≡ The Hyères School of Photography ≡

My love for the Hyères Festival is known. I’ve written about it and have featured a great deal of the authors shortlisted each year. The judging panel has been responsible for issuing a statement about what they want to see in contemporary photography and it has been bold and exciting, for Hyères always awards an experimental attitude towards the medium itself, as well as valuing innovation and creativity. Amidst the past festival judges “we can randomly mention Urs Stahel (Fotomuseum Winterthur), Marloes Krijnen (FOAM, Amsterdam), Dennis Freedman (W, New York), Charlotte Cotton, Glenn O’Brien, Marta Gili (Jeu de Paume, Paris), Jörg Koch (032C, Berlin), James Reid (Wallpaper*, London), Frits Gierstberg (Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam), Kathy Ryan (New York Times, New York), David Campany (London), Joerg Colberg (Conscientious), Charles Fréger (photographer, France), Erik Kessels (KesselsKramer, Amsterdam), Brett Rogers (The Photographer’s Gallery, London), Karen Langley (Dazed, London), Winfried Heininger (Kodoji Press, Switzerland), Damien Poulain (Oodee, London), Jason Evans (photographer, United Kingdom), Mutsuko Ota (IMA, Tokyo), etc.

What follows is my selection of work from the 10 authors shortlisted for Hyères 2015.

I – Oezden Yorulmaz

5© Oezden Yorulmaz, Untitled, from the series Ed Meets Jack, 2013.

6© Oezden Yorulmaz, Untitled, from the series Ed Meets Jack, 2013.

excerpt from Hyères’ press release:

Oezden Yorulmaz is interested in how photographical images play an important aspect of self-definition within the western society he cohabits. He plays in his work with the borders and the limitations of photography’s try to represent reality. He often uses himself as the main protagonist and creates male performs that is acting a narrative or mental state within the space of images or locations.
In Ed Meets Jack he created a fictional story, told through a series of photographs, which resemble a sequence of film stills. By using props or costumes he is trying to create a persona or situation that is aiming to reproduce an authentic atmosphere that only exists within in the space of the image. The photograph acts as a springboard between his performance and the observer and is limited to each one own presumption and experience.

II – Filippo Patrese

patrese_filippo-3© Filippo Patrese, Settembre 1977, from the series Corrections, 2014.

patrese_filippo-1© Filippo Patrese, Febbraio 1983, from the series Corrections, 2014.

III – Thomas Rousset

hyeres_01_news© Thomas Rousset, Untitled.

1074720© Thomas Rousset, Untitled.

1074713© Thomas Rousset, Untitled.

IV – Jeannie Abert

1jeannieabert-champ-de-bataille© Jeannie Abert, RÉVOLUTIONS, 2011. Collages sur papier.

c2_624© Jeannie Abert, COVER. Collages sur papier, incrustations diverses et brou de noix.

4-x_800© Jeannie Abert, COMPILE POUR UN AMNESIQUE, 2015 (en cours).

Jeannie’s statement:

I take photography as my starting point as a database of experimental research which I see as a raw material that I then manipulate. I search in pre-existing iconographic banks and appropriate the images. Thumbing my nose at the screen, a paradigm of the contemporary view, I question the images by bringing them back to a materialstate. There are so many axes and interpenetrations which define a genetically hybrid operation – contact photography, scanned, printed, photocopied images, reproduced so much so as to lose their definition – material – grain – frame photography which can meet up with drawing – painting – textiles. My intention is to stimulate the regard by changing the points of view. I play with the production and diffusion processes of the image. I question the medium of photography by trying to build a “play area” which could open new visual preoccupations.

V – Sjoerd Knibbeler

sjoerd-knibbeler-003© Sjoerd Knibbeler, Current Study # 3, 2013.

sjoerd-knibbeler-018© Sjoerd Knibbeler, Skyline, videostill, 2013.

sjoerd-knibbeler-010© Sjoerd Knibbeler, FW-42, from the series The Paper Planes, 2014.

excerpt from press release @ Unseen Photo Fair Amsterdam:

Knibbeler is working independently again, on a quest to capture wind. He tries to make the impossible possible by simulating tornados, folding model airplanes and trying – literally – to capture air. The model airplanes, all of which are based on designs that were never airborne, provide a context insinuating the impossibility of his quest. But parallel to these experiments he created video work showing an aerobatics pilot practicing his flight patterns on ground. In this work the complexity of the matter becomes tangible and the research of the contemporary experience of nature suddenly reappears. In November, LhGWR will present Knibbeler’s first solo show.

VI – Sushant Chhabria

ILMtext-637x800© Sushant Chhabria.

ilm_exhbit-1000x730© Sushant Chhabria, installation view, 2015.

chhabria_sushant-1© Sushant Chhabria, Untitled, 2015.

ilm_13-584x800© Sushant Chhabria, Untitled, 2015.

VII – Wawrzyniec Kolbusz

12-833x1024© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, Untitled, from the series Sacred Defense.
wawrzyniec_kolbusz_sacred-defense_14-834x1024© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, Untitled, from the series Sacred Defense.

wawrzyniec_kolbusz_sacred-defense_07-1024x834© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, Untitled, from the series Sacred Defense.

Installation-View-of-Sacred-Defense-by-Wawrzyniec-Kolbusz-Wroclaw-SEP-2014-f1-1024x683© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, installation view from the series Sacred Defense.

excerpt from Kolbusz’s statement @ Format Festival:

Sacred Defence, embedded in the Iranian post-war reality of the Iraq-Iran war (1980– 1988), is a story of producing artificial war images and reconstructing historical events to create a group memory. It is questioning whether reconstructed evidence is still evidence. It not only traces the existing modes of construction of fake war narrations. It also creates new war-related simulacra in digitally amended satellite images of nuclear installations. Hence, testing further the notion and limits of artificial evidence.

Sacred Defence is a game, in which images make us believe we see the war. We are looking at illusions, however. We follow how the war simulacra of social and political importance are being created within different spaces. A cinema city, constructed only for the purpose of shooting war movies, is a self-referencing space, created not to be experienced itself, but to become an image of war. Museums mimic the wartime reality in the smallest detail; wax figures of particular martyrs allow a meeting with fallen heroes again; and plastic replicas of antipersonnel mines sold as souvenirs.

From a play between the evident and the non-evident, author leads us to the point where he creates new simulation. He amends satellite images of Iranian nuclear installations with mutually exclusive versions of air strike destruction. Buildings destroyed in some images stand intact in others – parallel versions of the same event are presented on a single satellite map. Author is producing a ‘proof’ of an event that never happened despite being discussed in media.

VIII – Polly Tootal

picture_054print30x24c© Polly Tootal, #20406, 2014.

cf013534r44x59insq© Polly Tootal, #43534, 2014.

bcf013839_1r© Polly Tootal, #43839, 2014.

excerpt from an essay by Matthew Parker about Tootal’s work:

Polly Tootal is a photographer of British landscapes, yet the landscapes she registers are not likely to be found in any popular chronicle of the land, rejecting as they do the obvious beauty or grandeur of things and instead existing in the spaces in-between, the ones that are passed through every day, so nameless as to be embedded deeply into our consciousness and then forgotten. Perhaps this is why then, despite their surface anonymity, they all seem so uncannily familiar to me.

(…)

It’s no surprise to discover the Bechers are an influence, but compared to their typological surveys, her project is loose, deceptively objective, varying from image to image. Not concerned with the repetition of specific elements. Not so narrow in its vision. Instead, with each unique image, there’s a subtle vein of drama, an eye open to the strange and the exotic, the mundane and the obscure. Not limiting herself to specialised projects or adhering to restrictive formal rules, she instead takes an interest in atmosphere, humour, light and tone, looking to craft a delicate mood or declare a truth about a place. The ultimate goal is of a complex story, a vast and wide-ranging index of the British landscape and a store of unrelated yet connected images.

Common elements hold the project together. The images often lie upon thresholds and boundaries, liminal zones, between urban and rural, leisure and industry, lived in and discarded. Polly is interested in “places where abandoned industry mixes with functioning architecture and development, spaces left awaiting completion or areas of recent renewal.” Whether suburban, urban or rural, the subjects have, for the most part, been seen from the road; discovered and observed from the inside of a car. This might be another reason for the strange familiarity the images possess, their sometimes-disturbing déjà vu. I think to myself, how many times have I passed this place? Unknowingly drinking it in and storing it inside. Warehouses, business parks, shopping centers, waste-ground, motor- ways, car parks: the non-places that quietly fill up our lives, the sites of transience. Maybe I’ve seen none of them, but I am certain that I know the Little Chef, this stretch of motorway, that patch of industry, this housing estate.

(…)

And what has been left outside? Well, people, of course. There are no people in these landscapes. There are no moving objects either. There are no bustling, vibrant markets. And there are no stunning vistas that haven’t been touched by the modern world. If there is woodland there is a motorway bridge towering behind it in monumental silence, if there is a valley there happens to be a cement factory, if there is a quarry there is a housing estate it seems to be at war with. But for all these things it’s the absence of people that I find most interesting. Despite these being landscapes I feel as if they should be there. I find myself yearning for them. But I admire the fact that they will not come. Human portraits are not needed. If you know how to look, these rigorously poetic landscapes tell a story enough.

IX – Evangelia Kranioti

695ff4d5c22e8242ba64d8ee85bfd28b© Evangelia KraniotiFrom Lagos to Rio – end of sea passage, 2010, from the series Exotica, Erotica, etc.

502d1520ef9b8689e48a48d7deb1f9ff© Evangelia Kranioti, Buddha of the main engine, 2012, from the series Exotica, Erotica, etc.

7e2f10d380416ee7b341cec930747b2b© Evangelia Kranioti, Desert on board, 2011, from the series Exotica, Erotica, etc.

excerpt from press release @ Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève:

At the heart of Evangelia Kranioti’s research are the notions of desire, wandering, and return to one’s origins. Inspired by the work of the Greek writer Nikos Kavvadias, Kranioti questions the male-female relationship through the fleeting loves of sailors in ports, terrae incognitae where the magic of wandering still operates.
The documentary essay Exotica, Erotica, etc. is the culmination of a long-term project undertaken over four years, during which she followed the crews of the Greek navy worldwide and spent months in the company of the women they frequent.
Through the stories of Sandy, former Chilean prostitute and those of these souls in perpetual homelessness, Kranioti poetically depicts the romantic imaginary of the sea, its tragic heroes and its forgotten loves.

X – David Magnusson

Purity-DM-028-560x700© David MagnussonJamie & David Clampitt, Shreveport, Louisiana, from the series Purita.

Purity-DM-005-560x700© David Magnusson, Will & Nicole Roosma, Tucson, Arizona, from the series Purita.

