Another hasty post as i'm trying to emerge from an intense marathon of moving house, giving talks, crying over irregular German verbs and generally wasting far too much time reading crime books. So here! A quick list of exhibitions i've seen recently but hadn't found time to write about:

0castleee373306_orig.jpg

My number one recommendation would be to go and check out the black inflatable castle at the Copperfield gallery. Tom Dale's 'Department of the Interior' is a 6.5m high black castle that echoes the towers and crenellations of Parliament with an absurdity that mocks its claim for authority.

The show is up and bouncy until 14 November.

0aasofabequile3.jpg
Rustam Dokhtukaev sits inside his house in Kurchaloy, Chechnya. In 2008, Dokhtukaev participated in an anti-terrorist operation in the village of Dargo, in the mountainous area of the Vedensky region

0agrozzzny.jpg
Security forces stand guard as people celebrate in the streets on the 10th anniversary of Constitution Day. In the background gleaming, new tower buildings symbolize the city's recovery and regeneration following the destruction wrought at the beginning of the millennium.

Last year, Davide Monteleone went on a search for the current Chechen identity. Above all he wanted to know which of them, Chechnya or Russia, had emerged victorious from the conflict. The answer is undeniably Russia. But if you look at it from a different angle, the answer is perhaps not so clear-cut.

Spasibo is at the Saatchi gallery until tomorrow.

0aaprisontattto90.jpg

Arkady Bronnikov collected photographs of Russian prisoners tattoos between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. A senior expert in criminalistics at the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs for over thirty years, part of Bronnikov's duties involved visiting correctional institutions of the Ural and Siberia regions. It was here that he interviewed, gathered information and photographed of convicts and their tattoos, building one of the most comprehensive archives of this phenomenon.

FUEL present: Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files is on at Grimaldi Gavin until 21 November.

0poverty0x662.jpg
Mr and Mrs Gallagher lived with their four children in a ground floor tenement flat. Their bedroom was covered in pools of rainwater. At night they sleep with the light on to keep the rats away. One night they counted 16 rats in the room. Glasgow Maryhill, October 1970

Make Life Worth Living at the Science Museum Media Space presents some of the photos commissioned to Nick Hedges by the housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

Exhibited for the first time, following a 40 year restriction to protect the anonymity of the subjects, the images reveal the deplorable housing conditions and poverty endured by people across Britain in the 1970s. Not that the situation is much rosier nowadays.

0aacastration39.jpg
Pen Dalton, Free Castration on Demand, A Woman's Right to Choose, ca. 1974

00alesppostersssssss.jpg

A World to Win. Posters of Protest and Revolution at the V&A closes tomorrow. A fairly small but energizing exhibition.

0avionetdeller3.jpg

00letankko3.jpg

Believe it or not, the Imperial War Museum is my favourite museum in London. There's the Jeremy Deller bombed out car from Baghdad, one of the V-2 rockets my grand-mother used to tell me about and occasionally there's even some exciting temporary exhibition. The IWM has recently been revamped and it feels very crammed and airless in there but the collections are as stunning as ever. Here's a couple of artefacts i discovered during my last visit:

Apparently local people asked British soldiers to take down from a wall the tiled mosaic of Saddam Hussein at the port of Umm Qsar.

0atilesaddddamm.jpg

I was very taken by this pair of woven straw over-boots worn by German soldiers to cover their leather boots on the Eastern front and in particular in Russia where temperatures fell below -30 degree Celsius.

0abooties3.jpg

Right, i'm off to Carroll/Fletcher. They've just opened Unoriginal Genius, a show curated by Domenico Quaranta. Should be a good one.

Sponsored by:





0margaret-bourke-white-crew-of-b-36-bomber-posing-in-arctic-equipment-in-case-they-have-to-bail-out-at-sac-s-advance-base.jpg
Margaret Bourke-White, Crewmen of B-36 Bomber Posing in Artic Equipment

The WORK Gallery in London has recently opened a fascinating exhibition that looks at the role that photography has played in constructing the public image of atomic energy and 'the bomb'. I was expecting a dark and dramatic show but many of the images on the walls are alarmingly cheerful and wonderful.

