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  • Writer's pictureEllie Rankin


Updated: May 22, 2020

The photographers Gallery [11th March 2020]

On the 11th March, I travelled to London to attend an artist’s talk delivered by one of the biggest inspirations at the moment within my studies - Clare Strand - at the Photographers Gallery. Clare’s was the second in a series of four talks from the nominees of the Deutsche Borse Photography award 2020. Prior to booking the talk, I had seen Clare’s work ‘The Discrete Channel with Noise’ on a recent visit to the Photographers gallery in February. The work really stood out to me, and I was fascinated by not only her visual work, but also her entire approach to the medium. She works across a vast variety of artistic disciplines, ranging from photography and web-based programmes, to painting and kinetic machines. Her practice is often concerned with communication and the related failure, and misinterpretation of information between beings.

She claims she has a ‘love/hate relationship to the medium’ and likes to ‘push photography as far as it goes’ She is fascinated with the mediums position in the world, and this reminded me of the works by Eva Stenram in the recent artist talk in the series of media talks at the school of art I attended.

In many ways, I feel that attending this talk could be seen as one of the biggest turning points with my practice at the moment. The work by Strand really resonated with me, and I feel it wasn’t just her physical and practical practice and approach that was inspiring and influential, it was also her methodologies and attitudes to the medium. I came away from the talk being extremely inspired, educated and excited to continue advancing my work, and exploring in the medium of photography.

In reflection, I feel as if Strands practice fits seamlessly within questioning the idea of 'What photography is’ as throughout her work she is constantly questioning the role of the medium and the possibilities that are present when exploring and working with it.



-In conversation with Joanna Zylinska

[Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. The author of numerous books—includingThe End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) andNonhuman Photography (2017)—she combines her philosophical writings with image-based art practice and curatorial work.]

-Strand plays with 'CHANCE' within and instructions...

-Pendulum removing emulsion of physical handprinted image (from archive)

The Entropy Pendulum

-Pushing photography as far as it can go

-'Love/hate relationship' with medium over time

-The questioning of photographic medium is presented in work..not representational work as such

-Interested in photography place and position in world

-Claims to 'Untake' photographs

-Inverting what a photograph is

-Often 'rephotographs' photographs - Eva Stenram link

(visiting artist in media talk series from 10th march 2020)

-Uses archival material

-Less interested in 'optical level' more interested in 'information of a photograph'

-looking into the 'state of photography today'

-Erik Kessels mention.. 24hour photo instillation FOAM, Amsterdam..drowning in imagery

(Strands work seems to be a scaled down, subtler approach to vessels..exploring similar ideas and concepts, but completely different ways of undertaking)

-'Private becoming public' - photography as a tool for that

-'Images meaning one thing one day, and nothing the next...Instagram and instantaneous nature...physical action of 'scrolling' (insignificance?)

-Translation / mistranslation / transmission of information

-Inspired by Charlie and the chocolate factory - chewing gum = metaphor for creative process!

-Mike T.V - Sender and receiver of information

-How can you transport a photography? physically? TRUST / FAIR / GAME

-Perception of images across world...semiotics and signs

-Relationship between photography and painting

-Most people will see 'artwork' through photography...screen?


-Creatives 'Tread through water..head above the surface..'

-Work driven through the 'nature of research' ...what comes to you?...practice leads theory or theory leads practice?

-Uses personal archive and collection of images as base for creating new work

-'Personalising and inpersonal medium'

- DISCREET CHANNEL WITH NOISE [piece shown in exhibition]

('paintbrushes as important as final pieces')

-DATA!! inversion of what we think photography is

-Positive and negative?

-Labour of the artist in the digital age


The Entropy Pendulum

"Every day of the exhibition The Entropy Pendulum has a selected photographic archival print positioned under its constantly swinging weight. Throughout the 35 day duration of the Getting Better and Worse at the same time show, each photograph is scrapped and rubbed away under the abrasive weight of the pendulum, then placed into one of the 35 empty frames on the gallery wall. The Entropy Pendulum 'output' is only realised and complete at the close of the exhibition."

Through her sculptural photographic works, Strand reminds us that the history of photography and its seemingly insignificant traits remain valuable, that we should keep the faith. This notion is best described in her eccentric device The Entropy Pendulum, which mechanically swings an abrasive symmetrical weight across the surface of reprinted archival imagery collected by the artist.

It is noisy, violent, and it is a satisfying display of a paradoxical disposition we now find ourselves in as photographers and consumers of photography. We obsess with the archive and the unique “art object” in an age of infinite reproduction and non-physicality. We salivate over authenticity and the technology that isolates and erases it.

Once The Entropy Pendulum has sufficiently altered each print beneath its scraping arm, the transformed pictures are rehoused in individual frames mounted on the gallery wall. This act reoccurs during the run of the exhibition itself, giving the artworks a temporal lifespan outside of their inherent components. The resulting panel of 35 framed images titled Output Entropy then completes a transmuting process that never actually had a defined beginning. For this trick to work convincingly, Strand couldn’t have selected each of the original archival images over the years with this exhibition in mind. A good illusion requires an equal ratio of chaos to order, but most of all it requires the illusionist to be utterly confident in their performance. The best way to display confidence is to be sparing with information, and generous with concealment. -----------

The Discreet Channel with Noise

This particular piece of work was the exhibiting feature for her nomination for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize. It was essentially this particular piece that introduced me to Strand, and effectively made me think and consider the medium of photography in a significantly different light. The Discreet Channel of Noise speaks of communication, and the transmutation of misinformation.

“You photograph something then the photograph is split up in to millions of tiny pieces and they go whizzing through the air, then down to your TV set when they are all put together in the right order”Mike Teavee, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl, 1971

Mike Teavee’s experience is one of the starting points for Clare Strand’s exhibition. The precocious character explains the process of transmitting a photograph. However, what Mike fails to foresee are the complications and disruptions that can occur in the act of transmission. When Mike transports himself via ‘Wonka Vision’ he is indeed broken into a million pieces, but when put back together again he is a tenth of his original size.

Over the course of her research residency in Autumn 2017 at the CPIF, Strand asked her husband to choose images from her archive and apply an agreed grid. He would then communicate the sequence of numbers relating to the tonal code of each photographic element on the grid. When received by Strand, she methodically painted the code on the matching large-scale grid she had drawn in her studio. Strand had also taken her lead from Claude Shannon’s information theory, as well as George H. Eckhardt who, in his (pre- internet) 1936 publication Electronic Television, discusses the potential for transmitting a coded photograph from sender to receiver via telegraph to produce a fair representation of the original image.

"Throughout Clare Strand’s photographic career, her projects have been underpinned by the act of “research”. Strand began collecting vernacular and functional imagery at a young age, and has, over the course of two decades, amassed her own personal archive of utilitarian imagery, describing her method as “like wearing a magnetic suit ( pictured above, from Further Reading exhibition, krakow) and seeing what it attracts, or rolling in the grass and seeing what you pick up on your jumper.”
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