As the title of this post implies, i was in Amsterdam on Sunday for the DocLab Interactive Conference, part of the Immersive Reality program of the famous documentary festival.

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James George at the DocLab Interactive Conference. Photo by Nichon Glerum

The conference (ridiculously interesting and accompanied by an exhibition i wish i could see all over again but more about all that next week) looked at how practitioners redefine the documentary genre in the digital age. In his talk, artist James George presented artistic projects that demonstrate how fast computational photography is evolving. Most of the project he commented on were new to me but more importantly, once they were stitched together, they formed a picture of how innovations are changing our relation to the essence, authorship and even definition of the image. Here are the notes i took during his fast and efficient slideshow of artistic works:

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Erik Kessels, 24hrs of Photos

Erik Kessels printed out every photo uploaded on Flickr over a 24-hour period. Visitors of the show could literally drown into a sea of images.

The work, commented George, functions more as data visualization than as a photo installation.

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Penelope Umbrico, Suns (From Sunsets) from Flickr, 2006-ongoing. Installation view, SF MoMA

In 2006, Penelope Umbrico searched for 'sunset' on Flickr back. She then printed the 541,795 matches and assembled them into one wall-size collage of photographs. She said. "I take the sheer quantity of images online as a collective archive that represents us - a constantly changing auto-portrait."

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With 9 Eyes ongoing work, Jon Rafman shows that you don't need to be a photographer to create photos. The artist spent hours pouring over google street view to spot the inadvertently eerie or poetic sights captured by the nine lenses of the Google Street View camera cars.

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Clement Valle, Postcards from Google Earth

Clement Valle fortuitously discovered broken images on Google Earth. The glitches are the result of the constant and automated data collection handled by computer algorithms. In these "competing visual inputs", the 3D modellings of Earth's surfaces fail to align with the corresponding aerial photography.

Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them.

Teehan+Lax Labs, Google Street View Hyperlapse

Teehan and Lax created a tool that taps into Street View imagery and pulls it together to create an animated tour. Pick the start and end points on Google Maps and Hyperlapse stitches together a rolling scene of Street View imagery as if you were driving the GSV car.

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Staro Sajmište

Living Death Camp, by Forensic Architecture and ScanLAB, combines terrestrial laser scanning with ground penetrating radar to dissect the layers of life and evidence at two concentration camp sites in former Yugoslavia.

But how about the camera? When is the camera of the future going to emerge? What is it going to be like? It will probably be more similar to a database than to an image. In his keynote speech concluding the Vimeo Festival + Awards in 2010, Bruce Sterling described his prediction of the future of imaging technology. For him a camera of the future may function as follows: "It simply absorbs every photon that touches it from any angle. And then in order to take a picture I simply tell the system to calculate what that picture would have looked like from that angle at that moment. I just send it as a computational problem out in to the cloud wirelessly."

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DepthEditorDebug

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DepthEditorDebug

In mid-2005, New York City MTA commissioned a weapon manufacturer to make a futuristic anti-terror surveillance system. The images were to be fed directly into computers, watched by algorithm and alerts would be sent automatically when danger was detected. However, the system was plagued by "an array of technical setbacks", the system failed all the tests and the whole project ended in lawsuits. Thousands of security cameras in the New York subway stations now sit unused.

One month later after Sterling's talk, Microsoft released Kinect. The video game controller uses a depth sensing camera and computer vision software to sense the movements and position of the player. Visualizations of space as seen through Kinect's sensors can be computed from any angle using 3D software. James George and Collaboration with Alexander Porter decided to explore the artistic use of the surveillance and kinect technologies. "We soldered together an inverter and motorcycle batteries to run the laptop and Kinect sensor on the go. We attached a Canon 5D DSLR to the sensor and plugged it in to a laptop. The entire kit went into a backpack.

We spent an evening in the New York Union Square subway capturing high resolution stills and and archiving depth data of pedestrians. We wrote an openFrameworks application to combine the data, allowing us to place fragments of the two dimensional images into three dimensional space, navigate through the resulting environment and render the output."

The OS image capture system, which uses the Microsoft Kinect camera paired with a DSLR video camera, creates 3D models of the subjects in video that can be re-photographed from any angle virtually.

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James George, Jonathan Minard, and Alexander Porter, CLOUDS

George and Porter later worked with Jonathan Minard and used the technology again for CLOUDS, an interview series with artists and programmers discussing the way digital culture is changing creative practices.

