Category Archives: Project 3 – Place in Art

Exercise 3

Exercise 3 asks you to think about views, taken from ground level, from above — birds eye view.

The two images, one of a rural area and the other of a city, have the same tilt of the lens, angled downward. They each survey the land, demonstrating divisions either of hedges, or roads, cross sections.  One is in colour, the one of the country side, showing plowed dirt fields in contrast to one green field in the corner. The view is from a Castle, a tower perhaps.

The cityscape is in black and white, it feel cold and impersonal, with no detail standing out amongst the sprawl of buildings and streets.

Looking at John Davies photograph of Agecroft Power station, the images would change significantly if it were taken from ground level, as I don’t believe he’d capture as much information in one frame without compromising the composition. The angle at which the 4 towers are inline creates scale and depth. The cylinders would look different from below and may not show the smoke billowing in the same way. If the photograph were to be taken any closer you’d lose the framing of the trees for scale, and if it were taken further away, any details in the background would diminish.


Here are some photograph I have taken of landscapes, although narrow landscapes, cityscapes, from above, from different angles, and view points.



It was quite funny taking photographs in a very popular place… an art gallery with levels of containers, creating different view points.


Research point — the New Topographics

Humans vs Nature

Documenting Landscapes through photography TIME/PLACE…

The American landscapes seen through the lenses of Gohlke, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Lewis Baltz and Nicholas Nixon shows us the beginning of change, which now looks trivial in comparison to what these places captured from the 70’s, look today.

William Jenkins, curator of a group show of American landscape, would have foreseen these images as just the beginning, knowing they would hold much value in the details they’d present in the future.  A man altered landscape which now, unfathomable, was once nature, desert, forests.

I am reminded by this where I live in HCM, a little branch of the city, which was once mangrove forests, swap land, palms and rivers. There was a similar area, just down the road, which is now sub-divided into plots for high rises. The streets are unfamiliar, only after 4 months, the dirt lanes are not pot hole ridden memories of the old route into town.

These mangrove plants were alive and well just last week, and now it’s like a grave yard of plants

I now wish I had taken more photographs to document the quick changes and expansion of concrete and infrastructure. I have a friend who has lived here for 13 years, and tells me when the area was full of villages, similar to the Mekong delta, where you could row through the waterways, sharing them with water buffalo.

I really enjoyed Mitch Epstein’s series on Vietnam, and although it was shot in the 90’s, it looks as though it was the 60’s, demonstrating, how still today, they seem to be decades behind (which is painful listening to 90’s hits such as Celine Dion, and Brian Adams).

I also really enjoyed Epstein’s series on tree in New York, which is a real comment on human’s relationship with trees, they almost take on a life of their own, the grandeur overshadowing any tiny, insignificant person.

Fay Godwin’s “Our Forbidden Land” is a beautifully shot series, acknowloging the fact that there is so much nature which is cut off from humans, fences keeping you away from views, landowners with shot guns, and gates with “KEEP OFF’ signs. Are we only allowed in parks? Why are we restircted, what harms does walking do, enjoying the world around us.  Sure there are publc bridal ways, but why there are so much we cannot see.

Any photo work which documents the past, gains value year after year. These ideas which look at humans relationship with the environment, will only become more relevent with global warming, big companies, polution, urban sprawl, and continued consumption, and discarding.

Exercise 2 — reviewing holiday snaps

  • Pick out any images that seem to give you more than just a record of place – images that take you right back there. What are the special qualities of these images? Of course, it’s impossible to isolate the technical elements of the photography from how you felt at the time, what you were doing, who you were with, but try and decide whether the images you’ve selected have anything in common.

These images are from my trip to Sapa April ’16.

When ever I take pictures, even holiday snaps, I consider the lighting, colour, composition and balance. These photos are more of a documentation of the tribal textile the Dao and H’mong practice, from the growning and spinning of hemp, to the weaving, dying and embroidery.

All of the images belong to a series, a story, so they have much in common, as to the women of the Hill Tribes in Northern Vietnam, who are living  the save traditions as their ancestors.


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I have asked my friend Sarah, who wasn’t there to review then to record her response;

The pictures are so colourful! The sequence really tells a story and the pics aren’t too staged which makes them feel more ‘authentic’ than normal holiday snaps. I get an idea of the whole day including the lunch you had! They really make me want to go and see the place for myself.


