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Archive for the ‘Leap of Faith 2013’ Category

MAUD GALLERY CAMERA OBSCURA – for one day only

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The Maud Gallery window to become a Camera Obscura

The Maud Gallery window to become a Camera Obscura

 

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As a final event for Maud’s Festival of the Darkroom on November 26 between 12.00 Noon and 4.00pm we worked with Louis Lim to convert the Maud Gallery front room into a public Camera Obscura. We invited members of the Brisbane photo community to join with us for a look back to the origins of photography.

 

What follows are photos from the event…

Set-up day with Louis Lim, Ana Paula Estrada and Gillian Jones

The Maud camera obscura team – Louis Lim, Doug+Vicky PHOTO: Louis Lim

The Maud camera obscura team – Louis Lim, Doug+Vicky PHOTO: Louis Lim

The Maud camera obscura team – Louis Lim, Doug+Vicky with Maud Director Irena Prikryl. PHOTO: Louis Lim

The Maud camera obscura team – Louis Lim, Doug+Vicky with Maud Director Irena Prikryl. PHOTO: Louis Lim

 

Outside looking in ––– The Maud Gallery Camera Obscura

Outside looking in ––– The Maud Gallery Camera Obscura

Camera obscura viewers sitting on the couch - note two holes... PHOTO: Louis Lim

Camera obscura viewers sitting on the couch – note two holes… PHOTO: Louis Lim

Inside the Maud Gallery Camera Obscura

Inside the Maud Gallery Camera Obscura

Inside the Maud Gallery Camera Obscura

Inside the Maud Gallery Camera Obscura

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The Maud Gallery toilet was also converted into a camera obscura

The camera obscura in the Maud toilet PHOTO: Louis Lim

The camera obscura in the Maud toilet PHOTO: Louis Lim

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Vicky standing before the two pinhole projection – someone came in and let the light in…

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Photographer Neil while making a photograph becomes a camera obscura imaging surface…

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Gallery Director Irena takes a tea break…

 

 

Cooper+Spowart: 16 years of Camera Obscura Collaborations

In our collaborative work, we are interested in both the physical construct and cultural conventions that inform and shape us. This includes the common rituals and structures that surround, support and transport us in our everyday lives. In this work we have extended the context of documentary photographic methodology to include the narrative potential of the camera obscura and architectural projections.

 

Bedroom Camera Obscura 2000 (Y2K)

Bedroom Camera Obscura 2000 (Y2K)

 

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Avochie Bathroom Camera Obscura

Avochie Bathroom Camera Obscura

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In the camera obscura work the viewer’s perception of the everyday is spatially challenged. The structures that can form camera obscura are everywhere, but some spaces present themselves as clearly suitable for the making. This could be a city office, a motel room, a country bathroom or even a car. Our work attempts to contextualize the experience of the camera obscura within a concept, space or site. Upon entering the darkened space, the viewer is initially displaced, as the familiar image of the everyday is dim and unrecognizable. Then after time spent in the camera obscura, the image becomes clearer and the familiar is re-established ultimately resulting in a relocation of the observer’s awareness of place.

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City of Dreams – Ibis Hotel sunrise over Sydney

City of Dreams – Ibis Hotel sunrise over Sydney

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The Travelodge camera obscura 2008

The Travelodge camera obscura 2008

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Some background on the set-up for the Travelodge camera obscura:

Simple black garbage bags and some black electrical tape from the local 711 store. An aperture cut from a ‘found’ piece of aluminium – size around 8mm … we don’t use sophisticated glass lenses – these are direct light projections. A digital camera bares witness to our experience by capturing the image of the camera obscura projection.

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Setting up the room

Blacking out the room

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We were watching TV ...

We were watching TV …

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OUR MOST RECENT CAMERA OBSCURA: ORPHEUS ISLAND BEACH TENT

(A collaborative event with John de Rooy, Spyder Displays and the Orpheus Is Photo Workshop)

Our Spyder Camera Obscura

Our Spyder Camera Obscura

A DUO View of the scene and the Camera Obscura image

A DUO View of the scene and the Camera Obscura image

TO VIEW OTHER CAMERA OBSCURA WORK BY COOPER AND SPOWART SEE THE LINKS

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Our Website:

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/4_PROJECTS/RoomCameraObscura-Project.html

Our car converted into a camera obscura and driven across Australia:

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/4_PROJECTS/CarCamera-Project.html

Two New Zealand Camera Obscuras in the the Queenstown Rydges Hotel:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/two-new-zealand-camera-obscuras/

A public Camera Obscura performance and live video:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/camera-obscura-pinhole-event-foto-frenzy-a-report/

YouTube videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyA5QP-mX-E

A camera obscura at the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/camera-obscura-qccp/

A World Pinhole Day Camera Obscura at Mt Barney:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/world-pinhole-photography-day-our-contribution/

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Closing off the hole

Closing off the hole in the Travelodge Hotel camera obscura

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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for 16 Years of Camera Obscuras Project

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MEMORY COLLECTIVE: Super Moon + Phoenix

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Eighteen months ago Toowoomba artist Damien Kamholtz began a project that was to bring together a team of local artists to participate in a conceptual artwork that would have many states and private and public iterations. The first public presentation of the The Memory Collective was at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery in August/September 2013.

