Archive for the Disciplinary Institutions Category

Post-processing and enhancement of photographs (practical examples)

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, My practice, Photography, Photography techniques on August 29, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I have applied the post-processing workflow detailed in the tutorial I wrote to the photographs from my ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ series.

Most pictures required little adjustments because I took care to expose them correctly. I discovered that my favourite tools to do slight exposure adjustments were either manually adjusting the curve, or doing selective Brightness and Contrast Correction via Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights.

I did some saturation adjustments to some pictures, either on the whole picture or sometimes for a specific colour channel to bring out a specific detail from the composition. For example, for ‘Cellar Door 1’, I brought the saturation up +16 for Yellow and +18 for green. The effect is more over the top than what I usually go for but because this picture is retro-kitsch on purpose, it’s an appropriate choice.

Before:

After:

I also straightened the geometry of the corridor shots from the asylums when my tripod was crooked due to uneven floors.

Before:

After:

I used light denoising on all pictures. I also use smart sharpening on most pictures, but not on any picture featuring reflections in mirrors, dew on a window or a diffuse, fuzzy light, because sharpening destroyed any of these interesting effects.

I will now detail the workflow I used on the 3 photographs that required the heaviest processing. On most other photographs I processed, while the processing improves print quality, the adjustments are too slight to be noticeable in web quality.

Ghost House III.1

Before:

I redid the whole picure after realising that the ‘Dust and scratches’ filter blurred the image rather than really denoise it though it turned out not to make a huge difference on that photograph.

-Lens Correction.
-Selective Brightness and Contrast Correction Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. Corrected blown highlights: Amount 60%, Tonal Width 30%, Radius 30px. Midtones contrast +15%.
-Saturation +10.
-Reduce Noise, Despeckle.
-Smart sharpen Amount 50% Radius 5 pixels.

After:

Ghost House III.11

Before:

-Lens Correction.
-Selective Brightness and Contrast Correction Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. Corrected too dark shadows: Amount 15%, Tonal Width 30%, Radius 30px. Corrected blown highlights: Amount 19%, Tonal Width 30%, Radius 30px. Midtones Contrast +19%.
-Saturation +20.
-Reduce Noise, Despeckle.
-Smart sharpen Amount 50% Radius 5 pixels.

After:

Woodlawn

Before:

-Lens correction.
-Levels: burn highlights on purpose, they’re just the window.
-Selective Brightness and Contrast Correction Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. Burn highlights some more: Amount 100% tonal Width 16%.
Manual Curves.
-Saturation -49 (slightly tinted monochrome)
-Reduce Noise.
-Smart sharpen Amount 50% Radius 5 pixels.

After:

Repeat similar process with similar picture differently exposed for trial.

Before:

-Lens correction.
-Selective Brightness and Contrast Correction Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. Burn highlights: Amount 100% tonal Width 50%. Lighten shadows: Amount 29% Tonal Width 30%
Manual Curves.
-Saturation -27 (slightly tinted monochrome)
-Reduce Noise.
-Smart sharpen Amount 50% Radius 5 pixels.

The result is similar but there is less glare on the wall. I suspect this is due to the original picture, not the processing. I chose this version for printing.

After:

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‘Disciplinary Institutions’ showing Wed 17th August in London! (tonight!)

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, My practice, My shows, Video on August 16, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

MILLINGTON | MARRIOTT present OPEN film schedule

New Gallery London
92 Peckham road, SE15 5PY
London, United Kingdom

WEDNESDAY
Andrew Hinton – Banking on change (11.44)
James Jarret – Absence of the Star (4.00)
Matthew Verdon – The Adventures of Monica (4.35)
Alex Reuben – Big hair (5.13)
Oliver Smith – Belief Perspective (7.56)
Thomas Kilburn – I could Never Love Again (9.36)
Melanie Menard – Disciplinary Institutions (6.52)
Luke Howlin – Spritz (8.16)
Pete May – Dolly With a Dick (TRANStv) (10.00)
David Altweger – The Twilight Project Chapter One (5.31)

Disciplinary Institutions video (new, improved 2011 edit)

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, Moving image techniques, My practice, Urban Exploration, Video with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I also made a new version of ‘Disciplinary Institutions’, using footage shot in 2009 already used in the 2010 edit, and new, previously unused footage shot in 2010.

