Over the last few years I have been working in collaboration with senior scientists at Natural History Museum, London and the Interplanetary Sciences Archive at UCL. At the Natural History Museum I am working with Electronmicroscopy to examine samples of dust I have collected from my families old home in the centre of Hamburg, Germany. The house sits in the centre of Hamburg and withstood the intense bombing of WW2. My interests are in the dust as an archive of time and place; of history and memory; and also of the discord between the scientific image and human perception. I am currently making large-scale drawings to re-think and re- negotiate the scientific image and generate new readings of time, scale and weight.
Lightless Air: Drawing Dust and Disappearance
Publication 2017 Love, J. (2017) Lichlose Luft: Lightless Air. London. Camberwell Press.
I first became interested in the concept of dust while completing a practice based PhD at Chelsea College of Arts in 2013. I became fascinated with how dust - that which is literally almost insubstantial – has the power to generate a compelling breadth and depth of thought and debate. I started by drawing small particles of dust in graphite pencil onto the surface of printed photographic images and became interested in how such a simple act brought about entirely new sense of reading and meaning to the work. I began to consider how everything that exists materially in the world is ultimately covered in dust and technically formed of dust. Dust is everywhere, but is not something, which is particularly noticed – it is overlooked and invisible and considered a nuisance, especially to the professional photographer. We look through dust suspended in the air everyday, dust that contains bits of everything in our world and beyond, dust that is in the process of disintegrating and has the potential to reform. As everything gradually disappears it turns to dust, which also has the ability to reconstitute itself into other forms. Everything that is, except a digital image held within the computer. This ‘technological image’ remains hidden from dust, hidden from our human sense of temporality, materiality and perception of scale.
As part of my investigation into dust and the technological image, I approached two scientists, who examine the world from two very different senses of scale: the first was scientist Alex Ball, Head of the Imaging and Analysis Centre at the Natural History Museum, and the second, Dr Peter Grindrod, Senior Scientific Researcher at The Regional Planetary Image Facility (RPIF) at UCL. At the Natural History Museum I used the electron microscope to capture photographic images of dust. At the Planetary Image Facility, I am tracing dust and interference from original analogue prints sent back from the Apollo space missions. These two bodies of work seem to suggest quite opposing scales, mass, volume and distances. Simultaneously, I am looking down at the world microscopically and then looking out – telescopically. Yet the images made could be the reverse. They become quite confusing in their perception of scale, size and mass, almost indifferent as to which belongs to which scale of production.
The digital photographic print, obtained through different apparatus, is always the starting point in this body of work through which I can re-think, re-work, and re-engage with these ideas of dust and technology, seeking out a more material and temporal image that throws perception into doubt. This ‘technical’ image captured through a lens, allows me to visually ‘imagine’ and ‘construct’ images without having to physically engage, or as Flusser (1985) writes, ‘…this emerging universe, this dimensionless, imagined universe of technical images’ has a ‘peculiar hallucinatory power,’ and one that follows no rules.1 I find that the image derived from modern digital technology lacks something akin to human perception of material and time. It lacks the possibility of any contact with dust, or the trace of engagement with materials and process. In my drawing from or within the original ‘technical’ image I feel I am possibly throwing into question the very imaging technology that I am using and even questioning the scientific approach through which the images are derived. As Merleau-Ponty (1964) states, ‘science manipulates things and gives up living in them’. 2 Science bring is a world of images that are completely detached from our own familiar, material world. This is what drives me to re-draw from/upon the printed images obtained from the Museum and Image Facility with pencil. This act brings about an entirely new apprehension of time, materiality and weight. I am attempting to bring the image back into the physical, tactile and material world of life and imagination, using dust, as a material that seems suspended halfway between the substantial and insubstantial, to explore this.
Curator Dr Magdalena Wisniowska invited me to show the body of work made with the help from the Natural History Museum, at GiG Munich. This brought this work together for the first time and has allowed me to begin to examine these ideas in more depth. This publication marks the beginning of this journey.
1 Villem Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images, trans. Nancy Ann Roth (Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press. 2011), 10-15.
2 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind, in Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Basic Writings, ed. Thomas Baldwin (London & New York: Routledge Press. 2004), 121.
Somewhere between Printmaking, Photography and Drawing: Viewing contradictions within the printed image.
Dr Johanna Love June 2015 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14702029.2015.1094239?tab=permissions&scroll=top
This paper examines a number of questions raised through my fine art practice, concerning how processes inherent in printmaking, photography and drawing may be brought together within a single image to open up new possibilities of reading surface and space and bring about new apprehensions of temporality. The central focus of this paper explores how surface and space are perceived and understood within an image, particularly where both digital photographic printmaking and hand-drawn marks co-exist. Using a number of my own artworks I will expose what I describe as a perceptual clash emerging on the printed picture plane. I argue that this clash emerges as a result of the ontological nature of certain printmaking processes, which embed certain visual elements within the resulting printed image. A number of key aspects around visibility of surface, orientation, materiality and time within the photographic printed image and the experience of tactile touch during making of the image will be investigated and will offer valuable insights into how and why this new perceptual space emerges within the image.
Dust: Exploring the relationship between contemporary modes of viewing the photographic printed image
Johanna Love, Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the University of the Arts London for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy July 2012
This practice-based research project was initiated through and informed by my own fine art practice, and examines how dust may be used as a visual element within contemporary image making to generate new modes of viewing and making. The practical work brings together the digital photographic print (as a landscape image) and images of dust to question how digital photographic surface and drawings of dust may sit together within the same pictorial surface to open up new possibilities of reading space and bringing about new apprehensions of temporality and mortality.
Theoretical and philosophical context is considered through two contrasting notions of pictorial orientation, the vertical (Alberti, 1435), and the horizontal plane (Steinberg, 1972) and of the interruptive, physical and metaphorical reading of dust within the reading of the photographic printed image. An assertion of the importance of tactile touch and proximity during image creation is made, referencing the thinking of Aristotle, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. Through an analysis of a number of key artists’ works, including Helen Chadwick’s The Oval Court, Carcass (1986); Man Ray and Duchamp’s Dust Breeding (1920); and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes – along with a series of practical investigations using a digital flat bed scanner, the research explores how shifts in making and viewing occur as a consequence of changes in image orientation and materiality, and offer the potential of disruption or interruption in the viewer’s perception of photographic space. The experiments and analysis underpin the central argument of the research and demonstrate how materiality and orientation of making are key aspects of image creation, aspects which can be manipulated to create contradictory visual readings of surface and space. The tension brought about by this visual contradiction opens up new possibilities in the perceptions and meanings within the photographic print, tension further underlined by the significant symbolic and indexical presence of dust within the image.
2015 Somewhere between Printmaking, Photography and Drawing: Viewing contradictions within the printed image – Hybrid Practices in Printmaking Symposium, Chelsea College of Arts, London
2015 Dust: Exploring new ways of viewing the printed photographic image – Shadows: Material photography in a digital culture, PARC Symposium, LCC, London http://events.arts.ac.uk/event/2015/5/18/Shadows-Symposium/ http://lapc.format.com/shadows#0 http://www.photographyresearchcentre.co.uk/what-we-do/moose-2015/shadows-symposium
2013 Impact 8, Duncan of Jordanstone College, Dundee
2011 Materiality and surface of the digital print – Wrexham International print exhibition & Symposium, Yale College, Wrexham
2010 From the emptiness of representation to the representation of emptiness, Land/Water Symposium “Landscape & the Metaphysical”, University of Plymouth