Part One
Present on Site:
Transforming Exhibitions and
Theme: Constructions
- intoduction

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Theme: Questions
- introduction

Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Theme: Invisibles
- introduction

Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Theme: Openings
- introduction

Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24

Chapter 13:
Speaking places, places speaking – A transvisual analysis of a site

Experiences are a productive activity and can create something. They can also involve more than just the senses. They must be guided by our attention and that attention must be channelled by our interest or a goal. This is reflected in Fyfe and Ross’ interesting conclusion that, “museums are good to think with” (1996:148). Their research moved museology from the museum as a physical entity and out into the landscape and its surroundings so that it could be seen with a specific gaze: that of culture and history.

With cities for instance cities, we should ask the following questions: What is a city? What kind of gaze do we need to use? How do we construct the right gaze? What should we scrutinise and how should we deal with the complexity? Finally, are the questions we are asking the right ones?

This chapter initially focuses on what appears to be a simple, open question: What is Paris? Later, the idea that “museums are good to think with” will also be further explored. This chapter will also develop the idea that learning goes beyond learning something from what the text or objects communicate on site. An effort will be made to look at the social creation of content and to see the creative process of producing something such as a media product as a process that implies tacit knowledge and hidden learning. Tacit knowledge and hidden learning can be made accessible for analysis in what Mitchell calls “showing seeing” (2002:86).

It can be difficult to make a city accessible for analysis and to put it on display, but the thinking that occurs and the attention put on a city, for example Paris, may turn it into a visual event (Mirzoeff 1999:13).

The speaking places
To find out what Paris is, this project scrutinises the analysis of the place that leads to the creative production of the exhibition, i.e. the city, and the process of production. The main idea is to transform the complexity of the city and the place into something more manageable like a picture. In this respect the visual becomes more than just communication or something aesthetic to be looked at; the visual becomes a new analytical tool to undertake what I term a transvisual analysis. ‘Trans’ stands for ‘transformative’, namely to follow this picture-on-picture-on-picture process, i.e. Paris as a place, and then adds a new layer that involves analysing the physical place as an image, namely that a natural visual environment has to be transformed into an image.

American educational researcher Donald Schön’s theory of reflection-in-action puts not only the analytical process of creating new images into perspective but also the physical and intuitive insights created by the visual action (1983). The goal of the transvisual method is to create a new context, namely the communicating exhibition.

Experiences involving places and media are basically phenomenological and marked by the encounter with the human body. The Australian arts theoretician Jill Bennett argues that the affective meeting creates meanings, but it does not carry a straightforward semiotic reading of signs. She believes that physical meetings are meaningful because they are encountered signs, and these can only be felt or sensed. They transmit meaning through what we feel with the body and not by what we observe and think. A kiss on the cheek or a slap has an immediate impact on us because we feel the action in our bodies. These two actions have very different meanings, but they are both encountered signs. The kinaesthetic sensations of movement we experience with our bodies when we move through space are also encountered signs (Bennett 2005:7).

In the encounter with visuality in the world we can explore and identify meanings which can be bodily anchored as tacit knowledge that is difficult to put into words (Polanyi 1966). The Swedish art historian Jan-Gunnar Sjölin argues that using images to interpret other images adds new and often more bodily aspects to the traditional verbal interpretation. He believes that,

... one must also require an interpretation that contributes to further elucidate and clarify the content of the image interpreted ... and that interpretation must be more or less different than the image interpreted (Sjölin 1993:42-43).

In the following I will pursue this photo-on-picture way through visuality and the metaphors that can reveal tacit knowledge.

The first transvisual analysis
“Where should the camera stand?” is a rhetorical question attributed to the Danish documentary film director Theodor Christensen. It is still good and relevant to also ask, Are you looking at a complex reality or a mediated representation? What should be emphasised and extracted? What is important? Why is it important? Who is it important for? Where should it be used? How? What can it tell? Who does it say something about?

