≡ Brendan Ko: I must really love this ≡

nine-eleven-final© Brendan George Ko, Nine eleven (Detection), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

hoodlumz© Brendan George Ko, Hoodlumz (New Tribe), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

intervention© Brendan George Ko, United, from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

product_placement© Brendan George Ko, Product Placement (Malthusian Catastrophe), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

o.b.e© Brendan George KoOuter Body Experience (Shaman), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

allseeing© Brendan George Ko, Allseeing (Eye of Providence), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

vampiric_empire© Brendan George Ko, Vampiric Empire (Preachers of Death), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

shadowfigure© Brendan George Ko, Shadow Figure, from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

Wanting to showcase Brendan George Ko‘s work We Soon Be Night! I realized it would be the third post about him. A first in this site (if I’m not mistaken). Doing it anyway and recommending (at least) a visit to his website.

Brendan’s statement about this project:

“The phantom continues…

The walls of time and space collapse and take on a formless entity that is able to drift through our sense of memory. In a landscape that holds a specific memory —often intense moments of hard-boiled emotion and grand tragedy, the human psyche is turned and provoked. There is an index that exists between the planes of reality in which we can see and feel.

In a time of cinematic Armageddon, endless documents of natural disaster and environmental shifts, and ancient wisdom foretelling of the Apocalypse, belief is not a necessary vehicle into a dry sense of doom. The future has always been uncertain but certain events have shifted the priority of this feeling into the foreground —it is all around us now. It has escaped its prison of our memory and has manifested itself into the medium.

Tracing my memory I look back to find the origin of this sense of uncertainty towards the future, this sense of, what’s going to happen next? and holding a pejorative view towards the future. We Soon Be Nigh! starts off at the birthplace of this phantom of doom and continues to reference both the past and the future, in visual storytelling that is both documentation and construction.”

And a text from his blog published on October 3rd, 2012:

“Contemplating the photograph, one which is based out of a constructed practice of image-making and another based out of an obsession to document experience traveling through the world and the everyday. How they relate to each other besides from being born out of the same author is that they are both seen as documents to me. The snapshot comes out of an obsession to document my everyday in order to expand but also complete my memory (which in turn can never be complete since the camera is flawed in perspective, the decision to photograph, and that the still frame is always, inherently out of context (without a beginning or an ending and within a frame)). The constructed image which is staged is an afterthought of a moment, or a collection of moments and is a contemplation of the significance of a particular memory, a feeling, and an idea. Where the snapshot is flawed in its aesthetics of being rough, out-of-focus, motion blur, mixed light sources, on-camera flash, and perhaps not the right focal length, the constructed image which comes from after the moment has passed is perfected in how the moment appears as a memory. The flaw of the constructed image is that it isn’t the moment that it is referencing and therefore is not real. The argument I propose here is that what is real? Reality is subjective, especially in a world that is divided by a social construction of reality which is in conflict with personal reality, one which is born from biographical experience.

I start my collection of images with a morning scene in a living room and in the center of the frame is a television set. It is large unlike the television sets of today and is more furniture than an illuminated wall-mounted painting, and has become a piece of the domestic landscape, having photos, VHS tapes, and ornaments on top of it. The television has the image of a CNN broadcast of two planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. The room itself has a smoky atmosphere, dim with a bright world outside. And though the photograph is completely staged it is as real as my memory of that moment is. And since the moment has passed I cannot return to that morning of September 11, 2001, where I woke up for school, and my parents readily themselves for their day jobs as they watched the television. Having just woke up there was a disorientating feeling when my parents tried to update me on what they had known from what they were given by the fanatic behavior of the broadcaster not knowing himself what had exactly happened other than the fact that one commercial airliner had crashed into the financial epicenter of the nation.

The photograph of the staged living room with a television playing a pre-recorded image strikes the viewer with not a question of is this image real but recalls their own memory of that moment. Even though it had been made ten years after reference point that image is still clear in the viewers mind, and what I claim to be as the clearest collective experience and image in recent memory. And this is evident in the effect of the viewer when they see this image they are able to place themselves within the context of the image, recalling what they were doing that day and even how they felt. This scene is not real, it is not the living room I had while I lived in Houston during the 9/11 attacks nor is it the viewers. It is a generic representation of a collective experience.

An event seen through the camera’s lens, then broadcast, and then seen through the television set we are perceiving an image out of context, through the frames of the camera, but ultimately through the ideology behind that broadcasting network. Just as reality television differs from network to network, with TLC’s obsession with abnormalities in our culture (ranging from conjoined twins, hoarding, large volume immediate families, and gypsies) to MTV’s youth in conflict with reinforcement of stereotypes of college kids, Italian-American middle class youth, washed-out celebrities struggling with drug addiction and the public eye, these ideologies differ but are all part of multi-faceted ideology of a culture at whole. Even though we are given the choice of view, from CNN’s more liberal approach to Fox News’ conservative view, both operate under the same system. They are all representing reality within a specific cultural and regional ideology. And this broadcast reality is not providing the lived experience but the simulation of it. Through studying history we experience the Vietnam War as much as we experience youth drinking in a hot tub by the Jersey Shore or what it is to live in a house full of boxes and too many cats (some being lost or dead hidden away in some dark corner). There is this remoteness that separates us from the moment’s true experience to a controlled and simulated experience. Cinema isn’t far from this simulated experience of the real as it often depicts real events through a singular perspective. Its heightening of the event is theatrical and relies on aesthetics, staging, and performance to create believability. It places the viewer in a controlled environment of the cinema, a temple or cave-like setting that instructs the viewer to sit and to pay attention to the center piece, the silver screen in this case, and slowly dissolves the reality outside of the room for one which possess a flicker of motion and the omnipresence soundtrack. And for two hours what is presented in front of our eyes is believed as a temporal reality, we start to interpellate ourselves into the characters and develop emotional connections as we start to “know” the characters, their scenarios, and the environments that surround them.

Rather than focusing on what is in focus, I would like to contemplate not the characters of the narrative but what is in the background. The background actor’s role is to be there, to camouflage itself to the background and to be commonly found object in the environment, such as trees in the forest. In a sense they are a kinetic background like graffiti jumping from the walls and possessing life. What they are meant to not possess is individuality, they are a mass of many, and are more caricature than character. In the contemplation of the background actor being a walking, breathing, and living background is to observed and brought into the foreground, –they now hold our conscious attention. Through observation they often create error to the simulated reality of cinema, as they are not necessarily trained professionals such as the main characters, but they are often real people there for volume and aesthetics. Occasionally a background actor can be seen doing a cycling movement that repeats in a shot, or they accidental or purposely look into the lens which gives way to the existence of a camera as our viewing point. And in some cases the background actors are real people that are untrained and are not volunteering to be background actors but are simply there in a real environment that is being used to represent one that is constructed. It is in these cases that the control of the filmmaker is removed and there are elements of the real the conflict with the simulation through comparison. The so-called, Fourth Wall, is breached and in these minor and often hidden nuances bring into question where the audience is. It is a lucid experience but rather gaining control one realizes the lack of control over the narrative.

In further contemplation of the background actor is questioning what they represent. If they are appointed to be a mass of many and are not to have individuality such as the characters of the narrative then they are representations. It is in their attention or rather their lack of attention that they fall back to a role, and this role being that of “type”. They are performing in the subconscious space of the film and are playing out roles based off of their appearance. There isn’t any introduction to the background actor and their character, they simply appear there in front of us on the screen, –the word, “front”, does not define their position within the planes of existence in the film. They are neither background as they are not affixed such as a wall of a building or a tree in a forest nor are they in same the plane as the characters of the narrative. If they are neither back nor fore then where are they?

