The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, is aired this afternoon at 4pm (London time.)

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Helen Pynor, Head Ache (detail), from red sea blue water series, 2008

Today i'm talking with Helen Pynor. You might have seen one of Helen's most striking photos in bookshops and on the tube last year, it showed a brain in all its organic glory and was on the book cover and on the posters advertising the exhibition Brains: The mind as matter, which opened last Spring at the Wellcome Collection in London.

Helen Pynor has a background in science but later studied visual art. Three years ago she also became a doctor of philosophy. Her practice combines biological science and visual expression to explore the inside of our bodies, and to investigate the relationship between the physicality of the human body and its culturally constructed status.

During the show we will be talking about how she managed to get her hands on a fresh human brain but Helen will also discuss some of her broader projects such as The Body Is A Big Place, a large-scale installation that explores organ transplantation and the thresholds between life and death.

Peta Clancy and Helen Pynor (sound by Gail Priest), The Body is a Big Place

The show will be aired today Wednesday 22nd of May at 16:00. The repeat is next Tuesday at 6.30 am (yes, a.m!) If you don't live in London, you can catch the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud.
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Mariele Neudecker, Hercules Missile (portrait), 2010

Going even further in its exploration of the invisible infrastructures that make up our world, The Lighthouse in Brighton currently takes part in the Brighton Festival with two projects that illustrate how the military uses technology to intrigue, screen and hide its activities. The investigation started in 2011 with the exhibition, Invisible Fields, which focused on the invisible but ubiquitous radio spectrum. The research went further with last year's show of Trevor Paglen's photos The Other Night Sky and Limit Telephotography, works i can't seem to be able not to mention almost every month on this blog.

One of the projects that you can see right now in Brighton is a body of work, by Mariele Neudecker, that makes visitors reflect upon (and reluctantly admire) the use of technologies in contemporary warfare.

Most of the works were developed during an artist residency that Neudecker undertook the Historic Nike Missile Site, a former Nike Missile launch site located to the north of San Francisco. Opened in 1954, the site was intended to protect the population and military installations of the San Francisco Bay Area during the Cold War, specifically from attack by Soviet bombers. The site was decommissioned in 1974 and is now open to the public as a museum.

Neudecker documented with seducing photo portraits and patient rubbings a series of weapons of mass destruction that were developed at the height of the Cold War.

The title of the exhibition, The Air Itself is One Vast Library, is drawn from a quotation from Charles Babbage, the 19th century mathematician and engineer, who originated the concept of a programmable computer. In 1837, he wrote:

"The air itself is one vast library, on whose pages are for ever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered. There, in their mutable but unerring characters, mixed with the earliest, as well as with the latest sighs of mortality, stand for ever recorded, vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled, perpetuating in the united movements of each particle, the testimony of man's changeful will."

In the context of the artist's work, the quotation suggests that despite the machinations of warfare being beyond our daily perception, the air retains a memory of these exploits.

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Mariele Neudecker, Hercules Missile (portrait), 2010

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Mariele Neudecker, Hercules Missile (portrait), 2010

The portraits of the Hercules missiles are as appealing as they are threatening. They seem to float silently into a dark room, as if they were waiting to be fired one day.

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Mariele Neudecker, Psychopomp - Hercules Missile graphite rubbings 1 & 2, 2010. Photo by Jamie Wyld, The Lighthouse

As Neudecker explained in her presentation at The Lighthouse last week, photography would never have enabled her to represent accurately the length and power of the Hercules missiles accurately. She thus obtained the authorisation to sit on the missiles and produced two 13 meter long graphite rubbings of the vast missiles. The close contact with the weapons made her realize that while one of them was real, the other was a fake, designed to trick the enemy into thinking that the U.S. military could count with far more deadly resources than it actually had.

