Naked People and the Chameleon Effect

Are you always 100% you? of course right? Well I wasn’t sure, so I did some googling about why we might act differently around certain people. I was, like any good hypochondriac millennial, expecting to find I have an obscure neurodivergence. [1] Instead I came across a scientific paper from the 90s, focused on understanding if, and why, people subconsciously mimic the behavior of those around them.

Now, I’m going to be honest, I am not a scientist, I also did not read the entirety of the paper. The deeper I got into the paper, the more my eyes crossed trying to stay focused on these densely worded sentences. They were really trying to say as much they could, with as few words as possible. I’d also just finished reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with my partner, which is a book that tries to say as little as possible, with as many words as it can. So it was an abrupt turn.

BUT! here is the gist, we as humans, will mimic those around us subconsciously as a form of social bonding. That’s the tagline, monkey see, monkey do, monkey lack awareness of own subconscious mimicry. While this wasn’t the new hot thing I could blame for all my problems, It was very interesting. The study states that how much people exhibit this behavior can vary greatly. Personally I feel like I do it a lot, and I notice myself doing it too. If you recognize this behavior in yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

I was already working with reflective surfaces when I came across this study, and I wanted to incorporate these concepts into the work. I set about finding figures in my collection that would be appropriate, while also keeping an eye out for good visual relationships. I already knew the greyscale man and the reclining dandy worked well together, from an earlier work. This portrait of Adam, paired up nicely with a farmer holding an axe. Finally, the accusing man, and the flustered butler, I don’t really know about this one, I don’t think I’ll use it, but I just think they are both bursting with meme potential.

My approach was to create simple interaction between two figures, then somehow represent a mirroring between the two. I would do this through how the figures were placed, and through the use of varied materials. So like my last few prints, these would have the rainbow vinyl base, but I would add some reflective adhesive paper to the faces, as well as some other colored adhesive as an experiment.

So after two days of internally screaming at my screens, stripping and reapplying several layers of emulsion, and bungling a few registrations, here are the fruits of my labor!

Printing on this vinyl can be tough, especially when it’s so close to the due date. The vivid colors of the vinyl can really wash out the image, so as you can see here these two boys are in desperate need of some vitamin D. But in it’s own way its kind of very subtle, I don’t dislike it, but it’s not something I really planned for, despite being aware of the issue.

I was too excited to leave the studio for the day, so I didn’t get a picture of one with the red adhesive, but TRUST ME! they’re great. In fact I think they worked better than the mirrored adhesive, which seemed to just get muddied down by the ink. You can see your reflection when you really get close to it, and It plays with the light in some strange ways.

From here I’m going to press the whole image onto some black paper, sign and title those bad boys, and then call it a day. I’ll probably do this same process with the other prints I’ve finished on the vinyl, and call it a series of thoughts as images.

References

  1. Chartrand TL, Bargh JA. The chameleon effect: the perception-behavior link and social interaction. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Jun;

Pound, Stezaker and Höch

Patrick Pound

I think the single thing that made me appreciate and connect with Pounds work the most, was him referring to his practice as a puzzle he engages in. I also like to think about my relationship to the images I cutout to be a sort of game. I set myself rules and attempt to work within those confines. Rules include no printing off images to cut out, everything I cut out should stand on it’s own, and trying to source everything from books I happen across in a normal day.

That second one might be confusing, but I just have this idea of an images integrity, so if there is a portrait painting, I would cut out the image, add it to my collection, then use it later, I’m not cutting out images for specific works, more building a collection.

Museum of Air, 2013, Patrick Pound, Mixed Media
The Photographers Shadow, 2012, Patrick Pound, Mixed Media

John Stezaker

A teacher of mine once heard Stezaker give a speech. At the end of the speech he took questions, and my teacher who was a big fan asked his opinion on digital collage. His response was less than enthusiastic. She didn’t go into great detail about what he said, but it boiled down to digital collage not being real collage.

