3rd Yr Extended Essay on Alternative Processes

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by UKJohn, Dec 17, 2007.

  1. UKJohn

    UKJohn Subscriber

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    Firstly I hope I've placed this in the right category. Since it is about alternative/historical processes I made the decision that this was the appropriate thread. I will apologies in advance if this is not the case.

    I've placed this thread as additional research associated with my 3rd extended essay (BA (Hons) Photography), let me provide the working title:

    "Are historical photographic processes a valid art form in todays art scene"

    The reason I've chosen this as my subject is that out of my year, and most likely out of previous and preceeding years, I am one of the few (if not the only) students who produces work using alt processes. I am intrigued as to whether alt processes are a valid art form in the current trend of contemporary art practice or whether it is an indulgence of just a few inquisitive soles. Obviously, I am on the side of the inquisitive soles but would dearly love to see more work of this nature in the public arena.

    I am therefore interested in peoples thoughts on this very matter, do you feel alt processes are a valid art form or do you think other wise? You comments, thoughts and time are most appreciated.

    Many thanks

    John
     
  2. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

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    I have an idea where this conversation will go. I'll make some pop-corn.
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Without getting too deep into in, has anyone noticed that they are still making oil paintings and ceramic art pieces...how almost neolithic!

    Basically, it is not the material/media, but what is done with them that defines if something is art. There was a resurgence of alt photo methods in the late 60's and 70's. I believe we are in another one now, which is even heavier into historic processes than the 70's surge.

    Vaughn
     
  4. dmax

    dmax Member

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    Let me put on my dusty professorial hat just for a second here. The operative word in your research statement is "valid". As in "valid art form". Unless very tightly confined in an operational definition, you will be very quickly chasing after speculative propositions. To begin with, what we currently term alternative processes are alternative only relative to dominant contemporary streams. At the time of their emergence and practice, they were just that: manifestations of an evolving stream. I'll take off the dusty hat now and shove it back into the old bin.
     
  5. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    I would ask what art form is not valid?
    Of course the antique processes are a valid art form. so are gelatin silver prints, water color paintings, oil paintings, solar plate prints, lithographs, and any other method you can name.
    Is every alternative print a piece of art? Perhaps in the makers eyes and no one elses. But the same can be said for any other process.
    I don't believeyour study, or anyone elses, can determine whether a process is pr is not an art form. I suggest you find a more important topic.
    This is exactly what I would tell any of my students who proposed this as a paper for a course.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    As another practitioner of alternative processes as his preferred medium, I'll second what Jim said. If there were any doubt about "alternative" processes being valid media, then watercolors, oils, clay, stone, silkscreen, and any number of other media would also be invalid as they have been technologically eclipsed by acrylics, steel, and inkjets. I am applying to MFA programs now, and my portfolio and artists statement will include my use of alternative processes. Many of the top fine arts schools here in the US include alternative media in their curricula.
     
  7. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    There's art and then there's fashionable art.
     
  8. davido

    davido Subscriber

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    I agree with both Jim and theflyingcamera, that any artistic medium is 'valid' within itself. When I first read your thread topic, I took it to perhaps mean 'commercially valid' as in how popular are 'alternative' processes in the gallery world. Are galleries and artists selling more alternative process work than they were, say, 10-20 years ago. Of course this would be hard to prove as, it seems that, there are more artists producing alternative process work now than ever.

    david
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Your title should suggest something about your argument instead of being only a reflection of your hypothesis. But I digress.

    I'll add my weight to the others' on the meaning "valid." Whose definition of art are you using, and why is it the authority? Having a definition of art is one thing, but your title suggest that you have found THE good one, and that it adjudicates between what is art and what is not. That's a lot to argue for in an undergrad essay. Most definitions of art I know of are instead trying to explain what is art, based on the available material. In other words, when you want to define art, you more or less have to start with what people call "art" and then work your way up toward something more organized.

