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Reflection: Where does documentary end and art begin?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

In understanding my practice I have had to ask questions such as where does documentary end and art begin? This question was easy to answer several years ago, but no I find myself flirting with these two distinct areas in different ways.  Artists such as Luc Delahaye blur the distinctions further (interestingly his work is one of my personal favourites).  I personally think that as I regularly interact with the space in front of the lens, then my practice fits more comfortably within an art context, however, I mostly present a documentation of what I have been performing/constructing etc, so the relationship is inherently more complex.  When you document something there is an implied relationship to the truth, although this can be heavily scrutinised in an era where “to photoshop” is a verb.  This uncomfortable association with the notion of truth is one of the defining practices of documentarians, where as artists seem skilful and intentional at lying or bending the truth to suit their aims and objectives.  

Using people and situations

Posted on by Ben Hodson

As an artist in the tradition of Jeremy Deller, I have been using people and situations as a medium.  I view my role as an artist, as the instigator/facilitator. Deller's practice is based around the bringing together of concepts, projects, mediums and he regularly breaks conventions, works cross platform and cross media. My own practice is similarly varied, and I have been learning free myself from the constraints of traditional art practices.

Reflection: Jeremy Deller in relation to my work.

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I claim not to be a politically motivated artist, however, most of my current work involves engaging with themes of war, social injustice/inequality and social regeneration, which are highly political.  When Jeremy Deller was interviewed by the New Museum about his Iraqi project “It is What It Is” ,   “… he strenuously asserts that this isn't a political project—to which you might well ask, What could be more political than selecting which voices will represent Iraq to an information-hungry public?" Ben Davis, 09.  Deller too does not primarily seem driven by a political agenda, he instead simply attempts to “encourage conversations about our world” Deller J, 09.  In a similar way, my work does not intend to preach, rather open the doors to dialogue and engagement with difficult subjects.  I went to see Deller’s retrospective show at the Hayward Gallery and sat down with an Iraqi artist, Bassim Mehdi as part of the project.  The project attempted to create a dialogue around Iraq as a subject. Deller originally toured the exhibition across America with a number of objects including a bombed out car, an Iraqi civilian and an American Marine. 

Reflection: Using people and situations as a medium?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I now see myself as an artist in the tradition of Jeremy Deller, Since pursuing a higher level of reflection and development in my practice while studying for this MA, I have begun to use people and situations as a medium.  I view my role as an artist, as the instigator/facilitator.  Deller’s practice is based around the bringing together of concepts, projects, mediums and he regularly breaks conventions, works cross platform and cross media. My own practice is similarly varied, and I have been learning to free myself from the constraints of traditional art practices.

Primary Research - It is what it is - Jeremy Deller

Posted on by Ben Hodson

Jeremy Deller's work "It is what it is" is one of the most important works for my research, so when a retrospective came to the Hayward Gallery, I made an effort to spend some time at it.  As part of the work, Deller wanted people to start a dialogue around the subject of Iraq.  I spent a length of time with Bassim Mehdi, who is the director of the Iraqi Artists Institute.  We have subsequently developed a relationship and we are looking at working together in the future. 

Luc Delahaye, further thoughts

Posted on by Ben Hodson

 

In understanding my practice as someone who uses photography and video, I have had to ask questions such as where does documentary end and art begin? This question seemed easy to answer several years ago, but now I find myself dipping into these two distinct areas in different ways.  Artists such as Luc Delahaye blur the distinctions further (it is worth noting his work is one of my personal favourites). “Delahaye's big pictures ask more questions than they answer about the increasingly blurred line between reportage and art, the importance of scale, and the tangible sense of detachment that characterises a certain strand of contemporary photography.” Sean O'Hagan guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 9 August 2011 09.00 BST

The Deutch Borse prize winner is a photojournalist and artist. His large format   works blur the lines between reportage and fine art. I find both how he has been accepted in the art world and the scale of his work interesting. Delahaye has long crossed the line between photojournalist and artist. The scale at which his prints are reproduced and the high quality result that he obtains from the medium/large format photography gives the viewer a reaction which is more profound then the usual journalistic image. His work makes me start to question the nature and genre of my own work.  

