“Like water in water”

To be able to see water, you must be able to unsee it first. The longer you look at moving water, the more your vision is seduced by the blinking illusions that roll around and reflect off its surface. Your eyeballs become lost amid the colourful alternations of light and dark, fleeting shapes that morph and interchange. The moment you catch a crackling of sunlight on its surface, it has already danced off and dissolved into some dark shape that swims away into the body of water.

In this continuously moving way, water is nothing but the reflections and refractions of its surroundings; it flirts with shapes, yet has no shape, it knows no boundary between the trees and the sky, or you and the person standing next to you.

Collecting textures that suggest water and taking influence from digitally simulated water, I am developing a technique using paint and inkjet-photo-transfer that suggest characteristics of water such as reflection, refraction, fluidity and illusion. I think we can learn from water’s reflections to see the world from a different, more fluid and continuous, perspective. By moistening the way we think and we can lubricate those tight structures that construct our reality.

Shrouded in a pale cloud.

Mist formed on the lightly sloping hill ahead. Or was it just clouds venturing low? I could see my breath as I breathed out, observing, as it trickled out of my mouth and disappeared into the mist ahead; similar in texture, paleness and opacity. My line of vision had made it seem as though they had become one, however the perspective was misleading, and in fact the mist was much further away, and my breath fell close to my face.

Every time I walked towards the mist I was never able to reach it. Perhaps I was within it. Perhaps, if I were to look at myself, standing here, from further away, I might see a person shrouded in a pale cloud.

 

Dusk’s Deceptions

The sun, now only showing its brow was seeping red over the line of horizon. The dark trees sprawled their branches into the sky, competing to stand out from the sun’s rays, only to become blotchy and out of focus. The thin layer of mist further hazed the foreground of the grass with the trees and the sky. The layers overlapped, merging the differences in depth, somewhere far away.

The power of the photograph: more reliable, strong, convenient.

The little photo goes and sits next to the distant memory, jolting it, encouraging it to shine a bit brighter. They sit next to one another like old friends holding hands and reminiscing together. The photo tells a story, and the memory replies back to that story with its own. They become closer and as their stories begin to intertwine and overlap, so do they. In a tangled embrace the photo becomes absorbed by the memory, imprinting itself onto it, sinking its claws and teeth deep inside, and stepping in. They become inseparable, they become one.

 

By Calypso Keane

 

The Most Photographed Barn in America

The old humble barn that sits in front of the grand Teton range is a beautiful sight. Many gather there to take photographs and see the story it tells of the history of the Mormon settlers. It is famously known as The Most Photographed Barn in America. Over the years the number of visitors has increased, and huge crowds of tourists started to swarm around the barn. Complaints had started coming in saying that having travelled far and wide visitors didn’t expect to be standing behind hundreds of people. In response, the Park People asked the barn if it would hold up a photo of itself on a stick so that the visitors at the back would be able to see. At first the visitors were unsure, but soon even the ones at the front were looking at the picture of the barn instead of the barn; it was bigger and had close ups, and was in high definition. It was working well and visitors were appearing more satisfied on the barn’s website than they had before. Comments mentioned that visitors were happy that they could see close ups of the barn, and that their expectations for taking photographs were almost always met – advice from others included that it was not necessary to go to photograph the barn during the early hours of dawn because the photograph that the barn held up of itself had a ‘very nice’ sunset in it which one could capture at any time of day. People were so distracted by the larger photo the barn held up of itself that little had they noticed that the barn’s arms were bowing at the weight of the pictures, and it was looking old, and tired. One evening, a powerful storm struck and the barn’s arms snapped, sending the pictures plummeting through its roof. The barn destroyed and unsalvageable, the Park People worried that the public would scrutinise them for neglect, or be upset that the heap of a barn had not met their expectations. The Park People decided they would print larger photos of the barn that they could set in front of the ruin and hide it. To ensure meeting everyone’s expectations, the photo would contain a combination of sunsets and sunrises from different photographs of the barn so as to give a fair representation of what it could be like. They made the mountains look even larger so as to account for being printed on a two dimensional surface, and they made the barn look older and ‘extra humble’ so that the HD printing didn’t make it look too grand. The Park People put this photo up, obscuring the ruin, and once again people’s expectations were met. More happy comments on the barn’s website came in from visitors saying that their photos they had taken on their visit, matched the ones they’d seen online.

