artist journal - @ the speed of light - an interactive installation of self developing photograms - © Lloyd Godman 2002
This work follows Disturbance in the Field, where an image develops on sheets of photographic
paper through the duration of the installation.
the work - photosynthesis
is the Medium
I saw Eternity the other night Like a great Ring of pure and
endless light All calm, as it was bright, And beneath it, Time
in hours, days, years Driv'n by the spheres Like a vast shadow
mov'd, In which the world And all her train were hurl'd (Henry
my practice, this text discusses the central importance of light
to the process of photographic image making (both traditional
and digital). It raises issues, not only about light as a natural
creative force, but also about its metamorphosing into light on
the screen as corporate radiation. Intrinsically involved in these
issues is the basic life process of photosynthesis. Light is central
- as origin, process and outcome.
As our ancestors once stood and worshipped the light of the sun,
now we stare, entranced, devoted believers, dedicated to a network
of smaller celestial bodies scattered across a different universe,
introverted pinpricks of light, in the void of cyberspace. Light
is central to sight, and as such is essential to all the visual
arts. Far back in prehistoric times, the power of light from the
sun was recognized as the center of the life cycle and became
an integral part of ritual and image culture, became a central
icon that crossed generations and race, became the centre of myth
Greeks, Empedocles, Leucippus and Democritus were among the first
to contribute documented theories on light; the fascination to
explain the phenomenon and its meaning have remained for centuries.
Without doubt, electromagnetic radiation (Light) is essential
to sustaining life on the planet Earth, and the ability of plants
to photosynthesize is a crucial factor in the transference of
this energy. Archimedes first noted aspects of the pigmentation
change in plant tissue due to sunlight exposure, and since then
photosynthesis has been central to much speculative and scientific
At the birth of photography, again, it was light that became the
activating force in the photographic experiments of Niepece, Fox
Talbot, Daguerre and Bayard. This eccentric phenomena, light,
remains the essence of all photographic processes, and the new
direction of digital photography is no different. Sophisticated
image manipulation with Photoshop relies light from the digital
universe. But it is ironic that light the giver of life has also
become the medium which metamorphoses on the screen as advertising
or corporate radiation and indirectly drives the global machine
of consumerism, a consumerism dependant on growth, but a growth
that places proportional more demands on the diversity and abundance
of flora and funa on the planet, the very eocsytem that is the
boiler house and drives life on the planet.
an arts expedition that involved 11 other artists, to the Subantarctic
Islands in 1989 it became obvious to me that the detritus of our
existence thrown into the ocean never disappears. Strewn on along
the coast line of these Pristine islands ( Adams Island which
is the Southern most Island of the Group is the largest island
in the world with no Introduced animals or plants) was rubbish
and detritus dating from the present to almost the very discovery
of the islands. While a museum curator asked us to collect any
artifacts we might find, Department of Conservation asked us to
collect the hazardous rubbish. When we queried them where the distinction
lay between rubbish and artifact they could not answer. We duly
collected the rubbish and on our return voyage aboard a Naval
frigate, the collected rubbish was dumped back into the ocean
along with the Frigates new garbage. From this experience I developed
a large series of photograph / photogram works under the title Codes of Survival,
that referenced both the island and the detritus.
central image was a photograph of the environment, while it was
framed with a boarder of photograms;
objects referencing the discarded. Until the 1920s, many artists
produced representations of light, photographs of objects in front
of their camera, but from the 1920s there was a distinct difference:
Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, El Lissitzky, Len Lye and others initiated
contemporary investigations into light itself as a valid medium
for art making, an investigation which has continued in various
forms through the century to the present day by artists like Christian
Boltanski, Ralph Hotere. The photogram is a part of these experiments.
From the Codes of Survival project, I worked on a second project
combining photograms and photographs called Adze
to Coda, which investigated the relationship between tools
and and environment. It ranged from stone tools to binary codes.
1993, I became intensely interested in the photogram as a means
of creating images. I experimented with colour photograms again
utilizing objects as artifacts and detritus, but investigating
the limited band of circumstances that sustains life on the planet.
The green part of the spectrum where life is sustained, through
to the violet areas where it perishes. I became interested not
only in the objects we discard, but the chemicals we inventively
and deliberately discard into the environment. The work finally
evolved into a major installation more than 22 meters long with
three interlocking cruciforms, a female figure, a male figure,
and that of a skeleton, under the title Evidence
from the Religion of Technology.
interest in chemical pollution lead to another series titled Aporian
Emulsions. Around 1996, there was an intense period of exploration
exploring the first photographic processes which referenced Fox
Talbot's photograms through hand made emulsions like the Cyanotype
and Van Dyke Brown where I began with base chemicals to make the
concoctions which formed the images. While still focusing on artifacts
and detritus, the alchemy of chemical concoctions we inadvertently
release into our soil, waters and atmosphere became an intrinsic
aspect of the work. Although there was a large series of individual
prints associated with the project, it also cumulated in large
installation works as an amalgam of the individual prints.
1998 I began an MFA, with the project based on the conceptual
amalgamation of two long held personal activities that imply light:
*the process of growing plants (which I had engaged in since 1973,
but previously only as a botanical endeavor) *and that of photography.
