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Go Away Closer

Dayanita Singh - Go Away Closer
“I called the image Go Away Closer. The words formed in my mind the moment I made the photograph. Go Away Closer is what happens between people: I can’t live with you, I can’t live without you. It could be another way of describing love. It’s also what happens with photography – you try desperately to hold on to something, but the moment you take the photograph it’s already in the past.”
This is Indian photographer Dayanita Singh talking in the Guardian about her favourite photograph. Go Away Closer is also the title of Dayanita Singh’s show at the Hayward Gallery and which will form the basis of an OCA study visit on Saturday 7 December. The visit will be led by tutors Clive White and Robert Enoch, the visit will be a revelation to many OCA photography students, but is an absolute must-see for those interested in the photobook and artists’ books more generally.
Places are free for OCA students, to reserve a place email enquiries@oca-uk.com


Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
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39 thoughts on “Go Away Closer

  • Why a revelation Gareth? I can’t make it but I’d be interested to know. Is it simply the idea that photos don’t need to be hung on a gallery wall? I’ll understand if you feel answering here will dilute the experience for those who can attend.

    • Oh dear, probably guilty of hyperbole there Nigel. What I was trying to get over is that Dayanita’s work is possibly not as well known as it should be.

    • Something Singh has done is to create her own “museums” which are bookcase like constructions into which prints can be slipped, a system that allows for the images to be shifted around if required. These images can be read from side to side or up and down.
      This seems characteristic of Singh’s work … a playfulness that allows the viewer a certain amount of freedom in what they choose to see in a body of work. Gone is the rigid sequencing so evident in the pages of a book.
      Trust I am not spoiling anything for the viewer in advance! It might actually help to understand that Singh’s work is highly original and quite different to much that is ordinarily seen in galleries.

    • My initial revelations—after the visit:
      Constant re-editing and reappraising of one’s work is essential; non-intended sub-conscious themes running through work can be discovered through this process; arranging different images from different projects next to each other can create different ‘conversations’; layout and format of photo books deserve a close look and careful consideration—the idea of shooting with the final output/format in mind.
      Still working on my account for my blog…

  • There’s nothing ‘obvious’ about Diyanita Singh’s photography. I would say, she is a conceptually driven photographer yet she doesn’t appear to be, because there’s the intimacy of a personally felt vision about her work not a rationale.
    One of the prominent issues brought up by Singh’s work is context. She makes books and actually calls herself a ‘bookmaker’. A book and a gallery exhibition are both self-contained contexts. It is worth considering how we often view images through the media – they are often mixed with other images, texts and the spoken word in a random and haphazard way.
    If you can see her books before the exhibition (the British Library has some) you will be rewarded. “Sent a Letter” is a box set of seven small books. Each book opens out in accordion fashion to create a miniature exhibition representing a journey, either made with a friend of with someone specific in mind. The photographs are not so much a narrative record of a journey or place, as salient and specific memories shaped by, and implicating a relationship. There is something unpretentious about her views of the ‘everyday’ that lifts them to the level of contemplation.

  • Robert Enoch suggested I post this quote from Aveek Sen; it seems to me to encapsulate what Dayanita is doing …
    “To want to create literature yet wish to be spared the use of words, to address someone yet keep that gesture silent, to crave the power of words yet want to elude them, to arouse the mind but feed the eye is to live out the paradox of a photographer who keeps moving beyond the making of pictures towards the making of books.”

  • I missed the study visit but went earlier and found the exhibition hugely interesting and thought-provoking. Some thoughts here.

  • This is evocative, cinematic, atmospheric, poetic, intimate and yet also personal work. The Museum of Chance was about as close to cinema as photography can get. One student said, ‘It is like a series of glimpses.’
    The form of display enhanced the cinematic experience, as another student noted, ‘The eyes can’t help moving around and creating new sequences.’
    It can be difficult for photography to be an adequate container of Life and in recent years we’ve seen so much concentration on singular themes in photography. But Dayanita manages to juggle the complexity of universality and intimate subjectivity in a very satisfying way.

    • For me the end wall in the first room – the cloud of pictures – had that cinematic quality. The museums were very physical structures, with all that heavy dark wood. On first viewing at least this got in the way of my experience of the pictures. They looked very Indian in design to me, and I think that and their physical presence is an interesting quality in itself – there’s nothing digitally intangible and internationally neutral in this work. But it did make it hard for me to concentrate on the pictures and in that sense didn’t feel cinematic. I hope to be able to get back for another look this weekend, to see if my impression changes on second viewing.

