Tag Archives: Cheryl Dunne

Assignment 5: Research 2: Photographers challenging cultural subjugation and the marginalisation of social groups through visual art

yuet-wah-1

Figure 1: Yuet Wah O’Neill by Allan O’Neill

As I have progressed through Context and Narrative I have become increasingly interested in how culture shapes our identities and the roles that we perform in our daily lives.

This process of research and reflection has been inspirational to my conviction to explore why the Asian part of my own identity and heritage has been secondary to the English part and absolutely integral to the conceptual development of my visual response.

What is also very apparent is that Western popular culture has established itself as superior to other cultures and maintains this position through far-reaching structure that contains very few contradictions and which involves all aspects of social and cultural reality. This in-balance of power has created historical structures, divisions and inequalities across racial, gender and socio-economic groups and this realisation has certainly strengthened my personal convictions to begin this very personal exploration.

The following artists and exhibitions have all in some shape or form served as the inspirations for my research whether this be in conceptual or visual terms and consolidate my thinking I will now attempt to distil the relevant issues.

Black Blossoms Exhibition (UAL)

nicole-muskett-skateboards

Figure 2: Images taken of finished works by Nicole Muskett

The exhibition highlighted the voices of black women and explored how this group is marginalised and stereotyped by mainstream society.

One of the exhibits did not resonate with myself initially but has increasingly been significant in my subsequent reflections. Illustrator Nicole Muskett decorated a series of skateboards with images of famous black female role models such as Rosa Parks whose courageous dignified defiance in Montgomery, Alabama, USA in 1955 became the catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. Other role models adorning these skateboards were Michelle Obama, Frida Kahlo, Malala Yousafzai, Yoyoi Kusama and Dianne Abbott.

By effectively decorating skateboards with the achievements of black women the artist challenges one of the skate culture stereotypes so often associated with young black people and instead presents a group of positive role models which show black women in a different light.

This exhibit highlighted the need for positive role-models in order to achieve a positive acceptance of one’s own self-identity and this will be a core a part of my assignment submission.

I have previously blogged about this exhibition and to see the full post please see here or access online AT:

https://allanoneillcontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/black-blossoms-exhibition-at-the-university-of-the-arts-ual-london/

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusgosa

David Olusgosa, historian, presented TV BBC documentary series Black and British A forgotten history that delved into the experiences and contributions that black people have made in Britain’s history over the past four hundred years.

The programmes chronicled the history of the relationship between black people and Britain including the Black Georgians, Slave Trade, the abolition movement and race relations.

The format of the programmes was to identify and celebrate the strength of character, contributions and achievements of black Britons. In the following short clip photographer Neil Kenlock describes how he photographed black people’s lives in London during the 1960s and 1970s.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04jrbl9/player

In the clip Kenlock says, “I was trying to capture strength and proudness and that I decided that I would never click the camera unless I see strength in that person’s eyes and body. And if you look at my images you almost know it’s one of mine because the subject is always very sure of themselves.” (Neil Kenlock, photographer.)

This passage became especially significant in my subsequent thinking when formulating my final visual work.

Decolonial Desire exhibition by Vasco Araujo at the Autograph Gallery, London

vasco-araujo-3

Figure 3: Image taken from Decolonial Desire exhibition by Vasco Araujo (2016)

The Decolonial Desire exhibition explored Portugal’s colonial past in Africa and used archived photographs to demonstrate how social realities and histories can be visually constructed and whose purposes are served.
Exhibition curator, Mark Sealy describes the artist, “Arajo is part of a generation of contemporary artists who question and critically investigate colonial histories. His work throws an uncomfortable light on the unrelenting violence, that was an inherent part of Europe’s colonial order.” (Sealy, M. 2016)

vasco-araujo-3-2

Figure 4: Image of Capita taken from Decolonial Desire exhibition by Vasco Araujo (2016)

The artist subverts colonial racial stereotypes through a series of re-enacted satirical masquerades.

I specifically took forward two key points from the exhibition; firstly that I felt a strong conviction to explore the marginalised or silenced aspects of my own Asian heritage and secondly I began to consider that some sort of role re-animation or masquerade could form an appropriate visual response to my intentions.

