The Copenhagen collective of Sara Brincher Galbiati, Peter Helles Eriksen, and Tobias Selnaes Markussen, 3 years on since their initial debut project ‘Phenomena‘ and now winners of the BJP International Photography award of 2018 present their work at TJ. Boulting.
The Merge – imagery to question our reality; parallel worlds; technology in disguise; broadcasting, robots and the cosmos – a simulation of human existence.
Understanding the boundaries of self exploration and our connection to ‘reality’ when guided by technology.
A cross-dimensional selfie in the work ‘Parallel Words’ – what will people do to get that perfect representation of themselves? I’d ditch the selfie stick and clone myself, personally.
The stark realisation that people in South Korea simulate their death, in the piece titled ‘Happy Dying’ – you lie in a closed casket in the dark for 10 minutes. People have used it as a form of therapy for terminal illnesses, mental illness and as a means to appreciate life fully.
Exploring ‘The Idea of Perception’ with the Azoth Pyramid a looped biofeedback and brain entertainment model designed to stimulate in a similar way to meditation, except that you’re plugged into a machine and your brain begins to create an LED light pattern.
And back once again to South Korea to understand the 300k followers who watch youtube star Iluliy eat food.
Technology, imagination and escapism.
WHICH IMAGE, WHICH ROOM?
‘Improving Life’ – the classic stock business handshake only new and improved, with robots! Stock2k.
QUESTION FOR THE IMAGE MAKERS?
Do you think we are programmed to think the sunset is beautiful?
Self taught photographer and filmmaker Alex Prager, inspired by the drama and allure of Americana paints a playful cinematic world that masks the unease in everyday life.
Silver Lake Drive; a curation of photographs and footage at the Photographers Gallery, London.
I also snuck out to see Alex Prager in discussion at the Regent Street Cinema and to see her screening of Le Grand Sortie, which follows the female protagonist, a ballet dancer and her anxiety from the pressure of public performance.
Walking through a curtain into a small space with a bench and three walls dimly lit by projectors, I was unaware of what to expect. Alex Prager’s short film has managed to simulate social anxiety. The film starts with snippets of interviews with people, talking about their life, love, and fears. Each wall displays an overwhelmingly scaled portrait of a single person.
The film is shown by multiple projectors forcing you to turn and look at another wall. Seemingly, this feels like an introduction to the individuals until I noticed this turning of the head is like being in a state of panic and the film hasn’t even truly started yet.
Once the sequence begins, we see the female protagonist (Elizabeth Banks) curiously staring out of the window at an increasing crowd with plenty of background noise and chatter. She eventually ventures out walking against the crowd with a look of amazement. The crowd soon envelops her, turning that amazement into fear. It’s too much. Suddenly, as if time froze, the crowd is at a standstill and the noise disappears. With a sigh of relief, the shot combined along the three walls, she walks out of shot and the crowd return to normal. What made this short film impactful to me is that it was far too easy to relate and empathise with the protagonist by having that anxiety of the public myself.
As a viewer it struck me that in spite of the embodiment of chaos that you’re also in a sense of ‘Sonder’ *– the realisation that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.
*Koenig’s dictionary of obscure sorrows
Women; jaw-dropping, pristine glamour pusses to be precise. I spied the odd red-head too or at least the odd red-head wig. Not to say that the men are left behind but they play a secondary role in most scenes.
Melodrama, comedy and desire also weave their way through her work.
WHICH IMAGE, WHICH ROOM?
Pacific Ocean, 2012
The immaculately fallen caught in staged terror.
People just drifting, through life, in themoment, continuous – some struggling , some defeated, some indifferent.
QUESTION FOR THE IMAGE MAKER:
Any director, past or present that you could create a fantasy world with, who would you choose and where would you take us?
I visited the The Hayward Gallery here in London to see the takeover and celebration of over 30 years of work by the artist Lee Bul.
Sci-fi, Philosophy and Karaoke Pods
Alluring to the fantasy of a world born of egalitarianism; her work questions societies patricidal governance and the undervalued role of women. You’ll be taken on a journey through an entrancing technological dystopia accompanied by other worldly monsters; cyborgs; and beings.
