After a couple years of waiting and planning, I’ve finally acquired my new camera: a beautiful, very definitely intimidating Nikon D800E. Google will tell you about the differences between the D800 and the D800E, likely accompanied by all manner of delightfully dramatized arguments shifting to one or the other or neither … the fact is the work I do is probably perfectly suited to a camera with this degree of optical resolution, and I’m excited!
I’ll be posting the results of some “readability tests” for some preliminary planning for The Once and Future King soon, but meanwhile, and much more interesting, the first dozen shots directly out of the camera, no processing, no nothing – the dogs of course (btw, this is also with my new 50mm 1.8 G lens):
A good friend of mine invited me out to her family’s house and land, to scout some locations for the new work. They have a man-made dark forest on their property, it’ll be quite the backdrop for one piece. These jpegs are slightly crappy – for some reason the dark areas don’t transition well to jpeg format – which could foreshadow some printing issues, but let’s hope not.
… ok having viewed these on a number of computers now, they really do vary wildly. By and large they look like shit. Hurray!
The exhibition proposals are finally going out for this body of work. I seem to function at a snail’s pace these days in developing work, but it actually feels like all the pre-production conceptual crap is up to snuff and I know what I’m going to do. The first work is all but finished, and can be seen in a previous post: https://mattsparling.com/2011/10/31/new-work-the-dismemberment-of-a-shoggoth-the-once-and-future-king/
This is the current state of the “artist statment” for this initial group of works, to which I’m referring as the “Prologue”:
The Once and Future King (Prologue)
Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as makeshift-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these images – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, the gruesome aftermath of a monstrous invasion of a residential garage, a paradox of a time-travelling book – the ‘causes’ of these events seem entirely unknowable to us.
Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, the characters stand in the moment, posing, perhaps with pride, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come. The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these bizarre, random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.
Staged in lost and unknown locations scattered across rural and suburban Southern Ontario, these stories occupy vague landscapes situated in a nether-space disconnected from recognizable geography, constantly familiar, yet existing anywhere, at any time, and nowhere simultaneously.
I’m starting some of the preliminary technical work (ie; camera angles, feasibility tests, set construction) for a work called “The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)”, although the repetition of “prologue” there bothers me and there’s a third title to a group of works called “The Ballad of Randall Carter” … and then another grouping simply called “Reunion” …. all grouped under The Once and Future King … I am disorganized.
Anyhow, here’s the narrative fragment that’ll accompany the work and serve as a ‘public’ description, and it explains why soon (well, weather permitting), this blog will be inundated with me taking photos of my Jeep from odd angles filled with books:
The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)
On a dark rural road in Ontario, the wine-red Jeep of one Randall Carter is found abandoned, door open, several large stacks of books balanced on the seats. Carefully folded on top of the books was found a military uniform, embroidered with Carter’s name and a series of unidentified insignia. The Jeep was discovered by Carter’s boyfriend, Charles D. Ward, after Carter’s protracted absence prompted Ward to retrace the route to Carter’s residence. Ward claims he found the Jeep by following the sound of music on the radio. The combined weight of the books was found to be 167 lbs, which coincidentally was approximately Carter’s own weight prior to his disappearance.
Abject apologies for the lack of updates here. Also, if my former students of this past semester would like to lend me permission to post some of their work here, drop me an email, you guys were great.
This is a bit random, but How To Be A Retronaut is an easy way to be sucked into a web-blackhole for hours at a time. I came across the above image today, here’s the original post:
He even seems to be holding a fairly modern camera. Amazing.
Yes, there’s a million other explanations, and photoshop works miracles these days, but the world needs more irrational flights of fantasy. Also, neutrinos seem to be getting a lot of speeding tickets these days.
Some of you might recall my brief article on Charles Latham, and his series Cyrus.
Well – Charles contacted me, and he has a new website! So please check out http://www.sofabeast.com/ and all it’s photographic and design goodness, there’s some fantastic work there.
Thanks again Charles!
I felt a bit like I was rushing this post, but it being Halloween, it seemed appropriate.
The Dismemberment of a Shoggoth is the first work I’ve executed in a larger series, at present titled The Once and Future King. I would have liked to have had the full artist-statement on the series completed when I posted this image, but it’s still in the works, but meanwhile, here’s a snippet:
Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as working-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While we are privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these events – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, a garage where some monstrous Lovecraftian terror emerged and was summarily dispatched, a paradox of a time-travelling book – the ‘cause’ of these events seems entirely unknowable. The events themselves play across a fictional timeline, punctuated by a system of signifiers drawn from actual reality and historical reference.
Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, characters stand in the moment, posing, proud, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come. The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these seemingly random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.
Ideally, when complete, the work will be printed around 60″x90″, and funds permitting, on big beautiful lightboxes. I have included some detail shots below to show the level of “readability” present when viewing the work in person, but I’m hesitant to post a full-resolution zoom.it version at present for a variety of reasons.
More props to the Propnomicon for being an essential resource in the creation of various bloods, goo and otherwise disgusting elements for the scene. Also thanks to my buddy Jer who made me a nice tub of gelatinous congealed grossness he whimsically referred to as “thickened water”. And, as always, my brother for posing for me, and my family for tolerating this level of insanity in their own garage.
Happy Halloween everyone!
A weeks worth of messing about in the garage has produced some 30 gigs of component photos to fiddle with, but while that’s actually happening, I thought I’d post some of the in-progress shots I accumulated along the way. The primary function for these is actually to address problems in the composite-process “ahead of time”, plotting the depth of field, framing etc… but as a result they’re a nice little documentation of the whole procedure as it goes along.
The final piece has a fair bit of work left to it, so I don’t want to discuss it much until it’s complete, but I included a preview at the end. Also, there’s zoom.it links along the way if you’d like to see the full-resolution images in all their excessive detail.
Edit: I’ve now written this post six times over. Images keep vanishing or text starts inexplicably moving into the image ‘captions’. This is a bit frustrating, hopefully this will finally work.
The door has a lot of history (and claw marks), and the sawhorses usually support the soft-top for the jeep; I used three cheap halogen worklamps for lighting (two 500w and one clip-on 250w), and an old trouble light, which worked quite well.
Cheap lightweight painter’s plastic sheeting – not the heavyduty stuff, so it wasn’t exactly durable (or wind proof), but it was cheap and cheerful. Shockingly, duct tape doesn’t adhere very well to old, dusty wood, but it still functioned well as a liner for the plastic through which I drove many a nail. The arrangement was meant to be haphazard and minimal at best, but still afford for some easy cleanup (which it did, beautifully). This shoot was at night, I shot it all again to check the lighting during the day, and fix some focus issues the night shoot highlighted.
Apparently half the text of this post is now missing. Awesome. Here’s the above scene shot the next day, with day light:
The light from the window and entrance (behind the camera) provides some nice fill light, and I fixed a few of the focus/framing/depth of field issues that occurred in the night shots. Finally, adding some of the props and objects that would be in the final shoot:
Good clean fun. Here’s a preview of the not-so-clean-fun:
I have to credit The Propnomicon as an invaluable resource on all things fake-blood and goo related. I ended up using a simple recipe of green-coloured detergent mixed with india ink and charcoal powder for the majority of the ‘wet’ goo, the best part was it cleaned up real quick with just the hose and some occasional scrubbing. My buddy Jer provided some thicker, heavier material you can see on the axe head and elsewhere in the piece that he described as “basically thickened water” – I’ll see if I can coax the recipe out of him, but given he works at a specialty lab for custom rubbers and resins, I imagine the ingredients aren’t over-the-counter. It was delightfully thick and gross however.
The whole shebang cleaned up like a proper Dexter-style kill room too, in about ten minutes, and that was just peachy.
Hopefully the final work will be ready in a week or two, right now all the finer adjustments and brain surgery are on the agenda.
This past week I had the pleasure of serving as still photographer for Derek Liddington’s Dandy Gangs: A working-class love story . Derek’s statement for the performance:
“The performance Dandy Gangs: a working-class love story looks at possible repetitions founded in dandy, hip hop, punk, rock n’ roll and gang aesthetics. Consistent with my interest in melding popular histories and autobiographical moments I have borrowed locations from hangouts I had as a youth growing up in Mississauga, including Mississauga’s Civic Centre and Kariya Park. At scheduled times knowing and unknowing audiences will watch as two groups of dancers and tenors interact through operatic song and dance choreography based on early Fluxus happenings, scenes from West Side Story and operatic interpretations of early 90’s hip hop music. Viewers will watch as opposing dandy-gangs entangle in scenarios of territorial misunderstanding, conflict, tension and resolution expressed through a Fluxus-dance-rock-opera. Gang members will be presented as caricatures melding fashions and attitudes borrowed from the flâneur, dandy and punk; likening the performers to the cultural phenomenon of flash-mobs.” (http://derekliddington.com/section/245097_Dandy_Gangs_A_Working_Class_Love_Story.html)
The two featured gangs were The Warhols (pictured above) and The Stallones, each with a distinctive uniform and their own gang leaders, all wearing masks of their respective namesakes. The outfits were meticulously constructed, with metal studs outlining the gang names on the backs of the clothing (I can’t imagine what all this cost to have made). Wigs were similarly used to distinguish the gangs, and in the same manner, the gang leaders, who had beautiful leather tail-coats.
