Considering The Presentation

Now I am at a point where I have produced a series of different work that address various issues and concerns I have, but I need to consider how all the work will be displayed in a way that looks like one cohesive body of work. Taking a step back from everything I’ve produced I have realised I have 3 main sections to the work I want to exhibit, as listed below:

  1. A series of photograms – These offer more of an objective view of the subjects I am depicting within the image. When I initially started the project I want to use objects that were universal to a wide audience outside of the LGB community, as a way of addressing issues that face this demographic. Photograms have been a very appropriate medium to this with, as Gerry Badger described them being both “figurative and abstract at the same time”, a contradictory statement that works well for my intentions. The objects that are shown within the photograms are easily recognisable, yet the process of making a photogram out of them has abstracted them far beyond anything from real life and the object therefore takes on a new purpose. The keys conjure up ideas of domesticated life, of security and of accessing a space that is secure, something that is denied to many gay and lesbian people. The insects inciting a sense of phobia in the viewer, an analogy for what message the Russian government are feeding their society, by banning the propaganda of homosexuality and punishing anyone that promotes a positive message of this lifestyle.
  2. A series of seascapes – Taking inspiration from Hiroshi Sugimoto and using how he has defined the seascape to inform my own work. A peaceful, safe and secure environment that is void of human intervention and unchanging, an environment that activists and charities, such as Stonewall (a leading charity for gay rights) are striving to achieve. And with recent progression within our own culture, such as the legalising of same-sex marriage, that environment seems ever closer. But the inclusion of the boat to disrupt this peaceful horizon within the series is representative of the oppressive figures that still linger and pose a threat to the progression of equal rights.
  3. I series of photographs – Which are an extension of the photograms and the insects that feature within the work. They will be included as a way of stimulating more of an emotional response from the viewers. I think the photograms are appropriate but lack the same stimulus that the photographs offer.

These are three different pieces that are linked together by a common theme, so I must design a layout that when exhibited they appear as one body of work. Below is an initial attempt at a layout, which doesn’t work but has raised several points that I must consider.

Whole Layout Low ResWhen discussing this layout with other people they pointed out that the insect photograms surrounding the larger photograph was overwhelming. They need to be separated because the eye can not really focus on either of the works and they steal attention from one and other. Also the colour’s seem to drastically different, with the blue strip along the bottom of the layout, which looks separated from the series and looks as if it doesn’t belong. Taking this into consideration I will re-arrange the layout so that each piece can stand alone, I wont attempt to force them together as they addressing different issues. In terms of the colour’s I have changed the seascapes into black and white as a way of matching them visually with the photograms. By doing this I have managed to increase the contrast between the sky and sea, resulting in a much more dramatic effect and this emphasizes the horizon.

There are more photographs I want to include in this series such as the two below, but in order to match them visually with the photograms I have cropped them into a square format and they will be printed to the same size.


Another point I have considered is how they are mounted. I decided I am not going to frame them any of the photographs because there are a lot of small individual pieces, therefore the frames may dominate the wall. This leaves the option to mount the work onto a rigid, flat material. Initially I had considered foam board, but I wasn’t convinced that would be visually appealing and over time it would deteriorate quickly. I explored other possibilities such as MDF and alluminium, before settling on dibond which is reinforced by two sheets of aluminium. Unfortunately I didn’t find a printers that would mount on this material, so I had the dibond cut to size and I mounted the images myself.

photo 2

photo 1



Rinko Kawauchi Influence

In an earlier post I was talking about the photogram’s I have created in relation to photographs, such as the one below. I was wanting to include some photographs because I think they add something different to the body of work that photogram’s don’t, which is more of an emotional response. The photogram’s are clinical in their appearance whereas the photograph here creates more of a reaction.

Lee Hassall Image 1This idea of using a series of photographs to stimulate emotion as a way of telling a narrative, is something I experienced at an exhibition of Rinko Kawauchi’s work a few years ago. It was at the photographers gallery, when Kawauchi was nominated for the Deutsche Börse photography prize 2012. The body of work featuring in this exhibition was ‘Illuminance’, which has also been published within a book format. I thought the experience of viewing the book was translated successfully into an exhibition display, as in the book there are pairings of striking photographs, a mixture of abstract and figurative subjects that take the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotions, which was apparent in the exhibition as well. One moment you may be looking at an abstract image that has a soft colour palette, causing you to transcend into a dreamlike state and in contrast to this you are met with a grotesque picture of bloody eye balls pulling you out of this peaceful state.

The writing accompanying the photographs in the book talks about how Kawauchi’s photographs are reminiscent of a child’s curious perception of the world. Focusing on small, easily overlooked details within life and bringing them into question, presenting the viewer with a dilemma as to how something as repulsive as a dead bird could look beautiful at the same time.

Kawauchi 3

So I am going to try and replicate this method Kawauchi has used as a way of stimulating emotions out of the viewer. For example I have taken another photograph (below), which I would like to include in the series as I think it says something different to everything else I have at the moment. The bird appears quite majestic and hopeful, something I think will be read similarly by others as it’s quite a universal sign. It’ll be an interesting contrast within the body of work that is all about the discrimination of a demographic.


Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes are a peaceful vision. Very simple photographs made up of just water, air and a horizon the divides the image in two, this is the entirety of the image.

Seascape 1 Seascape 2 Seascape 3

“Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract
attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence.
The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. Living phenomena
spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could
just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity. Let’s just say that there happened
to be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the right
distance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly
inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe,
we search in vain for another similar example.
Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I view
the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a
voyage of seeing.” – Hiroshi Sugimoto

In this quote Sugimoto talks about the seascape having a calming secure affect on the viewer. About knowing you are safe and belong in this place because the conditions on this planet are perfect for our existence.

The part ‘I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home’ refers to the seascape as being fixed in time. It remains a constant throughout time and is the same sight that the ancient world looked out upon and remains undisturbed.

I have recently visited the North East of England, staying in a place not far from the coast. Seeing the seascapes here reminded me of this series by Sugimoto, and that calming security that is conveyed in his work.

This seemed appropriate to include in my own work, as advances are being made in our society where it has become easier to live openly gay. Yet this isn’t a progression that can be seen in other countries that seem to be taking a backward approach to the liberalisation of the LGB community.

This report from The Guardian shows anti-gay activist celebrating the passing of anti-gay laws in Uganda. This ‘Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act’ sentences gay people o life in prison, within this bill the death penalty was first proposed before settling with life imprisonment.

This is why in the seascapes I have taken (shown below), I have included a disturbance upon the horizon. As a diptych you get that sense of a wide open, undisturbed space with this slight imperfection to the right of the horizon. Within this almost empty and peaceful image that tiny imperfection is magnified by the fact nothin else in the frame distracts from it.

My interpretation of this seascape is that it is peaceful and comforting and that ship on the horizon is a distraction from the security the seascape offers, as described by Sugimoto.

Seascape Diptych Low res


Photograms of Insects

Following on from an earlier blog post I have carried on an idea, which has led me to create this new series of photograms (shown below). It was inspired by the photograph below it. This photograph had reminded me of the way in which homosexuals are portrayed within Russian society. Being an inconvenient pest, that are treated poorly and have very little rights.

Insect Grid

Lee Hassall Image 1The reason for choosing to create photograms is because I feel it offers more of an objective representation of the subject, free from a photographers vision. It’s a lot simpler and standardised in how it is represented.

Gerry Badger describes the photogram as being both “figurative and abstract at the same time”. What seems like a contradictory statement actually makes sense. The forms of the subjects depicted in the photograms are familiar to real life objects that we can recognise as being insects, yet the harshly contrasted black and white aesthetic of the photograms are far from being realistic.

This departure from a photographers interpretation of the subjects, I believe offers more of a clinical distant view of the subject. Whereas the photograph below the photograms provokes more of an emotion out of the viewer; it appears sad, isolated and insignificant, which I don’t get as a reading from the photograms.

The photogram and the photograph offer different things, which I want both of in my final piece. I want the objective, universally recognisability of the photogram and I want the emotional reaction you can get from a photograph. It is because of this I am now starting to consider exhibiting a mixture of photograms and photographs in my final piece.

Eva Grubinger: ‘Dark Matter’

‘Dark Matter’ is a series of sculptures by the artist Eva Grubinger. The body of work was exhibited at the Baltic center for contemporary art.

Dark Matter 1

Dark Matter 2

The work raises the question ‘what does power look like?’. Within society there are dominating figures that control our lives, and this body of work explores the artists interest in power and surveillance. Our spending habits tracked, our journeys documented on CCTV, but the people monitoring this surveillance remain hidden and so answering the question of what power looks like seems difficult to answer.

The title ‘Dark Matter’ is taken from the theory in physics, where dark matter is a term given to something that is detectible and yet remains invisible. A metaphor for not being able to answer the question ‘what does power look like?’.

The sculptures consist of an over sized headset, mirrored glass, a control tower, a cooling tower, an atomic reactor and a tower block. Although deciphering the meaning of the sculptures may not be apparent at first, what they represent within today’s society is a little clearer. Metaphors for power, which can be likened to ‘statutes of goddesses of war, eagles and lions’ that were symbols of power hundreds of years ago.

The objects are familiar to us, which is why the artist chose to use them in her work. We all will have experienced them and Grubinger is using these universal experiences as a way of visually representing the mysterious shape that power could take the form of.

Grubinger is taking a complex political issue, something that is difficult to imagine and picture visually, but is still taking the issue and distilling it into a series of objects. Jan Verwoert wrote about this work stating that ‘as long as reality is only arbitrarily experienced, it wont occur to anybody to become politically active’. Taking this into consideration we can see what Grubinger has done is organised a series of objects, (that at first appear unrelated to each other) which all represent power in one way or another. And it is this collection of objects representing power which gives weight to Grubingers metaphor, that this is what power looks like.

This work is something that will inform the production of my own. The objects I am using will be recognisable to everyone.They may appear arbitrary at first, disconnected from the issues that they represent, but will become clearer when united.