The first group of works exhibited are the iconic images of the mushroom cloud. What i didn't suspect is that some of these explosions were accompanied by 'atomic tourism' (which has in no way disappeared, even though we might take contamination less recklessly these days.) Atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada, for example, drew enthusiastic crowd of journalists and curious. They sat down wearing 'protective' eyewear and admired the explosions from vantage points which were sometimes perilously close to the blasts.

0viewersmembersnobrley14_J.jpg
Viewers and members of the press at "News Nob", Yucca Flats, NV, April 22, 1952. Marcel Verdooner/U.S. Army Photograph

0Operation_Teapot_-_Wasp_Prime.jpg
Detonation of the nuclear device air-dropped at Nevada Test Site on March 29, 1955. Operation Teapot - Wasp Prime

Those were times of faith in science and in particular in nuclear energy. As illustrated by Walt Disney/s 1957 tv episode Our Friend the Atom, the crowning of miss Atomic Bomb, families proudly posing into their fallout shelter, the futuristic architecture of nuclear power structures, as well as streets and venues that celebrate everything nuclear in Richland, a town located near the first full-scale plutonium production reactor.

0atomiclanesftertheflash2.jpg
Michael Crawford, Atomic Lanes, n.d. Collection of John O'Brian

0nukelanea50a66-1020x674.jpg
Michael Crawford, Nuclear Lane, 2000. Collection of John O'Brian

The exhibition also shows the other side of the nuclear medal: scars on the bodies of civilians injured in Hiroshima, an elementary school built on grounds contaminated by nuclear waste, artistic works that use views of New York to visualize the scale of an atomic destruction, protests that bring to light overlooked issues of safety and security.

Most of the photos on display at WORK gallery come from the archive of art historian and curator John O'Brian. The show also accompanies the publication of his latest book: Camera Atomica.

I'd recommend checking them both. The exhibition and the book. The show is up until 20 December, it's not far away from King's Cross station, i think it would be rude to miss it if you're in town. The book is a gold mine of photos, historical facts, shocking anecdotes. It's also a demonstration of the strength of the image when it comes to shaping memories and imagination. I've mixed images seen in the gallery and photos found in the book in this quick post.

_0cameraoatomica660.jpg

Camera Atomica: Photographing the Nuclear World, edited by writer and curator John O'Brian. Contributions by Hiromitsu Toyosaki, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Blake Fitzpatrick, Susan Schuppli, Iain Boal, Gene Ray, Douglas Coupland (available at Blackdog Publishing and on Amazon USA and UK)

And now for the many photos i promised you:

0littleblig_660.jpg
Photographer Unknown, Operation Redwing Super H Bomb - Tom and the Big Boy and Baby Bomb, 1956

_0cavebomshleter72660.jpg
Photographer Unkown, Cave Bomb Shelter, June 1972

0anti-nuclear-bomb-war-protest-sign-july-1967-for-web-lst150411.jpg
Photographer Unknown, Anti-Nuclear Bomb War Protest Sign, July 1967. Collection of John O'Brian

0aaprortesttest.jpg

0i0treatyprotest.jpg
The United States-Japan Security Treaty Protest, Tokyo, June 15, 1960, Hiroshi Hamaya, gelatin silver print. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012.29.2. © Keisuke Katano

00suns45-STOKES-Repro.jpg

00sunsLight8-STOKES-Repro.jpg
Michael Light, 100 SUNS: 008 STOKES/19 Kilotons/ Nevada/1957, 2003

1cutcake7-620x477.jpg
Press Agency Photo. Vice Admiral W.H.P ("Spike") Blandy and his Wife Cutting an Atomic Cake, 1946

0i7shambroom45f.jpg
Paul Shambroom, B83 1-megaton nuclear gravity bombs in Weapons Storage Area, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, 1995

0i0ischeler0.jpg
Emergency Life Pack for Nuclear Fallout, New York, 1961 -- Max Scheler

0interiorofheava65.jpg
Interior of heavy ion linear accelerator, University of California Berkeley, 1971. Photograph: Work Gallery/Black Dog Publishing

0i5ecrater295787.jpg
Curt Gunther, Hydrogen Bomb Explosion, Yucca Flats, Nevada, 12 October 1967. Collection of John O'Brian

0yuccaaftertheflash1.jpg
Atomic Postcard. Explosion at Yucca Flat, n.d. Collection of John O'Brian

