Over four years, Magnum photographer Mark Power and poet Daniel Cockrill travelled thoughout England, compiling pictures and words about their shared experiences and impressions. In June and July, they brought that body of work to the public in an innovative exhibition at London’s Atlas Gallery entitled Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment. In this series of posts, Mark provided a behind-the-scenes look at some of the details and collaborations involved in putting together an exhibition that made the most of the gallery space and the newest ideas and technology for presenting art. He also discusses his experiences with the exhibition in a new video posted on the HP GraphicArts channel on YouTube.
Last month, I drove up to the Atlas Gallery in central London, took the show down, wrapped everything, and packed it all into my van. This is always the saddest, and without doubt the worst part of any 'exhibition experience'. It's the time when, inevitably, one wonders if it's all been worth it. But I'm also left with some positives. Many people were fantastically supportive and generous in their praise of what we tried to do with the show. And there is interest from other galleries to show it elsewhere, which was one of our hopes when we began all this. If 'Laboratory' does travel elsewhere, then we'll make new work, extend the show, and try out a number of other ideas we simply didn't have the time, or space, to do for the Atlas exhibition.
Below are some installation pictures. We had wallpaper, printed on HP machines by Stylographics in London (pic A); a concrete framed triptych of a poem and two pictures (B); a metal box, not unlike a Dualit toaster, which hid two pictures within secret drawers, a poem hand-stamped on the front (C); a reverse mounted print in perspex, with letters - part of a poem by Dan about trying to be creative in Stratford-Upon-Avon - cut out and fixed beneath (D); a print framed with etched glass (E); some graphic poems (F and G); a bank of 'photo-bricks' (H), a flag (I); a doormat with our DTLFTSOTE logo; (J) along with the occasional 'traditional' framed print shown here and there around the space, which was on two floors.
I'm told that visitor numbers were high, and it generated a lot of interest. This is all good of course.
My experience with the Z3200 has been nothing but positive, although I don't enjoy changing papers, which of course I was doing all the time while making the 'Laboratory' prints. The quality is very good, and the spectrophotometer profiling is very accurate, but I'm still trying to find a 'regular' printing paper that I really like. This is a quest I'm constantly on, not helped by the fact that when I find a paper I think works well something else is produced which I'm told is even better. I'm assuming that, eventually, all this technological development will slow down and we can all stick with what we feel comfortable with.
During the opening weekend of the Brighton Photo Biennial in October I've been asked to be on a panel discussing new printing technologies. I'll be talking then, in some detail, about my experiences in making the Atlas show, while being honest about my penchant for the traditional glossy c-type print (the method I used for my big Polish show in Krakow in May).
However, I do feel I'm at something of a crossroads with my printing. I've loved making the 'Laboratory' prints myself. I've enjoyed having total control. And I like the prints I've made. So perhaps, probably, this will be the way I go from here with new projects. Time will tell.
Other posts in this series:
Ideas are starting to take shape, literally, in the form of exhibits for Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment. After a break, Mark is back. As he explores the printing capabilities and papers as production of the exhibits gets underway, he takes an unconventional view of achieving print quality!
I've just re-read my last post, from mid-April, and I see that I was due to post another blog entry the following week. And here we are, already in mid-June. Time has rushed by. I've been flat out on the production of 'Laboratory'. Meetings with Jim Wilson about the metal and concrete frames, and constant back and forth discussions and tweaks between myself.
I've also been printing for the show. One of the 'pieces' will consist of 'photographic bricks'... a series of about 30 pictures and 6 poems (scans directly taken from Dan's notebooks), all printed to 14 x11 in., which will be mounted onto aluminium with battens on the back. These will be hung in the downstairs gallery at Atlas, as one might arrange the bricks of a house starting at the bottom corner - the meeting of a door and the skirting board - and filling most (but importantly not all) of the wall. Brick walls require half bricks at the end of alternate rows, and we'll be doing the same... occasionally a picture will be cut in half and mounted on two separate bits of aluminium, so the odd 'half-piece' will sit either side of the door. This work refers to the building of a project I suppose, but perhaps you'll need to see this to fully understand what I'm getting at.
I've also made a 50 x40 in.print of one picture, which is about to be mounted and framed, which will sit above the stairwell. It looks spectacular, and, I have to admit, it was wonderful to be able to make this at home. Amazingly, it took only two goes to get it right. It will sit above Dan's poem, 'It Is Written' which will cover one entire wall. This has been designed by Dom and is being printed as wallpaper somewhere in the UK. We hope to get some specialised help to hang it.
I've just had delivered some HP Recycled Bond Paper (just £10 per roll!) which is uncoated stock a little like old-fashioned newsprint. This will be used for a piece in one of the windows of the gallery, to be seen from the street. Obviously the print quality on this paper will be low, which is what I want in this instance, since we will be screwing up (literally, into balls) a number of prints of pictures and poems, which will be 'carefully arranged' (!) on the windowsill, but with one flattened out and tacked into a frame hanging above. I suppose, here, we are trying to allude to the editing process, and the lack of confidence I always experience when completing a project as well as, perhaps, the 'value' of art. I remember, while at art college a long time ago, rescuing a drawing by my then tutor from the waste bin. It was a life drawing so beautiful (to my eyes) that I took it home, smoothed it out, and (guiltily) blu-tacked it to my bedroom wall. It hardly mattered to me that it was damaged - I was the proud owner of a 'real' Denis Creffield. After a few weeks however, it dawned on me that Denis has thrown it away for a reason - because he, the artist, was unhappy with it. So I threw it away too - a painful experience.
I also managed to get a roll of the apparently very rare HP Paper Backed Polyester Film (from Amazon, of all places) which has yet to arrive, but I'll be using that to print a picture for another window in the gallery. This media has the appearance of a sort of shower curtain... it's transparent, and through the image (which will hang from a runner above the window as if it were a real curtain) it should be possible to read one of Dan’s poems, hand written on the wall behind by the graphic artist Martin Galton.
I'm also trying to make a print, framed in glass, which is going to be screwed to the floor of the gallery, in the hope that visitors will step on it. We might place this at the foot of the stairs, so it's impossible not to do so. The idea is to make the visitor uneasy, since it's not expected practice - of course - to stand on a framed and glazed picture.
So, lots to do...
At the time of publication, Mark's exhibit has opened. There are plans to take the exhibition on tour. Visit the Atlas Gallery webpage to learn more. Don't miss Mark's final blog entry, which will be coming soon.
Over a four-year period, Magnum photographer Mark Power and poet Daniel Cockrill have travelled together to various parts of England, compiling pictures and words about their shared experiences in a country they both love and loathe. In June, they will bring that body of work to the public in an innovative exhibition at the Atlas Gallery in London. In this series of weekly posts, they will present a behind-the-scenes look at the many details involved in planning an exhibition that makes the most of the gallery space and the newest ideas and technology for presenting art.
By Mark Power
I'm Mark Power. I'm a photographer, a member of the Magnum agency, and a lecturer in photography at the University of Brighton, the city in southern England where I live with my partner and two young children.
To explain a little about my working methods: I tend to pursue projects over a considerable length of time, often several years, and these tend to culminate in books, exhibitions, or both.
Essentially there are two strands I follow. Some of my work involves large-scale projects in the corporate sector. These are usually big (huge) construction projects, always with an open brief.
My other work revolves around ideas that are completely self-generated, self-contained, and perhaps self-indulgent (and why not?). This second strand feeds the first, which in turn aids in the funding of the second. It works quite well.
So, as I write this I'm in Abu Dhabi. I've been commissioned to photograph the development of the hugely ambitious cultural quarter on Saadiyat Island, a large expanse of almost nothing but sand that overlooks the port and downtown Abu Dhabi. Here, over the next four years, I will witness the construction of four important museums: the Louvre; the Guggenheim; the Zayed National Museum; and the Performing Arts Centre, which the authorities believe will encourage cultural tourism for years into the future.
It's an extraordinary project, one of great vision on behalf of the architects and planners involved. Part of the challenge I face in trying to make a piece of work about this is to try to visualise what the place will look like at the end of 2013. It's challenging, rather hot at times, but wondrous. I feel privileged to be here.
When I return to the UK, in a week's time, I will be starting to print my work from Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment project, a collaboration with the poet Daniel Cockrill. Throughout the past four years, when we could (but not as often as we would have liked), Dan and I have travelled together to different parts of England and together we have experienced much the same things. Dan writes poems, I make pictures, and then, somehow, these come together.
On the one hand, we are trying to build up a sense of our country today (a 'likeness' if you will), while on the other hand the work is an experiment in how two people, working with different mediums, naturally experience a hierarchy in what each feels to be important. It's an extension of the old experiment of putting a number of photographers in the same room and discovering that the response of each is quite different.
And this is where HP comes in. For the first time I'll be making my own inkjet prints for a work-in-progress show that opens at the Atlas gallery in central London in early June. But more importantly, Dan and I (with the crucial involvement of the brilliant graphic designer Dominic Brookman) are trying to produce a number of free-standing pieces that will combine image and text, or image and sound in what we hope will be an innovative exhibition.
Atlas is quite a small gallery, but we are interested in making something site-specific. We are working with HP to try and solve certain problems. We have ideas of what we want to do in various parts of the gallery, but we sometimes might not know how to make them. We are hoping that HP will.
I have an HP Z3200 at home (lucky me) so a lot of the production of the show will be done there. However, other, larger sections will be printed on bigger, more industrial machines elsewhere.
The point of this blog is to write (and sometimes show pictures or short movies) about the making of the show. I intend to share the successes and the problems we will inevitably meet along the way. I aim, with the help of Dan, to post something here at least once a week. We are about to travel a road which is very misty ahead... we are not sure what will happen along the way.
© Mark Power, MAGNUM Photos