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Two weeks ago a key element of The Memory Collective project was altered yet again into a new state. This took place near Cabarlah at a symbolic time for Kamholtz, the recent super moon…

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Here is part of the document made on that July evening.

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Damien Kamholtz @ the burning  Photo: Cooper+Spowart

Damien Kamholtz before the burning Photo: Cooper+Spowart

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The super-moon rising and the embers of the phoenix rising

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Aftermath of the fire

 

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Damien's Ash-Burn

Aftermath: ashes of the painting the next morning. Photo: Damien Kamholtz

 

…. this is not an ending for the Memory Collective…

 

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 THE BACKSTORY OF THE MEMORY COLLECTION

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An exhibition of the collaborative artwork as a singlarity

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Memory Collective image from the exhibition @ Toowoomba Regional

Memory Collective image from the exhibition @ Toowoomba Regional

 

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A painting and a performance

 

 

The Memory Collective painting by Damien Kamholtz

The Memory Collective painting by Damien Kamholtz

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The Memory Collective is a multi-disciplinary collaboration orchestrated by artist Damien Kamholtz. Kamholtz states: The Memory Collective Project is a creative collaboration between 12 artists across eight artistic disciplines exploring concepts and themes relating to the human condition such as change, constants, history, refection and memory. The artworks created during the project will make up an exhibition to be held at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery in September 2013.

There are different stages to the project. First Kamholtz created a large 2.2 metre square painting, while sculptor, Jessie Wright constructed the large vessel to hold the water. Kamholtz’s painting is embedded with personal meaning in the form of fragments of his past art, the ashes of diaries. In the presence of this artwork we are drawn into a poetic landscape where faces emerge; symbols and totems slip from passive dark spaces and come into conscious awareness.

The second stage of the work was the performance in the form of 9 responses to the painting by Kristy Lee. The painting and the pool created the reflective and reflexive performative space and the transformative process of the original painting then began. Integral to the space were David Usher’s delicate pots; these vessels contained the pallet of shades that then shrouded and clouded the memory of the work. Over the course of the day the painting’s physical form was transformed into something different loosing its current visual form as only a memory.

Our part of the collaboration was to witness, respond and record the transformation of the work over the day. The next stage of the Memory Collective’s work will continue over the next month our component will be to create 9 large collaged photograph memory states of the work for the show in September. Works by others include; a video art piece, a documentary video, a soundscape, interviews, prose and poems. It is a significant project and is being funded by the RADF and supported through the exhibition at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery.

 

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A fragment of photographic memories made by us for the MEMORY COLLECTIVE

 

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Kamholtz in the performance space with the painting and pool

Damien Kamholtz in the performance space with the painting and pool

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A performance

 

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Kirsty Lee and painting – in the early state…

Kirsty Lee performs before the painting

Kirsty Lee performs before the painting

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State 3 Kirsty applies paint to the paining...   Photo: Cooper+Spowart

State 3 Kirsty applies paint to the paining…

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Hand paint

Hand paint

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Kirsty Lee and her interaction with the painting   PHOTO Cooper+Spowart

Kirsty Lee and her interaction with the painting … around Stage 6

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Blue hand...

Blue hand…

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Kirsty Lee in a frenetic stage…

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Kirsty Lee and brushes before the pool

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Paint fluid in the pool…

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Towards the final state…

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The final state …


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Memory Collective logo.

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Damien discussing movement with Kirsty

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Kirsty Lee towards the end of the performance

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Another creative work from the performance by Jason Nash…

Jason Nash - Time lapse video

Jason Nash – Time lapse video

CLICK HERE to see Jason Nash’s ‘Memory Collective’ time-lapse video

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The Team: Front Ashleigh Campbell, Julio Dunlop, Kirsty Lee, Victoria Cooper, Doug Spowart Back: David Usher, Jason Nash, Jesse Wright, Damien Kamholtz, Zac Rowling ( weakling). Not present: Craig Allen & Jake Hickey

The Team: Front Ashleigh Campbell, Julio Dunlop, Kirsty Lee, Victoria Cooper, Doug Spowart
Back: David Usher, Jason Nash, Jesse Wright, Damien Kamholtz, Zac Rowling ( weakling).
Not present: Craig Allen & Jake Hickey

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Toowoomba Chronicle 17 June, 2013 by Kate Dodd PHOTO: Dave Noonan

Toowoomba Chronicle 17 June, 2013 by Kate Dodd PHOTO: Dave Noonan

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© 2013+2014 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for The Memory Collective

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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2013-14 NEW YEARS EVE FIREWORKS: Frogs Hollow – Toowoomba

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NEW YEAR’s EVE – A time for freedom from order — a time for fun.

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So we left the big cameras at home and went out with the little Olympus Pens point-n-shoot. No tripod – no big plans – “Bulb” setting, watch, mingle, be a part of the ‘BANG’, ‘Crackle’, ‘POP’ and the gasps and murmur of the crowd.

