In the last posts I have been writing about relay and anchoring, the relationship between text and image and how these are interpreted by the viewer. Now I'm thinking about the ways in which artists can make a conscious decision to the extend in which the viewer has room to interpret an image on its own and can steer the experience of looking and reading. Especially in post modern art we see the emphasis lies very much or equally on the interpretation of an idea or work next to the work itself.
Sophie Calle's Take Care of Yourself is based around a letter that she received from her lover in which he is breaking up their relationship. The letter ends with 'Take Care of Yourself', which Calle does in a very peculiar way. She asks around 100 women with different occupations and backgrounds to interpret the letter, resulting in a wide range of documents, videos and photographs. What strikes me is that the project not only focuses on the diverse way of how every individual interprets information, but goes into great depth to show the different ways. The photographs have all a very different style that is adjusted to the individual readers, so have the final interpretations, which not only reflects the differences in the readers, but more so Sophie Calle's creativity in documenting them.
Sophy Rickett's 'Objects in the Field' is a piece of art that consists of an essay, video and reprints of negatives that were taken with a telescope that was developed by Dr Willstrop, a retired well known astronomer. In her prints, Sophy interprets the negatives in her own artistic and personal way, making the project a collaboration between art and science, that raises questions of the purpose of both fields and the acknowledgement that both sides give to each other's interpretations.
Both pieces reflect post modern approaches to narratives in such a way that the focus is on the interpretation of a certain source and showing how it is interpreted and interacted. This interpretation and interaction is asking for some sort of acknowledgment and shows a search for meaning in the main source.
Personally I think both pieces are very original and it shows that although the emphasis is found on the interpretation of the art by others, through initiating and recording a certain process in others you are expressing yourself and can find your own voice. The fact that Sophie Calle finds this way of interpreting the letter and dealing with the loss of her relationship a way of 'taking care of herself', the process becomes very personal.
The difference between Calle and Rickett's work is that Calle shows how the same document can have many different interpretations and that a message in itself can convey many more meanings than what it was intended to bring across, let alone used for completely different purposes. You could still argue that the interpretations were steered in the sense that people reacted on it from a professional view without having to live through the consequences, rather than as the personal receiver of the message with all the emotions of heartbreak and such.
Rickett on the other hand, records her own interpretations of somebody else's work and expresses her personal ideas and connotations in her work. In a way she feels that she has lost, maybe because for her it was not really clear what kind of function her work would have and she had hoped that her work would be of any significance to the scientist, which it didn't really have, even though he appreciates her work on a professional level. I was also interested in the fact that Rickett is hoping to add some scientific purpose to her work and was a bit disappointed when this turned out to be not the case. She tried to bridge art and science, while the scientist made no such effort, even though he was sympathetic towards Rickett's work.
In both cases the function of a document/image changes if it is so actively presented to be interpreted by others, changing the meaning of it as well. In Calle's work we start to be more amazed with the approaches to the document themselves, somehow discharging the emotional impact of the breaking up itself. It's becomes more like a tool. You could say the same about Rickett's photographs. The difference in handling the images and the usage is being emphasised, which brings a very new dynamic to Rickett's work as well as that of the scientist.
Haber, J. (no date) Haber’s art reviews: Sophie Calle. Available at: http://www.haberarts.com/scalle.htm (Accessed: 3 February 2016)
Jeffreys, T. (2014) Objects in the field. Available at: http://www.thelearnedpig.org/objects-in-the-field/900 (Accessed: 2 February 2016)