350MC Working with Photography in Context – Lecture 14

On Tuesday 20th Januray 2015, my day consisted of attending a one-to-one tutorial with Kate McMillan, in order to discuss my draft Symposium essay that I handed in for feedback. During this session, Kate showed me a couple of notes that she made regarding my essay, and we spent time discussing different aspects that she thought I should consider. Below you will find a copy of the drafts I submitted for feedback, along with the feedback notes she sent me, and an audio recording (and accompanying notes) of the tutorial:

Remembrance – Landscape Photography and Memory – Holly Constantine

Presentation – Draft 2

Kate McMillan’s Notes:

Dear Holly,

It is a nice project and there are a few critical questions to consider.

Is landscape immutable? I would argue that it is not. Consider the construction of the idea of landscape – a culturally formulated idea. Consider the different cultural perspectives of landscape – Chinese, Indigenous, European. ‘Landscape’ is a falsehood in many ways.

The landscape (and the artwork) mediates a memory – functions as a memory trigger. Consider Proust.

The image of a landscape conjures up the landscape that invites other sensory experiences (sound, smell, touch). The image functions as a bridge or umbilical cord to those other sensory moments, which powerfully connect us with memories. 

Robert Macfarlane considers a particularly British experience of landscape in art and literature. Watch this YouTube lecture – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q1IK-O5Ypg

Isn’t all history only memory? Therefore, ‘memory’ serves to remind us of the fallibility and subjectivity of history. It is not absolute and there is a truth, just a series of shifting recollections.

The question – why do we forget (?) suggests that there is a defined and absolute truth waiting to be rediscovered. Perhaps thought is more about a constant remembering that shifts and moves through time. The past is in the present. 

It will be important to nail some of these philosophical points/queries to bring rigour to the presentation. It needs to go deeper. Think about how the artworks you show address these queries too.

Kate McMillan


Audio Recording (and Accompanying Notes) of Tutorial:

One-to-One Tutorial with Kate McMillan: Feedback for my Symposium Essay from Holly Constantine on Vimeo.

(Please excuse the poor quality of the audio, a lot of my course peers where in the room discussing their own ideas for Symposiums and Final Major Projects during the course of my one-to-one tutorial).

  • We aren’t going back to a pure thought, memory or experience – our memories change and landscapes can trigger the re-remembering of a different place
    • This is a philosophical query because it suggests that all history and all memory is shifting and they are not absolute
    • History, the retelling of the past, is fragmented and subjective
  • What’s missing are salient, philosophical points
  • The past is with us always – the past is in the present and our access to it is shifting all the time
  • The image of the landscape is different from the landscape
    • This needs to be made clearer
    • The image of the landscape is another form of mediation, just like memory (in a way)
  • It’s important to think about the process of learning, making meaning, and the way that something mediates the pathway to another thing
    • How we have a thought in our mind that links to the landscape that links to a memory of a past event
    • You’re looking at layers of knowledge and interpretation that break down this idea of memory as a pure truth
  • In terms of the artwork I am looking at, it’s really a case of applying these philosophical positions to the images
    • Why are you showing us these photographs – what do they function as?
  • The landscape in a European context is almost like a photograph, it’s removed from us, it’s observed like the photograph (from Simon Schama)
  • Remove the blank slides – people can multi-task
  • In terms of visual aids, you could just show an image of the landscape
    • As long as it is given context through what you’re saying at the time
    • You use an image like you use a quote, it solidifies and evidences what you’re saying
    • An image is like a gift to a visual audience – it helps break up the philosophical theory that you’re presenting to them
  • There are other philosophical positions that you can put out there
  • Even when the initial memory is construed, when you’re there in the present having this experience, how you’re interpreting that information is so different to someone stood next to you
  • Think about all of these points when you re-read your draft – where can you play the devils advocate?
    • Read it like it’s not your writing and like you’re marking it
  • Looking at the title:
    • Look through the books that your accessing and you may find some really poetic sentence or phrase that you can use as your title – just switch word around and make it appropriate for your work
    • I’m not so sure that you’re dealing with remembrance
      • I think what you’re talking about is more like a mediation – the way that photography can map out or locate the traces of the past
    • Do a bit of a mind-map – look into the words that you’re exploring and put them together in a poetic way