Über Grenzen. On Borders, photographs by Ostkreuz - Agentur der Fotografen. Texts by Andrea Böhm, Wolfgang Büscher, Fabian Dietrich, Anna-Christina Hartmann and Marcus Jauer. Graphic design by Jan Spading.
Available on amazon UK, i couldn't find it on amazon USA.)
Publisher Hatje Cantz writes: They offer protection, lead to war, limit freedom, or make it possible; they have always been there and they will continue to exist: borders. Hardly anything else is as socially ambivalent, as timeless, and simultaneously as extremely relevant. The Ostkreuz agency was founded when what was probably the most important border in the history of Germany--the Berlin Wall--disappeared. Two decades later, the agency's photographers set out on a search for today's frontiers. Their pictures tell of discovering a state identity in South Sudan; they portray groups of indigenous peoples battling for their land in Canada and gay people in Palestine seeking exile in the enemy country of Israel. The focus is always on people: how do boundaries influence their everyday lives, and how do they shape their lives along those that surround them?
This book is about conflicts, misunderstandings, distrust, isolation, greed, fear, privileges and control. Über Grenzen. On Borders contains the kind of images you see in newspapers and press photo exhibitions. This time however they come with the personal story of the photographer: the doubts, the dangers encountered (one of them was kidnapped on the job), the challenges, the disappointments. I like the way photographers write. Whether they do it in the form of a diary or of a more traditional reportage article, whether they attempt to stay neutral or cannot hide their involvement in the issue they are covering, photographers are factual, informative, and efficient. As someone whose job consists mostly in writing, i can only feel envy. I should have undertaken a formation in photography instead of philology (what was i thinking the day i enrolled in philologie classique?)
As the description suggests, Über Grenzen. On Borders takes you all around the world. The stories which are closer from home are obviously the ones that hurt the most: the extreme lengths the European Union goes to in order to keep at bay anyone who doesn't have the right passport; the communities, such as the Roma, who are vilified and driven out of their houses.
Here are some of photo reports presented in the book:
In A State Emerges, Espen Eichhöfer documents the first steps of a new nation: South Sudan. Houses might be ramshackle, government buildings might be hosted by temporary structures but the government and citizens rest their hopes on oil. About eighty percent of the oil deposits in all of Sudan are in their territory.
The Green Line looks at the Republic of Cyprus which, officially, is still undivided. Since the invasion by Turkish troops in 1974, however, the government only controls two-thirds of the national territory. The United Nations has guarded a buffer zone for almost forty years along the old ceasefire line. It runs right through the capital city.
Members of the Lubicon Cree (in today's Canada) have never surrendered and relinquished their territory. But oil and gas development on or near their land is threatening their way of life, their culture, and their health.
Twenty-two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall Ute and Werner Mahler drove along the old border that used to separate East German citizens from the West: a strip of land almost 1400 kilometers long running from the Baltic in the Harz to the foothills of the Thuringian Forest, in Saxony.
Most illegal immigrants enter the European Union via the route that goes from Turkey to Greece. And the instruments put forward to keep them out are getting increasingly sophisticated. Mostly through the Frontex Agency, a EU border patrol that upgrades technology along the edges of Europe. In the future, they plan to use robots and drones.
A four-kilometer-wide strip has separated North and South Korea since 1953. Soldiers there are still on alert, and every once in a while a shot is fired. Nevertheless, the South Korean tourist office still lures tourists to the last existing border left over from the Cold War, which was a prohibited zone for a long time.
In Prato (Tuscany), the "pronto moda" industry churns out cheap clothes that imitate current trends. They are made by Chinese residents (many of whom entered the country illegally) who produce clothing "made in Italy," under the worst working conditions.
Views inside the book:
Almost two months ago, i wrote a couple of measly posts (Arnold Odermatt, policeman photographer and Artissima - Valerio Carrubba) about the 19th edition of Artissima, the contemporary art fair that takes place in Turin each year in November. I've finally decided to catch up with my reports from the fair.
