I’m so happy
Ordering a pizza to a person you follow on tumblr in exchange for art.
I’m so happy
Ordering a pizza to a person you follow on tumblr in exchange for art.
Due to the my own college project becoming very much rooted in the role of the archive within the world of photography, I’ve become dependent on the collection as a format for keeping my interest in a project. Experiences that I’ve had where something unfolds over time, how rewarding that can be, is why I find the archive system as possibly the most fulfilling of any form.
But this focus on the body and the role of the series has devalued a lot of contemporary work for me. The onus is no longer on developing a project over time. Instead, we are implored through social media to share everything as it happens, including artistic works. Few use this system effectively. It’s possible to show a project being constructed over time but that option is rarely activated. The current trend in photography is to create the single image, and rely on the instant gratification that comes from attention online to keep an artist making work.
As such, the role of project based art photography has achieved minority status. Not including posthumous collections of miscellaneous snapshots and simple genre-categorisation, the artist has simply lost it’s value of building a thematic or issue based body of work.
So what role does the archive have now? Surprisingly, though not generally undertaken by artist themselves, they have found a new home in the pastime of the daily blogger. With the decrease in popularity in making a series of work, the archive has flourished in the form of secondary curation. The Tumblr format of blogging has given everyone the opportunity to be the tastemaker. Somewhat disregarding the external status of accomplished collectors, curators and archivists, the blogging system has built it’s own hierarchy of respect in the form of ‘internet celebrities’ and art critics. The user controls the archive, the user defines the structure and the user can build anyone up to be influential and seemingly important.
The single image has popularised this form of instant curatorial strategy, as the user poses the question ‘Will this look good on my blog?’ and within an instant can acquire the image for their own personal web gallery. Meaning and issues arising from projects are condensed and become easily digestible for the single image. More importantly, they become adaptable depending on the context of the webspace. The respect gained from being featured on certain places, such as Winslow Laroche’s Je Suis Perdu or Canadian trend-setters Blood of the Young, can be transferred into other areas such as personal website hits, professional opportunities and inclusion in physical exhibitions worldwide.
What has occurred is simply a foreshortening of the photographic process and a broadening of it’s inherent inclusion barriers. The ability to craft effective single images is the number one lesson to learn for contemporary artists. The disposability of the image is a major flaw that is worked around through consistent updates and a dependency on the nature of ‘reblogging’. The series has lost it’s place at the forefront of the medium and it terrifies me to no end.
Personally, I find it difficult to judge an artist on the single image. It says nothing of their work ethic, their intentions, their direction or identity. It’s possible to view the entirety of single image artists as one stream of work. The individuality that comes from project based work is irreplaceable but the value of a work and the efficiency of it are two different things. Right now, we’re figuring out the preference of the everyday user.
‘The series has lost it’s place at the forefront of the medium and it terrifies me to no end’
A very apposite take by Alex Sinclair on the situation of contemporary internet-based photography / exhibition. Particularly the observation ‘the ability to craft effective single images is the number one lesson to learn for contemporary artists’. Though I have to say that far from being ‘terrified’ by the diminished authority of the archive or series, I feel liberated.
Anyone who’s talked to me irl will know I fully subscribe to the post-structuralist views of people like Roland Barthes; that the meaning of an artwork is made by the viewer and the context of reception, not by the context of its production. The transference of significance from artist to viewer isn’t a new concept or method, nor is it avoidable. It’s simply been intensified and recognised thanks to the endless and inherent capacity of the Internet to reproduce and decontextualise imagery.
To submit a photograph to part of a series is to limit the possible meaning of that image. To allow the photograph to be removed from the series (deterritorialised through reblogging, and so on) and recombined in other series is a liberatory act, a freeing of personal expression. Clearly, the deterritorialisation of meaning makes judging the work ethic, intentions, and identity of the photographer harder, but this is my point; the biographical details of the artist are not necessary to understanding the significance of the image, as the meaning derives from the viewers own experience - they cannot be told by the artist or the critic how they ought to feel.
