The Work for Surfaces & Strategies

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Very helpful webinar with Gary today.

As background, one of my ‘issues’ is the limited time I can be in Cambodia, and how I will develop my practice throughout the course. I have already decided to:

  • Connect with the UK-based Cambodian community, to see what opportunities there are to ‘tell the story’. It was a nice start to meet the Khmer Kitchen mobile food people, based in Somerset, at the Frome Independent Market this past weekend.
  • Continue to work with the idea of ‘traces’, to suggest historical context to events when the actual event is long past – choosing UK historical sites to build my practice and develop my ideas – and trying to avoid the often banal images from dark tourism.
  • Work with Sarath ‘virtually’ on his written stories.
  • Continue to build my environmental portraiture capabilities.
  • Scan and print a selection of ‘old’ images to take on my next Cambodia trip, to explore rephotography and display.

In conversation with Gary, he noted:

  • The main thrust of this module is to clearly shape and describe the ‘how’ we practice photography, illustrated by our Work in Progress (shot this module).
  • That said, rephotography by definition includes prior work. So using that in some useful and describable way in creating new work is valid.
  • Simply scanning old work is not really ‘new’ work (even though the Natural History Museum claims copyright of digital images of historic photographs long out of copyright!).
  • Using both old and new work, in books and exhibitions, including those activities featuring later in this module, is of course allowed.
  • Just be very wary of using ‘old’ work in the final WIP portfolio for Surfaces and Strategies, as it carries 60% of the marks.
  • Gary thought 18 images would be required.

We also discussed Claire Bishop‘s rather dense book “Artificial Hells“. Gary suggested some Tate videos, and admits he saw those before reading the book 🙂 I looked them up – links below, and much easier to follow.

Bishop, Claire. 2012. Artificial Hells. London: Verso Books.

Bishop, Claire. 2012. Delegated Performance: Outsourced Authenticity. Tate Video from Inside Out: Materialising the Social Conference. (Accessed 5/6/2018).

Bishop, Claire. 2013. Radical Museology. London: Koenig Books.

Bishop, Claire. 2007. Spectacle and Participation.Tate Video from Rethinking Spectacle Conference. (Accessed 5/6/2018).


A Place Over Time

mickyates Cambodia, CambodiaFMP, Coursework, Critical Research Journal, History, Ideas, Khmer, Photography, Project Development, Rephotography, SSWeek1, SurfacesStrategies Leave a Comment

In the first week of Surfaces & Strategies, we were asked to consider a ‘Place over Time’, with these steps:

  1. Choose a previously made image that relates to your project / subject of interest. You might wish to select a few images as alternatives.
  2. Revisit your chosen image. Feel free to approach this in your own way or make use of / adapt one of the strategies introduced.
  3. Display the original image and the new one together in a space / place of your choosing. Photograph the result.
  4. Describe your approach and experience. Talk about how the image was chosen, why a specific strategy was adopted and what compromises you had to make in achieving it. Perhaps also mention the impact that the space had / has upon the two images and their relationship.

I chose the Memorial Pagoda at Choeung Ek, the Killing Fields, erected in 1988 to house over 8000 unearthed human skulls from the unmarked graves at the site. We first visited in 1994, when the Pagoda was relatively new. The last time I visited was in March 2018 – a 24 year gap.

Images from roughly the same angle are shown in the header. The first was shot on film, and the second, digital.

In many ways the scene is the same – a melancholic, sad, silent memorial to the lives lost in the genocide. In 2005, the Phnom Penh Municipality leased the site to JC Royal for 30 years. The company then paid Phnom Penh $15,000 a year, in return for upgrading the site and charging admission fees.

Today, there are walkways around the graves, and many more tress and flowers. Visitors are always respectful, but that doesn’t stop the photography or the selfies …

I chose to re-photograph the two images in the presence of an Angkor Stone carving, reflecting the glories of the Khmer Empire (9th-1th Centuries), wondering what those proud empire builders would have made of what happened. And also wondering what they would make of how we deal with the tragedy, today.

The still-life uses a wooden background, for two reasons. First, the women’s wooden cells in Tuol Sleng still remain, creating a link between the two sites. People were tortured at Tuol Sleng, and if not killed there, were executed at Choeung Ek.

Second, I wanted to reflect the base of the carving, to connect directly with the Stone Head.

The layout is strictly geometrical, in total defiance of the unpredictable horror of Genocide.