They exist in the simulacrum removed from reality and exist as a sort of transparent being in the cinematic reality. Art directors in their pursuit to maintain the background actor in the background make them as real as possible, –the realer the less the contradiction is apparent to the viewer. The word seamless is an ideal description of their aesthetics but being as this is film their actions also must be as real to the viewer and as convenient to the filmmaker as their aesthetics. One could not imagine having to train individually each background actor to perform a specific role but rather an instruction via a megaphone addressing a mass or a second or third A.D. directing singular groups of background actors to perform a specific task. These task ranging anywhere from walking across the scene, to appearing to be reading, or talking amongst themselves set in a cycle. For example a background actor instructed to walk across the scene will perform this task identically for each take. Or a group of background actors dancing in a circle and to no rhythm in particular. The more real their everyday actions are the less apparent they become. They existence on an invisible plane which is right before us but we dismiss them from our attention as the individual is lost to volume and the volume is lost to representation of a representation. For what the background actor represents is a stereotype, a generality of a specific group of people”

≡ Multilayered timeframes in Binh Dahn’s work ≡

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Iridescence of Life No. 22. Chlorophyll print on nasturtium leaf, butterfly specimen, & resin, 2008

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Iridescence of Life No. 5. Chlorophyll print on nasturtium leaf, butterfly specimen, & resin, 2008

In Michigan Quarterly Review (Volume XLIII, Issue 4, 2004), John Schafer writes about Binh Danh’s intertexual images before going on to recount how he experiences Vietname (Danh’s birthplace, 1977) through iconic war photographs, despite having lived there 4 years during the war:

«Literary critics emphasize that stories and poems are intertextual. When one reads, one hears what Roland Barthes called “off-stage voices,” references to prior texts. Visual “texts” are also intertextual, of course. Binh Danh’s images are striking in part because they are so vividly and concretely intertextual. Within each leafy image is a photo that we have seen already — maybe not the exact photo we know but one like it. How we react to his images depends on our experience with the earlier photos and on how we see the text of the photo interacting with the text of the leaf.»

Schafer sees Danh’s leaves as a place where history is given a chance for truce, in which pictures of suffering, violence, and death are enshrouded by the greenness of life and hope, but he also recognizes in them the power to convey a special message about the way civilization deals with nature, and I would add the way history affects memory and vice-versa:

«Binh Danh’s works, like the plants they are printed on, are produced by photosynthesis, the same process that the U.S.’s defoliation program was designed to inhibit. Evidence suggests that Agent Orange, one of the agents used to defoliate, has caused illness, birth defects, and chromosome alterations. In peacetime too, humans out of greed or ignorance often destroy nature and render it unable to hold us in its protective grasp. In Binh Danh’s works, however, images of human suffering are cradled in the hand of nature

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Shock & Awe, 2008. Chlorophyll print and resin, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

1082077212© Binh Danh, Mother and Child, 2005. Chlorophyll print and resin, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

binh-danh-vietnam-war-1© Binh Danh, Ambush in the Leaf #4, 2007, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

In the context of an exhibition held at SOMArts in 2012 entitled The Future Is NOW: Asian America on, Its Own Terms, Danh told interviewer Corinna Karg how photography is always dealing with death, resurrection, memory, nature and rebirth:

«When I was looking at pictures of the war, photos of civilians being wounded or killed saddened me. I imagined as they are bleeding and possibly dying, their essences sank into the ground and the memories of the event join with the landscape. For me, a photograph is always a picture of the past, but that past lives in the present moment when the image is resurrected in ourselves by the pure act of us looking at the artwork.

We could use photography to meditate on themes of death, resurrection, history, landscape, time, and our collective memories. For me looking at the pictures of war and especially those on leaves, I understand that death is within reach and life is fragile. It is acknowledging that we will die at any moment makes our lives more meaningful. And when it does happen, we know that we ultimately become part of nature. I hope the viewers are able to form narratives about the Vietnam War. Why people were leaving the country during and after the war? And as a result, Vietnamese communities formed through out the world.»

and the conversation goes on…

«How did you arrive at the technique of printing on leaves trough photosynthesis, and what made you later transition to daguerreotype?

One summer, I was motivated to experiment with photosynthesis and its pigments after watching the lawn change color due to a water hose that was placed on it. Soon after that observation, I was making chlorophyll prints. For the past 5 years, I have been making daguerreotype, a 19-century photographic process. I have taken a historical process and applying it to a contemporary theme. A study of photo-history is a study of humanity. Time and space are recorded for future evaluation and studies. Photography became a process that changes the way we record history, no longer just use words but images too. I love the quality of the daguerreotype, the reflective surfaces. The viewer becomes part of the artwork as the view the photograph.

Are the tropical plants you use in your chlorophyll prints Vietnamese or American plants?

They are plants grown in my garden.

Why did you choose something organic, like the leaves, as a canvas for images of something man-made, like war?

This process deals with the idea of elemental transmigration: the decomposition and composition of matter into other forms. The images of war are part of the leaves, and live inside and outside of them. The leaves express the continuum of war. They contain the residue of the Vietnam War: bombs, blood, sweat, tears, and metals. The dead have been incorporated into the landscape of Vietnam during the cycles of birth, life, and death; through the recycling and transformation of materials, and the creation of new materials. Since matter is neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed, the remnants of the Vietnam and American War live on forever in the Vietnamese landscape. This body of work addresses this continuum.»

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Memory of Tuol Sleng, child 3, 2008. Chlorophyll print & resin, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Ghost of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum # 2, 2008. Daguerreotype, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

binh© Binh Danh, Angkor Wat, 2008. Daguerreotype, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

The Eclipse of Angkor is Danh’s work that shines a light to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, who were executed in Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng prison. Writing about this project, Max Weintraub (art21 Magazine, 2010) reflects on the artist’s relation to events he remembers only through photographs, such as the Vietnam War or the Cambodian genocide. For this project, Danh rephotographed archival imagery which was then reprinted as chlorophyll prints and daguerreotypes. Weintraub writes how the body of work constitutes more then a haunting index of systematic genocide:

«But Danh’s distinctive photographic processes and prints also transform the images into something more. Incised on a shimmering plate of metal or into a delicate leaf, each portrait becomes part relic and part photograph, and is invested with a powerful presence. It is no coincidence that both of the photographic processes Danh employs are time-consuming, complex methods that generate unique prints. By re-photographing images of anonymous victims of mass genocide using photographic processes that generate unreproducible images of extraordinary detail, Danh’s chlorophyll prints and daguerreotype plates restore a sense of individuality and intimacy to the victims depicted in the Khmer Rouge portraits. In addition, the extraordinary surfaces of Danh’s prints, as indexes of the time and great care required to produce them, invest the portraits with a significance and uniqueness that offsets the detached, bureaucratic objectivity of the original photographs.»

bd-thetransamericapyramid-copy© Binh Danh, The Transamerica Pyramid, 2014.  Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

bd-thewomen_sbuilding18th© Binh Danh, The Women’s Building, 18th Street, 2014. Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

bd-sanfranciscocityhall-copy© Binh Danh, San Francisco City Hall, 2014. Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

Pete Brook, from Prison Photography, talks with Danh on account of yet another one of his impactful works, namely This, Then, Is San Francisco. They speak about the political nature of the work and how form and content are always conceived as a unified element is his work. Danh explains that “[t]he daguerreotype results in a reverse image. So, the cityscape is familiar but it’s odd. I like the uncanny.

