Examples of relay in contemporary photographic practice include Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field (see interview in the Appendix to this course guide) where clashes of understanding or interpretation work together to create a perhaps incomplete but nonetheless enriching dialogue between artist and viewer.
Look these pieces up online. Investigate the rationale behind the pieces and see if you can find any critical responses to them. Write down your own responses in your learning log.
- How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?
- Another way to incorporate text into an image-based project is to include interviews or audio.
I have in truth slowed up a little on the course recently, in part due to work pressures but also as I try to make sense of part two. This section of the course has taken me into new areas to consider and I want to get a better grasp of the whole are of the postmodern narrative.
Looking at and reflecting on Sophie Calle’s work ‘take care of yourself’ shed some helpful light on the subject but also raised for me many questions. Being dumped by e-mail can not be a nice experience although Calle has turned this into an engaging and thought provoking piece of art. I looked at the individual components of the work as well as some images of the work as it was exhibited at the Paul Cooper gallery in New York. It was seeing the work set out on a wall that gave me some insight into this different way of working. Sending the e-mail letter to 107 women from very different walks of life and then photographing them reading it was a novel way to explore the themes the letter raises. In the photographs of the work on the walls of a gallery I had a real sense of the notion of ‘relay’ work is assembled into what at a distance looked like the maquette for a book, but its order is unclear. The viewer is left to piece together the collections of images and words. Central to the work, from my point of view, is the letter, blown up and highlighted in fluorescent pen, annotated along side the highlighting.
A sort of guided deconstruction of the artists boyfriend’s ‘Dear John’ letter. I think there is a clear sense of the absence and presence of the author simultaneously. The real point though is that the viewer must make sense of the work and although the core theme is somewhat fixed, how a narrative is assembled is left to the viewer. Factor in the viewers own biography and I suspect there will be very differing messages and interpretations drawn from the work.
Sophie Rickett’s work ‘Objects in the Field’ was very different to Calle’s work but equally engaging. Not least because i was familiar with the work of the Cambridge astronomer whose work was at the centre of Rickett’s project. Roderick Wiilsrtop was both a research astronomer and an optical engineer, perhaps part of the last group of astronomer engineers. Silstrop had previously designed and built multiple mirrored reflecting telescopes in order to achieve his scientific research goals. Ricketts uses many of his images, created on film ( a process now replaced in astronomy with CCDs) to create a different and i think diverging narrative. Willstrop work had a scientific and empirical dimension, but Rickett’s uses this almost biographically making reference to her own experience of going to the optician as a child. The final work again create a sense of relay with a mix of text, images and audio all adding up to a non linear narrative from which the view can make a wide range of interpretations.
So how do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?
Well they certainly do not possess a linear narrative, indeed in the case of Calle she creates to potential for multiple personal narratives. Text an image are juxtaposed to create some thing fundamentally different. Butler (2002) says of the post modern narrative that there is
“a disruption of any temptation to settle for a familiar world”
This is very true of callers work and although more subtle true of Ricketts work. traditional linear story telling is not present, indeed the notion of the story is somewhat illusive. The viewer decides upon an interruption of the work.
I remain uncertain about this whole area of work but i have begun to make sense of the themes both of these artists explore. i also have a very clear view of barthes concept of relay which is particularly present i think in callers ork. i will need to return to this again to create a deeper personal understanding!
Butler, C. (2002) Postmodernism-A Very Short Introduction, OUP, Oxford
Chrisafis, A. (2007) He loves me not, The Guardian- found at: www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art ( Accessed July 2016)
Rickett, S. (2014) Objects in the Field, The Photographers Gallery- Found at: s://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2014/03/19/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ ( Accessed July2016)