More of Kevin’s work here
«Asked on a radio interview a couple of years back why he drew animals and not people, the great cartoonist Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny and Road Runner fame replied: “It’s easier to humanize animals than humanize humans.” Recently the Colombian artist Juan Manuel Echavarrı´a gave this a twist. Reacting against the stupendous violence in his country, he humanized flowers by photographing them like botanical specimens, replacing the stems, leaves, flowers, and berries with what look like human bones. He called this series of thirty-two black-and-white photographs The Flower Vase Cut, referring to the name of one of the mutilations practiced in the Colombian violencia of the 1940s and 1950s in which the amputated limbs were stuffed, so it is said, into the thorax via the neck of the decapitated corpse.
At one point in an interview, Echavarrı´a says, “My purpose was to create something so beautiful that people would be attracted to it. The spectator would come near it, look at it, and then when he or she realizes that it is not a flower as it seemed, but actually a flower made of human bones — something must click in the head, or in the heart, I hope.”
I myself do not see it that way. The flowers are so obviously not flowers. Instead it is the very clumsiness, the deliberateness of the artifice of posing bones as flowers, that perturbs one — and this is of the same order of artifice that makes the mutilation of the Corte del Florero so powerful, too.
The flowers in Echavarría’s photographs have stems made of curving ribsor of the decayed long bones of arms. The petals are formed from what appear to be the human pelvis or spinal vertebrae. In some photographs, small bones like teeth or chips of bones lie to one side, thereby disturbing pretensions to symmetry or completeness. A vertebra hangs delicately off a rib, five of which are bunched together like plant stems emerging from a column of three vertebrae glued together, not as in the human spine, but separated from that, like a child’s building blocks, then stuck front to back, one on top of the other.
Lying on their bleached-out background, the flowers appear fragile, suspended in midair and ungrounded. They could be flying. The lawof gravity no longer holds. There is a sense of a world on hold, a painful absence of sound. What we see is silence, the silence of something gone awfully wrong with the human world such that we are all, God included, holding our breath, which is probably what happens when you fall a long, long way.
To add to their strangeness, each photograph bears a title like the Latin names used in the plant illustrations of the famous botanical expedition to Colombia organized by the Spanish crown and led by José Celestino Mutis at the end of the eighteenth century. Echavarría is very conscious of this genealogy. In fact he sees his flowers as its latest expression. The difference is that Echavarría’s latinate names are hybrids suggesting the grotesque, one pelvic bone flower being named Dracula Nosferatu, while another flower made of a curved rib with a bunch of metacarpals at one end, suggestive of petals, is called Dionaea Misera. Although these names are in small, discreet letters, names are of consuming importance to this work, beginning with the name of the mutilation — The Flower Vase Cut. The name is crucial because on viewing the mutilated body without the name, I doubt whether an observer would get the point — as we say of a joke — without the name. All the observer would see would be a bloody morass of hacked-off limbs and a limbless trunk.»
excerpt of “The Language of Flowers” (2003), by Michael Taussig
More of Juan’s work here
“Monsanto Blues is a project that depicts daily life in Portugal’s ‘most typical village’. Once a thriving self-sufficient community located in the interior of Portugal, Monsanto became a good metaphor to describe the impact of recent social developments on European peripheral economies (aka PIGS). With virtually no births nor new inhabitants registered for several years now, Monsanto is expected to be declared deserted land soon, thus creating great investment opportunities for both new agers and senior tourists from Northern Europe.”
“Monsanto is a small village located at the top of a prominent granitic mountain in the interior of Portugal, very close to the Spanish border. Inhabited since the early Stone Age, as soon as King Afonso Henriques conquered it from the Moors in the beginning of the 12th century, the village began to enjoy an important role in the expansion of the Portuguese borders (and Christianity) in the Iberian Peninsula. In 1938 it was declared by the regime’s propaganda office as the “most Portuguese village of Portugal” – an award that has its origins in the idealistic agenda of the right-wing authoritarian regime presided at the time by António de Oliveira Salazar. But despite its connotations, it is a label that persists until today.