٠ Embroidering photographs is more than a trend ٠

charlotte© Stacey Page, Charlotte.

paula© Stacey Page, Paula, 2011.

todd© Stacey Page, Todd, 2011.

Embroidered photographs have been a trend for some time now and Nihilsentimentalgia has featured examples of such work, like Maurizio Anzeri, Melissa Zexter, Julie Cockburn or David Catá. It so happens that the technique keeps coming up and their makers are enjoying a good deal of promotion and success, which doesn’t say much, since the art market is extremely easy to seduce and exploit, but it’s worth taking a second look.

02Meyer_New_JErseyII_Meyer© Diane Meyer, New Jersey II, from the series Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten.

12Meyer_TheWest© Diane Meyer, The West I, from the series Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten.

There is no denying that on aesthetic, formal and material levels, the result is grand and appealing: the combination of the flat old surface with the new textural one, the combination of the industrial and the handmade, the combination of desaturated images with vibrant thread colours, it all amounts to what seems to be a complex creation with different surfaces and different readings. But is that the case?

I recently cross paths with four more examples of authors working in the field that joins photography and embroidery, namely: Stacey Page, Diane Meyer, Laura McKellar and Hinke Schreuders. They share more than the technical approach to their work: they are all women, they intervene mainly in portraits (Diane Meyer being the exception, for she looks at architecture with a new look), they use striking colour and they mix the old with the new. The trend here is not so much the crossing between the mediums but the revivalist and nostalgic feeling which seems to be taking over all the cultural dimensions, from the visual arts to music and emphasis on fashion.

embroidery© Laura McKellar, Untitled, embroidery.

tumblr_ll2o3ftbQ01qk3loio1_1280 copy© Laura McKellar, Untitled, embroidery.

The fact that they share the same gender has a particular important dimension, for the work with thread is a form of affective labour, which productive value is hard to figure out. The relation between the worker and the work produced is literally bounded by a thread, so it confronts the prevailing idea of the alienated worker that is more of a manager than a producer of things (or ideas for that matter). Although most of these works have little else than their aesthetic surface, their biggest achievement is the evoking of the nostalgic feeling. The hyper-aestheticized surface of the digital photographs and the absurd use of photoshop tools have given a second life to alternative processes, for people lack a sense of materiality and the handprint of the author.

In one interview, author Melissa Zexter says: The photographs were also of anonymous figures and the sewing acted as a map or grid over the figures. For me, sewing was another way to build up a surface and to build upon the content of my photographs. I loved the meditative process of sewing – it was in such contrast to the technologically more immediate art of photography. I was also interested in how thread blended in and reacted to the photographs. The combination of sewing and photography brought together two very different processes that I love. The use of embroidery is a reaction to the photographs and is a process that aids in the transformation of identity of the person or place being photographed.

[to be continued]

worksonpaper7© Hinke Schreuders, works on paper #7.

worksonpaper36 © Hinke Schreuders, works on paper #36.

worksonpaper37© Hinke Schreuders, works on paper #37.

٠ From maturity to sincerity: a glimpse at the art of documentary photography ٠

7.Julia_from_I_Have_Something_To_Tell_You© Adrain Chesser, Juliann (left) and Julia (right), from the series I Have Something to Tell You.

excerpt of Adrian’s statement:

When I tested positive for HIV and was diagnosed with AIDS, I had an extreme physical reaction whenever I thought about having to tell my friends and family. Looking at this reaction more closely, I realized that it was the same reaction I had as a kid whenever I had to disclose something uncomfortable to my parents, fearing rejection or even abandonment if larger secrets were revealed.

It occurred to me that it might be possible to overcome this paralyzing fear by photographing my friends as I told them about my diagnosis. I invited each friend to come to my studio to have their picture taken, a simple head shot for a new project. They weren’t given any other information. For a backdrop I used the curtains from the living room of the house I grew up in. I put everyone through the same routine, creating a formal process that proved to be transformative. At the beginning of each shoot I would start by saying, “I have something to tell you”.

Each sitter’s reaction was unique depending upon their own experience of loss, illness and death, creating a portrait of unguarded, unsettling honesty. As a collective, the body of work speaks to the universal experience. The phrase “I have something to tell you” is often the preface for life-altering disclosures: pregnancies, deaths, love affairs, illnesses of all kinds, winning the lottery. The phrase becomes a kind of mile-marker in a life, delineating what came before from what comes after.

Cowboys_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Cowboys, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Easter_Sunday_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Easter Sunday, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Fronds_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Fronds, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Graveside_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Graveside, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

On_The_Day_I_Was_Raped_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, On the day I was raped, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Self_Portrait_Crying_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Self Portrait Crying, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Sunday_Dinner_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Sunday Dinner, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

The_Deluge_No.10_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, The Deluge No. 10, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Adrian’s statement:

In 2000 I decided that I would return to where I grew up, to photographically document what it was like in to live in a small town in South Florida at the turn of the millennium. After shooting for a month, deeply disturbing memories from my childhood began to surface, which triggered a nervous breakdown. When I returned home I went into therapy. It occurred to me that if I could make a photographic representation of these specific events from my childhood, I could own them outside of myself as an object and that these memories would no longer hold a shadowy power over my subconscious.

From 2001 to 2011 I returned to Florida at least once a year to make images with friends and family. I would either recreate specific events or I would stay present in my process for images to arise that could hold the emotional weight of memories that remained half shrouded. In the end what I remembered was my resilience and defiance as a child in the face of an overwhelmingly large and seemingly unsafe world. What that came to mean for me as an adult, was the realization that the spectres of my past had no real substance, as if they were only made up of vapor and light.

٠ IT sounds like western music, therefore… ٠

M0013743 Hearing aid for constant use© Wellcome Library, Hearing aid for constant use. Two light cornets of imitation tortoiseshell joined by metal spring forming a head-band. Introduction of this form of instrument attributed to Napoleon’s surgeon D. J. Larrey (1776-1842).19th Century.

‘Authenticity’ is a matter of interpretation which is made and fought for from within a cultural and, thus, historicised position. It is ascribed, not inscribed. […] Thus, rather than ask what (piece of music, or activity) is being authenticated, in this article I ask who.

[…] In rock discourse, the term [‘authenticity’] has frequently been used to define a style of writing or performing, particularly anything associated with the practices of the singer/songwriter, where attributes of intimacy (just Joni Mitchell and her zither) and immediacy (in the sense of unmediated forms of sound production) tend to connote authenticity. It is used in a socio-economic sense, to refer to the social standing of the musician. It is used to determine the supposed reasons she has for working, whether her primary felt responsibility is to herself, her art, her public, or her bank balance. It is used to bestow integrity, or its lack, on a performer, such that an ‘authentic’ performer exhibits realism, lack of pretence, or the like. Note that these usages do not mutually exclude one another, nor do they necessarily coincide, and that all are applied from the outside.

[…] For Richard Middleton, any approach to music which aims to contextualise it as cultural expression must foreground discussion of ‘authenticity’, since ‘honesty (truth to cultural experience) becomes the validating criterion of musical value’ (Middleton 1990, p. 127). In rock discourse, this validating criterion is reinterpreted as ‘unmediated expression’, by which is assumed the possibility of the communication of emotional content (inherent possibly in the music itself, but certainly at least in the performance) untrammelled by the difficulties attendant on the encoding of meaning in verbal discourse (Moore 2001a, pp. 73-5; 1814).

M0013744 Speaking or conversation tube© Wellcome Library, Used by the very deaf to obviate the need for the close approach of the speaker if the trumpet type of hearing aid is used.19th Century.