0catomcipostca962333-1020x612.jpg
Atomic Postcard, Britain, n.d. Collection of John O'Brian

_a0i6face60.jpg
Photographer Unknown, Face 1945-1950

0FInightmare_26_10.jpg
John Carlton, New York Nightmare: Air-burst Atomic Bombs Make Cities in the Northeast Obsolete..., 1949

0a4tuna14.jpg
Checking radioactive tuna, Tokyo, 1954 (via)

0firstatomiuumq.jpg
Construction of The Atomium, Brussels, 1957-1958 (via)

Check out After The Flash. Photography from the Atomic Archive at the WORK Gallery in London, until 20 December 2014.

Related posts: Anecdotal radiations, the stories surrounding nuclear armament and testing programs, La Cosa Radiactiva / The Radioactive Thing, Book review - Fallout Shelter. Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War,
Yasusuke Ota: The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima, Harold Edgerton, "the man who made time stand still", Shomei Tomatsu, etc.

Photo on the homepage: Michael Light, 100 Suns: 099 Bravo, 2003.

0-magnet1200x797.jpg
Eye Catcher

0running4-1200x900.jpg
Behind the Wall a UR Robot running IAL's own "Scorpion" Software puppeteers the frame

A few weeks ago, i visited the graduation show of The interactive Architecture Lab, a research group and Masters Programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture headed by Ruairi Glynn, Christopher Leung and William Bondin. And it was, just like last year (remember the Candy Cloud Machine and the architectural creatures that behave like slime mould?), packed with very good surprises. I'll report on a couple of them in the coming days.

I'll start nice and easy today with the Eye Catcher, by Lin Zhang and Ran Xie, because if you've missed the work at the Bartlett show, you'll get another chance to discover it from tomorrow on at the Kinetica Art Fair in London.


Eye Catcher

The most banal-looking wooden frame takes thus a life of its own as soon as you come near it. It quickly positions itself in front of you, spots your eyes and starts expressing 'emotions' based on your own. Eye Catcher uses the arm of an industrial robot, high power magnets, a hidden pinhole camera, ferrofluid and emotion recognition algorithms to explore novel interactive interfaces based on the mimicry and exchange of expressions.

A few words with Lin Zhang:

Hi Lin! I think what i like about the frame is that it is so discreet and unassuming. You can pass by it and not even notice it. So why did you chose to make it so quiet and 'normal' looking?

Yes exactly, it's a really normal static object, which exists in everyone's daily life, so the magic happens the moment it begins to move. I was inspired by my tutor's art work finding "life in motion" - not all motion can provide wonder and pleasure in the observer, but playing with the perception of animacy in objects often does. There are many digital interfaces that have the appearance of advanced technologies and compete for our attention, but I think it is better to develop interfaces that rather than standing out, can sit within our normal daily lives and then come to life at the right moment whether for functional or playful purposes.

0i9manipul-1200x1806.jpg
Magnetic Puppeteer that manipulates the frame from behind the wall

How does the frame respond to and communicate emotions? How does it work?

To start with, the height of passers-by is calculated by ultrasonic Sensors embedded in the ceiling. This is remapped to the robotic arm (controlled using the Lab's opensource controller Scorpion) hidden behind the wall which magnetically drives the frame to align "face to face" with onlookers. A wireless pinhole camera in the frame transmits the video footage of onlookers back to our software (built in Processing and using face-OSC) which analyses 12 values of facial expression such as width of the mouth, the height of the eye-brow, the height of eye-ball etc. That information then drives the reciprocal expressions of the frames fluid "eyes", controlled by four servo/magnets manipulating ferrofluid.

Do you see The Eye Catcher is mainly a work that aims to entertain and amuse or is there something else behind the work? Some novel interfaces, interactions or mechanisms you wanted to explore?

The Eye Catcher project is a method to examine my research question, which is to explore the possibilities for building non-verbal interaction between observers and objects through mimicry of specific anthropomorphic characteristics. It asks to what extend can such mimicry be deployed, specifically utilising eye-like stimuli, for establishing novel expressive interactive interfaces. We found that humans perceive dots, specifically eye-like stimuli, automatically as almost a hardwired ability, which develops at a very early stage of human life. By the age of 2 months, infants show a preference for looking at the eyes over the rest of regions of the face, and by the age of 4 months, they get the ability to discriminate between direct and averted gaze. Therefore, the eye is the foundation of human interaction upon which we build more complex social interactions.