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These are truly experiments in capturing the experience and essence of a fireworks display in regional Australia … Enjoy!

And all the very best to you for the New Year!

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Click on any image for it to enlarge …

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© 2014 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart

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COOPER+SPOWART to talk @ Cobb+Co Museum Dec 13

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The Roundabout Clocktower from Weiley's Hotel balcony

The Roundabout Clocktower from Weiley’s Hotel balcony

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CLICK HERE TO BOOK ON THE COBB+CO WEBSITE

CLICK HERE TO BOOK ON THE COBB+CO WEBSITE

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In the Dark Room with… Cooper+Spowart

In this talk we will discuss a number of topics and including:

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Attendees may wish to conclude their night activities @ Cobb+Co with a visit to the nearby Christmas Wonderland Spectacular in Queens Park

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St James' Catholic Church

St James’ Catholic Church

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Outside the Grafton Hotel

The Subway – The Nocturne Muswellbrook Project

The Subway – The Nocturne Muswellbrook Project

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VIEW A VIDEO OF THE ICONS SHOW FEATURING THE PHOTOGRAPHERS

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TO BOOK THE EVENT

http://www.shop.qm.qld.gov.au/cobbandco/in-the-dark-room-with-doug-and-victoria.html

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Cobb+Co Museum - Icons on Icons

Cobb+Co Museum – Icons on Icons

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PERV: Jess Martin does an iPhone Cloud @ MARS Gallery

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The Mars Gallery with the Perv exhibition photo ‘cloud’

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In 1936, the one-time Bauhaus teacher Làzlò Moholy-Nagy, described his idea of the ‘photographic series’, and he spoke of it as being ‘the logical culmination of photography’. In his discussion he states that the ‘picture loses its identity as such and becomes a detail of assembly, an essential structural element of the whole which is the thing itself.’

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An exhibition, entitled Perv, by Toowoomba artist Jess Martin on show at MARS Gallery would no doubt excite Mohly-Nagy in that she has taken the idea of a photo sequence and turned it into a sculptural form to express her view of contemporary life and photography. Martin has for two years been collecting iPhone images of her life. Last year she exhibited at Futures Gallery in Toowoomba a mosaic of 2,000 of these images in three 1 square metre murals. The theme was her life as a photographer, curious about the visual nature of the world and the access to quick imaging via the mobile phone.

Perv takes the idea further by expanding it to encompass iPhone image submissions sent to her via Facebook social media from friends and their friends …. Deciding to take the concept off the gallery wall where it’s just glanced at by the viewer Martin has constructed a 3-Dimensional space to mirror the image overload of modern life. What’s more, is that the images are suspended the full length and breadth of the Mars space – some 5×10 metres creating a cloud of photo images.

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The view from above

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Who knows how many thousand images are here… who cares? Who measures our daily dose of images anyway? So while this exhibition is confrontational it is also indicative of the prevalence, pervasiveness and proliferation of vernacular photography today. Viewers encountering this sky-load of images will need to search far if they are looking for classic pictorial beauty, or even well crafted documentary images. These pics are rapid snaps — faces, places, events, Facebook trivia, the weird and wonderful, rude and humorous. In a few seconds you can find photos of cats and dogs doing amazing things, food being devoured, over-flashed close-up faces and obviously candid and personal moments between lovers, family and friends.

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Looking at Perv’s pics

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Billions of photographs are made and Perv‘s several thousand may be the equivalent of a grain of sand in all the beaches of the world however within this space we have an opportunity to connect with the contemporary reality of the photo today and the use of this once specialist human activity.

In coming back to Moholy-Nagy again there is something else to ponder that this exhibition celebrates and that is, in Nagy’s words; ‘its separate but inseparable parts a photographic series inspired by a definite purpose can become at once the most potent weapon and the tenderest lyric.’

The exhibition remains on show at Mars Gallery until December 6, 2013.

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Words and photos: Doug Spowart

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Moholy-Nagy, L. (1936). From Pigment to Light. Telehor. 1: 32-36.
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Vicky, Jess and Doug

Jess is a past student from Doug’s SQIT Art Photography class. We have mentored her during this project however Jess’ creativity, innovation and hard work has transformed this exhibition into a significant outcome – Congratulations Jess!

It should also be acknowledged that this exhibition has been supported by the Queensland Government through an RADF Arts Queensland Grant.

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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CAMERA OBSCURA 2000–2020: In hotels and other places

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Bedroom Camera Obscura 2000 (Y2K)

Bedroom Camera Obscura 2000 (Y2K)

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Our rhythms insert us into a vast and infinitely complex world, which imposes on us experience and the elements of this experience. Let us consider light, for example. We do not perceive it as a waveform carrying corpuscles but as a wonder that metamorphoses things, as an illumination of objects, as a dance on the surface of all that exists.…………

Henri Levebvre, Rhythmanalysis; Space, Time and Everday Life, page 82.