While reading articles in the local press, i learnt that Artisima broke all its records of affluence this year. That doesn't surprise me. A few years ago, Turin decided to squeeze all its major cultural events into the same November week. So the art fair was accompanied by various openings in the city and by an 'off' fair, nothing unusual here. But that same week also saw the commissions It's Not The End Of The World displayed in various museums for a few days, a digital art festival, a festival of electronic music, a photo fair, an exhibition dedicated to 'emerging art'', etc. A fantastic strategy to attract tourists. A lame idea for art-loving people who live in this city.
As a brief intro (which will actually be the third 'brief intro'), here's a quick copy/paste of the photographic works that i found most interesting at Artissima. Some of them are purely photographic works. But because i didn't see as many stunning photos as usual this year, i'm adding images that document performances and interventions. Starting with...
The 11 metre long, pink neon sign was first erected on the roof of an abandoned barn in a region of Norway made famous by Edvard Munch. Kjartansson lived there for a week, looking dejected and playing the guitar for days, many of which not a single human visitor came.
Naufus Ramírez Figueroa was one of the 3 winners of the Premio Illy for young artists.
Karen Knorr's series of large-scale photos star wildlife animals inhabiting the elegant salons of famous cultural institutions and castles.
Edgar Leciejewski: a name to add to the already long list of artists working with blow-ups of "Google Street View".
Per-Oskar Leu's "The English: Are they human?" site-specific installation showed two Italian Mille Miglia parka. Their integrated goggles and 'built for speed' appearance has made these jackets a sought-after garment among football fans with inclinations towards fighting and luxury apparel. Since the early 1980's groups of British 'risk supporters' have embraced a dress code of upmarket, mainly French and Italian sportswear brands, a look which has in turn been adapted by fans in Europe following an increase in 'The English Disease' of football hooliganism. Simultaneously, Leu conjures up imagery from other cross-cultural phenomena equally fixated upon the cult of youthful aggression; namely the Italian Futurist movement and its English offshoot the Vorticist group, founded in 1909 and 1913 respectively.
In 1999, Nedko Solakov wrote fourteen short messages and narratives on the wings of six of Luxair's Boeing 737's. Each of them was visible only from the window seats.
In case you were wondering what the fair looked like:
One last reason why i love Artissima:
I wasn't particularly dazzled by the press pictures of the exhibition Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s and i thought i'd visit it on a day i'd be really really bored. Which you're never supposed to be in London. Still, last Sunday i was at the Barbican, attempting to recover from the heart attack i had when i saw the endless queue to experience Random International's Rain Room and took the lift to see the photo show. I found that the press pictures didn't do it justice. Everything Was Moving is a magnificent, albeit slightly exhausting, show. The exhibition shows the work of photographers who lived and worked in countries as different from each other as Ukraine under Soviet control and Apartheid South Africa, Maoist China and Vietnam attacked by American soldiers. Plenty of politics, social issues and conflicts to cover!
I might not have (or rather 'take') the time to cover the whole exhibition but one of the rooms that impressed me the most was dedicated to the work of Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu. His most famous series is "Nagasaki 11:02". Fifteen years after the horrific atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Shomei Tomatsu was commissioned by the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs to document the effects of the A-bomb on the city of Nagasaki and on its inhabitants.
The series is named after the photo of a watch that was dug up 0.7km from the epicenter of the explosion and which stopped at the exact moment the bomb fell: 11:02 a.m on the 9th of August 1945.
Another of his most admired series is Chewing Gum and Chocolate which exposes the influences of the US occupying forces and of American military and popular culture on Japanese society.
Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s remains open until 13 January 2013 at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.
Photo on the homepage: Hairstyle, Tokyo 1969.
The exhibition Shoot! Existential Photography opened a few weeks ago at The Photographers' Gallery and i never got to mention it so far. The selection of work is fantastic, the theme is seductive and it makes you want to locate the nearest playground.
Load, aim, Fire!
In the period following World War I, a curious attraction appeared at fairgrounds: the photographic shooting gallery. If the punter's bullet hit the centre of the target, this triggered a camera. Instead of winning a balloon or toy, the participant would win a snapshot of him or herself in the act of shooting.
The exhibition celebrates the use of the shooting gallery at fairgrounds by the famous (from Jean-Paul Sartre to Federico Fellini) and the non-famous but also the contemporary artists who have been intrigued by the idea of shooting oneself.