As technology improved, the photograph was reinstalled onto a digital screen. The photo now shone down onto the faces of its spectators, shrouding their faces in light. It also beamed out to the rest of the world so others could see what the barn looked like from far, far away. This was most convenient for people who wanted to visit the barn but couldn’t. It was also convenient for the Park People because it worked out as an advert to encourage people from further a far to come and see it, bringing in more tourists.

The barn behind the screen was never refurbished as they worked out it would be more efficient to spend money on improving the screen spectacle. The Park People tweaked the appearance of the barn until it sparkled in humbleness. They made the sky so dynamic that it was almost apocalyptic. They made the mountains so mighty that they didn’t just tower over the barn, but towered over the visitors too. Critics said it was like a Hollywood poster, nevertheless tourists continued to stream in.

 

By Calypso Keane

 

 

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I first read about The Most Photographed Barn in America in Don DeLillo’s book White Noise. The character in the book, Murray, observes people observing and photographing the barn. DeLillo observes Murray observing the observed phenomenon, which the reader then observes. Murray claims that it becomes impossible to see the barn after having seen the signs to the barn. The barn is no longer a barn, but becomes the sign of a barn – it is no longer used as a barn, but visited and viewed as a barn. In John Urry’s book The Tourist Gaze he talks about how places are gazed upon by huge numbers of tourists and end up becoming fake versions of themselves. How tourism “is a kind of contemporary pilgrim[age], seeking authenticity in other ‘times’ and other ‘places’”. To cope with mass tourism “the people being observed… construct backstages… [and] “staged authenticity” to please the tourist (Urry, p9, 1990). Images produced by the media and language used, show the public specific ideas of what is authentic. Local people must then meet these expectations and exaggerate their own culture through staged authenticity. The exaggeration increases as more images are produced, and the word authentic becomes repeatedly reused as if to prove authenticity because what is shown to be authentic, is not authentic anymore: the word destroyed its own meaning and authenticity no longer exists. Everything becomes a copy of itself: “emptied of meaning, a thoroughly commercialised cliché” (Urry, p11, 1990)… which is what has happened to the barn.

Anyway, it turns out the barn doesn’t just exist in DeLillo’s White Noise, but in real life too. The ‘real’ Most Photographed Barn in America is a cluster of barns on an old Mormon homestead that sits in front of the Teton Range in Wyoming. I’m not entirely sure which one came first – presumably the book, or if the book influenced the fame of this barn in Wyoming?

Real Extract from a blog I read about the barn in Wyoming:

“Later, a man and a woman with two small boys who were dressed alike appeared at the barn to be photographed in front of it. I want to believe the picture is for their Christmas card but only they know their reasons for being there.The Moulton barn not only brings people together but also I think provides meaning for visitors too. Perhaps it reminds us of the hard work of the Moulton family and those early Mormon settlers who once fought to survive on this rough stretch of land. Or perhaps it’s simply the beauty of a small, humble barn embraced by powerful mountains and an incredible sky that calls so many to attend. Whatever the reason, I too feel humbled standing in this place, filled with a sense of awe, and grateful for the privilege to make a photograph of this spectacular moment in time.”(Craig Varjabedian, 2013)

 

Lost in a sea of images

We swim in a sea of images. The water reflects the sky. The water is crystal making the reflection perfect, and the sun glimmers on its surface. Just as fireworks are stimulating to the eye, so is the glittering light on the water. We see the reflection, then look up at the sky: the water and the sky meet at the horizon. We look back down at the rippling water. The sky ripples. The sea ripples. The reflection ripples, and glimmers and dances. We notice our own reflection in the water. We pear at it, we play around with it, we pose, we make waves in the water. Soon everything we do we are now also watching ourselves as we do it in the rippling water. The ripples in the water reflect squirming shapes of light onto your skin until your skin begins to squirm and your body begins to mimic the ripples, eventually appearing to adopt a liquid like consistency.

A mist has formed where the sky meets the sea, making the horizon fuzzy and blurred, but we don’t look there, we look at our reflection. We have forgotten about the sky. The water ripples, the sky ripples, we ripple.

Hypnotised, we move closer to the water. The sea of images consumes us as we submerge ourselves. Our liquified bodies move with the water, and quite naturally we start to flow in time with the waves. We leave the sky behind on the other side of the water’s surface: faint, blurry and rippling.

