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, their tattoos carrying 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.
Ledare is famous for being one of the very few contemporary artists who still manages to shock and break taboos. His most famous series was shot over a period of 8 years and stars Tina Peterson, his own mother. Posing gleefully for him in négligé or in fur hat but more often naked. In sickness and in health. Flirting with the camera (or the man behind it), masturbating, having sex with younger men, etc. One moment she is defiant, powerful and utterly stunning. The next, she’s chubbier and wearing a brace around her neck
Odermatt never studied photography. He was a traffic policeman in Switzerland and part of his job consisted in taking photographs of road accidents and of other members of the police at work. From 1948 till 1990, when he retired, he would make one set for the insurance or police reports and a second one for himself
BPB12 explores how space is constructed, controlled and contested, how photography is implicated in these processes, and the tensions and possibilities this dialogue involves. This year’s Biennial provides a critical space to think about relationships between the political occupation of physical sites and the production and dissemination of images
uring my short stay in Amsterdam, i enthusiastically entered the exhibition
Yasusuke Ota: The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima. What had i imagined that i’d see? Birds flying over beautiful urban ruins? Pets sauntering gaily on car roofs and pigs fooling around empty supermarkets? I couldn’t have been more mistaken
A quick, frustrated post about an exhibition i saw while in Amsterdam for the conference Blogging the City. Quick and frustrated because the show is as charming as it is bonkers but i could only find tiny images online to illustrate it.
For people working at the Yuri Gagarin Training Centre, a military complex where all cosmonauts have been trained since the 1960s, Gagarin remains a hero while space is the only reality they know, almost blending with the surreal machines they work with, they seem to be trapped in a window of time. In the shadow of faded dreams, thus sheds the light on a close-knit community of space-lovers, still clinging to the decaying legacy of the 1960s Space dream
I must have been pretty desperate for distraction the day i went to see Island Stories: Fifty Years of Photography in Britain at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This Summer now seems like it was a long, relentless photo exhibition dedicated to London, England and/or Great Britain. I thought that even an anglophile like me wouldn’t stomach yet another exhibition celebrating the joys and wonder of the country. But Island Stories: Fifty Years of Photography in Britain is such a gem of a little show, i’m on my way to see it for the second time
The show is no postcard pictures party. It is less about the parks and monuments than it is about the Londoners. The photographs selected in the exhibition depict the social history of the city in black and white. I guess i’ll never cease to be amazed by the photos of Shoreditch before the hipsters and by the sartorial audacity of Londoners (though i can’t imagine anyone nowadays loitering around town with ‘Destroy London” written on the back of their leather jacket)
Sebastian Stumpf’s photo documentation of his performances in the ‘gaps’ of Tokyo architecture. The artist is literally filling in the hiatus in the dense architectural structure of the city, squeezing himself in the overlooked spaces between the buildings. The action makes us suddenly aware of this ‘urbanism interrupted’, and calls our attention to what is in-between, behind, or beyond
Foto8 is my go-to gallery for documentary and photojournalism. Whatever they have up, i go and see it. Right now, the gallery is presenting the 159 photo works selected for its fifth annual Summershow. There are portraits of homeless people, of Palestinian girls dreaming of peace, documentation of the Libyan civil war, stories from some of the coldest parts of the globe, disorder in the streets of London. Mundane moments and dramas
The nine eyes are the cameras mounted on the pole on top of each vehicle that Google sent around the world 5 years ago. The technology of Google Street View has sparkled moments of deep humiliation, interest from the press photography community, privacy concerns and brilliant artistic reactions.
Jon Rafman was one of the first artists who spent hours looking at the images collected by the cars and searching not just for the amusing, the ridiculous and the fortuitous but for postcard perfect moments. And does he have an eye for stunning images…
Reframing Photography is a broad and inclusive rethinking of photography that will inspire students to think about the medium across time periods, across traditional themes, and through varied materials. Intended for both beginners and advanced students, and for art and non-art majors, and practicing artists, Reframing Photography compellingly represents four concerns common to all photographic practice: vision, light/shadow, reproductive processes, editing/ presentation/ evaluation
The London Festival of Photography is one of my favourite events in town. The theme this year was as broad as it can get: Inside Out: Reflections on the Public and the Private. I’ve seen a magic lantern performance, archive photos of Libya before and during Gaddafi’s regime, documents from Apartheid era South Africa, a photo film of the world’s biggest festival for dog lovers
For some reason, London’s festival of photography is probably not getting all the attention it deserves. Hence this first hasty story to try and convince you to flock in droves to some of its exhibitions before they close. If i had to recommend just one venue it would be the Fitzrovia Community Centre. All the artists exhibited in the show are new to me and their work is of the ‘documentary and heavy in urgent-social-issues’ genre, just my kind of photo show!