These questions can be asked about Paris (Ingemann 2003:13-49) using a transvisual analysis, which is really quite simple. It involves using images to explore the visual and/or reusing images to detect visual expression. As will be explained below, the method has five parts that will be described not with definitions but examples. Creating a definition is difficult, so prototypical examples will be used to clarify and state what is new. This approach justifies the lengthy, detailed sections on the learning process.
A transvisual analysis comprises five theoretically distinct phases: 1) the visual idea and concept; 2) the visual rules; 3) the visual transformation; 4) the visual uncovering; and 5) the visual communication.


Ill. 13.1: The analytical model: The five phases of the transvisual analysis are: 1) The visual idea and concept, which can be seen as the basic matter of inquiry and the starting point; 2) the visual rules, which are closely connected to 3) the visual transformation, where framing time and procedures are used as a tool to control the demolition and reduction of the visual event or the material of visual culture, while 4) the visual uncovering extracts the new visuality and in the process towards the new visual product, the values and meanings from the basic matter of inquiry are included and lead to 5) visual communication in a new context. The actual design of the individual parts of the transvisual analysis depends on the specific material and the chosen angle of inquiry.


Ill. 13.2: The finished panel from the installation with the panoramic photo of Rue de Caumartin. Inkjet print on 130 g heavyweight coated paper 38x178 cm, mounted on 50x200 cm MDF plate. Photographed on Wednesday 20 November 2002 from
13:06:50 to 13:07:20.

1) Visual idea and concept
The visual idea and concept focuses on finding the cracks and irritations in the traditional schemes of seeing a highly familiar place. The traditional snapshot from Paris is a 10x15 cm colour image showing someone the photographer knows in front of an iconic Parisian monument or building musealised over time because of its persistent visuality and constant repetition. The person, perhaps a woman, is photographed in front of e.g. the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triumph or Sacre Coeur. Through this visuality, these famous places appear in a new but familiar context in which the woman is completely familiar to her family as e.g. a mother, sister, daughter or mistress. There is a link between the familiar, the known in the family and the well-known in Paris. This ‘knownness’ turns Paris into something almost invisible, making it difficult to see the city through the famous sites. They become like a collection of scalps tourists hang from their belts to proclaim to the world, Look, I've been there! (Annis 1994).

The goal of the transvisual analysis in this chapter is to discover Paris by ignoring the well-known places that have turned the city streets into a museum and to explore the more anonymous non-places. My starting point is a map of Paris, which I happened to get from a travel agent, which appears to be sponsored by McDonald's. So, we have America in Paris.

There are numerous red squares on the map indicating where there is a McDonald’s restaurant. I arbitrarily decide that I will photograph 16 different McDonald’s. Consequently, I now know where the camera should stand.

2) Visual rules
The visual rules clarify how I am going to do the photographs and how the images are going to be used and installed. The four general rules I create are:

a) The timeframe for taking the photographs of the 16 McDonald’s is one week. I choose them based on two criteria. They must be geographically dispersed across central Paris and they must represent a mixture of places comprising well-known Parisian sites, monuments and buildings and non-descript, neutral sites.

b) I want to photograph each McDonald’s using a digital camera that can take 3 to 6 images to create a panorama photo. The time of day will be randomly selected; the quality of the daylight, depending on weather and time of day, will be unpredictable; the available scenarios will also be variable as will the temporal trajectory in the photograph, where the 3-6 pictures will be taken over several minutes at different intervals.

c) The images from each site will be later processed and put together using a digital program to form one coherent photograph. The edge of each picture will be visible, making it possible to see where one photo ends and the next one begins (see Ill. 13.2).

d) Contrary to drawings and paintings, photographs have no solid, original size. I decide that the amalgamated panorama photos should have a print size of 38x100-220 cm; most of them end up being about 150 cm wide. The size will afford viewers a unique opportunity for studying the pictures. The 16 large panoramic photos will be exhibited as a contemporary art project. The aesthetic relationships are open to further investigation by the visitors, because of the pictures’ spatial presentation within a narrative structure in an exhibition.

3) Visual transformation
Following a) and b) permits a demolition or reduction of the enormous amount of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic information present in the physical space of the street. This process is the first part of the construction of the new visual transformation. Following c) and d) also allows the creation of a new complex design based on the construction and assembly of the specified elements.