Upon entering the exhibition you are met with creatures that are made from polyurethane panels, stainless-steel frames and dried flowers that descend onto shards of broken mirror and city lights.
Amaryllis, 1999 Monster Black, 1998-2011
Architectural diagrams, small scale models in bell jars, and full scale interactive sculptures create the landscape for Bul’s new world. A juxtaposition of success and failure and of beauty and horror embodies each piece. Consequently this envelops you with a sense of both unease and of comfort as you travel throughout the exhibition.
One of the stand-out pieces is a maze Via Negativa II (2014). The outside is imprinted with the text from Julian Jaynes’ book ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ – Bicameralism is the philosophy that the function of speaking and listening is compartmented in the brain. As you venture through the maze the use of mirrors is pivotal, extending the sense of space, time and self.
Via Negativa II (2014)
In addition to the intangible city structures and creatures, you can also view videos of her performance art, the original castings of her cyborg models and the truly marvellous fibreglass karaoke pod Live Forever III (2001). The Hayward Gallery have produced an inspiring curation of Bul’s work and it is certainly not one to be missed.
The Vinyl Factory’s curation of audio-visual immersive pieces at 180 The Strand each send their own message, of intrigue, of retrospection and of broadening the mind. Our first look is at the A/V artwork of Ryoki Ikeda – Test Pattern.
Immerse yourself in the steady beat of Ikeda’s monochrome lit world. An intense yet dream like interaction married with an industrial soundtrack of data samples that allows you to draw focus on patterns and rhythms. Enter into a dark room with a white floor filled with shoeless people, sitting, standing, recording – setting the stage for a strobe lit show. A fractured soundtrack plays out on a loop, partnered with the iteration of linear light.
Disorientate yourself for as long as the mind allows and after, don your shoes and venture out for more audio-visual immersive pieces in Everything at Once at the Lisson Gallery.
Tatsuo Miyajima explores the boundaries of time in our existence with his piece ‘Time Waterfall’ and Susan Hillier’s work ‘Channels’ takes on a similar narrative, hers a story of those who have experienced death but returned to tell the tale.
Meander up the staircase past the work of Lawrence Weiner, to the roof to find a cinema room.
On loop here is a highly emotive piece by Arthur Jafa – Love is the Message, the Message is Death to the soundtrack of Kanye West’s, Ultralight Beam.
The footage delves into the history of American black culture, from creativity and heroism to stark violence and racial inequality, a focus on the mainstream media, America and it’s relationship with black identity. It is an emotionally charged and raw sequence, accompanied by the gospel lyrics of Ultralight Beam – “this is a God dream, this is everything. Deliver us serenity, deliver us peace, deliver us loving”.
A brand new MACK edition of Sleeping by The Mississippi launched Alec Soth’s first exhibition in London dedicated to the series at the Beetles+Huxley gallery in Piccadilly last week. The new edition of the book includes two new photographs that were not included in the previous versions. I went along to see the images – and the photographer, up close and in the flesh.
Soth took a series of road trips along The Mississippi River, shooting landscapes, interiors and folk he met along the way, building up a kind of loose narrative, like pieces of a jigsaw that the viewer can put together. He is a great ‘book’ photographer in this respect, I think, as the whole story can reveal itself when the images are looked at as a unified whole; as you do in a book.
Soth himself has said “Anyone can take a great picture. But very few people can put together a great collection of pictures. It is incredibly difficult to put these fragments together in a meaningful way. And this is my goal”.
So like a jigsaw, all the pieces are essential in playing their part to give the complete overview – or as complete an overview as possible. Because, like Robert Frank before him with his pioneering book The Americans, you can get meaningful insights into America and its people here – but it’s not prescriptive in its message.
There’s a sadness that permeates this whole documentary series – of lives unfulfilled, of disappointment and of resignedness. But this is where, through Soth’s eyes, documentary meets poetry; and the result is a trip along a river that acts as a metaphor for life, encompassing childhood, hopes, dreams, art, religion, politics, sex and ultimately of course, death.
I visited Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery here in London. It is impressively staged over three whole floors of the gallery and doesn’t disappoint in its unsettling, painterly beauty.
The word that keeps coming to mind when viewing this series of images is ‘Trapped’. Either physically in a room or a house or a relationship. Or psychologically, where the impact of the unknown in these photographs weighs so heavily on the people in them.