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Sophie Kahn

New and old media collide in Sophie Kahn's work. The artist uses a precise 3D laser scanner designed for static object to create sculptures of human heads and bodies. Because a body is always in flux, the technology receives conflicting spatial co-ordinates and generates irregular results.

Marshmallow Laser Feast, MEMEX | Duologue

Marshmallow Laser Feast's Memex is a "3D study of mortality exploring new photographic processes, in this case photogrammetry".

MLF worked with a 94-camera high resolution scanning rig, to create the full body scan of an old lady and explore what filmmaking for the virtual-reality environment could be like.


Introducing the Source Filmmaker

Source Filmmakers, produced by Valve, is a tool to create movies inside the Source game engine. George finds their work relevant to his own practice because although Valve comes from a video game culture, they investigate the same ideas.

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Naked scene from Beyond: Two Souls (image)

Beyond: Two Souls, by Quantic Dream, is an interactive drama action-adventure video game for PlayStation 3. At some point in the game, character Jodie Holmes (played by Ellen Page) is taking a shower. All in a perfectly politically correct fashion.

After the release of the game, nude images of Jodie Holmes leaked online, and were published by several gaming blogs. The "nude photos" were a result of hacking into the files of a debug version of the game and manipulating the camera. The game's publisher, Sony Entertainment, got these posts taken down. "The images are from an illegally hacked console and are very damaging for Ellen Page," the rep reportedly told one site. "It's not actually her body. I would really appreciate if you can take the story down to end the cycle of discussion around this."

But if the nude images were "not actually her body," how could they be "very damaging" to the actress? Whether or not the answer to this question is a convincing one, the little scandal shows the kind of challenge that filmmaker will have to face when dealing with this kind of hyper realistic technology.

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Selfiecity by Lev Manovich and Moritz Stefaner analyzes 3,200 selfies taken in several metropoles around the world and looks at them under theoretic, artistic and quantitative lenses.

DocLab Immersive Reality is accompanied by an exhibition featuring Virtual Reality projects, web documentaries, apps and interactive artworks. The show remains open until the end of the month at The Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam.
Sponsored by:





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This week, i'm talking with French artist Benjamin Pothier who is currently frost-bound for an ARS BIO ARCTICA residency organized by the Finnish Bio Art Society at Kilpisjarvi Biological Station in Lapland.

Pothier is in the region to shoot videos and make sound recordings but because he a PhD researcher in Arts, Anthropology and Architecture at the CAIIA Hub of the Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth, he is also investigating nomadic architecture, drawing lessons from the way nomadic cultures live in symbiosis with the environment and more generally exploring issues of global warming which are felt so acutely in circumpolar regions.

The artist had previously attended the FIELD_NOTES laboratory at Kilpisjarvi Biological Station and last year he had been invited as an artist to participate to the Arctic Circle Residency 2013, in the international territory of Svalbard.

I'm catching up with Benjamin while he is still in the Arctic and before he flies to South Africa to show his photos of icebergs in Johannesburg....

Benjamin Pothier, 8KNOT Trailer

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Hi Benjamin! The ARS BIO ARCTICA residency has an emphasis on the Arctic environment and art and science collaboration. Are you working with scientists over there? How?

Well, I am not working with scientists right now as there are no scientists at the station at the time, I mean apart from me! What is specific to my work is that I am actually an artist AND a researcher. I am a researcher in anthropology, which is usually classified as a "Social Science". But of course anthropology means much more than that for me. I have been driven to anthropology researches for intellectual and artistic reasons. I think the perspective on society one can gain through anthropological studies or research is quite similar to the position of the artist in our societies, and maybe even in traditional societies, as long as you consider the role of the shaman, which in my opinion is connected in many ways to the role of the artist in contemporary societies. But this is probably more an artist statement than an academic point of view.

As an artist i'm connecting to the site, the landscape, the nature and surroundings, through Photography and documentary film direction, but it is really a way to connect to the site. because all of this also include long walks, or staying still under snow or strong wind near an arctic lake shore, for example, to do video or sound recording. And the body is as much an interface with the landscape as the camera or the microphone.

Then as a researcher I try, and sometimes manage, to get an overview about theses experiences, mainly life in the arctic circle for this residency, in order to widen the frame of reference for my research.

