I arrived in Warsaw yesterday to participate to a panel mysteriously titled Culture as a space of freedom and anarchy. After which i braved the cold and visited a couple of art spaces. If ever you're in town in the coming weeks, don't miss Where Is the Green Rabbit? which explores the relations between art and science in a remarkably sensitive and humourous way.
One of the most stunning work is Steven Pippin's Point Blank, a series of photos made by cameras recording the precise moment of their own destruction by a gun. I couldn't find many pictures online of the final shots. There are two below but i can't say that they represent the series adequately since the images of the 'death' of a camera looked surprisingly different from one another.
The action takes place in total darkness with the flash being triggered just as the bullet breaks open the analogue camera and hits the negative inside it.
Steven Pippin began the series Point Blank, comprising twenty photographs to date, in Wisconsin, USA, in 2010, and continued the series with several experiments in London. Despite the great technical precision that the project requires for its realization, it is ultimately the uncontrollability in the moment of the apparatus's destruction that gives it its special charge. The color prints show abstract shard forms, broken structures, that are somewhat reminiscent of organic ramifications, yet through their artificial chromaticity they also refer to the chemical process used for their creation. In some of the pictures, it is possible to make out the bullet piercing the camera; sometimes in blurred motion, or, as in Deep Field, as an isolated planet in a universe of shattering particles. (via)
Looking through articles about his work, i realized that Pippin's relentless investigation of the medium of photography is quite brilliant. He spent years turning mundane objects (a refrigerator, bath tub, wardrobe, etc.) into pinhole cameras. He even spent a 55 minute train journey transforming the train lavatory into a photographic studio.
Back in 1997, he converted a row of 12 front-loading washing machines in a New Jersey laundromat into as many cameras. Activated via trip wires, Pippin photographed himself moving through the launderette. In suit, without trousers, with a horse, running, walking backwards, etc. The photos are an homage to Muybridge's explorations of motion through photography. This wasn't Pippin's first use of the domestic device. He had previously developed photographs in the wash and rinse cycles of the machines.
An article in The Guardian explains that Pippin first looked for a suitable laundrette in San Francisco: He discovered that most of the establishments big enough for what he had in mind were run by the Mafia, who used them to (literally) launder money, and they were not interested in this persistent, soft-spoken Englishman bringing them publicity. Eventually, though, after two years of looking, he got permission to use a 4,000sq ft laundromat, as long as he did not get in the way of the customers.
If you find yourself in Amsterdam, don't miss the retrospective of sculptor and photographer Scarlett Hooft Graafland. Her stunning photos of landscapes installations are on view at Huis Marseille until mid-December.
As surprising as it may appear, Scarlett Hooft Graafland takes analogue photographs, prints them straight from the negative and never uses Photoshop. The artist is fascinated by remote, unusual and sometimes even inhospitable locations. She went to Salar de Uyunu in the Bolivian Andes, the largest salt desert, she travelled with the Inuit across the sea ice of Igloolik on the Arctic plains of northern Canada, moved around Southern China and the lava fields of Iceland. Her interventions on the landscape are temporary and leave no trace behind them.
Some of the works allude to masterpieces of art history. The balloons floating on water for example, are an homage to Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. However, many of her works also arise from her deep concern for the natural environment. How could the words 'global warming' not spring to our minds when we see her Polar Bear?
The lemonade igloo was made by Nathan Qamaniq, one of the few traditional Inuit still able to hand-build an ice igloo. It took weeks to prepare the lemonade blocks but one day only to build the igloo itself.
The exhibition unfolds over several floors of the Huis Marseille and some of the photos can even be found in a small building at the back of the garden:
Vous êtes ici has the perfect slideshow to see more of Scarlett Hooft Graafland's work.