    If you have a look at the book "Photography's Antiquarian Avant-Garde" you will find that alt processes are in fact the new black in contemporary art circles. So if your goal is only to answer to your question, I fear that your essay will consist of one word: yes.

    So if you want to talk about "validation" you are stepping into the domain of the politics of the art market (either the market that employs money or the one that employs ideas and fame), and then you're making a sociological study without having to delve too much into the content of works.

    You should look instead at something more substantial: for example, elucidate what makes contemporary artists like Chuck Close, Jerry Spagnoli, or Sally Mann, people who have earned their success with other media, or with silver gelatin, devote themselves to labour-intensive projects such as daguerreotype or collodion. Is it only a question of personal preference? Is there something in the market and the value of artworks that's an influence?

    You could also think about drawing parallels between contemporaries' use of alt processes and recent trends in photography. Have a look at "The photograph as contemporary art" published by Thames and Hudson. It's a really good introduction to major themes, artists, issues, styles, etc.

    There is a special link between contemporary art and alt processes, and it might have to do with our current position in history, digital, the current global crises, who knows, but it's worth elucidating.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2007
  10. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

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    :::brief hijack:::

    Where are you applying to school?

    I am currently finishing up grad. school and applying for jobs. Currently out of all of the teaching positions I'm applying for, only one has not specifically mentioned alt. processes as either a requirement or a strongly weighted consideration.

    Your work in alt. media will go far into getting you into grad. school. Be warned though - there is this idea that the portfolio that got you *in* to grad. school shouldn't be the one that gets you *out*. Sucks, kind of, but it's something to think about.
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Mike -

    I'm looking at RISD, MICA and Tyler. I'm fully expecting to have an entirely new portfolio by the time I graduate. It'll still be alt-process heavy, but I know I have other ideas I want to explore beyond what I'm working on now... I'll have wet-plate and dags under my belt in addition to the film/silver-gelatin/platinum-palladium/cyanotype I already do.
     
  12. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    And my program is so fast paced that working full time plus class means there is no chance for me to work in the alt processes. 20 new print every 3 weeks. That's just one of the classes. I don't really think I like this method, but I'm 1/2 done and once I've got the degree I can do what I want so you just kinda suck it up.
     
  13. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

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    One of the guys in my grad program is doing wet plate and albumen at the same time. Pretty intense. I told him he could work out the bugs and then I'd jump on his bandwagon. In return I get to teach him how to tie his shoes.

    Pretty fair trade I think.

    Those programs you're looking at would give you some great experience. Keep us posted where you get accepted. Your future alt. portfolio sounds fabulous.
     
  14. UKJohn

    UKJohn Subscriber

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    Ummmm, not such a positive response as I had hoped, obviously a mistake on my part to have posted it!

    I think it would be useful if I explained more as to the driver behind the 'working essay title'. I have been studying photography here in the UK for 2 1/2 years now, and in my year I am the only person who uses alt processes (Cyanotypes and Salt Prints - I have self taught myself these processes). I'm pretty certain that no one else has done so in recent years past or in current years 1 and 2. The majority of work is very conceptual in its content and possibly not quite so heavily crafted. I have on several occassions when planning projects or on submitting work be told that its rather amateurish or out dated, nonetheless I have a massive interest in this field of photography and so press on. I find the craft of photography fascinating and so my work has a high technical quality to it, which then under pins the works context.

    This at times makes me feel as though I am working in a vacum, in doing so it has raised a significant concern as to whether I am misguided in pursuing my interest in this field. It makes you think, maybe the area of photography I enjoy is not as valid as an art form as say the more contemporary styles. Thus, I decided to use my third year extended essay and consider this concern, the driver being my own underlaying concerns.

    Of course, from what I can gather the art market/scene in the UK is vastly different than that in the USA. So, maybe it does appear to be a naive question to those in the US. Here in the UK, or at least my part of the UK I do generally feel that I am working in isolation. Hence the question.

