discussing photographic art

Tag: Farnham

Karen Knorr Interview

Karen Knorr’s work has always been about power play, whether it be Gentlemen’s Clubs in London in the 1980’s or residents of Belgravia under Thatcher.  She has tackled the controversy playfully, revealing with insight and shock, the underlying principles of the privileged which have come to define her oeuvre.

The image above is from her most recent series India Song which deals with the cultural heritage of the upper caste culture in Rajput.  Knorr layers meaning upon meaning in the connecting of animals and architectural sites. Perhaps a sacred site is inhabited by a creature of mythic fame or a domestic environment houses a contradictory predator.  Whatever your interpretation, the result is another beguiling series reacting to hierarchy within caste systems.

Knorr has exhibited in Tate Modern and Tate Britain, she has taught at Harvard, Westminster and Goldsmiths and is currently Professor of Photography at University of Creative Arts, Farnham.  I don’t have space for all she has achieved here but with her passion for political justice as well as her proven experience in university life she was a prime choice for my questions on the role of the university within the arts.

SB:  Do you think the university has a greater responsibility in these economic conditions to prepare students for the ‘real’ world?

KN:  University has always had this responsibility to inform students of the hard facts of capitalist society and what it means to exist as an artist in the market place.  There is no safe place and one has to be increasingly flexible and innovative in order to survive in a very competitive market place.

An awareness of copyright law and the export duty and VAT are essentials in a globalised economy yet this has to be balanced by critical inquiry and research since these are where true creative innovation occur.

Students have to learn how to be entrepreneurial and to invent their own businesses in the now expanded field of photography and the social media.  In fact an awareness of the social media and how to use it effectively is imperative. Websites and apps are essentials tools needed to promote and circulate work.

If so, how do you think institutions can do this effectively?

To keep in touch with changing reality and to offer a haven from the brute forces of the market.

To encourage students to think against the grain and to provide access to information and knowledge for a global view of photography.

To combine critical inquiry with an awareness of the market yet not to be afraid to question the structures by forming cooperatives that distribute profit and surplus in a fairer fashion.

There is an urgent need to develop new alternatives with real ethics that are grounded not just in neo liberal economic models or authoritarian models of capitalism as in China.

In short, what is the university’s role?

To nurture intellectual inquiry since this with creativity and flexibility is the path to innovation.

What advice would you give young practitioners as they begin an artistic career?

Keep a sense of peer identity with firm roots in the community. Temper this with an exploration of the world through travel in order to develop a sense of understanding with others in the non western world.

Don’t be afraid to take risks and to question the authority of market . Know the rules all the better to challenge them.

Do you think artists roles in the future might look different than they have in the recent past as a result of financial times? 

They have always had to improvise and challenge the consensus. Perhaps now is the best time to do it as there is nothing to lose.  Embrace the opportunity to use your right to protest.  Now is the time to devise creative solutions to stale ideas circulating in market place.

What are your hopes for the future of photographic art? 

That it will remain experimental with a firm commitment to community.


Andrew Bruce Interview

I saw Andrew’s work in Arles this summer in a beautifully restored gallery which looked more like an aristocratic home than a white cube. His work is certainly eye-catching.  Whether it retains your gaze depends upon your demeanor towards dead things and your level of squeamishness.  Faced with looking away in disgust or being drawn in with perverse fascination, I chose the latter.  It was such a nice addition to find that he has a thoughtful approach to his practice and career considering his young age of 22. Andrew completed his BA at The University of Creative Arts, Farnham and is now doing his MA at the RCA and teaching at CCCU alongside.

We barely notice the ‘thud’ when we literally come into contact with animals. My work takes that ‘thud’ as it’s starting point.

I started to see roadkill as a potent symbol of humanity’s clash with nature, both literally and figuratively. Of course people are going to avert their eyes from roadkill; it’s horrendous. Seeing a dead body, be that of a man or a beast, is understandably a traumatic experience. One minute we are a person, with relationships and a personality, and the next minute we could just be an object; our bodies are so delicate. So when it comes to that point of contact – metal against flesh and bone – whether you’re man or beast, you’re powerless. It doesn’t take much to turn a body into something unrecognisable, something repulsive even. I find this the most horrendous thought; it pierces through me, and it’s my worst nightmare.

Andrew bruce

SB: What did you learn at Uni that you couldn’t have learnt in the real world?

AB: Doing my BA was really great, it was time to escape from the real world – and to immerse myself in a wholly new world.  The tutors, the other students, the technical facilities that are available to you – that’s all important too, but for me, most importantly, it was the time. I don’t think there are any real shortcuts in photography.

I really love and believe in art-school education, it is such an exciting institution, and also I see it as a chance to make photography a better medium, better for the viewers, the makers; everyone.  Having said that, I don’t feel like I’m seeing these kind of positive changes coming out of many art schools right now, and in fact in some cases it’s quite the opposite.

What have you learnt from the real world that you didn’t learn at uni?

It’s  hard after graduating, suddenly the safety-net that being a student gives to you disappears, and you are thrust into situations that feel far too big and important to deal with – I’m still so young, and to go from worrying about your marks at Uni one day to pricing prints the next, it’s scary, but it is very exciting!

After graduating I did a lot of assisting, and that opened up a whole new world of amazing experiences and opportunities, and it helped a lot to cushion the transition from finishing my BA.

Do you feel in control of your career path?  If so, how?  If not, how?

I do yes. But a large part of that confidence is just the knowledge that it will all take a long time.  It’s a compelling time to be a photographer, with the economy as it is, the face of photography in a years time could be unrecognisable from how we see it now.  If there are no jobs, then we will make the jobs.

What has surprised you most about your art so far?

The fact that I still really don’t know why I’m making the work that I am.

How do you measure success?

I hear a lot of artists saying that they make work for themselves.. I really can’t identify with this. I make photographs for everyone else, and they can take from them what they wish.

Like I said above I find it hard myself to define why and what it is I’m doing, so success for me is any genuine positive feedback from… anyone.  I have goals, I have certain routes that I would like to see my career taking, but I’m sure these will change over time – if I end up living in a cave, developing my film with rainwater, then I would see this as a great success!

How do you balance the tension of enjoying your accomplishments whilst striving for more?

There are always accomplishments and there are set-backs.  It can be the most intense emotional journey – but I would be worried if it didn’t feel intense and if it didn’t hurt.

I worry about balancing these elements, I don’t know if I do balance them very well, but that’s life… or photography… the same thing…