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Margaret Bourke-White, Crewmen of B-36 Bomber Posing in Artic Equipment

The WORK Gallery in London has recently opened a fascinating exhibition that looks at the role that photography has played in constructing the public image of atomic energy and 'the bomb'. I was expecting a dark and dramatic show but many of the images on the walls are alarmingly cheerful and wonderful.

The first group of works exhibited are the iconic images of the mushroom cloud. What i didn't suspect is that some of these explosions were accompanied by 'atomic tourism' (which has in no way disappeared, even though we might take contamination less recklessly these days.) Atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada, for example, drew enthusiastic crowd of journalists and curious. They sat down wearing 'protective' eyewear and admired the explosions from vantage points which were sometimes perilously close to the blasts.

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Viewers and members of the press at "News Nob", Yucca Flats, NV, April 22, 1952. Marcel Verdooner/U.S. Army Photograph

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Detonation of the nuclear device air-dropped at Nevada Test Site on March 29, 1955. Operation Teapot - Wasp Prime

Those were times of faith in science and in particular in nuclear energy. As illustrated by Walt Disney/s 1957 tv episode Our Friend the Atom, the crowning of miss Atomic Bomb, families proudly posing into their fallout shelter, the futuristic architecture of nuclear power structures, as well as streets and venues that celebrate everything nuclear in Richland, a town located near the first full-scale plutonium production reactor.

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Michael Crawford, Atomic Lanes, n.d. Collection of John O'Brian

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Michael Crawford, Nuclear Lane, 2000. Collection of John O'Brian

The exhibition also shows the other side of the nuclear medal: scars on the bodies of civilians injured in Hiroshima, an elementary school built on grounds contaminated by nuclear waste, artistic works that use views of New York to visualize the scale of an atomic destruction, protests that bring to light overlooked issues of safety and security.

Most of the photos on display at WORK gallery come from the archive of art historian and curator John O'Brian. The show also accompanies the publication of his latest book: Camera Atomica.

I'd recommend checking them both. The exhibition and the book. The show is up until 20 December, it's not far away from King's Cross station, i think it would be rude to miss it if you're in town. The book is a gold mine of photos, historical facts, shocking anecdotes. It's also a demonstration of the strength of the image when it comes to shaping memories and imagination. I've mixed images seen in the gallery and photos found in the book in this quick post.

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Camera Atomica: Photographing the Nuclear World, edited by writer and curator John O'Brian. Contributions by Hiromitsu Toyosaki, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Blake Fitzpatrick, Susan Schuppli, Iain Boal, Gene Ray, Douglas Coupland (available at Blackdog Publishing and on Amazon USA and UK)

And now for the many photos i promised you:

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Photographer Unknown, Operation Redwing Super H Bomb - Tom and the Big Boy and Baby Bomb, 1956

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Photographer Unkown, Cave Bomb Shelter, June 1972

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Photographer Unknown, Anti-Nuclear Bomb War Protest Sign, July 1967. Collection of John O'Brian

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The United States-Japan Security Treaty Protest, Tokyo, June 15, 1960, Hiroshi Hamaya, gelatin silver print. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012.29.2. © Keisuke Katano

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Michael Light, 100 SUNS: 008 STOKES/19 Kilotons/ Nevada/1957, 2003

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Press Agency Photo. Vice Admiral W.H.P ("Spike") Blandy and his Wife Cutting an Atomic Cake, 1946

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Paul Shambroom, B83 1-megaton nuclear gravity bombs in Weapons Storage Area, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, 1995

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Emergency Life Pack for Nuclear Fallout, New York, 1961 -- Max Scheler

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Interior of heavy ion linear accelerator, University of California Berkeley, 1971. Photograph: Work Gallery/Black Dog Publishing

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Curt Gunther, Hydrogen Bomb Explosion, Yucca Flats, Nevada, 12 October 1967. Collection of John O'Brian

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Atomic Postcard. Explosion at Yucca Flat, n.d. Collection of John O'Brian

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Atomic Postcard, Britain, n.d. Collection of John O'Brian

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Photographer Unknown, Face 1945-1950

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John Carlton, New York Nightmare: Air-burst Atomic Bombs Make Cities in the Northeast Obsolete..., 1949

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Checking radioactive tuna, Tokyo, 1954 (via)

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Construction of The Atomium, Brussels, 1957-1958 (via)

Check out After The Flash. Photography from the Atomic Archive at the WORK Gallery in London, until 20 December 2014.