LABoral Centre of Art and Industrial Creation is opening today the exhibition Experimental Station which explores how art and impossible science draw together and intertwine. The show is remarkably interesting and refreshing even for someone like me whose job is to see art&science exhibitions, read (or even write) art&science books and discuss with the art&science crowd on a daily basis. It's very garage science with artists i had never heard about before and others whose work i had only encountered in art fairs and small galleries so far. Proper report will follow shortly --it will be enthusiastic to say the least-- but before i head back to Laboral for the opening performance by O Grivo, here's just a few words about one of the works i discovered in the exhibition.
In his b&w series Demonstrations, Caleb Charland used everyday objects or materials he found in surplus and salvage yards to explore the laws and wonders of physics. The stupefying images are the only traces left of the many exposures, the long trials and errors the artist had to go through before he managed to make the perfect portrait of a physical phenomenon. The admiration for his tenacity and curiosity increases tenfold when you remember that we live in the age of photoshop.
Raise your hand who'd like to try this at home now!
Estación experimental [Experimental Station], a coproduction between Laboral Centre of Art and Industrial Creation and CA2M Art Centre Dos de Mayo, remains open until 9 April 2012 at Laboral in Gijón, Spain.
It's Photomonth in East London and i'll be running around the area this week to catch up with as many shows as possible. My two favourite exhibitions so far are as different from each other as it is possible to be.
The first one was at Amnesty International UK's Human Rights Action Centre. It's a rather small event, only 5 to 6 photos from each of the three shortlisted entries in the Photojournalism category at the Amnesty International Media Awards. The awards recognise excellence in human rights reporting and acknowledge journalism's significant contribution to the UK public's awareness and understanding of human rights issues. There's a total of ten categories, including a student award, but this exhibition is dedicated to photojournalism.
Robin Hammond's winning entry, This Girl, meets the women victim of rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sexual violence has become part of modern warfare and The UN Security Council regards it as 'a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in and forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.'
Each portrait is accompanied by the story of the woman:
The blackboard behind 16-year-old Leonce reads: 'The family is composed of the father, the mother and the children. The father is responsible for the family.' Leonce is holding the baby she gave birth to as a result of rape.
Basamae Maombi recognized one of the men raping her. She called out his name and begged him to stop. He reacted by holding her down, pulled out his dirty knife and gouged out both of her eyes.
Maombi Elizabeth was raped by three armed men. Her 4-year-old child stood witness to the entire attack. As the men left the tent they set the canvas and grass construction alight. Neighbours ran to save the occupants. Elizabeth survived. Her daughter did not. Elizabeth is now covered in the scars from 3rd degree burns.
The Nubian community has lived in Kenya for over 100 years. Brought to Kenya by the British in the late 1800s, Nubians served for the British during WWI and WWII and were vital in the development of East Africa. Unable to return to their homeland, they were assigned over 4000 acres of land by the British to settle on. The Nubians named the land, which is located outside of what would become Nairobi, Kibra. After Kenyan Independence in 1963, the Nubian community has been denied recognition, excluded from Kenyan society and any claim to the land of Kibra has been denied. Over the past 40 years, hundreds of thousands of rural migrants have flooded into Nairobi in search of work and Kibra has been the land where they've been encouraged to settle.
Robin Hammond had a second photo essay shortlisted. The Price of Gold follows the men who have fled violence in Zimbabwe to become gold miner in Mozambique.
Zimbabwe has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, the discovery of gold can literally save lives. But the search destroys lives too. The diggers handle toxic mercury to extract gold from the red earth. They risk suffocation at the bottom of fragile mine shafts that collapse burying occupants all too often. A few will find enough gold to change their lives, but most will not. Many will become ill and some will pay the ultimate price in their search for gold.
The second exhibition i particularly enjoyed today is Simon Roberts - We English at Flowers, a gallery where i keep going again and again (their other ongoing show, at the same Kingsland Road address, Aesops Fables, is stunning.) The photographs are the result of a tour around England in motorhome to portray the English at leisure. Some will find a bit of Martin Parr's love for the slightly absurd but there's also a genuine tenderness and no trace of cultural satire. The focus is the English and the way they embrace their landscape, the beaches, the picnics in the park, the family visits to National monuments, etc.