The performance occurred in three parts: a chance meeting and confrontation between the two gangs during a picnic in a park, a progression of each gang through Square One mall, and a final, operatic-rock battle in Celebration Square, a giant recreation fountain.
Photographing the performance was definitely challenging but thoroughly enjoyable. Too often I’ve seen performance work essentially destroyed by a photographer literally pointing a camera a few feet from the performer’s faces; I used a relatively long lens and aimed to be as inconspicuous as possible, and I think I did pretty well. The resulting images were, in my opinion, extremely successful and I quite enjoyed “reliving” the whole performance as I processed the final photos.
Following the cut below I’ve included some of the ‘highlights’ and a few feature photos showing the principal players and outfits.
I often “prototype” works or series of works seemingly indefinitely, and this is mostly because when I do get around to playing with ideas for a work/series I generally don’t feel like what I’m doing is “the work” and just a piece of “the work”. So there’s a ton of pieces I’ve done with the post-fix “(prototype)” in the title, which most of the time will one day grow up to lose that little attachment.
Occasionally the prototype becomes the final product, but, in my defense, that’s pretty rare.
One idea I have been messing around with for a few years now, one that’s undergone a few “prototypes” so far, falls under the title “The Empty Room”. The major obstacle to really exploring this idea has been the absolute mass of clutter in my house and a general lack of access to gritty, abandoned empty interiors (… that aren’t completely uninhabitable, that is). I’m also a touch lazy. But as I like to think that I let ideas percolate over long periods of time and generally that action/inaction does pay off eventually, I tend to let these empty rooms present themselves from happenstance and work with them when they magically appear.
Nonetheless, still in the prototyping stage on this one.
Below are two permutations of some recent experiments, the differences primarily technical. The first image is a composite of several photos, shot horizontally from floor to ceiling, the second is a single shot with a 10mm lens, with the added bonus of HDR rendering (… I am crazy enough to want to make HDR images that don’t look like they’re HDR).
I suspect, at some point in the future, this will transition into me actually building a room somewhere for the sake of this shot or shots … I am attempting to resist the urge to build miniatures. Not because I don’t like miniatures, and I even have access to a few people doing incredible work with them (HI JER! HI JASON!), but adding the miniature aspect to this work seems to prevent it from being habitable and I’m not sure I can quite reconcile that just yet. I might change my song in a few months tho, as usual.
Meanwhile, if you happen to be moving out of your home/apartment and have neato empty rooms you can whore to me for an afternoon, do let me know.
Lacking the funds and ability to alter the laws of physics and design some delightful Fringe-inspired device that projects darkness, I’ve been screwing around with an LED flashlight to make cheesy shadows on the garage wall.
(this is straight out of the camera, it was more a technical test than anything)
This was simply fingers and a little LED flashlight with … nine little LEDs in it I think. I have some … relatively old … enlargers in the basement, and I was thinking, what better to make a subtle projection than an enlarger head? well we’ll see. Ultimately what I’m aiming for is the effect of shadows-appearing-without-evident-origin on a surface that appears *naturally* lit – hence the subtle light. It’s not quite working just yet with the LED flashlight but maybe the enlarger will do a better job (it’s also got built-in colour filters!) And yes, overhead projectors, I know (thank you Shari Boyle and Daniel Barrows).
On a side note, increasingly it seems evident prop-construction is going to become part of my practice. Not that this is a bad thing, but I did get rather content just ‘collecting’ things as opposed to making them. Propnomicon has been a delightfully appropriate resource of late, there is some damn good (and fun) work out there based on the Lovecraft mythos.
Also, on the night photography note, Joe Reifer’s blog and website have earned themselves a permanent tab in Firefox of late, in particular check out his night photos of military ruins … will definitely have to make a roadtrip to the american south-west sometime.