[…] The expression I am discussing here is perceived to be authentic because it is unmediated – because the distance between its (mental) origin and its (physical) manifestation is wilfully compressed to nil by those with a motive for so perceiving it. This is thus one basic form of the authenticity primality argument put forward by Taylor (1997, pp. 26-8), wherein an expression is perceived to be authentic if it can be traced to an initiatory instance. This argument surfaces most clearly in academic folk discourse. For Philip Bohlman, identification of the ‘authentic’ requires ‘[the] consistent representation of the origins of a… style’ (Bohlman 1988, p. 10), such that ‘When the presence of the unauthentic [sic] exhibits imbalance with the authentic, pieces cease to be folk music, crossing the border into popular music instead’ (Bohlman 1988, p. 11). Thus, for Bohlman, authenticity is identified by a purity of practice, whereas for Grossberg, it is more clearly identified by an honesty to experience – a subtle distinction perhaps, but one which remains potent. Starting from a very different point, Steven Feld develops a similar line, arguing that ‘authenticity only emerges when it is counter to forces that are trying to screw it up, transform it, dominate it, mess with it . . .’ (Keil and Feld 1994, p. 296), equating authenticity to a concept of genuine culture dependent on the anthropology of Edward Sapir. Bohlman’s identification has found its way into rock discourse, in that proximity to origins entails unmediated contact with those origins: ‘Real instruments were seen to go along with real feelings in Springsteen’s rise: a certain sort of musical and artistic purity going hand in hand with a sincere message’ (Redhead 1990, p. 52). The constructed nature of this interpretation is clarified by comparison with Bob Dylan – in order to achieve the same result in his early work, the ‘real instruments’ he had to employ had not to be amplified, contra Springsteen.

Walser (1993) insists that this is one of two clear types of ‘authenticity’ that can be observed in rock in general, wherein technological mediation (whether a reliance on signal modifiers, ever more powerful means of amplification, and even technical mastery in many spheres) is equated with artifice, reinstating as authentic/inauthentic the distinction between ‘vernacular’ and ‘trained’ or ‘professional’. There is thus a relationship here with an alternative category developed by Taylor, which he terms authenticity of positionality (Taylor 1997, pp. 22-3). Through this, he identifies the authenticity acquired by performers who refuse to ‘sell out’ to commercial interests. Weller exemplifies this again, as do Taylor’s examples of non-Western musicians involved in ‘world music’ – for such musicians, ‘selling out’ appears to equate to ‘sounding like Western musicians’, i.e. by adopting the style codes of pop/rock (which codes, in such an analysis, would be seen as inherent within the individual rather than open to appropriation. (see Moore 2001b)

[…] What unites all these understandings of authenticity is their vector, the physical direction in which they lead. They all relate to an interpretation of the perceived expression of an individual on the part of an audience. Particular acts and sonic gestures (of various kinds) made by particular artists are interpreted by an engaged audience as investing authenticity in those acts and gestures – the audience becomes engaged not with the acts and gestures themselves, but directly with the originator of those acts and gestures. This results in the first pole of my perspective: authenticity of expression, or what I also term ‘first person authenticity’, arises when an originator (composer, performer) succeeds in conveying the impression that his/her utterance is one of integrity, that it represents an attempt to communicate in an unmediated form with an audience.

excerpt from MOORE, A. (2002) Authenticity as Authentication. Popular Music, Vol.21, No.2, pp.209-223.

٠ Locating the (in)authenticities in country music ٠

37574-303r_288_Dolly_Parton© Henry Horenstein, Dolly Parton, Symphony Hall, Boston, MA, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-513rBWneg_11© Henry Horenstein, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Nashville, TN, 1974. Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-519rBWneg_Conway_6_adj© Henry Horenstein, Conway Twitty, Annapolis, MD, 1975S, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

Describing country music as a storyteller’s art is no mere attempt to give it an intellectual Benjaminian chic. Its self-conception as “a storyteller’s medium,” widely recognized by scholars, is even clear from the way that “other song elements are generally kept simple to highlight the story. The chord structure is simple and predictable, the melodic range is slight, the rhythm is regular, and the orchestration is sparse or at least clearly in the background so that the words can be understood.” In the words of one country singer-songwriter, “If you can’t hear each word, it ain’t country, son.” Country’s words get their importance not from their specific poetry but from the stories they embody, stories that can capture an audience far beyond those who prefer country’s simple melodies and rhythms. Challenged about his taste for country music, jazz great Charlie Parker replied that he simply loved the stories.

Country’s narratives succeed not only through the elements of tradition, orality, and life-experience that Benjamin notes. Narrative form itself intensifies the pathos and comparative authenticity that country deploys. The progression, development, and anticipation that constitute all narratives contribute to the build-up of emotions. The archetypal commonality of country’s stories (with their focus on fundamental feelings of love, failure, and mourning) serve to trigger emotional memories that reach both deep and wide. And this same archetypal, formulaic simplicity of story-line permits extreme plot condensation, thus promoting emotional intensity by forestalling fatigue of attention.

Condensation and credibility are further enabled by the fact that country’s sung stories are often recognized by listeners as biographically linked to the singer, allowing them to imaginatively enrich the tales through details they know (e.g., George Jones’s bouts of drinking and Garth Brooks’s marital infidelity and reconciliation). To heighten its power of pathos, country thus productively blurs the presumed division between art and life, artistic persona and real individual. Finally, the narrative frame that country deploys is most useful for making contrasts of comparative authenticity that are emotionally charged and hence more convincing. Narrative temporality provides not only the retrospective memory of country’s older days of purer authenticity, but suggests the ongoing struggle to develop or recover greater authenticity in the face of present corruptive pressures.

excerpt from: Shusterman, R. (1999) Moving Truth: Affect and Authenticity in Country Musicals. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol.57, No.2, pp.221-233

37574-597rBWneg_9© Henry Horenstein, Patron, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Nashville, TN, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-500rBWneg_6_Adj© Henry Horenstein, The Willis Brothers, Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-320r_416(2)_RalphStanley_lesscontrast© Henry Horenstein, Ralph Stanley, Coeburn, VA, 1974, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

٠ David Catá: a human life is never done ٠

* the title references the following post: ‘A Woman’s work is never done

ni_conmigo_ni_sin_mi_02._david_cata© David Catá, from the series Ni Conmigo ni sin mí (Neither with me nor without me), 2011

ni_conmigo_ni_sin_mi_01._david_cata© David Catá, from the series Ni Conmigo ni sin mí (Neither with me nor without me), 2011

* * * * *

David Catá   Bajo mi piel© David Catá, from the series Bajo mi piel (Underneath my skin), 2011

web_bajo_mi_piel_02© David Catá, from the series Bajo mi piel (Underneath my skin), 2011

* * * * *

a-flor-de-piel-por-david-catá-20david-cata-sews-portraits-of-his-family-into-the-palm-of-his-hand-05© David Catá, My Brother Javi, from the series A Flor de piel (Skin deep), 2012

a-flor-de-piel-por-david-catá-18david-cata-sews-portraits-of-his-family-into-the-palm-of-his-hand-20© David Catá, My Cousin Anita, from the series A Flor de piel (Skin deep), 2012

a-flor-de-piel-por-david-catá-14david-cata-sews-portraits-of-his-family-into-the-palm-of-his-hand-18© David Catá, My Grandpa Catá, from the series A Flor de piel (Skin deep), 2012

article-2538544-1A9F2FB300000578-461_634x632David’s portrait, taken from here

٠ Ochi Reyes: a photographic landscape of absence ٠

19mother04mother17mother16mother15mother06mother© Ochi Reyes, all photographs from the series Mother

“I have gone through the traces my mother left behind since she passed away almost a year ago now: her clothes, her shopping lists, the notes she wrote on her medication, her unfinished pieces of sewing and her photographs.

