Posts Tagged ‘performance art

03
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 6th July 2014

 

If I had half of this artists courage, I might not even have a quarter of her talent.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

View the catalogue essays Ana Mendieta: Traces by Stephanie Rosenthal and Embers by Adrian Heathfield (2.66Mb pdf)

 

 

“Art is a material act of culture, but its greatest value is its spiritual role, and that influences society, because it’s the greatest contribution to the intellectual and moral development of humanity that can be made”

“My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs through everything; from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.”

“To me, the work has existed on different levels. It existed on the level of being in nature and eventually being eroded away. But obviously when it’s shown to someone as a photograph, that’s what it is.”

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Ana Mendieta

 

The few women working with the body at that time were in instant affinity with each other… The struggle for all of us was to keep the sensuousness of the body and to de-eroticize it in terms of cultural expectations. It was gratifying and exciting to discover her work. Those of us who had already been situating the body as central to our visual aesthetic could also anticipate the resistance that would be around her.

I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory. More than Ana dies, when she dies.”

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Carolee Schneeman quoted in Camhi, Leslie. “ART; Her Body, Herself,” on the New York Times website published June 20, 2004 [Online] Cited 20/06/2014

 

“You do feel the sadness that she’s not with us and you wonder where she would have gone with her work.”

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Raquelin
 Mendieta

 

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)' (detail) 1972

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)
(detail)
1972
Suite of eight color photographs (estate prints, 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)' 1972

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)
1972
Suite of seven colour photographs, estate prints 1997
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Rape
1973
Color photograph (lifetime print)
20.4 x 25.4 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape Scene' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Rape Scene
1973
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2 cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010

 

Rape Scene (1973) was part of series of works devised in response to the rape and murder of a fellow student on the Iowa University campus, where Mendieta completed her BA, MA (painting) and an MFA (inter-media). She invited friends and fellow students to her apartment. The viewer entered through a slightly ajar door into a dark apartment into a room where the artist appeared under a single source of light revealing Mendieta stripped from the waist down. The artist stood slouched and bound over a table, nude from the waist down with her body smeared in blood. Around her was an assemblage of broken plates and blood on the floor. Her direct identification with a specific victim meant that she could not be seen as an anonymous object in a theatrical tableau.

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)' (detail) 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)
(detail)
1973
Suite of six color photographs (estate prints 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Body Tracks)' 1974

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Body Tracks)
1974
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection of Igor DaCosta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)' 1972

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)
1972
Suite of six colour photographs, estate prints
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1973
Lifetime colour photograph
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2011
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Blood and Feathers #2' 1974

 

Ana Mendieta
Blood and Feathers #2
1974
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Imagen de Yagul' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Imagen de Yagul
1973
Lifetime colour photograph
Glenstone
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

“Ana Mendieta: Traces is the first comprehensive survey of this influential artist’s work to be presented in Great Britain or the German-speaking world. It persuasively demonstrates that her art, while very much rooted in the concerns of her day, maintains a powerful connection to our present moment. Born in Cuba in 1948, Mendieta was forced to immigrate to the United States as a child due to her father’s political situation, and much of her work is obliquely haunted by the exile’s sense of displacement, while also reflecting her position as a double minority in North America’s largely white, male art world of the 1970s and 1980s. From the beginning, motifs of transience, absence, violence, belonging, and an identity in flux animated her multidisciplinary art, which ranged nomadically across practices associated with body art, land art, performance, sculpture, photography and film. At its core lay her recurring use of her own body – its physical and photographic traces – and her interest in marginal outdoor sites and elemental materials.

Spanning her brief, yet remarkably productive, career, this exhibition explores the many distinct facets of her practice. It captures her powerfully visceral evocation of ritual and sacrifice, as well as cycles of life and decay, while also highlighting her pioneering role as a conceptual border-crosser. Including photographs, drawings, sculptures, Super-8 films and a substantial selection of photographic slides, most of which have not been exhibited until now, Ana Mendieta: Traces reveals an artist whose underlying concerns led her to bravely re-work and re-combine genres, to draw on different cultures, both archaic and contemporary, while challenging the limits of the art discourse of her time. Her work continues to profoundly challenge, disturb, influence and inspire.

The Museum der Moderne Salzburg will open an extensive retrospective of the work of Ana Mendieta, one of our era’s most important and influential artists. Mendieta was born to a politically active family in Havana, Cuba in 1948. In the wake of the Cuban revolution, when she was only twelve years old, her parents sent her together with her sister to the United States. In 1985, at just thirty-six years old, she died under tragic circumstance in New York. During her short yet prolific career, she developed a unique visual language that is mesmerizing in its intimacy, and equally challenging. Her pioneering work has been acknowledged by large retrospectives in the United States and Europe, and is represented in the collections of major museums.

