Surface exchange

During this year I’ve been growing tired of my use of Instagram, to the stage where recently when posting something, I thought to myself: “god I’m really starting to bore myself here.”

I suspect this is mostly due to not getting out so much over the last couple of years, (for obvious reasons), and when I have been doing so, it is to surroundings all too familiar—the same walk to work, the same walk to the local Coop, the same workplace, etc. And while there are interesting things to be found in studies of the everyday, after 2 years without any fresh perspectives being introduced by weekend trips away, longer holidays, visits to art galleries or other cultural events, my photos have become, well, just a little bit samey.

To help with this malaise, I proposed an Instagram project to my good friend and colleague, artist Srin Surti. Both being busy people, it had to be something that could happen alongside out daily lives, not adding any extra pressures and be quick to engage with. Importantly though, it had to be personally thought-provoking, something we could mull-over in the background while we got on with other stuff.

The idea came to me quite quickly as to what this could be, and so after lengthy text debates between us as to what its title should be, and the development of a logo, Surface Exchange was born.

The concept is simple: Srin and I alternately post an image to an Instagram feed that has some reference—aesthetic or contextual, vague or obvious, simple or complex—to the previous image. Sort of like a visual ping-pong, knocking images backwards and forwards that have a conversational thread running between them.

It started with my posting a photo I took recently at work of a bin next to an easel —>

Which Srin followed with a shadow shot of his extended angular legs —>

The title is partly in reference to philosopher Jacques Rancière‘s phrase, ‘surface of exchange’. Srin describes this as: “…his thinking about the relation between aesthetics and politics which he calls a relation between two communities of sense”.

We set ourselves some basic rules, as any good project needs. We don’t consider these to be fixed for all time, more a starting point, and we are happy to see how Surface Exchange develops and will adapt these guidelines accordingly.

Beyond initial discussions, we have agreed that anything we post has to be our own photography, but that these photos can either be captured specially for the project, or something we have taken in the past. To date, I have staged two shots in response to Srin, the other’s coming from what I have laying around online or in various folders. Initially, my personal goal was to try to use photographs that haven’t appeared elsewhere before, but I have just broken that in my recent reply to Srin, as it was the obvious response to make once I had considered using the shot.

Having only just started Surface Exchange a few weeks ago, we planned to build up the project first before ‘going live’ and promoting this to others who may be interested—but then someone stumbled across it and started following the feed, so it seems to make sense now to invite others, hence this post.

@srinsurti —> @_nigelball
@_nigelball —> @srinsurti

In these initial stages of the project, just 11 exchanges in, both Srin and I can see how it can result in some interesting juxtapositions. For me personally, it has proved stimulating even in this embryonic phase, and I welcome the potential challenges to come as Surface Exchange develops.

Published by Nigel Ball

Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design

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