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Sound recording on the Shore of Kilpisjarvi's Lake 22/10/2014. -5°C strong wind

What brought you there? Because surely there must be art residency in more hospitable parts of the world?

I'm actually a PhD candidate at the CAIIA the Center for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts, in the program of the Planetary Collegium, which is supervised by the professor and artist Roy Ascott, and my research is focused on Circumpolar North Arctic and Subarctic Tribes... that's probably one of the reason! But I would love to visit... hum... Vancouver or San Francisco for example ! I am also passionate about the art and craft of the Haida people of Pacific Northwest Coast of North America for example...

Well last year I've been selected for the Arctic Circle residency, organized by The FARM,INC, a NYC based cultural organization. And we went up to 20° from the North Pole. I find this kind of residencies challenging. And I like it. For the Arctic circle residency we had to take a zodiac boat every morning to go to the shore, protected by three armed guide against potential polar bears attacks, and it's an "interesting" way to do film direction or photography. For me it was also a way to gain "field knowledge" on contemporary ways to "survive" in the arctic, through discussions with the arctic guide and a study of their gears and behavior.

As an artist I am also interested by that kind of harsh environments because it questions the place of humans on Earth... it's connected to some of my pursuits, I am quite interested by the work of Survival research laboratories, for example, or the Makrolab created by Marko Peljhan, or Angelo Vermeulen's Seeker projects. I'm honestly a die hard fan of "old school Cyberpunk", science fiction at large as well as bio-regionalism and vegan cooking... and to deal with rugged, waterproof or foldable technologies in this harsh environment, or to cook my vegan bolognaise with dried soy chunks in the station kitchen, all of these are experiences that fits with all those pursuits.

And well, of course the Arctic is NOT Antarctica, but I'm a big fan of the movies The Thing, the John Carpenter's one and the quite recent prequel as well. So some of the experiences I'm living there are materials for future art projects, who knows? Art installations, short sci-fi movies or novels, but with strong first-hand field experiences as background. And some like photographing the landscape or directing a cross media project here are very concrete art experiences with a result in the short term.

The Arctic is the perfect place to engage into those kind of life and art experiences. I like being in a place where I can feel that nature is stronger than me, even if it is always a very calculated risk, I'm very cautious and I have a kind of "preppers" mindset. But in a "philosophical" point of view, when I'm saying that "Nature is stronger than me", it's probably because "I" like when "I" becomes "Nature" and there is no more "me" for a few minutes. that's the reward. It's a Zen type experience. I am really not the first human nor artist talking about that!

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Fire inside the Kota

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Benjamin Pothier, Maiitsoh (open)

This is not the first time you are at the Kilpisjarvi research station. You first went there in 2011 for the Finnish Bioart Society's Field_Notes workshop. So is this residency a continuation of the previous one? Or are you working on something entirely different?

Well I was working on something quite different at that time, an interactive documentary Installation about Computer History that I presented at the Computer Art Conference #4 CAC#4 in Rio de Janeiro in September, the project is called Maiitsoh: I've interviewed various people from William Gibson to Noam Chomsky, or John Cale, about topics dealing with computer history, consciousness and creativity, and I was working on that project at the time of the Field_Notes workshop. Maiitsoh is the Navajo word or more precisely the Dineh world because the so-called "Navajo" call themselves Dineh... And it's more than time to give some recognition to the indigenous people. So it's the Dineh word for the Wolf. It's a direct homage to the code talkers during World War II, at that time the Dineh language was used by the Allies as an "analog" cyphering technique, while the Axis Countries where using a mechanical cyphering machine, the Enigma machine. The first ever modern computer ever built, Colossus, was actually built to break the Enigma machine code. It's a part of history quite well known in the computer community. There is also a not that good movie directed by John Woo about the Dineh code talkers. I used the name Maiitsoh as a tribute to the Code Talkers, but also for it's similarities with Macintosh. Maiitsoh is made of wood, like the first computer mouse or the first Apple computer... it's really a multi scalar project. It's about creativity, it's a 3 or 4 dimensional Nodal point, in the Gibsonian perspective. it's a wooden computer and it's an icon of computer recent History. Forget about plastic, the first computers owe things to the wood!

Nowadays i'm very focused on my PhD research, which is a study of the patterns of the Ainu people, the aboriginal people of North Japan. It's for me one of the most beautiful form of craft on this planet. This is a very subjective comment. As an artist, I just love the shape of their patterns.

