Age of the image
When I started tutoring at the OCA, I was keen to talk to more experienced tutors to find out how they broached complex ideas with mature students who might be returning to education and also engaging with contemporary art for the first time. I remember one tutor telling me that he sometimes wrote ‘as artists, we’re not decorating the world.’ It’s a good point – art and, by association, image making – does something more complex and profound It’s part of an ongoing shifting conversation about how the world is affected by, or reflected, in works of art.
It’s therefore important for all art students to explore and understand the potency of images. A good deal of that rests on understanding the way that image-making has changed and been changed, by whom, and to what purpose. It’s a complex subject with technology, psychology, politics, science, and artistic vision all playing their part.
In a new four part BBC series art historian Dr James Fox tracks a good deal of those changes with a wealth of examples from painting, film, theatre, photography, television and so on. After only two episodes, it’s clear that this series offers a great chance for students to learn about the issues that surround images and image-making in a stimulating and wide-reaching way.
In the second episode – Power Games – Fox starts his account with ‘all images are political, but some are more political than others’. Over the hour long programme he talks about how the Nazis deployed groundbreaking (and still influential) documentary techniques to promote their vile ideology while Marlene Dietrich was challenging gender stereotypes. He moves onto the way that comic books influenced American attitudes in the run up to them engaging in World War II (was Superman Jewish?). There’s even an early version of ‘photoshopping’ an image that ought to fascinate any journalist or photography student.
In summary, if you get the chance to catch this series (at the moment it only appears to be available to UK based BBC licence holders, but it may yet appear on other networks. I hope so, as it has a lot to say. It goes without saying that if you do watch this, it would make a great entry in your learning logs as ‘further research’.