According to Sabine Breitwieser, director at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, who has arranged the exhibition, “a comprehensive exhibition in the German-speaking area, especially in Austria, and the German monograph on Ana Mendieta are long overdue. The artist’s distinctive work, in which she stages her body within the landscape, seems to be ideally exhibited at this site, where nature and the theatrical take on such a major role. Due to the fragility of the work, this could possibly be one of the last extensive Mendieta exhibitions.”

Among the central themes in Mendieta’s artistic work are exile and cultural displacement. In her search for identity and finding her place in the world, she attempted to create a dialogue between the landscape and the female body. Her work reveals numerous points of contingency with the emerging art movements of the 1960s and 1970s – Conceptual art, land art, and performance art. Nonetheless, it refuses any kind of categorization and instead addresses missing links or gaps between different media and art forms. “Through my art I want to express the immediacy of life and the eternity of nature,” wrote Mendieta in 1981. Using her own body and elementary materials, such as blood, fire, earth, and water, she created transitory pieces that combine rituals with metaphors for life, death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation. Her disembodied “earth body” sculptures were private, meditative ceremonies in nature documented in the form of slides and films. From them, Mendieta developed the so-called Siluetas (silhouettes), which form the core of her work. In the 1980s, Mendieta’s body disappeared from her artworks and she started to generate indoor works for galleries. Her engagement with nature continued in her sculptures and drawings, which she created as lasting works.

The exhibition presents roughly 150 works, which are organized throughout twelve spaces; two of these spaces are reconstructions of the original exhibitions by the artist. The works shown are in a multitude of media ranging from photography, film, and sculpture through to drawing. A further section will present the artist’s archive. Slides and photographs, notebooks and postcards offer insight into Mendieta’s working methods. The concern of Stephanie Rosenthal, chief curator of the Hayward Gallery London, is “to show Ana Mendieta’s outstanding work in all of its facets, and to place her artistic process at the center.”

While the artistic media that Mendieta utilizes in her works could not be any more diverse, the pictures that she produces are characterized by an unmistakable, overwhelming and mystical poetry. This exhibition makes clear that almost thirty years after the artist’s premature death, her work has lost none of its singularity and uniqueness.”

Text from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Silueta Series)' 1978

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Silueta Series)
1978
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Alma, Silueta en Fuego' (Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still) 1975

 

Ana Mendieta
Alma, Silueta en Fuego (
Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still)
1975
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
3:07 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)' (still) 1976

 

Ana Mendieta
Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)
(still)
1976
(Soul, Silhouette of Fireworks)
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
2:22 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)
1973
Black-and-white photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.4 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Gallery Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery London

 

 

“Ana Mendieta died at just 36 years old, but the imprint of her life digs deeper than most. Mendieta’s work occupies the indeterminate space between land, body and performance art, refusing to be confined to any one genre while working to expand the horizons of them all. With the immediacy of a fresh wound and the weightlessness of a half-remembered song, Mendieta’s artwork remains as haunting and relevant today as ever.

Her haunting imagery explores the relationship between earth and spirit while tackling the eternally plaguing questions of love, death and rebirth. Like an ancient cave drawing, Mendieta’s art gets as close as possible to her subject matter allowing no excess, using primal and visceral means to navigate her themes. Decades after her death, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg will show a retrospective of the late feminist artist’s work, simply titled “Ana Mendieta: Traces.”

Mendieta, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948, moved to the U.S. at 12 years old to escape Castro’s regime. There she hopped between refugee camps and foster homes, planting inside her an obsession with ideas of loss, belonging and the impermanence of place. As an artist in the 1970s, Mendieta embarked upon her iconic series “Silhouettes,” in which she merged body and earthly material, making nature both canvas and medium. In her initial “Silhouette,” Mendieta lay shrouded in an ancient Zapotec grave, letting natural forms eat up her diminutive form.

Her “earth-body” sculptures, as they came to be known, feature blood, feathers, flowers and dirt smothered and stuck on Mendieta’s flesh in various combinations. In “Imagen de Yagul,” speckled feverishly in tiny white flowers, she appears as ethereal and disembodied as Ophelia, while in “Untitled Blood and Feathers” Mendieta looks simultaneously the helpless victim and the guilty culprit. “She always had a direction – that feeling that everything is connected,” Ana’s sister Raquelin said of her work.

An uncertain mythology runs throughout Mendieta’s oeuvre, a feeling at once primal, pagan and feminine. Admirers have cited the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria as an influence, as well as the ancient rituals of Mexico, where Mendieta made much of her work. Yet many of Mendieta’s pieces removed themselves from the spiritual realm to address present day events, for example “Rape Scene,” a 1973 performance based off the rape and murder of a close friend. For the piece Mendieta remained tied to a table for two hours, motionless, her naked body smeared with cow’s blood. In another work, Mendieta smushes her face and body against glass panes, like a child eager to peek into an off-limits locale, or a bug that’s crashed into a windshield. Against the glass, her scrambled facial features almost resemble a Cubist artwork.