This piece is rather dry, similar to the work of the Wilson sisters, whereas I believe Ghost House is closer to what my work would look like should I move into a more narrative direction. By keeping a steady rhythm and directional continuity in long corridor tracking shots that get darker and darker as the video progress, I aimed to convey the feeling of powerlessness and crushing fate experienced by the inmates.

In this video too, I applied my theoretical readings and paid great attention to steady rhythm, avoiding jerky images and precise pacing by carefully selecting shot lengths. I decided on purpose to leave the 2 last shots on for longer necessary, in order to play with the audience nerves. The previous to last shot is especially unnerving because it’s a steady frame showing a book that says ‘Ecclesiastical law’: nothing happens in it visually yet the words say it all, and the audience have to bear it and suffer it, just like the inmates had to bear their imprisonment. The last shot of the moving shadow of a ‘caged’ plant swaying in the wind is the exact opposite: aesthetically pleasing (though gloomy) but conceptually simple. It is aimed at lulling the audience into calm thinking, so that, maybe, they can start integrating what they might have learnt while watching the video about themselves, their fears, their idea of freedom.

One technical problem to be sorted later is that the words ‘Ecclesiastical law’ are not very clear because the white pages of the book are a little overexposed. This is due to shooting in abandoned buildings with nothing but a small camera and in a completely improvised manner, since neither the local authorities nor the Catholic Church are willing to have the Magdalene Laundries advertised, and access to them therefore has to be ‘taken’. I hope to sort this in post production. I have not done it yet because I’m about to get the Adobe professional software, which should make a more precise job of it than MoviePlus which I currently use.

‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ continued during Summer 2010

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, Methodology, My practice, Photography with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

In June/July 2010, I went back to Ireland to shoot some more photographs and video footage for the ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ projects. I mostly revisited previously explored locations; My aim was to try and rely less on the automatic settings of the cameras, make better use of the tripod, and generally be more thoughtful about my images. I have not looked at the video footage in depth yet, but for the photographs, the result were mixed. I did get some good images I did not get before, but some scenes I re-shot look no better in the newer, more worked versions than on the older version where I only specified the ISO and let the camera do the rest of the work.

This is a Ghost House in co. Galway that I visited in 2008. The first picture with the stairs is my favourite of everything I’ve made this year.

Ghost House

Ghost House

This is a Ghost House I saw from the road. I could not go inside because it was locked up, but I thought the exterior shot was very interesting because the walls appear to be bleeding.

'Bloody' Ghost House

I was granted authorisation to go into Woodlawn House, co. Galway. The house is empty and awaiting renovation but the elaborate interior architecture was enough to make interesting pictures.

Woodlawn House

Woodlawn House

I went back to the High Park Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, but I did not get much better pictures than last year.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

I went back to the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in Cork and got better pictures, especially from the upstairs floors. Some of these photographs need to be straightened because my tripod was not straight on the uneven floor (I need to find out how to do that).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

(The book says ‘Ecclesiastical Law’).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

I also got more pictures from Eglington and St Kevin’s insane asylums in Cork.

Eglington insane asylum, Cork.

I found by chance a Magdalene Laundry in Kinsale, co. Cork. The building itself was gutted and being transformed into flats, but the inmates cemetery was still there at the back of the building site.

Magdalene Laundry Cemetery, Kinsale, co. Cork.

Our landlady also tipped me to go see Letterfrack Industrial School: Industrial Schools were the equivalent for boys of what Magdalene Laundries were for girls. The School is now a normal school, but an information panel in the hall tells the story of the former Industrial School and the inmates cemetery has been turned into a sort of memorial.

Of course, erecting memorials afterwards does not change anything for the victims, but the contrast between the tended memorial of the Industrial School and the rusty, abandoned graves of the Magdalenes made me bitter. The wrongs done to the little boys are at least publicly acknowledged and apologies are at least paid lip service to. But the Magdalenes do not even get this: the Catholic Church still refuses to acknowledge any wrong done to the Magdalenes, despite campaigns from inmates’ descendants, and public authorities are all to eager to eradicate the Magdalene Laundries from the face of the earth, turning them into overpriced apartments without as much as a commemorative plate. Seeing this contrast made me all the more determined in my project to document the Magdalene asylums.