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Cooper+Spowart: 20 years of Camera Obscura Collaborations

In our collaborative work, we are interested in both the physical construct and cultural conventions that inform and shape us. This includes the common rituals and structures that surround, support and transport us in our everyday lives. In this work we have extended the context of documentary photographic methodology to include the narrative potential of the camera obscura and architectural projections.

.

Avochie Bathroom Camera Obscura

Avochie Bathroom Camera Obscura

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In the camera obscura work the viewer’s perception of the everyday is spatially challenged. The structures that can form camera obscura are everywhere, but some spaces present themselves as clearly suitable for the making. This could be a city office, a motel room, a country bathroom or even a car. Our work attempts to contextualize the experience of the camera obscura within a concept, space or site. Upon entering the darkened space, the viewer is initially displaced, as the familiar image of the everyday is dim and unrecognizable. Then after time spent in the camera obscura, the image becomes clearer and the familiar is re-established ultimately resulting in a relocation of the observer’s awareness of place.

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CarCamera Obscura graphic – how it works…

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A CarCamera Obscura on the Barkly Tablelands 2005

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Porthole on the Spirit of Tasmania – panorama camera obscura image

Porthole on the Spirit of Tasmania – panorama camera obscura image 2018

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City of Dreams – Ibis Hotel sunrise over Sydney

City of Dreams – Ibis Hotel sunrise over Sydney

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The Travelodge camera obscura 2008

The Travelodge camera obscura 2008

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Some background on the set-up for the Travelodge camera obscura:

Simple black garbage bags and some black electrical tape from the local 711 store. An aperture cut from a ‘found’ piece of aluminium – size around 8mm … we don’t use sophisticated glass lenses – these are direct light projections. A digital camera bares witness to our experience by capturing the image of the camera obscura projection.

.

Setting up the room

Blacking out the room

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We were watching TV ...

We were watching TV …

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OUR MOST RECENT CAMERA OBSCURA: ORPHEUS ISLAND BEACH TENT

(A collaborative event with John de Rooy, Spyder Displays and the Orpheus Is Photo Workshop)

Our Spyder Camera Obscura

Our Spyder Camera Obscura

A DUO View of the scene and the Camera Obscura image

A DUO View of the scene and the Camera Obscura image

TO VIEW OTHER CAMERA OBSCURA WORK BY COOPER AND SPOWART SEE THE LINKS

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Our Website:

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/4_PROJECTS/RoomCameraObscura-Project.html

The porthole on the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry

https://wotwedid.com/2019/01/11/2018-field-studies-camera-obscura-spirit-of-tasmania-porthole/

Our car converted into a camera obscura and driven across Australia:

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/4_PROJECTS/CarCamera-Project.html

Two New Zealand Camera Obscuras in the the Queenstown Rydges Hotel:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/two-new-zealand-camera-obscuras/

A public Camera Obscura performance and live video:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/camera-obscura-pinhole-event-foto-frenzy-a-report/

YouTube videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyA5QP-mX-E

A camera obscura at the Queenstown Centre fro Creative Photography:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/camera-obscura-qccp/

A World Pinhole Day Camera Obscura at Mt Barney:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/world-pinhole-photography-day-our-contribution/

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Closing off the hole

Closing off the hole in the Travelodge Hotel camera obscura

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© 2019 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for 20 Years of Camera Obscuras Projects

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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A BOOK ABOUT DEATH: Now in Australia

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Book-about-death-72

Doug’s contribution to A Book About Death

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A new exhibition at the Tweed River Art Gallery presents an exhibition of mail art contributed by artists from all over the world which that deals with the topic of death. Entitled, A Book About Death (ABAD), this exhibition is the most recent iteration of the concept that began in 1963 by Mail Art ‘father’ Ray Johnson – The difference on this occasion being that most of the artists represented in the show are Australian. The coordination and curation of this ABAD exhibition has been overseen by Julie Barrett and Heather Matthew.

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The following background information comes from the ABAD website:

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The Australian exhibition is is the 27th exhibition of A Book About Death. Paris based artist Matthew Rose instigated the first A Book About Death exhibition in 2009 in New York. Five hundred artists submitted five hundred copies of their artwork to the exhibition in the Emily Harvey Gallery. On the opening night people came with plastic bags and collected the free artworks and so were able to create their own (unbound) book about death. Many people then went on to exhibit their collections at other galleries and so the exhibition grew into an international phenomena with artists curating their own exhibitions and calling for new artworks to be created for the new exhibitions. Matthew Rose created the exhibition as a tribute to the ‘father’ of mail art Ray Johnson.
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Here’s what Mark Bloch from New York who knew Ray Johnson wrote:
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First and foremost, the American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) the founder of the New York Correspondence School deserves all the credit for creating the concept of A Book About Death because he was really onto something when he came up with the concept in 1963. Between March of that year and February 1965, he sent out 13 pages or so of something he called A Book About Death. In framing one piece of a paper as one page of a conceptual book, he anticipated many literary developments of the four decades that have followed. Ray Johnson’s A Book About Death connects to hypertext, cyberpunk, the internet, as well as devices like the Kindle, a device that is an accumulator of electrons that shows its user pictures on a screen of what can be thought of as a book. But the Kindle, one of the possible signposts of what the future of reading will be like, cannot show us an entire book. It can only show us one page at a time.
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Vicky's contribution to the ABAD exhibition

Vicky’s contribution to the ABAD exhibition

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Vicky’s statement about the work:

Through the microscope I saw the death of a leaf as a metaphor for the forest.