Related posts: Anecdotal radiations, the stories surrounding nuclear armament and testing programs, La Cosa Radiactiva / The Radioactive Thing, Book review - Fallout Shelter. Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War,
Yasusuke Ota: The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima, Harold Edgerton, "the man who made time stand still", Shomei Tomatsu, etc.

Photo on the homepage: Michael Light, 100 Suns: 099 Bravo, 2003.

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This is Giulio Andreotti, a legend in Italian politics:

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Giulio Andreotti, Rome, 1970s © TEAM Editorial Services/Alinari

For almost half a century, Andreotti occupied all the major offices of state. He held the post of prime minister 7 times and for longer than any other postwar Italian politician except Silvio Berlusconi. Andreotti was not as farcical as Berlusconi though but he was every bit as shrewd as a Borgia. He was involved in most political corruption scandals, was tried for mafia association and has also been accused of being involved in a variety of conspiracies related to high profile assassinations, massacres and banking crimes. In his 2008 film, Il Divo: La Straordinaria vita di Giulio Andreotti, director Paolo Sorrentino, highlighted the responsibility of Giulio Andreotti in the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, former prime minister and then president of Christian Democracy (Italy's relative majority party at the time). Sorrentino is not the only one to hold that suspicion. Many believe that Moro was the agnello sacrificale, the sacrificial lamb who had to be executed because of his efforts to include the Communist Party in a coalition government.

On 16 March 1978, Moro's car was assaulted by a group of Red Brigades terrorists in Rome. His corpse was later found in the trunk of a Renault 4 after 55 days of imprisonment.

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9 May 1978: Aldo Moro's body is found in via Caetani, Rome in the trunk of a Renault 4

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Moro, photographed during his kidnapping by the Red Brigades

Andreotti, Moro but also Andy Warhol, Federico Fellini and many others appear in Amore e Piombo: The Photography of extremes in 1970s Italy, one of the exhibitions of the Brighton Photo Biennial. Amore e Piombo means Love and Lead. Lead as in the anni di piombo, the tumultuous years of social conflict and acts of terrorism carried out by right- and left-wing paramilitary groups in the Italy of the 1970s. Now the Amore comes with the glamour of Cinecitta and the stars photographed by paparazzi in the streets of Rome. Two worlds poles apart that characterized Italy in the 70s and were documented by a group of photographers working for the agency Team Editorial Services.

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Specialist anti-riot police unit Cellere, 70s

The press photographers constantly shifted between battling film stars at play and the reality of near civil war unfolding on the streets. Politics and celebrity are brought together through the paparazzi style of alto contrasto, collusion and intrusion. Alluded to, although less visible, are the murkier dealings of clandestine groups linked to the Italian Secret Services, The P2 Masonic Lodge the CIA and NATO, operating against the backdrop of the extremes of the Red and Black Brigades. Archive prints are presented alongside television news footage, film sequences and sound recordings. A choice of Italian photo-books of the period, loaned from the Martin Parr collection, add a further layer of reference.

Amore e Piombo is an exhibition as fascinating and enigmatic as the years it portrays. Don't miss it if you're in or around Brighton:

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Demonstration against the Historic Compromise, alliance of the Christian Democracy (DC) and the Italian Communist party (PCI), Rome, 70s All photographs: Alinari Courtesy The Archive of Modern Conflict

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Giulio Andreotti in the early 70s during his first time as prime minister of Italy and leader of the Christian Democrats

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Actors Ninetto Davoli and Franco Citti with director Pier Paolo Pasolini (standing) in an actors' football team, 70s

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French actor Alain Delon on an Italian film set

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Clash between police and far-left protesters, Rome, 1977

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Avelar Brandão Vilela, Brazilian cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, 1970s

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Brigitte Bardot in Les Femmes, directed by Jean Aurel, Rome, 1969

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A police bodyguard lies dead after Red Brigades ambush and kidnap Aldo Moro, via Fani, Rome, 16 March 1978

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Pro-divorce demonstration in advance of the divorce referendum, 1974

Views of the exhibition space:

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The Guardian has more images.

Amore e Piombo: The Photography of extremes in 1970s Italy was co-commissioned by the Archive of Modern Conflict and Photoworks, curated by Roger Hargreaves and Federica Chiocchetti. It is open until 2 November at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

A few weeks ago, i discovered the existence of the Barts Pathology Museum. And then i visited it so you don't have to.