In an earlier post I discussed the conditions within Russia. How hatred is encouraged to be fueled towards the LGB community. This being done in several ways, for example the outlawing of making neutral comments about homosexuality and only allowing negative expressions to be made about the sexuality. Or the fact that homophobic attacks go unpunished, making it appear acceptable to abuse people from this community.

Russia intends to depict homosexuality as scum, pests, insignificant beings worthy of extermination. Something that can easily be exterminated, a pest within society. So if you think about their hierarchy of society, homosexuality (like insects within the food chain) are at the lowest level.

Lee Hassall Image 1I came across this image I have that reflected this issue to me, how insignificant a life can be treated. It’s easy to almost miss the bug, and could easily be mistaken for an imperfection within the image, a smudge on the lens perhaps. Once realising the subject, you notice how fragile the insect is, and even though you notice it’s life has left it you feel very little (if any) sadness, because it’s so insignificant. It’s life is not worthy of any emotional remorse.

The cold distant response I get from the subject in this photograph is how I feel the conditions are currently within Russia. A similar lack of respect for this insect reflects the lack of respect for people within the LGB community. The casual act of exterminating a pest seems reminiscent of the ease in which homophobic attacks are carried out in Russia.



Felix Gonzalez Torres Interview with Robert Storr

Thoughts I’ve taken away from an interview I found on this Felix Gonzalez Torres website, between Torres and Robert Storr.

Art and politics are inseparable. There are those works that appear more political and so you list them off as being political artists, but all art is making some comment or interaction with society. Therefore on some level art is political.

From reading this interview it appears that Torres is a gay activist, but not as obvious and blatant about it. He doesn’t flaunt work that is obviously referencing gay men. He talks about being a spy, about disguising yourself in a mask in order to get at the center of a group, and once you’re in this position you can really effectively create change and make your impact. Because “The enemy is too easy to dismiss and to attack”, which is a perfect quote taken from this interview that sums up what he is attempting with his work, and the enemy in this case being the artist making work referencing homosexual desires. By not making something obviously offensive, the viewer is going to find it hard to attack it and be critical of the work. He describes his work as being more inclusive, so that everything ends up have a “sexual mission, the walls, the pavement, everything.”

He talks about when Senator Stevens comes to the opening of one of his exhibitions. Calling the senator one of the “most homophobic anti-art senators”, and that he came to the show looking for offensive images of phallic symbols of penises and asses. Looking for very limited ideas about objects of desirability for gay men, but was encountered with ordinary objects that don’t have these associations with homosexuality. It would be very difficult to explain how two clocks on a wall side by side is pornographic and homoerotic.

And whilst these works weren’t overtly homoerotic they infiltrated the mind of the viewer, and every time they look at a clock or pair of curtains from now on they are going to be confronted with these connotations of homosexuality.

Torres Clocks

Torres Curtains

In my proposal I talk about wanting my work to speak to people outside of the gay community, not wanting the message to be restricted to this relatively small demographic. What I also realise is that other gay people are already included in these issues, it is already happening to them and so it would seem pointless to create work that facilitates them. I want my work to make people outside the community feel as if these cases of inequality relate to them, to make it their problem as well as ours. After all it is fellow human beings that are being attacked by these prejudices, not just that separate social demographic that has nothing to with us.

In order to do this I have to be careful in choosing the subject matter in my work, making sure not to choose ones that only relate to homosexuality. So far I have shown keys in my work, as keys are free of associations with a sexual orientation, they are as Torres puts it ‘inclusive’.


Initial Thoughts

For this module I am intending to follow on from a project I had began for ‘photographing the narrative’. This project was exploring gay culture, the issues that surround this community and how I personally responded to them. I had purposely left the project open, as a work in progress, that I could re-visit it and explore other avenues.

Since leaving that project I have been exploring visual representations of gay men, which I believe is going to inform the outcome of this module. I was researching into the dipiction of gay men around the time of the aids epedemic, and found how this community were connected with the disease. Using Nicholas Nixon’s work ‘people with aids’ as an illustration of this point. Nixon’s portraits from this series (whether intentional or not) gave aids a body to associate with and some of the subjects he photographed were gay men.

To tackle these complications of using the body as a form of representation the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres took a different approach to dipicting aids. His still life photograph (below) features an unmade bed, which he describes as being a memorial to his late partner who had died of aids one year before this photograph was exhibited. Gonzalez-Torres’s intention was to associate the grief signified in his work with aids and not a human form, as a way of avoiding stigmatising a minority.

Torres 3

I intend to explore how other artists have used a similar approach to Felix Gonzalez-Torres, by not using the body as a means of representation.

What I also aim to look into is gay rights within other countries, as it is an issue that keeps cropping up lately. Such as the anti-gay laws recently passed within Arizona, Uganda and Russia. I am going to explore this topic more in depth, as I am interested in how drastically they conflict with our own society. And it makes me realise the gay community isn’t one just restricted to our own countries borders, but spreads out worldwide and the way in which this community is treated can change enormously.