We Are Nothing Without Stories: Visual Research in the School of Arts, University of Derby

Exhibition


Harris, P. We Are Nothing Without Stories: Visual Research in the School of Arts, University of Derby.
CreatorsHarris, P.
Description

Photography is well known for its ubiquity, now more so than ever before. In so being it might seem that specialist research into and using photography is somehow superfluous, that due to its wide access it has ceased to become specialist. However, it is just this populist quality of the medium that lends it such richness and opportunity for enquiry across so many themes of living. Since its inception in the middle of the nineteenth century it has become the key medium for memory forming, identity asserting, ecology recovering, and storytelling. With this photography has become increasingly mobile, but not just in the physical sense of its camera object. It is also mobile as a means of communication across social fabric, global location, nationality, age, and gender. Research is innate to the activities of universities. Research allows for exploration and expansion of the nature of the media employed. It is also essential that research makes positive and constructive social impact. Such contribution to the praxis of everyday life requires active, visible, and respectful participation by academics and their institutions. In turn, this facilitates and empowers communities to realise, communicate, and disseminate their own values and identities. Photography (with film and video its close relations) is an ideal medium to explore, challenge, articulate the complexities of living since it allows such excellent opportunities for wider participation and contribution. Visual research in the School of Arts at the University of Derby is determined to make impact both beyond as well as within the institution. Not only does our research contribute to others’ lives outside the institution, it also presents models of creative and social interaction for our students to learn from, empowering them to model their own future activities. The outcome is that the “walls” of the university become porous to the wider social environment with the university being intrinsic to the cultural life of the city, the county, and the country. This exhibition presents a selection of just some of the visual research being undertaken in the School of Arts at the University of Derby. The scope is broad, with highly diverse and innovative applications of photographic media, whilst each body of work presents a refined and intense creative focus on vital themes within the wider world. What is consistent among the work is that the narratives of living are explored with this wonderfully flexible and mutable thing we call photography.

Dr. Philip Harris, curator

Exhibitors

Adrian Andrei Associate Lecturer in Film and Video
Philip Ranjit Basi Senior Lecturer in Media
Marc Bosward Senior Lecturer in Design
Huw Davies Professor of Lens Media
Philip M Harris Senior Lecturer in Photography
Susan Hogan Professor of Arts in Health
Clive Holmwood Associate Professor in Therapeutic Arts
Rebecca Howard Derby Scholar, Creative Industries
Daithi McMahon Senior Lecturer in Media Production
Casey Orr Associate lecturer in Photography, independent photographer
Stuart Poynton Senior Lecturer in Design
Carl Robinson Senior Lecturer in Art
Stephanie Rushton Senior Lecturer in Photography
Victoria Sharples Derby Scholar, Creative Industries

Exhibitors, works, and statements:

Adrian Andrei Associate Lecturer in Film and Video
Title: Inside the Mind
Date of production: 2022
Video: Digital video
Duration: 1:13
Film Link: https://vimeo.com/584693573/3c83b41c28

"Inside the Mind" is a micro-short film with surreal and experimental elements focused on visually portraying mental distress and inner conflicts reflected in the modern human condition. The project started in December 2020 as a response to the negative impact on mental health caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. At the same time, I was experiencing mental distress myself and decided to raise awareness on this subject through a film. To better understand how to approach the aesthetics of my film and in an attempt to authentically express the struggles of mental illness sufferers, I began researching how mental illness is portrayed in visual art. There have been reports of physicians successfully using artistic visualisations of mental illnesses to understand and treat their patients. The film has seen success in the film festival circuit, being selected for several festivals such as Cine Paris Film Festival and Lift-Off Filmmaker Sessions @PinewoodStudios.