  • This is what happens when you’re a photographer taking photographs and not designing the packaging before you have a product to put in it; the singular, critically convenient, themes that Robert refers to.
    I hope that it illuminated the idea for students that reviewing one’s ever growing archive from time to time is an important part of reflective practice and that presentation is ‘read’ in combination with the imagery.
    Also with the increasing popularity and ease of one off photo book production one doesn’t have to go the generic route and crafting one’s own is not an option that should be dismissed as too onerous.
    On Sunday morning I was presented with a small completed concertina book full of images that had been produced while I snoozed in front of the TV after the study visit, so there’s nothing stopping you!

    • About the concertina book, some questions and requests:
      1. Please post a photo somewhere—you can blur the snoozing photos if you wish!
      2. Was it printed on one continuos piece of paper—or extended by gluing?
      3. Was it done on photo paper or ‘normal’ paper?
      4. Is there a photo paper that you would recommend that can handle folding without ‘breaking’? I tried it on a piece of Hahnemulle Photo Rag when I got home—because I felt it would be firm enough to stand and liked the ‘organic’ texture. But the surface ‘broke’ along the folds.

      • Hi Vicki, I am feeling quite book orientated atm too! I noticed Dayanita Singh’s concertinas had joins, just the one per book that I could see , it was on one of the folds, with about 1cm overlap only visible on the back. I could only see it because of its shadow not allowing so much light through the paper. I was looking for it to see how she’d got the paper length.
        Hope that helps.
        Anne

        • Anne
          That does help—thank you. I failed to see the join even though I was studying them so closely. Was tempted to pick one up when the guard was out of sight—but too timid! Did manage to touch it though, and get a feel for the weight and texture of the paper. Going to have to get me one of those plastic things for scoring and folding paper—and watch more youtube videos!

        • Hope this ends up in the right place, answering Vicki – yes they look fine, actually it adds to the hand made quality as long as it’s done with precision. My eyes are shot but the ones at the exhibition looked to me as if they’d been mounted on but I stand to be corrected, as does my vision!

        • This is not going to end up in the right place—the reply thread looks like it is exhausted! Responding to Clive and comments about hand-made quality—I’ll try and be precise when doing it. I like the idea of the hand-made one-off—too much reading of Benjamin, Berger and ‘aura’ and mechanical reproduction!

      • Hahaha they weren’t pictures of me! They were some of Dani’s pictures from her city project printed several up, trimmed out and pasted on to a concertina made from a roll of thick Fabriano drawing paper that happened to be lying around and which was big enough to make the whole concertina from. At first impression I wondered where she’d bought the blank book from!

        • Such disappointment! Thought we were in for a treat! If I understand you correctly—the images were trimmed and placed in separately—and it still looked good?

  • Vicki, on your bookmaking questions: I attended a short bookmaking course run by London Independent Photography. To get a smooth edge you need to find the grain of the paper and fold with it, rather than against it. You can test for the grain by folding paper horizontally and vertically very loosely and seeing which way has more resistance. The paper that was recommended and used is cartridge paper, though other decorative papers can be used. I seem to recall being warned against coated papers such as photographic ones because the coating makes folding difficult but I think something like a a light cotton rag paper might be worth trying.
    Prints can be incorporated into such books either by using some form of transfer method directly onto the paper or by mounting the pictures. There are almost always joins as it is impossible to get sufficiently long paper not to need to add at some point unless the book is just a couple of pages.
    This method works quite well for small intimate books. For larger undertakings you could use card – as we are doing for our continent-crossing collaborative project on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/groups/ocarts/discuss/72157634844300249/ There are some wider discussions of conceryina books on that thread, including Trent Parke’s $10,000 variation.

    • Thanks Eileen! I think I am going to mount mine this time—and try a continuous print that I fold in the future. Will have a look at the flickr link and look for Trent Parke’s one too!

    • Thanks Clive. Have had a brief look at the site. They don’t specifically offer leporello—but they should be worth contacting. Other courses I have looked at don’t offer it either—so if there is demand, someone might be willing to take it up. Failing that, I should be able to learn skills from them that I can transfer…

    • Had a look around there during the Hackney WickED Art Festival this summer, looked good, a hive of activity. Dani made a note to do one of their courses at the time and mentioned it again a couple of weeks ago so it had recently been at the forefront of my mind.
      There’s quite an artists community around there, lots of multiple occupation studio spaces.

  • It does look like an interesting place Clive – thanks for the link. Vicki – the courses on basic bookbinding techniques include concertina books. I think this technique is probably always taught alongside the other core methods.

  • Umberto Eco writes in his “A Photograph” (Travels in Hyperreality, 1986) that human experience is “filtered” through already seen images (photography, cinema, TV, the media etc). This notion of a collective memory becomes workable through the personal archives Dayanita works with, and I think results in the multiple interpretations or “readings” that Eddy, Helen and others have written about.

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