This interview is part of the series on women artists who work in an interdisciplinary balance between art and science. Thus we join the social and global movement to make visible the work of women in the history of ancient and contemporary art.
Clare Strand: On how to manipulate the photographic medium’s origins
Clare Strand is a conceptual artist, a UK resident, with her art work exhibited worldwide during the last decades. Her art photography is described as subtle and non-informative. And surprisingly, she works with and against the photographic medium. “I am not really interested in photography, I am interested in distribution, in the way photography is distributed”, she explains in a recent interview for the Monocle radio.
As she explained to Probeta Magazine, she rejects the subject-based qualities and the immediate demand of information, so often associated with the photographic image and instead, and without apology, adopts and welcomes a slow burn approach.
How does against translate into the current situation, the arts, the whole art field from theatre to concerts, being at great risk and changes yet unknown ahead of us? “It is hard to speculate. Galleries are now starting to open but how eager audiences will be to jump back into viewing ‘art’ is negotiable. I don’t mean this on a cultural level, I mean on a pragmatic level. People may have more important concerns such as rebuilding their livelihoods, childcare, bills, etc. before planning cultural trips”.
There are, according to Clare Strand, quite a few things to be learnt from lockdown: the galleries and institutions should take the opportunity to expand their digital output in a more dynamic way.
“We should not see digital platforms as just a mirror of what is happening in the physical gallery space, but harness the unique multimedia environment that the net can offer. The pandemic combined with Britain’s looming ‘no deal’ exit from the EU will be the last nail in the coffin for the arts, which is of a constant concern. The physical audience will be slow as momentum has been lost. The current global status has led us to even more screen time, with digital learning, researching, content making, etc. Galleries, institutions and individuals have turned to and enhanced their digital programmes in order to interact with their audience. During lockdown there has been a lot of content to connect with, so much that the choice has actually been somewhat overwhelming”.
Her own work will not change. “My work will not change as its always changing anyway”. And her recent work is highly varied and includes ”machines to encourage entropy, web programs, looped films, fairground stalls and intricate photographic constructions focusing on, subverting, reimagining and manipulating the photographic medium’s origins”
One of Clare Strand’s recent exhibitions with Norwegian book publisher Multipress brings in the digital / analogue divide of art photography. In her project ”Fun with Negatives”, Strand’s zine of negatives is one more variation on the theme of how we distribute photography. It is a different way of presenting it and offers us, as stated, an option to take the images out of the book and make prints. She describes the pictures she has used in the project as taken without any real intent, with a random approach, the medium and the means of communication being important. Old photos are reused, the images reappropriated and decontextualised in the context of the zine, as a form. A zine is a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via photocopier.
“Photography has always been mocked around with. It is simply more obvious and faster with digital imagery”.
Strand says that she definitely does not long back to analogue days, but when it comes to wanting to sell in a gallery we go back to editioning, to the unique and limited.“The importance of the distribution aspects become obvious via social media and Instagram. The more images that are being shared, the better”.
It is a two way street. Instagram may democratise the images, challenging exclusive art photography, but on the other hand, an artist with a huge amount of Instagram followers will be very attractive to galleries. It is obviously still early days, but Clare Strand predicts that people who use digital platforms on a large scale will start infiltrating the galleries more and more.
The most interesting artwork by Strand currently exhibited is no doubt “The Discrete Channel with Noise”, easily interpreted as a comment to miscommunications and the ongoing apparent misuse of communication technology worldwide. The artwork consists of a remake of a series of black and white photographs, pieces of communication that have been treated as material in a play with distorted images commenting on our relationship to technology. Old photos from an earlier work were reused for the purpose and the process was made deliberately accidental. Strand painted the images upon the basis of instructions, the original communicated to her remotely. The original images were communicated to her from Brighton to Paris by Skype, using a number code.
As an audience, we are consequently set to participate in a communicative play watching miscommunications enabled by technology.