Mendieta died tragically young in 1985, falling from her New York City apartment window onto a delicatessen below. She was living with her husband of eight months, minimalist sculptor Carl Andre at the time. Andre was convicted of murder following the horrific incident and later acquitted. Though the art world remains captivated by the mysterious nature of Mendieta’s passing, her sister emphasized the importance of removing Ana’s work from her life story. “I don’t want it to get in the way of the work,” she said. “Her death has really nothing to do with her work. Her work was about life and power and energy and not about death.”

Fellow feminist performance artist Carolee Schneeman disagrees, however, telling The New York Times in 2004: “I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory.”

Since many of Mendieta’s artworks were bodily performances, the ephemera that remain are but traces of her original endeavors. For an artist whose career was built on imprints, ghosts and impressions, this seems aptly fitting. Visceral yet distant, bodily yet spiritual, Mendieta’s images speak a language very distant from the insular artistic themes that so often populate gallery and museum walls. Mendieta’s works present the female body turned out, at once vulnerable and all-powerful, frail and supernatural. As her retrospective makes obvious, her artistic traces are still oozing lifeblood.”

Priscilla Frank. “The Haunting Traces Of Ana Mendieta Go On View (NSFW),” on the Huffington Post website February 4, 2014 [Online] Cited 30/06/2014

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1976 "Silueta Series, Mexico"

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1976
“Silueta Series, Mexico”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2 cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010

 

Mendieta formed a silueta on the beach at La Ventosa, Mexico, filling it with red tempera that was ultimately washed away by the ocean waves. The artist documented the obliteration of the figure by the tide in a sequence of 35 mm slides.

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Tree of Life' 1976

 

Ana Mendieta
Tree of Life
1976
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1978 "Silueta Series, Iowa"

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1978
“Silueta Series, Iowa”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.3 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres)' [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)] 1982

 

Ana Mendieta
Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres) [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)]
1982
Black-and-white photograph, box mounted, exhibition copy
Collection Ignacio C. Mendieta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1982

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1982
Graphite on leaf of a copey tree (Clusia major)
E. Righi Collection
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'El Laberinto de Venus' (Labyrinth of Venus) 1985

 

Ana Mendieta
El Laberinto de Venus (Labyrinth of Venus)
1985
Acrylic on paper
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
T: +43.662.84 22 20-403

Opening hours:
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Wednesday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

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14
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art’ at Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 22nd September 2013

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A slight switch in gears for the next two postings. Conceptual, sculptural, minimal, monochromatic, corporeal, haptically varied surfaces that are absolutely fascinating…

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Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1958

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1958
Kaolin on canvas
50 x 69.5 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1957-1963

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1957-1963
Kaolin on canvas
80 x 100 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1958

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1958
Kaolin on canvas
160 x 130 cm
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013
Courtesy FaMa Gallery, Verona

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1962

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1962
Pebbles and kaolin on canvas
70 x 50 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Alfabeto' (Alphabet) 1959

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Alfabeto (Alphabet)
1959
Printed paper and pencil on cardboard
70 x 50 cm
Neues Museum Weimar
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Ennio Vicario. 'Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri' 1958

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Ennio Vicario
Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri
1958

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Ennio Vicario. 'Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri' 1958

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Ennio Vicario
Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri
1958

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“Despite his short career, Piero Manzoni (1933‒1963), who died an early death at the age of twenty-nine, is regarded as one of the most momentous representatives of Italian art after 1945. Manzoni would have celebrated his eightieth birthday on July 13, 2013. The Städel will pay tribute to this key figure of the European post-war avant-garde with a comprehensive survey to mark the occasion exactly fifty years after the artist’s death. Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art will be the first Manzoni retrospective ever to be staged in the German-speaking world. The exhibition, on display from June 26 to September 22, 2013, will highlight the radical character of the artist’s multifaceted position: Manzoni not only submitted Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made to a far-reaching revision, but also thought central discourses of Modernism like monochromy through to the end and opened painting into the fields of the everyday world and commodity aesthetics. With works like Merda d’artista - (allegedly) 30 grams of artist’s shit in a strictly limited edition – or Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961) – a pedestal elevating the world to an artwork – Manzoni created two icons within the more recent history of art. More than one hundred works from all phases of Manzoni’s productive career will offer complex insights into a still persuasive and influential oeuvre between Art Informel and the emergence of a new concept of art, Modernism and neo-avant-garde, art and the everyday world. Manzoni’s still unbroken influence on contemporary art production will be illustrated in the exhibition by works of the artists Erwin Wurm (*1954), Leni Hoffmann (*1962), and Bernard Bazile (*1952), which – offering an essayistic introduction to the show ‒explore central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present.