Programme curator Jamie Wyld reminded me that during Second World War, Germany built an airfield that looked real from the air but was actually entirelymade of wood.: hangars, trucks, anti-air guns, planes, etc. To show that they could not be so easily fooled, an Allied bomber dropped a lone wooden bomb on the fake airfield. And not so long ago, Marguerite Humeau was telling us about illusionist Jasper Maskelyne who was hired by the British Army during the same conflict. He would use magic tricks on a large-scale to camouflage, hide, trick or to make dummy military vehicles and soldiers appear.

Other works investigate military imaging and tactical communication, which provide us with new ways of detecting what is intended to be camouflaged and out of view.

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Mariele Neudecker, The Air Itself Is One Vast Library (Hunting Percival Pembroke C1), 2010. Courtesy of Galerie Barbara Thumm and the artist

I was particularly moved by the photo above. A day that she was browsing through a charity shop, the artist found a set of postcards showing military planes. Her artistic intervention was simple: she just applied correction fluid on the planes. The silhouette is thus hidden as much as it is highlighted. By superposing an additional layer of disguise, Neudecker made the plane even more unsettling and threatening that it would have been had the photo remained untouched.

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Mariele Neudecker, Final Fantasy (flight recorder 1), 2013. Photo by Jamie Wyld, The Lighthouse

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Mariele Neudecker, Final Fantasy (flight recorder 6), 2013. Photo by Jamie Wyld, The Lighthouse

Related: Brighton Photo Biennial - Agents of Change: Photography and the Politics of Space.

The Air Itself is One Vast Library remains open until 26 May 2013 at The Lighthouse in Brighton. Stay tuned for a post about Under the Shadow of the Drone.

I thought i'd add a few words and many images about a couple of exhibitions i saw in Madrid a few weeks ago. Just like Anonymization, these two are photo exhibitions. If it weren't for the fact that exhibitions are planned years in advance, I'd be wondering whether the current crisis is the reason why Madrid has so many photo shows right now. They are easier/cheaper to ship, install, insure? Maybe?

Anyway, let's kick off with Robert Adams: The Place We Live, a Retrospective Selection of Photographs at the Reina Sofia because it is simply stunning.

Since the 1960s, Robert Adams has been documenting the landscape of the American West. Lonely roads, small town lights, deforested woods, the Pacific, the great plains, the suburban residential estates, the truck stops and the shopping malls. The paradises lost and the ones about to be built.

For a European like me, there's something extremely exotic about his images. It's the Colorado i see in old Hollywood movies. Yet, the urban development and the over-exploitation of natural resources are realities we are all familiar with.

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Robert Adams, Longmont, Colorado, from the series 'Summer Nights', about 1982 (printed 1989)

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Robert Adams, Burning oil sludge, north of Denver, Colorado, 1973-1974

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Robert Adams, Longmont, Colorado, 1973-1974

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Robert Adams, Santa Ana Wash, Redlands, California, 1983, printed 1991

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Robert Adams, In a New Subdivision, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1969

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Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1969

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Robert Adams, Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1969

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Robert Adams, Alameda Avenue, Denver, 1970

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Robert Adams, Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, 1969

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Robert Adams, Lakewood, Colorado, 1968-1971

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Robert Adams, Sitka spruce, Cape Blanco State Park, Curry County, Oregon, 1999-2000

Robert Adams: The Place We Live, a Retrospective Selection of Photographs is at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid until 20 may 2013.

The other retrospective i wanted to mention is dedicated to the Galician photographer Virxilio Vieitez.

Virxilio Vieitez (Pontevedra, 1930-2008), one of the most important photographers of Spain's photographic history, carried out commissioned works, particularly intended for Galicians who had emigrated to Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela and wished to keep a visual record of their families in Galicia.

Almost no one ever smiles in those photos. Besides, people often chose to pose with some atypical companions: a radio, a goat, a couple of potted flowers.

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Dorotea do Cará, Soutelo de Montes, 1960-61

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San Marcos, 1962

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Everyone however is impeccably dressed.

