jaam ken eh mama
Zach Nader’s Counterweight
There is no denying that digital media have facilitated what can only be described as an image-saturated world. As both producer and consumer, the “everyday” photographer now has access to virtually all the image-making technologies once only privy to a select few. One of the more fascinating developments in this phenomenon lies in the world of digital-imaging software; from the Instagram filter to the oft-preached Photoshop, programs are always working to tweak and re-touch our worlds.
Brooklyn-based artist Zach Nader addresses what might be at stake in the editing obsession by posing this question, “How do image making technologies affect our experiences and memory?” In his 2012 project Counterweight, Nader uses the content-aware function in Photoshop to excess: he runs the program until it eliminates all the human figures from select family photographs. The function – of course meant to correct small imperfections – must attempt to “fill in” the voids left by the human figures and reconstruct the background as best it can. As we can see from Nader’s results, the digital tool cannot possibly fill the space with absolute accuracy, and what’s left are somewhat haunting images on which we can see both the attempt at digital intervention, and the ghostly impressions of a human presence.
In an interview with In-B, Nader explains why this kind of software combined with the family snapshot-as-medium interests him especially:
“Family snapshots are an unusual type of image. I began with them because they are used to simply idealize their subjects…These snapshots exist to show people in a specific place, and were often created quickly and with little to no knowledge of the apparatus used – a button was pushed. They become incredibly significant though as markers of what happened when and where – they are the record. Of course filters can be applied and objects added or removed, but that is not the primary concern for most users. The light might be terrible, someone may have moved, or the photographer really should have just gotten closer, but these are the images that people run into burning buildings for or pay exuberant fees for data recovery.
This specific content-aware technique is one that I have used other works: Aspirations and optional features shown. I am very interested in the hardware and software that shapes the ways in which we make and view images. Content-aware is made for specific, and rather small, uses – having it fill in for representations of entire people and products breaks the tool from the intended use and opens up new possibilities.”
See more of Nader’s work at his website here.
The practice of map making is so universal and diverse that researching it can lead almost anywhere. My research into mapping was focused primarily on various cultural uses for map making outside of general cartography. I explored map making as a form of story telling and as a means of communicating non-physical and emotive moments.
My major project is an installation that pieces together various chapters from my family’s history from my mother’s perspective; a map of sorts that details events and emotions that have lead to where we are in the present. I plan to make use of culturally significant materials such as hair and the medium of story telling.
In making a conceptual map to convey my process leading towards the final assessment, I chose to specifically focus on mapping conversations between my Mother and I in a way that emphasises the personal and biased nature of the information I’m displaying. I recorded one side of a phone conversation (my mother’s) and recorded myself taking notes from that recording to further remove the audience and add another element of unreliable narrator to the narrative.
My research also included looking into ethnographic map making practices and ritual scarification in Sub Saharan Africa. Although the reasons for scarification are incredibly varied by region, there is often an element of spirituality, story telling and map making (Indigenous Mapmaking in Intertropical Africa - Thomas J. Bassett).
I also looked into the work of Yinka Shonibare as the convergence of two “opposing cultures” (The British Empire and Post Colonial Africa) can be considered a form of mapping. The sculpture Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle (2010) is an excellent example of this.
The work maps colonisation and it’s ramifications through the use of the ship as a reference to the beginning of the colonial era and the kente cloth material as a reference to the extensive cultural trade as a result of colonialism. This material is a large part of many African nations’ traditional dress and culture but was originally dutch made and even then, taken from South East Asian prints and pattern making during the height of Dutch trade and exploration.
It is this idea of abstract mapping that Shonibare displays in his work and the culturally significant mapping of ancestral passages in Thomas J. Bassett’s article that influenced my final map.
Below are three screenshots from the video.
New Orleans-based visual artist Heather Hansen explores the combined art of painting and movement for her experimental project titled Emptied Gestures. Like a kinetic performance piece, the artist uses her own body to illustrate action on a two-dimensional surface. Rather than using any brushes or other tools to protect herself, Hansen gets down and dirty, shifting the dark pigment with her own body.
The piece is documented, step-by-step, by photographer Bryan Tarnowski who captures Hansen’s brilliant dance-like movements. The artist’s extended limbs manage to track and map their own movements onto the sheet beneath her. Hansen says, “In this series, I am searching for ways to download my movement directly onto paper, emptying gestures from one form to another and creating something new in the process.”
Wind Map Project
"An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US."
" Visual and tactile aids for retelling origin myths and other stories of historical and cultural importance take the form of maps in some societies. Among the Tabwa of southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the migration path of mythical ancestral heroes is inscribed in the skin of initiates to the Butwa society and represented in wood sculpture. Initiates receive a V-shaped scarification on the back or chest or both during the last stage of the initiation process. A second line of “regulamentary inscription” cuts through the V and follows the midline of the body. This second line is given the name mulambo, which also refers to the horizon line or “back” of Lake Tanganyika to the east of the Tabwa, to the Mwila drainage divide to their west and to the Milky Way galaxy and Orion’s Belt in the night sky…
…Among the neighbouring Luba peoples, mnemonic maps are used in the last two stages of initiation into the Budye society. Budye associations formed in the past around the investiture of a King and served as a check on royal authority. In the course of the four-stage initiation, members learn about the principles and spiritual precepts of Luba kingship. During the thirs or lukala stage, initiates are taken into a meetinghouse where elders draw wall maps showing the dwelling places of the guardian spirits of Luba kingship and the migration paths of the initiates’ ancestors.”
"If the fleshy mounts and flat plains are the topography of your hand, the lines are the roads that cross it as you journey through life. Get familiar with the major freeways that mark just about everyone’s hand, even if you don’t see them change much, because they will help you as reference points for the mounts."
Some key characteristics of maps are:
*why are certain materials used to represent concepts?
*What happens when we use the wrong material?
Permanence and solidity are explored through mediums that oppose and represent the concepts.