Letterfrack industrial school

Letterfrack industrial school

MA Digital Arts – Midpoint Review Presentation and Evaluation

Posted in Audience Response, Critical theory, Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, MADA Coursework, My practice, Practice experiments with tags , , , on April 7, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

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Instructions

Hello fellow MADA 1st year students !

For optimal results, please watch the visual presentation on you tube before reading the written evaluation. (You just have to read this post linearly from beginning to end.)

Thank you !

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Visual presentation

I am of course interested in your thoughtful feedback as an artist/academic with cultural references, but also in your instinctive reactions as an individual. This is why I am asking you to watch the visual presentation before reading the evaluation of my project. I want to recreate the conditions in which a random passerby may see an artwork on the internet or in a gallery window, without knowing anything about it, without having even looked at the title yet. This person may not know anything about contemporary art. They may be walking down the street and notice a picture, or have randomly found a video on youtube. What will this person see in the art work? Will the image grab their attention? Will the image awaken feelings/moods/questions in them, despite the absence of cultural context? Making artworks that are able to establish direct communication with the viewer, without the need for explanations or comments is a big concern in my practice. This experiment is designed to find out in which measure I have succeeded or failed so far.

In the visual presentation, you will be shown excerpts from 2 videos, stripped of title, music and context. These videos are made from edited footage, but have no special effects yet. I would like you to watch these videos candidly, without a priori. For the 6 minutes of the presentation, please try and forget (temporarily) about the academic context and watch them not as coursework, but as your Friday night movie or a museum on holidays. This is the closest way I could artificially recreate the situation described above. Please focus on your subjective experience as a viewer. Do the images grab your attention or fail to do so ? Do they create any feelings/moods/reflexions in you? If so which? Do the 2 videos have different, identical or similar feelings to you ? Please tell me anything that crosses your mind.

Watch the visual presentation on youtube

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Please do not read anything below until you have watched the visual presentation and followed the instructions !

Thank you !

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500 word auto-evaluation

Evaluation

My project is about the relationships between places and individuals, observed through 2 main viewpoints:
1) how the physical world is subjectively perceived by individuals, and intersects with their inner world.
2) how space influence individuals’ psyches. This may take a more political aspect by exploring themes of imprisonment and deprivation of private space.

In the theoretical research, I got mainly interested in:
1) Documentary-type (i.e. not staged) photography, both through its link to Surrealism and in its contemporary form. Surrealist documentary aims to physically reveal “surreality”, the higher perception where dream and reality merge. In contemporary practice, the concept of subjective documentary, that says more about the person that makes it than about the documented subject itself.
2) The concept of “chronotope”: the way space is intrinsically linked to time in the context of memory.
3) Manipulating the viewer’s perceptions/feelings using moving image techniques.
4) How much the meaning/impact of an artwork comes from the raw images themselves, and how much comes from the critical comment accompanying them.

In practice, I have mainly edited raw footage shot in abandoned buildings last summer (in prevision of the MA), aiming to use editing techniques in order to create specific atmospheres that would trigger specific feelings.

Work plan

Issue 1: I come from photography. I have lots of references in cinema but know little about video art. In photography, striking symbolic images stand by themselves. In cinema, such atmospheric images come in between bits of informative narrative. I am still unsure about video art as a language: is it a succession of symbolic sequences deprived of narrative ? Or am I missing something ? Do I want to make pure visual video art or do I want to tell stories (even ambiguous ones) but do not know yet how to do it ? Do moving images without narrative get boring for the audience ?

Issue 2: So far I have only used unstaged/documentary type footage. I planned to incorporate staged images, mostly in order to depict dreams. How do I make the staged images ? I am concerned about them looking kitsch (due to lack of budget), too litteral or too didactic (textbook symbolism).

Issue 3: How can I use new digital technologies (rather than pure traditional still/moving image) to serve my purpose, not just for the sake of being modern ? The main idea is to make immersive installations that make the world of the moving images more real to the viewer than traditional projection on a screen. I have not studied the practical/technical feasibility of installations at all yet.

Issue 4: Can I use the still photographs in an innovative way ?

Other practical tasks:
1) start using special effects on the video software
2) shall I try making my own soundtracks or continue using work from a proper musician ?

