. (Halliwell 2012).

Diegesis is derived from a Greek verb diegeisthai which means literally “to lead/guide through”. It came to mean “give an account”, and “narrate”. Together with the verb, the noun diegesis itself became established in the 5th century BC as a common term for acts of verbal narration (Halliwell 2012)

In the Aesthetics of Mimesis, Halliwell states that mimesis has a more complex early history. Socrates employed it to varying degrees of inclusivity to those involved in visual arts, poetry, drama and music as producers of mimesis. Aristotle used the term as the master concept of representational art forms.

In Plato’s own practices as a writer, a diegesis/mimesis distinction came to be used in antiquity to classify the discursive forms of the Platonic dialogues themselves (Halliwell 2012).

To paraphrase Halliwell (2014) in short diegesis can be defined as narrative/narration the story is told rather than shown. To show is the domain of mimesis which is imitation, representation or enactment. To distill it further Diegesis is tell. Mimesis is show (Tim Ralphs 2014).

Now lets consider how these terms relate to this image amd the issues they invoke.

Many terms are used and occasionally debated in the description of photographic output. A term I often hear or see is the idea of ‘narrative in the still image’.

As someone who uses photography and documents scenes before me its tempting to see me as a kind of narrator of life in those individual scenes; and I suppose by implication, my life, through my presence at the taking. Implicit in this assertion seems to be the idea that those still images have a narrative.

However, this is a confusion of ‘narrative’ with a search to make ‘meaning’. It is self evident in the most literal sense that my voice is absent from this work as in every other still image I have made; but what is a recognised definition of ‘narrative’?

In Narrative Intelligence (2003) Jerome Bruner is referenced for his description of ‘narrative diachronicity’; a narrative is an account of events occurring over time. He believes it to be irreducibly durative. Events that are understood by the way they relate over time.

My image shows an impressive statue (Michelangelo’s ‘David’) even if we do not know its creator. We can speculate its setting as a gallery/museum through the grand architecture, security cameras and crowd of admirers. Nearest to the sculpture with its down pointed fingers, reminiscent of how Michelangelo illustrated hands in much of his work, we see a male figure seemingly reciprocating this gesture and pointing up. As is the single images forte it is expository in its description. That is its best base function as still imagery, having no durative element beyond how long you choose to gaze at it.

An image may prompt a connection to a story you know, or cause you to invent one from the elements within the image. As with Henri Cartier Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ it could be described as an enigma to be solved (Mark Meyer).

The photograph as with my description is demonstrating or in this specific case imitating a scene (Michelangelo’s fresco ‘The Creation of Adam’), which leads us onto its basis in mimesis. Not however, Aristotle’s mimesis, of art imitating life. In the case of anti mimesis a notable use in culture was by Oscar Wilde in his essay of 1889 titled ‘The Decay of Lying’ (written as Platonic dialogue) he states that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. Which is pleasingly circular in bringing us back to the search for meaning, in this instance, meaning expressed as art imitating life in an everyday scene.

Halliwell, Stephen (2012) The Living Handbook of Narratology. (viewed 20-03-17)

Available from: http://wikis.sub.uni-hamburg.de/lhn/index.php/Diegesis_-_Mimesis

Ralphs, Tim (2014) Mimesis and Diegesis. (viewed 20-03-17)

Available from: http://www.timralphs.com/mimesis-and-diegesis

Meyer, Mark. Storytelling Photography Considered Harmful (viewed 17-01-17)

Available from: http://www.photo-mark.com/notes/storytelling-photography-considered-harmful/

Bruner , Jerome (2003) The Narrative Construction of Reality, Narrative Intelligence.

Editors; Michael Mateas, Phoebe Sengers. Amsterdam/Philadelphia; John Benjamins Publishing Company.

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Photography

Alternative Existence

In this series of work I use photography and text to present metaphor or symbolism.  I have called this approach ‘Textual Intervention’. Whereby I incorporate text as a way of short circuiting the photographs multiplicity of interpretation; this is carried with the image regardless of situation and produces resonant anchored meaning.

The parts must be understood to fully grasp their relevance as a whole, making them like a jigsaw mystery. It is my intention that they become richer; ‘The whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.’

This image and text is a physical intervention with the surface of the photograph. I cut by hand, the text into or paste it onto the final printed image. When I paste it on; this is achieved by cutting the text from another version of the print; typically one that is lighter or darker in tone. This process denies the viewer unfettered access to the image and intervenes in the photographs illusory depth. In part by making the substrate or carrier become an object in its own right. I think this is prompted at least in part by my history of mixed media object making which brings me back to a desire for the object to move beyond a flat surface.