Along with the promises of the so called modernity, the entrance to the EU in 1986 also dictated the slow and agonizing decline of the Portuguese agricultural (and fishing) industries: in the name of progress and the so called “Common Agricultural Policy”, the EU offered Portuguese farmers generous subsidies that were meant to reduce, and in most cases fully halt, the production and trade of food commodities, thus favoring economy scale producers like France, Spain or Germany. The reason behind this policy was to equalize EU’s agricultural market, making the Eurozone a more competitive player in a globalized context.
Despite having lost its geopolitical strategic importance in modern days, Monsanto had remained a relatively important provider of labour force and of food products (like meat, cereals, wine and olive oil), helping Portugal reduce it’s dependency on foreign commodities – a tendency that suffered an inversion during the last decades. Once a desirable and productive land, Monsanto, like many other rural communities in Portugal, turned into an impoverished desert of granitic shapes and neglected olive trees.
As today, its population is constituted almost exclusively by elderly widows living in monastic isolation. In a little more than 30 years, its population is expected to virtually disappear.”
More of Pedro’s work here
Back at the SIP blog, Rotem Rozental posted about Richard Benari and Lauren Henkin’s collaborative project about the nature of photography. Their work, their questions, could be the starting point of a discussion always worth having.
On their site, Richard Benari and Lauren Henkin made available some audio files where you can listen to them talking about essential questions concerning photography (though these are very very short and subjective ideas, don’t expect to hear something ground-breaking). Lauren and Richard talk about Influences and abstraction in photography, Creating Pictures and materiality, Removing narrative in photography, Influences, Minimalism, The importance of the print and Seriality.
“As photography has matured into its own artistic medium, narrative has become the conceptual foundation on which most work is created. The act of viewing an image is no longer sufficient. Content has been replaced by context. More and more, photographers, gallerists and critics insist on story. Images have become testimony and photographers, witnesses. The photographic object itself has become evidence. Most photography now sets out to answer questions while other artistic mediums set out to raise them.
We began this project by asking what photography can achieve in the absence of narrative. We wanted to know if the essential language of light, texture and tone was enough to hold the viewer. It wasn’t. What was missing was the artist’s hand, the photographer’s eye. We set out to push the camera beyond its natural tendency for pure representation and investigate its capacity to convey the artist’s expressive mark.
Rejecting the current trend toward the accidental in photographic abstraction, Pictures reasserts the photographer’s eye. Authority and indexicality are explored through the artists’s rendering of abstraction in the recognizable, the everyday. By pairing large landscapes of the familiar with small studio constructions of household materials, the photographers reaffirm the sensual power of form. Scale and reference are ambiguous. Narrative is removed. The images are disorienting. They challenge the viewer to rethink old habits of seeing.
Pictures is as much about the object as it is about deep looking. The subtly of the tonal shifts and the way the prints annex the ambient light in which they’re viewed helps argue for the uniquely tactile quality of the photographic print and how important it is to the viewing experience. Careful split-toning, combined with the artists’ decision to print on etching rag, renders the image in an almost three-dimensional way. The tension between the flatness of the compositions and the three-dimensional feel of the prints helps to hold the viewer, encouraging a long and quiet engagement.“
“There is a reason why Peter Puklus’ first publication is called Handbook to the Stars, a subtle manifesto of his Ars Poetica. With this handbook he attempts to portray his own universe and provide insight into how his photographic works relate to each other: like galaxies in relative proximity to one another that are bound together by their own gravitational force. The images function alongside one another and through one another, have no sequence or chronology, but exist individually even as they form interconnections and follow their own patterns. Hence they do not necessarily fit on a page in this book; the imaginary distances keep the images in place. This implies that they may appear fragmented, sometimes small, sometimes large, precisely as they coexist in Puklus’ universe of images.