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Gout, 1908

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Photo Barts Pathology Museum (via)

The museum was opened in 1879 and its collections of organs and tissues were used to train medical students. The museum is located in a charming wood, steel and white shelves space with three mezzanine levels and a spiral staircase. The 5,000 specimen collection, however, is even more gruesome than i had suspected.

The jars are filled with all kinds of deformed and diseased body parts: a gout-swollen hand, an inguinal hernia from around 1750, the bound foot of a Chinese woman, the skeletons of conjoined twins, a liver dented by years of wearing tight corsets, a brain perforated with an ice pick during a frontal lobotomy, a rat that died of tuberculosis, a cabinet of surprisingly voluminous objects that people inserted into their bodies (more about that one in the video below), etc.

I loved the place and i hope it will be open to the public more often in the future. Even though that museum will haunt my nightmares for years to come. Photos were not allowed on my visit. I've therefore stolen as many images as i could online (with due credit wherever i could find it, of course.)

Here's a quick presentation of some of the specimens. Some with comments, others with only the shortest description:

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These skeletons of conjoined twins are among the museum's 5,000 specimens. Photo: Tony "TK" Smith/Barts Pathology Museum

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Bound Foot of a Chinese Woman, 1862

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Skull of John Bellingham (1769 - 1812)

On the afternoon of 11 May, 1812, John Bellingham, a bankrupt businessman, walked into the lobby of the Palace of Westminster and shot prime minister Spencer Perceval, making him the only UK prime minister to be assassinated. Bellingham was sentenced sentenced to death by hanging. As was customary for the time, his body was donated to hospitals to be dissected and anatomized. His skull is preserved at Barts Pathology Museum.

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Bart's Pathology Museum, England

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Judicial Hanging (Fracture of the Cervical Vertebra)

These vertebrae were damaged following a method of judicial hanging called The Long Drop or "Measured Drop" which takes the person's height and weight into consideration. It meant that the rope was the right length to ensure an instantaneous death caused by 'a broken neck' but didn't result in the decapitation of the victim which did occur frequently.

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Liver of a woman who wore a tight corset, before and after conservation

This pot contains a large portion of the liver of a 52 year old female. It is supposedly exhibiting the deformities caused by prolonged 'tight-lacing' of corsets and is dated 1907. The liver is on its side in the glass pot, and the deformity can clearly be seen in the form of a cleft splitting the right lobe of the liver in two.

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Fracture of Mandible (Bi-Lateral), 1886

"A fracture of the mandible. The jaw is broken between the canine and the first bicuspid teeth on either side. This is the common seat of fracture. It was wired during life. (1886)
From a boy, aged 14, who was caught between the rollers of a printing-machine, sustaining such injuries that he died within a week."

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Specimens of 'Chimney Sweeps' Cancer'. Image by Patricia Niven via Spitalfields Life

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A rat that suffered from tuberculosis. Image by Patricia Niven via Spitalfields Life

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The oldest specimen is this inguinal hernia from around 1750, preserved by Percivall Potts. Image from Spitalfields Life

I'll close this post with a little gem. Carla Valentine, Assistant Technical Curator at the museum takes us through some of the dangers of inserting foreign objects into orifices:


"It's what's inside that counts": A Potted History of...Rectal Insertion

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Polycystic disease, 1897

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Contraction of palmar fascia, 1886

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Chronic Ulcer (erosion of splenic artery), 1902

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Photo: Tony "TK" Smith/Barts Pathology Museum

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Bart's Pathology Museum, England

The Barts Pathology Museum is located at the St Bartholomew's Hospital in Smithfield in the City of London. The museum is usually closed to the public. Except for a few afternoons in August and for special events and taxidermy classes. Unfortunately, The Gordon Museum of Pathology which seems to be bigger and fascinating is not open to the public either.

Related stories: Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men + The Hunterian Museum + Brains: The Mind as Matter.

In our collective unconscious the atom bomb is synonymous with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But since 1945 it has been documented that more than 2079 nuclear bombs have been detonated on Earth. Since the end of the Second World War, nuclear power countries have methodically bombed their own lands. Self mutilation in the name of self defense.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

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Copa Room showgirl Lee Merlin poses in a cotton mushroom cloud swimsuit as she is crowned "Miss Atomic Bomb 1957." Photo Credit: Don English/ Las Vegas News Bureau/Las Vegas Sun

Anecdotal Radiations is a series that uncovers the unknown, forgotten and often very strange stories surrounding nuclear armament and testing programs. A couple of the anecdotes are well-known such as the Miss Atomic Bomb pageant or the story of the bikini. Others are downright baffling: the chicken vaporized when a nuclear bomb is dropped by mistake, the taste of a beer after a nuclear explosion, the ultra secret activation code on all American nuclear weapons set to "00000000", etc.