0i3move-1200x758.jpg
Eye Catcher moves along the wall to approach a visitor

0i7look-1200x800.jpg
Ferrofluid "Eyes" puppeteered magnetically

What was the biggest challenge(s) you encountered while developing the work?

The biggest challenge is how to make the frame and two dots more animate - to not appear robotic but rather more natural. So we were really exploring how long reactions should take, how to select a suitable behaviour in response to peoples expressions, and how to provide continual unpredictable interaction to keep observers' attention.There's still a lot of questions to be explored, and even though its only ultimately 2 dots we're animating, the limitations are a useful constraint to work within.

Will you modify or upgrade The Eye Catcher for Kinetica?

Yes, we're working on it now for Kinetica Art Fair. We've already built a new frame that moves faster and more quietly. We've updated it with new Wi-Fi camera which provides more reliable facial recognition and smoother behaviour on the wall. The film you've seen is really only a prototype so its exciting to see how the new iteration will perform. We've switched round some behaviour too, to see how the public reacts. For example, at Kinetica we've programmed it to prefer to interact with children which should get them excited when it drops down to see them. In the future we'd like to build a more permanent piece using a 2 axis rail system rather than a robot arm. In theory the frame could then work on a much longer wall which would allow all sorts of new types of interaction.

Thanks Lin!


The Making of Eye Catcher

Check out the Eye Catcher at the KINETICA ART FAIR on 16th - 19th October 2014 at the Old Truman Brewery in London.
The project also references works such as Omnivisu, Opto-Isolator and All eyes on you.

0i2basprincen1110b906-1020x817.jpg
Bas Princen, Cooling plant, Dubai, 2009

0cdavid42a69c-1020x680.jpg
Iwan Baan, Torre David #2, 2011 (Caracas)

Yesterday was the press view of Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age at the Barbican Art Gallery. I eagerly go to those journalist tours because i'm allowed to take photos to my heart's content. The day after it's often strictly verboten.

Constructing Worlds looks at how photographers have documented key moments in the history of 20th and 21st century architecture: the skyscrapers rising up in New York, the remains of an industrial Europe well past its glory days, the glamorous Californian lifestyle of the 1940s, the unstoppable urbanisation of China, the traces of colonization in Africa, the aftermath of the war on Afghanistan, India's enthusiasm for modernity as built in Chandigarh by Le Corbusier, etc.

I was particularly seduced by the photos from the 1930s to 1970s. Their authors looked for beauty and evidences of social changes where most people would have only registered dust and mortar.

Constructing Worlds exhibits the work of 18 photographers only. But that's good enough for me as i'm no fan of those Barbican shows that asphyxiate you by their discouragingly high amount of images and information. I'm therefore going to follow suit and keep my comments short.

0i1parkinga8161023.jpg
Ed Ruscha, 5000 W Carling Way, 1967/1999 (Los Angeles)

ApaL00256_9.jpg
Ed Ruscha, Dodgers Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., 1967/1999

0Ed Ruscha, Constructing Worlds installation images1.jpg
Constructing Worlds. Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, Installation images at the Barbican Art Gallery. © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Ed Ruscha's views of Thirty-four Parking Lots in Los Angeles were taken from a helicopter. The series followed his iconic "Every Building on the Sunset Strip". Probably my favourite room in the show.

0rockfeller-magazine.jpg
Berenice Abbott, Rockefeller Center, New York City, 1932. © Berenice Abbott, Courtesy of Ron Kurtz and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

0Huts-and-unemployed-West-Houston-and-Mercer-Street-Manhattan-October-25-1935-03.jpg
Berenice Abbott, Encampment of the unemployed, New York City, 1935

0barestaurant12-web.jpg
Berenice Abbott, Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, Manhattan, October 03, 1935

0batriborough18-web.jpg
Berenice Abbott, Triborough Bridge #3, Manhattan, 1937

0columbus-circle-new-york-1936.jpg
Berenice Abbott, Columbus Circle, 1936

0_StreetManhattan_by_Berenice_Abbott_March_26_1936.jpg
Berenice Abbott, Manhattan Skyline: I. South Street and Jones Lane from East River Pier 11, 1936

In 1929, Berenice Abbott traveled to New York City after having spent eight years in Europe. In her absence, countless 19th-century buildings had been razed to make way for skyscrapers. She decided to stay in the country and document the changing face of the city. By 1940, the photographer had completed "Changing New York," an invaluable historical testimony of a life in Manhattan that has disappeared.

