Project 5: A New Focus

Where I am now
So last week was a bit of a washout in terms of finding a direction but the weekend’s work on reviewing my project proposal has helped enormously and I think I have found a way forward. However before I talk about that I would just like to explore why I think the approaches I attempted last week didn’t really work. I think I focussed too much on style rather than substance. Each approach had its own strength and weakness but didn’t offer any real discourse. The only exception was with the last set but they too closely replicated other work and so didn’t offer anything new that I wanted to say.

Not knowing what to say
Well I am still unclear on what I want to say but have realised is that very lack of clarity that can provide direction – so I am going to create a set that simply documents some of the kit and equipment I use. Because this makes a clear break with project 4 I am categorising this project as a new start and so it becomes project 5.

The aim of this set is to make a benchmark reference point in re-presenting some impairment related equipment. I plan to take a forensic approach, with the images being shot and presented in the same way for each photograph. Thus the project will present photos as facts documented. My hope is that the set will inevitably bring into question the supposed objectivity of representation because of the choices I make in how to represent the items through this medium while simultaneously documenting the kit that is really used in the management of paraplegia rather than what is often presented as used.

This idea came about in part from my rereading Transforming Practice: Disability Perspectives and the Museum (Werb and Squire, 2010). This article describes how little was generally known about the policies of eugenics in Nazi Germany by the general US public in the 1990s and how a Washington museum invited a disability activist to provide insights into the subject. This lead to the museum rethinking its audience (ie including disabled people) and its connections (with activists and organisations) and the way it presented its exhibitions, and led to a change in stance by the museum where the exhibition acted as a provocateur:

  • using the past to re-examine current policy and attitudes to disabled people, especially in the area of disability science and medicine
  • using the exhibition to stimulate other exhibitions looking at related issues

The reading helped me think about what I want to say and greatly helped clarify what I need to do, along with reviewing my project proposal.

This set will be a typology in the sense that all the kit is about managing impairment. The kit may or may not be made for that specific purpose and so some is generic, other items have been adapted for particular uses, and some are designed and use for particular purposes to do with paralysis. In that way it will reflect my real experience and use of stuff rather than purely what they are designed for.

As the images form a typology the options seem to be either: show them in video form sequentially, allowing the viewer to consider each piece individually, or present the items in grid form so they are seen simultaneously. Given my thoughts on yesterday’s symposium and comparison between GIF and static image I plan to present the images now in the latter format but will not worry too much about how I plan to present the images in the longer term and will focus on just building a body of work.

I do however need to consider whether I should label the images or not. Up until now I have chosen not to label any project images because I am exploring and forming ideas and I think I will continue with this strategy just now so as not to offer any information about the items as this then presses the viewer to rely wholly on the image for information and so undermines or supports (depending on your point of view) the supposed nature of the “evidence”.

However I do want to orientate the viewer to the issue of objectivity and evidence and I think providing a title such as Evidence. This also references Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel (2003) where they undermined the view that photos provide objective evidence by presenting a raft of images selected from photographic archives and repositories of over 100 corporations and government, educational, and medical institutions in exhibition and book. Thus the set will speak differently to viewers depending on their knowledge of art history.


Werb S and Squire T, (2010) Disability Perspectives and the Museum  in Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum by Sandell, Dodd and Garland-Thomson (eds.), Routledge

Sultan L. and Mandel M. (2003) Evidence, Distributed Art Publishers Available at: [Accessed on 29/10/2014]


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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