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Strategies and Presentation

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Arles OCA Study Visit, 2014

Sunshine, red wine, photographs, meeting new students from other countries, discussing exhibits, our work, assignments, assessment, ideas, your tutors… A lot of fun and learning was had on our recent holiday, I mean, study visit to Arles.

We had a full schedule which was too packed to unpick so I thought it might be helpful if I summarised two of the themes we returned to over our two days and something which is relevant to everyone.

Strategies and Presentation.

The two go hand in hand really but I suppose Strategies refers more to the concept of the project in mind and how you plan to execute it. Presentation comes in more towards the end, after your strategy has taken shape –  how will the work best be realised and shown off? The work isn’t over when you have finished taking the pictures.

I am picking out two exhibitions from our time in Arles that really made me think about these two things and ones I believe produced very enjoyable outcomes as a result.  We didn’t all agree so I’m happy to be questioned on my choices but to my mind both these examples show excellence in having both a strong conceptual strategy and outstanding presentation.

(Apologies for the low quality iPhone pics)

David Favrod

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The strategy Favrod employed when approaching his photographic series Hikari was to build a series of images based on a conversation he had with his Grandparents about their experiences of war in Japan. Many of their stories, which they only spoke of that night and never again, stayed in his mind and he wanted to create a response to that.  So his strategy was to build his personal interpretation of those memories into his imagery.  He did this by all sorts of methods; painting onto glass and holding it in front of a picture before rephotographing it, painting directly onto a photograph, constructing scenes, using street view, but they were all held together by his bottom line strategy.  Having a strategy which you fall back upon when making finer decisions about the work is instrumental in helping you find the direction and purpose of the work you are making. It directs you and keeps you on track. The sooner you can pinpoint it in the research stages the more you can develop and evolve your ideas without going too off piste.

photo 4

Favrod also has an interesting take on presentation. Not all the pictures are the same size or are printed in the same way.  The work still fits together though and it doesn’t become repetitive. It encourages you to look at each picture for it’s own purpose as well as seeing the wider narrative.  I would encourage you to look further at Favrod’s work and see the other strategies he has used. You can also see more installation shots on his website because apparently the work has never been shown the same twice.  Each gallery space is given unique attention.  I interviewed him here.

photo 1

Mazaccio and Drowilal

These young artists were last years winners of the BMW residency award.  They have a very humorous and clever strategy of looking at our relationship with nature. The thing that struck me first about their work was the presentation. The walls were painted in blocks of colours such as yellow and pink.  It instantly stood out and got me excited. I wanted to know what was going on and to understand where they were coming from.  The work was sometimes displayed on a shelf or like a wall-hanging in a domestic environment which paid tribute to the conceptual ideas the couple intended to portray; our relationship with nature in the everyday.

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Upstairs, installed from floor to ceiling, hung what looked like huge sheets of kitchen or toilet paper with photoshopped pictures of nudes.  It was hilarious, hard hitting, even offensive, but it was a very considered presentation decision and perfectly (and seemingly simply) delivered a punch to the viewer.

Please make sure your presentation decisions are decisions and carefully considered ones at that. When presentation starts to work with strategy the art becomes alive and your work there is done.

I hope when you are thinking about your assignments and your longer term bodies of work these two notions, strategy and presentation, come up frequently for you even if you hadn’t put a name to them. It’ll do your work the world of good.  So remember to add to your tool box – a strategy to help you know what to hang your ideas on and a presentation decision that makes the work sing.

Posted by author: Sharon
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16 thoughts on “Strategies and Presentation

  • Photography Festivals provide a unique opportunity for students to see a lot of contrasting work and compare strategies and presentational approaches.
    This weekend we have over 30 students joining us that the Brighton Photo Biennial. This is the third time we will be visiting this festival and it is no surprise that all the places have been booked.
    As advance notice , in 2015 we will be:
    At Format in Derby in March
    Back at Les Rencontres d’Arles in the first week of September
    Other festival visits may be added if there is sufficient interest.

  • I’ll certainly be keeping these aspects in mind during the Brighton visit this coming weekend. It’s good to know as well that more Festival visits are in the pipeline for next year.

  • Super ideas but I have a query: Does Favrov change the way he displays/’shows off’ his work because the audience differs from place to place or because he is experimenting with how he wants his finished work to be seen? Is there more than one ‘best presentation’?

    • That’s a really interesting question annag1611. I think it depends on the presentation… you may remember Paul Gaffney’s work in Newport? The wall hanging was very specific, different to all other presentations of that work and different again to his web-site and book. I remember Minkkenin’s work in Arles last year and the large and different sized prints, whereas in Oxford this year – where he had a (smaller) show – they were all similarly sized and in a linear similar height on the wall. It also depends on who curates: I think at Oxford the curators received a box of prints and then hung them according to their own interpretation – and they took credit for their own work on the artist’s information statement.
      Maybe in Arles the artists are more involved; I don’t know, perhaps someone else does? Whereas in other gallery spaces the work is overlaid with a curators sensibility to the work. I purposely went to see one artist’s work in three different places and it was different each time, so location affects things as well. Books, web presences are another, usually artist led production?