0dmeteryUSA304835.jpg
Walker Evans, Bethlehem graveyard and steel mill, Pennsylvania, November 1935

0abillbooorgd.jpg
Walker Evans, Billboards and Frame Houses, Atlanta, GA 1936

0fren3market2580.jpg
Walker Evans, Waterfront in New Orleans, French Market Sidewalk Scene, Louisiana, 1935

0equarter08106r.jpg
Walker Evans, Negro house, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1936

0Walkerframe-Evans.jpg
Walker Evans, Frame Houses. New Orleans, Louisiana, 1936. © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Walker Evans is famous for the work he did for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression. I've seen these images several times before but i doubt i'll ever get tired of them. The photos were taken at the same time as Berenice Abbott's.

0aafriroof087c990-2060x1373.jpg
Guy Tillim, Apartment Building, Avenue Bagamoyo, Beira, Mozambique, 2008

0cmozambiqu9aac680.jpg
Guy Tillim, Apartment Building, Beira, Mozambique, 2007

Guy Tillim's work examines modern history in Africa against the backdrop of its colonial and post-colonial architectural heritage.

0hensecondstreeetSh_05.jpg
Stephen Shore, Second Street and South Main Street, Kalispell,, Montana, 1974

0evmotelwigw.jpg
Stephen Shore, Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, AZ, August 10, 1973

0k0shore_church.jpg
Stephen Shore, Bellevue, Alberta, August 21, 1974

0daclintonroad716.jpg
Thomas Struth, Clinton Road, London, 1977

0i0ChryslerBuilding.jpg
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Chrysler Building (Architect: William van Alen), 1997

0cahdigarrhS-magazine.jpg
Lucien Hervé-High Court of Justice, Chandigarh, 1955

0Constructing Worlds installation images_detail.jpg
Constructing Worlds. Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, Installation images at the Barbican Art Gallery. © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

0Stephen Shore, Constructing Worlds installation images (2).jpg
Constructing Worlds. Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, Installation images at the Barbican Art Gallery. © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

0Berenice Abbott, Constructing Worlds installation images2.jpg
Constructing Worlds. Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, Installation images at the Barbican Art Gallery. © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

0Bernd & Hilla Becher, Constructing Worlds installation images1.jpg
Constructing Worlds. Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, Installation images at the Barbican Art Gallery. © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

0Iwan Baan, Constructing Worlds installation images (3).jpg
Constructing Worlds. Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, Installation images at the Barbican Art Gallery. © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The exhibition is curated by Alona Pardo and Elias Redstone and designed by architecture firm, Office KGDVS, led by Kersten Geers and David Van Severen.

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age is at the Barbican Art Gallery until 11 January 2015.

Previously: Guy Tillim: Avenue Patrice Lumumba and Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan.

0intertiDSC_0032.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

Over the years, Burnham-on-Sea, a seaside resort in Somerset has been regularly affected by tidal flooding. As a response, a high wall was erected along the coastline, returning waves back to the sea. The 1.6 kilometres long and 3.2 metres high sea wall regulates access to the sea by a series of raised steps and vehicle access points which can be closed during storms.

0inter-tidal-cinema-5.jpg
Intertidal Cinema in Burnham-on-Sea

As part of her BA Design course at Goldsmiths, designer Hannah Fasching decided to make use of that gigantic wall and reacquaint the inhabitants of the town with the intertidal zone, the space between the high and low tide. She organized a screening along the sea wall, using footage shot in the 1930s, before the wall was built. The films shows how people used to ride bicycles and do sport on the beach and how in the past, the seafront functioned as a vibrant cultural hub.

The project, called the Intertidal Cinema, established a conversation with this architecture of control and neutralization. It also looked at how new relationships can be established between humans and the temporary spaces provided by nature.