In this search I have been using different lenses to get closer and closer until I finally used a microscope through which the referent disappears in what appears as a series of deserted and abstract landscapes, mirrors of my feelings. This process has been nothing other than a way to both understand her absence and to try to grasp onto whatever could hold her presence; a way to forget and to remember, a way to let emotions go as well as a way to constantly open the doors of these emotions to be able to feel.”Ochi’s statement

Guest blogger André Carapinha ٠ Plato, Love & Image ٠

Introducing Nihilsentimentalgia’s newcomer André Carapinha with an essay about the veil of shadows that stands between our perception and “reality”.

Photographs illustrating the essay all belong to Trish Morrissey‘s project Front (2005-07), where she sets out to find families that she joins temporarily, in an “as if/has-been” moment, at the same time manipulating reality and attributing to it the statue of memory.

Hayley-ColesPLATO, LOVE AND IMAGE

A short essay about the importance of the act of remembering in photography, but not exclusively

Things are even more real when we remember them. When we experience them, they come wrapped in a veil of unreality, which is the constant fluxus of the becoming – that keeps us from grabbing them with both hands, that shapes their plastic and mutant character, which makes for everything to be always, always, changing. But when memory comes into play, that is where all the pieces seem to come together and that which is not important, that which distracted us, that whose function of emergence is that of confusing, finally abandons the thing, and the thing is revealed to us in the greatest purity that we ever manage to achieve. Our knowledge is always regional, imperfect, and dominated by an insurmountable and confusing principle, but the moment when we are closer to reality – that is the moment when we remember things.

Plato has shown that the way we apprehend reality takes the form of a picture. Nowadays, most people may find it difficult to understand this definition. It does not only apply to the Plato-ready-to-wear conclusion one often finds in “Plato’s Cave” (commonly the only thing an average person knows, or is convinced of knowing, about Plato), that reality is an image because it comes to us wrapped in a veil of shadows, contrasting with the “true reality” one could access beyond the shadows or the fogs (therefore diminuishing the status of the image as an “ilusion”). In fact, as one understands from reading the book V of the “Republic” and “Theaetetus”, the image is the fundamental status for the apprehending of reality, it is the alpha and the omega of knowledge. Resuming, what this means is that in fact there is a veil of shadows between us and the “real”, but that such veil of shadows is not like a fog that we dissipate but a permanent event in the apprehension of the real; and that the human mind, which is guided by a constant attention to the real, is capable of little more than the production of images of the real, and when we say pictures, we really mean the picture, as it is understood in the realms of aesthetics and art history – in fact, there is no better point of comparison to understand what Plato means by “images”.

KatyMcDonnellAristotle, who rejected Plato’s idea that there are “models” fixed in our mind for the production of images, and for that appears to be more accessible to the “modern” eyes, didn’t failed to admit that for the human observer  the original state of reality is that of “confusion” – a concept that owes much to Plato’s “shadows”. It also didn’t stop him for coming up with a concept such as “categories”, which works as an organizer, permanently present in the act of knowing. And also for Aristotle “true reality” was understood as something inaccessible except by “mediation”, which is something much more profound and complex than the simple mediation of the “senses”, given that it incorporates constitutive structures of the very essence of the act of knowing.

However, I do believe what we owe most to Plato is precisely the idea that the knowledge of “pictures” is brought to us as a “memory” – “memory” of the “pure forms”, that is, of models that guide and shape the act of knowing. What I mean is forms that organize the act of knowing given the fuzz that underlines the essence of reality, when we are first confronted with it. What this suggests is that the best way to understand our surroundings is not by what is happening in the present, always ruled by the volatile and confusing character of the becoming, but through another moment, which in itself is a “memory” (consider the act of “thinking”: when we think seriously about a subject, do we not summon to our mind the whole set of experiences, knowledge, norms, we already have? And isn’t that the moment when the object of our thinking tends to present itself with the most clarity?) Curiously, contrary to Plato’s conclusion, this may also suggest that “artistic production” is more in conformity with the real than the so-called “scientific knowledge”, given that, in Kantian terms, the former has a more “synthetic” character than the latter, which is mainly “analytical”.

It isn’t foreigner to me that this conclusion isn’t very popular – after all, the “scientific model” (of which Aristotle could be considered the precursor, since he inaugurated the “regionalization” of knowledge) has enormous advantages: besides the fact that it seems to “result” (its conclusions may and should be subject to examination and provide evidences), it presents itself as a movement “towards the” real, and assuming that the “fog” is likely to be dissipated, which is a much more comfortable hypothesis. But what is a paradox is that nothing, absolutely nothing in the evolution of scientific knowledge, in the amazing expansion that this “region of knowledge” has had in the curse of history, nothing as I was saying, diminished the status of the real as Plato and Aristotle defined about 2400 years ago. It is not because we know “more” about reality that it ceases to appear confuse, and that the image ceases to be its fundamental status as it is apprehended.

Angela-ReynishLet’s consider a past love that is still very present in our minds. How much noise, how many mistakes, how crazy – everything we call as to not understand who that person was, to not understand what was going on, to instantly begin the process of loosing him/her. But now, as I remember her/him, I am left with the light, the spirit, the grace, the youth – in short, everything that made me love her/him, but that in order to truly recover I needed to remember. Only by losing can one love what has been lost, but moreover, only then can we fully grasp the Other that was lost. It is necessary to get undressed of the daily yoke and of the current noise to fully know the person one once loved – when we locate her/him in the past. And so the Other is revealed to us closer to his/her essence than we could ever achieved.

Love is a strange process. In-depth, it’s such a process that consists in starting, from day one, to lose the loved one. Or else it is a commitment that immediately begins by putting love aside in the name of its sustainability. A strange paradox, therefore. No wonder it remains the most inaccessible human act to the “scientific knowledge” and, on the other hand, the one that art most finely understands, if we compare it to all other types of intellectual production. Short essay by André Carapinha

June-Marsh

٠ Sandro Ferreira, memory code: 6174 ٠

portefolio SandroF4© Sandro Ferreira, Não lhe digas para onde vais amanhã (Don’t tell her where you’ll be tomorrow), from the project “6174”
Set of a hundred booklets, with dimensions identical to those with speeches of some dignitaries of the Portuguese dictatorial regime: “Estado Novo”.

portefolio SandroF6© Sandro Ferreira, from the project 6174. The left card reads The useless, the right card reads The miserableportefolio SandroF5A series of 126 “lobby cards”, corresponding to the 126 films that the soldier Manuel Rosa Simões had seen since his arrival in Angola until his departure for the Metropolis. Ironically, the first film was “Les Miserables” and the last “The Useless”, setting the tone…

From 1961 to 1974, Portugal became involved in a war in its colonies, a war of subversive naturesubversive war is a war conducted within a territory by part of the inhabitants of that territory against the authority in it established, aided and reinforced or not from the outside, and in order to withdraw that authoritarian control, performing a transformation more or less wide. in Military Newsletter No. 15, Military Region Angola, August 15, 1962

Much of the research/exploration of this event converges to the advances and retreats, political questions, numbers, guilty and innocent people. The true human/animal/social essence of the event is confined to fiction literature and some published journals, often revised. Moving away from the issues widely teased I try to penetrate the internal memory of the war’s day-to-day of a generation that lived haunted with the fear of leaving for a country distant of their roots, risking their lives. In exploring these memories I gather a number of factors and situations that made the day-to-day of the oversea soldier, some did erase memories of home, others did revive memories (aerograms cinema, alcohol and sex).