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Pili a perruqueira [Pili the Hairdresser] Cerdedo, 1974

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'Changüí', Marilena Soutelo de Montes, 1964

Special mention to the Pirelli girls who deserves to feature on calendars:

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For some very odd reason, this sissy lady made me think of myself...

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Carnicería 'L. Monso', Cerdedo, 1967

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Spain, Galicia, 1955-1965

A few views from the exhibition space:

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The Virxilio Vieitez retrospective is at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid until 19 May 2013.

I'm just back from a few days in Madrid where i visited the jaw-dropping vast new headquarters of Medialab Prado. More about that soon. I did however find some time to visit a couple of exhibitions in town. Including Anonymization at La Casa Encendida.


Robert Harding Pittman, Lake Las Vegas Resort | Las Vegas, USA

In this photo series, Robert Harding Pittman acutely documents the exportation of the Los Angeles-style model of urban development to other countries such as Spain, France, Germany, Greece, United Arab Emirates and South Korea.
From the construction boom up until the current building crisis.

Anonymization presents under an implacable light a landscape of anonymity made of shopping malls, vast parking lots, arrays of unfinished houses that look exactly the same, green golf courses in the middle of desert areas, etc.

The photos highlight that urban sprawl has no soul, character nor regard for the cultural, social, ecological or even meteorological context. The absence of any human figure in the photos render the alienation even more striking.

In all of places that I photographed, developers almost always feel that they need to build a golf course in their development in order to attract homebuyers, the photographer told Fototazo. Even though many residents do not play golf, it provides them with a feeling of luxury, leisure and well-being, just as does the palm tree. Not only is the green golf course crucial, but so is the green lawn around one's house, even if one lives in a desert. Obviously water problems are thus also universal in sprawl built in sunny, arid climates, where much of the building has occurred in the recent future.

The other common element to sprawl all over the world is the dependency on the car and the pollution, the lack of social interaction and the alienation that this creates. Also it results in that those who cannot drive, the youth and many elderly, become immobile.

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Navarino Bay Golf Resort | Peloponnese Peninsula, Greece

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of facts and figures related to the issue of urban sprawl and mass construction. Bear with me, the texts exhibited were in spanish. Often translated from english. I couldn't always find the original so i did a reverse translation back to english:

Dubai:
- "We don't have anything," explained Kutty, a 25 year old man working in construction in Dubai. "We are living a nightmare and no one cares." A worker earns in average 5 dollars per day to work 12 hours daily under a suffocating heat. Human Rights Watch revealed that in 2004, almost 900 people died on building sites, some of them because of the heat. They live in overcrowded shacks, among garbage, in 'infrahuman' conditions.

- Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world. Some 20% of the cranes in the world are working there.
Evolution of the population of Dubai: in 1953, 50,000 inhabitants. In 2000, 882,387 inhabitants. In 2005, 1.321,483 inhabitants. In 2011, 2.003,170 inhabitants.

- Dubai 2009: " At the airport, hundreds of cars have apparently been abandoned in recent weeks. Keys are left in the ignition and maxed out credit cards and apology letters in the glove box."
The stock market has plunged 70%. Scrape beneath the surface of the fashion parades and VIP parties, and the evidence of economic slowdown are obvious.

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Robert Harding Pittman, E311 Freeway - Emirates Road | Dubai, UAE

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Dubai

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Dubailand, Dubai

Murcia, Spain:
- In 2005, Spain built 812.294 houses. More houses than in the UK, France and Germany combined.
- These suburban residential modules are the real estate equivalent of what is called monoculture in biology, a term which alludes to their genetic poverty. Environments like there, so simple and homogeneous, are not regarded as a fertile breeding ground for our future evolution.

United Kingdom, 2006:
- Every 3 minute, a British citizen emigrates. An estimated one million Britons now live for all or part of the year in Spain. It is one of the most remarkable European migrations of the last half century. Cheap flights, a strong pound and a British property market which created almost instant wealth made a fantasy realisable for hundreds of thousands of people of more modest means. Houses in Spain couldn't be built fast enough.