“Though Piero Manzoni had a pivotal position in the cross-European ZERO network and, as a breathtaking innovator of the concept of art, strikes us hardly less avant­garde today, he is far less known than many of his ZERO colleagues in these parts. Fifty years after his sudden death, we want to change this situation with the first presentation of Manzoni’s work in a museum outside Italy for more than two decades,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Städel Museum.

“The exhibition is not only aimed at shedding light on the wide variety of Manzoni’s work produced within only a few years, but also at examining his enormous impact on the paradigm change in the art of the 1960s. Manzoni actually paved the way for today’s art, exercising an influence on Body Art and Performance Art, as well as on Conceptual Art and Land Art,” explains Dr. Martin Engler, Head of the Städel’s Contemporary Art Collection and curator of the show.

Piero Manzoni was born the son of Valeria Meroni and Egisto Manzoni, Count of Chiosca and Poggiolo, in Soncino, Lombardy, on July 13, 1933. He began to study law in 1951 and philosophy in 1955, when he also presented his first solo exhibition in Soncino. This was about the time he got to know artists of the CoBrA group, of the “Spatialist” movement around Lucio Fontana, and finally the “Arte Nucleare” group he joined in 1957. It was in Rotterdam where he presented his first solo show abroad in 1958. One year after, Manzoni founded the Azimut Gallery in Milan together with Enrico Castellani. The dato Gallery was the first to exhibit his work in Frankfurt in 1961. At the age of twenty-nine, Piero Manzoni died from a heart attack in his studio in Milan.

Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art opens on the ground floor of the Städel’s Exhibition Building with early works by the artist, which oscillate between informal grounds and strongly abstracted figurativeness. Mirroring the agent provocateur and avant-gardist’s mediating role within the international ZERO network, his early oeuvre is displayed next to selected works by such contemporaries as Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, or Yves Klein, as well as by ZERO artists like Günther Uecker or Heinz Mack. Thus, the presentation conveys an idea of both Manzoni’s intricate network of relationships and the interaction and exchange with his closely affiliated colleagues in Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, or Copenhagen right from the beginning.

In the adjoining, completely open exhibition space, forty-three works of Manzoni’s central Achromes series provide the basis of the presentation ‒or rather interlock the artist’s different strands of production: a band running along all four outside walls unfolds a seamless chronology of this epochal group of works, which spans the entire exhibition. Between 1957 and his death in 1963, Manzoni produced about six-hundred of these paintings without color, whose different forms of appearance made them a background of reference for his whole oeuvre. Thanks to the open exhibition architecture the Achromes enclose the artist’s performative, body-related workgroups presented in the center of the hall with the help of a freestanding architectural display.

Manzoni did without any direct artistic gesture when creating his “colorless” works. His “white” painting, defined by the absence of color ‒ white or “achrome” meaning in the color of the material for him ‒ takes a special position in the context of the international ZERO movement and its turn toward monochromy: Manzoni saw his Achromes as paintings in spite of their ultimate reduction on the one hand, yet extended them by everyday elements like rolls or Styrofoam by body and space on the other. Employing materials such as plaster of Paris, kaolin, or synthetic fibers, he relied on means with sculptural qualities which initiated a transition process from the picture into a third, corporeal dimension. The velvety, satiny, shining and haptically varied surfaces show the conceptual severity that characterizes the description of this aesthetic concept to be a lie.

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Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

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Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 2013
Photo: Alex Kraus
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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After his reduction of color, Manzoni also radically reduced its counterpart, the line, to the core of its essence. Starting in 1959, Manzoni produced more than one hundred and thirty conceptual works he categorized as Linee (Lines). This group confronts us with the idea of the isolated line as a reduced artistic gesture: the uniform horizontal lines drawn on long strips of paper were rolled up in cardboard tubes and thus hidden from the eye. The works are presented in their tubes positioned upright like figurines. The highlight of this series is definitely the line Manzoni drew at a newpaper’s printers in Herning, Denmark, in 1960: it was more than seven kilometers long and stored in a zinc cylinder.

Manzoni’s endeavors as an artist centered on the issue of the body, an issue consistently derived from the corporeality of his Achromes and Linee. From the late 1950s on, he also dedicated himself to two further series: Corpi d’aria (Bodies of Air) and Fiato d’artista (Artist’s Breath) ‒ works vacillating between object and biology, between body and concept. The exhibited balloons, formerly filled with their owners’ or Manzoni’s breath, related to a body discourse that anticipated the 1970s and was also reflected in other works by the artist like in the performance Consumazione dell’arte (Consumption of Art, 1960), in which he marked hard-boiled eggs with his thumbprint and offered them to the audience to eat. The thumbprint is to be read as Manzoni’s most reduced physical trace which becomes a sign of his identity as individual, body, and artist.