4) Visual uncovering
The process of creating a new visual form involves more than just turning one or more images into wide photographs. It is not the aesthetic expression in itself that is interesting, but rather that the images are created with the specific intent to constitute a part of the analysis of the site. The project is about the city of Paris, or more precisely what photographing the 16 sites visually uncovers about Paris. The idea is that the amalgamated images will reveal something about Paris and what is uniquely and especially French. This is the issue that forms the basis of my project (see also Schön 1983/2001:229).

What is Frenchness? The sociologist Peter Hamilton identifies ten core themes of Frenchness based on humanistic photographs from the post-war period 1945-1960 (Hamilton 1997:102). Hamilton looks at photos from agencies and at what was available in the magazines photographers worked for. The photos were by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis. The ten core themes are: the street, children and play, family, love and lovers, Paris and its attractions, the homeless and marginalised, celebrations, bistros, apartments, jobs and crafts. Hamilton believes that the street is more than a visually interesting place, stating “For the humanists it is the quintessential site par excellence where the life of ordinary people occurs” (1997:108). Hamilton connects this with Baudelaire’s ideas of modernity, where the fundamental expression of the modern city was a world of the contingent, the transitory, the fleeting. Hamiliton asserts that “... no city is more ‘modern’ than Paris” (1997:108). He also finds a tendency among photographers to take pictures that represent the city with all the ambivalent characteristics of modernism, to represent it as a well-oiled machine and a wonderful, even magical place.

What, then, defines the French humanist photographers’ paradigm? Hamilton argues that there are six key elements: 1) a focus on universal human emotions; 2) historicity by contextualisation of the image in space and time; 3) a focus on portraying everyday life; 4) empathy with the depicted; 5) the photographer’s perspective mirrors the regular population, and 6) the photographs are monochrome (1997:101). The Frenchness described is anchored in regular people, and Hamilton argues that life then appears as a ‘golden age’: hard but rewarding, not without conflict and discussion, but warm and communal - a life in which everybody shares the hardship of the era, in which social, cultural and ethnic differences were levelled (1997:148). Hamilton believes however that this ideological construction of Frenchness is outdated, since viewers no longer find themselves in a world that focuses on tributes to everyday life.

Is it possible to find something especially Parisian or French in Paris today? Is it possible to find something in Paris that is not possible to find in any other city? Will the visual characterisation of the sites selected for this project show a generic city environment? Hamilton’s study of post-war humanist photography shows that the photographers focused on the lives of the ordinary population in the streets and not on the streets themselves. There is for example the photograph of a blind accordion player on Rue Mouffetard with many people in the background. This is not the street as a site. The post-war photographs create a special ambience by capturing people’s relationships with each other. This is Frenchness and Paris.

My photographs do not have this focus. There are people, but they play a different role. They carry out everyday activities, but I have made no effort to artistically capture people in a particularly expressive moment. The visual rules I defined are designed let their actions be more casual and everyday-like. Moreover, it is not the flâneur that appears in my photos, but rather the post-modern shopper in a shopping centre, i.e. the marathon runner that Huyssen describes (2007). The modern consumer is fragmented and divided into a myriad of virtual worlds where extreme consumption is the norm.

You would have to search long and hard at the photographs of the 16 McDonald’s sites to find, if at all, the cosy, personal familiar shop with vegetables, flowers and newspapers. These shops have migrated into the shopping centre, the gap being filled by high-fashion and design shops. The photos show big city sites with mirror and glass, reflections and transparency.

The 16 sites are recognisable as part of today’s commercial and market-oriented lifestyle, where brand name products reign. First and foremost, it is the McDonald’s with its recognisable golden M on a red background. But hey! The multinational company does not adamantly use its corporate logo, choosing to allow it to appear at times without the red background. If red does appear, the shade varies from bright red to almost dark Bordeaux. Sometimes the logo is made of plastic, elsewhere it is subtly made of cloth.