Amnesty International Media Awards Winners 2011 is up until November 8 at Amnesty International UK's Human Rights Action Centre and Simon Roberts -
On Tuesday and Wednesday i took the train to Cardiff to visit art galleries and museums. A couple of spaces i'd been recommended were in-between shows and closed but i did strike gold with the National Museum (aka Amgueddfa Cymru) which has recently opened six new contemporary art galleries. I hope to tell you more about them soonish but since you're not allowed to take picture there i have to rely on the goodwill of the press people of the museum to send me some images of the works and views of the space.
Fortunately uncle google provided me with plenty of pictures and information about an artist whose work i discovered at the museum. Keith Arnatt was English but moved to Wales in 1969 and shame on wikipedia for not doing justice to his life and talent. Arnatt was photographing dog poo decades before Andres Serrano thought it would be worth a look, found photo material in trash, campy tourists and notes abandoned by his wife. Everything he shot is witty and never sarcastic (whereas Martin Parr's work is certainly witty but i wouldn't want to be the target of his camera.)
Have a look:
I particularly liked 'Self Burial', 9 photos picturing him slowly sinking into the earth. A very literal take on the buzz word of the late 1960s, the 'dematerialisation' of art brought by the conceptual movement. If the art disappeared, so should the artist.
For the television version of the piece, Self Burial (Television Interference Project), each of the images was transmitted without explanation for two seconds on successive nights on WDR Television, in Cologne, Germany . The mystery was cleared at the end of the week by an interview with the artist.
The work by Arnatt i found most brilliant is not shown at the museum, it's a series of blown-up images of the notes left around the house by his wife shortly before she died.
Sorry for the long silence, i was in Amsterdam for a Fringe Critics Lab masterclass and it took far more brain energy than i had expected. From now on nothing should disrupt the blogging flow.
If you find yourself in Amsterdam too, don't miss Battered at Melkweg's photo gallery. For obvious reason, the exhibition has the support of the Finnish Institute of Culture rather than the Finnish board of tourism. The photo series by Harri Pälviranta shows men (and a few women too) in the middle of or after a physical fight in the streets of Turku. The powerful flash leaves nothing to imagination. It's bloody, messy, a few teeth have probably been lost and the subjects will wake up the day after with ecchymosis all over their face.
I had seen a couple of these portraits in another exhibition but they hadn't left such a strong mark on me. This time, seeing so many assaulted, punched, contused men one after the other, filled me with the fear that Finland might not be the perfectly lovely and idyllic city i had witnessed during my recent visits. After some 12 photos the discomfort turned to a strange fascination for the patterns the blood made on the men's face. None of them actually seemed to be much shocked or in pain. The minimal description of the scene contributed to turn a moment i regarded as dramatic (a man has just been injured) into a scene of utter banality: In a park, I don't know who hit me, Outside a bar, Second beating that night, on the Main Square (a popular place to get a good beating apparently), Outside a grill, etc. Many of the altercations involved Finns against Swedes.
In the artist's own words:
Batteries and street fights are every night activities during the weekends in Finland. People have a strong tendency of getting rather intoxicated during the partying and once drunk, people are released from their inhibitions. Aggressivity turns into physical acts, to direct violence.
There is a social awareness on this topic in Finland, the issue is recognized and it is considered to be a severe social problem. But the discussion has mainly literal dimensions, it appears in news headlines and it is discussed in seminars. There are no images from these happenings. By photographing assaults and batteries I wish show the real faces of street violence in Finland. In contrast to the stereotypic portrayals of male heroicism and the worn-out attempts at shocking people I am interested in dealing with the utmost banality inherent in violence. What I find more unsettling than any single representation of physical injuries is the everyday nature of street violence and the laissez-faire attitude towards it in the Finnish society.