The provocative impact of Manzoni’s probably best known group of works, Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit, 1961), is still unbroken even five decades after the artist’s death: thirty grams of artist’s shit in strictly limited compact cans, which were allegedly sold on the art market for the price of gold. This series may be understood as a logical continuation of Manzoni’s earlier art consumption performances: the artist’s body becomes the biological medium for the production of art, and Duchamp’s ready-made finds itself grounded in human biology. The exhibition comprises eleven cans of this series combining high and low, the spiritual and the abstract with the concrete and the physical and thus radically extends the traditional concept of art.

The resulting discourse of the body finds its culmination in the artist’s Sculture viventi (Living Sculptures, 1961) displayed in the show. Declaring bodies to be art by means of a pedestal, these works by Manzoni appropriate man as a living work of art: whoever steps onto the pedestal is elevated to a living sculpture and object of art for the time being. Going beyond the concept of the ready-made, Manzoni made the body the material of his art. His approach involved the viewer and opened the door for the Actionist Art of the 1960s and 1970s. The work Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961), which is also among the Städel’s exhibits, focuses on the whole world at once: a plinth presumably placed upside down elevates the world, including man, to a work of art in an all-embracing manner.

The presentation of three contemporary positions ‒ Erwin Wurm (*1954), Leni Hoffmann (*1962), and Bernard Bazile (*1952) ‒ provides an essayistic introduction to the show in the foyer of the Exhibition Building, a foreword exploring central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present. The Austrian artist Erwin Wurm will present the visitor as a living sculpture in one of his One Minute Sculptures he conceived especially for the show at the Städel. Leni Hoffmann’s re-edition of the longest line from Manzoni’s series Linee follows up the present reception of the artist’s work by realizing a well-nigh endless line on the rotary press of a daily newspaper. The French artist Bernhard Bazile will show two of his works. In his film project Die Besitzer (The Owners) he interviews forty-nine collectors whose holdings comprise a sample of Manzoni’s Merda d’artista and, talking about the motives for their acquisition, reflect on the artist’s oeuvre far beyond the actual subject of the conversation. The show also comprises the Merda d’artista sample Bazile opened in 1989 and since then presents as his own work under the title Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni.

The exhibition Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art highlights the achievements of an artist who, in a radically innovative way, succeeded in condensing issues of late Modernism into a differentiated oeuvre that would prove to be a landmark for contemporary art. Today, Manzoni’s works mark a key position that has given birth to a conceptual discourse of the body and become the yardstick for a new, extended understanding of art which still clearly informs today’s debates.”

Press release from the Städel Museum website

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Paradoxus Smith' 1957

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Paradoxus Smith
1957
Oil on board
100 x 130 cm
The Sander Collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Milano et-mitologiaa' (Milan and mythology) 1956

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Milano et-mitologiaa (Milan and mythology)
1956
Oil on board
95 x 130 cm
Private Collection Milan
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Socle du monde' (Base of the world) 1961

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Socle du monde (Base of the world)
1961
Iron, bronze
82 x 100 x 100cm
HEART – Herning Museum of Contemporary Art
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Base magica - Scultura vivente' (Magic Base - Living sculpture) 1961

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Base magica – Scultura vivente (Magic Base – Living sculpture)
1961
Wood, metal, felt
79.5 x 79.5 x 60 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Fiato d'artista' (Artist's breath) 1960

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Fiato d’artista (Artist’s breath)
1960
Rubber balloon, string, lead seal, brass, wood
18 x 18 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Merda d'artista N.° 038' (Artist's shit N.° 038) 1961

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Merda d’artista N.° 038 (Artist’s shit N.° 038)
1961
Artist’s shit, printed paper, tin can
Private collection
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Linea m 3,54' (Line 3.54 m) 1959

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Linea m 3,54 (Line 3.54 m)
1959
23 x 6 cm
Ink on paper, cardboard container
Consolandi Collection
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm.
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm

Städel Museum website

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25
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Lorna Simpson’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 28th May – 1st September 2013

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Fascinating practice!