The memories of war veterans, after so many years, can be divided into two branches, namely, the memories that fade away naturally with time and memories that need to be deleted. The work presented here lives in both branches of the forgotten or erased memory.” Sandro’s statement

The video tells the story of a soldier that was ambushed in Angola, while carrying the “Practical Handbook of Radio and Television” in his pants pocket. Trying to jump off the car he was ridding in, he got shot in one leg. One of the bullets hit and went through his leg and another bullet hit the book and was lodged inside it. Playing with the question of the impossibility to repeat events such as those in the context of war, I tried to recreate the situation of the bullet lodged inside the book. As the way we retell our memories is never the same, also the bullets that were lodged in the replica penetrated by different sites.

portefolio SandroF2© Sandro Ferreira, 7.65 Practical Handbook of Radio and Television, Edition of 8 books, 466 pages, with a bullet inside, 2011, from the project “6174”

portefolio SandroF1© Sandro Ferreira, Carta de Portugal Insular e Ultramarino de 1962, jogo

portefolio SandroF 4© Sandro Ferreira, Antecipação de um regresso a casa (Coming home earlier), from the project “6174”

Sandro was recently chosen for the EDP emerging artists’ award, in Portugal. He will be exhibiting new work, latter on this year, in Oporto.

┐ The blind man and his visual clarity └

artistas_obras_imagens_imagem_136_2037 (1)© João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva

Terence-KohTerence Koh, God, 2007. View of the performance at de Pury & Luxembourg, Zurich. Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin.

terencekohinstallview1_600_600Installation view of Terence Koh (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, January 19–May 27, 2007). Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins

Sugimoto_Hiroshi_Self-portrait_2003© Hiroshi Sugimoto, Self-portrait, 2003

hiroshi_sugimoto© Hiroshi Sugimoto, from the series Theaters, 1978

“I wish to suggest that we are like philosopher-artists installed in these works, engaged in inscribing and contemplating the line between the real and representation, the trait, which continually both “draws a boundary and with draws from it.” To be this blind man means, for Derrida, to see with one’s hands, and indeed when one interacts with these installations one finds oneself touching – walls, elevator doors, a door jamb or stair railing – whatever is near to hand that will steady one’s balance. The blind man of necessity must also rely on memory, both the memory of objects and spaces (the configuration of the room, one’s location relative to furniture) and, more important, the memory of sight itself. Deceived by shadows, blinded by sunlight, we are like Plato’s cave dwellers, for, like them, the viewer of contemporary art “suffers from sight.” Accustomed to a world of simulation, a world where image is reality, we are full time skeptics for whom light and darkness, truth and falsehood, reality and representation hold equal dangers. We are left to draw blindly, again and again, the line between them.
(…)
Not quite performance and not quite sculpture, Nauman’s corridor pieces provoke a series of questions: What is the role of the, for lack of a better word, “viewer’s” body and the effect of the constraints placed on that body? What is the place of vision in works in which there is nothing in particular to see (the blank walls), or in which seeing is frustrated (the image of the back of one’s head), or in which one is blinded (the bright lights) ? And what is the function of representation in works in which nothing much seems to be represented? While it seems clear that Nauman’s works are performative?they involve a setting, an actor, a simple narrative arc, a temporal framework, and what Joseph Roach has called sur rogation (the viewer stands in for the artist)?they also resist the category of performance.2^ They are, at the same time, involved with seemingly more conventional artistic concerns such as vision (we are forced to contemplate our own seeing), subject-object relations (the corridor is both sculpture and stage), and representation (the viewer represents the artist). Performance and sculpture, the real and representation, vision and blindness? the corridor is an apt figure through which to contemplate the passage between conceptual categories. It functions both as a long line (Derrida’s trait) that divides, and as a liminal space that connects?here and there, now and then.”

excerpt of Blink: The Viewer as Blind Man in Installation Art, by Jane Blocker, in Art Journal, Vol. 66, No. 4, 2007

┐ Eric Rondepierre └

couplepassant© Eric Rondepierre, Couple, passant, 1996-98

confidence© Eric Rondepierre, Confidence, 1996-98

levoyeur© Eric Rondepierre, Le Voyeur, 1996-98

“That impossible photogram, as Roland Barthes said. An object which is not (even) an object, but at the same time is actually two objects. It doesn’t (really) belong to the cinema or (simply) to photography ; it is more than a photograph yet less than a film. It is, therefore, a sort of axis or fold, the precise crossing point (punctum) between cinema and photography. Eminently paradoxical, the photogram is the touchstone of Eric Rondepierre’s work which is acutely conscious of the delicate balance on the razor’s edge where cinema meets photography in their most intimate specificity.


Eric Rondepierre’s work always starts with a film, or more precisely with the image-matter of a film. Rondepierre is not interested in cinema as the reflection-projection of a film on a screen, in a consumer relation to what is watchable, with its imposed length and speed, uninterrupted flow, impression of movement, perceptive fiction, transitory illusion – in other words the magic of the large cinema-body on the screen. What interests him is the film as actual film strip, a material sequence of fixed images intimately and appropriatively related to its object. Film images that you can not only see but also touch, hold, manipulate and collect.                          

In other words, Rondepierre aims at what is most authentically photographic at the very heart of cinema. This is of course profoundly contradictory. The photogram is an impossible object : it is both film’s condition of existence and its total negation. Obviously a film consists only of photograms, yet seeing a photogram for what it is (the frozen image of a film) necessarily means not seeing the film, which can only exist fully as movement. Seeing a film flow past automatically implies not seeing photograms, nevertheless the very essence of a film since they disappear, absorbed into the projection process. Photograms are the only real images and the only invisible images in a film. This is the ontological paradox which makes photograms into cinema’s blind «spots».
(…)


What strikes me most in all this is the principle of texture-filters which seems to me to operate in Rondepierre’s artistic strategy like Freud’s memory screen. It is a question of masks and shifts, in which the accumulated density of textures only reflects downstream the work that the spot principle has already performed upstream : burying and excavating part of what is invisible (part of the unconscious). Just as the concept of photograms revealed by freezeframes can be interpreted as a figure of the revelation of film’s unconscious. Photography and cinema are merely spots and textures. Don’t believe too much in what you can see. Learn to not see what is displayed (and therefore which hides). Learn to see beyond, beside, across and beneath. Look for the spot in the image, texture in the surface, negatives in positives and latent images in the negative ground. Follow once more the route mapped out by the psychicphotographic apparatus, shifting from eye to memory, from appearance to unrepresentable. Dig down through the layers and levels like an archeologist. Photographs are only surfaces, they have no depth, only a fantastic density. Behind it, beneath it or around it, one photo always hides (at least) another photograph, or a film. It is a question of screens, and here you enter in a singular universe, the one of an individual by the name of Eric Rondepierre.