Philip Ranjit Basi Senior Lecturer in Media
Huw Davies Professor of Lens Media
Title: Lakharo of Light
Year of production: 2022
Medium: Digital video
Duration: 14:00

A film portrait of the renown Indian artist and photographer Jyhoti Bhatt. Since the mid 1950’s Bhatt has documented the rural communities of Chota Udepur in the State of Gujarat, Northwest India. This work has provided the inspiration for his painting and printmaking, as well as creating a unique record of the changing traditions and indigenous lifestyles which are rapidly giving way to the urban mainstream. Now in his late 80’s and with his eyesight failing, Bhatt reflects through his sketch books and contact prints to comment on his eclectic practice and how that fits into the shifting nature the photographic medium. The film coincides with a major retrospective of Bhatt work at the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru and the publishing of a monograph ‘Time & Time Again’.

‘Lakharo of Light’ was produced as part of an international residency in Chota Udepur, Gujarat, India in March 2023. It was organised by Artcore in collaboration with FORMAT 23 and the University of Derby.

Marc Bosward Senior Lecturer in Design
Title: Hen Rym
Year of production: 2022
Medium: HD Digital Video with Sound

My practice research aims to develop new knowledge at the intersection of collage, animation, found footage and documentary. The work asks how collage can be situated in the context of animated documentary, suggesting that the practice has implications for analyzing how documentary film addresses reality and helps us understand the world. The project investigates how collage can be deployed in the construction of historical narratives that disrupt conventional histories that are mediated by dominant ideologies. The production of the collage films is underpinned by the argument that alternate, experimental strategies that foreground layering, fragmentation and ambiguity are better suited to represent the complexities of history. This is in contrast to conventional documentary representation, particularly those conventions tied to tenets of objectivity and balance. The strategies exercised through the practice negotiate history and our knowledge of history as inherently and inevitably partial and contingent, suggesting that orthodox histories obscure the instability of the past. The work asks if a deeper understanding of history can be apprehended through the construction and mediation offered by the vocabularies of animation, archive footage and collage.

Philip Harris Senior Lecturer in Photography
Title: Hymn for Ukraine
Year of production: 2022
Medium: 2 x Printed scans the cine film, 100cm x 126cm
Weblinks: https://vimeo.com/philipmharris/hymn-for-ukraine-17march2022
https://vimeo.com/philipmharris/hymn-for-ukraine-sans-audience

Hymn for Ukraine was a large-scale installation staged on the 17th and 18th March 2022, four weeks after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces on the 24th February. The work was staged as a sonic vigil to state support and solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The work employed seven 16mm film projectors, seven amplifiers, seven electric guitars, and seven loops of cine film of newly emerging blossom as visual metaphors for hope, resilience, and rebirth. Each guitar was tuned to a chord from the Ukrainian National Anthem. Each loop of cine film was threaded between the strings of a guitar, filling the venue with the combined chords of the anthem with images of the blossom rebirth against the drone of the chords as the projectors constantly cycled the loops of film.

The prints shown here are digital scans from sections of the film made for this event. They are in various states of distress. Some are pristine, having never been projected (i.e. the footage made on 24th February). Some are ruined beyond repair, a consequence of hours of cycling through a projector and between guitar strings. Each image is made up of 24 frames, referring to the frame capture per second for cinematic film and for the hours in each day.

Philip Harris Senior Lecturer in Photography
Title: Prayer for Ukraine
Year of production: 2022
Medium: Digital video of projected 16mm cine film with solo electric guitar
Duration: 4:17
Weblink: https://vimeo.com/philipmharris/prayer-for-ukraine

Blossom filmed on the morning of the invasion of Ukraine, 24th February 2022. The music accompanying the film footage is a very slow interpretation of the hymn, Prayer for Ukraine, by Mykola Lysenko (1885), transcribed and played on electric guitar. The film was the centre piece for the Peace Procession for Ukraine, staged on the 24th February 2022 in Derby City Centre, with candle lit vigil at Derby Cathedral to commemorate 365 days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. My interpretation of Prayer for Ukraine was performed in the cathedral during the vigil.