But the subject is a bit wider. I am questioning the origins of arts and craft on this planet, basically. Why did the human species started to draw, to do sculptures, embroidery ? That is the question! I never take for granted anything that exists on this planet. Why do people wear pants made with denim fabric for example ? And why don't we embroider our clothing nowadays ? What is an object ? Why do human grow those kind of vegetables in the area, and not other ones ? To get perspective is always a good way to make a daily fresh start and enhance your human experience.

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You brought a bike in the Arctic? Is it a very practical mode of moving around up there? What's the story of the bike?

Yes, I brought a foldable bike there, a Brompton. For various reasons. First, It's an artistic and activist statement, here in the Arctic which is of course one of the first region exposed to global warming. I am really pro-biking, I was even close to people from Critical Mass at a time. I am proud about that past. It's a shame to see that people are so unconscious of environmental problems. Last year in Svalbard, at 20° from the North pole, we saw styrofoam on the shore. In that incredible landscape... and of course the invisible pollution is also quite dramatic... Species are disappearing , the arctic is melting, and I guess nobody forgot Sandy Superstorm... well , I don't have a short term memory and I remember being already aware of those increasing problems in the 90ies... And you can really make eco-friendly businesses and make money. So come on! Humanity is a teenager trashing its room.

So it is in a way an homage to old friends from the activists community, to bring a bike here in the Arctic, and to use it to circulate around the station, or to go to the grocery store few kilometers from here, despite the wind and snow... But there is also something related to artistic performance, to use that quite "urban Bike" which is in a way the "Rolls Royce" of folding bikes, and to use it on hard snowy roads in the Arctic Circle. I also applied a kind of "artistic protocol" to the use of the Bike, which is a direct homage to Joseph Beuys piece I Like America and America Likes Me.

The bike never actually circulated nor touched the ground on a road before I took it out of its rugged case, here at the station. The same way Beuys didn't touch the U.S. soil before being brought to that room with a live coyote... It was an homage to the political situation of "Native Americans", and here in the North of Finland there are still Sami people, northern Europe's last hunters and gatherers. So the title could be "I like Finland and Finland Likes me", maybe ! hahaha!

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Suohpanterror, Blowupnorth

I don't personally know them but I have seen some work by a collective called Suohpanterror, they do street art and art related projects dealing with the Sami identity. They are probably much more reliable than me to talk about the Sami question. What I can give as an artist is some visibility about the question. And of course for the bike performance itself, there are some unconscious parts I can't myself explain. It's like making a collage, but in 4 dimension and in real life, with an Arctic logistic, and a study of the possible ways to bring that bike to a research station. It's very useful here for me, and it's of course a bit burlesque to bring it here. I like that mix. It's a very serious and complicated project, it's suddenly completely absurd, and then it becomes really serious again.

I honestly thought that it would be a bit more challenging than that to use the bike. The Brompton works quite well on Sapmi's roads...

And then of course the Brompton itself is a very amazing object. it's manga like and also almost Steampunk . But it's quite Beat-Punk for me. It's a super contemporary object with that 1950ies or 60ies taste and quality. And I'm actually NOT paid to say that.

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Drone FPV Training with the Search and Rescue Team from the Norwegian Red Cross

You've also been invited for a training session with people who use Drones for Search and rescue for the Norwegian Red Cross in the High Arctic. Can you describe the experience? Are you planning to apply to your work what you learnt there?

It was honestly a fascinating experience... As a researcher I have a kind of "classical anthropology " approach, but as an artist I am more interested by digital anthropology or the anthropology of technology. Honestly i've been baffled to meet those people in Tromsø. I was missing some spare parts to make my drone works here in the Arctic, so I looked for forums in Norway on the internet, and two days later I was in contact with those people. And they are very skill full experts on that domain. Their practices are connected to many of my pursuits. I've been invited last year by European Union's oldest program for collaboration in Science and technology to deliver a talk about the future of 3D printing. And then one year later, in Tromsø, on a rest area in a mountainous road I've met this guy who actually makes homemade and huge Octocopters, with 3D printed part that he designed himself.

I remember when there was no mobile phone, that's something I always remember when I want to get some perspectives about the mutations of western societies, or the world at large. I don't take technical progress for granted. It's an organic process in perpetual evolution. It's fascinating to realize what we can do in our ages with technology. People tend to forget about that. I never complain when Skype is slow... I'm always amazed to be able to talk in video with someone in California when i'm in Paris.