Purity-DM-027-560x700© David MagnussonJenna & Jeff Clark, Chandler, Arizona, from the series Purita.

excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s article Purity balls, Plan B and bad sex policy: inside America’s virginity obsession:

«The men and girls in the photos hold hands and embrace – the young women are in long white dresses, the men in suits or military regalia. If some of the girls in the pictures weren’t so young – Laila and Maya Sa up there are seven and five years old, respectively – the portraits could be mistaken for wedding or prom pictures. What they actually capture, though, are images of those who participate in purity balls – father-daughter dances featuring girls who pledge to remain virgins until marriage and fathers who promise to protect their daughters’ chastity.

The images from Swedish photographer David Magnusson’s new book, Purity, are beautiful, disturbing and tell a distinctly American story – a story wherein a girl’s virginity is held up as a moral ideal above all else, a story in which the most important characteristic of a young woman is whether or not she is sexually active. This narrative of good girls and bad girls, pure girls and dirty girls, is one that follows young women throughout their lives. Purity balls simply lay that dichotomy bare.

(…)

Magnusson says he hopes his pictures elicit empathy,not judgment: “As I learnt more, I understood that the fathers, like all parents, simply wanted to protect the ones that they love – in the best way they know how.”

I have no doubt that families who participate in purity balls are doing what they think is best for their children – but that doesn’t make them any less wrong. When we teach girls that their virginity makes them special and valuable, we’re sending the simultaneous message that without their virginity they are tainted and damaged.»

≡ Hunting the Cliché ≡

iraquianos-08,xlarge.1425917256© António Pedrosa, Untitled, from the series Iraq Slum.

Antonio Pedrosa is a portuguese photographer whose work has been highly recognized, both by his national peers as well as by international entities, such as Hasselblad. In my opinion, prizes do draw attention to the award-winning authors’ work, and they do guarantee quality, but everything else is extremely subjective. Pedrosa won the prize ESTAÇÃO IMAGEM MORA for a project he called Iraq Slum. His statement:

“Bairro do Iraque, Iraq slum, is located in the north of Portugal. Until the late 90’ this 100 persons community of gypsies lived moving from village to village working in basketry, utensils for horses and other small jobs. With the end of traditional agriculture also their traditional way of life finished. When the TV news were full of images from the second invasion of Irak, this community was expelled from the center of town moved to an old German mine of tungsten transformed in construction materials dump, abandoned in the Second World War- know now as Iraq slum. The old structures are occupied and fixed with the recycled materials from the dump. Electricity is stolen from public electric poles; light just appearing after the sun goes down in the horizon. The members of the community live from social metal scavenging, farm work, raising animals for selling and the social security check. The walls of the shelters are not enough for protecting these families from the cold and wind.”

It’s a project I empathize with. The dark mood, the rich and profound shadows, the melancholic looks, the play, the fact that I am reminded of Roger Ballen’s work… it all seems to confirm the honesty of the work. But although Pedrosa says this work is never finished, that every time he goes to Carrazeda de Ansiães he visits the “slum”, the work dates back to 2011/2012 and is inherently different from the body of work that brought me to this post: The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-02,xlarge.1426003716© António Pedrosa, In the early morning Carlos Ferreira waits, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-07,xlarge.1426003853© António Pedrosa, A running herd of deer, February 2014, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-08,large.1426003949© António Pedrosa, Ana Parreira, tracking dog handler, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

I stumbled upon this work with a different title, namely Beauty amid the beasts. It had been recently featured in Captured, The Week photo blog. It’s a work about hunting and hunters in Portugal, a tribe Pedrosa describes as “a threatened species by aging and loss of economic power caused by the crisis in the South of Europe.” Of course, this is highly debatable, there is a dramatic change in our behaviors and mentality regarding animals and nature that is at the core of what is described as a “disappearing tradition” by editor Sarah Eberspacher, from The Week. Pedrosa’s statement about the series goes as follows (with links provided by the editor aforementioned):

“Hunting in my imagination was always more taxidermy photograph as if the prey was just a mere accessory of the hunter’s pose – the real trophy.
When I decided to document the daily lives of Portuguese hunters came instantly to the memory the “cliché” from the photographer JA da Cunha Moraes, captured during a hippopotamus hunt in the River Zaire, Angola, and published in 1882 in the album Africa Occidental . The white hunter posed at the center of the photograph, with his rifle, surrounded by the local tribe.
It was with this cliché I got to Alentejo, south of Portugal, in search of the contemporary hunters. For several months I saw deer, wild boar, foxes. I photographed popular hunting and private hunting estates, wealthy and middle class hunters, meat hunters and trophy hunters. I photographed those who live from hunting and those who see it as a hobby for a few weekends during the year. I followed the different times and moments of a hunt, in between the prey and the pose , wine and blood, the crack of gunfire and the murmur of the fields.
I was lucky, I heard lots of hunting stories. I found an essentially old male population, where young people are a minority. Hunters, a threatened species by aging and loss of economic power caused by the crisis in the South of Europe.
The result of this time is this series of images, distant from the “cliche”, from 1882.”

CacaGrossa-11,xlarge.1426003707© António Pedrosa, “Berras” pulling the slaughtered boar for a visible area for better picking, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-17,xlarge.1426003860© António Pedrosa, Dogs in pursuit of a deer, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-19,xlarge.1426003800© António Pedrosa, José Pinguelo climbing the escarpment with the head of a deer, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

It’s clear to me that Pedrosa went for the hunt with a cliché in mind, but it wasn’t Moraes trophy photography, instead an idea about what the pictures would look like. Sarah quotes him saying “It was that medieval view, that I’ve experienced in hunting paintings, that I wanted.” By that medieval view he seems to be referring to, and here quoting the same source, “Men with huge knifes in the belt, and the hunting dogs running toward the rifle hunters”. The article also emphasizes the economic crisis behind the changing tradition, alluding to the “money to maintain a gun license, secure a place in the hunting grounds, and even drive out into the tangled, unsettled areas where the deer and boars roam.”

I’ve grown up watching this tradition unfold. My father is a hunter and while growing up we got used to him waking up at three or four in the morning to meet his accomplices and drive to Alentejo. Their hunting grounds changed over the years for several reasons but the journey was never short. We got used to see the trophies around the house but never really got used to the obvious connection between the way hunters deal with their preys and the animals in their domestic environment. Hunting, as a hobby (not a surviving skill), is an attitude that goes beyond the hunting grounds.

But back to what brought me here: Pedrosa’s photographs. At first I was amazed by how different his work is in color. There’s an elegance, a subtle dramatic approach that is lost, even if there’s a stylistic approach that favors low saturation and contrast, the use of wide angle lens, the impressionistic skies and the romantic approach to portraits seem to accentuate the view of the photographer as an outsider without a point of view. Maybe I’m being too harsh, it wouldn’t be a surprise, and I find it difficult to pint point what I dislike about this work, but there’s something about the stylistic approach that tends to overpower the photographer’s point of view.

CacaGrossa-23,xlarge.1426003873© António PedrosaAt the end of day collecting hunted deers and fawns in a private estate, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-27,xlarge.1426003815© António Pedrosa, Hunted deer on hold for review by the veterinary team, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-31,xlarge.1426003791© António Pedrosa, Hunting landscape, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

≡ Let’s see what the birds see ≡

mass_bird_graves© Zhao Renhui, #243, after 321 days, from the project A heartwarming feeling – From Japan to the Arctic Circle, Elephant Island, 2008-10.

A bird that was carrying a small pin-hole camera (1.21cm x 0.7cm) made by Tomimaru Okuni tied to its feet while the bird was in Japan. The bird and the camera were later retrieved from the Arctic Circle after 321 days. Journey from Japan to the Arctic Circle.

* * *

Zhao’s work is so extensive and amazing that editing a post about him has proven to be a difficult task. Not giving up, I chose to feature a single project, even if EVERYTHING proved to be worth the time. Here is a link to his virtual home @ The Institute of Critical Zoologists with special emphasis on the following projects:

An expedition to Pulau Pejantan;

The whiteness of a whale, by Zhao Renhui & Satoshi Kataoka;

A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the world.

and…

a good profile artist @ Art Asia Pacific

a good conversation @ The Artist and His Model

* * *

Zhao Renhui’s statement, October 2010, Yamanshina:

Climate change has significant impact on birds. It can alter distribution, abundance and behavior. It can also affect events like bird migration.

Migration times are shifting and birds which are slow to change fail to migrate altogether.
We still know very little of how birds navigate and migrate over long distances. A recent phenomenon in the Arctic Circle is the emergence of mass bird graves. It seems as if different species of migrating birds due for the south has been flying the opposite direction, in an apparent act of suicide. Very little research has been done on this phenomenon.
Scientists argue that global warming might be a cause of this but has yet to show evidence of how this might be linked. One popular theory says that the melting of the ice caps might have affected the earth’s magnetic field, something which the birds might have been using for navigation. Many critics dispute this claim and scientists are still looking for an explanation for this phenomenon.

On January 2008, I collaborated with the Yamshina Institute for Ornithology (a regional expert in bird banding) in an attempt to document this phenomenon during an artist residency. A group of a few thousand migratory birds were banded by the Institute over the course of two months. Besides banding the birds with a metal band on their legs, I included a small pin-hole camera near each band. Inside each camera was a very small sheet of positive photographic paper of extremely low sensitivity. The pin-hole exposed the image directly onto the paper, and allows for a positive image to be formed as long as there was light going through the pin-hole. The thousands of little pin-hole cameras were made with the help of a group of local school children.

On June 2010, 50 of the birds were dead found in the Arctic Circle. 30 of the birds still had their cameras intact and 12 of the cameras actually created an image of the bird’s rather confused migratory journey to the Arctic.
What I found intriguing when I enlarged the images was that much of the bird’s journey might have been captured (recorded while it was flying, never long enough to register a still) in all the blurry colourful hues we see in the images. Parts of the mountainous Arctic landscape, however, registered quite clearly. The only way that these landscapes could have formed on the paper was when the bird came to a final rest and laid on the ice, because that would give the pin-hole camera enough time to form a clear and still image – which is probably the last view of the bird before it died.”

02© Zhao Renhui, #243, after 321 days, from the project A heartwarming feeling – From Japan to the Arctic Circle, Elephant Island, 2008-10. 

03© Zhao Renhui, #471, after 710 days, from the project A heartwarming feeling – From Japan to the Arctic Circle, Elephant Island, 2008-10.

07© Zhao Renhui, #645, after 641 days, from the project A heartwarming feeling – From Japan to the Arctic Circle, Elephant Island, 2008-10.

06© Zhao Renhui, #1321, after 231 days, from the project A heartwarming feeling – From Japan to the Arctic Circle, Elephant Island, 2008-10.

05© Zhao Renhui, #1420, after 678 days, from the project A heartwarming feeling – From Japan to the Arctic Circle, Elephant Island, 2008-10.