I have previously written a post that summarises my experiences at the exhibition that can be read in full at

https://allanoneillcontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/exhibition-visit-vasco-araujos-decolonial-desire-at-autograph-abp-london/

The Fae Richards Photo Archive

leonard-and-dunne-fae-richards

Figure 5: Taken from The Faye Richards Photo Archive

Artist Zoe Leonard and film-maker Cheryl Dunye collaborated to create these photographs which provide a narrative chronicling the life of the fictional character Fae Richards, an African-American actress born in the early 20th century through to her old age and involvement in the civil rights movement. Dunye attributes her photographic falsification of a life history to the lack of information recorded in real life.

“The Watermelon Woman came from the real lack of any information about the lesbian and film history of African-American women. Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.” (Cheryl Dunye)

Through the use of photographic and archival conventions Leonard and Dunye successfully borrow from the lives of historical figures to create a believable narrative that explores questions about what is actually left out of history and it’s records.

This work inspired my thinking in terms of challenging the conventional belief that historical archives and documents form an objective, universal and unequivocal record of social and cultural history. It also formed in part the catalyst to consider some sort of constructed and additional version of history as part of my visual response.

Feminist Avant Garde exhibition at TPG

mary-beth-edelson

Figure 6: An image of Mary Beth Edelson’s The Last Supper

On visiting the Feminist Avant Garde exhibition at TPG (see here) I saw Mary Beth Edelson’s Some living American Women Artists / Last Supper (1972) which made a clear statement challenging the white male dominated history of art by superimposing the faces of female artists over the male participants in Leonardo De Vinci’s original depiction of the Last Supper.

The idea of the picture was to provide appropriate recognition for a group of significant and important female feminist artists as well as making a vociferous call against how women had been treated by not only the male dominated art historian but also the religious order.

Whilst this particular exhibition provided the catalyst and major inspiration to confront how white male led conventional cultural norms marginalise and silences other social groups it was this particular exhibit which acted as the catalyst to recognise the general lack of recognition and role models from marginalised social groups.

This process of research and reflection has been inspirational to my conviction to explore these ideas and integral to the conceptual development of my visual response.

Bibliography

Black Blossoms Exhibition UAL can be accessed online AT: http://blackblossomsexhibition.tumblr.com

What if I don’t move to the end of the bus? The story of Rosa Parks summarised on the Henry Ford organisation website and can be accessed AT:

https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/stories-of-innovation/what-if/rosa-parks/

 Nicole Muskett’s own website can be accessed at:

https://nicolemuskett.com/2016/05/19/photographs-of-finished-printed-decks/ 

Black and British: A Forgotten History David Olusgosa documentary

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04jrbl9

Neil Kenlock speaks,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04jrbl9/player

Vasco Araujo Decolonial Desire exhibition (2016) curated by Mark Sealy, held at Autograph ABP Gallery, London.

http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/decolonial-desire

Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunne The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1996) (accessed 5/12/16) AT:

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

IMAGES

Figure 1: Yuet Wah O’Neill by Allan O’Neill
Figure 2: Nicole Muskett Rosa Parks skateboard image taken artists own website http://www.nicolemuskett.com and can be accessed AT:

https://nicolemuskett.com/2016/05/19/photographs-of-finished-printed-decks/ (accessed 13/1/17)

Figure 3: Image taken from Decolonial Desire exhibition by Vasco Araujo (2016)

Figure 4: Image of Capita taken from Decolonial Desire exhibition by Vasco Araujo (2016)

Figure 5: Taken from The Faye Richards Photo Archive

Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunne The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1996) (accessed 5/12/16) AT:

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

Figure 6: Image of Mary Beth Edelson’s The Last Supper

Image taken from

http://www.eng.fju.edu.tw/Literary_Criticism/feminism/female_art/Edelson.html

Part 5 project 2: The Archive

From the day of the invention of photography the inherent quality and capability of the photograph has been to make a representation of reality and this has been used to justify, normalise and perpetuate western economic, social and culture relationships. This usage has stretched from a pivotal contribution to the growth of colonialism and racial stereotyping through to the reinforcement of gender roles and differences in social class that define history, propaganda, advertising, mass popular culture all of which collide and collude to create our social reality.