And well, for the experience of Drone and FPV, which stand for First Person View. It's way more fascinating than what I imagined. It's actually a physical experience to see through a camera which is flying 200 meters above yourself or at 1 kilometer from you... it's a bit trance-like, or even techno-shamanic like. The only similarity I can find is when i used a 360° camera during a training at the SAT Society for Arts and Technology in Montreal in 2013, and when I was able to see my recording in the 360 dome theatre at SAT, the Satosphere. I had the same weird physical experience challenging my perspective on vision, the body, etc... very impressive!

And of course there is this satisfaction to realize that this technology is used to rescue people, to bring two ways radios or first aid kit to people stuck in mountains.

FPV in the Arctic is definitely an amazing experience. There is that contrast that I really like, I talked about that previously. To be in the middle of that impressive nature, and to be able to use the most up to date technology. So, yes, I will clearly apply to my work what I have learnt there, probably in the form of an installation, might be a short movie also, but it's a bit too early now, I still have to integrate the process and the experience. I am really thankful to those people, and particularly people from FPV.no, Hi Kristian! :)

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Quadcopter Flying test #1....

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with aerial view of Kilpisjarvi's Research station

From what you told me by email about your residency, meeting people is an important part of your work. You're also in contact with the Sami people, for example. How do they fit into your research there?

I am actually in a region that can be defined in many ways... I'm in North Finland, i'm in the Arctic Circle, but I am much more clearly in Sapmi, which is the proper name to describe this region, usually called Lappland. I prefer to use the word Sapmi, the land of Sami people. Lappland comes from Lapp which means rag in swedish. Honestly the Sami people are not the Indigenous people I know the most, I mean in terms of anthropology or basic contemporary History. I'm mostly here to do a comparative study of their decorative patterns. Well for me the residency is much more about feeling the landscape and the ways of living in the arctic.

Next month I am invited as a visiting scholar in Anthropology at the Center for Sami studies, at the University of Tromsø, in Norway. it is actually the northernmost university on earth, and the SESAME, center for Sami studies is at the forefront of Sami and Indigenous studies. They actually deliver masters in peace studies and in indigenous studies... quite an amazing place! There, I will meet Sami people and some colleagues from various countries in order to discuss my research.

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TROMSØ'S Bridge

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View of the Bay from TROMSØ'S Bridge

What's next, after the ARS BIO ARCTICA residency?

Well in the short term, I will exhibit my series of photographs taken at 20° from the North Pole in Svalbard last year at Kalashnikovv Gallery, in Johannesburg, South Africa in December. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the IFAS, the French Institute in South Africa. It's really a great opportunity for me to be able to exhibit this Arctic related work in Johannesburg. And it will be another opportunity to talk about the arctic situation and the globalized aspect of the Climate question. I am very thankful to the IFAS for their support as well as to MJ Turpin, one of the owner of the gallery for the invitation. I think he definitely understand my work, which is something rare. He is also an artist and I really like some of his printed work and performances. South Africa is a very specific country, there is a very active art scene, as far as I know through discussions with my South African colleagues, and I had a glimpse of South African creativity last year at the Gaité Lyrique in Paris.

I'm really thrilled to be given the opportunity to exhibit my work in Johannesburg. Then I'm definitely looking for other residency opportunities, as well as planning a trip to Japan in the coming two years for my PhD research.

Thanks Benjamin!

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Preparing for some underwater video recording as well as sound recording at Kilpisjarvi's lake

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Reindeer in the forest near Kilpisjarvi's research station

All images by Benjamin Pothier.

Related story: Field_Notes: From Landscape to Laboratory.

Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera, by Robert Shore, arts journalist and editor of quarterly Elephant.

Available on amazon USA and UK.

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Publisher Laurence King writes: The real world is full of cameras; the virtual world is full of images. Where does all this photographic activity leave the artist-photographer? Post-Photography tries to answer that question by investigating the exciting new language of photographic image-making that is emerging in the digital age of anything-is-possible and everything-has-been-done-before.

Found imagery has become increasingly important in post-photographic practice, with the internet serving as a laboratory for a major kind of image-making experimentation. But artists also continue to create entirely original works using avant-garde techniques drawn from both the digital and analogue eras.