≡ ‘Futuristic Archeology’ or how the nomadic unit confronts the despotic machine ≡

586ca0010415ef35b3b79cd2156158a0-large© Daesung Lee, from the series Futuristic Archeology, 2013-14.

761383da4690aae8b1611afd21799190-large© Daesung Lee, from the series Futuristic Archeology, 2013-14.

Desertification in Mongolia- Nomadic life has been central to traditional Mongolian culture throughout history. Even with changes brought about by urbanisation in recent years, 35% of Mongolians are living a nomadic life and thus still depend on their vast, open land for survival. This is increasingly difficult because their traditional way of life is now being threatened due to serious changes in the land.

According to a survey made by the Mongolian government, around 850 lakes and 2000 rivers and streams have dried out. This loss of water is contributing to the desertification of Mongolia, as 25% of its land has turned into desert in the past 30 years. Potentially 75 % of Mongolian territory is at risk of desertification. These environmental changes directly threaten the Mongolian nomadic way of life, which has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.

This project attempts at recreating the museum diorama with actual people and their livestock in a real place where desertifying in Mongolia. It is based on an imagination that these people try to go into museum diorama for survival. This is accomplished with printed images on a billboard placed in conjunction with the actual landscape horizon. By doing this, I hope to accomplish a sense that the lives of these nomadic people occur between this reality and a virtual space of a museum. Mongolian traditional nomadic life might be only existed in museum in the future.Lee’s statement.

92fbb94b3e1af5e2bab806ddbfa55ba4-large© Daesung Lee, from the series Futuristic Archeology, 2013-14.

4d241af39bd22b125267fa21bfb7702d-large© Daesung Lee, from the series Futuristic Archeology, 2013-14.

Nomadic Thought, excerpt from an essay by Deleuze published in a 1977, pp. 148 – 149. Source: Anarchist Without Content.

One final point remains to be made. Let us go back to that grand passage in The Genealogy of Morals about the founders of empires. There we encounter men of Asiatic production, so to speak. On a base of primitive rural communities, these despots construct their imperial machines that codify everything to excess. With an administrative bureaucracy that organizes huge projects, they feed off an overabundance of labor (“Wherever they appear something new soon arises, a ruling structure that fives, in which parts and functions are delimited and coordinated, in which nothing whatever finds a place that has not first been assigned and coordinated, in which nothing whatever finds a place that has not first been assigned a ‘meaning’ in relation to the whole”‘). It is questionable, however, whether this text does not tie together two forces that in other respects would be held apart – two forces that Kafka distinguished, even opposed, in The Great Wall of China. For, when one tries to discover how primitive segmented communities give rise to other forms of sovereignty – a question Nietzsche raises in the second part of The Genealogy – one sees that two entirely different yet strictly related phenomena occur. It is true that, at the center, the rural communities are absorbed by the despot’s bureaucratic machine, which includes its scribes, its priests, its functionaries. But on the periphery, these communities commence a sort of adventure, They enter into another kind of unit, this time a nomadic association, a nomadic war machine, and they begin to decodify instead of allowing themselves to become overcodified. Whole groups depart; they become nomads. Archaeologists have led us to conceive of this nomadism not as a primary state, but as an adventure suddenly embarked upon by sedentary groups impelled by the attraction of movement, of what lies outside. The nomad and his war machine oppose the despot with his administrative machine: an extrinsic nomadic unit as opposed to an intrinsic despotic unit. And yet the societies are correlative, interrelated; the despot’s purpose will be to integrate, to internalize the nomadic war machine, while that of the nomad will be to invent an administration for the newly conquered empire. They ceaselessly oppose one another – to the point where they become confused with one another.

Philosophic discourse is born out of the imperial state, and it passes through innumerable metamorphoses, the same metamorphoses that lead us from the foundations of empire to the Greek city. Even within the Greek city-state, philosophic discourse remained in a strict relation with the despot (or at least within the shadow of despotism), with imperialism, with the administration of things and people (Leo Strauss and Kojève give a variety of proofs of this in their work On Tyranny). Philosophic discourse has always been essentially related to law, institutions, and contracts – which taken together, constitute the subject matter of sovereignty and have been part of the history of sedentary peoples from the earliest despotic states to [149] modem democracies. The “signifier” is really the last philosophical metamorphosis of the despot. But if Nietzsche does not belong to philosophy, it is perhaps because he was the first to conceive of another kind of discourse as counter-philosophy. This discourse is above all nomadic; its statements can be conceived as the products of a mobile war machine and not the utterances of a rational, administrative machinery, whose philosophers would be bureaucrats of pure reason. It is perhaps in this sense that Nietzsche announces the advent of a new politics that begins with him (which Klossowski calls a plot against his own class).

It is common knowledge that nomads fare miserably under our kinds of regime: we will go to any lengths in order to settle them, and they barely have enough to subsist on. Nietzsche lived like such a nomad, reduced to a shadow, moving from furnished room to furnished room. But the nomad is not necessarily one who moves: some voyages take place in situ, are trips in intensity. Even historically, nomads are not necessarily those who move about like migrants. On the contrary, they do not move; nomads, they nevertheless stay in the same place end continually evade the codes of settled people. We also know that the problem for revolutionaries today is to unite within the purpose of the particular struggle without falling into the despotic and bureaucratic organization of the party or state apparatus. We seek a kind of war machine that will not re-create a state apparatus, a nomadic unit related to the outside that will not revive an internal despotic unity. Perhaps this is what is most profound in Nietzsche’s thought and marks the extent of his break with philosophy, at least so far as it is manifested in the aphorism: he made thought into a machine of war – a battering ram – into a nomadic force. And even if the journey is a motionless one, even if it occurs on the spot, imperceptible, unexpected, and subterranean, we must ask ourselves, “Who are our nomads today, our real Nietzscheans’?

0e232e12a3dd395e914cb45c491728d5-large© Daesung Lee, from the series Futuristic Archeology, 2013-14.

dcc4a4be3cc55a8e79bec3e2c4c4b702-large© Daesung Lee, from the series Futuristic Archeology, 2013-14.

 

≡ ‘Has the Düsseldorf School killed photography?’, he asks ≡

I

83d91fab-d6f2-4e10-adf3-0761bc9ea80c

Professional Photographer editor Grant Scott popped the question and it stayed with me, not only because it is a very catchy headline for an article, as the author notes, but because his reflection resonated with me.

As I understand it, Scott’s main issue with the Düsseldorf School relates to its heritage not its conquests. The Bechers’ pupils, namely Thomas Stuth, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Laurenz Berges and Andreas Gursky (to name only a few) all gave (and still give!) original and groundbreaking contributions to expand the range of languages one could apply to photography. Struth’s family portraits were innovative in the way he managed to portrait, with a non-theatrical approach, the dynamics between the group, while having them stare at the camera; Ruff’s portraits set the tone for contemporary portraiture and highlighted how the surface of things and the particularities of a person’s face, can grab one’s attention and “hurt” us in many ways; Höfer’s majestic interiors changed the field of architectural photography and highlight her singular approach to natural light as a way to comment on the atmosphere and emotional landscape of each location; Gursky’s large scale depictions of human consumerism and megalomaniac mentality are impressive not only for their appearance but also because of the process and commitment they entail; Sasse’s relationship to color is one-of-a-kind and his photographs of public and private spaces should be taught in every photography classroom.

It’s true that while some of them kept their original perspective and reflection upon the medium, some just kept applying the formula, but what Scott means by the alleged murder is that they “offered” an easy way out to any photography-student-wannabe-conceptual-artist who chooses to lean on the formula of the ‘project-as-serial-work’. This way the task gets simplified: one chooses the subject and the location and then repeats the framing with a distant and seemingly objective eye.

Although I agree with this immediate analysis, for I recognize that this is a problem both in the amateur as in the professional milieu, with major influence on the way photography students approach their subjects, what resonates less with me is Scott’s cynical tone:

I wander off and create an image that I shall call Shopping trolley in supermarket car park on a grey day, or Einkaufswagen im Supermarkt Parkplatz an einem Grauen Tag. It’s not quite as snappy as New Objectivity but it is observationally descriptive and has the all-important element of transformation to verify it. It may just be the Asda car park, but when translated into German it becomes one of a series of images which combine to become a personal exploration of environmental documentation. There we have it: a picture easy and cheap to take, some words to support why I took it and a German title. I am now a disciple of Becher and if my work is criticised I will quote the Bechers’ teaching and their followers’ success.I am now a New Objectivity photographer. I am in a comfort zone.

Scott says he’s fed up with all the supposed neutrality and emotionless conceptual approach, from portraits to deserted landscapes, as I am too, but overall what one misses is originality, and that has always been a problem in every art discipline. So the issue might be that the stage for the so-called ‘artistic photography’ these days is huge, and it’s expected that we have to go through a pile of unoriginal and uncreative work before we find something worth looking at.

Full article HERE.

II

portraits_88_22portraits_88_15portraits_88_16all images © Thomas Ruff, from the series Portraits, circa 1988.

III

The Lingwood & Hamlyn family, London, UK, 2001© Thomas Struth, The Lingwood & Hamlyn family, London, UK, from the series Family Portraits, 2001.

TS-3© Thomas Struth, The Falletti Family, Florence, from the series Family Portraits, 2005.

The Felsenfeld, Gold Families, Philadelphia, 2007© Thomas Struth, The Felsenfeld, Gold Families, Philadelphia, from the series Family Portraits, 2007.

IV

Wiblingen-Abbey, Germany© Candida Höfer, Wiblingen-Abbey, Germany.

Casa Musica Porto V, 2006© Candida Höfer, Casa da Música, Porto, 2006.

IB_S_BASIC_COPYRIGHT =© Candida Höfer, Cuvillés Theater, München, 2009.

V

Paris, Montparnasse 1993© Andreas Gursky, Paris, Montparnasse, 1993.

Chicago, Board of Trade II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955© Andreas Gursky, Chicago, Board of Trade II, 1999.

Kamiokande, 2007© Andreas Gursky, Kamiokande, 2007.

VI

P-91-02-02, Düsseldorf 1991© Jörg Sasse, P-91-02-02, Düsseldorf, from the series Public Spaces, 1991.

W-93-07-01, Marburg 1993© Jörg Sasse, W-93-07-01, Marburg, from the series Private Spaces, 1993.

W-92-06-01, Pelm 1992© Jörg Sasse, W-92-06-01, Pelm, from the series Private Spaces, 1992.

VII

HUETTE 033-A© Axel Hütte, Mandalay 1, Las Vegas, USA, 2003.

Portrait #26, Germany from the series Water Reflections, 2007© Axel Hütte, Portrait #26, Germany from the series Water Reflections, 2007.

Passo Sella, Italy from the series New Mountains, 2012© Axel Hütte, Passo Sella, Italy from the series New Mountains, 2012.