This in mind, I can’t imagine Stezaker would have any great love for my work. Maybe If i captured my work with a camera instead of a scanner? but probably the most If I just glued my work down, LIKE A REAL MAN! /s

Despite this I still love Stezakers work. It’s simple, smart, elegant and really just so smart. Hearing him talk about it though feels like eating a crouton sandwich. So I won’t subject you to that, instead I’ll post several images for you to look through. They require very little explanation. Each work feels like a coy little smirk, begging the response, “oh I see what you’ve done”

Marriage L, 2007, John Stezaker, Collage
She (Film Portrait Collage) III, 2008, John Stezaker, Collage

Marriage VIII, 2006, John Stezaker, Collage

Old Mask IV, 2006, John Stezaker, Collage

I really loved this style of collage, just after high school, before I started studying art. I had but a humble tumblr blog and I posted poetry, along with some photos where I had taken American presidents faces, and placed wood knots over where their skin should be. I can’t place exactly what I found satisfying about it, the texture, the way the grain mimicked the shape of the face, but there was something to it. I see it here too in Stezakers Old Mask series.

For one of my more recent projects I attempted to recreate this effect. While I liked the result, It didn’t really fit with what I was working on. One for the vault.

Howdy, 2021, Jake Brown, Collage

I did incorperate this idea of a “through line” though, In wh-why… me? you can see parts of the background image are followed through on the larger figure. This helps cement him as native to the domain, while the smaller figure is out of place.

In this extract it’s easier to see how the rolling swirls from the background, meet up with the forest floor of the larger figure

Hannah Höch

I didn’t really look at Höch’s work for this latest project as something to emulate, instead I looked at her work as a counterbalance to Stezakers more controlled and subtle style of collage. Höch’s work feels like bending the limits of collage to send a desired message. Whenever I look at her work I feel like she is simply painting with images.

Actually, you know what, maybe I’m more inspired by her than I thought!

Untitled, 1930, Hannah Höch, Collage
Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum, 1930, Hannah Höch, Collage
With Seaweed, 1950, Hannah Höch, Cut-and-pasted papers, torn papers, and gouache on paper

Höch’s work has a wonderful crudeness to it, I really admire artists who can make work so lo-fi, yet so refined. I always feel I have to work my collage into oblivion, making sure everything sits right, and that the colors are replicated perfectly,


Of course, If anybody knows any interesting facts, or outstanding works by these aritists, please comment down below.

I’m also always looking for more artist references!

Fair use? Fair Dealing? Fair Enough!

click here for an audio reading of this post!

One of the largest concerns I faced while working through this latest collage project, and really it’s a concern I’ve had whenever I’ve worked with collage. What are the moral implications of using images that I didn’t create? I didn’t make the images I cut out, and I don’t have any copyright to them, so how can I justify using them?

I’ve listened to a lot of discussion surrounding this over the years, but mostly in the context of YouTube’s fair use policy, and it’s effect on creators. Specifically there was a fairly public dispute between Matt Hosseinzadeh (Matt Hoss), and Ethan and Hila Klien [1]. The Klien’s ran a popular YouTube channel, called H3H3, which produced satirical content, poking fun at others on the YouTube platform. After a releasing a few videos on Hoss, who ran his own channel producing short films, with himself as the lead, he filed a lawsuit against the Kliens. This was a lengthy saga, and stirred up a lot of conversation on what exactly constitutes fair use, and how exactly parody and satire function.

I should mention this all happened in America, where the law governing copyright is called “fair use”, which is a different system to what we have in place in Australia.

Ultimately the Kliens won the lawsuit, but it was a long and arduous journey, which clearly took it’s tole on the two of them. They won the case after the courts applied a four step analysis, this is the process used to determine if a work that contains the work of another is appropriate. [2]

Factor 1: The conditions of use
This step identifies how the material is being presented in this new work

  • In the context of someone criticizing or commenting on the original work
  • For the purpose of reporting, researching, teaching or in the context of a scholarship

If any of these factors are satisfied, It bodes well for fair use to be found. Often courts will use the term “transformative,” which asks if the work takes on new life, instead of being merely a reproduction of the original material.