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Roman Pyatkova, Soviet Photo

Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera presents the works of artists who produce photographic works but aren't necessarily photographers and who use or reference images that already exist. There is, after all, plenty of material for artistic appropriation and reappropriation in our self-obsessed and all recording society: from selfies to CCTV footage, from google street view to prints found in bins.

Post-Photography is one of those beautiful classic coffee table books. Lots of images and concise paragraphs about each artist and photo series. However, Post-Photography is different from most coffee table books: the introductory essay is short but it is informative and pertinent. Not the usual "let's write something lackadaisical and call it content' (i learnt the word lackadaisical yesterday while reading the comments of a blog post about this very book. The word is so pretentious i had to use it too.) I've read and reviewed my fair share of books about photography and i think this is the first time i encounter a publication that focuses specifically on this phenomenon (or 'moment' as the author calls it) and articulates it so clearly and eloquently.

This book is split into five sections: Something Borrowed, Something New shows the artist in the guise of an editor and curator; Layers of Reality recognizes the distinctive outlook that camera has on reality; All the World Is Staged is made of images that document world constructed by the artists; Hand and Eye highlights the materiality of photography; and Post-Photojournalism -which, unsurprisingly, was the chapter that interested me the most- discusses how fabricating reality can be another, sometimes more powerful, way to document it.

Here's a few examples of the works presented in the book:

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Roman Pyatkova, Soviet Photo

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Roman Pyatkova, Soviet Photo

'Soviet Photo was the only photo magazine available to photography professionals and amateurs in the Soviet Union from 1926 to 1992. Like other publications of the time, it was an outlet for Communist propaganda. Roman Pyatkovka combined photographs from the magazine with his own works as a photographer making clandestine photos (mostly of naked ladies) in the 1970s and '80s. "When looking at these pictures today, we are able to reflect on the ideals and disappointments, censorship and creativity of that time," Pyatkovka writes.

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Mishka Henner, (Paleis Noordeinde, Den Haag) Dutch Landscapes, 2011

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Mishka Henner, (Staphorst Ammunition Depot) Dutch Landscapes, 2011

When Google launched its satellite imagery service in 2005, some governments attempted to censor sites deemed vital to national security. Techniques of concealment and restriction vary from country to country: cloning, blurring, pixelization, and whitening out sites of interest. The Netherlands, for example, hid hundreds of significant sites including royal palaces, fuel depots and army barracks behind stylist multi-coloured polygons. Ironically, it made the censored sites even more conspicuous. The country has since adopted a less distinctive method of visual censorship.

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David Thomas Smith, Three Gorges Dam. Sandouping, Yiling, Hubei, People's Republic of China, 2010-11. From Anthropocene

The Anthropocene series are large kaleidoscope photomontages composited from thousands of satellite online images that show some of the world's most recognizable manmade structures and urban landscapes. This work reflects upon the complex structures that make up the centres of global capitalism, transforming the aerial landscapes of sites associated with industries such as oil, precious metals, consumer culture information and excess.

Each location alludes to specific environmental or social issues. The image above, for example, represemts the urban displacement caused by the Three Gorges Dam.

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Jonathan Lewis, Lidl. From the WalmArt series

Jonathan's walmArt series shows "big box" stores around the world pixelated beyond recognition. Distorted as they are, the photos still read as consumer spaces.

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Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'The Salon', 2009

Hisaji Hara are based on Balthus paintings.
(wondering why i added this series as i so dislike Balthus' work.)

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Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Flash

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Caleb Charland, Demonstration with Hair Dryer and Aluminum Foil, 2006. From the series Demonstrations

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Caleb Charland, Atomic model, 2008. From the series Demonstrations

In his Demonstrations series, Caleb Charland used everyday objects or materials he found in surplus and salvage yards to explore the laws of physics and make the perfect portrait of a scientific phenomenon.

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Julie Cockburn, Tantrum

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Julie Cockburn, Funster, Hero, 2012

By cutting, embroidering and using collage, Julie Cockburn adds a psychological and sometimes even surreal layer to the vintage photographs she found in garage sales, high school yearbook portraits, cinema headshots, family mementos and landscapes.