      • Thanks for your reply, John. What made me ask the question was the importance Sharon put on ‘presentation’ above. In Penarth, the curators decided where and how the photos were displayed in both Gaffney’s and Iwanowsky’s exhibitions and they created quite different impressions on me, so the way the artist is received & his work interpreted, is determined by someone else. Gaffney’s work in Penarth also differed in its physical presentation/appearance: in terms of size & relative height from the floor, flat canvass or canvas recessed in a deep wooden frame, so the way the artist presented his work was different from photo to photo in the same exhibition.

  • This is true. Curators have their own special place in the art world 😉 However as students (and as artists) you are playing both roles when it comes to how you want your work to be seen for assessment / exhibitions. So I was encouraging you to think carefully about these things so you work is best received. Many artists will work in collaboration with curators to ensure their message comes across as best it can. Curators also want this of course, but the work may be part of a wider show so decisions for all the work is considered in this case.

  • To me it was certainly helpful to have the “Strategies and Presentation” focus during the exhibition visit in Arles – the potentially overwhelming impact of so many different visual impressions could be put into perspective by this guiding theme…. what I found most interesting this year in Arles were the exchanges how different we all reacted to the various styles and artists – (and sometimes seemed to unanimously agree, as with finding the Favrod exhibition captivating , which was also good to see!).
    For Mazaccio and Drowilal’s photography I still have only a tired shrug. (Who will be interested in their art in 10 years’ time?) Focusing on their presentation made it at least interesting rather than irritating….My discovery and highlight of the whole festival – Spanish photographer Chema Madoz – on the other hand did not seem to strike anybody else stunningly extraordinary.
    The playful way we wandered through the “Prix Decouverte 2014” exhibition to find “our” gold medalists will be unforgettable to me – just because the opinions were so varied and nobody was more right than anybody else. There the incredibly different ways artists presented their images could be studied in a most concentrated way….
    Since I do not have as many opportunities to meet and discuss things with others, the Arles study trip may be even more valuable to me than to OCA students living in England who are able to meet on a much more regular basis. This visit – apart from all the fun we had – has certainly taught me a lot about giving careful thought to strategy and presentation of my own work.

  • Agree with the theme aspect of the visit Mirjam. I thought that the pace of the two days was good as well – we saw a lot, but not so much as to be overwhelming. I think what made it even better for me, having never been to Arles before were the venues – from the vast engineering sheds to old churches.
    There was much to enjoy (including Mr Madoz) and much to ponder on (including my own reaction to some of the works!)
    The medallist exercise was very good (I’m still convinced I was “rightest” though)

  • I got a lot out of Brighton this weekend & will be writing up a blog about it soon. Making contact with other students was a huge bonus because, thanks to Vicky, I now have a strategy to review my exhibitions which will cut out much of my dithering before I sit down to it. I also greatly appreciated the very positive time I had with Clive & the others in my group to review the work we had brought along. Sadly, the 5 hours’ drive home to the South West on Sunday afternoon has made me more than hesitant to repeat the experience to attend the Derby day in March. The photography exhibits varied, as always, on a sliding scale from debatable / questionable (Cranford & Cross : Aluminium substrate palimpsest) to complex & totally engrossing from a curatorial & content point of view ( Amore e Piombo – Italy in the mid 1970’s). Thanks to all those who had a hand in organising it.

  • Over the past few weeks I have slowly become more aware of “Strategies and Presentation”. Sadly I missed Arles but will pencil it in for next year, our Thames Valley Group addressed this issue recently with first class contributions from John and Keith and of course, the weekend at Brighton gave me an opportunity to look at a whole range of strategies for presentation. I even have a few ideas for my next assignment.
    To those students who have not yet attended a study visit or festival, I can thoroughly recommend it. Just realising you are not alone, that others have the same concerns and questions and there is a wealth of help and experience just waiting to be accessed is invaluable.

  • A good summation of a great study visit and thank you Sharon! I really enjoyed both Arles and also last weekend in Brighton. I would certainly encourage other photography students to go on a study visit, it helps me enormously to meet other students on the same courses, to discuss our common experiences, I really enjoy meeting up with the tutors too and I find it really encouraging that they are just like us (just a little further ahead!). I love the range of work we get to review and to see the variety of approaches and styles, there is always something to take away that I can use in my own practice.
    I really couldn’t pick one piece of work at Arles but I did think that Mazaccio & Drowilal was irreverent and funny, I thought it poked fun at the art world and at art as a commodity too, the fact that some of their limited edition work are large scale prints of what is basically toilet paper makes for an interesting metaphor and I loved the sunset photographs, my favourite was She’s out of my Life. I also thought it was interesting that this exhibition did two things almost simultaneously – it made us laugh out loud and it drew quite a heated reaction too which caused a good debate and discussion.
    Afterwards I was thinking that their work had something in common with Duchamp’s Fountain in the way it challenges the concept of what is art, what is worthy of showing in a gallery etc (and we are still talking about him!), even the kind of mythology that grows up around artists, I read somewhere that this was their concept behind the series of photographs showing Mazaccio’s index finger.
    There is a good interview with here if your interested

  • I wasn’t able to go to Arles this year—but it’s in the calendar for 2015! The exhibits, the time spent with other students discussing work, assignments and general chit-chat; and the opportunity to corner tutors—makes these visits so worth while. Thanks for Brighton Angela, Clive, Gareth, Jesse, Russell and Sharon!

    • Not yet Vicki – We are waiting for the talks programme to be announced as we think two days of just looking is pretty tough and that an appropriate talk breaks up the weekend.

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