Factor 2: Nature of the work
As best I could determine, this step aims to identify the nature of the original material, in order to determine how the fair use rules apply. So typically, creative works are often given heavier weighting towards the copyright holder, as opposed to non fiction materials.

Factor 3: Amount of original material used
This factor loops back to the idea of a work being transformative. Generally speaking, the less of the original material you use, the better the case for fair use. But context is also important, such as in the Klien case, this factor ruled in the Klien’s favor, as the court found they only used enough material as to accurately criticize the original material. Time is not the only factor, but also resolution of image, or any factor regarding how recognizable it is.

Factor 4: Does the new work diminish the value of the original material
This is the most complex of the factors, as what determines value can be hard to determine. In cases where the new work is commercial in nature, this can be made simpler, as value can be deemed as income gained. But if it has a different purpose than the original material, or operates in a different market, things again become unclear.

So that’s fair use, and It was, up until writing this very post, what I thought my works would be judged against. But it turns out we operate under a different law in Australia, called Fair Dealing.

Fair Dealing works in a similar way to fair use, but is considered to be more restrictive on what is an acceptable use of copyrighted works. Even if you’re work falls under the categories defined above, there are often extra conditions that muse be satisfied. In the case of criticism, where you must site the original authors and the name of their work. While using literary texts, even for research and scholarship purposes, there are limits on how much you can use before it falls outside of fair dealing. [3]

The Australian Society of Authors actually thinks very highly of Fair Dealing, and is worried about the Australian governments apparent desire to import Fair Use. Fair dealing gives greater protection to the original copyright holders, and as the laws are more restrictive, results in lower legal fees when it comes to protecting your own works [4]. I can completely understand this perspective, and it would feel dishonest arguing against it, solely because fair use would benefit me in my practice. Though I don’t think anyone could argue, that in a modern world of YouTubes and TikToks, that a legal code written in 1968 really cuts it anymore.

So what does this all mean for me and my work?

I have no idea

the end.

Nah, but actually this system seems so complicated, it feels like some insurmountable obstacle to sort through what is appropriate and what isn’t. But as a jumping off point, from what I’ve read, my collage work is most likely to fall under the satire / parody provision of fair dealing. Though this does in it’s own way present problems. For starters, satire is not the central driving point of my work, though it is a part of it. Does this mean I have to play up the satirical element? Can I only use these images in my art if I’m making fun of or criticizing them? Can’t I make work as a love letter to the printed image?

Not to mention my complete lack of book keeping when it comes to image sourcing!

For the moment, and probably foreseeable future, I’m just going to keep expanding my practice, and following my own moral compass for what seems appropriate. I very much like to think my work is transformative! But a jury of my peers may not agree.

References

  1. Matt Hosseinzadeh v. Ethan Klein and Hila Klein
  2. “Fair Use”, Columbia University Libraries
  3. “Fair Dealing and Fair Use: How Australian Copyright Differs from the USA”, Lawpath.com.au
  4. “Fair Use”, Australian Society of Authors

Melodrama

Before my second Contemporary Figuration Feedback session, I was lucky enough to have my induction on an Epson 11880. This is, for anyone not in the know, a pretty good printer to say the least. Heading in I thought I would print of 3 a2 prints, kind of to test how they look? just get a feel for it?

I walked out of the induction with an absolutely massive 118 x 90 cm fine art print.

wh-why… me?, Jake Brown, 2021, 118 x 90 cm, Archival print, 300gsm Matte Paper

So this is one of the finished works for the class, some I discovered from printing these on a regular printer is that the yellow was way too high and it could do with some more contrast. My thoughts on printing this were mainly good, though I do wonder if a glossy paper might be more interesting and give deeper blacks? but my printmaker brain just can’t get around the glossy paper.

