A friend called my attention to Ana Teresa Barboza‘s work (Lima, Peru, 1981). A good friend, I should say, for she knows how I’m drawn to mixed techniques applied to photography, specially when it involves some sort of sewing. Ana Teresa’s work is anything but simple, though the objects and imagery we’re showed in the end are easy to look at, easy to relate to. In a short interview with my homonym from Le Fil Conducteur Ana Teresa says something fundamental to understand the greater value of such a work:
“Both embroidery and crocheting are techniques that require time. I use these techniques in order to make a connection between manual work and the processes of nature; creating thread structures similar to the structures that make a plant for example. My aim is to create pieces of work that simulates experiments, aiming to reconstruct nature, teaching us to have a new and fresh look at it.”
The relation between manual labor and authenticity in art is something I’m very interested in. I’ve written about it in this blog and there’s a beautiful text by Michael Hardt on the topic that is very much worth looking at – Affective Labor (1999). Works that require time, as Ana Teresa says, allow for a very particular connection to develop between the author and the product of his/her creation and the faithfulness of such a relation is of immediate perception. That symbiosis cannot be forged. It is inherently authentic. And why is authenticity such an important value? Because artists are expected to relate to their work in an honest way, to relate to the materials chosen in a way that is sincere to their purpose, their potential and their context. If they do not compromise with the creative process, that will be evident in the product’s lack of “soul” and I’d say these creators should not be called artists but instead image-makers, decorators and so on.
Photography and sewing are my two passions. Although the way they came into my life was quite different from one another, they both relate to the realm of affects. I often question why they mean so much and tend to conclude it has to do with the value of affective labor and how it relates to time, patience, love and death. When applied to photography, embroidery works on an opposite pole, creating a sustainable tension between the two. Photography is flat and it’s about the killing of a moment that is then awaken in the form of a fake representation; embroidery is a work of patience and it’s about bringing things to life, its forms are never determined. Together, they clash in a three-dimensional struggle where the two mediums may or may not flow together in two major aspects: 1) their inherent capacities to function as symbols, either of the object represented or of the subject’s intentions; 2) their materiality.
There’s also a tendency to be reminded of Barthes and Benjamin when looking at these works. The former because of the concept of punctum, the latter because of the (ever changing notion of) aura. Punctum is of the order of pain. Something like a stinging quality a photograph may or may not have, the way that photography penetrates and hurts you. The aura is an unspoken truth. Something that happens here and now but somehow has to do with the there and then of the memory of the author and our own. So the way sewing acts upon a photograph seems to me like a brutal dialogue, like an attempt to awake the death images by inflicting them with pain. As the needle penetrates the photograph there is potential for an auratic mode to arise. From the continuum of little moments spent between the author and the work to the originality of the photographic imagery created, there is an open field from where autonomous memories emerge.
© 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”.
© Sandro Ferreira, from the project 6174. The left card reads The useless, the right card reads The miserableA 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 nature – subversive 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.
Sandro was recently chosen for the EDP emerging artists’ award, in Portugal. He will be exhibiting new work, latter on this year, in Oporto.
Bill Carke: You first saw Cultural History in 1996 at the Dia Art Foundation’s Chelsea space. Can you recall what your response to the work was back then and how it’s evolved since?
Dan Adler: (Laughs) My initial response was of being overwhelmed! The installation took up several large galleries. And, the amount of material to look at! Over 1,600 panels containing thousands of sheets of paper and all these uncanny-looking sculptural objects punctuating the exhibition. I took notes at the time as a way of dealing with my feelings of intimidation, my fear of the work. So, it’s fortunate that I’ve had such a long time to reflect on the work and my notes, and to consider it in relation to other major statements, such as Richter’s Atlas. This gradually made Cultural History less intimidating for me.
BC: How familiar were you with her work before experiencing Cultural History?
DA: I was familiar with some early drawings – the Konstruktonen series made in the mid 1960s, but these are very different from Cultural History. They are humble in terms of scale and materials, consisting of numbers and graphs on paper. Because of that simplicity, they are considered key Conceptual works; the emphasis is on the ideas contained within the calculations. Cultural History, however, is concerned with issues such as historical memory, the reception of traumatic events, and the material reality of things. So, the Cultural History installation was a big surprise because it contrasted with what I though her work was.