Can we continue to exist within an infrastructure that seeks to not only resist, but nullify natural forces? How might we approach increasingly fragile sites in a way that challenges the inherited attitude of conquering nature as though it were an opponent? Can the temporary spaces that occur naturally in the environment provide us with a new way in which design can operate?

Hannah has recently exported the project to London. For three nights, she turned the tidal beach of Deptford creek into a social space. I caught up with Hannah to have her talk about the project in general and about the film she projected in Deptford.

The Deep Ford Trailer

Hi Hannah! Could you first tell me again the story of that beautiful vintage cinema sign we see emerging from the water in Burnham-on-Sea?

The first Intertidal Cinema took place in Burnham-on-Sea's intertidal zone, between high and low tide. We stood the sign in the mudflats on the beach at low tide. What we didn't realise at the time was that the speed of the tide coming in depends mainly on the bank of the beach and that the flats being 'flat' submerge within minutes. Thinking we had time to play the film and collect it afterwards, at sunset, just as the film began playing we turned around just in time to see a wave sweep away the bottom rung of letters. And a few minutes later the whole sign was submerged; an unexpected but appropriate demise.

0i0cinema_falls.jpg
Intertidal Cinema in Burnham-on-Sea

What made you chose Deptford Creek for the second edition of the IC, rather than any other area by the river bank?

Deptford is at a pivotal point in its history, the waterfront that I remember less than a year ago is now unrecognisable. As a former royal dock, it has evolved from an area defined by its natural topography into an area characterised by rapid urbanisation and gentrification.

In Deptford, much like in Burnham, there is an abrupt contrast between the natural and artificial landscape though the artificial is much more dominant here. The tidal river, Ravensbourne runs from the Thames through Deptford and creates an intertidal zone fluctuating 7m in the heart of Deptford.

As a project that explores this relationship by creating social spaces in temporary environments, taking the project to Deptford meant it developing in a new way.

0audienDSC_0079.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

0tunnelDSC_0070.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

I've never been there but i had a look on google image. It seems to be a radically different from Burnham. How is the tidal creek of Deptford used now? Is there any social activity there?

Things do happen here, but many are not specifically tied to the river. There is a big community of artists along this part of the river, with studio spaces and galleries as well The Laban Dance Centre, which was built 11 years ago.

The creek creates a unique wildlife area which the local authorities are keen to preserve. The creekside centre, an educational facility, provide tidal walks once a month on the creek. The ahoy centre, a charity in Deptford based on the waterfront, encourage water activities and sports on the river. The Ha'Penny hatch bridge, which can open to allow boats to pass, is a public walkway with many commuters passing over every day. The creek runs underneath this bridge.

0deepforDSC_0043.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

0peopleDSC_0083.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

How did you make the space more comfortable and enjoyable for people?

Holding a cinema in an area where it doesn't normally function instantly transforms it. Using the bridge as a watching platform, we projected onto structures which faced out onto the creek. One of the projections leaned out over the bridge, projecting vertically onto the water. The cinema took place as the tide was going out, as the water emptied from the creek the projection became clearer, until it eventually hit the rocks below the surface. The tide became the factor which focused the image.

Could you talk to us about the Deep Ford film? It seems to be very different from the film you showed in Burnham.

The film in Burnham consisted of archive footage, a window into the history of the seafront before the wall.

In Deptford it's more of a contemporary take on gentrification and how the area has developed relating back to the history of the dock.

The Deep Ford is a reference to the ford on which Deptford developed. The film shows historical architectures and landmarks around Deptford, many of which played an important part in the shipping industry. Voices of people who were interviewed as part of the project are used to animate these architectures, each voice representing a different place, as though the places are talking to you. These people are people who live, grew up and work in Deptford, but also people involved with how it's changing such as redevelopers. The physical space starts to take on the voice of the social.

0geomDSC_0028.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

0projoDSC_0009.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

0eauDSC_0048.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

0birdsDSC_0001-2.jpg
The Intertidal Cinema (The Deep Ford.) Photo by Charlie Evans

Why do you think that it is important that humans (re)connect with natural forces?

To use a quote from Wendell Berry, a poet, environmental activist and cultural critic:

"The cities have forgot the earth and will rot at heart till they remember it again."