Susan Hogan Professor of Arts in Health
Title: Photography
Medium: Printed excerpt from publication, 180cm x 100cm

Photography is ubiquitous. The visual image is a predominant form of communication and a crucial aspect of contemporary reality. Arguably it is a very democratic medium, since billions of people all over the planet take photographs on their phones, and digital storage means that expensive printing is not necessary and therefore the practice is not prohibitive. Photography is important to political and social movements and connects people in emotionally meaningful relationships. This book explores the myriad ways in which photographs can be used: to document events, places or things; to consolidate personal identity; to pose a challenge to an idea or regime; to animate the inanimate (in other words, to breathe life into objects); to capture the fleeting and transitory; to create stories; to reveal what may be taken for granted, including seeing social practices; to enhance our perception and allow us to notice previously unnoticed details; to consolidate relationships; to represent the overlooked or marginalised; to commemorate; to authenticate; to tantalise. All these modes of photography have different possibilities, different intentions and different effects.

The social and political dimensions of photography receive attention. Photography underpins our lives in immediate and complex ways. Photography supports our sense of self, reinforces social attitudes and behaviours, or can be used to subvert these. One of the consequences of modernity is a tremendously accelerated pace of change. As sociologist Anthony Giddens pointed out, different areas of the globe are drawn into interconnection with one another as waves of social change ‘crash across virtually the whole earth’s surface’ (1990 p.6). At the heart of these waves, imagery is communicating ideas, especially photographs. As well as being at the heart of global communication, ultimately photography underpins different types of cultural affiliation and therefore forms a central part of representational systems that constitute human society itself. To fully understand photography, and explaining concepts along the way, this text explores how photographs work in the modern world.

The book opens with an overview of different types of photography. The work begins to develop themes that are expanded further, about ways of seeing and the fundamental truth of photographs. These topics run as on-going philosophical conundrums throughout the manuscript. Ideas surrounding the production of photographs are privileged over detailed exploration of the works of individual photographers, or personal biographies. The book moves on to discuss images in health promotion research, as part of research methods and in therapeutic practices.

Photography is part of an arts and health series that can be read by an interested non-specialist reader. Professor Hogan, cultural historian and arts in health specialist, makes links between many of the most important ideas of the 19th and 20th Centuries and photographic practices, from evolution to eugenics, as well as delving into the digital in our own century. Based, on a mix of critical analysis and original research, the book ranges across the globe with an examination of images from women’s lives in Iran to the storming of the Capitol.

Clive Holmwood Associate Professor in Therapeutic Arts
Title: Clive Holmwood (2019), MAKING A STORY OUT OF A CRISIS – A RESPONSE TO COVID- 19: A dramatic perspective. In: Clive Holmwood, Sue Jennings, Sharon Jacksties (eds), Routledge International Handbook of Therapeutic Stories and Storytelling. 2022. Routledge
Medium: Large scale printed excerpt, 200cm x 100cm

Elam (2001) suggests that drama is a form of fiction or narrative created for theatrical representation, although he differentiates more specifically between ‘drama’ and its more formal representation ‘theatre’. Theatre is a more formal depiction of what takes place between performer and spectator, usually in a specific venue set aside for theatrical events. Drama is therefore more fluid and flexible narrative – it can happen anywhere and is less reliant on the actor– audience relationship or the theatrical auditorium. Traditionally the meaning of the word drama is derived from the Greek word ‘ “drao”, which designates the performance of a ritual’ (Csapo & Miller 2007 pg.121), literally meaning a thing done or performed. Therefore, any action or movement could be considered ‘dramatic’.

The pioneering dramatherapist and progressive drama educator Peter Slade (1954) considered the notion of drama from a child’s playful, creative, developmental and improvisational perspective. Whilst Jennings describes the notion of ‘dramatic truth, (being) like poetic truth…another type of truth’ (italics original) ( 1992 pg. 19). When we enter a playful dramatic space, we enter a heightened world which contains its own innate truth, tells its own stories and is separate to that of the real world story. Jennings also sees drama more as a form of ritual as described by Victor Turner (1982) – spaces that are transitional and liminal, that are in the real world but set apart from it. I would argue these spaces are much less well defined than the more traditional theatre spaces that separate actor from audience and can happen anywhere.