Exercise 1 – Landscape Photography

Landscape photography in a dense city such as Ho Chi Minh is a right task, unless you are in an apartment building high up, or on a bridge, or on the banks of the river where it bends.  It’s also very flat.

~Make two images of the same subject, one from afar with the telephoto setting on your camera/lens, the other from close to the subject with the widest setting on the camera/lens.



Landscape photography can feel very impersonal, without saying much about the subject matter. I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest form, unless there’s so much to photograph, you couldn’t possibly imagine capturing it all.

Research point

ARTIST ROOMS: Theme: Language

Artist to explore

Ed Ruscha  Pop art /word paintings

Richard Long Environmental art

Hamish Fulton Walking art

Joseph Kosuth Self-referential conceptual

Sol Lewitt Conceptual art using minimilism

Schwitters Collage

Francis Pacabia Dadaoist

Lawrence Weiner Postminimislist

Bruce Nauman Muliti media

Martin Creed Word play

Mario Merz abstract expressionism

Jenny Holzer Neo- conceptualist

Joseph Beuys  concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy

Ian Hamilton Finlay Poet / Little Sparta

Cy Twombly large-scale, freely-scribbled, calligraphic and graffiti-like works

Since looking at site specific art at a gallery, and reading the link from the Tate website, I’ve concluded a few things from installation art.

Firstly, the idea is to make the viewer fully aware of their position amongst the art which makes them an active participant.

The art, secondly has to be big, big enough to have a lasting effect.  I like the way the author describe installation art, if you don’t experience it first hand, it’s like a joke repeated, that fails to be funny.

The art is meant to encompass your emotions and be multi-scensory. This is obvious with both Helio Olilicaca’s 1960’s-1970’s work in Brazil, wanting to liberate the viewer from the oppressive government forces, releasing them, even if it’s only temporary, through creating a safe space, with sand, hammocks, and Jimmy Hendricks. Cildo Meireles created Meireles Volatile with air smelling of gas, and a candle and the end of the hallway, stating that when your body comes into danger, your sense are heightened.

My favourite installation space is the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern, with memorable pieces by Ai WeiWei Sunflower Seeds, and Doris Salcedo  Shibboleth.

Exercise 3 Gallery or site visit

For this exercise I went to The Arts Factory, conveniently located but us the road from my house, in a District just outside the center of Saigon, encircled by the river.

I’m often dubious of art galleries in Saigon, although I have come across some remarkable work.  The thing that gets me, is the house music played so loudly, with the shiny bar surface, and urban shipping containers, graffiti, of course. Being spoilt with London, it’s grit and layers of dirt, uncovering some of the most potent art I’ve ever seen.  Vietnam is a bit naive, a bit adolescent in many aspects; the music – the worst songs from the 90’s, the fashion – purposefully torn jeans, slashed in perfect lines; the restaurant decor – 90% industrial design and replicated French tiles. Where’s the imagination?

As hard as I am on this city, there are glimmers of hope, especially at looking through anthropological goggles.  Vietnam was only opened up the rest of the world in the late 90’s, which could explain their love for Celine Dion, and are therefore playing catchup, especially in terms of creativity.  A very Asian attribute is that there is one way to do things, you are taught by copying, exactly. It doesn’t help the fact that most of the media is highly censored, and art work which isn’t in-line with political views could be destroyed.

There was an instance where the police were asking for bribes to allow a photo exhibition to take place.. a few photographs showed people on motorbikes not wearing a helmet.  The gallery refused to pay the bribes, but opened as planned, with brown paper covering all of the pieces. It in itself was a grand statement about the control of the authorities.

The on-site piece I went to look at today was about the impact the throw away societies have on environment, and is called The Prolonged Intervention, by Le Phi Long.  A site specific installation piece on Ly Son Island, Vietnam.

At first, I thought it juvenile, another discussion about eco-warriors cleaning up the beach.The video is long-winded, with mundane conversation between clean-up crew, as they put the rubbish in colour allocated piles. Of course there was time-lapse, and scenes of sun-sets, people working so well together, smiling at their positive impact on the world, feeling chuffed to be apart of such a great and worthy story.

Once they collected the plastic they attached them onto a net, which hung over a tourist attraction, To Vo Gate, an arch of lime rock on the beach.  Wow! So inventive, so dynamic, so, so… ordinary.