His work is not documentary, nor does it fall within other traditional photographic genres such as staged, portrait or still life photography. Freed from conventions, he works according to his own logic and interests, shifting naturally between genres, themes and media. Coincidence plays a minor role in his work. The famous decisive moment is irrelevant, because it has already taken place at a conceptual level. His photographs are visualisations of preconceived concepts which he initially records in sketches and notes, before painstakingly recreating them and capturing them with an analogue camera.
Puklus’ work is in keeping with contemporary trends in photography. While the focus of many photographers in the ‘90s was on pure documentary, this has now shifted to a personal interpretation of the world, or perhaps more accurately, an interpretation of the inner world. Although photography is Puklus’ primary medium, his method is not purely photographic. He frequently approaches his work as a kind of sculptor or installation artist. The compositions created in a studio-like setting are often spatial constructions, models or collages. In his studies of shapes we encounter fragile constructions, as well as objects to which he has made sometimes simple, sometimes radical alterations with an eye for the interplay of lines and geometric shapes. Like in the studio, his search for formal and three-dimensional aspects is also evident when he take photographs in natural and urban environments. Just as he experiments with objects and shapes, so he also experiments with technology. Where necessary, he exchanges the static for the moving image, combines positive and negative images, and alternates black and white with colour.
Time is an interesting aspect, which is defined by a certain slowness and silence. It is not only the process preceding the actual image that is time-consuming; photographing itself is generally slow and meticulous. His subjects often denote a certain transience or even timelessness. Particularly striking are the photos in which Puklus, using basic materials and self-made objects, recalls the figurative language of avantgarde and constructivist art; or photographs of classical sculptures whose representations recur in various compositions. The lamp is perhaps one of the most frequently recurring motifs. Several of these are often placed in a certain relationship to one another or hung up, immediately calling to mind the trajectories described by celestial bodies.
It is often said that this is a time when photography is undergoing dramatic changes. The question is, however, whether that was ever any different. Since the advent of digital photography, the assumption has been that it would supplant the slower analogue technology. The same goes for the photo book. This was also consigned to the history with the arrival of the internet and advanced digital presentation possibilities. The enormous and growing popularity of the photo book seems, for the time being at least, to prove the contrary. Puklus’ universe argues for the survival of both.”
text by Claudia Küssel
Peter’s website here
“A man is an animal first of all. And then he is a Social animal, Political animal and so on. I am an Art animal, that’s why, spectator, I need your physical and psychological efforts to make sense.” Oleg Kulik
“Kulik has suggested: ‘I wanted to turn into a sort of new Diogenes, a dog-philosopher’ (2004:56); and, like Diogenes, the active force and vital optimism of his disruptive conduct is perhaps best understood as an uncompromising, transgressive hostility toward the inertia of conventional aesthetic and political gestures. In the uneasy transition to a post-Soviet Russia, the interventions of Kulik as a ‘clown of the catastrophe’ (Viktor Misiano in Watkins and Kermode 2001:63) engaged critically with dominant ideologies and alibis, and presented a range of political, philosophical, and ethical propositions through his bodily actions and accompanying statements. Some of the work explicitly denounced the corruption of the international art market and the commodificatory domestication of dissident aesthetics, as well as the Pavlovian conditioning of socialized gallery-goers. Other actions referenced specific political contexts, for example: the introduction of new capital punishment legislation in Russia during the 1990s, Russian elections (in which, like Beuys, Kulik put himself forward as the representative of the “Party of Animals”), the exclusions effected by the European Union, epidemics of animal disease, the fate of Montenegro in the breakup of former Yugoslavia, and so on. In particular, he returned repeatedly to relations between Eastern and Western Europe, and representations of contemporary Russia in the