The most stunning work in the show is probably the video-sound installation Crossfire by Christian Marclay. I felt like that rabbit in the headlights of a car (or was it a hare? or a deer?) Crossfire is a super fast, loud and powerful sampling of shooting scenes from Hollywood movies. You stand in the middle of the room and wherever you turn your gaze there's Clint Eastwood, Antonio Banderas or some other action hero star aiming and shooting at you.
Since the late 1970s, Jean-François Lecourt has been literally shooting his own image. In his early experiments, the bullet smashes the camera. The roll is pierced by the shoot. In the second series, the bullet perforates a wall of the lightproof box, a ray of light comes in and leaves a mark on the photosensitive paper.
Similarly, Rudolf Steiner uses the camera as a target. In the series Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture, the bullet hole is the aperture for a pinhole camera, creating an image upon impact.
The story of Ria van Dijk is endearing. Every single year, the lady goes to a fairground shooting gallery in Tilburg, Netherlands to shoot a self portrait. She started her pilgrimage to the shooting booth in 1936, when she was 16. The artist Erik Kessels collected all the images she has taken at the fair. Going from one self-portrait to another is fascinating. You see her hair getting greyer, her glasses following the fashion of the passing decades, her friends or fans coming along with her, etc. The only pause in the sequence is from 1939 to 1945.
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.
Sylvia Ballhause bought a shooting rig from the booth of a family business in Germany. It was the last booth working with analogue, large-format cameras in the country.
The shooting gallery is not as popular as it used to be but you don't need to go far to try the amusement yourself, the Photographers' Gallery has turned on of its rooms into a photographic shooting gallery so that visitors can shoot (at) themselves.
Shoot! Existential Photography is up at the Photographers' Gallery in London until 6 January 2013.
Related story: The cameras that record the moment of their own destruction.
This afternoon i stopped by the Victoria & Albert Museum to see Light from the Middle East, an exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East. It wasn't overwhelmingly brilliant but the show has some very strong pieces. In particular, a photo series that appears to draw parallels between the water towers photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher and the Israeli watchtowers in Occupied Palestine.
The artist writes:
As a Palestinian born in Gaza I am not authorized to return to the West Bank, so I delegated a Palestinian photographer to carry out these photos. They are out of focus, clumsily framed, imperfectly lighted. In this territory, one cannot install the heavy equipment of the Bechers or take the time to frame the perfect position, let alone afford to wait days for the ideal light conditions. Aestheticization becomes a vivid political challenge, both in the creation of these photographs and in their reception, as these images challenge viewers to see these functional military constructions as sculptural, or as a part of a formal architectural heritage.
This morning i went to the press view of Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union at the Saatchi Gallery and I'm not sure that the artists participating to the exhibition heartily agree with Joseph Stalin's statement. Although this survey of contemporary art in Russia contains humour, balls and a few satisfyingly good pieces, the show is not exactly cheerful.
Take the gentlemen portrayed by Sergei Vasiliev. Their skin is their biopic: each of their tattoos carries political messages and details about their criminal life. The motifs were drawn using whichever tools and ink they could get their hands on: melted books, urine, blood, etc.
Vasiliev worked both as a photographer for a newspaper in Chelyabinsk and as a prison warden when he encountered the work of Danzig Baldaev. Baldaev was the son of an ethnographer who was arrested as an "enemy of the people", he grew up in an orphanage and spent over 30 years working in the Soviet penal system. Baldaev recorded the horrors of the Gulag in dozens of drawings but he gained fame for his meticulous documentation of the tattoos etched on the skin of the inmates. His notes and part of the 3,000 drawings he made of the tattoos are published in 3 volumes entitled Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia: Volume I, Volume II and Volume III.
Photographs by Sergei Vasiliev are featured in the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia. Now they are also at the Saatchi Gallery where they are covering the walls of one of the exhibition rooms:
More photos on the website of Fuel Design.
Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union: Art from Russia, Saatchi Gallery, London, runs from November 21 2012 till May 5 2013. Don't miss the accompanying show upstairs Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art, 1960-80s, it has some stunning works.