BC: I feel her concern with history, especially Germany’s turbulent 20th century history, is shared by a number of her contemporaries. You mentioned Gerhardt Richter, but when I was reading your book, I also thought a lot about Christian Boltanski.
DA: Yes, both he and Darboven convey the events of the Holocaust and other traumatic situations in their work, and how that history is coldly archived, transmitted and distorted by historians, the culture industry and the media. They both deal with the politics of transmission, but in very different ways. By this, I mean the ways through which those horrors have been received by us photographically and textually. We live in a world in which there are forces distracting us from those realities, and that capitalize and make money off of those realities.
BC: You talk about earlier attempts to create atlas-like works in the book, such as Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas from 1929, but it seems to me that a work like Cultural History could only have been made in the latter half of the 20th century. I say this because when Warburg was constructing his atlas, history was probably conceived of in a more linear way – of one event happening after another rather than things occurring simultaneously. Word of events taking place on the other side of the world took days, if sometimes not weeks, to spread. Today, we learn about events almost immediately. We have much more of a sense of the simultaneity of events; however, this seems to have a levelling effect. The media often seems to give equal weight to everything. News of a celebrity having a meltdown is delivered to us in the same format as news of the latest complex developments in the Middle East. Cultural History seems to presage our current situation.
DA: Yes, there is a feeling of dilution of the power of the image today. For example, in Cultural History, we’ll see an image of Hitler saluting, followed immediately by an image of a cartoon picturing a baby eating. The images are brought down to the same level of information. No one subject is more relevant than another.
BC: Darboven’s work is critical of this.
DA: Yes, absolutely. Cultural History is meant to raise our awareness of how we have become detached from our own histories. The role of the culture industry is to detach us from such realities. Its role is to create spectacles that pacify us and make us less aware of ways of subverting the powers that be. One way is to keep us in a constant state of visual stimulation, which distracts us from the realities and injustices of history. The culture industry and the media are always forcing us onto the next thing. Think about the injustices that occurred during the Iraq war. Doesn’t it feel like we’ve already forgotten about them?
BC: Another element of Darboven’s work you mention is the act of itemizing, list-making and cataloguing. Again, this is a trait she shares with Boltanski, as well as artists like Mario Merz or Alighiero Boetti. What is the purpose of Darboven’s itemizing?
DA: Cultural History gathers together varied things as pre-World War II postcards, pin-ups of film and rock stars, World War I-era German cigarette cards, geometric diagrams for textiles, illustrated covers from Der Spiegel and Der Stern; the contents of an exhibition catalogue devoted to post-War European and American art, musical score sheets, pages of numerical calculations and a form of repetitive cursive writing, and imagery from some of Darboven’s earlier works. It also includes three-dimensional objects such as animal figures, a robot, a crescent moon hanging from the ceiling, a kiosk, a ceramic bust of a moustached man, a pair of shop-window mannequins wearing jogging attire, and a book placed on a pedestal. Darboven’s is a personal and non-hierarchical collection of materials, and it provokes consideration of how history is made and related. It draws distinctions between history and information, everyday and historical significance, and documentary and aesthetic import. Her work powerfully questions the division between the personal and the universal, as it operates in the process of portraying history. Most importantly, her work refuses to answer the call for interpretive synthesis.
How To Be is a series of exercises that revisit and reimagine early 19th century primers for “young ladies.”
I stumbled upon these manuals while researching 19th century etiquette books. Most include etiquette but only as part of a more comprehensive course of education. They were intended for upper-class girls and women who had few opportunities for formal schooling. Instead, girls took their lessons from these books, serials and pamphlets and from their mothers or older sisters at home. The manuals include subjects ranging from etiquette and fashion to archery and riding, from botany, entomology and mineralogy to painting, dancing and embroidery. Each was meant to help a young woman navigate society and to keep her occupied, to battle the boredom that could lead to rebellion or other transgressions.
How To Be uses these young ladies’ manuals to address themes of gender, class, and the dialogue between personal and political histories, identity and space. I methodically select and execute lessons from the primers, consider them in their historical context, then reconsider and reconceive them in the context of my own history. The first three exercises in the series are currently on exhibition at O’Born Contemporary. Lesson I: Ablutions, Lesson II: Moral Deportment, and Lesson III: The Cabinet Council, introduce central themes of the project.
