Schlagwort-Archive: francis galton

Kompositgesichter

08.02.2017 18.00. Vortrag bei “Briefings”, Institut für Kunstpädagogik, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Sophienstraße 1-3.

Kompositgesichter. Eine kurze Geschichte einer unheimlichen fotografischen Technik.

Die Kompositfotografie, die statistische und physiognomische mit evolutionstheoretischen Theorien und mit dem Medium der Fotografie verbindet, wurde im späten neunzehnten Jahrhundert von dem Britischen Wissenschaftler Francis Galton entwickelt. Die Überblendung der Portraits sollte dazu dienen physiognomische Charakteristika und in Beziehung stehende genetische Dispositionen zu visualisieren. Die fotografischen Konstruktionen zeigen diffuse Züge, unheimliche Gesichter, denen jedoch eine große Deutungskraft zugemessen wurde. Trotz ihrer zweifelhaften Konnotationen durch ihre Nutzung in Kriminologie, Visuelles Anthropologie, Rassenforschung und eugenischer Forschung erlebt die Technik in heutigen künstlerischen Positionen eine Renaissance.

Portrait of a Type…

“Portrait of a Type, Type of Portrait: Composite Portraiture between Science and Art.” Raul Gschrey (Gießen, Frankfurt)

Abstact of my presentation at the conference „Doing Face“ at Goethe University Frankfurt, October 2016.

The photographic technique of composite portraiture superimposes facial views of different people in order to create a collective portrait. The frontal views of the surreal blurry figures usually look straight at the viewer and create an uncanny feeling of familiarity. In contemporary arts and popular culture we encounter a variety of these facial compositions that are predominantly digitally produced. But the origins of the technique lie in late nineteenth-century, when the relatively new medium of photography became established as a scientific tool. Presupposing the alignment of outer appearance with inner dispositions, Francis Galton, who is better known as the founder of eugenics, developed composite portraiture as an analytical technique to visualise typical appearances of groups of people. The photographic superimpositions sought to give a face to phenomena such as criminality, physical and psychological illnesses, race, but also to more positively connoted notions such as health, likeness and family resemblance. The technique enjoyed a considerable popularity in positivist scientific circles of criminology, medicine and psychiatry, anthropology, racial science and eugenics that only abated in early twentieth century. Apart from a small number of examples, the technique fell into disuse and only resurfaced in the 1980’s at the eve of another visual revolution, when media artist Nancy Burson took up composite portraiture and developed techniques of digital facial morphing. In recent years artists have questioned the explanatory value of the visual constructions, they have translated the technique into moving images and explored their potential in times of an omnipresence of self-portrayal and identification in social networks.

The paper will try to make sense of the special type of portrait and examine the nature of the visual constructions between their functions as averaging, as well as typifying devices. How was the founder of composite portraiture “doing face” and staging the “face as event” and which central impulses, preconceptions, and discourses formed the technique’s utilisation in nineteenth-century? This historical perspective will be expanded with late twentieth and early twenty-first-century artistic positions that explore the technique in times of interconnected digital media and computerised facial recognition.

the others are we : interview

“the others are we” : video composite portrait of a city

Interview with the German artist Florian Tuercke during the exhibition “the others are we” at con[SPACE] video gallery, Atelierfrankfurt, Frankfurt/Main, Germany. For the exhibition, the artist produced a composite video portrait of faces from Frankfurt and other European cities. Exhibition curated by Michaela Filla Raquin and Raul Gschrey, interview conducted and produced by Raul Gschrey. Additional material by Florian Tuercke, Nicholas Singleton & Raul Gschrey. Historical photographic material by Francis Galton, Special Collections, University College London. www. conspace.wordpress.com : www.gschrey.org : www.floriantuercke.net

Addressing each and every one

Workshop: Addressing each and every one: Popularisation/populism through the visual arts

April 21 and 22 2016, Justus Liebig University Gießen, Main Building (Ludwigstrasse 23), 3th floor, Seminar-Raum

The workshop brings together scholars from art history, film studies, theatre studies, political theory, sociology and philosophy of religion from several European countries. It discusses the ways (iconic figurations, aesthetic styles, rhetoric figures etc.) through which visual culture addresses its audience and gets involved in the constitution of a public sphere. It is in particular interested in how the visual arts – understood as both visual popular culture as well as fine arts – becomes involved in popularisation practices and populist criticism.

The workshop approaches this subject by focusing on the central iconic figure that these practices bring into play: the “everybody” (which stands for “all of us”, but is at the same time also a “nobody”, a “common man”, a “common woman” and sometimes even a “new man” or a “new woman”). It presents spotlights of a genealogy and an iconography of the everybody and discusses political and philosophical theories about how the mediating force of this iconic figuration can be understood and valuated. In doing so, the workshop pays particular attention to the ambivalent role this figure plays, especially in most recent history, in triggering both desire and enthusiasm as well as resentment and hate.

