Experiment: Presenting the outcome #2 – bitmap backdrop

This project began with a focus on overlaying the analogue and digital worlds to see what new interpretations of data might emerge. The digital element is visible in the retro bitmap font but this experiment introduced a more dominant digitised backdrop. I wanted to see if this would enhance the photographs by providing a blurred historical link to the source of inspiration for the photographs and the phrases they contain.

A photograph was selected and noise was added in Photoshop to reduce the image to a raw, undiscernible impression. The immediate challenge was to avoid the image dominating the photographs and adding so much narrative that it left no space for viewer interpretation. Removing the free play I’ve been carefully working with was definitely to be avoided. The version on the right below sits in that space between definition and abstraction so it was selected as the backdrop.

A potential gallery presentation was mocked up below, with the photographs suspended in front of the backdrop. Lighting was experimented with and I enjoy how how the shadows play on the backdrop on the lower three images.

On reflection I don’t believe the above presentation is adding much and the backdrop is dominating the scene. I find myself focussing on the background and ignoring the significance of the photographs. It is as if the photographs add clarity to the backdrop rather than the other way round. As for the previous experiment with a presentation, the importance of the words has been lost in the visuals. This layout has become more about the individual than the language that was spoken.

I’m always interested in how scale can impact my work so before dismissing this idea I decided to create a much larger scale backdrop to see if this would be so out of scale with the photographs that it changed how it interacted with the images. So I created a square stamp and recreated the backdrop on 8 A1 sheets. The fact this this backdrop was created manually and took time was significant, as if this memory was being pieced together from shattered elements rather than photographic recall. The result being non-perfect is also softer than the earlier photocopied version.

This backdrop integrates better because it mirrors how the language has also been skewed over time. Also, the handmade nature of this backdrop is a bold contrast to the photography. It could be a ‘digital quilt’ that is wrapping around memories lost in time.

Summary & next steps

There are some aspects of this experiment that are successful, particularly in how the handmade background frames the photographs with an emotive quality. But I still feel there is more play to be had with language – with lifting it out of the photographs and putting it on centre stage. I want the outcome to generate thoughts about how the phrases have gone beyond a memory of the original utterance to become a memory of a memory. There is something to pursue here in how the workings of the human mind wallpapers over wallpaper. More experimentation with physical and emotive props will be my next direction of exploration.

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