At the time Kate made this work one of the main discourses that exercised photographers was that photography could not represent truth and was, in fact, a fiction, yet we tended to look through the photograph at the subject itself and accepted the photograph as authority rather than a construction with values, intentions and viewpoint. This is partly why the work takes the form of a conceit. History also being a construction led to the themes of photography and history as fiction being uppermost in Kate’s thinking at the time.
Kate chose to base the project upon the career of the landscape painter “Robert Pinnacle.” As painters like Robert Pinnacle belong to the pre-history of photography, as a “follower” Kate imitated his imagined compositions using a pinhole camera. Kate adopted the pinhole method not only because of its aesthetic but because what the use of it instantly said about history and technology. It also seemed relevant to her when people walked through the scene as an exposure was made and not register or at most as a ghostly blur, just like all the people in history who have not registered in the sense that they are unknown. It was made during a time before the celebrity culture became a generality but it was just beginning in the late 1990s so this work can be seen as commenting about that influence in society.
A mixture of aesthetics and technologies were used and the photographs were hung “salon” style, the intention being to make photography less transparent, more of a fiction. Not many photographers were making work that used digital technology then and there was fear of the new technology, that it would threaten photography’s position as witness. The digital work ‘Names’ is therefore intended to “prove” Robert Pinnacle’s existence although he is a completely bogus artist. A note at the end of the exhibition allows the audience to appreciate that the work is a conceit.
The individual pieces sometimes make reference to the narratives Kate found while researching in the museums and archives in spa towns. Here, she unearthed fascinating stories and linked them to the ideas about truth in photography.
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Tempietto Demidoff”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “View across the Lima of the Villa Fiori”
Extracts from Robert Pinnacle’s journals –
“…I am glad to say that I am acquiring some Italian although it will never be a match for my French. My facility for language stands me in good stead with much of the society hereabouts and I have found a good friend in Alphonse [thought to be the poet Lamartine] who has introduced me to roulette – a game invented at this very casino conveniently next to his dwelling. It consists of a wheel of turning numbers into which a ball is dropped to bounce where it will, settling finally on an apparently random figure. I have quite a fascination for watching this curious action and have sometimes experienced the strange sensation of knowing when it will land on my number…
…Met Mme ---. Her drawings were most finely detailed and of admirable precision yet executed with much esprit. They were, undoubtedly, among the most beautifully proportioned prospects I had seen. I asked with whom she had studied and received the reply that as a young girl she would roam all over the house, even to the attics, and peer from the upper windows to the countryside below. The intersection of the window frames had assisted her grasp of perspective. This had been her guiding inspiration. These childhood drawings were much encouraged by her governess whom I gathered had some artistic connection.
Some of her early drawings she had made into fans which she uses signalling to me across the salle. I often examine these and always notice yet another nuance which has escaped my first perusal. The work’s finest quality is that the feeling of light and space goes beyond feature powerfully affecting the senses…
…I see her make her way between the baths and the chapel. Each day she seems a little more frail. She no longer dances. She takes her sedan chair. Sometimes I pay a call to be trounced at cards but today she was too fatigued to entertain callers.
At chapel this morning I saw her bewildered face in the shadows. She prays to a god who appears not to heed her suffering. She is the best of people…
…On reaching Lyon I took out the fan that Mme --- gave me as a gift for Isabel. It shows the prospect from the topmost window of her home. I watch as she appears from the patchy shade of orange trees. She descends the stairway and steps forward, her head tilted to catch the sound of distant water, and she walks toward the bridge which spans the sepia lake.”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Figure of Zeus in the Palace Gardens”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Prospect of the Schloss in Baden- Baden”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “The Tewitt Well”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Interior of the Rudolfspring in Marienbad”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “The Ferdinandspring at Marienbad”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Hotel Kavkaz”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Study of Stone Figure at Franzensbad”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “Interior of the Pump Room”
Persons of Substance
Extracts from Robert Pinnacle’s journals –
“… I had never made a likeness of myself, leaving it to those handsome fellows like Barker (who had always seemed to find some pretext for regarding himself in the mirror). The daughters insisted I had my portrait made via this astonishing new method. After all I had said in its disfavour I suspect they merely wished to tease me.
The image would never be as permanent as that executed with oil paint – (but then, I conceded, so much depended on the painter’s method and the ambience in which the canvas was hung). It appeared that in order to make a picture dealing with the current vogue for the historical, moral epic so many exposures must be made and then cut up and masked, and all the rest of it and, in my view, at the end of this it would never attain the drama even of a half-decent oil or watercolour. It held, though, undoubted fascination.
I had been shown a remarkable image of bonnets, and the mere notion of the waves of light from these delicate objétsof lace and ribbon radiating through the air to be caught and held as though something of their essence had been spirited across the room moved me greatly. What I could not come to terms with, I suppose, was that the author of theses images (I cannot refer to him as an artist) need have no skill with brush or pen and need not spend long years studying this discipline or possess any natural talents for draughtsmanship…
…Antoinette and Caroline took me to their friend’s studio where I was made to sit before a painted cloth as though on stage at the theatre. The cloth showed a landscape depicting a distant castle seen through a semi-circle of columns with the statue of an angel looking over. It was so like the painting I did for good old Heinrich all those years ago that I would have split my sides if laughing did not make me cough so. As this always agitated the girls, I simply smiled.
I was requested to sit there with my eyes closed. It seemed I had to keep them shut for a very long time.”
After Robert Pinnacle’s “The Assembly Rooms”
Robert Pinnacle is a fictional character who bears a passing resemblance to many persons both living and dead