Lesson I: Ablutions (9 works)
Ablutions takes as its starting point early 19th century instructions for developing a sense of “style.” I have paired self-portrait photographs with illustrations of period hair arrangements and headdresses taken from one of the young ladies’ manuals.
Lesson III: The Cabinet Council (9 works)
The cabinet is “a secret receptacle, a repository… a small private chamber or room… a room devoted to the display of works of art; a gallery” or “the council-chamber in which the inner circle of government meet.” A bedroom can be all of these things, a microcosm of the home and a safe, autonomous space.
In this exercise I have captured images of girls’ bedrooms from television shows that I watched as an adolescent; shows that purported to guide their audience toward specific ways of being. I have removed the figures from each of the stills and inserted images of objects that form my own private spaces.
more of Caitlin’s work here
© Sara Rahbar, Trapped in Dark Night with Nowhere to Run, I Have Died a Million Times Every Night in this Bed (left) + Kurdistan Flag #5 (right), from the series Flags, mixed media + textiles, 2005-2010
Rahbar seems to meditate on the flag like a monk would stare at an icon. “It represents my father and so many, many promises and hopes of tomorrow … It represents endless possibilities, escapes, and mirages … it’s a very loaded image for me,” Rahbar explained. “Years and years of memories, experiences and attachments, and what is the work but a direct reflection of my life? What I’m focusing on, and what is boiling, twisting and turning inside of me.”
“And I remember how I worked on one of my first flags. I was traveling from Tehran to Kurdistan with Hossein a very dear friend of mine. He was going to work as a soundman for a film and I was going to photograph Kurdistan and try to figure out my next project and what to do with the rest of my life.”
“We lived in Kurdistan together for months, I would write, take photographs and gather random found objects and textiles that were used for donkeys and horses and sew them onto my flag. I would sit somewhere, sew for a bit, roll up the flag, put it in my backpack, and continue to take photographs, everything was on the go and very natural and in the moment. I worked to work out the turbulence that existed within me; I was healing myself and at the same time communicating an immense pain as I always am with my work. The work is a byproduct of me; emotionally and mentally, it keeps me together. I take care of it and it takes care of me.” excerpt of article by Hrag Vartanian, in Hyperallergic. continue reading here.
More of Sara’s work here
“From the mid-1970s until her death at age 31 in 1982, Korean-born artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha created a rich body of conceptual art that explored displacement and loss. Her works included artists’ books, mail art, performance, audio, video, film, and installation. Although grounded in French psychoanalytic film theory, her art is also informed by far-ranging cultural and symbolic references, from shamanism to Confucianism and Catholicism. Her collage-like book Dictée, which was published posthumously in 1982, is recognized as an influential investigation of identity in the context of history, ethnicity and gender.
In her highly theoretical yet poetic video works, Cha uses performance, speech and text to explore interactions of language, meaning and memory. Much of Cha’s work balances a rigorous analytical approach with an almost spiritual evocation of transformation and suffering. Themes of displacement and rupture are articulated in forms derived from French psychoanalytic cinema and linguistic theory of the 1970s; Cha studied in France with Christian Metz, Raymond Bellour and Thierry Kuntzel, among others. Drawing on sources and strategies as diverse as concrete poetry, Korean cultural traditions and conceptual art, Cha speaks with a distinctive voice.
Cha’s exploration of exile and dislocation in her art is informed by her own history. Uprooted during the Korean War, her family immigrated to America in 1962, moving first to Hawaii and then to San Francisco. After years in the Bay Area and time in Europe, Cha moved to New York City in 1980. As an editor and writer at Tanam Press, she produced two well-known works, Dictée (1982) and Apparatus, an important anthology of essays on the cinematic apparatus.” source: Electronic Arts Intermix
More of Theresa‘s work here
“The photographs grew out of the scrapbooks, also. I began collecting photos to put in them, and quickly became obsessed with all the different depictions of the same thing. Soon, I had hundreds of snowmen pictures. I began collecting many more snapshots, other peoples pictures, and soon borrowed lots of my family’s own pictures. I began to think about them and in my mind’s eye I saw pictures, photographs with the appearance of photographs, that I didn’t actually possess. As you might have a dream which combines several otherwise incompatible aspects of your waking life, I saw photographs that were combinatorial and wove together things from different times and spaces.