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Tercia Real master-planned community (abandoned) | Murcia, Spain

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Faula Golf, Benidorm, Spain

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Real estate office (abandoned) | Benidorm, Spain

USA, 2011:
According to the census, there are currently 18.700,000 empty houses in the country. Most of these empty homes are located in the South West of the country.

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Robert Harding Pittman / Pizza Hut (abandoned), Route 70. Alamogordo, New Mexico (USA). ©Harding Pittman

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Los Ángeles, California

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Pangyo, Seoul

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Fototazo has an interview with the photographer.

Anonymization is at La Casa Encendida in Madrid through May 26, 2013.

As i blogged a few days ago, Art 13, London's new contemporary art fair, brought many (good) surprises and new names on the radar of collectors and plebeians.

In order NOT to illustrate my point, i'll start this quick overview of the photo works presented at the fair with a series by one of the most famous YBAs.

Mat Collishaw's Last Meals on Death Row is a splendid and sinister collection of still lifes recreating the final meals of death-sentence prisoners in American prisons.

Collishaw's compositions portray the request of inmates from Texas, the state with the highest number of executions since 1976. In 2011 however, Texas banned last meal requests for prisoners on death row after Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge. But didn't eat any of it.

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Last Meal on Death Row - Gary Gilmore, 2012

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Last Meal on Death Row - Velma Barfield, 2012.

For more art takes on the same theme, check out the post The Last Meals of the Executed: A Selection of Projects in Photography and Painting.

I've been particularly impressed by Lamberto Teotino's minimal interventions on archive photographs.

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Lamberto Teotino, Sistema di riferimento monodimensionale, 2011

More gems along the way:

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Back Seung-Woo, Untitled, from the series: "Blow Up", 2001. At Gana Art Gallery

Back to celebrated photographers with Roger Ballen:

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Roger Ballen, Man holding Cat, 1995. At Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

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Roger Ballen, Head Below Wires, 2000. At Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

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Paul Almasy, Dockyard in Sakai, Osaka, 1973. At Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

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Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Untitled (Vodou Series), 2011. At Jack Bell Gallery

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Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Untitled (Musclemen series), 2012

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Minoru HirataHi Red Center's Dropping Event at Ikenobo Hall ( (Performance at the rooftop of Ikenobo Flower School's Headquarters in Tokyo), Tokyo, October 10, 1964 1964, printed 2011

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Stephen Danzig, Regeneration God, 2012

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Chu Teppa Koy, Goddess of the Winter, the insight and the Hugs, 2012. At Diana Lowenstein Gallery

Previously: Art13, the art fair that took us by surprise.

The facade of the Little Black Gallery in Chelsea is indeed painted in black, the interior is not that small and right now they have a stunning show that bears a slightly unnerving title: The Silence of Dogs in Cars. Martin Usborne portrays dogs locked inside cars. Some look peaceful and lost in their own thoughts, others are barking. Or sleeping.

When he started the series, the photographer walked around car parks looking for dogs left inside cars but his quest wasn't too successful so he decided to entirely orchestrate each photo, stopping people who were having a stroll with their dogs, matching each animal with a car and location. As Usborne explained to Max Houghton: I did start it as a reportage project but after I found myself walking around supermarket carparks making barking noises to try and awaken sleeping dogs that were not actually there, I set up the shots. But I now realise that is the right thing. It's very important that it's lit and looks cinematic, dreamlike almost.

I never thought i'd write a post dedicated to dogs photos one day but these were irresistible:

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Dasher

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Flo

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Maus

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Behind the scenes. Image


Bones

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Bones

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Peggy

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Peggy 2

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Hector 2

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Milo

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Prospero

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Chara

The Silence of Dogs in Cars is at The Little Black Gallery until 27 April 2013.

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