(Which has been central to my work since 1974) I began using the
process of photosynthesis as photography to create images on the
leaves of plants by masking off designated areas for months at
a time. I specifically worked with Bromeliad plants which are
epiphytes, and the contradiction of the pariste became implicated
in the work. Gradually the work evolved into a major projection
installation. The plants were suspended from the ceiling of the
gallery; large tissue paper screens were made to and hang on three
sides of the space.
infrared activated projectors, 2 with green filters, 2 with red
filters and 2 with blue filters; were positioned to project across
the gallery, through the plants and throw shadows onto the tissue
screens at each side. As the audience entered the darkened space,
the projectors began to turn on for a set period of time before
turning off again. There was no designated sequence with the projectors
turning on and off in relationship to the number of people in
the space their path through the space. Of course where the projections
over lapped a complimentary set of shadows was created in cyan,
yellow and magenta. A seventh projector with no filter, which
was also infrared activated, was positioned to project light down
the centre of the gallery through the plants and casts shadows
on the end wall. But the plants had been specifically arranged
so as to create the cryptic letters LIGHT as a shadow on the screen.
Critics described the work as an Enchanted forest.
like the cells of a plant, grow during the process of development
and in 2001 I engaged in experiments that led to a projection
installation where the shadow of a plant was projected onto a
piece of photographic paper. Gradually over the period of the
exhibition, and only through the action of light, a vague image
of the plant developed on the paper. The projector was again linked
to an infrared sensor but this time it turned the projector off
the when anyone stepped forward to view the work, which allowed
them to view the transition from projected image to a negative
image developing on the paper. But over an extended period over
exposure began to solarize the image and transformed it to a positive.
November this year I am planning to install a larger version of
the work in the Blue Oyster Gallery in Dunedin, but in this work,
the light source which forms the images will emanate from the
static screens of television monitors.
while we pursue the expanding frontier of the digital galaxy,
we should never forget light, the phenomena that haunted the inventors,
that inspired the innovators of the medium, we should never forget
the phenomena that drives life in all its diverse forms on the
planet. With more people living in the past 10 years on the planet
than in all recorded history added together, should we ask the
question, "does the world need another artist, or do I as a person
need art as a creative process as part of my life? Do I as an
organic life form need light? But My interest in the theme for
this project came from the conceptual amalgamation of two long
held personal activities that employ light:
process of growing plants (which I had engaged in since 1973,
but previously only as a botanical endeavor) *and that of photography.
(Which has been central to my work since 1974)
our ancestors once stood and worshipped the light of the sun,
now we stare, entranced, devoted believers, dedicated to a network
of smaller celestial bodies scattered across a different universe.
accompany the exhibition, Trevor Coleman, who had previously collaborated
with Godman in 1984 on the Last
Rivers Song project composed a soundscape that played
continuously during the installation.
I am at this time student of Photo and Media department on ANU at Canberra. And Peter Fitzpatrick has given me a recomandation at you. I am mostly working with video and time-based installations. Actually I am working on some photogram project and I think that you could help me with technical problem I have. I have saw, that you have been already working with time based pictures - capturing image of the flower and or projection of the flower on the fotopaper for exact time period and than fixed it for exhibition? I like this project and actually before It I did get into the problem how to make this time based capturing effect during the time of exhibition. I would need that this photopaper would be still active during for example one month period.
For a concrete project. I am working with site-specific situations in the concrete places mostly galleries. I have make a time based capture of the light conditions on concrete space at the architectural model of that space which was made from A4 photopaper. On the surface of that model has been captured all of these light conditions and mainly shadows which were this model receiving and producing.
Than I have again returned this model into the flat paper. Result is that I have captured all of this light conditions and shadows which were this model producing to itself. Than I have exhibited this paper without fixation. For a short time period - 10 - 20 minutes - you could see the process of disappearing of that captured shadows.
What I would need for this project is little prolonging of this disappearing process into the period of a month for example.
At this time I was making some tests with weak lotion of fixer but without success. The process of capturing has stopped. Only somehow working solution was letting a paper exposure for a longer time, than cover one place for making a simulation of shadow and than after day uncover and let it be. The result is that the process of disappearing of that less exposed place is somehow slover.
Could you imagine that situation, or should I try to send you some preview?
Thank you If you could try to find any kind of a tip how to continue
Best wishes and thank you for your time.
Thanks for the email and an outline of your work
Of course photo paper will develop just with light as long as you give it enough - like any photo process - a small amount for a long time or a large amount for a short time.
The work I did with the photo-paper took 2 weeks to "develop" the image on the paper - it was in a darkroom with projectors turned on for the duration of the exhibition creating strong shadows of the plants on the paper - however when the audience stepped close to the paper the projection lights turned off and another light turned on so the audience could see the image growing on the paper - at the end of the exhibition, I took the paper down and processed it in fixer then the normal wash - however if I had grown the image into the paper and left it there for another 2 weeks the image would have actually faded away as the light reached the other areas of paper. Be aware that with one work a actually achieved true solarization where the image tonally reversed to a positive - so if the paper gets too much light the images will be there but the reversal will take place
Trust this is of use
Give my best to Peter
I am actually still working with plants - suspended rotating wind driven plant sculptures that need little water and have no roots
Best wishes Lloyd