I set out to make these photographs which were in my head. I sought the advice of many technical experts and created a way to make silver gelatin prints “actual photographs” of something that never happened.” Jane’s statement, 2007
More of Jane’s amazing body of work here
“…Dada had long operated according to the principle of instability, blurring distinctions between art and mass media (in photomontage), art and mass production (in the readymade), and intention and reception (in public provocations and spectacles). In 1921, Roman Jakobson characterized the movement as “transrational”—an indulgence in sheer relativity and paradox—citing Tristan Tzara as support: “I am against all systems, the most acceptable system is to have no system at all.” Framed by flou, Man Ray’s equivocations—photography is not art/photography can be art/art is not photography—strike one as a form of discursive repurposing that recalls the readymade, or at the very least, a cultivation of irrationality commensurate with automatic writing. What appears at first to be a show of dogmatic inconsistency is in fact an instance of Dada blur and flux, activated by a form of crit ical recycling that would later come to be called détournement—not a negation, precisely, but an intervention or interleaving of new forms into old that is put in play to expose conventional demarcations as redundant. “And yet you still paint?” “Yes . . . to persuade me of its inanity.”
The photographic medium further underscores the references to mass media: like the newspaper, it is itself a form of technological reproduction, and like the news, it is valued for its immediacy. Instantly obsolescent, all bear the double intimation of a frozen present, simultaneously past. Likewise, photographs prove to be the perfect analog to the automatic text in its relation to unconscious processes: inclusive of all that appears in the camera’s viewfinder, mechanically made “memory-records” constituted by visual residue. Deserved or not, photography’s reputation is still that of being an unmediated print—a myth that is foregrounded by the relative directness of the photogram process. The absent camera is replaced by mechanical actions: picking up trash at random on the street, drawing newspaper fragments from a bag . . . or, in Man Ray’s case, absent-mindedly misplacing objects in a developing tray.” excerpt from the article Flou: Rayographs and the Dada Automatic, by Susan Laxton, published in OCTOBER 127, Winter 2009, pp. 25–48.
more of Bohnert‘s work here
Abandoned, discarded, unwanted film is woven into handmade artefacts and photographic prints are created in the darkroom from constructed negatives. Time becomes an integral element, with each print or object measuring a duration of film. This recent work explores the materiality of photography and film in the digital age and creates a dialogue between the still frame and the moving image.
Mary Stark is searching for celluloid. It’s an exploration that, paradoxically, began in the digital space.
“I was interested in working digitally with video,” says Stark, who recently completed an MA in Photography at MMU. “Then I realised that, of course, all this digital film has a physical ancestor. It’s like a piece of thread.”
The thread analogy is important. Stark’s BA, also at MMU (she graduated in 2006) was in Embroidery. She has combined both the material physicality of film and the action of weaving for her Cornerhouse Micro Commissions project, Searching For Celluloid. “The idea is to develop film as a material,” she explains, “to turn a whole feature film into a physical object.”
The interface between analogue and digital is providing increasingly intriguing creative possibilities, and particularly interesting in Stark’s case is the fluid relationship between the two – there is no sense of either/or, no digital/analogue divide.
“I’m using digital tools to help me design the patterns I’m creating with the celluloid,” says Stark. “I’m interested in the dialogue between stitch and film, both digital and analogue.”