This work also questions the sometimes fetishised technical and aesthetic qualities of print production. By showing my – the creators hand in the cuts, the process refers to authorship the photographs democratised position in image making and questions ideas of work activity.

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Photography

Landscapes of the Mind

In this series of work I use photography and text to present metaphor or symbolism.  I have called this approach ‘Textual Intervention’. Whereby I incorporate text as a way of short circuiting the photographs multiplicity of interpretation; this is carried with the image regardless of situation and produces resonant anchored meaning.

The parts must be understood to fully grasp their relevance as a whole, making them like a jigsaw mystery. It is my intention that they become richer; ‘The whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.’

This image and text is a physical intervention with the surface of the photograph. I cut by hand, the text into or paste it onto the final printed image. When I paste it on; this is achieved by cutting the text from another version of the print; typically one that is lighter or darker in tone. This process denies the viewer unfettered access to the image and intervenes in the photographs illusory depth. In part by making the substrate or carrier become an object in its own right. I think this is prompted at least in part by my history of mixed media object making which brings me back to a desire for the object to move beyond a flat surface.

This work also questions the sometimes fetishised technical and aesthetic qualities of print production. By showing my – the creators hand in the cuts, the process refers to authorship the photographs democratised position in image making and questions ideas of work activity.

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Photography

Symbols of Economic and Ideological Prerogative

In this series of work I use photography and text to present metaphor or symbolism.  I have called this approach ‘Textual Intervention’. Whereby I incorporate text as a way of short circuiting the photographs multiplicity of interpretation; this is carried with the image regardless of situation and produces resonant anchored meaning.

The parts must be understood to fully grasp their relevance as a whole, making them like a jigsaw mystery. It is my intention that they become richer; ‘The whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.’

This image and text is a physical intervention with the surface of the photograph. I cut by hand, the text into or paste it onto the final printed image. When I paste it on; this is achieved by cutting the text from another version of the print; typically one that is lighter or darker in tone. This process denies the viewer unfettered access to the image and intervenes in the photographs illusory depth. In part by making the substrate or carrier become an object in its own right. I think this is prompted at least in part by my history of mixed media object making which brings me back to a desire for the object to move beyond a flat surface.

This work also questions the sometimes fetishised technical and aesthetic qualities of print production. By showing my – the creators hand in the cuts, the process refers to authorship the photographs democratised position in image making and questions ideas of work activity.

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Closed Space

this series of work I use photography and text to present metaphor or symbolism.  I have called this approach ‘Textual Intervention’. Whereby I incorporate text as a way of short circuiting the photographs multiplicity of interpretation; this is carried with the image regardless of situation and produces resonant anchored meaning.

The parts must be understood to fully grasp their relevance as a whole, making them like a jigsaw mystery. It is my intention that they become richer; ‘The whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.’

This image and text is a physical intervention with the surface of the photograph. I cut by hand, the text into or paste it onto the final printed image. When I paste it on; this is achieved by cutting the text from another version of the print; typically one that is lighter or darker in tone. This process denies the viewer unfettered access to the image and intervenes in the photographs illusory depth. In part by making the substrate or carrier become an object in its own right. I think this is prompted at least in part by my history of mixed media object making which brings me back to a desire for the object to move beyond a flat surface.

This work also questions the sometimes fetishised technical and aesthetic qualities of print production. By showing my – the creators hand in the cuts, the process refers to authorship the photographs democratised position in image making and questions ideas of work activity.

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Photography

“This is Culture”

This photography project was done as part of a residency at Southampton Solent University I spent time photographing Southampton’s new Cultural Quarter which is a designated area for the promotion of cultural activity within the city’s centre. Southampton City Council in partnership with Southampton Cultural Quarter Development Trust have identified 13 sites spread across an area from East Park Terrace, including East Park, Above Bar and Guildhall Square; stopping at Havelock Road and continuing down Commercial Road. These venues include art galleries, a park, library, theatre, a concert venue, a bar, open space, a university building and a council office building.

al quarter initiatives have been adopted in many countries to encourage urban social and economic regeneration. The rationale is that ‘consuming’ culture encourages social cohesion and thus strengthens local communities. Areas with ‘culture’ also become attractive places to live, work and visit. Even so, some members of society remain excluded from participation.