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Martina Bucigalupo, Gulu Real Art Studio, 2011-12

While working in Northern Uganda, Martina Bacigalupo stopped into a photo studio to get a few shots developed. There, she noticed a standard size portrait in which the face had been cut out. The owner of the studio explained that the missing part had been used for an ID photo. When customers needed an ID head shot, he would just make a standard size portrait print from which he would stamp out the ID portrait. Bacigalupo collected all the discarded headless prints she could from the cutting room floor and created a faceless but very moving portrayal of a society which has lived through violent conflicts over several decades.

Because many people don't own a suit but want to look smart in their photograph, the studio has one suit jacket anyone can borrow even though it might not be their size.

Inside the book:

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Photo on the homepage: Nicole Belle, Untitled from Rev Sanchez, 2008.

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

This weekend i'm in Turin for the Artissima art fair. I'll get back with a proper story about the event later. I suspect it's going to take the usual form of a photo heavy and mute post but right now i wanted to highlight Fired but Unexploded, a series of videos and photos of bombs that didn't explode.

Every day in Europe, unexploded bombs from WW1 and WW2 turn up during construction works and even in open fields and riverbeds. Approximately 15 unexploded bombs are recovered every day in Germany. In the forests of Verdun, France, "démineurs" still find about 900 tons of poisonous and explosive munitions every year. And i was very surprised to read that in my country, Belgium, between 150 and 200 tons are recovered each year. Most are stockpiled in a secure location and the most toxic and dangerous ones are wrapped in more explosives and destroyed inside a dedicated building.

Zsolt Asztalos' country, Hungary, was bombed heavily during the final months of the war by US, British and Soviet forces, with Budapest carpet-bombed on 37 occasions.

Hungary's Unexploded Bomb Disposal Department gave the artist access to some of the explosives. They might be 60 years old but these bombs still pose a risk of detonation. Asztalos sees in them a symbol of conflicts among humans:

The unexploded bombs symbolize those places and situations that the sounds evoke, he told Funzine. They may symbolize political conflicts - in this case we hear the sound of street demonstrations; they may stand for the time bombs of consumer societies - then we hear someone going through TV channels; or they may represent issues in private life and partnership - then we hear someone doing the dishes without saying a word, and the tension in the air is almost palpable. We hear all these sounds and see this unexploded bomb. The question is only when it will explode.

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded at the Viltin gallery booth, Artissima

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011


Unexploded locations

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded at the Viltin gallery booth, Artissima

The bomb collection.

It took Simon Faithfull 3 years to be granted permission to sink a boat off the Isle of Portland, a few km south of Weymouth, in Dorset, England.

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© Simon Faithfull. Photo: Gavin Weber

What might sound like an ecological abomination is actually the start of a process that will create a new eco-system beneath the sea: an artificial reef. The sunken boat will provide a hard surface to which algae and invertebrates adhere, providing food for fish.

The artist bought the boat off eBay for 75 pounds. It was called Brioney Victoria and had been rotting for decade at a Canvey Island yard. He emptied it, added a concrete wheelhouse to make it look like a working boat and then stripped it of anything that could potentially be harmful.

Once ready, the small fishing vessel was towed out to sea. Faithfull set it alight, opened the seacocks, let water into the boat and dove off as it started sinking.

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© Simon Faithfull, REEF, Sinking of Brioney Victoria ship. Photo: Gavin Weber

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© Simon Faithfull, REEF, Sinking of Brioney Victoria ship. Photo: Gavin Weber

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© Simon Faithfull, REEF, Sinking of Brioney Victoria ship. Photo: Gavin Weber

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© Simon Faithfull, REEF, Sinking of Brioney Victoria ship. Photo: Gavin Weber

Five cameras were mounted on board to record the boat's descent and they are still monitoring its transformation, transmitting images via a dedicated website and relaying them to exhibitions. The first one is at Fabrica, a former chapel turned art gallery in Brighton. The show, which is part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, will later move to Calais and Caen.

In the Brighton gallery, a big overhead screen show the boat smoking and very slowly sinking beneath the waves. A series of monitors at ground level broadcast the images from the drowned boat.

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Reef, installation view at the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014. Photo: Nigel Green

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Simon Faithfull, screenshot from live videp

Faithfull was interested in investigating how an ordinary object at the end of its existence is given a new, almost eternal life.