By removing a photograph from a series we do lose the temporal development. But the significance of temporal development can be discounted as the site of meaning is moved from production to reception. The only way to approach this is rhizomatically; instead of asking ‘is it art’ by tracing the creators’ development of the work, we ought to ask ‘what is this art for’ by looking at the relationship between works - how the photographs are used by viewers in their role as ‘personal curators’ / ‘tastemakers’ / and so on.
It’s by asking ‘what is art for’ that we can end the solipsism of much contemporary art, and begin applying a critical eye to the wider world. In short, the role of the critic as tracer of biography and development needs to be rethought.
The artists Peachy ‘n’ Keen are currently posting are fantastic, it’s early days but I’d genuinely love to see an IRL exhibition of their work.
If you’re a photographer, or a girl, then it’s probably worth following this promising collective.
it looks like I better rewrite my thesis,
because no matter how many times I see you
your aura is not diminished.
Happy Valentines Day.
even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element:
Happy Valentines Day.
It’s always going to be hard to sum up the 20 year award-winning career of a photographer who’s enjoyed by tumblr as much as by Alisdair Sooke in The Telegraph and the high fashion brands of Marc Jacobs, Helmut Lang, Yves Saint Laurent, and Vivienne Westwood. But the ICA has managed just that by opening up their entire gallery space for Juergen Teller: Woo!. The show was recommended to me by a coursemate who was lucky enough to interview Teller a few days previously. Despite a horrible cold I made it along to the ICA and I can say it was absolutely worth it.
The exhibition is sharply divided along the lines of commercial and personal work. In an interview with the Guardian Teller states that “There’s very much a divide”, he seems to prefer the freedom of subject matter that personal projects allow, while recognising commercial work is important - it funds his personal projects, and allows him to meet new people.
This divide in his work seems to be reflected in the hang of exhibition. The grand downstairs and upstairs galleries of the ICA are dedicated to Teller’s personal projects. Here the photographs are all framed, hung sparsely, and some of the prints are vast, easily 3 metres tall. Its the downstairs gallery that houses the infamous 2009 nude triptych of Vivenne Westwood. Meanwhile the commercial work has been relegated to the small Fox reading room. Here the aesthetic is closer to his recognisable eclecticism, the walls plastered floor to ceiling with tear sheets.
Juergen Teller’s wide appeal and popularity comes from his distinctive anti-aesthetic: brightly-lit highly-saturated analogue photographs. But also from his ironic subjects; he photographs the absurd and mundane, as well as the sublime, sexual, and abject. Of course, his commercial projects are generally toned down, and I think that’s why my two favourite photographs of the show were both personal works.
One from the Louis XV series. A double portrait of his long-time collaborator and subject Charlotte Rampling playing a grand piano while Teller himself sits ontop of it naked and baring his anus.
The second, a snapshot of a dead octopus upturned on a bed, its tentacles and mouth pointing towards the camera, thoughtfully entitled Octopussy.
It’s been nearly a decade since Juergen Teller’s work has last been exhibited in a London gallery, so this show should be on the to-do list of anyone interested in contemporary photography.
Juergen Teller: Woo! is at the ICA, London until the 17th of March, 2013
Nobody should be surprised that I didn’t like Paul Emsley’s portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. Still, in the interests of art and blogging I decided I better go to the National Portrait Gallery and see it. Some writers and viewers have said it looks better IRL, but it really doesn’t. I honestly have little more to say about it than it looks exactly like a reject passport photo.
Down the corridor in a separate room is a series of portraits by Humphrey Ocean that are infinitely more interesting and worthwhile seeing. Since 2006 he has made quick goache watercolours of friends, family, and visitors to his studio. He insists on only spending 30 minutes on each, to allow the spontaneity of the portrait to show. Ocean says that he wants to give the impression ‘I was there and I was with this person’.
It is this essence of personality, immediacy, and individuality present in Ocean’s paintings, that the Kate portrait lacks. Awkwardly posed, lumpy, and in thick vivid paint, Ocean manages to give more emotion in the two dabs of Rose’s eyes - shown above - than Emsley does in the whole of the Kate portrait. Then again, it was always going to be difficult for a warts-and-all painter to remove the warts and all from a sitter.
These portraits aren’t photographic reality, but their unreality makes them more real and emotional than Kate could ever be. If the choice was mine, I would much rather have my portrait done by Humphrey Ocean than Paul Emsley.
A Handbook of Modern Life is at the National Portrait Gallery, London until the 1st of September, 2013.
I’ve finally gotten my hands on a copy of South London photographer (and friend) Emily Sherwin’s Cellular zine. This zine takes the mobile phone snaps of several young photographers (Ian Bird, Matthew McNulty, Emily Sherwin, George Morris, Patrick Lawrie, and Seamus Gough) out of the context of the screen, and into a quality printed, 60 page, perfect-bound book.
Mobile phones are increasingly the medium in which we access photography - especially as film and camera sellers go bust. The lo-fi aesthetic is one side to their appeal, but also the subject matter of the photos. There’s a certain beauty to the mundaneness of photo of an ice cream. It’s this celebration of the everyday that really makes this zine stand out when compared to the equally beautiful staged portraits of other contemporary publications.
Cellular is available on iamsherwin.com
Before I travelled back to Manchester for the Christmas holidays I went to see Shoot! Existential Photography, currently occupying the top two floors of The Photographer’s Gallery, London. The exhibition was one of the clearest and most thought provoking I’ve been to in quite some time. It is a fantastic exploration of the intimate bond between the history of photography and the act of shooting, and the violence involved in each.
The works in the exhibition are varied, but the focus is on the photographic shooting gallery, a funfair attraction popular after the First World War: When the shooter hit the bullseye, they triggered a camera which took a photo of them in the act of shooting. The simple enjoyment of the shooting gallery at the funfair becomes an existential contemplation, the act of shooting the gun literally becomes the act of shooting a picture. The shooter, after they fire the gun and receive the picture, see themselves as their own executioner.
Of the whole exhibition, two artworks really stood out. First, the huge photographic collection of Ria van Dijk (pictured above), a woman who has documented every year of her adult life in shooting gallery photos since 1936. Her unusual autobiography shows the passage of time in her steady ageing and fashions - but in a very mechanical way. The slightly off centre angle of the photographs reminded me of a comment by Slavoj Zizek about the experience of seeing yourself from an odd angle. The confusion of realising that the idealised virtual image of yourself is not actually real.
The second work was Christian Marclay’s 2007 video installation Crossfire. A dark square room with full screen projections on each wall. A choreographed montage of what seems to be every single gunshot in Hollywood history. I stood in the middle of this room for the full 8 and a half minutes of this film. It was a very intense experience, with the pace of the action constantly changing with the flashes of light and rhythm of gunshots. The effect though was very different to that of the videos at Frontline: A Year of Journalism and Conflict of early 2012.
Shoot! Existential Photography is at The Photographer’s Gallery, London, until the 6th of January 2013.
I think I’ve managed to spend my week’s vitriol on Roger Scruton, because I’ve found myself actually agreeing with Jonathan Jones. Recently he’s been despairing about digital photography and Instagram, and wondering why anyone bothers to take pictures any more.
Jones is quite right when he says “it is increasingly hard to understand why anyone would feel possessive of a picture they choose to put online”. Putting something on the Internet allows it to be infinitely replicated, appropriated, montaged, and exploited. It has new significance for each person, and never holds its original meaning.
I find it a bit sad though that Jones stopped seeing the joy in photography because of this,
“I more or less stopped taking photographs at all once I realised I was subscribing to a cheap self-deception about the originality, beauty and meaning of my tens of thousands of pictures.”
What he fails to see is that Instagram isn’t entirely a pursuit of art. For me at least, the photograph isn’t the always the end in itself. The photograph is also a way of sharing an experience. I think this is one of the reasons that ‘amateur’ users of Instagram were as outraged as professional photographers. By claiming ownership of people’s pictures of cats and food Instagram was claiming ownership of their experiences.
Furthermore, Instagram was refusing to pay users for using their images. However in doing so it was simply following the basis of the economy today: The reality is that immaterial work - work that produces no physical products, work that requires infinitely small amounts of effort - doesn’t pay. Given this, how could Instagram justify spending money on a photo that took a smartphone and 5 seconds to create?
The result is an abundance of photographs, but no way to pay the rent. The solution isn’t to start producing physical photographs - it simply isn’t profitable, and money needs to be profitable - but to consider ways to structure society which avoid the need for money itself.
I shouldn’t really pay attention to people to who insist on holding such disgusting views as Roger Scruton, but unfortunately his recent article posted in Aeon magazine (cross-posted in the Guardian) annoyed me so much that I felt I had to respond.
In the article Scruton asserts various reactionary thoughts: He wrongly insists that ‘high culture’ exists separate to all other ‘lower’ forms, and refuses to recognises instances of overlap. In the face of all realities of the late-20th and early-21st centuries he argues that objective truth can be found in high culture, and that failure to recognise this is due to ill education. He argues that low culture is ‘false’ and its existence debases and devalues high culture. He ultimately argues that the division between high and low ought to be defended, and widened if possible.
My objectives are the exact opposite; the abolition of high culture is my aim. It may seem unusual to find criticism of high and low culture posted on an art blog, but it shouldn’t. The division of culture into ‘high’ and ‘low’ is a restrictive practice that limits enjoyment and critical understanding. This division isn’t the result of a conspiracy, but it’s reproduced when people say that ‘games aren’t art’, or make general criticisms of film students. It can be seen in the recent comments by the director of the National Gallery, Nichloas Penny, that the gallery would never host performance or video art (despite these art forms being nearly 60 years old, and well represented by British artists). By ‘the abolition of high culture’, I mean the dissolving of the distinctions between the high and low. This isn’t the destruction of high bourgeoise culture, but the extension of all cultures to everyone.
We shouldn’t be content with simply raising the status of certain art forms, the only way this can be achieved is through making parallels to accepted ‘high culture’. The Seduced by Art exhibition at the National Gallery demonstrates this perfectly: The gallery could only feel comfortable displaying photography if the work resembled paintings. Only with the dissolving of all distinctions can a situation be created where all culture can be appreciated for what it is, not measured against an ‘objective’ ‘high’ standard.
Scruton further fails to recognise that the dissolution of the distinctions between high and low culture began early in the 20th century. Writing in the 1930s Walter Benjamin identified the potential of immaterial production to dissolve the ‘aura’ of the art object. He also noted the increase in critical analysis that could result from a wider dissemination of cultural works. It should be evident to everyone today that these ideas are being realised on the Internet. The reproduction of videos, photos, and text on the internet allows us to experience high and low cultural forms simultaneously. Cultural boundaries are dissolved when we watch a play overlaid with banner ads for porn sites. Critical faculties are enhanced by the availability and amount of art available to us.
There should be no mistake, I am not suggesting that there currently exists a total freedom of access to information, or that everyone exercises critical analysis of culture - far from it - Information is at all times controlled, funnelled, and blocked. However there is the potential for unlimited access, to both Shakespeare and Viz. The barriers which limit culture are imposed by false scarcity and socio-economic conventions, which dictate the price of opera tickets and claim that only children should watch cartoons. The dissolving of cultural distinctions should be seen as one area in the wider field of communisation - that is, the dissolving of all capitalist social relations, and the creation of Luxury Communism.
The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh is currently a sanctuary away from the intensity of the various summer festivals. Last time I was there I saw Martin Creed’s playful exhibition. This year I saw the work of Dieter Roth (1930 –1998), a man who saw little separation between art and life and whose works drew on his own existence. This exhibition, Dieter Roth: Diaries, looked at Roth’s obsessive cataloguing and recording of his daily activities, in books, drawings, paintings, sculptures, assemblages and audio-visual installation works. This show is the first time Roth’s work has been seen in Scotland since Richard Demarco’s exhibition Strategy Get Arts at the 1970 International Festival.
The entire ground level of the Fruitmarket is filled with 128 Cathode ray TV screens forming Roth’s Solo Scenes (1997-8). The gentle curve of the installation allowed me to sit and observe every screen at once. In 1997, with knowledge of his impending death, Roth started to videotape nearly every aspect of his life. Each of the 128 screens shows a different video, in which Roth is the sole protagonist. However this isn’t simply a display of narcicissm - instead it feels much more voyeuristic. The camera is utterly still, and the videos are almost entirely silent apart from ocassional mutterings. Roth is being judged by the viewier as he is seen pottering around, drawing, naked after a shower, and sitting on the toilet.
The idea of a diary, of planning and recording was extremely important to Roth - he kept one throughout his life. The Fruitmarket displays a number of his diary books, some open - complete with delicate writing, drawings, scribbles - all dog eared. Upstairs another glass case displays the ‘copybooks’, facsimiles of diary pages, that Roth had made and bound, and gave to friends and relatives. Intimate and mundane articles, shared with others.
The upstairs room of the Fruitmarket also holds one of Roth’s more unusual forms of diary. Between 1975 and ‘76 (and returning to the project in 1992) Roth created a carefully catalogued daily archive of found objects less than 10mm in height. His so named Flat Waste (1975-6/1992) occupies rows and rows of lever arch files in storage cabinets. Contrasting with the meticulous record is the objects themselves which have an absurd Dadaist or arte-povera feel to them; receipts, napkins, letters, bits of fluff, boxes of film. A few of the folders are open and set up for visitors to turn through. The trust of behalf of the gallery reflects the openness of Roth.
Roth believed that by presenting his method to people he could act as a leveller, he abhorred the idea of art that would belittle viewers. This incredibly simple exhibition works because people can understand the artist, and his desire to share. It’s a shame Dieter Roth died in 1998, only a few years before the boom of the web. The art he produced feels very much like an analogue version of Twitter, and I am sure that he would have greatly enjoyed the micro-blogging and self-publishing tools available today.
Dieter Roth: Diaries is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until the 14th October 2012
Nobrow Press is perhaps the UK’s best contemporary illustration and graphic design publishers, genuinely dedicated to producing high quality books. It’s no surprise then that one of their latest prints, Bicycle, by French artist and recent graduate of one of Paris’ top art schools, Ugo Gattoni, is absolutely stunning. Inspired by the London Olympics and the current trend for cycling, Gattoni has worked in his distinctive pencil and fineliner style to create a monochrome masterpiece.
Bicycle is filled with stereotypes of contemporary life - hipsters on fixed gears, hooded youths on BMXs, commuters on folding bikes - but also with a heavy dose of Hieronymus Bosch-like surrealism. There’s no concern for space or time in the print, the cyclists flow through a half destroyed London; small details show people having sex, vomiting, and crashing their bikes; and an enormous pig’s head, glass vial, and farting buttocks look over the city.
This kind of large scale highly intricate illustration, similar to the Procession to Caute, is precisely my kind of art, and very different to the whimsical folksy ‘realist’ illustration that many graduate shows have been filled with for the past few years.
The original drawing for Bicycle was made on a single five metre sheet of paper, and took Gattoni 723 hours to complete. The print has been reduced only slightly, covering both sides of a two metre long concertina - making Bicycle the biggest Nobrow print to date.
Bicycle is avaliable from the Nobrow Press for £18.
Gattoni will be signing copies of the book on August 9 from 6pm-8.30pm at Nobrow’s shop, 62 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3QR.
Illustrator Tom Edwards’ small exhibition The Procession to Caute is a masterpiece of intricate craft and thought, and the pinnacle of Edwards’ creative imagination. Through only a few objects he has created an entire world with its own rich mythology and iconography.
The venue, Beach London, was ideal for this exhibition of Edwards’ one man cat-cult: The tiny basement of Beach, with its narrow stairs and low ceiling, became some sort of lost tomb or temple. At each end of the room there was a huge fresco-like poster (detail shown above), a single cat rug on the floor, and a few drawings and ceramic works on the other walls.
Looking at Edwards work it’s easy to pick out his wide-ranging influences; from the meticulous art of medieval manuscript illuminators, to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Pieter Bruegel paintings, and Where’s Wally books. I really enjoy large single-panel comics and satirical prints, so Edwards’ keen attention to detail and subtle humour worked incredibly well for me.