A close study of the photographs of the sites shows a number of French commercial names: Monoprix, Printemps, Charles Dane etc., which are clear visual and textual signs designed to define the image of each store using logotypes and colours. These signs are obviously important details at each site and help to characterise what a site in Paris is. Or a site in a metropolis.

The mood that the photograph of a place creates when users encounter it falls into the realm of the no-named. We see it clearly, but are unable to articulate what we see and feel. The mood is closely related to the non-descript streets, intersections and roundabouts that can be labelled ‘non-places’ that we unaffectedly rush by on our way to our real goal (Augé 1995). But is talking about moods possible when the non-places are tied to a picture and not to the actual physical experience on the site? Is what we experience actually the mood of the picture and not the mood of the site?

5) Visual communication
The transvisual analysis is not finished even though the new visual transformation is complete. There are two important aspects still to be considered: one is that the new work should be presented and displayed in its new context as an installation in a room and the other is that this installation should form the basis of a much-needed theory-based analysis, which may end up as a specific text.
Later in this chapter I will return to the importance of displaying, for example an installation, when I discuss the development of the method. First, however I will provide a theoretical answer to what can be achieved with a transvisual analysis.

What can we learn?
When I initially began developing the method with panoramic pictures of Paris I published an article that concluded with the following:

The intuitive recognition at the sites themselves and in the actual shooting situation has been expressed in more than just the pictures. It has also been expressed in the bodily experience of being on the specific sites with the experienced moods and activities. These non-linguistic experiences have been crucial for the subsequent analytical work (Ingemann 2003: 44).

This quotation proposes that there is something procedural in the actual professional practice of photographing and creating an exhibition and especially that which is difficult to talk about, but nevertheless possible to communicate about. Schön clearly points out the peculiar fact that talented creative designers, urban planners, doctors, engineers and teachers are rarely able to explain why they acted as they did when they artistically solved a difficult professional task. He finds that there is, “… an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes which some practitioners do bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and value conflict (Schön 1983:49).

This premise leads to Schön imagining that professionals might ask entirely different questions when faced with a difficult professional task, for example, “What features do I notice when I recognize this thing? What are the criteria by which I make this judgment? What procedures am I enacting when I perform this skill? How am I framing the problem that I am trying to solve?” (Schön 1983:50). After enumerating this list of questions, Schön concludes that they share a common feature in that they all involve what he terms reflection-in-action.

The consistent approach in Schön’s book, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, is that in each case there is a relationship between two persons and roles, between the experienced expert and the hesitating novice. As was the case for example between chief architect Quist and his student Petra. Schön explores reflection-in-action by analysing a protocol of an evaluation and dialogue about the work the student has done. Petra worked on a design for several weeks and has come to a halt. Quist examined her drawings with her. Shortly after he took some chalk paper, put it over Petra’s drawings and simultaneously provided explanations as he drew. Schön sees the design as a conversation or talk with the materials in a given situation and that, “… drawing and talking are parallel ways of designing, and together make up what I will call the language of designing” (1983:78). Schön is purely interested in the visual combined with the textual as a language that involves the user’s professional repertoire and the use of experiments and trails. Schön believes that play and change of scale make it possible to create virtual worlds:

Virtual worlds are contexts for experiment within which practitioners can suspend or control some of the everyday impediments to rigorous reflection-in-action. They are representative worlds of practice in the double sense of »practice«. And practice in the construction, maintenance, and use of virtual worlds develops the capacity for reflection-in-action, which we call artistry (Schön 1987:69).

This is not art in any formal or work-related understanding, but rather a thinking that is very processual, as the various excerpts below from Schön’s writing indicate:

... the practitioner gives an artistic performance. He responds to the complexity, which confuses the student, in what seems like a simple, spontaneous way. His artistry is evident in his selective management of large volumes of information, his ability to spin out long lines of invention and inference, and his capacity to hold several ways of looking at things at once without disrupting the flow of inquiry [...] As the practitioner reframes the student’s problem, he suggests a direction for reshaping the situation [...] The practitioner then takes the reframed problem and conducts an experiment to discover what consequences and implications can be made to follow it [...] But the practitioner’s moves also produce unintended changes which give the situation new meaning [...] The unique and uncertain situation comes to be understood through the attempt to change it, and changed through the attempt to understand it. Such is the skeleton of process (1983:130-132).