constitution of a new Europe as a deprived, unsophisticated, mongrel “other” that is charming as long as it remains passive, submissive, excluded, and doesn’t bite back. Kulik’s explicit critique of anthropocentrism seems to be a posthumanist extension of his radical misgivings about Eurocentrism, and a logical development of his critical stance on democracy’s blind spots and limitations. Kulik’s utterances contain echoes of a “deep ecology” in their utilitarian critique of the human subject. There are all sorts of other knowledges outside of the center, he proposes, if only one could create a new “united culture of noosphere” (in Watkins and Kermode 2001:14), an inclusive zoocentrist culture of the senses and of embodied perception”
“What kind of dog was being represented here? The Kulik-dog, “a rag of wolf’s tongue redpanting from his jaws” (Joyce  1960:52), was ill-tempered, confrontational, combative; a wild, mad or fighting dog devoid of any of the other possibilities dogs actually possess. On some levels, it seems to have been little more than a rather reductive cartoonlike vicious dog, a “beware-of-the-dog” dog, territorial and irredeemably antagonistic, although arguably a great deal of courage must have been required to carry out this degree of pretence in many of the performance contexts Kulik chose. Becoming-dog here seems to have been a mimicry of selected attributes of canine behavior, an imitation game as spectacle directed at human beings (rather than, say, dogs). As Phillips has remarked in her critical appraisal of the Deleuzean trope of becoming animal: “Becoming is a fantasy that we do not really want to play out to its very end: to remain on the border-a human in a partial dog site, a dog with a human attitude-is about as far as we are willing to go” (2000:130). What remains remarkable, however, is the level of Kulik’s investment, the monstrous, amoral, libidinal, and exhibitionist energetics of his performance as “dog,” and the contextual, critical focus of his interventions.
Recently, Kulik has expressed certain reservations as to the effectiveness of his strategies in the Zoophrenia series (see for example Kulik 2004:56)-the reiteration of metaphor and stereotype in his representation of the animal as “non-anthropomorphous other,” as it is described by his collaborator Mila Bredikhina (in Watkins and Kermode 2001:52); the tendency for him as performer to collapse through immersive mimicry into a state of incoherent affectivity-and his recent work has moved away from Kulik-dog interventions of this kind. Nonetheless, in the unrestrained excess of his mimesis of aberrant canine behavior, Kulik managed to produce an indeterminate creature within which elements of the “animal” lurk alongside those of the “human,” rendering both terms and their constitutive difference unstable and in question: in Alan Read’s words, a “divided self of species relations” (2004:244).”
excerpt of Inappropriate/d Others or, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, by David Williams, in TDR (1988-), Vol. 51, No. 1 (Spring, 2007), pp. 92-118
“In the face of all the challenges our community encounters daily, I embarked on a journey of visual activism to ensure that there is black queer visibility. Faces and Phases is about our histories and the struggles that we face. Faces express the person, and Phases signify the transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and experience to another. Faces is also about the face-to-face confrontation between myself as the photographer/activist and the many lesbians, women and transmen I have interacted with from different places. Photographs in this series traverse spaces from Gauteng, Cape Town, Mafikeng and Botswana to Sweden.”
“I always say to people that I’m an activist before I’m an artist. To me, you take a particular photo in order for other people to take action. So you become an agent for change in a way. I say that I am a visual activist because it’s important to me to go beyond just being a photographer. Because you know, that sounds so sexy and it’s a “profession.” I think to myself what’s the point of just taking a picture? What happens after that? I’m doing what I’m doing to make a statement and also to say to people: This is possible.”
more of the work here
© Vincent Cordebard, Untitled, from Etudes pour Les attentats à la pudeur
© Vincent Cordebard, Untitled, from Etudes pour Les attentats à la pudeur
© Vincent Cordebard, Untitled, from Etudes pour Les attentats à la pudeur
It’s one of those rare, and thus special occasions, when I find a body of work I completely connect to in a rational, emotional, intellectual and intuitive level. Here’s a first post about his work and I foresee making more about it once I have the time to take the plunge.
