Lifting the Curtain – Initial assessment of various forms of presentation

Posted on October 31, 2014


Lifting the Curtain - Forms of Presentation © Keith Greenough 2014

Lifting the Curtain – Forms of Presentation © Keith Greenough 2014

As a first step towards designing the form or forms of presentation I plan to use for Lifting the Curtain I have made a preliminary assessment of the options available to me (or rather those that I am aware of at the moment).I defined the scope of possibilities for presentation (see here) I indicated that This should include but not be restricted to the following:

  • Photographic prints with caption cards
  • Image/text panels presented as photographic prints
  • Posters incorporating image and text
  • Postcards incorporating image and text
  • Prints with image and text on alternative substrates, e.g. newspaper, textiles and such like
  • Video
  • Book (in physical form)
  • E-­‐Book
  • Internet site
  • Lecture format

It perhaps goes without saying but it is vitally important that the form of presentation selected must ‘fit’ with the concept/strategy for the work and enhance its overall impact.

The work is based on linking Charles Booth’s 1889 socio-cultural survey to the modern day East London. So I feel strongly that the form(s) of presentation should be sympathetic to the form(s) of presentation Booth used to publish his work. Booth used three forms of presentation:

  • A published book – in 1902-3 the final version of his work covering the whole of London was published in seventeen volumes
  • A display of his Descriptive Map of London Poverty, 1889 – this was a huge display some 16 feet across. The map was exhibited at both Toynbee Hall and Oxford House in East London (both were philanthropic organisations helping the poor)
  • A lecture format – Booth gave a series of lectures about his work

This would suggest that the book format, displays of prints and a lecture format are all consistent with Booth’s presentational approach. All three would also allow a design that meets my other key requirement which I defined as follows:

Whatever the form of presentation it should enable the viewer/reader to interact with the work as I intended. To achieve this, the viewer/reader needs to be able to give careful consideration to both the image and the text; to ‘get’ that they are linked; to have the time to consider the social issues involved; and the time to reflect on the relevance of these issues today. As such there are a number of fundamental structural elements need to be in place: each image and text should be presented in close proximity — juxtaposition is needed for the viewer/reader to connect them; for each pairing the image and text should be perceived as having equal standing — neither should dominate the presentation; the reader/viewer should be able to decide how much time to spend viewing the work and be able to move backwards and forwards between each image and it associated text.

The above analysis suggest that I should focus my attention on the book format, prints and possibly a lecture format (I see this as following on from successful publication of the book, as in Booth’s case). But what of the remaining formats I identified as possibilities. I have made a preliminary assessment set out below:

Posters – This format is a form of print and I will consider this option when I review prints in more detail. Posters could be the main form of presentation – there is some appeal in this idea given that their temporary nature echoes the theme of transience inherent within Lifting the Curtain.  I have explored this idea previously see here. Posters might also be useful as a means of promoting any book or exhibition. I will consider posters in both these contexts.

Postcards – I can conceive of no clear link between postcards and Booth’s work. The postcard is most associated with the family, holidays, idealisation of scenes and so on. However, postcards could provide a supplementary means of advertising the book, exhibition etc. So I will consider their use in this context.

Prints on Alternative Substrates – I am not sure about this. At the moment I can’t see a logical link with Booth’s work. As with posters however it is something that I can consider under the heading of prints.

Video – At the moment I don’t see video format working for Lifting the Curtain. The key issue with video is that the producer of the video controls the timing and sequence of viewing. My aim, as stated above, is that threader/viewer should decide on how much time to spend with the image/text pairing and to be able to move backwards and forwards between the two. For the moment therefore I am setting the video idea to one side. Of course with the latest technology it might be possible to create a form of interactive video. For example presenting an interactive display of a map of East London which allows one to access the images/texts by pressing on highlighted spots on the display. This is similar to the approach LSE has taken with their Phonebooth  application which allows access to Booth’s notebooks online by clicking on a map. Whilst this is a great idea, it would involve a huge investment in time (to acquire skills) and money for web hosting, software and so on. Quite frankly, it is not feasible within realistic timeframes and cost parameters. Perhaps this is something to think about  in the future. I am also in dialogue with LSE and something may flow from this – but I am not hopeful as my work is not high on their list of priorities.

Internet Site – The same arguments apply here as for interactive video. I think that expense and time constraints rule this out for the moment. 

So for now I will focus on the book format, prints or other forms of physical display. I will keep in mind the lecture format for the future and think through how this might work. For each of these forms of presentation their are many different possibilities. A book for example could be a prestigious published Blurb style (normal) book, a small inexpensive book, a limited edition handmade book, a folio (emulating one of Booth’s working files), an E-book, a pamphlet, and so on. I will consider each of these forms in turn and will then need to re-examine the preferred alternatives with reference to possible venues for showing the work.