VIII

Erevan - Artashat© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Erevan – Artashat, from the series Bus Stops, Armenia., 1997-2011.

Erevan, Yegnward© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Erevan, Yegnward, from the series Bus Stops, Armenia., 1997-2011.

Gymri, Spitak, 2002© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Gymri, Spitak, from the series Bus Stops, Armenia., 1997-2011.

IX

Altenburg, 1992© Laurenz Berges, Altenburg, 1992.

Wünsdorf II, 1994© Laurenz Berges, Wünsdorf II, 1994.

Hannover, 2005 (# 2282)© Laurenz Berges, Hannover, 2005.

⁞ Cliff Andrade’s ‘profound internalisation of longing’ ⁞

cliff1all images © Cliff Andrade, from the project Saudade.

Although I enjoy landscape photography very much, I often get bored by the way some photographers build their documentary projects around it, as if the mountain and its goats spoke the same language. They don’t. On this note, Cliff Andrade’s project Saudade (about Madeira) was a good surprise, not because I think the work is outstanding, but because it is filled with discrepancies that got me thinking: there are images, like the one above and others below, which really add something to the core of the project, and then there is a series of portraits which completely miss the mark, that are distant and cold and aesthetically disjointed from the rest of the project.

I usually find statements about projects redundant and unnecessary but in Cliff’s case (and it’s not a short text), his words are enlightening and sincere, so I’ll be posting the entire text here.

flat_xPRINT_MG_0261-120dpi

“My childhood memories of the homeland of my parents are of a land very much other worldly. In those years, the early years following Portugal’s accession to the E.U. (then the E.C.), Madeira was, in most respects, still the same island my parents had known as children and young adults. An ochre earthed, tree covered volcanic mountain poking out of the ocean. Fresh air full of the scent of pine trees. Early mornings greeted by the cockerel’s sonorous cock-a-doodle. This was a world apart from the inner cities of Europe’s largest metropolises where most of our parents had ended up, and as a young child I revelled in it. I revelled in the nature. I revelled in the eternal sunshine. I revelled in the difference between that world, untainted by the obligation of school, and the drab grey world in which we existed for the years between summer visits.

Even if at times this difference meant frustration. Frustration at the availability of only one television channel. Frustration at the fear you felt sitting in the makeshift wooden outhouse as the family pigs ran around beneath you. Frustration at the lack of recognisable brands in the locally run shops. Supermarkets and chain stores did not exist here. For this was a land yet to be reached by mass-market consumer capitalism. I revelled in this difference and I revelled in feeling part of an extended family, re-united, a feeling all too rare for us filhos de emigrados, ‘sons of emigrants’, dispersed around the globe. And I revelled in my parents’ visible joy at being reconnected to their homeland.

The experiences of a child are buffered from the harsher realities of the world, and as such the reality of life in Madeira at this time should not be romanticised. It was a poor place, the majority of the population agricultural peasants. Basic infrastructure was lacking. Alcoholism a major problem. A day to day existence as mundane as any small rural community anywhere. But it was also a place full of laughter. Full of community. All this I was to come to realise years later through my mother’s stories. For all its faults, it was a place for which my parents would always feel that most Portuguese of emotions – a place for which they would always have saudade.

Saudade. How does one explain a concept that goes to the very core of the Portuguese national character? No direct translation exists into the English language. Tenho saudades tuas (lit. I have saudades for you) is often translated as ‘I miss you’, but this is misleading. It fails to communicate the profound depth of longing present with saudade. To miss is to feel the absence of something. To have saudade is to bear the additional sorrow of knowing that that absent something may never return. Others have described it as a deep emotional state of melancholic longing; but longing stares outward, to the horizon. Saudade is a profound internalisation of longing, drawing it deep into the soul. And there is a profound paradox at the heart of saudade – the melancholy is accompanied by joy; joy at the memory of having experienced that for which you now pine.

flat_xPRINT_MG_1714-120dpi flat_xPRINT_road-through-mountains_2-120dpiflat_xPRINT_MADEIRA-TRIP-2-CONTACT-2-Scan-2_2-120dpi

Despite those handful of visits as a child, as my adult years progressed I became increasingly aware that Madeira was a place I hardly knew. And it knew even less of me. Why did I, then, a ‘second generationer’ from a foreign land across the vast ocean, also feel saudade for that land? Was it saudade I felt, or merely a nostalgia for fond childhood memories?

There is a saudade felt by the offspring of all those who left their home for a new land. A saudade that comes not from an absence for a place once known, but from a need to fill a gap within that has always existed. For to not know the home of our parents is to not know a place to which we are inextricably linked. That land formed them, in turn leaving its imprint upon us. To never know it is to never know a part of ourselves. Its water flows in our blood.

What is this human compulsion to know the past? Logic tells us there is no point in looking back. Time moves only forward. The future lies that way. But saudade knows nothing of logic. It yearns only for what is missing, fuelled by the human desire to know where we come from in the hope we can better understand who we are and where we are going. Perhaps by knowing the land of our parents, we hope in turn to know them better. Maybe out there amongst the pines and laurisilva, between levada and ribeira, serra and calhau, I will find some of the reasons for their joy, their sorrow, their insecurities and their strength.

In my personal case the need to know has become all the more pertinent in recent years. While they survive, our parents exist as the link to such a key part of our identity. What happens when that link is severed, as is its inescapable fate? Then we return to the land of our fathers increasingly as an outsider. As time passes our disconnection deepens. We are viewed with the benevolent and pitying looks reserved for tourists. For, in truth, we know nothing of that place and its people. Our families are ever more comprised of strangers. Things that were once held dear immediately begin to be forgotten, the guardians of that knowledge no longer present to preserve its memory. And what will be the effect on the grandchildren who never knew their avôs, their grandparents? How will they react when they receive that quizzical look that accompanies the question ‘Whereabouts are your parents from?’. For them, will the answer ‘my grandparents on my dad’s side were Portuguese but I never knew them’ suffice?

cliff4 cliff3

During two visits spread over the end of 2013 and early 2014, I returned to the land of my parents for the first time in my adult life in an attempt to heal the disconnection I felt with it. In the build up to my trip, my thoughts often turned to the first Portuguese to arrive on the island. What must they have thought at the first sight of that vast tree covered rock, rising two thousand metres straight up out of the Atlantic Ocean, as if to sneak a peek over the horizon at its neighbour Africa? They arrived there in 1419. So awed were they by the dense forest that covered every centimetre of its surface that they called it simply Madeira, ‘wood’. What I discovered on my own personal voyage of (re)discovery was a place drastically altered from the one I had known through the stories of my parents.

Shortly after my childhood visits ceased, a massive influx of money began to arrive in Madeira from the E.U. as part of a European periphery development programme. The aim was to close the gap in development between Portugal and the leading Western European nations which had opened up over years of underdevelopment during Portugal’s authoritarian Salazar regime. It seems the autonomous Madeiran government decided this was best achieved through mass construction projects, specifically targeting road infrastructure. The network of old roads, painfully following the mountainside, snaking in and out of the island’s sheer sided valleys, were left frozen in time as they were replaced at lightning speed by a vast high speed dual carriageway network, blazing a straight path through the landscape, over bridges and through tunnels. Modern engineering showing all its might. Development in fast forward.

flat_xPRINT_MADEIRA-TRIP-2-CONTACT-2-Scan-3_2-120dpi flat_xPRINT_MADEIRA-TRIP-2-CONTACT-14-Scan-1_1-120dpi flat_xPRINT_MADEIRA-TRIP-2-CONTACT-12-Scan-9_2-120dpi

In an attempt to know the island as my parents would have known it, I decided to travel along these old main roads. Due to the island’s topography, both old and new roads follow a similar route, and I often found the old road taking me under or up and over its modern successor.

What I discovered as I journeyed through the landscape was a land very much at odds with itself about the development of the last 20 years. Family homes sit abandoned under huge stilted flyovers, waiting silently in the vain hope of their owners return. But their occupants have long since gone, forced to move to make way for progress. Those who refused to move find themselves living on a traffic island, a domestic oasis in a concrete and tarmac desert.

The new roads were accompanied by other large scale construction projects. Shopping centres in every town centre. Marinas. Small towns graced with olympic sized swimming pools. Whilst times were good few worried about the wider implications of what was being done, but Madeira was hit particularly hard by 2008’s economic collapse, known there simply as a crise, ‘the crisis’. Now critical voices are ubiquitous.

No ones disagrees that the island was in dire need of development. What they ask is whether this development was pursued in the best way? And who really stood to gain from it – where did all the money go (and into whose pockets)? Was the desire for huge construction projects so all consuming that there was no time to stop and ask whether this was actually the best way to achieve progress? And was all this construction absolutely necessary? As one young man I spoke to along the way told me: ‘What we needed was balanced investment to create a sustainable economy based on our traditions and heritage. What we got was concrete’.

cliff2

Shopping centres sit empty. Seafront developments sit disused, sentinels for the yawning blue mouths of empty swimming pools. Sections of old roads rot as no money survives for their upkeep. The irony. The coastline, restructured to accommodate this break neck development, gives way under the force of altered erosion patterns. A new leisure port built in the shadow of the new road sits destroyed. A reminder of the consequences of failing to respect the power of water.

Turn towards the interior. Leave the populated coast and wander up into the lush and misty hills. Here the pace of development has been slower, but is visible nonetheless. Ancient rock, loosened by explosives carelessly used to blow holes in the basalt for road tunnels, cascades down the mountainside. Earth loosened by the mass removal of trees comes cascading with it, blocking roads. Disconnecting.

Up here, Madeira’s winters are wet. In February 2010 Madeira experienced its worst flood damage in living memory. Without the tree coverage to keep the soil together, torrents rushed down the mountainside and down the ribeiras, the steep sided river valleys, taking earth, rock, home and life with it. Four years later, reconstruction is still ongoing. A lonely broken pylon stands isolated in the middle of what were once houses, like a ghost from the past. A reminder of the consequences of failing to respect the power of water.

In the present day recession, when jobs and money are scarce, the myopia of the recent past looks even worse. Back in 2008 when the E.U. money stopped flowing almost overnight, the failure to create a sustainable economy, to enable the island to stand on its own two feet, was immediately cruelly exposed. All wonder whether history is set to repeat itself. Will another generation of young Madeirans be forced to disconnect from their homeland as they have no choice but to look abroad for brighter prospects?

As the European Union project seeks to expand itself ever eastwards, forging into other lands in need of development and unaccustomed to commercial capitalism, there may be a valuable lesson to be taken from Madeira’s experience. Change needs to be managed with careful consideration. Simply providing money is simply not enough.

There is hope. Madeira is endowed with an extremely beautiful and varied landscape and a vibrant and unique culture, full of potential. By western European standards, the level of crime is low. The sense of community high. One huge positive result of the development of the last twenty years is that the young are better educated and more internationally mobile than ever before. Hopefully, they will learn from the mistakes of the previous generations and build a sustainable future, reconnecting the island to itself and its heritage in the process.