    Oh well, I thought I'd ask the question. You never know I might have got a useful response or two.
     
  15. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Alt process is only a technique. Whether or not someone who uses it is producing so-called 'valid' art really depends on the depth of the thought and consideration that goes into choosing what the art is supposed to communicate. I think the question as posed is sort of a 'straw-man' approach, and is likely to lead to a rhetorical dead end.
     
  16. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Actually, you got quite a few useful responses, the most useful one is probably the realization that it wasn't a good question to start with.

    Sorry to say, but you're not alone in the world doing cyanotypes. The sample you have used to gauge their artworld-currency is too small.

    Oh, and cyanotypes and salt prints are British inventions, by the way! The first is from William Herschel, that fine fellow who discovered fixer, and the second is from Fox Talbot, that equally fine fellow who discovered the negative-positive process.
     
  17. UKJohn

    UKJohn Subscriber

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    mhv,

    Thanks for the sarcasm, it's most constructive.
     
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    John-

    There are plenty of resources out there in the UK for folks doing alt process practices. Bostick & Sullivan maintain a UK office for supplying alt-process materials. There's the Siderotype Gallery down in Brighton (http://www.siderotype.com/) that publishes Mike Ware's books on Cyanotype, Platinum/Palladium, and Chrysotype printing. I think your sense of isolation is coming from not looking very hard or very far for help with it.

    I also think you're finding sarcasm where none exists, because you got an answer you didn't like hearing. Some alternative processes are harder to practice in Europe than they are in the US due to market size and environmental regulations, but that does not mean people do not find ways to do them - there is a very active community of wet-plate collodion practitioners in Europe, for example, which is a much more obscure and difficult practice than cyanotype or salt printing. While most alt-process printers do not make a living from their art practice, that's true for most artists regardless of their medium. And, as I said before, if technological currency were the sole requirement for artistic relevance, then oil paint, stone carving, violin music, and silk screen printing would have no audience. All of those media still have vibrant followings and active practitioners producing new work in those media.
     
  19. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Excuse me for it, but I was just responding to your own. I had been hoping that the actual information I gave you was useful, but it seems you prefer to ignore it. Not everyone is here to please you. Good luck with the BA.
     
  20. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Me too. In fact, I'm a bit put off by the attitude. So many times people (often students) post messages like this with the expectation that they will get "the answer" rather than suggestions and things they need to think about. You appear to be confusing sarcasm with things you need to think about and address in your thesis.

    I, too, seek further understanding of what you mean by 'valid' - in the purely artistic sense, the executability sense, or the marketability sense. Three aspects you might consider addressing. There could be three different types of answers.

    These are things to think about; if you want answers (or my impression of what the answer is)... you'll need to give me a piece of your degree. That IS sarcasm! :D

    Good luck with your studies!
     
  21. UKJohn

    UKJohn Subscriber

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    Ok.

    I feel pretty much picked on here and as I'm not wanting this to degenerate, nor fall out or upset anyone I'll take all your comments and get on with what I have to do over the coming weeks. Personally I don't consider the question quite as dumb as some of the recent posts have made out, what I think I do need to do is re-consider the actual title.

    I have done a considerable amount of research which includes several interviews with practising artists include one who is very prominent, and a London Gallery they have proved extremely helpful and supportive. My research over the past few months has been extremely in depth looking at processes, the histories, why artists choose to work in alt processes, their expressive potential and the current contemporary photographic art scene. I just thought that since there are many alt process guys on this site, some additional info and insight might prove useful.

    Texts that I have read include: Keepers of Light, The Antiquarian Avande Garde (poss spelt wrong), Art Photography Now, The Photographic Reader, Walter Benjimen, Roland Barthes, Photography after Photography plus numerous articles from various journals.

    I have always found this site very informative and the advice given useful. Perhaps I haven't explained myself that well, if that is so then I do apologies. I will need to consider that and be more careful the next time I post a thread.

    In the meantime thanks for you many and varied responses.