Though the posters are the focus of the exhibition - one depicts the procession of worshippers, the other the interior of the cat temple - it was the pottery and paintings that made it for me. The miniature drawings that hinted towards Byzantine icons and the canopic jar and bowls were details that brought the whole mythology of Caute to life.
The Manchester School of Art 2012 Degree Show opened to the public on Saturday after a private viewing on Friday night. The art school, part of Manchester Metropolitan University, is known for the quality of its students, and high expectations are held of the annual degree show. I had visited the 2011 show with coursemates from my graphic design class and been blown away by the work on display, so I was glad to find myself in Manchester for the opening of the 2012 exhibition.
The show is divided by department and spread across four sites in Manchester; three on the MMU campus, with an additional exhibition space in Quay House on Quay Street. I set aside a day to view the entire show, though unfortunately I ran out of time to see the architecture exhibition.
The style of the work was mixed, but recognisably contemporary - It will be interesting to see how it looks in a decade or two. I was concerned though by the dearth of explicitly political or critical work, despite being 4 years into the global crisis. Most work appeared to be focussed on exploration of form rather than content or context; questions of what art is for and who it serves were left unanswered, the institution of the art school unchallenged. This isn’t an argument in favour of a restricted and uninventive form, but rather that radical form should be married with radical content. I assumed that art school graduates, knowledgeable of their precarious future, would speak about it.
Below is a list of works and artists which I felt deserved special mention.
The illustration and animation department was one of the first I went to, as expected much of the work there was typically whimsical. Amy Victoria Marsh’s crude drawings and miniature Moore-like models (pictured above) were a favourite. Katie Lawes’ satirical beer mats comment on nutrition myths and branding, and could easily be hidden in pubs. Laura Nash Green’s playful models, heavily influenced by her trip to Utah and experience with Navajos, caught my eye - more drawings and film are featured on her website. Whilst Thomas Harnett O’Meara gives the impression of Aubrey Beardsley in his intricate pen drawings of Wayang Kulit shadow puppets.
It was nice to compare the photography of the Manchester students with that of the London students I am familiar with. John Merrill’s surrealist photography and montage contrasts with the typically naturalistic feel of much contemporary work - pictured above is his Knife Cut. Hollie Myles’ photographic and video portraits of people in thought are closer to the style I am used to. I also enjoyed Hannah Trampleasure’s voyeuristic series of photographs, particularly the hidden peephole animation.
The breaking of boundaries between disciplines, e.g. sculpture, 3D design, installation, was notable throughout the show. Isaac Berbiers’ functional Desk Lamp and Concrete Table could easily be seen in style magazines and on blogs. Likewise, April Wernham’s practical and fantastically designed Creative Research and Play desk toys wouldn’t be out of place in a child or adult’s room. My recent obsession with Futurism was probably an indication I would enjoy Ryan Higgin’s Study of Movement; a glass globe suspended from a light fitting, filled with polystyrene balls and an electric fan; and James Lencki’s darkened room with electroluminescent wires and motion activated synthesiser - Video. Contrasted with this is the simple calming monochrome of both Conor Callaghan and Abby Mccracken’s black and white installations.
It would have been good to sit down and watch all of the student films, however I only had time for the second half of Rebecca Gillespie’s beautifully shot Grandpa’s Girl. Documentation of the production is available on her blog.
I found the sculpture students’ light and airy space in the Holden Gallery basement particularly enjoyable. My favourite work was Meiling Tse’s Untitled, a huge installation of wires stretched between three walls forming an optical illusion of circles - pictured above. Tse sees her work more as drawing in three dimensions than sculpture. Rebecca Sampson-Jorge’s stitchwork wall piece A CANVAS WHERE OTHERS SEE SKIN likewise eschewed the traditional features of sculpture. More conventional was Lucas E. Wilson’s Title for an Exhibition, two wooden tables covered in concrete cones with paper labels suggesting possible titles, andKeith Garnett Junior’s various solid concrete cubes scattered throughout the gallery and named according to their mass such as 1,139.022 Kg.
The show continues until Wednesday the 20th of June.