Small moves in this direction can already be seen. The economic problems have forced many to return to the land through hardship – but in the process they have had the chance to re-evaluate the path they were taking towards progress. The poios, sloped terraced farm plots, abandoned in the rush to modernise, live again with fresh produce and activity. Small businesses have sprung up as those made redundant in the city return to their villages to pursue alternative ways of making a go of things. There are sparks of regeneration. Like a forest after a fire, charred trunks are soon surrounded by a carpet of new life.

flat_xPRINT_WIP-FULL-end-of-the-mountain-road-Ben-Edit-120dpi flat_xPRINT_MG_0993-120dpi

In the densely wooded mountain ranges, the serra, there hides another secret network of connections. Long before even the old roads were constructed, an intricate network of levadas, ‘water takers’, and veredas, ‘paths’, linked the island’s numerous agricultural settlements. Even in my parents’ time, these were the main form of communication. The sealed road to their village did not arrive until after they had already departed. It would have made little difference. No one owned a car.

First constructed in the 16th century to bring water from the wet north to the drier but more farmable south, levadas are small water canals about a foot across and a foot deep, accompanied on one side by an earth path. Often carved straight out of the mountainside, they were the engineering marvels of their day, bringing life, livelihood and connection.

In the same way that the new roads usurped the old roads in the 21st century, the old roads had usurped the levadas and veredas in the 20th. The more practical veredas survive, used mainly as access to homes and farms. The more picturesque have been appropriated as routes for tourists and extreme sports enthusiasts. Some levadas still fulfil their irrigation purposes. But many of these old routes are slowly fading into history, gradually being reclaimed by the laurisilva.

During my return to Madeira, I traversed the width of the the island along these ancient paths and waterways; a route that took me from coast to coast, south to north, over the island’s mountainous central spine in the process. Through this literal act of following in my ancestors centuries-old footsteps, I hoped that a physical discovery of the land would in turn lead me to an emotional reconnection with it, and a better understanding of the lives that had trodden those paths before me.

I had one more personal motivation in my pursuit of reconnection with my parents’ homeland. When I was still too young to know my father with anything other than a child’s mind, he ‘went with God’, as the Portuguese say. My links to his Madeira, always fragile, were all but severed. When my children ask about their avô, what will I say? Of their avó I can tell them much. I can tell them of a rural childhood. Of bare feet on red earth steps. Of leaving school aged eleven to work weaving wicker baskets. Of emigration, naturalisation and anglicisation. Of hard work, starched aprons and shy smiles.

But of him, only blurred memories. A big laugh. Plates piled with over-salted chouriço macaroni. Asleep on the sofa. I knew none of the members of his side of the family. As I crossed Madeira’s terrain in order to know it better, I decided to at the same time tackle the unknown terrain of my father’s family. Seeking them out before it was too late. And in doing so I hoped to know him better. After all, we leave vestiges, traces of ourselves, in everyone we know and have met. I hoped in them I would find traces of the man.”

Cliff, May, 2014

⁞ A selection of UK-based emerging photographers to watch (III) ⁞

magowens-1_1© Jill Quigley, Untitled, from the series Cottages of Quigley’s Point.

mcganns_1© Jill Quigley, Untitled, from the series Cottages of Quigley’s Point.

164715-8497154-L_SMITH_06© Oliver Smith, Untitled, from the series Looking for Ghosts.

164715-8497173-5_corrected_2© Oliver Smith, Untitled, from the series Looking for Ghosts.

neurotypical1© Tom Marsh, Untitled, from the series Neurotypicals, 2014.

neurotypical4© Tom Marsh, Untitled, from the series Neurotypicals, 2014.

02© Petra Kubisova, Her Voice, which I know so well.
Installation, archival photograph layered and printed on individual life-size transparent sheets, hanging from the ceiling, 2013.

18_hp1_v3© Shinwook Kim, Untitlted, from The Family Picture, 2014.
Digital Inkjet Print, 100x128cm.

18_hp3© Shinwook Kim, Untitlted, from The Family Picture, 2014.
Digital Inkjet Print, 100x128cm.

point_N_50-25-49_E-05-11-12_D_04-03-13_29-04-13 copy_600© William Arnold, Untitled, from the series Tin-can Firmament. Pinhole.

william-arnold-gorse-chemigram-fuji-fp100c_600© William Arnold, Untitled, from the series The Late Spring. Polaroid.

⁞ Identities defined by stereotipied ideas of nationality ⁞

Street Level Photoworks‘ upcoming exhibition is called Common Ground: New Documentary Photography from Scotland & Wales and is promoted as a show that brings together “diverse themes and ideas associated with distinctive national and cultural visual inspiration, this collective exhibition welds them together into a cohesive narrative, at times overlapping and continuously referencing and complementing each other“.

Following is my selection of images from some of the photographers showcased in this exhibition as well as other authors both documenting Scotland as it approaches the independence referendum and reflecting on the idea of british identity.

00189328© Kieran Dodds, from the series Land of Scots.

Scotland - Gretna - Seeing Ourselves© Colin McPherson, Welcome to Scotland, 2013, from the project A Fine Line – Exploring Scotland’s border with England.

Scotland - Gretna - Seeing Ourselves© Colin McPherson, Farmland, Hustle Bank, 2013, from the project A Fine Line – Exploring Scotland’s border with England.

IMG_81012-666x1000© James O Jenkins, from the series Thatcher (portraits taken at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. 17th April 2013, London.

IMG_81251-670x1000© James O Jenkins, from the series Thatcher (portraits taken at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. 17th April 2013, London.

Untitled-1 copy© Stephen McLaren, from the ongoing project Scotia Nova.

Untitled-2 copy© Stephen McLaren, from the ongoing project Scotia Nova.

1© Craig Easton, from The Scottish Referendum Project.

2© Craig Easton, from The Scottish Referendum Project.

The English Defence League© Ed Thompson, from the series England Till I Die.

The English Defence League© Ed Thompson, from the series England Till I Die.

⁞ Patrick Hogan: solitude and madness ⁞

Behind The Garden Wall© Patrick Hogan, Behind the Garden Wall, from the project Solitary, Half Mad.

Animal In The Dark #1© Patrick Hogan, Animal In The Dark #1, from the project Solitary, Half Mad.

excerpt of a conversation between Patrick Hogan and Stephen Tierney, published in The Interior Prospect.

ST – Having grown up myself in the Tipperary countryside I remember many echoes of your works atmospheres in the empty houses we would explore when we were young. I am interested in how views of interiors can be used to communicate or suggest meaning. Regarding your series Solitary, half mad, which I believe has a fictive aspect to it, did some of the interiors that you created have some personal resonance for you?

PHWhen I began this project, I decided to move from the urban area where I had been living, to a small cottage in the Tipperary countryside. All of the interiors that I photographed were found around the area where I live but they have no direct relevance to me, other than to say that they were chosen and photographed with a degree of empathy.
As I had been living alone and also working on this project alone for six months and on a very low budget, you could say that the overall series has absorbed a mood and a tone that I don’t think would have emerged otherwise.
Initially, I was interested in the notion that romantic ideals of solitude and escapism are often more fantastical than reality will ultimately offer. Regarding meaning, I wanted to find a way to communicate this sense of tension between reality and fantasy. All of the interiors that I photographed were rooms where people lived or died alone. For the most part, everything was photographed as I found it. This was important. By paying particular attention to how these interiors were composed and lit, I could bring a sense of theatre to these very real situations. The sequencing of interior and exterior pictures and the significantly small number of pictures used in the final sequence, leaves enough space between the images to enable the viewer to form their own interpretation. In this sense, I think meaning is communicated by suggestion rather than direction, and relies on an element of elusiveness.
[…]

Table© Patrick Hogan, Table, from the project Solitary, Half Mad.

Animal In The Dark #2© Patrick Hogan, Animal In The Dark #2, from the project Solitary, Half Mad.

ST – The interiors seem to reflect a life of exclusively solitary existence and both attract and repel through curiosity and food. Are these found spaces?

PHYes, all of the interiors are found spaces. Over the six months of the project, I met with and photographed people who live alone or in remote areas and also photographed the unused house as I mentioned. When I met people, I would usually begin with a portrait but soon found that the interiors seemed more interesting and were places that could hold more meaning than a portrait. In the end, none of the portraits were used.
The tension between attraction and repulsion that you mention was important throughout this project. Some of the interiors were photographed in what could be described as a forensic manner, like the bedroom, using a wide angle lens to include as much of the bed as possible and photographing it as I found it. On the other hand, by controlling the light and considering the camera view-point, the colour palette when printing and finally the framing, I could bring a somewhat seductive quality to these images. On closer inspection of course, we can see that in most cases, we are looking at scenes of neglect and often poverty. In this sense the visual language employed relies on a contradiction and I think meaning is communicated through this opposition.

[…]

Animal In The dark #3© Patrick Hogan, Animal In The Dark #3, from the project Solitary, Half Mad.

Inside The Wood #2© Patrick Hogan, Inside The Wood #2, from the project Solitary, Half Mad.

⁞ From the mountains to the sea: a conversation with Márcio Vilela ⁞

This conversation took place in July 2014, over the virtual space of Lisbon and Brazil. The original, portuguese version, of this conversation, can be seen HERE.

Sofia: This conversation is driven by your recent book featuring the work done in Azores. I have a few questions about the images, but I’ll pose them later on. For now, what intrigues me is the object-book, namely your options regarding the fabrication, production and distribution of the book. Before I go into more specific questions, can you give us an idea of the reasons behind such choices?

Márcio: In my projects I always try to leave behind an object that speaks about the creative process. In Mono there was the box of Polaroides, accounting for the two years of production, in another project I’m currently working on it’s a transfers notebook… it’s always like this, there’s always something that stays.
I’ve always wanted to make a book, but had never manage to reach a successful compromise between the personal and manual labor of such objects and an industrially printed book. I then started to research an object that could be made by hand, like a book… and look like it was handmade.
I’m the one doing the printing, using the same method (inkjet) I use when doing the exhibit prints, this time in a continuous 5m print. This wouldn’t be possible in a Print Shop, the book would have to be bound with glue. The book’s cover is made on wooden paper, cut with its specific measures. I spent a lot of time searching for this paper, it had to be something really special. The inscriptions on the cover and the back (‘Azores’ and the map of São Miguel) are handmade, by transferring a pigment (a process I also use in other works).
The book is inside a card box which is also handmade. I wanted whoever opened the box to feel like he/she was being gifted something special, I wanted them to feel that what is inside is a part of me and it is unique.
Inside the book there is a text by Eder Chiodetto and an extra print that is not part of the exhibition of the series Azores. This extra print tells the story of what I went through during those 4 weeks in São Miguel, the extreme beauty, the freedom, the loneliness and the fear… a powerful mix of emotions. Eder’s text is beautiful, a result of conversations we had about such emotions. I think he was able to account for things I had felt, before I had thought about them.
Since it is a very limited edition, 100 copies, the distribution is also made by hand. People come to me to get the books, we talk, it’s all personal. There will be no mass distribution of the book. Besides myself, only three places will be selling copies: Photo Book Korner and Carpe Diem, in Lisbon, and Madalena’s bookstore in São Paulo. Meanwhile there are no more than 10 copies in these places. I really want people to come to me.