Programme below Addressing each and every one weiterlesen

Galton Papers: A Researcher’s Nightmare

Research visit to the „Galton Papers“, University College London, Special Collections, April, 2015.

The „Special Collections“ of University College London are housed in the central library of the University. Only library card holders can enter, so a member of staff picks me up at the high-security entrance gate. After a hike through corridors, I am let to a room where on a library cart a huge pile of boxes and folders waits for me. This is quite a lot of stuff, and I have only ordered the material that seemed to be essential. Galton was an avid collector and everything seemed to be of interest: from letters to photographs, notebooks and articles, envelopes and scraps of paper. This is as much a heaven as a nightmare for a researcher like me. Here I will spend the next days, sifting through the material. The collection is well arranged and a considerable part of the material on and by Francis Galton was digitised recently. But especially with photographs and notes, it is important to consult the originals. To order and categorise the photographs, for instance, Galton used a form of binding. These small booklets that resemble flip books and that could be described as preliminary stages in the production of composite portraits. Often there are notes on the back of the prints, for instance, the remark: “This man’s nose spoils the composite.” Also the notebooks and letter books can be accessed as originals.

The material kept in the collection leads to further London museums and archives where information on Galton’s photographic practice is kept, such as the Metropolitan Archive, the Bethlem Museum and Archive, the Huxley Collection at Imperial College and the National Archives.

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Hanwell Asylum Records

Research Trip: Hanwell Asylum Records, Metropolitan Archives London, April 2015

It is more of a coincidence when I end up at the gates of the Metropolitan Archives for the first time. I have been visiting the Imperial War Museum, or rather the building that now houses this institution. This was the former site of Bethlem Asylum, when the clinic was still located in central London in nineteenth century. Only the monumental entrance and central wing are still existent. When I walk back to a friend’s place, a new bright green suit in my shopping bag, I suddenly realize a small sign indicating the entrance of the Metropolitan Archives. A member of staff tells me that they will not be open for much longer today, but that there will be an exceptional opening on the coming Saturday. That’s when I return to study the material on Hanwell Asylum, the other psychiatric hospital where Francis Galton had photographs taken for his experiments on composite portraiture. Also material on Guy’s Hospital is available here. In this institution, with the aid of the physicist F. A. Mahomet, photographs were taken of tuberculosis patients to compose facial superimpositions.

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In the UCL “Galton Papers” I have compiled a list of names of Hanwell Asylum inmates whose portraits were taken on Galton’s request. In the entry and discharge books as well as in the patient records that are kept here, I am able to trace a number of the persons. Dating the photographs is however not as easy as in the case of Bethlem. As a county asylum Hanwell was dealing with a larger number of long-term patients. And, unlike at Bethlem, patients were not photographed as part of the asylum’s internal procedure, or at least no portraits and no nineteenth century photographs of the institution have survived as part of the case books in the Metropolitan Archives. This makes identification and dating of the photographs that became part of Galton’s collection of portraits of psychiatric patients from Hanwell difficult. However, in a number of cases, I was able to establish identities of individuals and could date the production of the photographs to 1880-81.

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Hanwell, or as it was officially called “Middlesex County Asylum” was the first pauper asylum in Middlesex, it was opened in 1831 and successively enlarged in 1837, 1857 and 1879. In 1888 it had 1891 patients. It was one of the first institutions in Britain that followed a non-restraint system, but in a contemporary report it was criticized for its low number of attendants and medical staff and the intransparent medical and administrative decisions.[1] As a state-financed institution, the number of patients was higher and the average time they spent at the Asylum was longer, compared to the privately-run Bethlem that catered for the middle classes. The patients were mainly workers from the lower classes; among the patients that I could trace in Galton’s portrait series the case files identify as: laborers, weavers, carpenters, bricklayers, butchers, shop assistants, clerks. Just like in the Bethlem files, the medical case books contain personal information, such as occupation and marriage status, individual and family medical history, diagnoses and notes on the development of the disease, as well as prescriptions. Also in these files the hereditary focus is strong and they often contain a mental family history.

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[1] See: Winslow, Forbes: „On the Management of Hanwell Lunatic Asylum“. In: The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Pathology 2, 1849, 418.