They are trapped in their own heads by their demons, worries, dark secrets, a shady past, things they have done or things they are about to do. We all know this feeling in some shape or form – and this is why the pictures resonate so strongly with us.
David Lynch unearthed a vision of America in the influential Twin Peaks and his movie Blue Velvet. You can sense the same uneasy, queasiness in these pictures. Crewdson has often conveyed this darker view of America in his photographs but in this series he has added layers to it with softer lighting and a painterly palette of muted tones.
Ostensibly, we see the dark underbelly of the US. But perhaps in these unpredictable days in the United States it is a more accurate reflection of the mainstream reality; not the populist, upbeat vision of what outsiders consider to be America.
Hopper-esque in the impact of their psychological weight on both the people portrayed, as well as us, the viewer, we find ourselves projecting our own experiences, thoughts and preconceptions onto what has, or is unfolding in each image.
There is no clean cut conclusion in each image, however; just an open narrative for us to dwell on individually as we stand in front of the pictures, marvelling at the expertise with which each photograph has been assembled.
The ‘Local Hero’ brief we put out last year has resulted in some great, saleable, truthful imagery. The brief was designed to inspire photographers to shoot a diverse range of small businesses local to them, celebrating the differences between cities, countries, cultures, ethnicities, dress and locations.
For instance, an image of a street food seller in New York City is going to look and feel very different to one in Marrakech or Stockholm.
In stock photography, evidence of individuality is increasingly sought after by picture buyers.
They also want elements of imperfection in the images they choose; we’re human after all – and in response to the world becoming more digitised and homogenised, we’ve seen a rise in hand-made, artisanal and characterful businesses and products.
Image buyers are reacting against obviously posed images and inauthentic smiles and ads and marketing that whiffs of being too corporate is failing to connect with consumers in any meaningful way these days.
Imagery that looks and feels as though it were shot on film, with a photojournalistic eye is increasingly popular with image buyers; as is the influence of the spontaneity in imagery on social media platforms like Instagram.
We absorbed all these elements into the shoot briefs and in the art direction we gave our photographers. Image Source is one of the few image libraries that still provides this level of creative collaboration with photographers.
Photographer Credits: Stanton J Stephens; Elke Meitzel; Sue Barr; Paige Green Photography; Alys Tomlinson; heshphoto; Eugenio Marongiu
The Image Source creative team and I went to the The Media Space’s talk by Alec Soth at The Science Museum last night, to get insights into his working practices, influences and the push and pull of Documentary, Art and Commerce in his imagery.
The talk launched his retrospective called Gathered Leaves, which curates chronologically his four major books: Sleeping By the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and Songbook (2015).
Taught for a time by Joel Sternfeld, you can see his influence on some of Soth’s work. He also referenced William Egglestone and Robert Frank as photographers he admired – but saved his highest praise for Paul Graham.
Alec Soth calls himself “a photojournalist, blogger, self-publisher, Instagrammer and Educator” and last night he drew parallels between the avalanche of photographs taken today and the volume of music available on iTunes. He understands that today the sharing of the image can be as powerful as the image itself.
He also runs a publishing company called Little Brown Mushroom and self-finances ‘Zines and books as well as seeking funding through the likes of Kickstarter for publications and educational programmes. Interestingly, all the publications on the site are Sold Out!
His imagery is impactful but subtle. With soft colours, poignancy and considered compositions, you can see echoes of the photographers mentioned above but also a very particular vision where the images in his bodies of work connect with each other as much as you the viewer want them to. His influence in turn can be seen in advertising, on social media and in fashion editorials, where contemporary but nostalgic photography is the visual currency. There’s a timelessness though to Soth’s pictures, making him one of the great photographers working today.
A decade since an extraordinary exhibition on the history of product photography in the 20th Century, we look back at The Ecstasy of Things
Exactly 10 years ago, the Fotostiftung Schweiz in Zurich presented an exhibition, The Ecstasy of Things: From the Functional Object to the Fetish in 20th Century Photography, and Steidl published the book. At nearly 400 pages The Ecstasy of Things explores how product and advertising photography reflected and shaped our relationship to objects and ‘things’ throughout the 20th and early 21st Century, with photographic gems unearthed from business and agency archives.