“What if?” is the most fundamental question Schön asks because he believes that the practitioner’s reflection-in-action is an attempt on the level of the explorative, action and hypothesis testing to change a situation (Schön 1983). Schöns theory revalues and enhances knowledge of practice as viewed from the outside by a researcher - and he believes that reflection-in-action does not necessarily take place at the moment:

A practitioner’s reflection-in-action may not be very rapid. It is bounded by the “action-present”, the zone of time in which action can still make a difference to the situation. The action-present may stretch over minutes, hours, days, or even weeks and months, depending on the pace of activity and the situational boundaries that are characteristic of the practice (Schön 1983:62).

Reflection-in-action in the Paris project
A crucial point in the transvisual analysis is that it is not an outside researcher who observes someone who is engaged in an act of practice. It is the practitioner himself that delimits the action-present where actions influence the situation. Schön stresses that when the practitioner displays artistry, “... his intuitive knowing is always richer in information than any description of it” (1983: 276). He sees this as an advantage because a thorough description of intuitive knowledge will produce an abundance of information.

The materiality created through a transvisual analysis brings different visualities to the analysis process, e.g. paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and spatial representations, along with a search for insights that can come out of the practitioner’s own processes with the various visualities. The determining factor in dealing with the abundance of information available in the processes of the practitioner is attention. It is the attention given to the experience and knowledge to be emphasised by the reflection-in-action. This attention can be focused even further by looking at which fields of knowledge are actually at stake in the experience and practice situation. These four fields are: knowledge, emotion, values and actions (Gjedde & Ingemann 2008:115-120).

The field of knowledge is the new knowledge gained about a site, but it is also the field where known but perhaps unconscious knowledge can be recalled in the situation of the analysis. The field of emotion is mediated through the visual-aesthetic presentation of buildings, places and people as they appear in the situation and can be related to general feelings. This field creates moods and narratives. The field of value is linked to the fundamental values of culture that can be so well known that they are difficult to elicit. The field of action is the bodily performance on the spot, with all of the movements the whole body is involved in and which involve all of the senses.

All four of the experience fields are activated in the practitioner’s processes, but which, according to Schön, become visible through an externalised dialogue between the expert and the novice. In a transvisual practice they are visible in the larger and less visual expressions that operate as a language or cue that can be used to start the reflective processes. This rarely happens in the moment where the action takes place, but rather during the days or months after the visual formulations have been made and where they can still play a role in the action-present and influence the situation.
In a previous publication, I thoroughly describe and analyse the situation in photography and in the knowledge, emotional and physical forms of recognition which an analysis of the whole process can lead to. This earlier analysis concluded:

In the situation all of the visual expressions are extremely overwhelming. It is impossible to maintain all these elements and consider them at a conscious level. [...] Here … [it] becomes the lack of control over the moment of photographing a part of the situation where the rules are the only permanent aspect and where the picture-maker must make a number of intuitive choices whose options can only be examined afterward on the pictures (Ingemann 2003:23).

Similarly, in applying the transvisual method to the question “What is Paris”, it becomes clear that the surprising in the construction process occurs when the three, four, five or six individual shots are combined into a wide panoramic image and completely change the understanding of what a snapshot is, i.e. by capturing a single moment and turning it into an image that can encapsulate a perhaps 30-45-second period. This process creates an entirely new form of narrative that resembles an internal movie. The image and long time scale make this perception of the site possible. The form of the image creates a distance, which draws attention to precisely the time. The time is in the picture, but time is also in the gaze used to look at the image. There is a built-in gazing time, which requires a closer examination of the image and the potential of the image (Ingemann 2003:23).

