Abstraction

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Markus AmmMarkus Amm, untitled photograms.

I’ll get to this soon, I hope, but for now the best response I can give to commenter Ari Din is to point them towards the following related-but not-exaclty review of a series of abstract photography shows, by Martha Schwendener and found in the Voice:

The question of why certain practices thrive at particular moments feels like the art world equivalent of asking why honeybee populations have collapsed in the last decades or mussels have started growing in the Hudson. Why, for instance, are contemporary photographers—or, if you like, artists working with photography—obsessed with abstraction, materiality, and process?

To which she begins to answer herself:

Several theories are offered in Words Without Pictures, the recently published record of a year-long forum on photography sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In the essays and discussions, there’s a suggestion that, while formalism might be an exhausted term for critics and historians, it could, as Kevin Moore argues, be “an anxious attempt” among artists to make something new and yet familiar in a moment when technology, politics, and culture are rapidly shifting. Others suggest abstraction as a response to the current global crisis—a kind of causal fragmentation/disintegration scenario—while editor Alex Klein warns that, while materiality and abstraction might have political implications for some artists, there are clearly others for whom it’s “trendy, market-savvy, and scarcely disguised by a veneer of easily digestible theory.”

I wonder which artists Klein was referring to…

Anyways, this answer is, at best, limited and, at worst, an outright hostile one.

As far as the original question of a definition of “techo-spiritualist new weird” photography, I’ll try and think through it a bit more – definitions are clearly in order.  I think a good place to start would be to try and put a finger on where, exactly it’s boundaries lay…

If any of you think of work (in photography or writing) that you think I definitely have to cover, leave a note in the comments.

Melanie Bonajo

Sunday, October 25th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Melanie Bonajo
Melanie Bonajo, ‘Healing Machine’

So, a little while back I was researching a book I had seen at one of the fairs (I can’t remember which) called ‘Furniture Bondage‘ which definitely falls within the “new weird techno-spiritualist” (heh) genre of photography, and came across some of the artist’s other work, which I found myself (appropriately) weirdly drawn to.  If you read the title of the post, you’ll already have guessed the name of the artist (Melanie Bonajo), and though I can’t seem to track down a website for her, there are a couple gallery sites with her work (here, here, and here), an out of order collective site, and an i heart photograph interview.

Midway

Saturday, October 24th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan, from ‘Midway’

Next up, Chris Jordan‘s Midway: Message from the Gyre, a relatively recent find (via consumptive).

Jordan documents found young Albatross carcasses, festival littered with a stomach’s full of plastic fed to them by their parents who were attracted to the brightly colored trash in the belief that it was food.

Check it out here.

Vanessa Louzon

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Vanessa Louzon
Vanessa Louzon, selections from ‘Family Dinners’ series

I have sat on this one since i heart photograph first posted Vanessa Louzon back in February.  I never found a good enough reason to post her, but I keep returning to her – I find her reworked family photographs incredibly… appetizing.  In her words:

[A] collection of reworked photos of family dinners that took place in my mother’s family home in Szczecin, Poland, ranging from 1978 to 2008. The series of photographs show the evolution of life in Poland, from the communist 70s and 80s, to today’s modern consumerist times, while its traditions and mentalities remain unchanged.

More on her site.

The Moon!

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Nick SmithNick Smith, ‘Aristarchus Plateau’

In honor of my unshakable cold, my recent infrequent posting, and a backlog of artists that I’ve never found a way to slot into other, larger posts, I will be spending the rest of the week posting individual artists one at a time.

First, Nick Smith‘s hi-res photographs of the moon.  The fact that this is possible to capture from the earth (and often from his own backyard) completely astounds me.

Heheh

Monday, October 19th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Gagh, I’m sorry!  I’ve come down with something and can’t concentrate long enough to give you all a decent post.  Sorry, but you’ll have to wait a day or two more…

A decent, well thought out, full post tomorrow.

Photography and Forgetting

Saturday, October 10th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

sans_soleil
Still from Chris Marker’s ‘Sans Soleil’

A big subject.  Some resources in a specific order:

1. “We describe the course of our “false-memory implantation” research, and review recent work showing that photographs can sometimes increase—while other times decrease—false memories.” Source here.  More here. And here. And here. Or just hit the search button on “Photography false memory“.

2. Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.  See the entire thing here if you speak French or Spanish.  Or buy the Criterion diskIncredible.

3. Taryn Simon’s TED talk.

4. Eidetic memory

(Also, I stumbled across this…)

Surrealism

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Paul Nougé
Paul Nougé, ‘La Jongleuse,’ 1929

This past Sunday I spent quite a few pleasant hours at the Centre Pompidou‘s new show ‘La Subversion des Images.’  It’s a collection and exploration of Surrealism‘s use of photography and film.  And, in a word, it’s really really good.

There are, of course, the usual suspects that one would expect; Hans Bellmer’s doll photos, Un Chien Andalou, lots of Man Ray.  But I was pleasantly surprised how well they were used.  The Bellmer work, which are usually the only representative for photography in broader Surrealism surveys, take up one and a half small walls, covered in various permutations of the doll photos.  It works well this way; they are touched on and acknowledged, but they don’t overwhelm the other work, alot of which I found unknown and alot of which is usually presented alone and not so much in dialogue with other contemporaneous work.

A good example of the latter strategy is the work of Brassaï.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brassaï work in anything other than solo shows or galleries, which in retrospective is really a shame as it works really really well here, peppered as it is throughout the show in various guises.  Paris by Night, for example, is his masterwork, and is usually presented as a formal leap forward, but in this context seems less radical and more of a logical extension into the picture frame of alot of the Surrealists ideas of the city being an ideal arena to view unexpected juxtapositions and clashes.  One particularly memorable photo is one of a statue taken in the Paris fog with only the words ‘Hotel’ in neon peeping through in the background with no other context.

One unexpected thought I walked away from this show with, is how strikingly modern so much of this work feels – So much work I’ve seen recently would seem to slot so easily into the work seen in this exhibition, and vice versa (for examples, see here, here, and here).  If you strip away some of the postmodern jargon surrounding alot of the work in the ‘techno-spiritualist‘ (my term) strain of contemporary photography and replace it with descriptions of dreams and psychoanalysis, and you’ve got alot of work covering the same grounds…

(I don’t think that last statement is entirely fair, but I do wonder what separates the works then and now? They certainly share some commonalities, so I guess the question is whether the fact that the discourse is different is enough to reset the work for a different era?)

Check out the show, up until January 11th. Definitely worth it.

Related: Hiroshi Sugimoto‘s new lightning field work, Brought to Light (more here and here), Ghost photography, William Hope, these incredibly cool videos of animals breathing, a classic Mrs. Deane post.

Hin Chua

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Hin Chua
Hin Chua, from ‘After the Fall’

I found Hin Chua‘s work by sifting through the numerous photographers featured in the @paris project.  I particularly like the ‘After the Fall‘ project, but the whole site’s worth poking around on.

Also, check out a project Chua and a group of friends (Ben Roberts, James Hendrick, Michael David Murphy, and Raoul Gatepin) are doing: Insig.ht (yes, that’s the web address, too).