 

Reflection: Cross medium like Jimmy Robert?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

The majority of the final major project lies in a more performative space.  The act of going to Iraq and putting on an exhibition is more important to me then the actual content of what I exhibited or the shots of the installation.  The act of painting messages of peace on the side of an Iraqi mountain is more important then the brush strokes themselves or the images and video which show the event.  I don’t consider myself a performance artist, however, I do take inspiration from artists, like Jimmy Robert, who also work across mediums, using photography, film, collage, video and performance. He is big on layering and the re-appropriation of other artist’s works, which in itself becomes another layering technique.  His work can be read on many levels and as the artforum writes: “mercurial practice resists speedy parsing”. Editor, ArtFourm 2012.  As my practice develops I find myself developing the concept first and deciding on the medium second.

It is what it is: conversations about Iraq

Posted on by Ben Hodson

Jeremy Deller put the project together to encourage conversation about our world. The porject is a corner stone of the context for which I create my work and Deller's approach is one of the most inspiring and relevant to my practice.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/apr/14/jeremy-deller-iraq-war-us

The invasion of Iraq, and the continuing occupation, is that kind of war, too. It has released something in art: a rage, a sense of purpose, or perhaps just an extreme nihilism. Two years ago, in a London gallery, I could have sworn I had travelled back to the dada protests that rocked Berlin in 1919. Cardboard figures of US soldiers paraded through a scene spliced together from images of Iraq's war dead. These grotesque, but real, fragments had been found on websites and collaged into a furious installation by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn. The pulverised bodies, photographed by soldiers for reasons that are hard to fathom, were barely recognisable as human.

Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, Tues 14th April 2009.

 

For videos I have watched about Deller's ambitious project follow this link:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5995B9C929F40D7D

Artist: Thomas Hirschhorn

Posted on by Ben Hodson

 

As I look at war artists, I have come across the passionate work by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn.  This peice here was shown in the Tate Modern is a politically charged sculpture which comments on the challenges and fragility of everything surrounding the Iraq conflict.

 

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hirschhorn-drift-topography-t11885/text-summary

Hirschhorn creates monumental works from the basest of materials. Cardboard, foil, paper and plastic are bound together with tape, in an apparently casual fashion, to form works that are all the more powerful for their obvious instability. In Drift Topography, a ring of US soldiers surround and stand guard over a densely built-up, fenced-in territory. The soldiers themselves, and the weapons they brandish, are larger than life-sized cardboard cutouts. The landscape they guard is equally unstable – a city built from boxes, card, cotton wool and aluminum foil. Vast quantities of generic brown packing-tape hold the whole structure together. Political and historically significant books line the makeshift streets, alongside rows of plastic petrol cans. Paper billboards bear Arabic script enlarged from newspapers, and the bold text of truncated headlines – ‘war’, ‘power’, ‘humanitarian’, ‘globalization’ – are plastered over every surface, echoing the overuse of such terms by the press to the extent of virtual meaninglessness. Over it all, gigantic mushrooms rise out of the centre of the system, evoking nuclear clouds as much as thriving mutant fungi.

Tate.org.uk Accessed May 2012

Artist: Ben Slow

Posted on by Ben Hodson

The more I look at artists who engage with a strong notion of social responsibility, the more I get drawn to contemporary street artists.  Ben Slow is known for large murals in public spaces.  This image here depicts a English Defence League (EDL) member and a member of an extreme Muslim sect.  This image is interesting to me and my work, in scale, content and subject.  A lot of my work is Luton based and having the leader of the EDL come from Luton and a number of the extreme Muslim groups are local as well.

Exhibition: Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I went to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Tate Modern.  As one of the foremost Japonese artists, she is best known for her dots.  This installation, involving mirrors and lights, was both disoreintating and wonderfully emmersive.  Again, I am struck by the presence and scale of installation works and it makes me want to look at persuing some of my own.