In this leaf I could see

The searing flames of a bush fire,

The decay and recycling of its flesh and bones,

The crystallization of time

A fossil

The past and the future

The story of the forest

In the death of a leaf . . .

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AN EVENT ASSOCIATED WITH THE EXHIBITION

Death Cafe Event

Death Cafe Event

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FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://abadaustralia.blogspot.com.au/
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FOR AN ABC INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER MATTHEW: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2013/10/17/3870941.htm.
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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart….ABAD Website and ‘About Us’ text Copyright ABAD Australia.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.euThe Cooper+Spowart text and work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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FACING FACES: Judging the photographic portrait

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Catalogue_PIC

OCA Catalogue Cover

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Olive Cotton Award Floortalk, Tweed River Art Gallery

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On September 15 about 30 people attended a floortalk in the exhibition space of the 2013 Olive Cotton Photography Award (OCA). In my preparation I reflected on the demands of a floortalk. Over the years I have given quite a few floortalks about my own as well as the work of others, including one at a previous Olive Cotton Award. I have also attended presentations by others. In this years OCA award I wanted to create an inclusive space for the audience. Rather than taking centre stage, I wanted to empower the attendees in a kind of role reversal­–to bring to the discussion their approaches to looking at, and responding to, the photographic portrait.

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Olive Cotton Award installation at Tweed River Art Gallery

 

I introduced a concept for viewing and interpreting photographs that I call ‘positioning’. It relates to the interaction that takes place when looking at a photograph – particularly a portrait. It is what reaches into our emotions lived experience and solicits our response. The premise of this floortalk format draws upon the notion that everyone is a judge and is also informed by Roland Barthes’ concept of the ‘death of the author’. I am interested in how the viewer’s interpretation relates to their own life’s experience rather than a direct connection with the author’s intent for the communication. After all, I as the floortalk presenter, can only offer an opinion based on my personal experience and knowledge.  

What follows is a conversational précis of the floortalk and the concepts covered relating to portrait photography and the OCA. After a formal introduction by Tweed River Art Gallery’s Public Programs Curator and Coordinator of the Award Anouk Beck, I addressed the group.

 

Doug Spowart presenting the floortalk

Doug Spowart presenting the floortalk

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We stand this morning in a gallery exhibition dedicated to the most photographed subject of all – the human face! The floor talk today will explore the idea of the photographic portrait and how we reflect on the success of this visual communication.

There is an old saying that you can tell a great portrait because the eyes follow you around the room – Well any portrait, even a painting, where the subject is represented looking toward the photographer’s/artist’s viewpoint will capture the subject in a way that will enable this ‘phenomenon’ to be observed. So this method for assessing a portrait will not successfully operate here.

Another way of knowing what great portraits look like is to ask an expert, whomever they may be, to make a decision. Awards such as the Olive Cotton Award use this principle and over the years an impressive list of pre-eminent photographers and/or critics and commentators on photography have been commissioned for the task. I must acknowledge the judge for this year’s award – Helen Ennis. I cannot think of anyone who would be as knowledgeable of the ideas, thoughts and working methods of Olive Cotton than Helen Ennis. In her connection with Olive Cotton, Ennis has written several books and catalogues, selected works and curated exhibitions and is in the process of writing Cotton’s biography. Ennis has provided for us all a greater understanding of Cotton’s work and prominent position within the history of Australian photography.

Now, let us think about portraiture and the act, as we find ourselves today, looking at and evaluating portraits. It is interesting to note that although the portrait is at the top of the list of photographic subjects, we can see in this award there is no standard approach. As we look around this gallery space today no two portraits look the same – I’m not referring to the diversity of subject’s portrayed, but rather the way the photographer has created and presented the subject to us. The photographs range from snapshots of unplanned spontaneous moments to documentary reportage and illustrative magazine styled images, and then to the overtly staged theatrical tableaux. Some images are derivative – that is that the approach to the image replicates time honoured, and sometimes perhaps over used or common, techniques, styles or treatments. Other images may represent subject and styles in ways that are vibrant and fresh.

When a portrait is made the photographer makes personal decisions relating to equipment selected, technique, style, lighting, posing, gesture and subject expression. They make a portrait that satisfies their personal urge to tell a story. This story is usually firmly related to the subject; although it can be a theme the photographer is investigating or be based on something from the photographer’s own life experience. The photographer may want or even demand that viewers take from the work a particular and specific meaning. The artist’s statement accompanying exhibited works can support and signpost and influence the readings that a photographer may want to pass on.