Exploring the area, there are approximately 41 sites of many different types, including the 13 identified by the Trust that can reasonably be said to demonstrate culture. This photographic documentation of the Cultural Quarter shows them all and resolves the 41 venues into 13 locales.

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Symbol

Little England

In this post I am going to consider the of semiotic genre of; ‘symbol’ for its emphasis on semantics or the signified / signifier, denotation / connotation relationship rather than what I perceive to be the more arbitrary general aesthetic or subject classifications of ‘landscape’ and ‘people’, for example. In this post I give an explanation of the symbolic.

The transformation that shifts the indexical into the iconic can also carry the iconic into the symbolic, which is the third category of sign devised by C.S.Pierce. As was stated in my previous on the post, the iconic presents a relationship of resemblance between signifier and signified, sign and object. The symbolic presents one that necessitates translation. The symbol neither points to nor resembles what it stands for. (Scott 1999)

The symbolic code is one of language and the more the visual becomes reliant on the language system the more it is carried over into the symbolic and hence into the semantic. Not ‘What is it?’ but ‘What does it mean?’ From this point it may become increasingly abstract. (Scott 1999)

When the signifier does not resemble the signified and the association must be arbitrary and require learning e.g. the western alphabet, as opposed to the Japanese form of presenting alphabetical characters which are pictorially based and therefore more iconographic.

Because the symbol is linked to the subject by culturally specific convention or more arbitrarily by personal / artistic association, I can use the resonance of metaphor to anchor philosophical, existential or political meaning on a representation of an apparently arbitrary world.

In the photograph titled ‘Little England’, an almost uncomfortably saturated colour image, I have presented a pleasant English scene of middle aged couples (mostly) enjoying afternoon tea. They are all oriented to face the view of a ruined castle (and we all know the Englishmen’s home is his castle and hence contributory to his / her sense of national identity). The seemingly solid structure has weakened and fissured, decaying in testament to the fears we have for our ideas of civilisation; however localised and idealised; and the wish we could turn the clock back to the ‘halcyon days’ we are being robbed of by the ‘other/s’.

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Icon

photography

In this post I am going to consider the of semiotic genre of; icon, for its emphasis on semantics or the signified / signifier, denotation / connotation relationship rather than what I perceive to be the more arbitrary general aesthetic or subject classifications of ‘landscape’ and ‘people’, for example. In this post I give a brief explanation of the iconic.

The photograph can shift from the indexical into the iconic (without losing its indexicality) by becoming an ‘image’. The signifier can be said to resemble the signified.

It becomes a signifier with a signified as well as a referent. The changes invoking this process are;

  • Acquiring a cultural independence (to varying degrees) and can stand on its own to constitute a sign.
  • It becomes subject to language. For the indexical, language informs about the ‘when and where’ only, however for the iconic it must supply the ‘what and why’. The aforementioned constitution as an ‘image’ in circulation requires answers and justification of the viewer’s attention and placement within a cultural context.
  • Connotation superadds itself to denotation. In other words it now has both a signified as well as a referent. Underpinning the co-existence of the iconic and indexical.As images photographs become the way we represent things (events, people) to ourselves rather than being substitute realities to which we respond.
  • Photography leaves one world in which it has features not shared by other arts and enters one in which they are, although their specific modes of operation may be different. For instance both photography and painting are framed, although photography derives its framing from the perceiving mechanism (camera) rather than form the support canvas. Photography’s framing does not guarantee compositional values in the way that paintings does (More detail on these points warrants another post at a later date).

(Scott 1999)

As the first paragraph states the signifier resembles the signified; or the iconic resembles the subject, such as a sign for a bend in the road. Marilyn Monroe’s association with Hollywood, glamour, femininity (cultural bias and specificity), as is put forward in this example, is to a point culturally specific.

Scott (The Spoken Image 1999) states the landscape photograph is iconic in the first instance as it looks like what it signifies. Implying that any use of language can only really fulfil a spatial placement and more would become tautologous.

Icon presents imagery through which we can examine our collective cultural understanding, the way that we attribute meaning through recognition to objects or even people through sharing and assimilation.

Scott, Clive 1999: The Spoken Image, Reaktion Books, London P.31.

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Index

Iron

In this post I am going to consider the of semiotic genre of; ‘index’ for its emphasis on semantics or the signified / signifier, denotation / connotation relationship rather than what I perceive to be the more arbitrary general aesthetic or subject classifications of ‘landscape’ and ‘people’, for example. In this post I give a brief explanation of the indexical.