It’s an interest that has also led Stark to explore a process of ‘weaving’ digital film footage together (see Vimeo video, above). A celluloid film is projected, captured digitally on video and then woven together using Final Cut Pro: “It’s quite experimental at this stage,” she says. source: digital innovation
© Robert Seydel, all Untitled, from Book of Ruth, collages, c. 2000-09
Robert Seydel’s “Book of Ruth is an alchemical assemblage that composes the life of his alter ego, Ruth Greisman—spinster, Sunday painter, and friend to Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. Through collages, drawings, and journal entries from Ruth’s imagined life, Seydel invokes her interior world in novelistic rhythms. These seductive, unearthed artifacts, conceived as a gathering of materials from the Smithsonian and a suburban family garage, construct a mosaic portrait of a reclusive, unknown artist for whom the distance between the ordinary and the extraordinary is infra-thin. The fragments and detritus from which Seydel fashions Ruth’s art and narrates her inner life shine like the pages of an illuminated manuscript, revealing as much about the imagination of an artist as well as about the tenuous creation of self. from Siglio press
“Speaking through another’s voice is hardly an original tactic, though I suppose to some degree it is in the visual arts. “I is another,” Rimbaud said, lodging uncanniness at the heart of what we are. From Browning to Pound to Pessoa, speaking in voices was a way to carry history and multiplicity into the poem. Armand Schwerner asked, as a poet, “Why leave fictive experiments to the prose writers?” I guess I’ve asked that myself, but as an artist. To attempt to make the hand obey another’s psychology, at least so far as you imagine it, doesn’t seem that different to me than fashioning the voice of a literary character.
And art has always seemed to me a kind of exit out of the self, a way to get beyond the self. I don’t think I’ve ever really understood why “self-expression” is an attractive motivation for making art, which is how students so often speak about what they’re doing. Who cares really? But to fashion a self, that seems to me another thing. Walt Whitman isn’t only that boy “starting out from Paumonak,” but “Walt Whitman, a kosmos”—that is, an invention. The artist’s job, according to both Robert Henri and Jasper Johns, is to invent himself.” excerpt of an interview conducted by Savina Velkova. continue reading here
More of Maya’s work here
“In Susiraja’s esthetics, an image does not remain an image; rather, it requires an entire life. Although Susiraja has focused on photography, her art genre is more comprehensive: to shape a work of art from life. Usually, the salesmen of this genre rely on the American smile, non-sense polished with first-class product phraseology, but Susiraja doesn’t work that way. She scavenges ultimate experiences and the most dismal version of reality, although sometimes the imaginative possibilities for light-hearted gliding on the surface. However, without the history of long-term exclusion and bullying, the pictures would be something entirely different.
The history of exclusion and feigned betterment repeats itself from one society and community to another. There is supposed to be a mold, into which everyone should fit and get stuck. There is still space for one more, ridiculed and excluded, who helps those feigning betterment to recognize their excellence. Susiraja becomes a sacrifice on the cross, saying: “Spit more”; except Susiraja doesn’t climb all the way to the cross, because there is bench closer, and a handy hostess can make a cross from the handle of the broom faster.
Susiraja shows how the crappiest experiences can mold an artistic counter-weapon: cripplingly mundane and fatally ridiculous all at once.”
More of Iiu’s work here
© Farhad Ahrarnia, ballet pars no.3
HAND EMBROIDERY ON DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY PRINTED ON CANVAS
SILK & COTTON THREAD AND NEEDLES, 2008-10
© Farhad Ahrarnia, beautiful is the silence of ruins II
photography on canvas and embroidery, 2011
More of Farhad’s work here
© Cabello / Carceller, Off Escena: If I were…, Madrid 2011
“How can we explain a term which is in itself so complicated, but which most of society is determined to simplify? How can we explain that the majority prefer to appear not to understand its diversity? And what is it that makes this pretense possible? Why do gender differences still exist as bipolarized and insurmountable categories? Who benefits from the continuation of this binary split? Why is it indispensable to pathologize those who transgress gender boundaries? Why do most of the transgender representations existing in the collective imagination end up appearing exaggerated, as though from a pantomime? What is it people are so afraid of? The prescriptive division of gender leaves us standing before an undisputed frontier, whose existence we not want to recognize in case we find ourselves disputing it. Those who cross it at best begin to sicken … at worst they can be assassinated for “moral reasons”; either way it is clear that the mere fact of crossing that frontier confers a special status on us and converts us into a political problem which demands the intervention of the public authorities. On the other hand it is perfectly clear that if the boundary is not crossed completely and one decides to live undefined, the problem becomes more serious, partly because there is no room in society for these possible new hybrids. We say “new” not because the issue did not previously exist but because, as we have already said, there is no will to discuss this matter in a down to earth and effective way. We can describe it as a new theme because it was not relevant, because its existence was marginalized on the whole deliberately, because it has been insistently dealt with as a subject associated with sexuality, thus reducing its political magnitude. The discussion was postponed until it turned into the last question, to be faced only once the rest of the problems affecting our society were resolved; when it comes down to it, they said, it is just a minority problem. They are right, because the majority of citizens cannot or will not face the fact that one of the principle variables marking their lives and driving their way of interacting with others is something imposed on them, just as they cannot face the fact that they themselves have turned into what is called the “gender police,” a force of law and order which judges others, takes action, and forces them to maintain the current categories. And they do it frequently in daily life, through apparently insignificant gestures, boring conversations, and attitudes which are so assumed they pass unnoticed. The gender police are present when employees are hired, in schools, and at the doctor’s, when tax returns are presented and in the queue for the public toilets … How then can we consider ourselves free when we have naturalized gender and turned our bodies into prisons of identity?