David Fathi has collected archive photos, satellite imagery, packshots and road-trip photos. By adding his own images to the archive documents, the photographer orchestrates a series of baffling, yet true, stories that illustrate the discrepancies that exist between the world we have created and the world we believe we live in.

I discovered the series last month at the festival Photo Ireland and the more i read about these anecdotes on Fathi's website, the more i thought i should get in touch with him and interview him:

Hi David! What inspired you to have a look at some of the 'unfamiliar stories and anecdotes' about nuclear bombing and experiments?

I believe my fascination started a couple of years back with one image.

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Nuclear explosion photographed less than one millisecond after detonation. From the Tumbler-Snapper test series in Nevada, 1952, showing fireball and "rope trick" effects. The fireball is about 20 meters in diameter in this shot

This is the photo of a nuclear explosion, just a couple of milliseconds after its detonation. At the time, nothing could capture such images, and scientists had to design an entirely new high-speed camera. I was mesmerized by this photo, as it is a scientific document of something terrifying but seems so abstract and beautiful.

We normally have this very clear image of the atomic bomb as a mushroom cloud, and here we have a photo that completely changes our perception of it, by showing its origin.
I wanted to find a way to talk about this image in a project some day, but hadn't found the right approach yet.

Last year I finally started researching nuclear testing, and it was like going down the rabbit hole. I knew, just like everybody else, that nuclear testing happened during the cold war. But I had never really stopped to think about what that meant. When I thought about the bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki is what came to mind, even though since then, more than two thousand bombs have detonated on earth.

The more I researched, the weirder it got. When trying to deal with the gap between weapons of unfathomable power and the human stories of the men who try to master them it becomes absurd, terrifying and darkly funny.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

The series mixes archival photos, satellite imagery, packshots and road-trip photos. How do you combine them? do you start with archive material and then add your own images to fill some gaps, for example?

I start with an anecdote. After enough research, I find this small story that is totally true, but seems unreal. It becomes one of the building blocks around which I start gathering photos.

Then I list the typologies of photos I want to use (satellite imagery, archives, packshots, roadtrip) and try to find how I can illustrate in a literal fashion the story. Once I have gathered enough material, it seems very factual and straightforward. That's when I try to break it up, and find images that are more metaphorical and only tangentially related to the story.

The aim is to create a documentary based on facts, but the result seems like fiction. So it's all about finding a balance between precise documentation and playful deconstruction.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

Some of the experiments you selected for the series seem to have been conceived by brazen, unconscious minds. There are also accidental releases of nuclear bombs too. Do you you think the military is more cautious nowadays or are there still some dangerous experiments taking place? How much do you think is still hidden from us?

I'm close to finishing my project, and I'm trying to find a couple of stories that are more recent, so that people remember that nuclear weapons are not just a thing of the past and more probably something we will have to continue dealing with for centuries to come.
So here are a couple of things that we learned recently about the United States nuclear program:

- In August 2007, six nuclear warheads were loaded by mistake on a military plane. When it landed, nobody knew the devices were on board. The plane was left unguarded on the tarmac for 36 hours before people realized what was happening.

- In September 2013, the n°2 officer in charge of Nuclear Command was fired for gambling with counterfeit poker chips.

- In December 2013, one of the top generals in command of nuclear armament was fired for an incident in Moscow where he was seen with Russian escort girls drunkenly boasting about what he was in charge of.

- In March 2014, 82 nuclear launch officers were implicated in a cheating scandal on their security exams.

These are just stories uncovered by the press in the USA, as Russian, Chinese, French, British, Israeli, etc. Nuclear programs are very tightly kept under wraps. It's nearly impossible to get relevant data about those.

With all of this in mind, I find it hard to understand how nuclear armament is not more prominent in the news.

