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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone however is impeccably dressed.
Special mention to the Pirelli girls who deserves to feature on calendars:
For some very odd reason, this sissy lady made me think of myself...
A few views from the exhibition space:
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.
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.
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.
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 is the fastest growing city in the world. Some 20% of the cranes in the world are working there.
- 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."
United Kingdom, 2006:
Fototazo has an interview with the photographer.
Anonymization is at La Casa Encendida in Madrid through May 26, 2013.
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.
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.
More gems along the way:
Back to celebrated photographers with Roger Ballen:
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:
The Silence of Dogs in Cars is at The Little Black Gallery until 27 April 2013.
The other day i received the code to download the photos of the photographers shortlisted for the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition. Idle and bored, i opened the files and thought i should share the images. Because that's the kind of thing you do when you're an idle and bored blogger but also because the photos are as stunning as ever.
As usual in this kind of international photo competition, there's a couple of winning shots about Palestine, some portraits of magnificently coiffed people, plenty of violent deaths, prisoners living in dire conditions and almost half of these talented photographers are Italian. I'm very impressed by the Afrometals series, btw.
Most of these images will be exhibited next month at Somerset House in London in April and i'll take the opportunity to highlight the fact that for the first time in 5 years, i'm actually writing about an exhibition before it has closed.
Here's a quick selection with texts copied/pasted from the txt file accompanying each images.
A group of 20-30 men and women with 12 horses and sleighs will travel during three days, crossing snowed roads and iced lakes, to reach to reach the opening day of Røros winter fair in Norway.
In Botswana metal music has landed in the nineties, but the rock came in the seventies by two Italian brothers, Ivo and Renato Sbrana, born and raised in the heart of Africa. The metal complexes are performing in nightclubs, concerts, festivals. The most famous African rock band is now Skinflint.The ranks of their fans has expanded dramatically. These fans wear jackets and black leather pants, studded belts, boots and cowboy hats. On their t-shirts stand out skulls, obscenities, historical covers of hard-rock groups popular in the seventies and eighties of the last century such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC / DC. Basically they created their own style look that is inspired by the classic symbolism metal, but also borrows heavily from the iconography of hands-Western film and the traditional rural world of Botswana (ever-present horns of animals concealed beneath the leather jacket ).
Tamagni is also the author of the equally amazing Gentlemen of Bacongo.
On 14 November 2012 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched a seven day operation in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, dubbed 'Operation Pillar of Defense'. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that 158 Palestinians were killed during the operation, of which: 102 were civilians.
The area of Rochester where these pictures have been taken is part of the so called 'Crescent', a moon shaped area that runs across several Rochester neighborhoods and where crime rates are significantly higher than the rest of the city. The Crescent is home to 27 percent of the city's residents and 80 percent of the city's homicides. The reasons behind the burst of violence include the lagging upstate economy, a steady migration of residents to the suburbs and a growing number of abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use. Rochester also has a school system that performs poorly. People inside the Crescent experience those problems in greater concentration. ''It's an area of great poverty and high consumption rate of drugs which fuels an incredibly high number of homicides,'' said the Rochester police chief. Rochester, NY. USA 2012
Honduras is considered one of the most violent countries in the world. Every day in the streets of cities like San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa capital murder, robbery and violence are increasingly present. Ineffective internal politics of a country as unstable where drug trafficking into the USA is uncontrollable and unsafe neighborhoods of Maras is the closest thing to a daily war.
Ghoramara island is located on a delta region in West Bengal. Due to the dramatic increase in sea level, resulting from the effects global warming since the 1960s, the shores of this island are being perpetually washed away. Since the 1980s more than 50% of the territory has vanished due to erosion by the sea. Many of the people still living on the island are farmers and fishermen who depend on the islandís resources for their livelihoods. According to a civil servant I met, in 20-25 years the Indian government could abolish the island and has already formulated a plan to evacuate villagers to another island named Sagar. However, this evacuation plan does not ensure any financial support or compensation for those having to relocate their lives. I situated villagers on the shore and took portraits of them in juxtaposition with the beauty of the vanishing island. There will come a day when these people will have no choice but to move out of their homeland.
I spent 10 years travelling for South-America jails. A different and complex world in which violence and abuse are part of convicts life. I saw how the convicts try to find a space similar to that one they had outside jails. They try to preserve their dignity. The necessity to recreate their space is the only way to defend them. They hardly try to maintain their habits in a human boundary condition and overcrowding status. Violence and power management inside the jails are direct consequences of these conditions. I went around for 74 male and female jails in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia e Venezuela. I got in contact with prisoners and guards, with fear and anger, with hope and diffidence. Some convicts considered me a distraction, others looked at me with envy, others again with contempt because they thought that I was there only for taking pictures to sell of their confined life.
Tuberculosis department of Kherson, August 4, 2011. "I had a great loving family. I was my daddy's little girl. At 42 years old, my father went for a swim and died. My younger sister was going to college, and we needed money to pay for that. The economy was bad at the time, no one was getting paid. That's how I got into drugs." To provide for her family and pay for sister's education, Natalie gave up her music education and started selling drugs instead. Over time, she began to take drugs herself. That's how she contracted HIV, and later - tuberculosis. Natalie died in August 16, 2011. Her sister got married, gave birth to a daughter, and now lives in Moscow.
Series Description: In 1995, the World Health Organization declared the tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine. Over the past 16 years, the situation has deteriorated even further. Each day TB takes lives of 30 people, annually of about 10,000 people.
The pupil of Cossack's children military-patriotic camp "Crimea-Sech" eats buckwheat cereal at a separate table, during a lunch break in camp, Thursday, August 02, 2012, the Crimea (Ukraine). The main rations of pupils are the cereals and flour's products, tinned stewed meat. Children make breakfast, dinner and supper for themselves.
"Crimea-Sech" accept the children and teenagers between the ages of 8-18 years coming from different regions of CIS countries (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus). These children are cadets and already valid Cossacks of the various Cossacks organizations. Every day pupils of the camp are involved in dissimilar occupations -weapon assembly and disassembly, tactic combat simulation, survival in extreme conditions, reconnaissance work, terrain orientation, hand-to-hand fight, firing from different types of firearms.
Territory is focused on various aspects and boundaries in the urban landscape. There are boundaries in landscapes which exist between the public and the private space, there are specifics of vision and perception, and an urban landscape serves as evidence of the way in which people populate and move around in territories. Each image features a guard and his guardhouse. Guard booths are architecturally inexpressive and humble, although present in the urban landscape. Those are images that feature the moment at which the guard has spotted or is approaching the photographer.
Taking its point of departure in the idea that every person on Earth is connected in the sixth degree, this series of photos depicts human connections through the city of Copenhagen. The set up is that Jens Juul portray random people that he engage with in the streets, and that these chance meetings end up with him taking highly personal photos of these people, who then each send Jens Juul on to another person in their network, who he can portray, who then gives me the name of another person...
"Of the Tiger and Turtle" is a work of art on an industrial landmark. In the background you can see a steel mill.
Image Description: Jaranan is one of traditional culture in Indonesia, this dance usually play with trance by ghost. It looks unusual because jaranan usually has played by adult . this boy playing as pentulan.