As we begin our exploration of the changing relationship between things and people, the digital and the physical (The Age of Hard and Soft) we thought we’d highlight some striking examples of photography in The Ecstasy of Things. Michel Frizot (photography researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) notes in his introduction how photography’s emergence in the 19th Century made it one of the symbols of modernity and the industrial age (along with electricity and the railroads). Modernity was the age of the machine and the camera was a new recording machine, the machine that visualized for the world all the other machines and things of the modern age.
In 2014 photography the age of social media and multiple platforms has generated new subject matter – 2014 was according to The Guardian, the year of the selfie – we’ve also left the age when consumer objects were simply consumer objects. German media thinker Norbert Bolz writes in the closing essay of The Ecstasy of Things that people now desire a different relationship with products, one that delivers the sensual promise and spiritual meaning that religious symbols used to have. “This first became clear to me some years ago,” writes Bolz, “when I attended a lecture by the new CEO of Harley-Davidson motorbike company, which had just recovered from a slump. Someone asked him, ‘How did you manage to get that old cult firm Harley-Davidson back on its feet?’ He replied, ‘You know, we simply stopped selling motorcycles. Now we sell a way of life and throw in a motorcycle for nothing.’”
Perversely, as we increasingly live in the digital world our appreciation of the material, the thingness of stuff, the tactile, the handmade all became increasingly important in 2014.
Here are 10 ideas from the age of classic product photography.
1. Order in the Office
Modern, organized, efficient, typical styling for the 20th Century office. While ‘nature’ and the organic appears in these photos the lighting, shadow and composition are all dedicated to make the machine sensually and severely modern.
In a section called the Thing and I (a jokey allusion both to the Rodgers and Hammerstein film and the deeply enigmatic German philosopher Martin Heidegger whose writings around ‘things’ has been influential in product design and who has recently had a strange second life in innovation thinking), these two photographs highlight our sometimes fetishistic relationship with objects. The image on the left is notable for being shot by celebrated documentary photographer August Sander.
4. Furnishing an Identity
The photography of lifestyle and interiors magazines pitch the domestic space as expression of identity, as the physical expression of taste, but in reality the home is often a lot messier. In its seriously formal, buttoned up way, there is something dramatic and disruptive about these photos of objects escaping the steely, shiny, geometric domestic surfaces.
Or perhaps in the main image below, immobility. That photographic trend in the deconstruction of objects circa 2012/2013 has at least one precursor in the loving dismantling and arrangement of the perfectly engineered parts of a Volkswagen Golf. Even the destruction is rational, ordered ad exquisitely designed.
When entertainment products/things became mobile. The single on the Philips deck says ‘Thank you for Calling’, while the woman floats in some dreamy sound-space. The Simply Samsung campaign turns the model into a cowboy, the photo highlighting the lightness of the tech. Apple of course is about pure object-lust.
Currently a big driver in pervasive computing (the internet of things), Healthcare never looked so superhuman or even post-human in this image for Fiat’s company healthcare. Like an industrial laboratory for growing children.
8. Packaging: The Second Skin
Bottom left is the first ever Tetra Pak, heralding an era of convenience and frustration. And on the right the clenched fist of masculine strength reassures men worried about caring about underwear and threatened by the six-pack. But you might one to open the occasionally fiddly Tetra Pak.
The object as sign of innovation and the future, where the human blends with the object
10. The Object of Sport
Material, textures, tactility, with an extreme close-up sports equipment becomes sports objects. Sportswear increasingly sells on materials innovation. With the image below, you feel like you can touch and smell the rubberized surface, the light reflecting off the black groove on the basketball.
What can we learn from the compelling and strange Mirrorcity exhibition at the Hayward Gallery London, a show exploring the relationship of the physical and the digital
Over 20 Artists or Artist groups including collage artist John Stezaker (below),
tech/internet artist group LuckyPDF and Ursula Mayer whose film and installation is a hypnotic, mythic piece exploring issues of gender representation.
The space Mayer has created to show the movie, which includes talismanic or totemic objects you see in the film made me feel like I was in one of those early Star Trek episodes, the ones full of 60s theatrical excess and magnetically alien objects and beings.