From discovering photographers to determining editions and displaying prints, Collect Contemporary Photography accompanies collectors through the whole process of acquiring photographic works, while providing guidance on practical matters including information about different photographic techniques
object to paying £7.50 to see and exhibition which title starts with the name of a brand. I feel cheated when the show closes with a shop selling goods manufactured by the above-mentioned brand and i don’t look kindly to being forbidden to take pictures (which i do purely for documenting reason) because that would mean that i won’t shell more ££ to buy the booklet of the exhibition. That said, the photos selected and exhibited are so remarkable that i still feel like recommending that you go and see the World Photography Awards if you’re in London
The museum of photography in Antwerp has a number of fascinating show right now. One of them is an installation by Zoe Beloff that takes as its point of departure America’s longest running comic strip to explore the influence of cinema on the movement of the body and the mind.
Beloff’s exhibition contains a number of historical documents. Some of them show intriguing photos of sportsmen and factory workers in movement. They are called chronocyclegraphs. I had never heard of the chronocyclegraph before…
In Prager’s part film noir, part fashion shoot work, heroines wear impeccable make-up, pose as if they were in a Hitchcock movie, breathe through an atmosphere worthy of David Lynch, and are submitted to ordeals inspired by the images of crime photographers Weegee and Enrique Metinides. The stories might take place in Hollywood-like settings but they promise to never end on a happy note
Two photo series that made me smile at the Biennale of Photography in Liege… Jean-Claude Delalande creates bitter family albums in which the protagonists never look at each other, perform the most mundane tasks, go on holiday with the same torpor that’d show on a supermarket trip, and lead a joyless family life. Meanwhile, Miyoko Ihara follows the relationship between her 85 year old grandmother and her cat, Fukumaru
You might never have heard of Abkhazia and that’s probably because only a handful of countries regard it as an independent state.
Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after a short, violent civil war in ’92-’93 and only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the atoll of Nauru recognised it as independent state in 2008.
The artists spent four years witnessing and documenting the country’s attempts to repopulate with new immigrants a country that is ravaged by the war, almost empty and in great economic distress
The collaboration between artist Ania Dabrowska and social scientist Dr Bronwyn Parry gives a visibility to the medical research on dementia. The photos demystifies what happens behind the doors of brain bank laboratories, and in so doing actively seeks to rehabilitate, even celebrate, the practice of bodily donation in the public imagination
Last week i found myself in Liverpool to see the exhibition Robots and Avatars, conceived by body>data>space at FACT. Proper report will appear next week. In the meantime i felt like singing the praise of Liverpool. I love that city. I love people’s accent, the architecture, the magnificent Aloha shirt i bought for peanuts in a vintage shop but most of all i love their art galleries
I’ve visited 5 photo exhibitions all over London yesterday. Here’s a few words about the ones i found most interesting. Starting with ‘Last Days of the Arctic’…
A few months ago, I read there was an exhibition of photos by McCullin at Tate Britain. I thought “That one can wait, it’s going to for ages and everybody knows the work of the award-winning war photographer anyway.” That was very presumptuous of me. I finally went to see the show and it is now clear that i had underestimated the impact his images would have on me. Especially his portrayal of the homeless living around London from the late 1960s to the ’80s
The work of 31 photographers are part of the show. You can never go wrong with the likes of Diane Arbus, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Lee Friedlander, Martin Parr, Thomas Struth Tobias Zielony, Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Wolfgang Tillmans and Jeff Wall. Most of the works exhibited are jaw-dropping. However, i now have the feeling that i have seen this kind of exhibition one time too many
The everyday lives of the British gangsters, pimps, prostitutes and players, as the world changes irrevocably around them
The Nigerian photographer is one of those rare photo-reporters whose work is shown in newspapers as well as in art galleries around the world (you can check his photos right now in the Oil Show at HMKV in Dortmund). He was in London to discuss the Oil Rich Niger Delta series and his new book Delta Nigeria – The Rape of Paradise on the oil exploitation in the Delta region of his country
The title says it all: a law firm is sponsoring a competition of contemporary portrait photography and 60 of the best entries are exhibited in London.