What follows is an excerpt of a text written by Béatrice Han:
“Vincent Cordebard steals other peoples photographs and reworks them with ink, fountain pen, and water. He makes dark blotches; his faces-blind and mute, corroded and obstructed-reveal the pain of bruised interiority, the place where humanity’s nocturnal attributes make their brutal appearance-the dark side where, according to Georges Bataille, transgression, eroticism, and death occur. Outside of accepted morality, these mutilated photos present themselves to the viewer as if they were meditations on inhumanity, on the theoretical and ethical scandal of beauty that emerges from horror. This is what the profanation of the face and the human values it symbolizes reveals to us. This expressivities, which cannot be apprehended except as a paradoxical form of thwarted integrity, and the human features through which it is revealed, are the subject of the intense questioning which Cordebard’s strange and difficult faces bring to light, a questioning undertaken with such intensity that the spectator’s vision is challenged by the violence of which he is the willing witness. Is this a kind of voyeurism, a fascination with an obscure, inhuman, yet twin dimension, which human relationships hide under the familiarity of the everyday, like the obverse of the reverse side of the medal? If, as Levinas wrote, the face “rends apart what is sensitive1”, what do we see when the wound becomes the face and, inversely, the face becomes the wound?
The child is thus twice deprived of life: as agisant which death has emptied of its individuality, he is also, in the symbolic order, divested of his face, which no longer exists except as a fragile skin carefully sewn onto meat. Yet, although it is no longer capable of representing its humanity, this abused face does not become a thing among other things. Annihilated subject and impossible object, the face of this dead child’s still, by its very structure, the paradoxical and fleeting place of a desperate cry of protest, the cry of an abolished individuality whose features dehumanize it, of a person who has become his, her own negation. Thus, in a final reversal, the face’s refusal to become an object continues to bear witness, within the very process that seeks to destroy it, to the tenuous but incomes-table presence of a humanity which can only express itself as resistance. A negative medium, surely, but all the more forceful, like the naked and desperate violence in Auschwitz which Hannah Arendt describes7 as an affirmation of an ultimate revolt, a testimony given by a person in extremis when all other means of expression have been taken away. “I reveal faces, ” affirms Cordebard, even as he mutilates them. The epiphanic structure of a face is reversed one last time. The positive revelation of the humanas person, then of the inhuman as destruction, finally brings these two aspects to a paroxysm which is all the more tragic for its lack of catharsis. We are given a vision that is nearly unbearable to contemplate, but which is never-the less “unpardonably beautiful”… This is why, finally, the picture’s context is ethical and its request, imperious: whether beauty can redeem the scandal which gave it life, and whether, measured by the compassion and respect a human face deserves, the act of cruelty which attempts to destroy it merits any justification besides the aesthetic. An acutely painful question, doomed to remain unanswered, and which it is to Cordebard’s credit to have dared to ask.”
Vincent Cordebard’s work here
© Davide Maione, Reaching
© Davide Maione, Beaten (left) and Appeal (right), from Outlines and Annotations
© Davide Maione, What it takes to keep a young girl alive
“What It Takes to Keep a Young Girl Alive is a diptych of photographs that takes its title from a short story by Jayne Anne Phillips. Whilst being the departing point for creating a link between portraiture, narrative and performance, Phillips’ short story functions as fictional milieu for exploring notions of selfhood and subjectivity.
The diptych seizes on the very essence of Phillips’ story: the repetitive gestures of menial labour, the dead end job when there should be a future and the withdrawal from public space to avoid being looked at.
The juxtaposition of the title of the story with the spare photographs succinctly suggests a life of meagre means and a metaphorical expression of a banal and yet tragic predicament. The young girl in the photograph counts and marks the days in the manner of a prisoner. And yet as she does so, she also creates a picture out of the blank wall -perhaps an answer to what could be a question: ‘What does it take to keep a young girl alive?”