I hung this in the studio for a few days and got some pretty positive reviews. I also posted a photo of this with myself in front of it to Instagram, and It’s now my most liked image. I think people like to see the artist with the art? but I’m also bad with photos of myself, so I’m not sure how that’s gonna work going foreword.

So this brings us up to the second round of formative feedback. Here are some notes from the session

⦁ In the first session people suggested the works could exist purely as projections, but people seemed more impressed with the large print in the second session. I made them with printing in mind so that makes total sense, If I had made it with projection in mind things would of developed in a different direction.
⦁ The image speaks to more photographic progresses rather than print or painting.
⦁ The print quality is high enough that it gives the illusion of a real collage, the subtle shadow where cutouts overlap adds to the effect.
⦁ The dramatic imagery with the melodramatic comic book text adds a sense of satire to the work, It says out loud what the image is trying to say.
⦁ People noticed interplay of cutouts, where landscapes would blend through the placed images.
⦁ Some viewed the larger figure as an exit to a cave, which is something I hadn’t noticed. Once they mentioned it, I kept seeing both alternating.
⦁ The work had a heavy biblical overtone. I felt this while making it, the larger figure has the image of a priest on the reverse side, so strange that it still shone through in the image.
⦁ The comic book text gives scale to the image, because we are familiar with the size of a comic / magazine.
⦁ large figure is almost lifelike, or the size of a small person.
⦁ Scale brings importance to the work, a sense of reverence for the images.
⦁ The consensus was that the prints have achieved a resolved finish.
⦁ Evokes thoughts of a stain glass window, a sense of a journey, part of a larger story.
⦁ Breaking the frame makes the larger figure seem other worldly. That is it continues off the bottom edge of the print, It’s not contained. Exists on a different plane to the smaller human figure in the image.

Following this session I was super happy with the work I had done, so I decided to go ahead and continue printing off works. obviously I had learnt from the first print, so this second one turned out even better! which was good because it looks better, but worse because It highlights the flaws in the first print. No stress though!

The Fools, Jake Brown, 2021, 118 x 90 cm, Archival print, 300gsm Matte Paper

This print got even more love than the first, I think this is definitely my favorite work that I’ve produced in recent years. An odd feeling came over me when I saw this one, and it was how much I was borrowing images. An off thing to say about a collage work, but the colors came through so vibrant and crisp, but none of them were mine. I don’t know really where this though will go, It’s the kind of thing I’ll need a lot of feedback about.

I hung both prints up in my studio to see them side by side, and was surprised to see how well they work together. Some of the yellow from The Fools feels like it’s bursting into wh-why… me?.

The two works side by side

So that’s almost the end of this project / class and I’m really happy with how it worked out. I really think this project could be expanded to 10 or 12 works, and possibly propose the works to a gallery. I’ll be presenting these next Monday, I’ll post an update when I have my marks!

Wish me luck!

The art is more fulfilling on the other side of the studio

I feel like my approach to artmaking could be more easily compared to a scout collecting merit badges, than an artisan pursuing meaning or proficiency. Every year It’s a crapshoot as to what medium will feel engaging, and this year, at least so far, it seems to be collage.

This ain’t my first rodeo, I already had a whole folder of collage material ready to get started with. I’m really bad at visualizing ideas without references, so I collect images and use them as a base for works.

I chose a method of collaging that preserves the cutouts, allowing me to reuse and rearrange them. I got a panel of foam board, and taped a sheet of clear acetate to the top, leaving it to sit like a flap. Then I can arrange my cutouts on the foam board until I’m happy, and when I’m ready, press the acetate down, flip it over onto a scanner, and scan it at a high resolution. I then can take It into photoshop, set the white balance and adjust the levels to replicate how it looks in the real world.