Could you pick up some of the images you selected from archives or made yourself and comment what they are about? Explaining why you chose them from archives or why and how you made them? (i started selecting the photos that intrigued me the most but i ended up with so many of them i decided i'd let you chose instead)

This photo is an actual press archive of Spanish minister for information and tourism Manuel Fraga Iribarne and US ambassador Angier Biddle Duke swimming near Palomares, Spain, after the crash of a B-52 bomber and the loss of four nuclear warheads. All to assure the local population that everything is safe and under control.
The manipulation on top of Fraga is a superposition of the satellite image of a nuclear crater.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

Speaking of satellite imagery, I printed out photos of nuclear impacts. I then created these sculptures for two reasons. Firstly they seem like rocks & minerals, alluding to the melted rocks you can actually find on sites where nuclear bombs were tested. And secondly to give these images a 3D existence. All these "scars" are visible just by going on Google Earth, but we still don't really know they exist, so maybe by giving them this three-dimensional quality they can appear as more "real".

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

This photo was taken on the road between Nevada and California. There have been some lawsuits around these regions by communities who claim having been exposed "downwind" from the Nevada Test Site. I took quite a few photos along this path, looking for semi-fictional traces of these stories.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

This is a screenshot from the documentary Atomic Café, a great source of information that everybody should watch. The movie has an incredible wealth of obscure archival films of the cold war era. This particular clip is still amazing to me, as I have found no clue to where it came from. It's part of a long list of absurdities you stumble upon when doing research on the subject (like Nuclear War card games, Miss Atom Bomb beauty pageants, etc)

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

What were your objectives in publishing this series of photos. Was it purely informative and anecdotical or is there a more socially engaged or political motivation behind the series?

My interest in this subject is mainly psychological. The politics of nuclear armament seem pretty easy. Even people in charge of such programs do not see nuclear bombs as a good thing. So how do we deal intellectually with their continuing existence?

There is a huge dissonance between the world we imagine we live in and the one we actually live in. The over-the-top consequences of nuclear bombs are so immense that we naturally shut it out of our minds. My objective is not to say nuclear bombs are bad (that is quite a boring statement and everybody agrees), but more to force people to question everything, entities of power as much as their own selves.

Governments and media have of course their role in keeping out of reach the implications of nuclear weapons, but we as individuals have as much a responsibility in comprehending history, science and human knowledge. In telling these small anecdotes, I try and use humor, terror, and a general playfulness to try to suck in the viewer, and get him or her to question what they think they know.

I hope this series is more about confronting our own way of perceiving the world, and how to think critically of the consequences of our decisions.

In fact the best thing for me would be if people would even call into question my own photos and stories. I'm telling you all this is true, but you'd be better off by doubting and starting your own investigation.

Thanks David!

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Facade of the Open Eye Gallery. Paul Morrison, Urformen © Photo Paul Karalius

Last month, i visited the Liverpool Biennial. It was boring (BO-RING) but it was still worth the trip. One: because I love Liverpool and i'm happy as long as people around me have that cute accent. Two: because of the show at the Open Eye Gallery. It is part of the official programme of the biennial but it was one of the few shows in town that made me think and reflect upon the art world and the way it is represented/represent itself.

Not All Documents Are Records: Photographing Exhibitions as an Art Form looks at photographic works that bring a critical and artistic gaze on some of the most important art events in the world and asks the question: "Can photography be the site where the history of an exhibition is produced and still retain its independent artistic autonomy, thus overcoming pure documentation?"

Four bodies of works are brought together to make us reflect on this question. Two are contemporary, they are by Cristina De Middel of the Afronauts fame and by Ira Lombardia. The other two, by Ugo Mulas and Hans Haacke respectively, are historical.

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Venice, 1968. Workers protests, XXXIV Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte Photo Ugo Mulas © Ugo Mulas Heirs

Venezia, 1968. Proteste studentesche, XXXIV Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte
Venice, 1968. Student protests, XXXIV Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte Photo Ugo Mulas © Ugo Mulas Heirs

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Photo © Paul Karalius

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Photo © Paul Karalius

Venezia, 1968. Sala di Rodolfo Aricò, XXXIV Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte
Venice, 1968. Room of Rodolfo Aricò, XXXIV Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte. Photo Ugo Mulas © Ugo Mulas Heirs

I'm going to start with Ugo Mulas' take on the Venice biennale of 1968. I knew the photographer's work for his portraits of the superstars of the art world in the 1960s. But the photos exhibited at the Open Eye Gallery are miles away from the glamour you might expect from the Venice event.