 

By Calypso Keane

 

The Parasite Plant

The leaf poses as the host’s leaf, however it is smaller. Because it is smaller we can identify it as the parasite leaf. To overcome this and to deceive, the parasite leaf mimics the exact markings, veins and colours of the host leaf. If the host plant has blossomed, the parasite will also imitate its flowers, copying the colours, the shape and the way they hang, but smaller. Over time the parasite becomes more intricate in design than the host. The leaf’s veins multiply, the plants’ grooves grow deeper, and the colours intensify. This gives the impression that the host is posing badly as the parasite. Hidden behind the leaves, the parasite is growing around and up the body of the host towards the light. The parasite grows in size and covers the host: the host decreases in size as the parasite absorbs all its nutrients. The leaves of the host disappear from nutrients deprivation and the parasite no longer needs to mimic them. Instead the parasite uses the absorbed nutrients to become more complex in design and increasingly colourful.

The parasite has made its way into the roots of the original seed of the plant, taking its shape and form and eating away at it until there is nothing left of the host. The parasite now poses in place of the host, and lives on as if it has always been there: its new roots as the roots once were, standing as the host once did.

No longer a parasite, but a plant of its own, it will live on until a new parasite comes and mimics its own leaves. Only the new parasite must mimic the more complicated leaves of the original parasite, and eventually the parasite becomes a new, more elaborate plant than the previous.

This process continued and gradually all the plants in the world were taken over by this species of parasite. The parasite continuously consumed the new parasite plants – becoming increasingly complex in design each time – until the only thing that existed in the world were exceptionally complex plants. Plants with so many veins that ran so deep that they carved rivers. Plants with vines that climbed so well that they became centipedes and snakes. Plants with flowers that grew so intricate that they became complex ecosystems that then became sophisticated civilisations. A plant that developed so many colours that it eventually created new colours that were blinding to the human eye. A plant that surpassed itself so much it was no longer a plant.

It covered the entire earth and everything else died out. The different parts of the plant became so sophisticated that the plant’s snakes, rivers and civilisations were vast in variety, until the process continued and they became homogenous. The ever growing and improving civilisations worked out how to kill off the parasite, and the last version of the parasite lived on forever.

 

By Calypso Keane

Old Weathered Photographs – how they were made…

I constructed the contents of the images on photoshop and then transferred them onto pieces of metal which I’d bent and warped to look like old folded pieces of paper, and then rusted them using chemicals to make them look old.

For the show translations, I presented them on a thin shelf on a white wall. This is not necessarily how I would have liked to show them because you could only see the ‘front’ of them, while the back was leaning agains the wall. They are sculptures and therefore don’t just have a ‘front’ but a ‘back’ too. Putting up the exhibition was a bit last minute, but I was thinking that they might be nice to show in a box, or stacked…. But I’m not sure…

When I look at them, there are two words that come into mind for me; authentic and nostalgic. They are both words that refer back to something, and create an ‘aura’, which what I wanted because, photographs document (/refer back to) an event, however these photographs refer to nothing; they only exist as themselves.

NOSTALGIC: -of a memory/ time in your life, however you always remember things inaccurately. Photographs create a vision of once was, and often jolt a memory but can also create a false memory. We often feel nostalgic towards memories and photographs, and that’s why it is interesting that these photographs create a sense of nostalgia, because the nostalgia is existing on its own, making you question the reality of the word and the feeling of it.

AUTHENTIC: -a very overused word, especially within capitalism/advertising/selling, which has been so repeated that it has morphed its meaning into something slightly different (but I think still disguises itself as the word its used to mean). Authentic is original, however I think now it can also be cheekily used as ‘like the original’ or ‘very similar to’. The rust on the photographs creates an exaggerated sepia effect which makes them seem ‘authentic’; old. Again, this is interesting because they appear to be referring back to a memory/time in my life, and they appear, at first glance, to be photographs, but they are forged, and the metal poses as a photograph, and the original that it appears to refer to doesn’t exist. Therefore they are not authentic photographs, they just pretend to be, but in an exaggerated way. But exaggeration is also a theme in constructed authenticity, for example in highly touristic areas where a place is made to look ‘extra Greek’ or ‘very London’ in order to please the tourist’s expectations.

However, the sculptures are authentic in themselves because they are the originals, and do not refer back to any memory or time in my life. They exist on their own. There is nothing more real than them.

My photoshop skills are a bit touch and go – but luckily I think the rust and the chemicals covers up that weakness nicely. Some of the photographs definitely came out better than the other ones – I had to experiment with the process to see what worked best.

I was happy with the shapes I managed to create with the metal and think that they mimic folded, old paper relatively well. I also really like the textures and colours created on the surface of the photographs and am interested in how that contributed to how one perceives and believes (or doesn’t) what they are looking at.