Wendell Berry, 1969

In its broadest context the project is about climate change, though it addresses in a different way than a project that might involve weather robots and cloud seeding. I think what is required is an increased understanding of the natural environment, but it seems to me that the well documented expansion of cities is fundamentally incompatible with this. A city is essentially a hardscape.

Using an extreme example; Tokyo as a city sitting on a tectonic boundary, is in permanent conflict with it's natural surroundings. The strict building codes in Tokyo mean that the architecture responds the the natural surroundings. Building foundations are built to move with seismic activity. If our natural environment is to be increasingly volatile, a failure to understand and act in relation to it will only ever cause problems.

The Intertidal cinema that took place in Deptford works in direction relation to the tide, using this force to focus the image of the projection.

Your project explores ways for people to "experience the extremes of the environmental conditions'. Is that out of concern for the future of a country threatened by sea rising?

It can't not be. The project began by documenting an area of land artificially lower than sea level, and suffers from flooding as a result (Somerset).

If the sea is rising what will our relationship with it be?

I think this is already happening, this relationship is being configured through sea wall's and flood defences. Whether it's on the coast in Burnham or in the city of London. They both dissolve the relationship with the water and are also potentially apocalyptic because of the risk of them failing.

What's next for the Intertidal Cinema?

Following on from the last answer, I see the project developing towards larger scale responses to the temporary spaces in the natural environment.

Thanks Hannah!

0i1friend301416272896.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Centaurus Neandertalensis from the Fauna series, 1987

Joan Fontcuberta Stranger Than Fiction 2 © Kate Elliott.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, Stranger Than Fiction. Photo by Kate Elliott

The Media Space at the London's Science Museum has recently opened a retrospective of photographer Joan Fontcuberta's work. The series on show explore constellations, geography, natural history and many more science-related topics. Each of the body of works exhibited would deserve its own blog post but i'm going to focus on the Fauna series because it brings to the attention of the broader public the long-lost archives of a German zoologist called Professor Peter Ameisenhaufen.

Fontcuberta discovered the archives by chance during a trip to Stockholm with his friend writer and photographer Pere Formiguera. Ameisenhaufen gained fame in the first half of the 20th century for his controversial research on rare animals. Many of his colleagues refused to believe these creatures were real but Ameisenhaufen spent decades collecting evidences of their existence. The archives uncovered in the late 1980s by Fontcuberta were surprisingly rich and well detailed: photos, field notes, dissections drawing, audio clips documenting the calls and other sounds of these truly exceptional animals. Several specimens were even remarkably preserved by taxidermy.

Here are a few examples of the creatures the professor discovered over the course of his career:

Alopex Stultus from the Fauna series by Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, 1987 ∏ Joan Fontcuberta.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Alopex Stultus from the Fauna series, 1987

Alopex Stultus- An herbivorous animal, completely inoffensive and very timid. When it senses the proximity of an enemy, it finds a shrub of the species Antrolepsis Reticulospinosus and digs a hole in the earth, into which it sticks its head, leaving the rest of the body suspended in a vertical posture in an attempt to mimic the shrub. Unfortunately, the outcome is not particularly satisfactory and both men and predators usually capture it at this point.

0fontcuberta4long1.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Solenoglypha Polipodida, from the Fauna series

0ixraymage.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, X-ray Solenoglypha Polipodida from the Fauna series

Solenoglypha Polipodida- Extremely aggressive and venomous, it hunts for food and also for the pleasure of killing. It is quite rapid and moves forward in a curious and very rapid run, thanks to the strong musculature of its 12 paws and the supplementary impulse which it obtains by undulating all of its body in a strange aerial reptation. When facing its prey it becomes completely immobile and emits a very sharp whistle which paralyzes its enemy. It maintains this immobility for as long as the predator needs to secrete the gastric juices required to digest its prey, which can vary between two minutes and three hours, as determined by the size of the victim. At the end of the whistling phase, Solenoglypha launches itself rapidly at its immobile prey and bites the nape of its neck, causing instantaneous death.

