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.
Whenever i'm in Amsterdam i head to Foam, the city's museum of photography. Out of habit mostly. I actually think that Huis Marseille's programme is often bolder and more relevant to my own interests but this month Foam has a show titled Primrose - Russian Colour Photography and the word "Russia" always does it for me. The exhibition charts Russia's attempts to produce coloured photographic images from the 1860s to 1970s. Room after rooms, the visitor realizes that photography is a cogent filter to reveal the history of a country in the course of a century.
You can read a text written by curator Olga Sviblova over here. It presents with great clarity the changes in technology and the socio-political vicissitudes Russia went through during the early days of colour photography. Not only am i no expert in Russian history nor photography techniques but i'm also an ultra lazy blogger. I hope you will excuse me if i just sum up (but mostly cut/copy/paste) Sviblova's words below:
Colour became widespread in Russian photography in the 1860s. At the time, colour was added to photographic prints manually using watercolour and oil paints. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Russia was undergoing two opposing trends: active europeanisation and search for a national identity that translated into tinted photographs that portrayed people wearing national costumes -- Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Ukrainian, etc.
The photographic documentation of life in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century acquired the status of a State objective. In May 1909 Tsar Nicholas II gave an audience to the photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky who, in 1902, had announced a technique for creating colour photographs by combining shots taken successively through light filters coloured blue, green and red. Delighted with this invention, Emperor Nicholas II commissioned the photographer to take colour photographs of life in the various regions of the Empire.
Meanwhile autochrome pictures by the Lumière brothers, with whom Prokudin-Gorsky worked after emigrating to France, became very popular in early 20th-century Russia. Autochromes, colour transparencies on a glass backing, could be viewed against the light, or projected with the aid of special apparatus. They were used by Pyotr Vedenisov, a nobleman whose hobby was to photograph his own family life. The private image later provided an excellent description of the typical lifestyle enjoyed at the time by educated Russian noblemen.
The onset of the First World War in 1914 and October Revolution in 1917 reduced to ruins the Russia whose memory is preserved in the tinted photographs and autochromes of the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Vladimir Lenin and the new Soviet government saw photography as an important propaganda weapon for a country where 70% of the population were unable to read or write. From the mid-1920s photomontage, used as an ideological 'visual weapon', was widespread in the Soviet Union, enthusiastically encouraged by the Bolsheviks.
From the mid-1920s Alexander Rodchenko regenerated the forgotten technique of hand colouring his own photographs. In 1937, at the height of Stalin's repression, Rodchenko began photographing classical ballet and opera, using the arsenal of his aesthetic opponents, the Russian pictorialists, who by that time were subject to harsh repression. For Alexander Rodchenko soft focus, classical subject matter and toning typical of pictorial photography were a mediated way of expressing his internal escapism and tragic disillusionment with the Soviet utopia.
In 1932 general rules for socialist realism were published in the USSR, as the only creative method for all forms of art, including photographic. Soviet art had to reflect Soviet myths about the happiest people in the happiest country, not real life and real people.
In 1936 both Agfa and Kodak introduced colour film but Second World War delayed their broad distribution to the amateur photography market. In the USSR colour photography only appeared at the end of the war.
Until the mid-1970s, in the USSR negative film for printing colour photographs was a luxury only available to a few official photographers who worked for major Soviet publications. All of them were obliged to follow the canons of socialist realism and practise staged reportage.
From the late 1950s, in the Khrushchev Thaw after the debunking of Stalin's cult of personality, the canons of socialist realism softened and permitted a certain freedom in aesthetics, allowing photography to move closer to reality.
In the postwar period, during the 1950s to 1960s life gradually improved and coloured souvenir photo portraits again appeared on the mass market. They were usually produced by unknown and 'unofficial' photographers, since private photo studios that used to carry out such commissions were now forbidden, and the State exercised a total monopoly on photography by the 1930s.
Boris Mikhailov copied, enlarged and tinted these kitsch photo souvenirs to supplement his income at his photo lab in the early 1970s. Revealing and deconstructing the nature of Soviet myths in the process.
