Ponderings – Is it All About the Images?

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Which is What? Does making an installation that sits in place mean there’s no photo impact?

When I started working in virtual reality spaces seven years ago one of my first large scale virtual environments was an icy landscape with castles, polar bears and seals. I invited Bettina Tizzy along to see my installation. She was, at that time, the arbiter of all artworks that would succeed or not in the virtual world Second Life.

Bettina gave me some advice that has stayed with me ever since. She said when she looked at an installation, all she was really seeking was the perfect image with that WOW factor that would make people stop and read about the work on her blog.

I’ve watched lots of people taking photos of my installation at Floating Land. I’ve taken hundreds of photos myself, and I realize the problems they were facing. Not much to blog about there.

One of the things I liked was how the lines of the chairs echoed the lines in the inlet

One of the things I liked was how the lines of the chairs echoed the lines in the inlet

It was almost impossible to get a good image of the whole installation, in place, in the inlet, because the light was always out there on the lake and you were looking out from a dark place into the light. When the light did reach the inlet it was dappled, and never as bright as the lake beyond.

I’d specifically wanted the installation to be part of the place. It was a response to the lines, colours and form that made up the little inlet, and it fitted in so perfectly that it merged into the background and was difficult to photograph.

Blending in to the place might be good, but it doesn't make for great images.

Blending in to the place might be good, but it doesn’t make for high impact images.

At night, unless you had a tripod and a good camera it was difficult to get good images of the videos projected onto the installation. There were not enough lumens in my small projectors for the video on most cameras to work happily.

People want to be able to take photographs of the works in a festival like Floating Land. They want the perfect image to put up on Facebook to say ‘I was here! And it was Amazing!’ So, is making a work that is not photogenic at odds with what the audience wants? Works that slip quietly into place don’t seem to feature in images, but do they have another impact?

At the end of the festival all that’s left is the memory and the images. As an artist I’m hoping that, for people who saw my work, the memory is stronger than the images. I’m not sure that’s going to be enough. Does making work that is not photogenic mean you are sidelined in the documentation and forgotten quickly? I don’t think so. How does one take images of the amazing sounds made by Linsey Pollack or the sound installation of Lenni Semmelink? But….there’s a need to a visual artist to make an impact.

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Responding to and merging with place might be good, but it doesn’t make for high impact images.

It’s not enough to make me change the way I work, but it’s a question I will ask myself if i  am part of a festival like this in the future. What is success?

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4 thoughts on “Ponderings – Is it All About the Images?

  1. I am not biased because you are a close friend, but I found the imagery of the installation quite spiritual, it touched me as none of the other works at the festival. I loved the images that you have in this blog and to me you achieved all that you set out to do.

  2. I understand your dilemma Judy but I feel the work you presented on this occasion was one of a gentle and sympathetic becoming one with the site. It seems that others very much enjoyed it for that reason. There is a certain amount of humility in presenting works such as this that do not smack you in the face and scream look at me…..by the same token the visuals I have seen of the projections were stunning and impact making and both my partner and myself were blown away by the feelings they evoked. I am sorry I only got to enjoy this work from a distance and on a 2D medium but I did enjoy it very much…..Jo

    • Thanks for your kind words Jo. As I said to Di, I don’t think it will change my approach, as it didn’t in virtual space, but it’s food for thought. Glad you’ve enjoyed being along for the project. Will be putting up some more images and signing off on it soon. On to the next ……..

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