The archive is essentially a wider collection of photographs with a common quality running throughout the population of images organised and used to provide context, information, evidence, meanings and explanations whether they be of an historic or contemporary nature. “The model of the archive, of the ensemble of images….exerts a basic influence on the characters of the truth” (Sekula, A. 1991)

This model of the archive becomes even more significant when we consider Sekula’s point that, “Archives are property of either individuals or institutions and their ownership may or may not coincide with authorship. One characteristic of photography is that authorship of individual images and the control and ownership of archives do not commonly reside in the same individual.” (Sekula, A. 1991)

Sekula goes on, “In an archive, the possibility of meaning is ‘liberated’ from the actual contingencies of use. But this liberation is also a loss, an abstraction from the complexity and richness of use, a loss of context.” (Sekula, A.1991). This Sekula believes is particularly problematic within the practice of the creation of the photo-book that is made entirely from archived photographs.

Many artists are now responding to the photography archive through exploring and challenging the context and meaning of these images. These archives include official archives held by public bodies for bureaucratic or historical purposes, family photograph albums, found or auctioned photographs.

Liz Wells quotes Jane Connarty on the importance of the archive in art practice, “the themes of history and memory have been central to cultural production and discourse through much of the 20th and into the 21st centuries. Photography, film and the archive are associated with the concept of memory, functioning as a surrogate, or virtual sites of remembrance, or as metaphors for the process of recalling the past. The experience of viewing archival photographic prints or film can have a seductive, even spellbinding effect in the viewer; their evoking a sense of time and nostalgia or conjuring fantasies of history. (Connarty and Lanyon 2006:7). (Wells, L. 2009:63)

adam-broomberg-and-chanarin

Figure 1: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin taken from People in Trouble (2011)

I like the Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin collaboration People in Trouble the result of a commission by Belfast Exposed, originally founded in 1983 in response to the close and careful control of an archive containing over 14,000 contact sheets depicting British Military activities during the troubles in Northern Ireland during the 1960s and 70s. This photo archive established by UK authorities was a direct response to concerns over the behaviour of the British Military and the images themselves are a mixture of citizen, journalistic and official photographs. What the artists found most intriguing was how specific images from the archive were marked and labelled by a system of different coloured dots by the archivists.

Broomberg’s and Chanarin’s artistic response was to remove the dots in order to see what tiny round part of the image had been hidden beneath the randomly placed coloured dot. These tiny snippets of hidden image systematically and arbitrarily affected are re-imagined to give the photographs alternative dialogues and fiction.

This project highlights the control that photography and the process of archiving can exercise in creating and establishing a particular and seemingly natural version of reality. The artists describe their work in their own words, “Each of these fragments – composed by the random gesture of the archivist – offers up a self-contained universe all of its own; a small moment of desire or frustration or thwarted communication that is re-animated here after many years in darkness.”

To see this work visit: http://broombergchanarin.com/people-in-trouble/

I find this this concept of a hidden, lost, affected or manipulated interpretation of history and reality to be of real concern and interest. The politics and power relationships in making, acquiring, archiving and distributing images within economic, cultural and social structures I find quite disturbing.
leonard-and-dunne-fae-richards

Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunne taken from The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1996)

Other works of interest are The Fae Richards Photo Archive the collaborative outcome of artist Zoe Leonard and film-maker Cheryl Dunye. These photographs provide a narrative chronicling the life of the fictional character Fae Richards, an African-American actress born in the early 20th century through to her old age and involvement in the civil rights movement. Dunye attributes her photographic falsification of a life history to the lack of information recorded in real life

“The Watermelon Woman came from the real lack of any information about the lesbian and film history of African-American women. Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.”

Through the use of photographic and archival conventions Leonard and Dunye successfully borrow from the lives of historical figures to create a believable narrative that explores questions about what is actually left out of history and it’s records.

Bibliography

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin People in Trouble at the artists website (accessed 5/12/16) AT:

http://www.broombergchanarin.com/people-in-trouble/

Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunne The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1996) (accessed 5/12/16) AT:

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

Sekula, A. ESSAY: Reading An Archive Photography between labour and capital (1991) – Taken from The Photography Reader Wells, L (2002) London: Routledge

http://www.lot.at/sfu_sabine_bitter/SEKULA-ReadingAnArchive.pdf

Wells, L. Photography a critical introduction 4th ed.(2009) London: Routledge

List of images

Figure 1: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin taken from People in Trouble (2011) full details of access from bibliography above

Figure 2: Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunne taken from The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1996) full details of access from bibliography above