Like some of the artist's previous works, REEF documents the plight of a camera exposed to extreme elements or sent on a journey from which they might never come back. In 2003, for example, Faithfull sent a video camera attached to a weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Simon Faithfull Interview for REEF Project

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© Simon Faithfull, REEF, Sinking of Brioney Victoria ship. Photo: Gavin Weber

Simon Faithfull will be giving a talk at Lighthouse on Tue 21 Oct 7- 8.15pm. And if you miss the evening, check out REEF at Fabrica in Brigton as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial. The show is open until 23 November 2014.

Also part of the Biennial: Amore e piombo: The Photography of extremes in 1970s Italy.

This is Giulio Andreotti, a legend in Italian politics:

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Giulio Andreotti, Rome, 1970s © TEAM Editorial Services/Alinari

For almost half a century, Andreotti occupied all the major offices of state. He held the post of prime minister 7 times and for longer than any other postwar Italian politician except Silvio Berlusconi. Andreotti was not as farcical as Berlusconi though but he was every bit as shrewd as a Borgia. He was involved in most political corruption scandals, was tried for mafia association and has also been accused of being involved in a variety of conspiracies related to high profile assassinations, massacres and banking crimes. In his 2008 film, Il Divo: La Straordinaria vita di Giulio Andreotti, director Paolo Sorrentino, highlighted the responsibility of Giulio Andreotti in the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, former prime minister and then president of Christian Democracy (Italy's relative majority party at the time). Sorrentino is not the only one to hold that suspicion. Many believe that Moro was the agnello sacrificale, the sacrificial lamb who had to be executed because of his efforts to include the Communist Party in a coalition government.

On 16 March 1978, Moro's car was assaulted by a group of Red Brigades terrorists in Rome. His corpse was later found in the trunk of a Renault 4 after 55 days of imprisonment.

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9 May 1978: Aldo Moro's body is found in via Caetani, Rome in the trunk of a Renault 4

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Moro, photographed during his kidnapping by the Red Brigades

Andreotti, Moro but also Andy Warhol, Federico Fellini and many others appear in Amore e Piombo: The Photography of extremes in 1970s Italy, one of the exhibitions of the Brighton Photo Biennial. Amore e Piombo means Love and Lead. Lead as in the anni di piombo, the tumultuous years of social conflict and acts of terrorism carried out by right- and left-wing paramilitary groups in the Italy of the 1970s. Now the Amore comes with the glamour of Cinecitta and the stars photographed by paparazzi in the streets of Rome. Two worlds poles apart that characterized Italy in the 70s and were documented by a group of photographers working for the agency Team Editorial Services.

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Specialist anti-riot police unit Cellere, 70s

The press photographers constantly shifted between battling film stars at play and the reality of near civil war unfolding on the streets. Politics and celebrity are brought together through the paparazzi style of alto contrasto, collusion and intrusion. Alluded to, although less visible, are the murkier dealings of clandestine groups linked to the Italian Secret Services, The P2 Masonic Lodge the CIA and NATO, operating against the backdrop of the extremes of the Red and Black Brigades. Archive prints are presented alongside television news footage, film sequences and sound recordings. A choice of Italian photo-books of the period, loaned from the Martin Parr collection, add a further layer of reference.

Amore e Piombo is an exhibition as fascinating and enigmatic as the years it portrays. Don't miss it if you're in or around Brighton:

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Demonstration against the Historic Compromise, alliance of the Christian Democracy (DC) and the Italian Communist party (PCI), Rome, 70s All photographs: Alinari Courtesy The Archive of Modern Conflict

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Giulio Andreotti in the early 70s during his first time as prime minister of Italy and leader of the Christian Democrats

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Actors Ninetto Davoli and Franco Citti with director Pier Paolo Pasolini (standing) in an actors' football team, 70s

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French actor Alain Delon on an Italian film set

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Clash between police and far-left protesters, Rome, 1977

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Avelar Brandão Vilela, Brazilian cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, 1970s

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Brigitte Bardot in Les Femmes, directed by Jean Aurel, Rome, 1969

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A police bodyguard lies dead after Red Brigades ambush and kidnap Aldo Moro, via Fani, Rome, 16 March 1978

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Pro-divorce demonstration in advance of the divorce referendum, 1974

Views of the exhibition space:

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The Guardian has more images.

Amore e Piombo: The Photography of extremes in 1970s Italy was co-commissioned by the Archive of Modern Conflict and Photoworks, curated by Roger Hargreaves and Federica Chiocchetti. It is open until 2 November at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

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