I was bored and annoyed, until the reaction of the locals came up with subtitles.  Most of them were generally baffled by the act of these activists/artist. They have never considered the idea that art could bring forth social awareness. Not only was it sore on their eyes, it ruined a popular tourists destination. They cared not for meaning, they didn’t question the waste and did not want to answer to the problems. They wanted to ignore it, as many things are in Vietnam, ignored. On the other side, there were people who understood, people who want to see change, and be apart of it.

Vietnam is a very clean country, who do recycle everything, as which most developing countries.  They are miles behind on environmental concerns, considerably so with the use of plastic bags and styrofoam. It is a question that needs to be address, how each individual impacts their world through each daily choice, to refuse plastic bags, for example, or choose not to eat meat, or ride an electric motorbike. It’s a valuable statement, and one worth discussing.


On further research, Le Phi Long, is quite a remarkable artist, and has another work by the same name The Prolonged Interventions, apart of an exhibition called The Body Boutique. His surreal drawing of children affected by Agent Dioxin, Agent Orange as it’s commonly known, are incredibly disturbingly but beautifully composed.

The second part of the exhibition by Le Phi Long, is called “Invasive Deviant” where the gallery collected, or accepted donations of unwanted objects, accumulating in a pile of rubbish, essentially.  The idea was, that perhaps amongst the garbage, you may find something you’d love.  Another mans rubbish is someones treasure.


To be fair, it was mostly rubbish, but hidden underneath, I found a treasure…


A pair of perfectly good shoes, in my size.  I stuck my name and number on them, and collected them this morning.





Katie Paterson is the first contemporary artist I have come across on this course which has really inspired me.  Being influence by science and nature brings forth a tangible truth to all she does.  She connect life (humans) with space and the natural world around us in a way I’ve never conceived.

She has so many ideas, and follows through with them with such grace.  I particularly love her latest work, with trees.  One project which called hallow takes 10 000 different species of trees, some from 390 million years ago from petrified wood fossils.

The other woodland project called future library is a forest planted in Norway, which will, one book at a time, become a library, written by famous authors.

Other works by Katie include space, mapping dying starts, and also writing goodbye letters to them. She really considers the macro vs the micro, from space to the smallest grain of sand in the desert nano sized piece of sand.

The piece which the course asks us to think about is Vatnajökull (the sound of) which is essentially a glacial you can call on your mobile, and hear it speak. Site specific art work is about transporting the viewing through different medium; visual images of the landscape which it lives, a neon phone number, perhaps a familiar UK mobile number starting with 09…….., and next orally, to hear something so remote with a device normally used in cities, out of context in the sea.  Do people speak back? Can the iceberg hear the voices, if it was a conscious being? Or is it a one way line? Can anyone call this number, or does it have to be in the gallery as apart of the exhibit? Can it be a mobile experience, when you could talk to the iceberg anytime?

Like any good art, it begs questions.  It’s beautiful,  conscience, and well-considered.

Katie shifts the paradigms how we see ourselves as a part of, or apart from nature.

Exercise 1 Place. London: Thames and Hudson by Dean, T, and Millar, J. (2005)

Reading the introduction essay about ‘place’ has led me to believe the through the years the ideas have been challenged by scientist, scholars, the church and artist. The word God in Hebrew is “Place,” therefore how can something be a singular, and not a vast unifying world?

1292 Thomas Aquinas brought forth the idea of infinite space, when philosophers were discussing place, as with Newton exploring science, a hundred years later, Blake rebelled against it. It’s been an ongoing battle of space vs place, religion vs science,  philosophy vs art.

Thomas Hardy’s poetic words ring true when we talks about bygone invisible years which hold a process of remembrance and continue to activate the past.  A land which has not been lived on, which has no history, holds little place in the world; indistinct regions of awareness.

Place is a sence to which belong. Where you have known, lived. It is equally important not to develop a complacency of familiar,there is always a way of seeing things differently, exposing new emotions.

It’s an ever-changing terrain, especially through time, but it remains that our will is free to decide on what emotions are felt towards places. For me, the idea of home, is one associated with love, instead of geography. We can disassociate ourselves with place through art, film, sound, and literature.  The transportation of self, into a brooder term, trying to understand the hidden world, as the text states, the profound limitation of the visual is the biggest challenge artist face.