Masculine or feminine. Apparently we have to accept this simplistic choice. It would seem that according to our political systems only predictable persons can be emancipated/emancipable; that is to say, only predictable persons can be social beings with rights. Unpredictable persons—to use the terminology of Carla Lonzi2—are not politically useful, they are instead potentially dangerous, and for this reason they should be relegated to being an invisible caste. In societies based on communication, invisibility ends up being the greatest punishment, as it has as its consequence the loss of effective political rights. This is why the de facto powers have to hinder the possibilities of representation for those who do not wish to take an active part in the social network, and above all, those to whom it wishes to deny—as it is currently doing—their civil rights. Nowadays, presence in the collective imagination is indispensable to gain a voice in the social network; without that visibility one cannot even declare oneself part of the political body or be understood as a part of it.
If we agree with Judith Butler that gender constitutes an imitation without an original, which “imitates the myth of originality itself,”3 building the illusion of an existence of a primary and internal gender, or parodying the mechanism of the aforementioned construction, we can understand that there are many possibilities for the corruption and transgression of the established gender divides, divisions which are fictitiously presented as “natural” from the perspective of the dominant heterosexual. In the field of representation, and more specifically in that of visual representation, the spaces for the construction of possible identities which hinder the ruling assignment of gender are a priori multiple; identities which would distance us from the insistence on the illusory creation of that stable and sexualized self that Butler associates with the management of a regulatory hetero-normative fiction. This regulation however is perfectly in force and deeply anchored in various societies and cultures. If we interpret representation as an action of “presenting oneself again”—of re-presenting oneself in an indefinite postponement of the stability and unity of the generically regulated and ordered presence—we would have in it an apparent ally which would allow us to play with its possibilities and we would make the most of its important impact on the contemporary social space. However, images created from resistance to the hegemonic view and established categories are displaced and interpreted with the help of a spectacular and histrionic key; they are distanced from spaces where a genuinely plural and impartial imagination is being constructed. The receptive echo of these possible images in the critical discourse places them in closed compartments, by which their variables of interpretation are reduced and the opportunity for them to access open readings denied. A redundant order of gender, whose structure remains hidden under the cloak of neutrality—which is in reality impossible—looks after the promotion of all those images which fit into the aforementioned order without flagging, while it condemns the exhaustion caused by any kind of nonconventional imaginary.
As artists we considered the possibility of working with what we denominate “arte degenerado” as early as 2000. In the first place, “Degenerate Art” (Entartete Kunst) was the concept chosen in 1937 by the Nazi regime in Germany to classify and insult productions of avant-garde or modernist art. Secondly, degenerate also means an “individual with an abnormal or depraved mental and moral condition, commonly accompanied by a peculiar physical stigma”4 and has been widely used to refer to individuals with sexual “perversions” (a classification which enfolds in the same concept people who use violence, such as rapists, and people who are on the receiving end of violence from the dominant group, such as homosexuals). Thirdly, despite institutional opposition, in Castilian Spanish the word género has taken root as the literal translation of the English concept of gender. This was the basis on which we decided to use the term degenerado additionally in the sense of genderless in cases where affiliation to a normatively valid feminine or masculine gender was absent. Fourthly, in Castilian Spanish, the word género also relates to the usual classification of the various artistic disciplines: photography, painting, sculpture, video … (in English, the term corresponds to the word “genre”). In all these senses, arte degenerado5 could, as a minimum, cross four frontiers: political, sexual, and social frontiers, and that of destabilization of conservative artistic language.