Further theoretical research:
1) the mechanism of memory
2) dream symbolism

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Constructive comments

After reading this project evaluation, please submit your comments as a student/artist/academic as well as your comments as an individual viewer (as requested in the visual presentation). If your experience on these 2 different levels differs sensibly, please make sure to state clearly on which level you are commenting, since I won’t be able to request clarification of ambiguities while you are commenting on my work. Thank you for your help and cooperation!

For your information, the titles and commercial/critical blurbs usually accompanying the 2 videos were:

Video 1: Disciplinary Institutions

In “Disciplinary Institutions”, I explore places used to make undesirable and/or helpless people disappear discretely such as Magdalene convents (used to imprison women), mental asylums and workhouses. I am interested in showing how the long gone inmates keep imprinting these places long after they are dead, and the malevolent aura still cast by those buildings.

Video 2: Ghost House

The Ghost House series was shot at several abandoned houses in Ireland, whose last occupants probably left 10 to 30 years ago. Traces of their lives and aspirations, and of the disillusions and hardships
that made them leave their homeland, remained in the form of scattered personal belongings.

Do those blurbs influence your perception of the images ?
If so, do they:
– help you get interested in the artwork (while the images alone left you cold) ?
– change your perception of the images ?
– confirm your intuitive perception of the images ?

Ghost House & Disciplinary Institutions Videos

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, My practice, Video with tags , , on March 10, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

I’ve made video loops from the footage I shot in summer 2009. It is a first draft edit only, mostly selecting the best footage and trying to edit it together with interesting transitions, but nothing more conceptual/elaborate yet.

WordPress prevents from embedding anything so please watch them directly from youtube:

Ghost House video

Disciplinary Institutions video

Disciplinary Institutions

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, My practice, Parallel theory, Photography, Urban Exploration with tags , , , , , , , on January 24, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

In “Discipline and Punish”, Michel Foucault defines “ Disciplinary Institutions” (Institutions Disciplinaires) as places where people are made useful and obedient through the repression of any deviation from the norm. Foucault argues that, in medieval times, repression was focused on punishing one particular crime after it had been committed. The punishment was often bloody and spectacular and symbolically linked to the original crime (for example, cutting the hands of a thief). The tortures were staged as spectacular public displays in order to demonstrate the almighty power of the King and keep the people subdued. From the Renaissance onwards, however, the State turned to another strategy of moving repression inside closed walls, thus giving its power a menacing aura of secrecy. This new strategy had the additional advantage of removing the risk of the people taking the side of the condemned person during a particularly cruel public torture. At the same time as repression was moved inside closed walls, the forms it took were diversified. Foucault calls the various places where various forms of repression take place “Institutions Disciplinaires” (“Disciplinary Institutions”). These institutions include the prison, where the initial goal of punishing an already committed crime carries on. But they also include places where people are sent before they have ever committed any wrongdoing, such as schools, mental asylums or military training places. People are sent there “preventively” in order to nip in the bud any temptation or propensity to deviate from the behavioral norms decided by the State.

In my “Disciplinary Institutions” photographic series, I explore places used to make undesirable and/or helpless people disappear discretely such as Magdalene convents (used to imprison women), mental asylums and workhouses. Rather than purely documenting the buildings, I am interested in showing how the long gone inmates keep imprinting these places long after they are dead, and the malevolent aura still cast by those buildings in collective memory.

During my exploration, I encountered local teenagers who guided me in the sites and told me urban legends about them. I was fascinated by the aura of malevolence still cast by these buildings, despite them being closed for so long, and the way the teenagers associated them with some very contemporary anxieties, such as the fear of teenage pregnancy (associated with Magdalene laundries) or the fear of being labelled a “weirdo” (associated with mental asylums). Somehow all the horrible stories associated with these buildings were all related to the violence that the adults enforce on the young to make them obey social norms: by locking up young girls considered in danger of promiscuity in Magdalene laundries, or young people with too original ideas in insane asylums. It is as though those buildings had a cathartic function: they were a powerful symbols onto which the teenagers could hook their fears about their own place in society. Yet, at the same time these abandoned “no man’s lands”, out of reach of adult control, were also socialising landmarks where teenagers could meet and be themselves without the fear of adult judgement.

Disciplinary Institutions slideshow