When a photograph fulfils what is arguably its primary function as indexical; the signifier has a direct link to the signified, or the indexical has a direct link to the subject, such as water to wetness, smoke to fire, echoes to an initiating sound. A photograph in its simplest form, e.g. a family snaps, or as above; of a worker tending to a furnace; is typically indexical in its recording of a scene.

Philippe Dubois has picked out photography’s authenticity in contrast to the practising ‘artists’ fortes of originality, stylistic idiom, authorship etc. compared to the photographs attestation, the bearing witness to what was photographed. This is underpinned by his assertion that the ‘meaning’ of the photograph in the first instance is pragmatic rather than semantic; its primary sense is its reference. In short we can say ‘This happened’ and not ‘This means; thereby stating its indexicality rather than iconicity’. (Scott 1999)

It is worth noting that this form is often culturally specific, as can be demonstrated by principles in Chinese photography which traditionally depicts people in full length from the position of an ideal viewer and with a posed formality. This can be contrasted with the West’s ‘surrealist’ tendencies of image making. (Sontag 1977)

Sontag, Susan 1977: Photography Within The Humanities, Editors: John Morris, Eugenia Parry, Addison House Publishers, Danbury, New Hampshire  P.120.

Scott, Clive 1999: The Spoken Image, Reaktion Books, London P.31.

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Exercise Conditions

This documentary photography project about the Fire and Rescue Service. Did you know many fire and rescue operatives are ex-armed forces? Because they appreciate the camaraderie, and joined to make a difference in their community.

The service has experienced funding cuts of 30% during the course of the last parliament (2011-2015), which equates to one in eight fire-fighter jobs gone as well as stations, appliances and equipment. Another 40% are being planned. Because of its rural location, the village in which I live sometimes cannot send out its appliance as there are not enough personnel to man it. So teams from the next nearest town will respond. The fire service costs each of us £50 per year.

Whilst the number of fires attended has gone down in recent years, they are increasingly being called to other types of incident. Such as floods and road traffic collisions.

Because the service is increasingly using ‘on call’ operatives that live and work within 5 minutes of their Fire & Rescue Station. So they can be on call for up to 100 hours a week. These on call fire & rescue personnel receive about £1.20 per hour for being on call.

They will be expected to work until they are 60 however a report recognises 66% will not meet the current fitness standard. As a result many may have to leave with a pension reduced by 20% or face dismissal.

Before starting work with the Fire & Rescue Service recruits undertake an intensive training programme. This is designed to equip them with the skills they need before attending incidents. This is a documentary photography insight into that journey.

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Heavy Metal

This documentary photography gives an insight into the role of some of the people at Hargreaves iron foundry.

Iron is an element. To make castings with it, two additional compounds are required to aid the process; coke and limestone.

Hargreaves foundry has been making iron castings for over 130 years in Halifax, which was traditionally a tool making town. The process used now would still be recognisable to the Victorians.

“In the UK manufacturing was the most dominant industry in 1841 accounting for 36% of the workforce, followed closely by services at 33%. The expansion of services and decline in manufacturing meant that in 2011, 9% worked in manufacturing and 81% worked in services.” (Office for National Statistics)

They are what are known as a ‘jobbing foundry’ meaning they take on higher value large and small commissions of low volume or one off pieces. Because the job requires high levels of skill and there is a sense of pride in the castings they make. They work as a team, mindful of dangers to themselves and workmates, with the camaraderie extending beyond the ‘job’.

Despite previous downwards trend nationally – manufacturing is increasing, here and perhaps unsurprisingly, internationally. The sector is 10% of UK economy and contributes approximately £340 billion in sales.

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Dying Days

In 2011 a planning permission was granted for demolition. But the Improvement Act of 1854 to 1871 commanded the holding of a livestock market within the boundaries of the town. So as a result in January 2012 the Welsh government repealed the act effective from March 2012.

This documentary photography project shows Monmouthshires Abergavenny livestock market in its town centre location. And this is where it has been since 1863 and subsequently became the last town centre livestock market in the country. The busiest day was Tuesdays, with additional sale days on Fridays. The market closed the site in December 2013.

Because of its proximity the town centre was thriving on market days, bringing trade to the other businesses in the town. One of the markets attendees aged 91, had visited weekly for 80 years. So, many people would like to have seen the site refurbished, rather than moved out of town to a new site at Bryngwyn.

So when I write this (March 2016) the area is still waiting for Morrisons to complete the purchase of the site for a new supermarket and library.

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