Following my A2 format of more detailed writing under each heading as this was well received by my tutor and provides a more central record for me.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
I worked with my iPhone SE again for this assignment as it fitted best with the “selfie” element of the work and the use of screenshots from the Clue phone app. I used the square format once again, I’m slightly ambivalent about this decision but decided on the square format as selfies are often presented to the world via the ubiquitous square format of Instagram. Instagram itself has this weird tension from the intimacy of the images shared via the public, global nature of the platform, and I thought this echoed what I was doing with my work – making something deeply personal almost open access. It also allowed me to explore the diary element via daily postings of the work to Instagram and did encourage accountability on the days when it all seemed too much of a poor idea. Format was an issue as the Clue screenshots were in a very different form to either square or standard IPhone photos, they were tall and very narrow.
I ended up working with square images, 960pixels on each side. I used the selfie camera which although I think the most appropriate camera for the work, was of quite limited quality especially in lower light and when some overlay modes were used. I tried to make all images against a light coloured background thus giving consistency without restricting me to a single location. Images were imported to Lightroom, then I opened them in Photoshop to layer the images with the corresponding Clue screen shot and make any edits. I think this is another “low-tech” piece of work, the images are not as polished as they would be from my DSLR on a tripod, but I wanted to keep an “everywoman” feel to the work too.
This assignment gave me the opportunity to use Adobe Bridge, which has only just become legible on my hi-res monitor. Bridge gave me more options to play with for layout and actually made putting the final work together more straightforward, even though it had no input on the individual images. It has also made me think harder about getting my own printer as it outputs to a PDF and Loxley don’t print PDFs.
Quality of Outcome
I am quite proud of this work. I’m not sure that it is “finished” in terms of presentation, but the contact sheet format displays my entire cycle on one A3 sheet and somehow that feels like an appropriate presentation. There are some 5 x5 prints too, all prints made by Loxley. It’s at a good intermediate point I think. This course has often made me look at things differently, but I’ve never looked at my identity over the course of one cycle in anywhere near as much detail. Personally, it’s driven me to seek medical advice in the hope of improving a few days each month.
I presented the work as a grid containing one image taken and made on each day of my cycle. I wanted to present as a 7column 4 row grid to mimic a standard calendar grid of 28 days, but that particular cycle only ran to 26 days so I was two days short. I did consider picking out a handful of images and presenting just those, but I think part of what I liked about this work was showing the whole cycle as a series. I didn’t start the series until day 6 of that cycle so I had to chose between starting the grid at day 6 and cycling around to finish at day 5; or using days 1-5 out of sequence to show a series running from 1-26. I chose the latter but am still not 100% at ease with that decision. I really liked a peer’s (Nic Hallam) suggestion of presenting the work as slides in a Kodak carousel to convey the “repeat til broke” nature of my cycles, but that’s not a realistic option for assessment as there may not be a projector available. Also the images are small and square and may not convert to slides successfully. All that said I’m going to try it anyway and see if there’s potential there.
Demonstration of creativity
I enjoyed the creative sandpit afforded by doing the same thing every day, this gave me space to learn, experiment and play because I had the best part of a month to make this work. You can follow different explorations throughout the grid as I started to become more playful and curious about the frame and the possibilities that it offered.
I was intrigued by the possibilities offered by my Pro cam app, and even more so by the way that my phone would remember the haziest of outlines of an untaken photograph if I switched to another app before taking a picture and then returned to the phone app. I could then scan through open apps and do a screen grab of that hazy outline. I’d love to do more with this.
I’m not much of a selfie taker and this work felt very personal indeed, well outside my comfort zone. It’s common to so many of us though and I hoped that people would recognise aspects of their lives in my work. I was very interested and also very happy to see another OCA student, Sarah Scott, exploring the idea on her blog too after seeing some of my images on Instagram. One of her posts about it is here, scroll down to the end. It was fascinating to see her take on the idea and I agree with her comments about the discomfort of sharing something so private. It’s a great feeling to see someone whose work and writing I find engaging being inspired by something I made. So that feels like a creative success to me because my work is inspiring more work as well as recognition and empathy.
Combining a basic biological function with a high-tech app provides some consideration about neoliberal measuring of women’s lives (thank you to a former tutor for pointing out the neoliberal measuring), and there is much to think about here. Exactly who gets to know the details of my cycle once I upload the data? How many organisations would seek to exploit this data, whether for medical research or commercial gain? Would WHSmith want to be able to target their magazine and chocolate cross-selling more precisely? Add this to the Facebook data breaches that broke recently and there is considerable scope for more work.
There’s not much work out there about the menstrual cycle in relation to the whole person – and what there is tends to focus on either the visibility of the monthly bleeding or the results of conception. I thought it was creative to take a wider view of the entire cycle.
It was hard to work out how obvious I wanted the work to be. It’s difficult to take a candid selfie after all. Did I want to show awareness, or did I want to be as “out there” as Echeverri? I’m still not sure what the answer is to that one.
I ended up finding far more context for this work than I thought I would, and it is documented in its own post here. I think it sits within post-feminist work. It’s autobiographical, but also documentary because it includes app screenshots and encourages consideration of what happens to the personal data uploaded to that app.
I think it’s the context section of this work that has carried the most learning for me. Not just in terms of artist context, but also in terms of establishing where my work sits with regards to feminism. I always regarded myself as a feminist, but A2 feedback showed me that it is far more apparent in my work than I imagined. For this work, I couldn’t even consider that it’s not feminist. I somehow thought that I could choose whether or not I made feminist work, and that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Ditto, the way that I emphatically told myself “ok, it’s definitely feminist but it’s not about menstrual activism” is probably wrong too. I suspect you can still have work that’s about menstrual activism without seeing the blood, or perhaps that should be menopausal activism. It’s the context section for each assignment in this course that is really making me question what motivates and informs my work, how I’m making and presenting it, and where I imagine it sitting in the world of contemporary work.