I remember feeling concerned after Assessment of my final Level 1 Module that, despite an excellent result, the mark was the same as on the previous two Modules. I’d hoped that the mark would be higher, to show improvement. It took me a while to absorb the understanding that every Module looks for different skills and learning, therefore what I should be doing was concentrating on what I learned so far and what I needed to do next to move forward. What then happened with this, my first Level 2 Module, was the need for new learning and skills collided with a lengthy period of poor health which slowed me down, affected my motivation and reminded me that I’m not as young as I used to be. Thankfully I got back to renewed health and energy during Part 3 and I hope this shows in my subsequent work.
Memory, identity and my relationship with landscape arose as key themes for me and, wherever possible, I linked back with earlier work to examine how my ideas were developing with new learning. So far as landscape is concerned I have become very interested in the idea of embodied practice and the first Assignment enabled me to continue with this through my visits to the poppy field and using new learning in layering and composites. One thing I haven’t done yet is to edit the videos I made at the time, which I regret, and video work is something I intend to develop further in my next Module (which is Landscape).
During Part 2 I became lost in the archives – literally as well as in literature. I was fascinated by the research, linking back through the ideas of Okwui Enwezor, Jacques Derrida and Sigmund Freud to palimpsest and then relating this to my own life and the layers of time and experience that have made me who I am today. Did I leap too quickly into my own archive, the letters written to me by my father and photographs from that time? I’m still not sure. It could be that I was too personally immersed in my own history and this might have got in my way in terms of selection, narrative and focus. I learned a lot about myself though with a stronger realisation of how much the messages in the letters had influenced me, become embedded in my approach to the world even now.
So far as the technical aspects are concerned, I continued experimenting with layers, using Photoshop tools and welcomed a return to Blurb for creating a photobook. I also did a large volume of work scanning, retouching and then re-working old photographs before editing, selecting and sizing sequences. In feedback, my tutor suggested I look at the work of Sara Davidmann and doing so was very helpful in reviewing my images for Assessment.
I re-calibrated myself during Part 3 with renewed health and improved focus. I agreed with my tutor that my idea for looking at ‘the Female Gaze’ was far too ambitious and instead decided to follow-up on my previous writings on the work of Martha Rosler’s, and her views on photojournalism, and look at the effect of the digital revolution on this. This received a positive response from my tutor, no corrections were advised and, furthermore, my research re-introduced me to the work of Marshall McCluhan (studied during the 1970s), which pushed me to read Jean Baudrillard.
My tutor encouraged me to explore two ideas I had for Assignment 4 (as the lead-in to Assignment 5) and also ‘to have fun’, which I did. Looking at ’The Art of Bonsai’ and ‘Exploring Second Life’ might seem to be a strange choice but it was through thinking about bonsai that I gained understanding of Jean Baudrillard’s work on “Simulcra and Simulation’ (1994) was then able to apply this to the virtual world of Second Life and consequently read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. This was an important step for me in integrating knowledge of my own educational experience both past and current and thinking about imagination and creativity – an aspect which Plato appears to discount and isn’t mentioned by Baudrillard.
I had some regrets in ‘parking’ the Bonsai work (although this is something I may return to in the Landscape Module) but enjoyed the experiential aspect of becoming a resident in Second Life, and exploring a virtual landscape. My technical skills improved through using Snagit and Wondershare Filmora software to take ‘snapshots’ and create short videos and I think that my idea of creating a separate ‘Travel Blog” Journey into Second Life https://kitdumont.wordpress.comprovides a relevant/appropriate presentation for the work and I was pleased that I was able to upload a poppy collage created for Assignment 1 onto the wall of my new ‘home’ there .
I was determined to limit my time on the computer, and not get too lost in a virtual world, so was surprised initially by the sense of delight I felt upon coming across some virtual cows. I hadn’t thought that entering a virtual reality could touch upon memory in quite such a way – the force of a ‘punctum’ enters into so many experiences not just through a photograph. Another longer-term Second Life resident actually made a comment on my student blog commenting positively on my exploratory videos and referring to ‘the beautiful whimsy” that can be found in Second Life. It’s this aspect that’s fascinating.
In discussing presentation for Assignment 5 during our pre-assessment tutorial, my tutor suggested that, in addition to the digital presentation of snapshot, videos and the travel diary, I should do prints of screenshots. I have developed this idea into having postcards printed and then adding handwritten messages that link real memories with virtual experiences.
Thoughts for the future
I need to carry on improving my technical skills and to ensure I pace myself with research and reading. I’m looking forward to returning to Landscape and using new techniques. I’m always more aware of what I don’t know than what I do know which tends to hold me back from experimenting, so I know I need to work my way through that. Throughout the Module I have continued to gain feedback and support from fellow students through being part of the OCA Thames Valley Group, participating in hangouts and exchanging emails. These contacts were particularly invaluable in encouraging me with my exploration of Second Life and will continue.