There are cute kids and celebs (sadly, there were no mature men in speedo this year) but because i’m drawn to documentary photos, that’s what my quick selection will be about
Pippin’s relentless investigation of the medium of photography is quite brilliant. There’s the camera that photographs its own death of course but the artist also spent years turning mundane objects (a refrigerator, bath tub, wardrobe, etc.) into pinhole cameras. He even spent a 55 minute train journey transforming the train lavatory into a photographic studio. Even more amusingly, he converted a row of 12 front-loading washing machines in a laundromat into as many cameras
As surprising as it may appear, Scarlett Hooft Graafland takes analogue photographs, prints them straight from the negative and never uses Photoshop. The artist is fascinated by remote, unusual and sometimes even inhospitable locations. She went to Salar de Uyunu in the Bolivian Andes, the largest salt desert, she travelled with the Inuit across the sea ice of Igloolik on the Arctic plains of northern Canada, moved around Southern China and the lava fields of Iceland
In his b&w series Demonstrations, Caleb Charland used everyday objects to explore the laws and wonders of physics. The wonderful images are the only traces left of the many exposures, the long trials and errors the artist had to go through before he managed to make the perfect portrait of a physical phenomenon. The admiration for his tenacity and curiosity increases tenfold when you remember that we live in the age of photoshop
It’s Photomonth in East London and i’ll be running around the area this week to catch up with as many shows as possible. My two favourite exhibitions so far are as different from each other as possible.
The first one was at Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Action Centre. It’s a rather small event, only 5 to 6 photos from the three shortlisted entries in the Photojournalism category at the Amnesty International Media Awards
Keith Arnatt was English but moved to Wales in 1969 and wikipedia doesn’t do justice to his life and talent by reducing them to a scandalously short entry. Arnatt was photographing dog poo decades before Andres Serrano thought it would be worth a look, found photo material in trash, campy tourists and notes abandoned by his wife. Everything he shot was witty and never sarcastic
If you find yourself in Amsterdam too, don’t miss Battered at Melkweg’s photo gallery. For obvious reason, the exhibition has the support of the Finnish Institute of Culture rather than the Finnish board of tourism. The photo series by Harri Pälviranta shows men (and a few women too) in the middle of or after a physical fight in the streets of Turku. The powerful flash leaves nothing to imagination. It’s bloody, messy, a few teeth have probably been lost and the subjects will wake up the day after with ecchymosis all over their face
Before going through the series of winners of World Press Photo, i had never heard of narco cinema. But then again each time i’ve discovered a cinematographic (sub)genre recently it was thanks to photography. In late 2009, i found about Nollywood cinema through Pieter Hugo’s work. This year Fabio Cuttica brought me to Narco Cinema
Erupting volcanoes, drug wars, famine in Niger, aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, children suffering from Agent Orange disabilities, abortions performed by untrained practitioners in Kenya but also lucha libre for women, traveling cinema in India and couchsurfing in Brooklyn
Identity has always been a recurrent issue for human beings and it even becomes more important within a society where globalisation and standardisation gain the upper hand. Everyone tries to find his way among these blurred identities. Today more and more people decide to escape reality in order to make up a new identity
One of the photos that Catherine Hyland was exhibiting at the graduation show is part of the Wonderland series which documents what is left of an amusement park conceived in 1998 to become the largest of its kind in Asia but left to decay after funding was cut. The other two photos are equally fascinating: one evoke the manufactured landscape of Edward Burtynsky, the other brings you to a much quieter yet somehow uncanny universe
The exhibition presents the provocative idea that art and journalism are two sides of a unique activity; the production and distribution of images and information. The exhibition brings to the surface how images and information are communicated, and the aesthetic principles used in the act of transmission