Artist: Jeff Wall

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I have been looking at one of my long term favorite artists: Jeff Wall.  These videos from the White Cube website demonstrate some of his work methodologies.

http://whitecube.com/channel/in_the_studio_1/jeff_wall_in_the_studio_part_i/

http://whitecube.com/channel/in_the_studio_1/jeff_wall_in_the_studio_part_ii/

Modernist Photographers

Posted on by Ben Hodson

In photography masters such as Alfred Stieglitz are closely associated with modernism.  Stieglitz’s photograph “The Steerage” is often sited as the first modernist photograph.  As a gallery owner and avid photographer, he was a prominent figure in the acceptance of photography as art.  In modernism, there are only a select few who are associated with the development of ideas and practices in the medium of photography.  The cubist and dadaist inspired photogram experiments of Christian Schad had in turn inspired the American born, Man Ray.   Man Ray pushed the creative and technical possibilities of this process which he dubbed “rayographs”.  Through his famous photograms, Man Ray became recognised as a major international influence and was associated with artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. Like László Maholy-Nagy, Man Ray started out using paint and even sculpture instead of the photographic process. However, he soon went onto push the boundaries of light manipulation and is now recognised as one of the great masters of the photographic medium. It is interesting that Maholy-Nagy claimed that he discovered the photogram without knowing the works of either Man Ray or Christian Schad.  The modernist idea of what a piece of art depicts becoming essentially a lie, becomes even more interesting when you relate this to photography. This concept interests me as in my own practice, especially in regards to camera/lens based work. My work changes between a documentary approach and a more constructed or manipulated one. The debate around the subject “does the camera lie?” is most eloquently discussed around these modernist ways of thinking and concepts.

Modern Painters: Iraq Special

Posted on by Ben Hodson

Click on the image for images of the issue.

Through a tutorial with Nigel Grimmer, he advised me about this issue of modern painters, which centred on artists that had engaged with the war in Iraq.  A lot of the artist's and series of works I had already come across but it was great to see an almost "retrospective" of art work made for this subject.  Also the front image was an original peice by Martha Rosler, that was comissioned for the issue.

Artist: Jeremy Deller

Posted on by Ben Hodson

As a large amount of my research is concentrating on Iraq, war and artist intervention I was recomended to look at the artist Jeremy Deller.

In particular I have been looking at a project of his called: It is What It Is: Conversations about Iraq.  The project attempted to create a dialogue around Iraq a s a subject.  Jeremy toured with a number of objects including a bombed out car (Video below).

More information can be found here: http://www.conversationsaboutiraq.org/index.php

All content belongs to :http://www.jeremydeller.org/

Exhibition Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I went to visit the recent exhibition by photographer Simon Norfolk.  The work is presented as a collaboration between the artist and a 19th century artist John Burke.  This "collaboration" presents both Burkes orignal works alongside Norfolk's contemporary work.

Quote from Tate website:

"Norfolk’s photographs reimagine or respond to Burke’s Afghan war scenes in the context of the contemporary conflict."

I found this interesting juxtaposition of new and old engaging.  Especially as I have been looking at some of the early context of photography and its relationship to overseas travel.  Also it plays into my research based around the ideas of photography and its role in war and social change.

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Posted on by Ben Hodson

“Guernica” Pablo Picasso 1937 Oil on Canvas

My research of other historical and contemporary artists has centered on specific individuals who attempted to use visual art to bring about positive change.  When looking into visual artists who had a big influence on society, it is impossible to ignore the influence of Pablo Picasso.  Specifically in his painting “Guernica” the artist intended to draw attention to the atrocities of war, in particular the aerial bombardment of the Spanish village of Guernica.   

The Spanish rulers commissioned Picasso to create a large mural for the Paris International exposition, as part of the world fair in Paris 1937.  He had already begun work on this commission when the bombing took place.  He scrapped his original work and began to create this provocative monochromatic image.  It was heralded as the painting which allowed the world to awaken to the horrible events of the Spanish civil war.  As an anti-war symbol it was particularly successful in catching the public’s attention.  This was to do with the new style of aerial bombardment that the German Luftwaffe squadron employed.  The world was becoming aware of the inevitable breakout of European war and this was the first time the devastating potential of this new style of warfare was seen. 

Picasso never fully explained the work or associated symbolism.  There are a number of conflicting theories which surround the work and what it has contributed to change in world history.  It is therefore hard to determine or quantify exactly what impact the work has had.    It is clear that this is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world and it appears to have galvinised public opinion against the ideologies of war, both past and present.