Mulas had been covering each edition of the Venice biennial since 1954. The images in the gallery date from 1968, a year marked by social uprisings around the world (Mai 68 in France, anti-Vietnam war demos, etc.) The art biennial, which naturally echoes changes in society, experienced similar turmoils. Students and intellectuals took to the street to protest against the establishment represented by the Venice Biennale, brandishing banners that denounced the "policed biennial of the bourgeoisie" (policemen were indeed guarding the entrance of the Giardini) and claiming that 'La Biennale è fascista.'

They also questioned the institution itself on matters such as freedom of speech and vilified it for its sales department, accusing the biennial of being a capitalist playground for the rich. The biennale's board subsequently dismantled the sales office.

In solidarity, some of the participating artists covered up their works, withdrew their work, turned them over or wrote over "in these conditions i'm not working."

Mulas photographed the most salient moments of the opening: the protests, the curators carelessly drinking spritz on Piazza San Marco, the police crackdown against demonstrators, etc.

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Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Gonzales Nun, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London

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Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Kandinsky, Micky Mouse, 1959 © Hans

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Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Léger Family, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London

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Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Cleaning Women, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London

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Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Magritte 2 Profiles, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London

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Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Pollocks, Large Group, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London

The context of Hans Haacke's photos of the second edition of Documenta in Kassel is very different from the one of the 1968 biennial. Founded in 1895, the Venice biennial is the oldest exhibition of its kind. Documenta was created 60 years later as a means for bringing Germany up to speed with the most modern and contemporary art forms that had been banned under Nazi's politics of artistic obscurantism and censorship.

Haacke, still a student at the Art Academy in Kassel in 1959, worked as an exhibition guard for the second edition of Documenta. In his free time, he independently took on the task of visually 'documenting Documenta'. The 26 black and white images hanging on the walls of the Open Eye Gallery are witty and full of humour. Instead of being strictly about the art exhibited, the images display Haacke's interest into the rituals and peculiarities of an art event. They show how absurd the dialogue between artworks and viewers can be. A family attempts to find some relationship between a description in the catalogue and the work hanging on the wall. A young boy is far more interested in mickey magazine than in the Kandinski hanging behind his back. Other photos gives us a glimpse of what happens behind the curtains of the art world: cleaning ladies doing their job, a Moore sculpture waiting next to a pile of bricks to be carried to the exhibition room.

Nowadays, most of us have seen images of the kind. The museum photos of Thomas Struth or Martin Parr's sneaky portraits of collectors at Dubai Art Fair, for example. In 1959, photographers' sociological explorations of the art world were pretty unusual.

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Cristina De Middel. Photo © Paul Karalius

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Cristina De Middel

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Cristina De Middel

Cristina De Middel was invited by the gallery to imagine what the future edition of the Liverpool Biennial would be like. The commission came as the preparations for the event were underway.

Instead of going into wild speculations, the photographers looked for evidence in the archives of photography and press cuttings that documented past editions of the event. She then used and remixed the images and headlines in prints that cover the walls of the first room of the gallery.

To create her collage, she contacted both the photographers who had made the original images and the artists whose work appear in the photo. The photographers gave her the permission to use and rework their images. Many of the artists, to my great surprise, refused. So while artists have been constantly borrowing and re-appropriating other artists works to create new ones, they negate photographers the possibility to do so. Does that mean that a photographer is not an artist? That they can only produce images that document? To meet their censorship, De Middel painted over the artworks appearing in the photos, blurring and often even distorting their contour. Her new body of work interrogates thus the authenticity of photography (something she had done previously with the Afronauts, a series that charted the 1964 Zambian space programme which never actually came to its full realization) and highlights the tension between creativity and documentation that the photographic medium encompasses.

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Ira Lombardia, And I Think to my selffffffffff what a wonderful worlllllllllld, 2012. Photo by Paul Karalius

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And I Think to my selffffffffff what a wonderful worlllllllllld © Ira Lombardia, 2012

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And I Think to my selffffffffff what a wonderful worlllllllllld © Ira Lombardia, 2012

Upstairs, i almost missed the work of Ira Lombardía. During her visit of the last edition of Documenta, the artist saw a light phenomenon on the floor of one of the exhibition gallery. She mistook it for an authentic work of art (such confusions happen to the best of us when dealing with contemporary art.) Lombardía took a photo of it and went on to create a whole narrative around it. She invented an artist and a description for the artwork that never was. She then copied faithfully the catalogue of the Documenta exhibition and substituted one of the artworks by her photo of the light phenomenon and added the bio of her fictitious artist. She later wrote a letter of apology to the artist whose name and work she had removed from the catalogue.