However, I would suggest to you, that once the image leaves the photographer and is presented publically a new paradigm exists. Writer and commentator on photography Roland Barthes wrote ‘… the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.’ (Barthes 1977:148). In this instance I propose that the photographer is the author – the reader is the viewer. When looking at photographs the viewer connects their life experience to what the work presents, and the narrative or meaning that emerges can no longer be the photographers alone – it is a hybrid born by the activation of the viewer.

We are all judges in a way and each of us has a unique experience of the world that directs and supports our response to images that we view. We will no doubt encounter portraits here today that are universally powerful and profound yet there will be other images that may reach individuals amongst us in the most direct and personal ways. What this means is that each of us is a kind of judge, and that our individual responses may be just as profound as those experienced by Helen Ennis five or so weeks ago.

Today then, I invite you all to be the judge and what we will be doing is engaging with selected works from the exhibition to discuss and review – and I will be asking you to contribute to the conversation. To assist you with this I’d like to pass on the concept that may help us with this process – it’s essentially about what I will call ‘positioning’. Your response to a portrait photograph, or perhaps in another context any photograph or work of art, is informed by your personal background as we have already discussed.  Your ‘position’ can be informed by the synergies of your life experiences that may include; physical, ideological, religious, gender, specific demographic, life experience of birth, death, love, illness, war or personal achievement or tragedy. So when we talk about a portrait please consider your position…

[What followed in the floortalk was a conversation by the participants moderated through my involvement. The audience contributed some interesting responses and ideas about portraits that included; Tamara Dean’s ‘Brothers’ 2013, Russell Shakespeare’s ‘Bob Katter’ MP 2011, Tina Fiveash’s ‘Twin Spirits’ 2013, Imogen Hall’s ‘Barry Jones and the ancestor’ 2012. At times there were powerful and emotional connections made by particular participants which were then shared through this floortalk conversational strategy.

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Brothers

Tamara Dean’s Brothers

Participants discussing their position and response to a portrait

Participants discussing their position and response to a portrait

Russell Shakespeare's Bob Katter MP

Russell Shakespeare’s Bob Katter MP

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I was asked to give my position on the winning photograph – Trent Parke’s ‘Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner’ 2013. Many attendees did not –or– could not find a ‘position’, that would enable them to understand the reason behind its selection. I spoke from my position informed by my background in the art and professional practice of photography and many years dedicated to the education and critique of this medium – I knew from comments made by the judge on announcing the award that she found Parke’s image something that she at first didn’t standout as so many images do – but she kept coming back to it. My position on the image was as follows…]

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Trent-Parke's

Trent Parke’s Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner

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On first encountering Parke’s image it does not give us much – it initially appears as a field of greatly magnified monochrome film grain, which hides the delicate structure of a female face. A closer view reveals less, and interestingly, the further away you move the ‘sharper’ the image. Parke’s portrait demands more of the viewer to find meaning – it challenges, it questions, it’s not a specific person, unlike every other portrait in this award, but more the generic form. For me it also comments about the romance of film and ‘humanness’ in the digital age. At the beginning of this floortalk I suggested that much of portraiture can be derivative – but this image has no provenance in contemporary portraiture – it stands alone, perhaps signalling that there is room for new and exciting representations of the human visage yet to come…

[The floortalk concluded and attendees continued viewing other portraits in the show from their newfound critical ‘position’. The outcomes and exchanges resulting from my floortalk strategy was, for me, personally enlightening and rewarding. A number of participants came up after the talk to say how much they had enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to discuss work and have their ideas, opinions and experiences shared in that way.

From their participation and responses today one could perhaps say that the author is dead – and many readers have been born …]

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Dr Doug Spowart    3 October 2013

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A PDF catalogue of the Olive Cotton Award is available here  2013 OCA catalogue for web_screen

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Barthes, R. (1977). Image Music Text. London, Fontana Press.


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Photographs of the floortalk © 2013 Victoria Cooper.  All other images are the copyright of the photographer.

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NOCTURNE GRAFTON PROJECT: Fieldwork Concludes

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Promotional Card

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We have just finished our artists-in-residence at the Grafton Regional Gallery. It was an amazing month and a wonderful opportunity to engage with the community and create art!

Artists in Residency programmes are an important opportunity to break out of the home/studio/teaching role routine to exchange or explore new ideas in a totally different environment.  We consider our time in these residencies as essential to our practice; it transforms how we work and brings fresh ideas into our work. Integral to our projects is the immersion in each place and connecting with community and local narratives of place. Our time in Grafton was a remarkable: the community, its everyday stories and the imposing presence of the Clarence River all contributed inspiration for our creative work.

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Doug photographing under the Pound Street viaduct

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Our project was to create images of local places that to us visually evoked a narrative.  The places were selected from our exploration of the town, researching local knowledge, and conversations with people we met.  We sought places that were best illuminated by nocturnal light (late afternoon and early evening light).  This light only lasts around 30 to 60 minutes, but its transformation of everyday places can be powerfully evocative. Our work in this time is intense and our awareness of the visual qualities of different spaces is deepened. The history and lived experience embedded in each place seems to ‘speak’ and we ‘listen’.