Cercophitecus Icarocornu from the Fauna series by Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, 1987 ∏ Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Cercophitecus Icarocornu from the Fauna series

0i1singe080367.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Cercophitecus Icarocornu from the Fauna series

0cercophitecys863d9-416x480.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Cercophitecus Icarocornu 2, 1987, from the series Fauna

Cercopithecus Icarocornu- the sacred animal of the indigenous Nygala-Tebo tribes, for whom it represents the reincarnation of Ahzran (he who came from heaven). The females give birth inside a large cabin in the village to which only the great shaman has access. The baby animals remain inside the cabin until they have completely developed their ability to fly, at which point the tribe celebrates a lavish ceremony during which Cercopithecus undergoes an operation in which it is grafted with the skin of the silver fish of the Amazon, which covers all of the pectoral and abdominal zone. Once this has been done, the animal is set free, although it never strays very far away from the village, and participates by its presence in all of the sacred festivals of the NygalaTebo. During these festivals the animal is given a spirituous beverage which it drinks eagerly, sinking into a state of complete inebriety, at which point it begins to flap its wings so madly that it hovers in mid-air with its body immobile, singing like one possessed.

Of course none of these animals have ever existed and i knew of the hoax before i entered the show. Yet, i wasn't sure. Fontcuberta is such a master in deception and seduction that i needed to remind myself that this wasn't 'documentation'.

In fact, when Fauna was shown at the Barcelona Museum of Natural Science in 1989, 30% of university-educated visitors aged 20 to 30 believed some of the imaginary animals Fontcuberta devised could have existed.

I didn't know at the time what Fontcuberta looked like, otherwise i might have detected that Hans von Kubert, the assistant of Professor Ameisenhaufen bears an uncanny resemblance to Fontcuberta himself:

Joan Fontcuberta from the Sirens series by Joan Fontcuberta ∏ Joan Fontcuberta.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, from the Fauna series

More evidences of the existence of the creatures, i just can't resist:

0i2buttdde1_o.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Myodorifera Colubercauda from the Fauna series,1985-1989

0Fauna.-Myodorifera-Colubercauda.1985-1989-1024x964.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Myodorifera Colubercauda from the Fauna series,1985-1989

0i0fototransplante-61.jpg
Transplant Operation, from the Fauna series (photo via)

0fontcuberta10_monstre600.jpg
From the Fauna series

Centaurus Neandertalensis from the Fauna series by Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, 1987 ∏ Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, Centaurus Neandertalensis from the Fauna series, 1987

0Felis-Pennatus_-19_3000600c.jpg
Skeleton of Felis Pennatus, 1989

Joan Fontcuberta grew up in Spain under the dictatorship of General Franco, at a time when propaganda shaped what people should believe and trust. Like many other members of his family, Fontcuberta worked in advertising until the late Seventies, when he decided to learn photography by himself and investigate how the medium constructs truth and untruth.

The other photo series shown in the exhibition Stranger than Fiction are as amusing and deluding as Fauna. The show closes on the hilarious Miracles & Co series which shows Fontcuberta in the guise of a monk living in a Finnish monastery school specialized in teaching how to perform all kinds of wonders. By the time i exited the show, there really remained no doubt in me that photography shouldn't be trusted unreservedly.

"Photography is a tool to negotiate our idea of reality. Thus it is the responsibility of photographers to not contribute with anaesthetic images but rather to provide images that shake consciousness."
- Joan Fontcuberta

1aa0miracle-771_2-776x1024.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, The Miracle of Feminity, 2002

The Miracle of Dolphin-Surfing, 2002, Joan Fontcuberta ∏ Joan Fontcuberta.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, The Miracle of Dolphin-Surfing, 2002

The Miracle of Levitation, 2002, Joan Fontcuberta ∏ Joan Fontcuberta.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, The Miracle of Levitation, 2002

Views of the exhibition space:

Stranger Than Fiction - Fauna 3 © Kate Elliott.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, Stranger Than Fiction. Photo by Kate Elliott

Stranger Than Fiction - Fauna 1 © Kate Elliott.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, Stranger Than Fiction. Photo by Kate Elliott

Stranger Than Fiction - Miracles 2 © Kate Elliott.jpg
Joan Fontcuberta, Stranger Than Fiction. Photo by Kate Elliott

Stranger than Fiction is at Media Space Gallery, the Science Museum in London until 9 November 2014.

 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10 
sponsored by: