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 ‘Never have we had access to so much information about each other, and never has the information been so unreliable.’ ٠

In this project I have downloaded pictures of ‘friends’ that I only know through the Internet, and given them a new context. The persons are only visible through a digital representation, while the surroundings are as analog as possible. The sceneries are photographed places that invited to interaction – places that missed the company of human beings. The milieu adds a new meaning to the way the digital personas act, and gives their simplified characteristics meaning and personality again, by adding a setting to their digital components.” excerpt from Johan Ronsenmunthe‘s statement about his project Off II

8_814offiismall14-copy8_8814offiismall16-copy8_814offiismall20-copy© Johan Rosenmunthe, from the project Off II, 2010

Although it obviously is another sort of technology, there seems to be a certain reluctance to actually treat photography (and its products) as simply that. Are the various interventions you have made in photographic images, such as the pixellation in Off II, an attempt to expose the (technological) processes behind the photograph itself?

Well, that particular project (Off II) deals quite explicitly with two different kinds of processes, but perhaps more as a comment on the subject matter (digital vs physical encounters) than in its own respect. So, no, I don’t think you could say that this was my goal, but I am definitely interested in photographic processes. Not as isolated technologies, but the different visual outcomes they have. In the same way that the sculptor part of me is interested in different materials, I find these technological phenomena interesting because they make some choices for me. They are kind of the most basic choices you have regarding surface and materials when you are working with photography and are interested in the sculptural aspect of it.

Not to over-emphasise this issue of the technology, because of course there are other themes here, but what do you see as the relation of this work to the discourse of surveillance and control that photography is now so thoroughly implicated in?

I have been interested in this field for a long time and it is something I keep coming back to. In the pixellated friends project I was discussing the digital presence of real people online. As I write in the project statement: ‘Never have we had access to so much information about each other, and never has the information been so unreliable.’ And in Enlargements I crop and zoom into one cityscape image resulting in a number of images that resemble surveillance footage. Or rather, it’s my own surveillance footage. What I find interesting here is the convention that if you show a certain kind of low quality (technologically speaking) image it automatically adds an aura of credibility. We learned this from the use of media – if a very low quality image is worthy of our time, it must be because there is some important truths hidden in there.”

excerpt from an interview by Darren Campion, published in Paper Journal

8_87offii05-copy8_814offiismall17-copy8_8814offiismall13-copy© Johan Rosenmunthe, from the project Off II, 2010

٠ Botched Taxidermy – ‘artists’ using animals ٠

imageMiguel Suarez, Chicken-Killing Performance, Alberta, Canada, 2013. More about it here

How does the animal function as a kind of tool for allowing humans to think through their own identities? It seems that a lot of artists you’re writing about are trying to envision a very far-out point in the dispersal of fixed identities, to the point at which identities disappear.

There are several points that are raised there. In terms of moving beyond identities, I think you’re right in saying that there doesn’t appear to be a fixed point towards which one could move. Certainly the way in which, say, Deleuze and Guattari elaborate their concept of “becoming-animal” in A Thousand Plateaus as a creative, social process in which there is a chance of liberating oneself from being bound by identities, presents the notion of becoming as something that is not a matter of moving from one identity to another identity. The becoming is itself the point, and since in their view all becomings are, in a sense, becomings-animal, this gives the animal a privileged and markedly creative place in their philosophy.

[…]

marco-evaristtiMarco Evaristti, Blenders and Goldfish, 2000. More about it here

There is an overwhelming amount of overtly sentimental imagery out there which does a certain kind of work, and that’s fine. I’m not saying that one could shift to a culture in which one simply got rid of greeting cards that had sentimental animal imagery on them. I’m talking about a different kind of work, work that uses animal imagery in a much more self-conscious way. It’s a way which I guess is broadly related to the notion of the artist that Lyotard had: the artist as someone who has particular kinds of responsibilities in the postmodern world to work against complacency, to refuse what he calls the “solace of good forms,” to continue to try to problematize things.

albagreenEduardo Kac, GFP Bunny, 2000. More about it here

To what extent do you think animals are used as passive tools by artists while they work through issues of subjectivity and identity?

There are quite a lot of dimensions to this question. I ended up devising the term “botched taxidermy” as a rather clumsy catch-all phrase for a variety of contemporary art practice that engages with the animal at some level or other. In some cases it involves taxidermy itself, but in all cases the animal, dead or alive, is present in all its awkward, pressing thing-ness. I think what many of the artists I’ve been discussing are doing in their presentation of the animal as some kind of clumsy compound of human and animal elements is to reinforce the notion that the comfortable, utopian conception of nature in which humans had unmediated access to animals and lived in some kind of unproblematic harmony with them does not look like a practical way forward, either in terms of how one thinks philosophically about them, or in terms of how on a practical level one might work for the improvement of their living conditions.

[…]

tessarolo_paintTessarolo painting with Kunda

Toward the end of The Postmodern Animal I became interested in your discussion of pets. It was partly out of selfish reasons since I have two cats. You mention Deleuze and Guattari’s claim that “anyone who likes a dog or a cat is a fool.” But you also discuss other writers who have complicated that attitude and left space open for a more complex relationship between humans and their pets. In the end I wasn’t quite clear on your own position. I know you weren’t really posing it in those terms, but how do you feel about the presence of pets?

Well, we have cats, too. And although that has probably influenced my writing in ways I don’t quite recognize, I certainly tried throughout the book to avoid taking too partisan a position. What interests me very much, though, is the idea you come across in the work of an artist like Carolee Schneemann but also, maybe more surprisingly, in Derrida’s recent philosophical writings — the idea that they might learn things from their cats that are not easily learned anywhere else.

For both of them it’s a matter of taking the time to engage with the cat’s own point of view, and then of thinking about the impact of that point of view on their own work. There’s this great statement by Schneemann where she says of Kitch, one of her cats, something along the lines of “her steady focus enabled me to consider her regard as an aperture in motion.” It’s as though the animal allows the artist to learn something new, see something differently. And Derrida says that his cat provokes a kind of “critical uneasiness” in him, and he seems to imply that this uneasiness may be the only frame of mind in which any responsible human thinking about animals can really begin.

wim-delvoye-11428_792wim-delvoye-11428_1Wim DELVOYE, “Rex” 2006. Stuffed tattooed pig.

excerpt from Where the wild things are: An interview with Steve Baker, by Gregory Williams, in Cabinet, Issue 4, Fall 2001. Continue reading here

٠ Simultaneity: art & science coming together to ocupy the brain? ٠

laboratoirecambridge01“The Negation of Time, Prologue” at Le Laboratoire, by William Kentridge with Peter Galison and Philip Miller (Photograph by Phase One Photography)

It’s possible that scientists and artists may have one side of their brain more dominant than the other, with the broadly opposite characteristics of logic and creativity, but the best innovations in both fields tend to come from using the whole mind. In an attempt to instigate such mental dialogues between science and art, a new exhibition and laboratory space called the Lab Cambridge is opening up in Kendall Square in in Cambridge, Massachusetts, next year. via hyperallergic

I have split feelings about this. I’m all for this sort of collaborations and for creating new proposals, expanding the fields and all that. I very much enjoy the results but have one concern, that doesn’t directly relate to art & science coming together but rather concerns how much technology is influencing artists’ ability NOT TO DISPUTE (instead of pushing their ability to dispute). It doesn’t have to be one way or the other, but there should be space for non academic artists, artists not working in communities, artists not working in residencies, artists not studying philosophy, artists not doing yoga, artists not doing transcendental meditation, artists not being vegetarians. There should be space for artists doing TAd’s and ZAD’s, artists doing LSD, artists being self destructive, artists being immediate, artists being figurative, artists being artivists, artists being radically-self-sufficient elms.

Thinking about the possible relations between art & science, I recall Zielinski’s saying about the process of investigation: “True and fruitful collaboration between the arts and sciences can only develop, however, if both sides respect each others different areas of competence and different talents and skills and make them productive.” (2011, p.303)Though they both value the process and discredit the relevance of the object as a commodity, the hybrid art/technology, as its brother art/science takes the risk of having no autonomy, no pulse or language of its own.

Because in our limited sensible capacity, we aren’t able to accompany what technology keeps offering us, we can’t help but be seduced by the city lights, the white noise, even if they have no real eco at the core of our perception because they have no meaning. Processes make us believe that everything is possible. Though there are a lot of good examples of artists using technology to embody ideas (see Haapoja or Bismarck, for example), most of the artists overwhelmed by techne can’t disassociate the technological potential from the megalomaniac dream that enables an overdose of pop culture.

And so the sculpting of a tree naturally gives way to steel walls. And so Photoshop occupies the place of the conventional darkroom. Nowadays, the photographer, sitting at his/her desk, uses a software with which, apparently, he/she can do anything, forgetting that what is out of sight and sound still takes its place in action. The smell of the laboratory, working in the dark, they are part of the work and influence the decision making process. Craft and technology occupy different places and over-comparing them can stop one from analyzing their full potential in what they are by definition, and not by opposition. I see the problem relying in the fact that men and women, with their uncontrollable need of power, use technology the same way they approach urban architecture, as a way to climb, so it is inevitable that sooner or later they levitate and say nature bye bye. text by Sofia Silva

ZIELINSKI, S. (2011) Thinking about Art after the media: Research as practised culture of Experiment. In: Biggs e Karlsoon, (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. London: Routledge. pp.293-312

┐ Sonja Bäumel, growing a second skin └

01 copy© Sonja Bäumel, Embroidered Tattoo, 2007

The embroidered tattoo is part of the fashion collection “Slow down…”. Latex layers
have been revived, reinterpreted and transformed into a skin. A skin embroidered with
local tradition.

sy_baeumel_cro_memb© Sonja Bäumel, Crocheted Membrane, 2008/09

“Our skin has a second layer of skin. A layer full of life, which serves as a membrane for exchange. This body membrane is made from the same substance as the world. The human body does not end at the skin, but invisibly expands into space. The hidden membrane exists between our body and our surroundings. We can enter this invisible micro level with a microscope; we enter and magnify the micro world. What happens if we make the micro world of the human body perceivable? I want to confront people with the fact that our body plays host to countless bacteria and that a balanced perception of the body is closely linked to a balanced perception of the self.” via Deezen magazine

0108sonja baeumel_expanded self1_0tumblr_mdf6ohXgLz1qeqxnz© Sonja Bäumel, Expanded Self, 2012

“Sonja Bäumel, supported by the bacteriologist Erich Schopf, has found a unique way of visualizing the invisible surface of the human body. She uses a gigantic petri dish as canvas and the bacteria living on her own body as colour. She develops and speaks a language combining art and science and thus creates a biologically living whole-body picture.
After the application of the invisible bacteria colour on the body, the body is imprinted on agar, the nutritive substance for bacteria, which is first filled into a huge petri dish (210cmx 80 cm). After a few days, a living landscape is growing there. It consists of a unique mixture of life forms on Sonja Bäumel’s body on a certain day, in a certain Viennese area. With this project, she wants to highlight the existing invisible infrastructure in order to understand and make use of it.”



Sonja’s website here

┐ Andrea Polli, memories as possessions in virtual space └

25676492© Andrea Polli, Appetite 4, installation detail, Here Space, NY, 1995

3© Andrea Polli, Appetite 4, detail from installation WWW site showing a studio photograph of objects on a plate, 1995

1© Andrea Polli, Fetish, screen shot of detail of installation at the Ctrl show, Name Gallery, Chicago, 1996

“Research into the concept of appetite led me to consider my personal appetite for possessions. It became clear to me that I (like many others) have multiple layers of possessions. We have possessions that exist in physical space, as well as possessions in virtual space: images, sounds and texts stored in analog and digital media. My work, entitled Appetite 4, consisted of 32 porcelain dinner plates suspended on the walls of a small space and containing actual materials symbolic of my personal desires. A cellular phone, for example, symbolized my need for protection-i.e. the idea of being untouchable or unlocatable; keys referred to power and control. I photographed the material on each of the plates in its “ideal” state-lit to resemble a commercial product. Objects of desire in the virtual world exist in a visually heightened state to compensate for the lack of physicality. Remote visitors could access the desires in the virtual world through the World Wide Web (WWW) at <http:// homepage.interaccess.com/-apolli/ appetite.htm>.
(…)
The idea of possessions in virtual space, which I explored in the Appetite exhibition, led me to the conscious realization that virtual possessions are actually an integral part of non-digital life. Every human being has a storage bank of virtual possessions: memories. In fact, the computer storage bank is understood in human terms only through a metaphor of memory.

Fetish, part of Command-Shift-Ctrl exhibition in May 1996 at NAME Gallery, Chicago, explored the issue of memory in virtual and physical space. The installation consisted of 12 objects suspended on glass panels acting as a drop ceiling over the heads of the viewers. A computer in the space provided a virtual replication of the objects. In positioning the objects, I attempted to create a metaphor for the act of remembering. There are physical correlations to many emotional states-for example, joy is experienced as a physical buoyancy, and, in contrast, grief is experienced as physical weight. When trying to remember, humans often will move their eyes up and to the side (Color Plate B No. 1).


I lit each object with a dramatic spotlight, which created exaggerated shadows on the walls of the space. As in Appetite 4, lighting served to give the objects a larger-than-life presence in the space. I wanted to create a physical space that would refer to the mind’s virtual space during the act of remembering events and objects. Certain events have prominence in the mind, and the physical metaphor of size in relation to importance importance is utilized in the space through oversized shadows-foggy reproductions of actual events/objects. I selected the objects as signifiers of personal experiences related to past relationships.”

excerpt from “Polli, Virtual Space and the Construction of Memory”, in Leonardo, Vol.31, 1998

┐ Mary Stark – Searching for Celluloid └


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

more of Mary’s work here and her blog with all info about this project here

┐ Living Pictures └

Click the image and follow the link to view it come alive.

“Lytro is the first company to bring “light-field” technology into a small consumer device. Light-field, or “plenoptic”, camera technology captures all the light–its color, intensity and direction–that makes contact with the internal sensor. It does not select a single focus point but captures all possible focus points at once. To understand the result, one needs to know just a little about what is called “depth of field.”
(…)
The viewer of a living picture seemingly has a new sort of control with respect to the photo-object. By clicking around inside of the photo and brining things in and out of focus, others are now more active in choosing what story the photo is telling. They might feel that their own perspective, taste and aesthetics can now determine what they ultimately see. Further, the experience might be more intimate because rather than just seeing a friend’s face, one is reaching out for, touching and manipulating it and its relation to other objects in the image.”

excerpt from article by Nathan Jurgenson, found in SIP’s blog