Colour transparency film, which could be developed even in domestic surroundings, appeared on the Soviet mass market in the 1960s and 1970s. It was widely used by amateurs, who created transparencies that could be viewed at home with a slide projector. An unofficial art form emerging in the USSR at this time developed the aesthetics and means for a new artistic conceptualisation of reality, quite different from the socialist realism that still prevailed, although somewhat modified.
More than half a century of Soviet power after the 1917 Revolution radically altered Russia. The photographer was certainly not required or even allowed to take nude studies as corporeality and sexuality were seen as inherent signs of an independent individual. In photographing Suzi Et Cetera Boris Mikhailov disrupts the norms and reveals characters, his own and that of his subjects. It was impossible to show these shots in public, but slides could be projected at home, in the workshops of his artist friends or the often semi-underground clubs of the scientific and technical intelligentsia, who began to revive during Khrushchev's Thaw after the Stalinist repression. Boris Mikhailov's slide projections are now analogous to the apartment exhibitions of unofficial art. By means of colour he displayed the dismal standardisation and squalor of surrounding life, and his slide performances helped to unite people whose consciousness and life in those years began to escape from the dogmatic network of Soviet ideology, which permitted only one colour -- red.
KK Outlet, a communication agency slash art gallery slash bookshop, is now showing Franck Allais' comical Subverting The City, street photos of city boys dressed in their usual grey suit attire from the waist up but in pencil skirts and heels from the waist down.
And i was going to leave you with this when i realized i might as well add a quick sequences of of images illustrating exhibitions i've seen around town recently.
There's Tarzan and Arab! Their posters pastiche the Hollywood war movie genre. The title of each film sounds very action movie: Summer Rain, Autumn Clouds, Defensive Shield, Sea Breeze, Cast Lead, etc. The cruel irony is that each of them is also the name of a Israeli military operation against Palestinians. Their latest creation is Operation Pillar of Cloud which refers to the eight-day Israel Defense Forces offensive on Gaza.
Pillar of Cloud, as the poster states, is a film by IDF Production, produced by U.S.A. government and directed by Benjamin Netanyahu (assisted by Arab Governments.)
Laila Shawa's Stealth Cross-Metamorphoses, a cross equipped with four rockets, looms over your head as you go down the stairs of the gallery.
Adel Abdessemed, an artist who has my eternal gratitude for turning my ham-addicted boyfriend into a vegan, is at the David Zwirner gallery. The show is about war, violence, and spectatorship. There's an aptly-titled Le Vase abominable positioned on top of explosive devices. No explanation about the meaning of the work but there is a guided tour of the exhibition on March 7 and i do intend to find out. Upstairs, among other works, are drawings featuring soldiers in full battle gear. The animation in the adjacent room is fascinating on its own but i just read what it is about and i'm even going to copy/paste the text accompanying it: State is projected onto all four walls in a separate room and features labyrinth-like drawings which recall Republican prisoner protests at HM Prison Maze in Northern Ireland during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Fighting for their right to wear their own clothes on the basis that they were not convicted criminals, they wrapped themselves in blankets rather than the provided uniforms and refused to leave their cells, which in turn were not sufficiently cleaned. They consequently smeared the walls with their own excrement, beginning the so-called "dirty protests."
Never a dull moment with Abdessemed.
The central work in Massimo Bartolini's exhibition at Firth Street Gallery is a scaled-up barrel, like that of a giant musical-box, slowly revolves, opening and closing the valves of a wind organ whose pipes form part of the structure on which the mechanism sits. The music produced by the organ has been composed in collaboration with the artist by Italian composer Edoardo Marraffa. Surprisingly soothing and seductive.
Viral Research is the second exhibition dedicated to the Collection Sandretto Re Rebaudengo that i visit at the Whitechapel Gallery. The first i saw was all about Maurizio Cattelan. His dead squirrel, cheese carpet and hanged self-portrait. Viral Research is supremely different. I particularly liked the b&w photos of Zoe Leonard.
Paradise Row has a few good works in Kiss Me Deadly, a group show of new art from Los Angeles framed by the sensibilities and concerns of film noir culture that flourished in L.A. in the 1940's and 50's.
I'll close with one of Michael Bauer's paintings at Alison Jacques gallery.