Sofia: Are you the one doing the handwork?

Márcio: Not anymore… in the beginning I chose the materials, the model, the box, everything. After that I asked a designer, Joana Durães, for help with the layout of the pages. As soon as the process was tuned, I started on the final books but it was taking me an entire day to finish each copy and at such a pace the project would never be over. So I decided to speak to Luís Rendeiro, in Tomar, in order for him to help me. He folds and cuts the 5m prints, and he also does the boxes, all by hand.
I then bring everything to my studio in Lisbon and finish the process, do the transfers, print and cut the extra image that comes with the book, fold in the text booklet, sign and number everything. Then I put it inside the box and it’s done.

Sofia: And why the preference for the handmade process over the industrial one? Are those options a result of an emotional connection, of an idea on ‘affective labor’ or is it a way to enhance the product with qualities than potentiate its economic value, such as singularity, rarity, amongst other things?

Márcio: It’s only a very strong emotional process, I’m not sure if the fact that it is made by hand can effectively potentiate the objects’ economic value. I think that happens more naturally because of the content and the way things develop inside a book, than because of its materials and its fabrication process. Besides, the exchange value of the book is relatively low, close to the production costs. My interest here was to move from the objects I used to make to a book, with losing control over the manual aspect of things.

Sofia: I think the value of a book, as with almost everything else, is greatly dependent on the nominal value of the author. If you have that authority, everything you produce has its value. But what interests me in this case is that your book is coming at a time when the handmade product is being overvalued, besides being trendy. To my knowledge, this is the result of a process of alienation between author and work that has been escalating since the Industrial Revolution in the XVIII century and is now reaching a peak with the notion of ‘virtual labour’ introduced by all the new technologies. Anyway, my question is: although it is not a strategy, do you care that your emotion connection to the handmade process is translated in an economic value?

Márcio: Yes, I do agree a book can depend, in part, of the author’s nominal value, but I also think the art public is more attentive than we think, people don’t say they like or dislike something based on a signature on the corner of the artwork.
I think the artwork needs to circulate, reach people. Those who can’t afford to do a professional high cost book, do it by hand… in the end what is judged is the consistency of the work.
An artists ruled by trends is a hostage of that strategy, and is always looking for references outside of himself, waiting for the marker’s approval. I always thought a true artists creates because he/she needs to, even without the monetary reward or the recognition… like food for your soul. I know a lot of people like this and have always admire them for it.
In regards to your question, I can say I care about the economic value of my works, but that isn’t a goal.

Azores_06© Márcio Vilela, from the series Azores. Courtesy of the artist.

Azores_05© Márcio Vilela, from the series Azores. Courtesy of the artist.

Sofia: And regarding this project, how do you think the handmade aspect of the book meets the images? I suppose the book wouldn’t lose its meaning if it was made through industrial processes, so in your understanding what does this personalized approach to the object adds to the photographs?

Márcio: These images are relatively big, 120x150cm. When on a wall, the set of these 6 images has a different relation with the spectator, you can have a distant look at them to get an overall perception of the composition but you can also get closer to see the details… but it ends up being an object with a very strong presence.
I think this book would lose its sense if made by industrial processes, I’m addressing this book in particular. I’m not sure if it’s the object-book that adds something to the photographs or the other way around, maybe in the end they are one unique thing.
The relation one establishes with the book is very different from that one establishes with the image on a gallery wall, it is more personal. When we hold a manufactures object on our hands that relation is even more intimate, there is the notion that the thing we’re holding is delicate, that we need to hold it with care, that it needs time to be looked at. This time, this wait, they are important.
For me this book brings very strong sensorial experiences, there are the different textures of the papers, the smell of the cardboard… with careful attention we can also smell the solvent used in the pigment transference. It is an object one keeps rediscovering and that only strengthens that affective relationship I’ve been talking about.

Sofia: That’s why I mention alienation, because the great majority of people create more immediate empathies with objects in which the extension of the author’s body is easily recognizable, but I don’t think that empathy is more or less natural than any other (I don’t support the essentialist discourse), rather it is a reaction to a sincere discourse and that sincerity can manifest itself either in manufactured or industrial discourses. As a spectator, how are you, do you also create empathy with artworks in which you recognize the author’s footprint, or is that irrelevant?

Márcio: Certainly there’s an expectation when I go and see the work of someone I really like, be it a cinematographer, a plastic artist, a musician… I’m always curious and open to absorbing that experience. There have been exhibitions where I stayed for over an hour without talking to anyone, or I didn’t want further visual stimuli (as much as possible), I wanted to take it all in very slowly… I’ve spent over an hour sitting on the floor of a dark room at TATE looking at a Da Vinci’s sketch (and they have chairs)… I was stagnant on the floor, couldn’t get that out of my mind. This had happened a few times and some of these experiences have been with author’s I had never before heard about. Being unaware of the author’s footprint has only accentuated that experience, as if I had just discovered a new color.
When I know the artist I’m very emotional in my analyses, I can either enjoy the work very much and end up in a sort of “sensorial blockage” state I mentioned or I can be really disappointed by what I see… really sad, as if they had disappointed me. When I go to see a work I’m not expecting the artist’s success or failure (because sometimes I feel people root against you), I go out looking for a surprise and hoping that such experience can open another door in my mind.

Sofia: It’s curious that photography is precisely the most polarizing medium, its process is profoundly subjective and its presentation tendentiously objective. This seems quite clear in this series: on the one hand you have the installation of the photographs, public, with no anomalies, forcing the spectator to maintain a certain distance in order to contemplate; on the other hand you have the manufactured book that calls out for an intimate sensorial experience. Does this bipolarity between the private and public discourse suit you?

Márcio: It doesn’t bother me, I think they’re different situations. The exhibition is always the presentation of an end result, I like seeing people’s reactions to the artworks, sometimes I pass by a spectator and join a group in order to share that experience. At the Bird Eye View exhibition I even stood by a couple and asked what they thought was the white spot in the middle of the blue image… after thinking for a while they said they thought it was an aeroplane. I told them it was a ship, and suddenly the expressions on their faces changed completely, in that moment the sky was converted in the sea. It was a very special moment for me.
On the other hand, openings always give me a mix of emotions, a part of me is happy because the work is done, another is deeply sad because it is over… In Açores this was very strong.
I’m more interested in the process that in the end result, it’s the experience that counts, to allow myself the failure and the dream.
Regarding the objects I make, as the book Azores, this relation is quite different. The object will last, every time I open it, it is “new”, it ceases to be a memory and becomes something you touch.

backstage MONO_11© Márcio Vilela, from the series Mono. Courtesy of the artist.

backstage MONO_02© Márcio Vilela, from the series Mono. Courtesy of the artist.

Sofia: In reality, photography has always been associated with wandering and you seem particularly drawn to the contrast between the infinitude of the landscape and the limits of the human dimension. For that matter and because your discourse over this conversation has been one of proximity, I’d like to finish with a question I know will be hard to answer but that I find inevitable: what are you looking for?

Márcio: Problems… inevitably I’m always looking for problems. Not in terms of difficulties, confusions or suffering, mas in terms of challenges that are on the verge of being impossible. I get bored very easily and routine has a harmful effect on my life, while it comforts me (grants me security and stability) it prevents me from moving on.
It’s funny that you ask this question at this point in my life, because I’m in the middle of big changes, once again. I’m not going to lengthen these stories, nor do I pretend to appear like a fearless and detached human being… which I’m not.
In 2002 I was in an extremely comfortable position in Brazil. I was finishing the third year of my studies in Veterinary Medicine, with a stable emotional and financial life, I had many friends and my family close to me. It as a perfect scenery for someone wanting to be “someone”… that thing that frightens our parents to death: the possibility of us not succeeding. I wasn’t unhappy, but was tremendously bored and annoyed. The “happiness pack” was right there, but there was something missing… I needed to break the routine. “Still water rots”, my brother used to tell me. He has total influence in my decisions regarding art.
When I discovered photography, in 2001, was as if I was discovering the world once again. Instead of “discovering a color”, I felt I had been seeing the world in black and white… it was overwhelming, out of control. So profound that in less than a year I had packed two suitcases and was at my hometown’s airport, in Recife, on my way to Tomar… I knew they had a graduate course in Photography and not much else.
Time in Tomar was very harsh, though also very productive, I learned a lot.
Being detached brought me here. In Recife the weather was good, there was the beach, friends, financial freedom, and an “eternal” love… but so what?!
I mentioned your question is very pertinent in this moment for the same reason, because I’m bored again… extremely accommodated and bored. I’ve been teaching photography for the past 8 years, I love classes, but it’s taking up all the time and mental capacity that I have, even if it is also a great comfort. I am “someone”, a graduate school teacher. I know that on the 23rd of each month there’s this salve alleviates the pain and calms the tedium. It’s like “I have a car to go to work to pay my car”, or something like that. So I’m out, I won’t be teaching anymore.
I love to teach, I feel alive when I’m inside the classroom with my students, but all the extra-curricular problems kill me. I decided to become “no one”, I decided to be what I’ve always wanted but had never had the corage to fully become… an artist. When I’m involved with my projects there is never boredom, there’s never anxiety…
I think this constant dissatisfaction is the result of an extremely boring childhood, spent inside an apartment with few friends and little to do besides the daily suffering at school… I’ve sort of always been a terrible student. That only changed in Tomar, when I started studying what I really liked, that’s when I discovered that the secret to success is to be doing what one enjoys, I’ll never let anyone take that away from me again.
This sense of boredom is very noticeable on my work, everything that seems too easy causes my disinterest. This raises several problems, either financial or emotional. During the residency in Azores that was very simple, I would have four weeks to photograph and enjoy the island… to work and to relax at the same time. Of course I had to make things harder for myself, so I woke up early every day and coursed through the island from one side to the other without stopping, eating sandwiches and chocolate milk from Azores. I worked till nightfall, went to extremely remote places, always on my one, I took full advantage of the power a Jipe gives to be transported from point A to point B… drove into roads where there could have be no way out. I went up, down, then reversed… There was no music in the car, no travel companion. There was the silence, an eternal silence I had never experienced before… I went looking for the mountains and the cows, people simply weren’t around. I felt like coursing through a deserted island most of the time. When I returned home at the end of the day there was no one to share the adventures of the day with. It might seem strange, but I met no one in the island, I kept outside, on my one… maybe due to a social inability, lack of time for it… I’m not sure.
It’s obvious this has caused me physical problems and by the end of the third week I was taken to the emergency room in São Miguel during the night, I must have been dehydrated, hypoglycaemic… in chock even. My body was simply refusing to continue… I was on serum for hours. That day I had reached my physical limit, the landscape had literally crushed me. After spending two days at home resting I started it all over. I can’t do it differently.
The other day I was talking with Daniel Blaukfus about chess and I was telling him how boring it was to play against me because I had a suicide strategy when playing games. In jest he answered I had a suicide approach at life. I smiled, I take it as a compliment, specially coming from a friend.
I don’t think of myself as a strong person because of these things, on the contrary, my body gives me clear signs when I cross the line, but at the same time that’s what makes me wanting to be “here”.
In another recent event, this modus operandi has led me to a big discussion with a great friend and curator, Lourenço Egreja. He invited me to an artistic residency in Berlengas, the idea was to stay in the island for a period of ten days producing work in the archipelago, working and relaxing once again. This time I took the project to an extreme, I simply decided not to stay in the island… “I’ll get out of there”, I thought. I bought a life raft, one of those you throw at the sea when a ship sinks and is automatically inflated. I’ll turn myself into a voluntary castaway, stay adrift in the sea till one day I reach land… always alone. The scale of this project caused him to worry a lot, understandably, no one wants to feel responsible for the death of a friend… that was the base for the discussion: “It is my decision, you can’t stop me”, on the one hand, and “I won’t let you do that, I don’t want you to die”, on the other. It’s hard to hear a friend saying “you can’t stop me”. I’m deeply sorry that I cause this sort of anguish on people… but I can’t avoid it, I do it because I need to… I will do it. There’s a curiousity that makes me move forward anyway, when I make a decision it’s almost impossible to stop me. When I decided to come to Portugal it was the same thing, “you can’t stop me”… and here I am.
A very good friend from Germany, Jessica Lennan, once called me a “trouble maker”… I loved it, we laughed a lot about it. This is it, I like to go looking for problems for me to solve, I think that’s what I’m looking for. As if this problems were mazes invented by me… there is always a way out, I know there is. This is what drives me, no matter how difficult it is I know there is always a way out of there. This is why, going back to your question, I think I’m looking for a way to dream freely… and dreaming causes this problems.