Identity, memory, gender, representation, the body, the subject, felt, text, images, video, gesture, reenactment, concept and performance, all woven together seamlessly like a good wig made of human hair…

Marcus

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Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Five Day Forecast [Prévisions à cinq jours]' 1988

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Lorna Simpson
Five Day Forecast [Prévisions à cinq jours]
1988
5 gelatin silver prints in a frame, 15 plates engraved plastic
24 ½ x 97 in (62.2 x 246.4 cm) overall
Lillian and Billy Mauer Collection
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Stereo Styles [Styles stéréo]' 1988

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Lorna Simpson
Stereo Styles [Styles stéréo]
1988
10 dye-diffusion black-and-white Polaroid prints, 10 engraved plastic plaques
57 ¾ x 125 ¼ x 1 3/8 in (146.7 x 318.1 x 3.5 cm) overall
Collection of Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Wigs II' 1994-2006

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Lorna Simpson
Wigs II
1994-2006
Serigraph on 71 felt panels (images and text)
98 x 265 in (248.9 x 673.1 cm) overall
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson surprised her audiences in 1994 when she began to print her photographs on felt, inspired by its materiality after seeing an exhibition of the sculpture of Joseph Beuys in Paris “where the piano and walls were covered for a beautiful installation.” Simpson questioned whether the medium might be appropriate in a far different way for her work given the perspective afforded her by the passage of time. With the felt pieces, Simpson turned away from photography’s traditional paper support, magnified the already larger-than-life-size of the images within her large photo-text pieces to extremely large-scale multi-part works, and, most critically, absented the figure, in particular, the black woman in a white shift facing away from the camera for which she had received critical acclaim.

Ever-present, nevertheless, were her thematic concerns. The first felts offered surrogates for the body in  a taxonomy of her own photographs of Wigs, with voicings “in and around gender,” and expanded upon the investigation of the role of coiffure in the construction of identity in Simpson’s photo-texts (such as Stereo Styles, Gallery 1). In the mid-1990s, such felts were succeeded by a series of photographs of interior and exterior scenes that were accompanied by long text passages printed on separate small felts. In these works the figure was replaced, as Okwui Enwezor wrote, “by the rumor of the body.”

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Lorna Simpson. 'Please remind me of who I am' (detail) 2009

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Lorna Simpson
Please remind me of who I am (detail)
2009
50 found photo booth portraits, 50 ink drawings on paper, 100 bronze elements
Overall installation dimensions variable
Collection of Isabelle and Charles Berkovic
© Lorna Simpson

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For each multi-part photo-booth piece, Simpson sets in bronze frames these small inexpensive shots as well as her drawings of selected details of the photographs. Self-styled and performed, these photographs were used for a variety of purposes by their now anonymous sitters, ranging from sober, formal ID photos to glamorous, often theatrically playful mementos. Encompassing photo booth shots of different sizes from the 1920s to the 1970s (a few in color), Simpson’s constellations of many images for each work offer a collective portrait of self-portraiture (Gather, 2009) and continue her ongoing explorations of identity and memory, explicitly phrased in the title of one of them: Please remind me of who I am (2009).

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Lorna Simpson. 'Waterbearer [Porteuse d'eau]' 1986

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Lorna Simpson
Waterbearer [Porteuse d'eau]
1986
Gelatin silver print, vinyl letters
59 x 80 x 2 ½ in (149.9 x 203.2 x 5.7 cm) overall
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris / Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Waterbearer shows a woman from the back, pouring water from an elegant silvery metallic pitcher in one hand and from an inexpensive plastic jug in the other, echoing art historical renderings of women at wells or in the domestic settings of Dutch still-life paintings. As if balancing the scales of justice, this figure also symbolically offers disjunctions of means and class. In the accompanying text, Simpson explicitly addresses memory and the agency of speakers: “She saw him disappear by the river, they asked her to tell what happened, only to discount her memory.”

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For her first European retrospective, the Jeu de Paume presents thirty years of Lorna Simpson’s work. For this Afro-American artist, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, the synthesis between image and text is profound and intimate. If one were to consider Lorna Simpson as a writer, the textual element of her works could have an autonomous life as prose poems, very short stories or fragments of scripts. And yet, her texts are inseparable from her images; there is a dynamic between the two that is both fragile and energising, which links them unfailingly. Lorna Simpson became known in the 1980s and 90s for her photographs and films that shook up the conventions of gender, identity, culture and memory.

Throughout her work, the artist tackles the complicated representation of the black body, using different media, while her texts add a significance that always remains open to the spectator’s imagination. In her recent work, Lorna Simpson has integrated archive images, which she reinvents by positioning herself in them as subject. As the artist underlines: “The theme I turn to most often is memory. But beyond this subject, the underlying thread is my relationship to text and ideas about representation.” (Lorna Simpson)

This retrospective reveals the continuity in her conceptual and performative research. In her works linking photography and text, as well as in her video installations, she integrates – while continually shaking them up – the genres of fixed and moving images, using them to ask questions about identity, history, reality and fiction. She introduces complexity through her use of photography and film, in her exploitation of found objects, in the processes she develops to take on the challenges she sets herself and to spectators.