And in this lies one of the possible dimensions of his work – it operates precisely like a psychic apparatus, maybe like Freud’s famous little Wunderblock the « magic notepad » which in 1925 Freud used as the ideal metaphor for the workings of the first topic of the unconscious : a question of levels, of transparent surface area upon which one writes, and a background layer on which the inscriptions are preserved in absentia even when the have been erased from the surface. Photography is the top surface, cinema the background dephts and writing the displaced entity. The « Wunderblock » shifts from one to the other, a link, like the photogram which relates photography to cinema. The deep spot (the invisible, the inconscious, the buried object, the lost text) and the texture which brings it to the surface, visible and conscious (the layered pathway to visibility). Coming and going. Directly or mediated. And starting again from the beginning.”

excerpt of Eric Rondepierre or working with photograms (between spot and texture) by Philippe Dubois in “Eric Rondepierre”, ed. Espace Jules Verne/ Galerie Michèle Chomette, Paris, 1993, pp. 28-35. FULL TEXT here

more of Eric’s work here

┐ Christian Boltanski – death from within └

5498496647_85c3f87a4d_o© Christian Boltanski, Odessa Monument, 1991. Four gelatin silver prints, lights and wiring

“Since the late 1960s, Christian Boltanski (b. 1944, Paris) has worked with photographs collected from ordinary and often ephemeral sources, endowing the commonplace with significance. Rather than taking original photographs to use in his installations, he often finds and rephotographs everyday documents—passport photographs, school portraits, newspaper pictures, and family albums—to memorialize everyday people. Boltanski seeks to create an art that is indistinguishable from life and has said, The fascinating moment for me is when the spectator hasn’t registered the art connection, and the longer I can delay this association the better. By appropriating mementos of other people’s lives and placing them in an art context, Boltanski explores the power of photography to transcend individual identity and to function instead as a witness to collective rituals and shared cultural memories.”

2© Christian Boltanski, Sans Fin, part of installation showed in the 54th Venice Biennial

1© Christian Boltanski, Dog in the street, 1991. Installation, Photograph, gelatin silver photograph, lamp, biscuit box and electrical wires

“While the particular images in this installation represent children and the family dog at play, there is a brooding sadness and sense of threat which suggests that fear of loss which accompanies all our joys. The black-and-white photos are taken from, or simulate, old family snaps and sometimes news-paper images. This style is deliberate: the black-and-white prints feel like a literal trace in a way that colour plates and digital images do not. We seem to be able to sense the process embedded in the materiality of the print that is created when light falls onto silver nitrate and changes its chemical structure. In this way the light that ‘touches’ the object also touches the print. Because of this intimate process, the photo of a loved one is more than a likeness; it is a relic of their having once been there in front of the camera. This process is further enhanced by the dim reading lamp which is attached to a frame and by the old biscuit tin below each photo which suggests the collections of memorabilia that most of us have in some cupboard or shed.2 The boxes in this installation contain snapshots of the families represented in the larger photographs. The effect also suggests the use of photos in ‘ex votos’ and memorials to the departed. (…) Boltanski plays upon the ambiguity of photography and memory by presenting these found photo-graphs from family albums or archives. In re-photographing them he further degrades the likeness and enhances the feeling of distance in time from the event. He exploits our predisposition to accept the authenticity of old black-and-white images as actual records of events yet presents them with deliberate theatrical effect. The atmosphere he creates is like that of a shrine in a cathedral or mausoleum, but it does not feel like mock religiosity – it is more personal than that and at the same time has broader cultural associations.”

docclick image to see a documentary about Christian’s life and work, in UBUWEB

┐ Ian van Coller └

© Ian van Coller, Daisy Angy Kekae (left), from the series Collage Portraits, 2009

“This series combines several influences that have personally been relevant to my art-making process. The work grew out of my experimentation with the use of quilting techniques based on traditions from Africa and Gees Bend, Alabama as a way to tell stories and record oral histories. The manner in which individuals in these portrait collages are presented, was heavily influenced by posters from the period of resistance against apartheid in South Africa. The union posters are now iconic examples of the strong printmaking tradition that grew out of resistance and artistic movements that began in the townships, and which often created “heroic” figures out of ordinary people. The individuals portrayed in the portrait collage series are primarily female domestic and farm workers.

The collages themselves consist of a multi-layered, two-dimensional piece. I print images on Mitsumata fiber paper, which is then soaked in shellac to provide a transparency that allows me to rework both the front and back of the image. The transparency of the paper allows me to layer images on top of one another so that the final piece is essentially multidimensional.”

© Ian van Coller, from the series Memory Boards, 2000-2007 (ongoing)

“This body of work deals with the colonial legacies that have become the social and economic realities of a modern South Africa. Each piece is an exploration of how Euro-centered attitudes have affected my personal history, as well as how they helped construct notions of Africa as the “dark continent.” In an attempt to resolve these dramatically different influences on my life, and to come to terms with my place in the world, I have made very specific choices about the images, materials, and the frames. This body of work originated with the idea of  Zambian “memory boards” as a way to trace personal memory/history, as well as the social memory/ history of South Africa. The frames themselves are transformed into objects that carry content in and of themselves, rather than merely encasing a photograph. Old family snapshots or culturally significant images and texts are also inserted in the frame, expressing the tension between the African and European influences on my identity.”

© Ian van Coller, Ndonganazibovana (left) + IMbedle (right), from the series Colonized Trees, Photogravure & photo litho, 1995

more of Ian’s great body of work here

┐ Traer Scott └

© Traer Scott, Ostrich and Wild Boars, from the series Natural History

© Traer Scott, Hunting Dogs, from the series Natural History

Natural History is a series of completely candid, in-camera single exposure images which bring together both the living and the dead, creating allegorical narratives of our troubled co-existence with nature. Ghost-like reflections of modern visitors viewing wildlife diorama against the preserved subjects themselves, housed behind the thick glass with their faces molded into permanent expressions of fear, aggression or passivity.

© Traer Scott, Gazelle, from the series Natural History

© Traer Scott, Moose, from the series Natural History

“There are many tastes, smells and visual vignettes that I recall from my solitary summers spent in the Natural History museum: the Moonpies and Mountain Dew that I often ate as a mid-day snack, procured from a distinctly southern 1930’s lunch counter on the ground floor; the slightly fetid smell of the animals’ cages- mostly a mix of cedar and musk; wearing a Corn snake around my waist, coiled deliberately through my belt loops in meticulously planned casualness to impress visiting children; proudly and proficiently operating the temperamental levers of the manual service elevator that would often became stuck between floors; the hissing cockroaches from Madigascar who would emit a puff of air when you pressed on their armored backs… and of course the dioramas which I sometimes watched the staff construct or alter, but mostly just gawked at while lurking in the spot lit halls. Oddly enough though, one of the things that stands out the most about my long, shadowy summer days in the museum is National Geographic.

Either because they liked me or because no one really had the time to care, I had full run of the place including keys and punch codes. Behind the education rooms where my mother gave live animal demonstrations to groups of visitors was one of the museum’s informal archives rooms. At the front of the cluttered, windowless room was a tall bookcase filled with every issue of National Geographic since the 1890’s. At the time, I wanted to be an archaeologist (no doubt influenced heavily by Raiders of the Lost Ark) and so for years I had associated all things “old” with mystery and treasure. I was immediately drawn to the magazines’ obvious age and antiquity: the crackled, yellowing covers, thick fibrous paper and fascinating photos. I don’t recall reading the articles at all and don’t even know that I was interested in who or what the subjects were, I really just craved the photographs. I hungrily analyzed the clothing and the environment in the images and was possessed by the notion of staring into the eyes of long dead people. I still do this. As an adult I began collecting Victorian photographs and still feel the same uneasy fascination with holding the subject’s gaze. It is the same sort of disquiet I experience when looking at dioramas.

When I rediscovered dioramas through the Natural History series, I felt a sense of satisfaction and completion, like perhaps a few of the loose ends from my youth had been neatly tied up and even finally made themselves useful. An argument could be made that this series is a celebration or remembrance of a time of quiet discovery for an introverted child. Alternatively, it could also be a way of mourning a very difficult time in my life when my family was falling apart and I learned to seek solace alone, valuing things that other children had no time for.