A few troubles I had to work through early on.

I originally though that using glass would be the best solution, so using the glass from an old picture frame I sandwiched the collage together. Unfortunately when I scanned the image it came out quite blurry! This might not be the case with all glass, but it’s what I found

Troubles with large files! when scanning I aimed to capture the files at 2400 DPI. Opening and working on files this large can be difficult, photoshop seemed to have a lot of trouble with it. I found the program GIMP allowed me to open the files, which would let me at least resize it to around the final print size. This most likely has some effect on the final quality, but honestly the files are so detailed I think you still are left with quality images.

Sometimes when flipping the foam board to scan shifting can occur, which van be frustrating. I found that if its possible at all, arranging the collage face down on the scanner bed fixed this problem. If I absolutely had to use the foam board, I would blow hot air on the acetate, causing a bit of condensation, allowing it hold a little better.

Here is what I had at the time of the first formitive feedback aession. The aesthetic is all over the place, and thematically there’s very little to bind the works.

What came out as the strongest part of the works was the reversed figures. In the image above, the one that looks like a family portrait but the people are made of trees, let’s just call it a family portrait? How I achieved this was to find cutouts of figures that had an interesting image on the reverse side. Moving forward I decided to pursue this as the key aspect of my works this semester.

The challenges of creating works like this are simple. Finding images that fit this criteria, and fit the aesthetic im looking for is really difficult! Fortunately I found a few more I had already cut up that fit the bill, and also had a collection of books called ‘the masters’ with lots of two sided plates.

The next challenge was to figure out what this all meant! So im left with some questions

What does reversing the figure mean?

How can I ethically work with images I don’t own?

How do I present the final work?

Is this what I want to be doing?

Salvaging the Glitch

Before moving on from the glitched experimentation, I attempted to salvage what I could, Looking at ways I could expand on what I had made. Bringing the images into a 3d environment and playing with photomanipulation.

Bringing in the corrupted images into 3d studio max to attempt creating something more organic, though I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. Though I do want to expand on this, using Unity maybe as it’s more beginner friendly.

Mostly this first phase was me spinning my wheels, I was pretty aimless and really just trying to make something In a program I know that i have some proficiency in. Starting this year was pretty difficult, I had this overwhelming feeling of being lost. Now that I was confined to my home the possibilities of what I could make were so broad and far reaching. This is a terrible thing sometimes, too many options! but working through ideas and realizing what I don’t want to do has been the theme of 2021

G̵̭̕l̶̞̔ĩ̸̲t̷̘̊c̵̗͐h̴̯͆ī̴ͅn̸̝̐g̵̳͝

I’ve decided to start recording my visual diary in a digital format. Since a lot of my work is turning digital or requires a lot of digital manipulation, it’s better show through digital means. I’m also a faster (and neater) typer than writer.

Glitching old work by editing the hex in a text editor

So starting from the initial prompt of the glitched figure, I decided to take pictures of my work and edit in a text file. The results of this are always random, it can be difficult, what makes one image break out in rainbows completely corrupts another image. above is the reult of slowly chipping away at an images, removing all of one character at a time, eventually this left me with a completely black image. I also animated this image, and a few variations which I’ll show below

Above is an example of what the text editor looks like, this text describes on whole image, a self portrait that’s been reduced in size and turned black and white. The larger and more complex the image is the longer the text file is, it seems to have little bearing on how difficult it is to manipulate though.

Eventually I decide against pursuing this as an option in this class, my main problem was that I couldn’t connect it to any concept I was interested in. It also kind of made me sick to be looking at the garish colours, and provided little control of what I could make. Though this eventually would roll into my ideas around collage, in the sense that I’m not in total control of what imagery I can find to use.

Below is some of the other experiments with this style that I tried out. Some of them are really interesting, I especially enjoyed when the colour range would be shifted, resulting in a rainbow colour specturm.