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A comparison - Nocturne and daylight of the same subject

A comparison – Nocturne and daylight of the same subject

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Facebook page

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After each shoot we return to our residence to reflect, select and optimize our visual reconnaissance of nocturnal Grafton to then upload and ‘share’ online through Facebook and a blog. Through this sharing of our work we connected with a community and their stories in each place. Personal and historical accounts of these places brought our images to life. For us, this is where the art that exists – between our initial inspiration and local lived experiences.

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The LINK Shoppingworld gallery

The LINK Shoppingworld gallery

A nocturne shoot-out with the Grafton Camera Club

A nocturne shoot-out with the Grafton Camera Club

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To extend the exchange that was integral to our project we also were involved in artists’ talks for schools, and other visitors to the Grafton Regional Gallery. We set up and attended two small displays of our ongoing work: one in the gallery and another in a vacant shop at the LINK arcade in the main shopping precinct. Doug and I had a very dear friend, Charlie Snook, who was a strong supporter and participant of the local camera club. So it was important for us to be able to connect with this enthusiastic group of photographers. We gave an evening talk, shared two of our nocturne shoots as photographic outings and judged their current assignment work. It was privilege to be invited to their 50th anniversary dinner held on the last weekend of our residency and a great way to finish our time in Grafton.

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The C.R.A.P.y artist book team

The C.R.A.P.y artist book team

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We organized an activity to involve local and regional artists as well as a Brisbane arts professional in a collaborative artists’ book project. Under the auspices of the Centre for Regional Arts Practice, an organization created and coodinated by us, we held an activity over the weekend of September 21and 22. This collaborative event produced 60 copies of the C.R.A.P. Artist’s Survey Number 15, the theme of this survey was ‘the regional arts worker as a nomad’. Copies were shared amongst the participants while some were then set aside for donation to major collections including: The Grafton Regional Gallery and the State Library of Queensland.

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The Daily Examiner newspaper coverage

The Daily Examiner newspaper coverage

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We were excited by the considerable support of and interest in our project from Grafton’s newspaper, The Daily Examiner, publishing separate stories, a front-page photograph and a weekend feature.  Support also came from Senator Ursula Stephens shared the page and added ‘Grafton is the great Jacaranda city on the NSW north coast and the Nocturne Project is a wonderful example of celebrating local landmarks and building community identity. Love it!’ – was also an unexpected acknowledgement of our project. We visited the Grafton Historical Society and found a treasure of knowledge and information together with a willingness to assist in our research.

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The Roundabout Clocktower from Weiley's Hotel balcony

The Roundabout Clocktower from Weiley’s Hotel balcony

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Some information on the Facebook component of the project: www.facebook.com/nocturnegrafton

During the month of September the project had 410 page ‘Likes’ and achieved a total viral reach of around 65,000 people. 65% of the Nocturne Grafton fan base were women (the Facebook average is 46%). The main engaged age group were women 25-34 years @ 17% of the total (the FB Average is 12%). The most popular post was the Clocktower roundabout from Weiley’s Balcony, which attracted 4,500 views and 274 likes, 37 comments and 44 shares (some of the reach was boosted). Interpretation of Facebook analytics is an interesting task and one that we will be reviewing over the next few weeks.  We will maintain the Facebook page as a place for continued conversation.

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Jude McBean, Vicky, Cher Breeze & Doug

Jude McBean, Vicky, Cher Breeze & Doug

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At all times during our residency an energetic and professional team, Jude McBean GRG Director, Cher Breeze, Avron Thompson and many dedicated volunteers at the Grafton Art Gallery provided valuable assistance, advice and stories. With the vision and support of the Gallery the residency was for us a transforming experience and our time at Grafton Art Gallery was highly productive.

And a BIG thank you to all our Facebook Friends who supported the project by their ‘Likes’, ‘Comments’ and ‘Shares’.

The final visual outcome for the project will be in the form of the continued online presence, artists/photo books and exhibition of image work. These artworks will reflect on the collaboration between our photographs, the social media project and the Grafton community.

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Going home on the last night of the residency…

 

Some comments from our Facebook friends at the conclusion of the project:

Peter Hunter OAM, ARPS, AFIAP: Victoria and Doug. I am really impressed with your photographs of Grafton at dusk. Your very impressive skill at taking a very ordinary subject and creating a great photo from it by using super composition, creative evening light and long exposure has resulted in a wonderful collection. I hope that they will be archived for posterity.

Marlene Szepsy: I have really enjoyed your way of sharing and bringing art to the community. A great artists in residence project. Thank you.

Louise Kirby: You have been wonderful AIR’s and I am so glad you came and shared your beautiful photography, your skills and your enthusiasm …

Adam Hourigan: pleasure meeting you guys. The photos make Facebook a much brighter place

Vanessa Collins: thanks for the way you have shown our beautiful town, can’t wait for the exhibition and the book

Stephanie Haines: Thank you for the beautiful photos… they made us all look at our town in a new way.