Not All Documents Are Records: Photographing Exhibitions as an Art Form, curated by Lorenzo Fusi, remains open until 19 October 2014 at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.


Guest exploring wind turbine in Q121. Image György Kőrössy

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Outside view of Q121. Image György Kőrössy

I know you're not supposed to ever be tired of London but if you feel like a change of atmosphere, there's some rather spectacular disused wind tunnels to gape at in Farnborough, a mere 35 minute train ride from Waterloo station.

The Wind Tunnel project filled with site-specific commissions two wind tunnels buildings, known as R52 and Q121, that were built to test planes, from Spitfires to Concorde. These buildings were decommissioned after the 1960s and have remained closed to the public ever since.

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A Bristol Bulldog TM, K3183 fitted with a Napier Rapier I engine, suspended in the 24ft Q121 wind tunnel, 1935. Photo courtesy of Farnborough Air Sciences Trust

Opened in 1935, Q121 is the largest wind tunnel in Great Britain. Inside, two gigantic holes face each other. One is a powerful fan with 600kg blades which would drag air fast and furious across the space between them to test complete planes and sections of bigger airplanes.

R52 was built in 1917. It is now an empty hangar but it used to house one of the world's earliest aerodynamic testing facilities.

Contemporary artworks by James Bridle and Thor McIntyre-Burnie explore the past of the buildings.

McIntyre-Burnie's sound pieces makes use of archive materials from the BBC to fill the impressive Q121.

The basis of his sound work is an outside recording made by the BBC of the song of a nightingale in 1942 in a garden in Surrey. It was a yearly broadcast since 1924 but this year, the microphone accidentally picked up the sound of RAF bombers flying overhead on their way to Germany. The program had to be interrupted, for fear it would have tipped off Germany about the upcoming bombing attack.

McIntyre-Burnie's new composition fills the wind tunnel. It doesn't try and compete with the impressive structure (that would be foolish.) In fact, it make the whole experience of going through the historical space even more awe-inspiring.

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In Q121

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In Q121


In Q121

One of Bridle's works, Rainbow Plane 001, also paid homage to the history of the site. The installation outlines the silhouette of a Miles M.52, an experimental supersonic aircraft developed in secret to break the sound barrier at Farnborough in the early 1940s.

The contour is shown as if distorted by the pansharpening effect of satellite photography, as if viewed, in flight, from space. There never was any original photography of that Miles M.52 in flight. First of all because, the aircraft never flew. It was a research project that was cancelled in 1946 even though its aerodynamics had been successfully demonstrated by a scale model. Besides, satellites don't take 'photos' of what lays below them. Instead, they use sensors to look down onto the earth and acquire information about its surface and atmosphere.

Rainbow Plane 001 is ducted tapped under the site's portable airship hangar. The structure was one of the 6 airship sheds in the UK at the outset of WWI and it probably isn't as 'portable' as its name suggests. It is estimated that it would take 50 men ten days to dismantle the structure, 7 to load it onto railway and 2 to 3 weeks to reassemble it.

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James Bridle, Rainbow Plane 001. Image György Kőrössy

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James Bridle, Rainbow Plane 001. Image György Kőrössy

The Wind Tunnel Project was organised by Artliner and curated by Salma Tuqan. I must say that the website of the project is one of the most frustratingly dysfunctional i've ever visited. Anyway, you can see the tunnels and artworks in Farnborough until the 20th of July. A shuttle service is helpfully available outside the Farnborough railway station.

More images from the wind tunnel (I also posted a photo set from the opening on flickr, if ever you're interested):

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Launching paper planes in R52

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Control room for wind turbine in R52. Image Shaun Jackson

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Control room for wind turbine in R52. Image Jay McLaughlin

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Support structure underneath R52 wind turnbine. Image Jay McLaughlin

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Inside R52 turbine. Image Jay McLaughlin

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Inside wind tunnel in R52. Image Jay McLaughlin

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Testing of fir tree root loads for the Forestry Commission in 1967. Image courtesy of FAST (Farnborough Air Sciences Trust) Museum

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Wind tunnels project Testing of the Short Belfast aircraft in 1968. Photograph: Courtesy of Farnborough Air Sciences Trust

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In R52

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In R52

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In R52

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In R52

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In Q121

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