Sofia: Thank you for being so prompt and willing to make yourself known and to expose your strengths and fragilities. Thanks for this conversation. All the best with the drift away project, no doubt you will succeed, as much in the more immediate dimension of breaking with the daily routine and go out on a limb, as in the spiritual dimension. One day, in a PhD class where we were discussing that same old question of how to define ‘art’ a colleague suggest that an artist is a ‘problem solver’… I suspect you can identify with such description.
See you soon, Márcio.

٠ featuring: ‘Finder and Keeper: a Conversation Between Rotem Rozental and Yaron Lapid’ ٠

This is not one of my usual posts. In conversation with Rotem Rozental, the editor of the Shpilman Institute for Photography blog, she suggested I should take a look at a couple of her posts and that’s how I came to encounter Yaron Lapid‘s work. Featured here is Rotem’s conversation with him, along with images from his work.

07© Yaron Lapid, Not only England, but every Englishman (is an island), from Original stories from real life

Rotem Rozental: Let’s start where our last meeting ended: it was in Jerusalem, and you talked about the reason for you being there and how the experience of returning to the city affected you. Can you describe what you were doing there and share that experience?

I also wonder how this complexity became an active participant in your work. It seems Jerusalem and her conflicts influenced your works at various junctures. You began your career as an artist there, as a student in Bezalel Academy. I’m wondering if this complex city became an active participant in your work and how your first years there influenced your critical approach?

Yaron Lapid: We met in Jerusalem last, and you would be right in saying the mixture of extremes in the city fascinates me. Perhaps it has to do with my biography. I grew up in a religious family, although I had a strong science-based education, with all the inherent contradictions that entails. I went on to travel in South-East Asia for three years. On my return Jerusalem was the only place that could offer the complexity I sought.

As a former religious boy with an interest in science, nothing was further from my thoughts than the arts, except literature. This might be why it was easier for me to pick up a camera, which I first did to try and capture my experiences. I stumbled upon the art world and found that it allowed me to engage in storytelling, which is a central element in my practice. Some of my works could be considered a piece of a story, like You Have not Found his Riddle and, I think in all my works, even the more abstract ones, a narrative is implied through the connections I create.

Jerusalem was, of course, full of stories. I lived there for six years including the mad times just before the Millennium, when the city was buzzing with religious highs and anxieties that permeated down to street level. Night Meter is a work from the end of 1999, made as a response to that time.

yaron© Yaron Lapid, still from the video work You Have Not Found His Riddle (left); still from the video work Night Meter (right)

I also lived in Jerusalem during the bloody years of 2001-2003, where as students we were either doing blatantly political work, or work that was completely escapist. I have always felt the need to deal with what is directly in front of me, but I felt that “the conflict” was molded in such a finite way. I didn’t want to limit myself to the immediate political situation but rather was interested in the broader human landscape, which inevitably includes political content. The more conceptual type of work interested me less; I wanted to make work that one has to experience with its value rooted in the finished piece, not only in the artistic idea.

RR: To continue with the theme of context and location, let’s discuss the project The New Zero. Ayesha Hameed writes about the alternative documentation of the city that these found images might suggest to you and the viewer. I was wondering about your role here, first as the collector of the images and then as archivist: utilizing technology to intervene in private, lost histories, while manipulating the images themselves.

YL: In part, The New Zero was created as a response to the impossible contradiction that Jerusalem signifies for me. The piece satisfies my attraction to the found, the abandoned and the cast aside. The images are simple yet beautiful and touching, and in my interference I tried to echo the frustration and fascination of living in Jerusalem at the time: a place where history is unfolding before your eyes.

Image-379-in-The-New-Zero1© Yaron Lapid, from The New Zero

Although my website is called Finder & Keeper, I am of course also a manipulator. I see the documentary as an art form, through which an aspect of reality is conveyed, but like Werner Herzog says, facts per se do not constitute truth, otherwise the Manhattan phone directory would be the book of books.

Francis Bacon says “You can see an advertisement, you can see something lying in the street.” I see people lying in the street, but also advertisements interest me as an artist, in an attempt to figure and mediate reality. I would like to reflect an inner truth, one that doesn’t rely upon the surface, yet is connected to quotidian reality.

RR: How did your interest in English family archives develop and how do you approach such intimate, private material?

YL: History is a slippery process, which is hard to pin down in the present. The photographic archive is a great source of visual knowledge, although I am not interested in nostalgia, but rather the similarities and differences between times, and the reasons and effects of that. It is not only images I find and use; other human footprints could be utilized to reveal something about a time, a place and a person. Full. Stop. is made of two flyers found in the streets of my neighborhood, and is titled after the anonymous writer’s preference with punctuation.

RR: So now your work is in constant dialogue with and is invested in a very different urbanscape, which necessitates a different viewpoint. I was wondering about the relationship between your status as an immigrant in London and an artist in a new surrounding, and your critical view of that surrounding as it is conveyed in your work. I am thinking, for instance, about your exhibition at Alfred Gallery in Tel Aviv, where these works, in a sense, also “immigrated” out of their original context.

YL: Living in London has changed both my life and my practice. I see parallels between photography and being an immigrant. A photographer is a person who distances him or herself by using the lens as medium, like Perlov’s soup dilemma  – to eat it or to film it. In that sense, a photographer is somewhat of an immigrant: half here, half existing a different context – through the prism of another culture or through the edit.

London is not an easy place for an immigrant, especially not an Israeli one. I am not like any other “ethnic minority” in this cosmopolitan city. Some regard Israel, with some justification, as a problematic country, although often their understanding of the situation is poor.

Some of this is reflected in the Alfred show which was centered on family. The family I see in London is quite different to the one I know from Israel. The show was composed of works I found as part of my research, when I started working with found photos from Britain. My interest in images of British lives also derives from the insight it gave me into family moments, in a society where separation between inside and out is very present. One of the resulting works is Partial moments from which the SIP image is taken.

06© Yaron Lapid, from Partial Moments

[…]

RR: Your camera also finds its way to other private spheres. I was surprised by the intimate nature of your work in the series Dad and I taking each other after Mum Died. Beyond the traumatic experience, the physical comparison between yours and your father’s bodies (the naked torsos, the beards) is striking. The two of you seem to be unified by pain, limited by it and by the dense physicality of the neutral space. However, you were also divided as soon as each of you assumed the photographer’s position, documenting the other.

YL: Yes, this is probably my most personal work to date, and the mental process you have gone through is the one I hoped for. On top of the raw emotions in the images and the reference to my mother’s death, I was also considering the nature of photography: how we look at someone when we take a picture, never the same as someone else will, and really never the same as we have looked at them at any other time before.

Dad-and-I1© Yaron Lapid, from Dad and I taking each other after Mum Died

[…]

RR: What is your next project? What are you working on now?

YL: I am working with footage I shot in Jerusalem, which will hopefully become a movie. I must admit I am a bad artist, in that I do not work as a trained professional is expected to work. At any given moment I have up to ten projects I am playing with. Every now and then – usually late at night – something falls into place and a project gets nearer to completion.

In art school one talks about research subjects as a result of critical thinking, but this is not the case for me. Instead, I would describe my process as finding a set of connections by doing what I need to do, and then gradually, the theoretical framework surfaces. I create work because something draws my attention, and I think about it critically because that is inevitable. Although I am conscious of the critical aspect of my work, what ultimately pushes me to make it is curiosity.

signal-failure1© Yaron Lapid, from Signal Failures

٠ Multiexposed/Multilayered Ukrainian photography ٠

741123© Alexander Lyapin

hj-01© Denis Kravets

DOT_Sint_tym_01_800© Yaroslav Tymchyshyn

lia_dostlieva7_800© Lia Dostlieva

602986© Misha Pedan

10© Roman Pyatkovka

_04© Roman Pyatkovka

vita_buivid_summer_10© Vita Buivid

107_800© Marina Frolova

٠ Chez Evgenia Arbugaeva ٠

05-2tumblr_lymw9kKYuW1qehbvvo6_12806-2283019-2Arbugaeva_E-10Evgenia Arbugaeva, all photographs from the series Tiksi

Q: When you returned to your hometown of Tiksi, you developed a relationship with a girl, Tanya, who became your guide. Tanya must have brought up emotions ranging from sorrow at confronting a vanished world to exultation at finding a subject and friend who was on the same wavelength that you had been as a child. How do you think these feelings shaped your coverage of this place and what do you think these images capture and say to the viewer?