More of David’s work here
© Yuki Onodera, untitled, from the series Portrait of Second Hand Clothes, 1994
© Yuki Onodera, untitled, from the series Portrait of Second Hand Clothes, 1994
“La série, Portraits de fripes, marque une étape dans le travail de Yuki Onodera. Profondément autobiographique, cette œuvre correspond à son installation à Paris en 1993 où elle photographie des vêtements d’occasion par la fenêtre de son studio. Ils apparaissent suspendus, avec pour chacun un fond de ciel nuageux différent. Ce sont des vêtements ordinaires, attributs de ceux qui les ont portés. Placées sous l’objectif de Yuki Onodera, ces fripes révèlent une identité différente, témoins de la mémoire du temps qui passe dont le ciel est une évocation poétique. La rigueur de la mise en scène, le format et le cadrage en font de véritables portraits sociologiques où l’artiste s’intéresse non seulement à l’identité de la culture occidentale mais s’approprie la mémoire de cette société qui lui est étrangère et insaisissable. Ces vêtements portent les traces et les plis d’un vécu, d’une histoire identifiable et autorise une interprétation subjective.”
More of Yuki’s work here
“The Photo-Respiration series is Sato’s most well known work. When we approached him with our request for a cover photo, we were delighted to learn that he has been continuing to work on the series up until now, as the above 2008 image Shirakami #1 illustrates. Photo-respiration consists of two sub-streams, Breathing Light and Breathing Shadows. To make these photographs, Sato opens up the lens on his 8 x 10 camera for an extended exposure, sometimes up to three hours, and subsequently physically enters the scene in front of the frame. In Breathing Shadows a flashlight is pointed at the camera at nighttime or in a darkened space. In Breathing Light he uses a mirror to reflect light back toward the lens by day. In both cases he then moves around in the scene adding streaks or spots of light to the image. Ironically a long exposure of a person becomes a photo without anyone in it, but the viewer infers the person’s presence from the resulting image.
The title Photo-Respiration was chosen, according to Sato, because in the photographs he makes “a direct connection between my breath and the act of tracing out the light.” In his view this has the same significance as in monotonous activities such as long distance running or swimming, when one’s focus is only on breathing. The fact that Sato accommodates the three-dimensional real world by tracing it through his person into the image is often attributed to his training as a sculptor, although naturally the concept of dimensional collapse is part of the medium and a consideration for every photographer.
The resulting photographs have a very timeless and lyrical feel about them and this impression persists even after learning about the technique that was used to create them. In fact, knowing the method of creation adds to the enjoyment of the work. As always, it is the viewer who makes the image once more when facing it and doing so is a delightful moment. Interpretation is tempting, but one should be careful not to jump to quick associations. In an Q&A session, Sato was once asked what the reflections of light “represented” to him: perhaps fireflies, or marching pieces of string? His response was that representation is not his intention. All they represent is where he stood shining the light into the camera.”
source: japan exposures
more of Tokihiro’s work here
© Duarte Maral Netto, untitled, from the project “Z”, 2012
© Duarte Maral Netto, untitled, from the project “Z”, 2012
Duarte’s new work is in a rare place between verity, intimacy and honesty and the exciting and self obsessed world of fiction. The narrative constructed is that of “Z”, a physician said to have gone to Germany to specialized in facial surgery. We’re then introduced to the idea of the family album and presented with historic images of very significant relevant, both in time and the place they occupy, as in relation to their place amidst a personal account of things: which events matter, what isn’t being showed, etc? Unfortunately the work isn’t up at his site yet, but I’m sure it will be available soon.”
His website here
© Carla Cabanas, Three friends, from the project What remains of what it was, 2010/11
© Carla Cabanas, One Little Girl, from the project What remains of what it was, 2010/11
“What remains of what once was – Cabanas Álbum), the artist invokes memory imprecision through erasing, scratching, and fading away of images belonging to her closest surrounding: family. The photographic processing torn off – accumulating in the bottom of the frame – erases information on spaces, context and characters. Just like we all unwillingly discard our personal history, until what remains is but ashes from times gone by.”
by Valter Ventura
More of Carla’s work here