The practitioner’s use of a range of skills helps create new visualities through a series of processes. In order to provide a different kind of experience, the practitioner must continuously throughout the processes include the reflection-in-action where, “... we are stocked or are seriously dissatisfied with our performance …” as Schön stresses. This dual vision means, “... doing extends thinking in the tests, moves and probes of experimental action, and reflection feeds on doing and its results” (Schön 1983:280).

Visual communication - again
This section looks at the last and fifth phase of transvisual analysis. Embedded in the goal of the processes of exploring, experimenting and testing through visuality and reflection-in-action is the basic idea of making a presentation, i.e. a self-explanatory installation to be seen with a stranger’s eyes. In the process of examining the visual communication the actual transvisual analysis has also been presented. There is a significant shift from the tested visualities seen as virtual worlds and moving forward to a specific physical space. The numerous elements that are demolished and reduced are used to create a new, complex design through the construction and assembly of the components.


Ill. 13.3 & 4: The exhibition with the public. Three panels shown in unison form a new design based on the construction and assembly of the components.

The photographs from each individual site were joined together, printed, cut out and then glued on a neutral gray, wooden panel measuring 50x200 cm. Out of the sixteen panels, seven were selected for the exhibition and six of them were put into two groups of three to stress and enhance the similarities and differences between the various sites. Small labels were added to the individual panels naming the sites and a special sign with text was made to introduce and explain the transvisual approach.

When the project was complete, preparing the exhibition also proved to be a learning process. There was the elementary satisfaction of having completed a project well and in time to open the exhibition doors to more than 100 visitors who would look at and evaluate the final result. There were the multiple decisions made concerning how the form of the exhibition would influence the content of the individual pictures. The initial juxtaposition of the three panels with three panorama pictures led to replacing one panel with another. When they were finally hung on the wall the overall design turned out to be too monotonous so a decision was made to hang 8-9 zoom-ins from one of the panels to break the uniformity. The construction and assembly of the components created new insight into the field of the Parisianness of Paris.

At this point the transvisual analysis had reached a marked shift. The reflective process had thus far raised issues and problems that were now solved and no longer annoying and did not cause further turbulence. A change occurs when (re)creating an experience for others. In other words a communicative process occurs involving a spectator in the actual situation in front of the finished work. It is a return to a highly practitioner-oriented use of the model of the experience involving the four fields of knowledge, emotion, value and action when a new focus is put on how transvisual knowledge is given in its clearest and purest form.

The knowledge and values, which have been analysed using a transvisual analysis do not appear simply as analytical and explainable in the installation but also encompass the physical and emotional, mood terms, the aesthetic and the narrative, all of which are in line with the entire transvisual approach. The transvisual analysis is related to complexity and the dissemination of the approach must obviously weave this complexity into the delivery, but it must also simultaneously lift the complex to a higher, more clarified level.

The resulting installation will be a new visual experience, which becomes available to a new user. In this case, it is not the physical street in Paris the viewer looks at. It is a scaled, altered visuality that the analysis undertaken has reduced and clarified, changing it into a narrative in which the body’s involvement and movements in space have meaning. There are both semiotic signs and the chance to interpret them, but also what Bennett believes can only be felt and sensed as encountered signs. This leads to a question similar to where the camera should stand, only this time the question is: Where should the body stand?

The transvisual method is an ongoing learning process. I hope that my analysis demonstrates that there is the potential to learn more at goal-orientated, well-defined museum and exhibition surroundings. The first step is that visual production must be acquired to produce photos and videos, but even more important is having the opportunity to produce a visual event like “… an interaction of visual sign, the technology that enables and sustains that sign, and the viewer” (Mirzoeff 1999:13).

If the social production of form and content is taken seriously, committing more time and effort to entering into a close relationship and transformation involving the visual is necessary and must be presented clearly, which also allows the creation of a foundation for tacit learning.
 Schön teaches that creative processes are obvious possible ways into handling and understanding complexity through reflection-in-action but also that these processes can be facilitated and acknowledged.


    © Chapter from the book:
Ingemann, Bruno (2012): Present on Site. Transforming Exhibitions and Museums, Lejre: Visual Memory Press. 396 pages, 147 illustration, printed in colour.