Space available!

The last days have seen a flurry of activities so as to get all elements in place for the trace – the audiographic installation: final choices of image files, scanning and printing, editing sound files, making sure that ordered material not yet arrived will do so on time. The photo mounting boards had gone missing at the delivery company and entailed another exercise.

Earlier this week, there were some changes in the availability of space, last minute, but likely to the better in terms of coherence. One piece, however, had to be left out. Only today we were able to move out stuff from the two installation spaces, including an old dish washer(!), funky furniture and also some fresh oil paintings (thanks to my neighbour). So now, finally the space is cleared and mopped, and ready to receive a new exhibit.

Space is also available for those who want to join the trace on Friday either on location or online. Some glitches need to be sorted out with the online conference tech but everything should be up and running by Friday 11:00 EEST. Welcome!

P.S.: On a technical note: in a world of data siphoning and zoombombing, and as a staunch supporter of internet tools that promote transparency and respect privacy, I propose to present the trace using Jitsi. It has the same features as Zoom and runs directly on your web browser. Just click the meeting link. In case you experience (audio/video) problems Mozilla Firefox and Iridium (a privacy respecting version of Google Chrome) will help. For those joining on mobile, there is an app, Jitsi Meet, available both for iOS and Android.

NSU summer session opens, and along with it this blog.

The past weeks have been intense: after reviewing my digital photographs I turned to my analogue archive, spanning more than 10 years of mainly slides (colour reversal film, or diapositives, for all digital natives) but also some colour negatives and B&W negatives. Focussing on an arbitrary common denominator I still ended up having some 2’500, size 24 x 36mm pictures pass under the loupe.

The challenge – and thrill – in this project is elsewhere than in a conventional photo exhibition, where the focus is on aesthetic values, technical qualities, perhaps revealing content and some form of theme and/or narrative coherence. In this installation, the value of the photographs comes from its relation to the audio accompanying it, and to some extent its suitability for the installation space. Thus, sifting through the material has been an exercise in constantly keeping the focus on these two additional aspects, while leaving aside the common conventions guiding selection of still images.

Overall, the theme of the installation aligns with the Study circle 4, Narrative and Violence, of the Nordic Summer University (NSU) during its summer session 2020. However, the installation also is a self-standing creative expression, that can be experienced by those visiting Lapinlahti historical mental hospital area in Helsinki.

During the following week, the installation will be erected in the Venetsia building in Lapinlahti. The NSU summer session trace event will be held online and IRL on Friday 31 July 10:00–10:30 (CET), 11:00–11:30 (local time). For those not participating in Study circle 4 the online meeting link can be obtain by contacting me using the contact form in this blog.

Subsequent to that event, the work featured in the installation will be published on this blog. The intention is that the blog serves as a platform for exchange of impressions, comments and critique also for those visiting the installation on location. Welcome!

Physical space

The installation is in hybrid format: both this blog and in IRL. The latter has, alongside the review of the corpus of images and audio files of varying quality, been part of the past busy week.

The installation will be constructed in the waterfront building, Venetsia. Each piece of work is to be a three-pronged element, which includes the photo, the sound and the environment. These elements will be tied together in a narrative, which gives the installation coherence and logic.

To create pieces of work that comply with these criteria is main challenge at the moment.

The concept of audiography

It is common knowledge that ‘-graphy‘ is used in nouns to denote a style or method of drawing (such as calligraphy) and in a descriptive science (for example geography). The originates from or is suggested by the Greek word -graphia, ‘writing’.

More interesting from the point of view of this blog, and indeed the installation, is the denotation related to a technique of producing images (think ‘radiography’. Thus, audiography suggest a way to produce images with the support of sound, be it voice, music or a sound effect. Indeed, the word, even if a neologism in this sense, has some precursors:

Audiography can be found within Indian-style filmmaking, and refers to the audio engineering performed by the sound department of a film or TV production. This engineering includes sound recording, editing, mixing and sound design.

Another use is quaint: it was a teleconferencing system or technology enabling each user to send and receive images as well as sound. The termn originates from the 1970s.

In this context and novel use, the audio attribute works paradoxically in two directions in relation to the image it accompanies: while it may enhance the experience of viewing the image, it simultaneously underscores elements missing from the image. Thus, it points at the powerlessness, the impotence, of the image in itself.

The tag line of this blog and audiographic images is: Listen to see. In order to see what is behind the image surface one has to pay attention to the sound.

Groundwork

The first week of actual work on preparations for the installation has passed. The name of this blog had to be established for the purposes of the trace event invitation, which was an exercise in itself (more on that in another post). The deadline was of course approaching fast. The invitation was submitted two minutes before the deadline, which is sort of early for me.

Simultaneously with naming the blog, I was confronted with a WordPress version much more advanced than I remember it from a few futile attempts to blog from work assignments in 2010 and 2014. Which layout (“theme”) will work for my purposes?

Finally, the installation draws upon photographs that I have taken during two decades. For that, working software is needed. Working through options – I prefer free and open-source software – I find a digiKam and darktable, both advanced digital asset management applications but with different fortes. My choice of digiKam almost stops short in the wee hours when noting it will not work on my Mac OS. Fortunately, legacy versions are available but the cost is several hours again.

The application installed I let it index my photo library. I had estimated the number of photos, including 35mm slides which was my preferred medium until 2004, to some 4’000 photos. The digiKam app spat out the exact number with blunt coolness: 16’434. In terms of photo selection, there is some work ahead.

IRL and online

The trace event is based on a physical installation to be erected at Lapinlahti historical mental hospital in Helsinki, which presently is a civil society space for culture and mental well-being. The photographic material is selected from my photographs from several former or present crisis and conflict areas over the past 20 years. The related audio material will be researched and produced for this event.

Online is this blog, where texts briefly presenting the context will be interspersed with the audio-enriched photographs. My intention is that the blog as a platform allows for easy and in-depth commentaries, thus enriching the presentation with exchanges between study circle and summer session participants.

As the format of trace events also allow for “localised micro meet-ups” circle participants able to visit Helsinki are welcome to participate in a guided and video-documented tour on Friday, 31 July at 11:00 local time.

Context and point of departure

This blog accompanies and provides a forum for exchange to the forthcoming installation, Impotent images, which coincides with the Summer session 2020 of the Nordic Summer University and its Study circle Narrative and violence. The installation is also the materialisation of a long-standing idea of questioning and reinterpreting photographs using sound (hence audiographic, explained later), which stems from a professional and moral frustration of the powerlessness of still images.

The theme of the Study circle Narrative and Violence during this summer session is ‘Written on the Body: Narrative (Re)constructions of Violence(s)‘. In my installation, with the subtitle ‘Narratives of violence, but void of bodies‘ I approach this from three angles: first, the different forms violence that the theme suggests are approached by means of the works of the installation. I base this approach on Johan Galtung’s seminal work on physical, cultural and structural violence, such as natural or human-created crises, land appropriation and poverty, respectively. Second, the narrative grows from a professional itinerary where these forms of violence materialise in various contexts, such as lived by individuals and communities. The narrative also loosely ties in with my personal life, and the installation provides a sounding board for reassessing subjective experiences. Third and final, the concept of bodies – defined purposefully broadly by the Study circle – is two-fold: it is both a play with words where the popular implication of representational violence is (a heap of) ‘bodies’ but here there are none; and more specifically, bodies are represented both as object and subjects of violence but not manifestly, but metonymically.