From a dramatherapy perspective the drama ‘is’ the therapy (Jones 1996). The act of doing drama is therapeutic in its very nature and could be seen to link to the Aristotelian notion of the purging of emotion or ‘catharsis’ (Janko 1987), being a central process for any audience watching a dramatic act when we ‘do’ an act of drama. We have the potential to purge our emotions or feelings through watching the dramatic act. Story and all its forms such as fairy tale, myth and legend are also central to this drama/therapeutic dichotomy and can be seen to hold the structure in which a dramatic event and cathartic experiences can unfold. Pearson et al. (2013) consider that myths contain and evoke strong feelings and memories which in some sense allow us to find ways of coping with our current situation, similar to the Jungian notion of the ‘Collective Unconscious’...

Rebecca Howard Derby Scholar, Creative Industries
Title: Metamorphic
Date of production: 2022
Medium: 8 x digital prints 16” x 20”,
1 x sculpture (3D model)

Using stock internet images of marble textures as the starting point, Metamorphic is an on-going series that reflects on the virtualisation and digitisation of the built environment, and the occurring material, dimensional and spatial shifts. This series of work brings together aspects of paper design, 3D modelling, photography, and sculpture to explore processes of transformation and translocation, and a sense of ’becoming other’, where materials, including the photograph, move between different forms, dimensions, and states of being.

Daithi McMahon Senior Lecturer in Media Production
Title: Poo Busters: Using Moving Image as a Health Education Tool
Medium: Digital Video
Duration: 4m 23sec
Weblink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R16WY6MLBBU&t=1s

According to the NHS Derbyshire Trust, constipation is the leading cause of death amongst the learning-disabled community. As individuals develop their independence, self-regulated diet, exercise and healthcare become ever-more important and a lack of awareness around healthy lifestyle habits was identified as a contributing factor of ill health. Poo Busters is a constipation awareness and education video for the learning-disabled aimed at addressing that need. It was designed to engage the target audience in an appealing and playful way that would be both fun and memorable and thus effective at influencing habits. The project endeavours to have a positive public impact by helping the target audience to live healthier and longer lives while improving their confidence and self-esteem. The entire crew was made up of University of Derby BA Media Production students and recent graduates and thus has a pedagogic benefit as an example of research informed teaching.

Casey Orr Associate lecturer in Photography, independent photographer
Title: Saturday Girl
Year of production: 2013-2022
Medium: Digital photographs

Saturday Girl (2013 - Present) is an award winning collection of portraits of young women in the UK. The series has been exhibited in multiple locations including galleries, festivals, photoessays and publications. The book Saturday Girl, will be published in 2020 by Bluecoat Press. Saturday Girl won the Format Festival Award in 2019. Since 2013 Casey has photographed in towns and cities throughout the UK with a pop up portrait studio on Saturday afternoons.

Stuart Poynton Senior Lecturer in Design
Title: Portrait of Self 001_2012
Medium: Digital Prints, Laser-Cut and Layered. One original image (cannot be re-scaled)
53 x 73cm

Pattern, determination, and the nature of self. A laser-cut series of images constructed into a multi layered whole. A sum of experiences, memories and history. Rather than the self-portrait as a reflection of the person in a visual or physical sense, this work examined the nature of self, mediating individual personal dialogue as medium of self-investigation and catharsis.

Carl Robinson Senior Lecturer in Art
Titles: Interiors 1
Interiors 2
Interiors 3
Date of production: 2022
Medium: Digital photographic print and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 85.7 cm

Carl Robinson’s recent canvas experiments extend photographic practice through digital manipulation, digital printing, and materials-based overpainting onto the image. By pushing the boundaries of photography through such painterly approaches, these works might appear to contribute to the ambiguity around the meaning of the photograph today. Given the artistic mediation involved in their production, the canvases might even be understood as paintings. However, the “symptoms” and operations of the medium Robinson works with clearly place these pictures within the photographic: the images are captured through lens-based media, originating through light affecting a photo-sensitive surface; they have an indexical relation to a world “that has been”; they are printed. These photo-symptoms may be hidden within digital and painted interventions, but they are nonetheless emphatically present. Consequently, whilst these works add to the questions around the nature of photography in the digital age, they simultaneously underscore the ontological nature of the medium.