The rest of my childhood is not nearly as clear as those summers at the museum, I remember very little from the next several years. People, school and home life are vague at best but I do remember that the sense of solitude never really left me.”

More of Traer‘s work here

┐ roots & fruits #12 – Gonçalo Figueiredo └

© Gonçalo Figueiredo, Lourenço

© Gonçalo Figueiredo, Rita Tavares (left) and Lara Brandão (right), from the series The Protest, 12/2009

© Gonçalo Figueiredo, Ricardo Baltazar (left) and Gonçalo Figueiredo (right), from the series The Protest, 12/2009

These portraits are part of a series made back in the Winter of 2009 and it depicts a group of students from the Photography Department to which Gonçalo also was part, both as a technitian and as a student. In December, confronted with the lack of conditions and materials the course lacked to offer, they decided to camp at school and endure a silent and peaceful protest until they were heard.

“Let us now consider the time exposure, of which the photo-portrait is a concrete instance. Whether of a live or dead person, the portrait is funerary in nature, a monument. Acting as a reminder of times that have died away, it sets up landmarks of the past. This means it reverses the paradox of the snapshot, series to series. Whereas the snapshot refers to the fluency of time without conveying it, the time exposure petrifies the time of the referent and denotes it as departed. Reciprocally, whereas the former freezes the superficial time of the image, the latter releases it. It liberates an autonomous and recurrent temporality, which is the time of remembrance. While the portrait as Denkmal, monument, points to a state in a life that is gone forever, it also offers itself as the possibility of staging that life again and again in memory.


An asymmetrical reciprocity joins the snapshot to the time exposure: whereas the snapshot stole a life it could not return, the time exposure expresses a life that it never received. The time exposure doesn’t refer to life as process, evolution, diachrony, as does the snapshot. It deals with an imaginary life that is autonomous, discontinuous, and reversible, because this life has no location other than the surface of the photograph. By the same token it doesn’t frame that kind of surface-death characteristic of the snapshot, which is the shock of time splitting into not anymore and not yet. It refers to death as the state of what has been: the fixity and defection of time, its absolute zero.

(…)

Time exposure implies the antithesis of trauma. Far from blocking speech, it welcomes it openly. Only in time exposure (portrait, landscape, still life, etc.) may photography appear with the continuity of nature. The portrait, for example, may look awkward, but not artificial, as would be the case of a snapshot of an athlete caught in the midst of a jump. When continuity and nature are perceived, speech is apt to body forth that perception in the form of a narrative that meshes the imaginary with the symbolic and organizes our mediation with reality.

The word now, used to describe the kind of temporality involved in time exposures, doesn’t refer to actual time, since it is abstracted from its natural link with here: hic et nunc. It is to be understood as a pause in time, charged with a potential actualization, which will eventually be carried out by speech (or memory as interior speech), and is most probably rooted in the time-consuming act of looking.” excerpt from the article Time Exposure and Snapshot: The Photograph as Paradox, by Thierry de Duve, published in October, Vol. 5, Photography (Summer, 1978), pp. 113-125

More of Gonçalo’s work here

┐ Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir └

© Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir, Untitled, from the project the light of day, 2010-2011

© Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir, Untitled, from the project the light of day, 2010-2011

© Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir, Untitled, from the project the light of day, 2010-2011

© Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir, Untitled, from the project the light of day, 2010-2011

More of her work here

┐ Martin Seeds └

© Martin Seeds, from the project I have troubles[…]

© Martin Seeds, from the project I have troubles[…]

© Martin Seeds, from the project I have troubles[…]

“I never set out to document anything. It was more of a search, an investigation. I wanted to understand more of myself. To find others like me. I needed to be sure that I wasn’t the only one.

In 1986 I left Northern Ireland for London and for work. I brought me a diploma in computer studies, a strong accent and £50 that I think my father gave me at the ferry terminal. When questioned about my origins in London I rarely had much more than a terse answer. I didn’t have a strong sense of what culturally defined me as being from the North of Ireland. If I did venture into that definition a violent history emerged. And it was difficult to reject that violent element of my heritage without rejecting much of the culture and history. Over the years I returned ‘home’ to Northern Ireland many times and felt with each return increasingly alienated, to the point where I now view my home country as a detached outsider.

But there must be others. I’m sure we, the ones from over there, all get asked the same questions; of origin and of history. And therefore some of those others, like me, must also doubt their answers. Of belonging? There are those, the numbers of whom are unknown to me, although I suspect there are many, that do not answer or give a faux “…it doesn’t matter…”. So much is buried in such a dismiss. For many don’t want to embark down the tiresome road of “…going into that nonsense…”.

I reached the seminal point of detachment in 2010, when I returned to Belfast for a family Christmas. Arriving in the morning and tired from my journey, I slept until mid afternoon. During my sleep there was a heavy snowfall and on waking I stared at this new white landscape from the bedroom window. It felt, for a moment, that a troubled history had been wiped clean but I realised that the snow, although deep and heavy, lay lightly on the surface and was like myself without roots. At that point I knew I did not belong here and because I didn’t feel I belonged elsewhere I needed to understand my sense of displacement.

I am convinced however that there exists within us all a deep sense of origin. It is stronger in some cultures, less deeply buried perhaps. To be clear I’m not talking about nationalism, no, that is something else. That’s wrapped up in political ideals and tied to legal boundary posts. What I’m referring to is more a primeval notion of origin. An unconscious apolitical reference point, which influences much of our choices.

On my recent trips to Northern Ireland I visited familiar places. I was trying to find some resonance of myself engrained in the substance of these known locales. I looked in museums, the repositories of local history and culture, hoping to find some clarity as to my origins. I visited the border country between the north and south of Ireland. Thinking that by looking across that troublesome boundary line to another supposedly different place it might jolt a notion of longing through knowing I didn’t belong there; but in fact it was hard to see where one country ended and the other began. I journeyed to Stormont the seat of political power and once there, I walked the peaceful woods surrounding that contested white building. Throughout all of this, I explored the faces of my fellow countrymen. These faces would surely harbour some common trait, characteristic or expression that I could recognise as my own.

For we as humans have need of a reference point – a beginning? We require that ‘A’ to start from and ‘B’ to arrive at. You see I think we like straight lines, they are easy to negotiate and are convincing in their simplicity. History has, for example, a habit of being drawn as a straight line for that very reason. Well, I read the history; several versions of it. And yes, each drew its own straight line. And I got sick of the sight of it to be honest. It wasn’t telling me anything I wanted to know. It told me someone else’s story. So I went back there. I went back to find my own ‘A’.”

Martin’s statement

More of his work can be seen here

┐ Sunil Shah └

© Sunil Shah, from the project Uganda Stories

© Sunil Shah, from the project Uganda Stories

© Sunil Shah, from the project Uganda Stories

© Sunil Shah, from the project Uganda Stories

“This project is both a subjective journey to recollect the past and an interrogation of documentary photography in its use to reassemble fragments of history. In 1972 the Ugandan military dictator, Idi Amin expelled 80,000 Asians from the country. I was 3 years old when my family was forced to leave their lives and possessions behind and move to the UK. This research of my family’s origins included analysis of photographs, objects and interview transcripts based on separate dialogues with my father, Ramnik Shah, and two of his brothers; Pran and Mukund. What emerged and can be seen in this fragmented photo-text sequence are objects from dusty storage and extracts from long forgotten anecdotes: there were slowly fading stories and isolated images of diminishing memories. As time advances these stories and images move out of the personal and collective consciousness and move into the public realm of ethnographic colonial histories.”

Sunil’s statement

More of his work here