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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for The Nocturne Grafton Project

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ADVANCE NOTICE: Memory Collective Exhibition to open @ TRAG

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The Memory Collective Invite

The Memory Collective Invite

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The Team: Front Ashleigh Campbell, Julio Dunlop, Kirsty Lee, Victoria Cooper, Doug Spowart Back: David Usher, Jason Nash, Jesse Wright, Damien Kamholtz, Zac Rowling ( weakling). Not present: Craig Allen & Jake Hickey

The Team: Front Ashleigh Campbell, Julio Dunlop, Kirsty Lee, Victoria Cooper, Doug Spowart
Back: David Usher, Jason Nash, Jesse Wright, Damien Kamholtz, Zac Rowling (weakling).
Not present: Peta Chalmers, Craig Allen & Jake Hickey

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Photographer Victoria Cooper reflecting on the Memory Collective project

Vicky photographs Kirsty

Vicky photographs Kirsty

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Both Doug and I, familiar with collaborative projects, were excited to have the opportunity to connect with the multidisciplinary space that Damien Kamholtz was creating in the Memory Collective. So it was on one day in May, that each artist would bring to the chosen site their insights, instincts and life’s experience.

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There was a painting – a very large painting; a sculpture filled with water, a ‘pond’ to reflect and dissolve the evolving performance; a movement artist to reconfigure the idea or memory of painting; seven white ceramic bowls to containing pigments and a singular bowl left empty to float across the dark water of the pond.

The physical space did not easily present itself at first–but as the project unfolded and discussion flowed from the practical, logistical to the intellectual, conceptual–the site itself also became a collaborator in the project: the stage, the remnants of its warehouse history, the idiosyncratic control over the method of entering the space (all us had to crawl under a jammed roller door)

Was the space asserting its role?

This day was not just a visual experience–it was a total sensory and psychological immersion.

Although a part of the documentary team, including video and still photography, I was compelled to cross beyond the voyeuristic role of witness. I was motivated by the tension created from: anxiety for the loss of the original painting with the frisson of anticipation for the evolving transformation.

The movement artist’s touch with the painting was sensual and slow.

We moved like moths; entranced by the night-light . . . circling . . . unable to land nor escape . . .

This was not a performance rather it was about life, unrehearsed and ephemeral. Only through technology were small parts recorded to be later pieced, montaged and sewn together in a kind of rich layered memory tapestry. And, like memory, there are gaps, fuzzy distortions of scale and time lines, loud visually busy moments together with quiet, serene and ethereal meditations.

I began this project with an intuition that it would be both inspiring and exhilarating to work with this creative group of Toowoomba based artists. Damien has, with delicacy and grace, enabled and cultivated a fertile collaborative space, which continues to extend the potential for the creative work.

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Kirsty

Kirsty addresses the painting in performance

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A recollection of the MEMORY COLLECTIVE collaboration from Doug Spowart.

Doug-documents the space ...... Photo: Victoria Cooper

Doug photographs the performace

Working as a regional artist can be an isolating experience. Your networks are often big city based, coastal and a long way from your home on the range. I am familiar with collaborative art-making but it has usually been with my artist partner Victoria Cooper.

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The Memory Collective was quite a different collaborative affair. As an individual artist I could never have thought up let alone coordinated, as Damien has, all of the interdisciplinary artists and artforms into one time–one space–one purpose–one artpiece. Meetings, Facebook discussions and site inspections enabled a real feeling of connection with the creativity of these fellow regional artists and their ideas, aspects of each discipline’s needs and potential for contribution.

On the day of the performance I found myself in the collaborative ‘doing’ mode and things changed. Before, everything was about the team and contributing to the dialogue, now it came down to my personal response to the idea and the performance. I concentrated on observing moments, time and space, movement, gesture and recognition – looking to see, looking to feel, seeking the spark that emanates from a sweet synergy – a concurrence of elements in the viewfinder that, when recognised by me – demanded the shutter’s click . . . click . . . click. Freezing from the continuum of time a moment to become a silicon memory.
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At first I worked deliberately and methodically. Years of art practice [practise] smoothing the transition between observation and capture – perhaps unemotionally, but none-the-less, a participant in the progression of the grander art-making project.
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As the performances progressed this in-control feeling, the comfort and ease of working, were transformed. I sensed a shift in the mode of my observation and response. Each shutter release signified my recognition of the quintessential moment. And each of these ‘clicks’ was the affirmation of my being witness to the performance and my receiving a special communication that it revealed — the very reason I’m a photographer, a kind of self-actualisation where the act of making photographs is akin to a Zen calligraphy master’s ink-dripping brush, intuitively moving over a surface leaving a memory of its touch – indelibly on paper.
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I remember now – in those moments, I was no longer an individual collaborating with others: we were all ‘one’ in that space — and that we were making something special and far – far greater, that the sum of all our individual, contributions, energies and imaginings.
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SEE SOME OTHER ARTIST’S CONTRIBUTIONS and Videos on the Facebook site here:
https://www.facebook.com/memorycollectiveproject
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Kirsty Lee – the paint portrait

Kirsty Lee – the paint portrait

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.© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for The Memory Collective Project
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