The exhibition gathers her large format photo-texts of the mid 1980s, which brought her to the attention of the critics (Gestures / Reenactments, Waterbearer, Stereo Styles), her work in screenprints on felt panels since the 1990s (Wigs, The Car, The Staircase, Day Time, Day Time (gold), Chandelier), a group of drawings (Gold Headed, 2013), and also her “Photo Booths,” ensembles of found photos and drawings (Gather, Please remind me of who I am…). The exhibition is also an opportunity to discover her video installations: multivalent narratives that question the way in which experience is created and perceived more or less falsely (Cloudscape, 2004, Momentum, 2010), among them, Playing Chess, a new video installation made especially for the occasion.

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About the exhibition

by Joan Simon

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In her critically acclaimed body of work spanning more than thirty years, Lorna Simpson questions identity and memory, gender and history, fact and fiction, playing eye and ear in tandem if not in synchrony to prompt consideration of how meaning is constructed. That she has often described herself as an observer and a listener informs an understanding of both her approach and her subjects. In her earliest black-and-white documentary street photographs (1978-80), Simpson isolated gestures that bespoke an intimacy between those framed in her viewfinder, recording what was less a decisive moment than one of coming into relation. Some of these photographs seem to capture crossed glances, pauses in an ongoing conversation. Others are glimpses of occasions, transitional events identifiable by a white confirmation or wedding dress, which convey a sense of palpable silence in exchanges between people just out of earshot.

When Simpson began to stage her own photographs in 1985 and to write accompanying texts, she came in closer. She allowed us to see a carefully framed black body, abstracted in gesture and in white clothing, yet also permitted us to read seemingly overheard comments that redirected and recomplicated the view. While her images captured gestures, her narratives imbued these images frozen in a never-changing present with memory, a past. The title of her first photo-text work, made in 1985, and of the exhibition of that year in which it was first exhibited was Gestures / Reenactments, and one can argue that all Simpson’s work is built on the juxtaposition of gestures and reenactments, creating meaning in the resonant gap between the two. It is a gap that invites the viewer / reader to enter, all the while requiring an active reckoning with some inalienable truths: seeing is not necessarily believing, and what we might see is altered not only by our individual experiences and assumptions but also, critically, by what we might hear.

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The exhibition

Whether for still or moving picture productions, Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) uses her camera as catalyst to question identity and gender, genres and history, race and class, fact and fiction, memory and meanings. Assumptions of photographic “truth” are challenged and qualified – indeed redirected – by the images she creates that are inseparable from the texts she writes to accompany them, by the soundings she chooses  for videos, or by her pairings of vintage photographs with newly made renderings. The Jeu de Paume presents lorna Simpson’s first large-scale exhibition in europe beginning with her earliest photo-text pieces of the 1980s through her newest video installation, Chess, 2013, which makes its debut in Paris.

Works in the exhibition show the artist drawing on traditional photo techniques such as gelatin silver prints in an intimate synthesis with speakerly texts (Gallery 1). They also show Simpson’s creation of new combines, among them serigraphs on felt with writings and images invoking film noir (Gallery 2), a video installation of three projections based on historic photographs and her own prior still photos (Gallery 3), constellations of recuperated photo-booth photos with her drawings isolating details from them as well as vintage photographs together with those re-staged by the artist (Gallery 4), and a video focusing on performance as well as time itself and its reversal (Gallery 5).

The exhibition’s parcours reveals turning points in Simpson’s oeuvre as well as thematic continuities. The earliest pieces in the show are Simpson’s performative proto-cinematic photo-texts, beginning with the 1985 Gestures/ Reeactments, a title literally evocative of the work’s visual/verbal aspect while also paradigmatically descriptive of what would be her conceptual practice for the next three decades. Simpson herself makes a rare appearance in her work in two related pieces in the show: the 2009 epic still photo work 1957-2009 (Gallery 4), for which the artist re-enacted scenes from vintage photos, and Chess, 2013, (Gallery 3), which features re-enactments of some of the same photos.

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Gallery 1 introduces the artist’s signature, indeed iconic early images of the 1980s – a black figure in white clothing, face turned away from the camera or cropped out of the frame – accompanied by precisely crafted, allusive texts that recomplicate what is seen by what is heard in these voicings. The intention to deny a view of a face, as Simpson says, “was related to the idea that the one thing that people gravitate to in photography is the face and reading the expression and what that says about the person pictured, an emotional state, who they are, what they look like, deciphering and measuring. Who is being pictured, what is actually the subject? Photographing from the back was a way to get viewers’ attention as well as to consciously withdraw what they might expect to see.”