Can one really jump over the gender barrier? What we do know is that this has scarcely been examined. During the moral revolution that took place in some Western countries in the second half of the last century, the question really was posed as to whether the supremacy of the female and male element had to be equalized; but no one asked about the need to transcend the permanence of this symbolic order, whereby the possibility of upsetting the normative gender was limited only to the field of entertainment, pathology, or adjusted marginalization. It is true that changes have only just begun, and, by simply looking around us (a look that includes, of course, the art world) we realize how far we are from that judicial, economic, and political equality (if any of these categories can be used separately from the others) among those necessarily masculine biological men and those necessarily feminine biological women who constitute the ideological majority. But maybe we are asking the wrong question, because the answer is obvious: we currently lack that freedom, and in the public sphere we are still being identified as a part of one gender or the other. That is to say, it is not a problem that should be analyzed within the private sphere. It is a public question about power relations. Our assignment of gender is, in our identification, documents, which are almost more important than we are, as their possession conditions our mobility through the world; in fact its absence puts our very existence into question. Race is not stated on them (at least not in Spain); neither is economic class (although to show solvency the documents should be accompanied by credit cards). Nor is our religion stated … but the need to know the compulsory gender to which we have been assigned is almost obsessive. Why? Let us go back to the beginning. Who benefits from the continuation of the binary split?”
1 / This text is connected with the text “Archive” in this volume by Cabello/Carceller.
2 / Carla Lonzi, Escupamos sobre Hegel, Editorial Anagrama, Barcelona 1981. Originally published as Sputiamo su Hegel e altri scritti, Rivolta Femminile, Milan 1972.
3 / Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, London 1990, p. 38.
4 / Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua española, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid 1984, p. 447.
5 / In English it would be a sort of mix between Degenerate Art and Degenderate Art.
source: Atlas of Transformation
“The Photo-Respiration series is Sato’s most well known work. When we approached him with our request for a cover photo, we were delighted to learn that he has been continuing to work on the series up until now, as the above 2008 image Shirakami #1 illustrates. Photo-respiration consists of two sub-streams, Breathing Light and Breathing Shadows. To make these photographs, Sato opens up the lens on his 8 x 10 camera for an extended exposure, sometimes up to three hours, and subsequently physically enters the scene in front of the frame. In Breathing Shadows a flashlight is pointed at the camera at nighttime or in a darkened space. In Breathing Light he uses a mirror to reflect light back toward the lens by day. In both cases he then moves around in the scene adding streaks or spots of light to the image. Ironically a long exposure of a person becomes a photo without anyone in it, but the viewer infers the person’s presence from the resulting image.
The title Photo-Respiration was chosen, according to Sato, because in the photographs he makes “a direct connection between my breath and the act of tracing out the light.” In his view this has the same significance as in monotonous activities such as long distance running or swimming, when one’s focus is only on breathing. The fact that Sato accommodates the three-dimensional real world by tracing it through his person into the image is often attributed to his training as a sculptor, although naturally the concept of dimensional collapse is part of the medium and a consideration for every photographer.
The resulting photographs have a very timeless and lyrical feel about them and this impression persists even after learning about the technique that was used to create them. In fact, knowing the method of creation adds to the enjoyment of the work. As always, it is the viewer who makes the image once more when facing it and doing so is a delightful moment. Interpretation is tempting, but one should be careful not to jump to quick associations. In an Q&A session, Sato was once asked what the reflections of light “represented” to him: perhaps fireflies, or marching pieces of string? His response was that representation is not his intention. All they represent is where he stood shining the light into the camera.”
source: japan exposures
more of Tokihiro’s work here
© Carla Cabanas, Three friends, from the project What remains of what it was, 2010/11
© Carla Cabanas, One Little Girl, from the project What remains of what it was, 2010/11
“What remains of what once was – Cabanas Álbum), the artist invokes memory imprecision through erasing, scratching, and fading away of images belonging to her closest surrounding: family. The photographic processing torn off – accumulating in the bottom of the frame – erases information on spaces, context and characters. Just like we all unwillingly discard our personal history, until what remains is but ashes from times gone by.”
by Valter Ventura
More of Carla’s work here
Ananda’s site here