Stephanie Rushton Senior Lecturer in Photography
Title: You Are Being Tuned
Year of production: 2022
Medium: Digital video

The title of this work You Are Being Tuned (Morton, 2018), refers to the idea that the experience of art can ‘inspire a transitioning to caring about the nonhuman world in a more conscious way'. The result is a time-lapse video, filmed over two months and condensed into minutes depicting a traditional (indigenous) three sisters' companion planting triad of corn, beans, and squash growing in a propagator in a controlled photographic studio environment. Every timelapse frame edited with a bespoke postproduction technique to instil ‘uncanny affect' an attempt to reinforce a sense of strangeness reflective of the destabilising sense of living in a time of Mass Extinction.
Responding to Surrealist techniques of automatism developed by Max Ernst for the 1930s Histoire Naturelle series, this work attempts to 'recentre creative agency' deprivilege the human creator and acknowledge the plants as performers in their own right.

Victoria Sharples Derby Scholar, Creative Industries
Title: Overcast
Medium: Digital video

Overcast (2022) is a series of monochromatic prints and an accompanying film that observe the primary aspects of what photography can be: the permeation of photo-sensitive paper, light travelling at 300,000 km/sec (186,000 miles/sec), and chemical formulations, that make the method of making, and the composition of photography, the subject of the work. Overcast is produced using a Cameraless process where resin-coated paper is exposed to electromagnetic waves. Resin-coated paper has an emulsion layer of silver halide crystals which, when hit by photons, form microscopic metallic grains. When developed, the grains convert to black metallic crystals amplifying the exposure some 108 (100.000,000 x) times. Here, the premise of overexposure, where too much light hits the surface of the paper, is articulated as ‘overcast’, a condition synonymous with dullness. As the seeming antithesis to exposure, this binary relation (of covering and exposure) is inferred in the film where the substrate’s change from white to black materialises through chemical mediation.

ContributorsAndrei, A. (Artist), Basi, P. (Artist), Bosward, M. (Artist), Davies, H. (Artist), Hogan, S. (Artist), Holmwood, C. (Artist), Howard, R. (Artist), McMahon, D. (Artist), Orr, C. (Artist), Poynton, S. (Artist), Robinson, C. (Artist), Rushton, S. (Artist) and Sharples, V. (Artist)
KeywordsPhotography; video; film; narrative; lens; camera
Exhibition titleWe Are Nothing Without Stories: Visual Research in the School of Arts, University of Derby
Web address (URL)https://formatfestival.com/event/we-are-nothing-without-stories/
FunderUniversity of Derby
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Adrian Andrei
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Still from video
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Adrian Andrei
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Video
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Carl Robinson
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Carl Robinson
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Daithi McMahon
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Daithi McMahon
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Marc Bosward
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Still from video
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Marc Bosward
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Video
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Philip Harris
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100cm x 126cm
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Philip Harris
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Philip Harris
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Still from video
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Philip Harris
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Rebecca Howard
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16" x 20"
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Rebecca Howard
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Stephanie Rushton
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1 minute 46 seconds
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Stephanie Rushton
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Stuart Poynton
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53cm x 73cm
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Victoria Sharples
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Victoria Sharples
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Philip Harris
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Rebecca Howard
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Philip Harris
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Rebecca Howard
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Philip Harris
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Stephanie Rushton
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Philip Harris
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Philip Harris
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Huw Davies and Phil Basi
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Philip Harris
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Philip Harris
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Susan Hogan, Daithi McMahon, Adrian Andrei, Huw Davies & Phil Basi
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Video
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Victoria Sharples, Stephanie Rushton, Marc Bosward, Philip Harris
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Deposited20 Oct 2023
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