What was remarkable about Star Trek, even watching as a kid, were the narratives that made being human no more exceptional (or less exceptional) than the strange creatures, beings, objects of different planets, and as you move through the Mirrorcity, the experience of visiting a different world slowly envelops you. What kind of space is this? It’s teh kind of spcae that makes you think about space, the Mirrorcity is both real and a reflection. Just like our relation to the digital, but it also suggests a more complicated relationship to the digital than simply a virtual reflection of the physical. It reminded me of writer Michel Foucault’s tricky but illuminating observation on the idea of the mirror and utopias, on how mirrors can unsettle our simple sense that mirrors reflect. “In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.”
The Mirrorcity, a world the same but different from the physical world we inhabit everyday.Here’s some thoughts from the Press Release: “Thanks to our increasing dependence on the Internet – and in particular on various types of social media – much of our life can now be said to take place between two realms: the virtual and the physical. Over the last century writers, thinkers and artists have all explored alternative realities, seeing the mirror as a portal to a shadowy world subtly different from their own. Now, with our reliance on the virtual world of the Web, we find ourselves inhabiting digital mirror-worlds that echo our own.” Mirrorcity is not simply the digital mirror of the real world, but the space that opens up between the physical and digital.
The scale and range of work (Lindsay Seer’s exhibit is the upside-down hull of a boat, inside of which is a two-screen ‘cinema’), the installations and spaces within the larger space, the strange objects (Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq’s glossy black stealth-like blades FALLING STARS II) and the furnishings of Laure Prouvost’s installation below, whose absolute strangeness transforms them from simple objects into ‘Things’. Mirrorcity teaches you a lesson in the art of disorientation.
I was reminded of a book I read with my children a few years back by China Miéville, Un Lun Dun, about a world parallel to London. Check out this review of Un Lun Dun by Josh Lacey in The Guardian, where he cites this passage from Miéville’s book, about the technology powering Un Lun Dun. “Mildly Obsolete In London. Throw something away and you declare it obsolete. You’ve seen an old computer, or a broken radio, or whatever, left on the streets? It’s there for a few days, and then it’s just gone. Sometimes rubbish collectors have taken it, but often as not it ends up here, where people find other uses for it. It seeps into unLondon.” One of the many themes explored by different artists Mirrorcity is that of ‘belonging’.
There’s a dawning realisation as you battle to make sense of this experiential art, that the way you have of looking at the world you bring from outside the gallery is of little use. The decisive moment is the realisation there is no obvious way to navigate this show, that you are lost, and that realisation of being lost is inspiring in a world of digital customization, of your life being pre-anticipated. For some reason, this moment of clarity occurred while watching Susan Hillier’s visualisation of signals from the Big Bang with a low-level soundtrack of people describing unexplained encounters. Where do we come from? Where are we going? Maybe we should just enjoy the ride.
What can we say, Hard and Soft. Think Anne Hardy who builds sets (like Thomas Demand) and shoots them, maybe because it’s more ‘authentic’, or maybe fabricating these fictitious places then shooting them is a reminder of the magical artifice of the photograph. It might be a ‘real’ construction but the story of this place exists in your imagination.
Or Laure Provost’s (the conceptual artist who featured in Wantee her Turner-Prize-wining work) installation, a journey round the physical space of her fictional grandfather’s studio.
Art Meets Commerce
Maybe because of the scale of the show, and the curation, these pieces felt like individual experiments, tests, ‘what if’, the work felt like iterations, a long way from the big statement art of the YBAs in the 90s and early part of the century. Maybe we are – as an interviewer suggested to Michael Schrage author of The Innovator’s Hypothesis – over the cult of the Big Idea. But I guess the premise of the show made me wonder how businesses and people are going to manage the transition to a world where objects become activated as part of a network, no longer simple inert things but nodes in relation to many different other things. It made me think of our own relationship to the digital which is more complicated and richer than simply a shadow world. Mirrorcity bristles with ideas does what the best shows and ideas and experiences do – stretch the brain so that when it settles back into place it is a slightly different shape.
One Question for the Artist
I’d ask photographer Anne Hardy who she imagines living/working in the spaces she builds.