A: I’ve heard different impressions about this project – some people feel sad because they see this almost abandoned village on the edge of the world, some feel the whimsical playful mood and it makes them smile.
For me this project was a chance to see Tiksi with the awe of a child, through Tanya’s eyes in the present and my memories of the past. I felt a strong urgency to be there. I wanted to be naive and playful – let myself be free and just wander around the tundra, make wishes under the Aurora Borealis, hoping that they will come true, to have long conversations with Uncle Vanya in his little hut on the shore of the ocean.
I think that every story I work on is there because it is needed at that particular phase of my life. My connection with Tanya is not a coincidence. I believe that thoughts and wishes can materialize, perhaps it’s a little too much of a metaphysical approach. However, I knew that when I went to Tiksi something very special would happen there. I was awaiting some kind of miracle. When I met Tanya, I was sure that she would become the key to understanding what I was there for.

excerpt from an interview in the context of her winning the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 201. More here.

٠ Yaakov Israel’s quest for the man on the white donkey ٠

yaakovisraelqmwd11yaakovisraelqmwd22yaakovisraelqmwd44yaakovisraelqmwd45yaakovisraelqmwd71yaakovisraelqmwd76yaakovisraelqmwd34yaakovisraelqmwd67© Yaakov Israel, all photographs from the series The quest for the man on the white donkey, 2011

“As referred by the Jewish tradition the Messiah (the Prophet) will arrive riding on a white donkey.
Few years ago, as I was taking photographs near the Dead Sea a Palestinian man rode past me on his white donkey.
It is after having developed this plate that I’ve realize that I had encountered my “Messiah”; this meeting brought me to initiate the body of work that carries the name: “The quest for the man on the white donkey”.

(…)

As my “Messenger” revealed himself, the search for a deeper understanding of my Country and what defines me as an Israeli became an urge to look for the in-between places, the non-usual; suddenly a detail requested my attention as I stood for hours waiting for a meaning to reveal itself: or pushed me away, puzzled. But in the end I had to hold to it. I cannot let go until that detail is made mine, until the allusive and enigmatic find their place in my understanding of what I deem as authentic, real.
The “Quest” is an attempt to relay a personal take to the Israeli reality with a broader sense of belonging to the global human collectivity.
Because here the evidences of the past are so strongly intertwined with the marks of the present and the questions about our future: sometimes it is possible to see all this revealed in front of one’s eye, and all at the same time.
Part of my identity as Israeli is to question everything, not to leave anything for granted: to show the tensions that constantly exist, to convey the truth behind the construction of the reality.
Religious, social aspects filter into everyday life and their meanings are exposed as the journey moves on. Jewish missionaries, lost souls and individuals living in the fringes of the society: all blends in to form this landscape of humanity.”

Yaakov’s statement

٠ Kant’s classes clash ٠

The title references Pierre Bourdieu’s critique of Kant’s famous essay on aesthetics – The Critique of Judgement. Bourdieu’s take on Kant’s distinction between ‘taste’ (available to all animals) and ‘beauty’ (exclusive to the humankind) implies a marxist notion of the separation of classes. For him, Kant’s praise of beauty and of ‘pure taste’ is a praise of the bourgeoisie:

‘Pure’ taste and the aesthetics which provides its theory are founded on a refusal of ‘impure’ taste and of aisthesis (sensation), the simple, primitive form of pleasure reduced to a pleasure of the senses, as in what Kant calls ‘the taste of the tongue, the palate and the throat’, a surrender to immediate sensation which in another order looks like imprudence. At the risk of seeming to indulge in the ‘facile effects’ which ‘pure taste’ stigmatizes, it could be shown that the whole language of aesthetics is contained in a fundamental refusal of the facile, in all the meanings which bourgeois ethics and aesthetics give to the word; that ‘pure taste’, purely negative in its essence, is based on the disgust that is often called ‘visceral’ ( it ‘makes one sick’ or ‘makes one vomit’) for everything that is ‘facile’-facile music, or a facile stylistic effect, but also ‘easy virtue’ or an ‘easy lay’. The refusal of what is easy in the sense of simple, and therefore shallow, and ‘cheap’, because it is easily decoded and culturally ‘undemanding’, naturally leads to the refusal of what is facile in the ethical or aesthetic sense, of everything which offers pleasures that are too immediately accessible and so discredited as ‘childish’ or ‘primitive’ (as opposed to the deferred pleasures of legitimate art). […]

Aristotle taught that different things differentiate themselves by what makes them similar, i.e., a common character; in Kant’s text, disgust discovers with horror the common animality on which and against which moral distinction is constructed: ‘We regard as coarse and low the habits of thought of those who have no feeling for beautiful nature… and who devote themselves to the mere enjoyments of sense found in eating and drinking’. […]

For it is a familiar enough fact that men wholly absorbed by their senses have much greater perceptive powers than those who, occupied with thoughts as wel l as with the senses, are to a degree turned away from the sensuous. We recognize here the ideological mechanism which works by describing the terms of the opposition one establishes between the social classes as stages in an evolution (here, the progress from nature to culture).

BOURDIEU, P. (1996) Distinction: A social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

YinkaShonibare_2© Yinka Shonibare, Immanuel Kant, Life-size fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton, mixed media, 2008

Immanuel Kant, sculpted after the Age of Enlightenment philosopher and presented with amputated legs — a fictional disability suggesting that intelligence can be a hindrance when it creates a damaging thirst for conquest.

03large© Joachim Koester, The Kant Walk #1, 2003-2004

01large© Joachim Koester, The Kant Walk #3, 2003-2004

“Throughout his life, Kant never left his native Königsberg (former capital of Prussia, later renamed Kaliningrad), nor did he keep a diary or describe his habits in the letters he wrote. And although he was sociable as a young man, one might even venture to say gregarious, as a mature man he became rather reclusive and hypochondriacal.

All we know about him are his walks. Walks Kant invariably took unaccompanied and which helped him to focus his thoughts. Knowing where the two homes in which Kant lived are located, Koester was able to recreate those strolls the philosopher went on with such punctuality that his neighbours used to tell the time by them.” excerpt of text by Jose Manuel Costa

f_02© Laurent Millet, Calmez-Vous Mr. Kant, 2009, from the series Les Derniers Jours d’Emmanuel Kant/The Last Days of Immanuel Kant

f_11© Laurent Millet, Vous y etes Presque Mr. Kant, 2009, from the series Les Derniers Jours d’Emmanuel Kant/The Last Days of Immanuel Kant

f_05© Laurent Millet, Pas Si Vite Mr. Kant, 2009, from the series Les Derniers Jours d’Emmanuel Kant/The Last Days of Immanuel Kant

The title of the exhibition is taken from Thomas de Quincey’s novella of the same name, in which the narrator describes the declining health and diminished perceptual faculties of the eminent philosopher, rendering Kant less capable of interpreting the world around him. Millet takes Kant’s waning powers as the inspiration for his own explorations of phenomenological doubt. For all of their pleasurable optical revelations, Millet’s constructions are hardly the effects of a naïve dabbler, but rather make knowing and winking reference to a wide-range of Modernist art and scientific discoveries. From Tatlin’s Constructivist reliefs to molecular models: against this matrix of signs, Millet’s work evinces a critical doubt and wonder at our ability to understand and perceive the world around us in any objective fashion.

┐ Pedro Guimarães’ affair with Monsanto └

66_pedroguimaraesmonsanto-6© Pedro Guimarães, Mrs. Iria burning dry organic waste in her parcel of land, Monsanto, Portugal

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.”

66_pedroguimaraesmonsanto-5© Pedro Guimarães,‘For Sale’ sign painted on an old house’s wall, Penamacor, Portugal.

66_pedroguimaraesmonsanto-10© Pedro Guimarães, Widows posing after sunday’s mass service, Monsanto, Portugal

66_pedroguimaraesmonsanto-2© Pedro Guimarães, Cactus with engraved names and dates, Penha Garcia, Portugal.

“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

┐ Peter Puklus, Handbook to the Stars └

00600500421© Peter Puklus, Handbook to the Stars

“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

┐ Andrea Galvani, ways to space out └

Conceptually, Andrea’s work is amongst the most interesting I’ve seen recently. His works have their own language, both conceptual and documentary, buh also appealing to the senses, evoking sound and parallel universes. His photographs not only evoke sculpture as they are presented like one, as much as they are performances, with their own body, breathing in their own space and time.

a-cube-a-sphere-a-pyramid-1-2© Andrea Galvani, A few invisible sculptures #1 (left) and #5 (right), 2012

A Few Invisible Sculptures #1, a large scale photograph, captures a performance Galvani staged in one of the oldest clay pits known in Europe. Now abandoned as an open museum, the clay pit in question supplied materials for terracotta artifacts and sculptures for over four centuries of human development. For his intervention in this historically loaded landscape, Galvani constructed a geometric steel sculpture and used it to replace the fuel tank on a motocross bike. The volume of fuel was translated into discrete action by instructing a rider to drive the bike in a continuous loop until all of the fuel was spent. The resulting sculpture takes the form of an excavation, translating the volume of fuel into a displaced volume of clay.

In A Few Invisible Sculptures #5, a second motorcycle and fabricated fuel tank sculpture come to rest at the end of the action. Documenting the end point of the sculpture’s existence, the photograph allows both a sense of monumentality and one of impermanence to coexist.”

deconstruction-of-a-mountain-2_0© Andrea Galvani, Deconstruction of a mountain #3, 2005

“Deconstruction of a Mountain is a complex project that started out as a video, but for which, for the time being, I’m presenting a series of stills. I don’t like to talk about projects that haven’t yet been finished. I can say that, at the same time, I’m working on Il muro del suono (The Sound Barrier): its title refers to the physical phenomenon due to which an object (most frequently a plane) that exceeds the speed of propagation of sound (1,200 kph) probably enters a sort of capsule of silence. Both projects are related to the time of history and that of individuals, the image and its representation, and also the geography of an area and the invisible geometries sustaining it.”

the-wall-of-sound-5© Andrea Galvani, The wall of sound #5, 2003/04

I like to think of velocity as an access code to another level, a propelling acceleration so rapid that resets all references. When a plane goes beyond the speed of sound, it enters a capsule of silence. Its mass meets with a physical limit, abruptly interrupting the diffusion of sound waves, which are compressed until they stick to its surface like a glove. In the project Wall of Sound, a selection of photographic images are blown up and moved physically around the shoot location. The collision between actual landscape and photographic clone generates a force field, a visual plunge built around the rectangular perimeter that borders the images. The time between production and reproduction is compressed to the point that it appears absent.Wall of Sound is the staging of an impossible simultaneity, a two-dimensional deception, a transgression in the hysteresis of reality. The images both reveal and subtract. They are erected as altars and they safeguard mystery.”

death-of-an-image-12© Andrea Galvani, Death of an Image #12, 2006-08

More of Andrea’s work here