Phantomgesichter

Ulrich Richtmeyer (Hg.): PhantomGesichter. Zur Sicherheit und Unsicherheit im biometrischen Überwachungsbild.
1. Aufl. 2014, 238 Seiten, 35 s/w und 30 farb. Abb., 3 Tab., kart.
ISBN: 978-3-7705-5086-9

Erhältlich bei Wilhelm Fink Verlag

Endlich ist das von Uli Richtmeyer herausgegebene Buch zur Konferenz und Ausstellung „Phantomgesichter“ in Potsdam erschienen.

Biometrische Verfahrensweisen stehen im Zentrum gegenwärtiger Sicherheits- und Überwachungsprogramme. Auch in diversen fotografischen Apparaten, die das Material für digitale Bilddatenbanken liefern, haben sie sich fest etabliert. Obwohl sie auf komplexen Berechnungen basieren, sind biometrische Verfahren wesentlich als Bildbearbeitungstechnologien zu verstehen – so die Grundannahme des Bandes. Erst aus dieser Perspektive gelangen die spezifischen Sicherheiten und Unsicherheiten biometrischer Bilder in den Blick. Sie fallen besonders dort auf, wo sich Biometrie auf ein klassisches Objekt der Erkennungsdienste, das menschliche Gesicht, bezieht. Welche Konsequenzen sich aus der Vorgeschichte und Gegenwart der verwendeten Bildtechnologien sowie ihren trivialen und professionellen Gebrauchsweisen für den Status des artifiziellen Gesichtsbildes ergeben, gilt es nun zu hinterfragen.

U.a. gibt es darin einen Artikel zu meinem Promotionsprojekt. Raul Gschrey: „»A surprising air of reality« – Kompositfotografie zwischenwissenschalicher Evidenzbehauptung und künstlerischer Subversion.“

Inhaltsverzeichnis

De-Composing Composites

Research visit to the Galton Collection London July 2014

This time easily find my way to Wolfson House in a side street of London’s Euston Station.  At the door I am greeted by the porter who was also present last year. I am early, so I go up and sit down in the staff kitchen in the fifth floor where I meet Subhadra Das some minutes later. We chat for some time and it feels like coming home.  The archive has returned to its old location after the refurbishment, this allows me to view the collection of artefacts and instruments that was packed away last time. I am here to explore the sources of the composite portraits and to trace connections to other archives and institutions.

Addressing Artefacts

Later in the morning a group of visitors from an American University arrives and Subhadra gives a tour through the collection. She skillfully uses individual artifacts and objects to guide through Galton’s career and his major achievements. A serviette ring with pyramids hints at the young explorer’s travels to Cairo and up the Nile, the source of the Nile being a recurrent subject in Galton’s later work in the National Geographic Society. A quite similar shaped, but entirely different object, a South-West-African wristband shows his travels as the first European into the interior of what is today known as Namibia. Prove of his gift as a developer are specifically designed apparatuses for morse communication by use of a mirror, a portable finger printing machine, as well as calipers and measuring devices for anthropometrical purposes. It is hard not to collapse in the hot and tiny rooms, but this approach to Galton’s through the objects in the collection really makes sense and could be a great contribution to the publication on composite photography I am planning as part of my project. Subhadra closes her tour with an observation of analogies in the character structure between Galton an the notoriously self-centered nerd character Sheldon in the US TV series “The Big Band Theory” and involves the psychology students in a discussion about the characters oscillating between genius and madness.

Instruments & Measurements

The most interesting part of the collection of objects are the various measuring instruments. Unlike many of his contemporaries Galton developed and designed many of the instruments himself. De-Composing Composites weiterlesen

Portraits of the Invisible

Research visit to the “Espace photographique Arthur Batut” & the Arthur Batut Collection, Labruguière, France, April 2014.

A narrow, winding road takes us through fields and woods, up and down the slopes of the “Black Mountains“, this is a harsh landscape, the climate much colder than at the coast – the trees are not in bloom jet. At the foot of the Mountain, the Arthur Batut Museum is secluded in the small village of Labruguière in the French Pyrenees. The museum is however not as idyllic, a quite impressive, newly erected municipal building next to the central roundabout. It houses the museum and archive on the 19th century French photographer, who is known as a precursor of aerial photograph, as well as for his experiments with the composite technique, the superimposition of portraits, he further developed, following the example of his Victorian contemporary Francis Galton.

Laura Falcetta already waits for us and leads us into the building of which a large room in the ground floor is dedicated to the Museum. Along with prints and instruments from the Batut collection, the small but well-designed exhibition presents instruments and artefacts from the history of photography. The museum however also shows temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists, whose works show connections to the permanent exhibition. In two small, but packed adjoining rooms, the collection of photographs, instruments and documents on the 19th century photographer is kept. Portraits of the Invisible weiterlesen