Red Dots

People milling
at the postcard show,
hushed voices,
sneering looks,
anticipation,
some art works hung
in poll position
well lit spots,
close to the eye line,
others at cat height,
or under the ceiling,
some are hung
in gloomy corners
where they don’t draw
the viewer’s and
potential buyer’s gaze.
Which will win prizes?
Which will sell?

All artists hoping,
convinced
theirs are the best,
looking for red dots
that signify sold.
Looking for mine
trying to find them,
so many here,
it’s overwhelming
finally find them,
the spots where
they are hung
not too bad,
yes, I still like the black
and white umbrellas best,
no prize and
no red dots as yet.

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Drifting in floating streets

I am going to pick up from where I left off in the last post. Once again thanks to your generosity I have had much to ponder. I really enjoyed Remittance Girl’s post about her experience of taking virtual crowds on guided tours. This brought to mind conversations I had with many people when I was leading the team that created the Poetry4u project. I wanted to use the invisible electromagnetic signals to be a conduit of enhancing our sense of place rather than a distraction.Let me digress a little to explain how this project came about.

The use of mobile phones in public spaces arouses feelings of disgust in many people if we are to believe tabloid media such as talk back radio. About eight years I started observing people and their mobiles on trains.  I observed that people engaged in place making activities with their phones almost as a tactic to claim their place in was is essentially a heterotopic non-place. I also observed that people seemed to be present in a bodily sense but were somehow absent because their attention was somewhere else. Even their eyes seemed to be looking at something I could not see. This later turned into an academic study and published papers.

So the genesis of an idea came to me out of this work. Can we use these wonderful multifunctional devices to draw peoples attention to the physical place they were in?  Can we use them for art? I began to explore these questions through observation, experience and seeking out what others thought and did. I am now in the happy position to be able to say with complete confidence yes and yes! My passion for drifting was now justified and the app is in its final testing phases.  And now we have the capability to drift in the geographic and digital floating worlds almost simultaneously.

We still tend to think in terms of producers and consumers though, even with art making. We speak about artists and viewers, writers and readers, filmmakers and audience and so on. Yet if we read RG’s account closely, she is not talking of herself as separate from her interlocutors.  She talks about a transformational performance process. I have also experienced what she describes and I am sure many of you have as well.

I suggest that this is a shift in communication and the ability to share photographs at the push of a couple of virtual button is an important factor in this shift. Furthermore, I propose that this ability to share and converse while engaged in the act of passing through places, may indeed, encourage us to look at things we had overlooked or taken for granted or even never noticed. The images we take, as Modernistdream  points out in his post called Mobile Photography: not drowning waving lie in between writing and photography:

“But in a sea of online voices and avatars, these digital photos are like hands breaking the waves, they are reminders of the physical world and our need to talk about human experience. Such photos are the evidence of our endeavours and adventures.”

The streets are now  floating worlds which we can drift through in a doubled way literally: under, over, through, between geographic places, geo-coordinates and radio signals to create new social spaces.  And the humble camera phone with its supposed inferior resolution is our paper and pencil as well as a photography apparatus.

Talking with Photos

We are still wrestling with what it means to have an ever-present camera. Modernistdream aka mediamongrel has written some fantastic posts about this on his blog. My proposition here is that having a camera constantly about our person coupled with the ability to share images we take is changing the part played by photography in our everyday lives, social activities and rituals. Not only are we reshaping the ways in which we make memories or memorialise significant events as Modernistdream points out, we are also using photography as a means of communication that moves beyond the postcard effect of ‘I was here’. The relationship between word and visual images is drawing closer and sometimes the visual image is displacing words entirely as a form of communication.

However, I am not proposing that photographs are replacing words. I think it is more matter that we often send photographs to clearly show where we are, what has struck us ridiculous, delicious, beautiful or disgusting in a quest to reduce ambiguity given the strictures of 140 characters. With Twitter it is really easy to post photographs and there are applications specifically designed to coexist with Twitter in its mobile incarnation such as instagram.With these applications you can follow people, rate their photos but if you want to communicate via the images you still need to link to twitter. So photography is developing an almost symbiotic relationship to words in this environment.

Another phenomenon I have observed and experienced is when a follower may pick up an image and write a post in response to it. The first time this happened to me I was delighted. I had posted a photo of a flower I wanted to share. Within a few moments I saw that someone had written a haiku about the flower. This reminded me of parlour games such as exquisite corpse where someone would start a story that would be continued by someone else and so on. Naturally I checked out her profile and followed her.

So are we using photography more readily now as a form of self-expression and communication? And do we make judgments about people based on the kinds of photos they post in similar ways to how we judge them by their verbal posts?