The performative photo-text works in Gallery 1 are Gestures/Reenactments, 1985 (created as part of her thesis project for her MFA at the University of California, San Diego), Waterbearer and Twenty Questions (A Sampler) (the first works that Simpson made when she moved to New York in 1986), as well as Five Day Forecast, 1988, and Stereo Styles, 1988. Beginning with Waterbearer, all of these except Gestures/Reenactments (which features a black male) show a black female in a white shift played by artist Alva Rogers, who was often mistaken for Simpson herself.

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Gallery 2 marks important changes the artist made during the ’90s, most notably Simpson’s surprising shift to printing her photographs on felt and absenting the human figure. At first she used surrogates for the body, seen in the many and various wigs she photographed and which she accompanied with texts that continued to address ideas of identity and gender (Wigs, 1994-2006). She used photographs taken during her travels for the next series of felt works, which were interior and exterior scenes (The Car, 1995, The Rock, 1995, The Staircase, 1998) that in both imagery and texts invoked film noir. These works led almost inevitably to the start of Simpson’s film and video work in 1997. (Her earliest photo-texts will be recognized by the viewer as proto-cinematic with their multiple frames and conversational voices.)

This gallery also reveals how Simpson continues to use her felt medium and returns to her own archive of images   as well as found objects. Three related works, though no longer using text, nevertheless “comment” on each other:  a video of a performance (Momentum, 2010) inspired by an early 1970s performance at Lincoln Center generated felt works based on vintage photographs of this famous New York theater – Chandelier, 2011, Daytime, 2011, and Daytime (gold), 2011- as well as the Gold Headed (2013) drawings, based on the dancers costumed head to foot in gold. Drawings are perhaps the least known medium in Simpson’s practice, and while they reveal the fluid gestures of her hand, visitors will recognize in these gold heads turned from the viewer an echo of the position of the figures  in Gallery 1.

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Gallery 3 is devoted to Simpson’s newest video, Chess, 2013, which is based on historic photos as well as her own earlier photographic piece, 1957-2009 (Gallery 4), in which she restaged found vintage photographs. Chess and 1957-2009 mark the rare instances in which Simpson has herself appeared in her work.

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Gallery 4 presents reenactments that use quotidian photographic genres to explore constructions of identity   and that offer a collective portrait of photographic portraiture over time. All of the works in this gallery are based on found photographs Simpson purchased on eBay and each depicts anonymous subjects performing for the camera. 1957-2009 is based on photographs in a vintage album; Gather and Please remind me of who I am are constellations of bronze-framed found photo-booth images (from the 1920s to the 1970s) accompanied by Simpson’s similarly framed drawings of details from the photographs.

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Gallery 5 offers Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape, 2004, which focuses on performance itself and the soundings of a body, that of artist Terry Adkins whistling a hymn. Embodying memory (and the distortions of it) as she did in her earliest photo-works but playing also with the particularities of video, Simpson loops the video to play forward and backward. In this process a new melody is created even as the stationary figure appears same but different.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Chess [Échecs]' 2013

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Lorna Simpson
Chess [Échecs]
2013
HD video installation with three projections, black & white, sound
10:25 minutes (loop)
Score and performance by Jason Moran
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Chess [Échecs]' 2013

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Lorna Simpson
Chess [Échecs]
2013
HD video installation with three projections, black & white, sound
10:25 minutes (loop)
Score and performance by Jason Moran
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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“Gestures” and “reenactments” could both be described as the underlying methods of Simpson’s practice for the decades to follow. Whether working with photographs she herself staged, found photographs, or archival film footage, her images captured gestures (as in her earliest documentary photographs of 1978-1980) while her series of multiple images, accompanied by texts, proposed simultaneous (if not synchronous) reenactments. This method also applied to works in which she replicated found images, whether turning images from her films into drawings, or using herself to re-play roles depicted by anonymous figures she had discovered in vintage photographs, either for staged still photographs (as in 1957-2009, 2009), or for moving pictures (as in the video Chess, 2013).

Chess, 2013, Simpson’s video installation made expressly for this exhibition, draws on images from 1957- 2009, her still photograph ensemble of 2009 (on view in Gallery 4). For both, in a departure from her earlier videos and prior staged photographs, Simpson herself performs. In 1957-2009, by reenacting scenes from found vintage prints with which they are shown, Simpson is “mirroring both the male and  the female character, in dress, pose, expression, and setting. When I would mention the idea of working with mirrors [for the Chess video] people would often mention the famous portraits of Picasso and  Picabia taken at a photo studio in New York by an anonymous photographer who placed the subject   at a table in front of two mirrored panels at seventy-degree angles. The result is a five-way portrait that includes views that are not symmetrical and that offer slightly different angles: a surrealist trope of trick photography.”

Though the artist first rejected the idea of working with the mirror device used in these historic portraits, which she had seen many times, she decided to take it on fully and reconstruct it in her studio for this new video project after  art historian and sociologist Sarah Thornton sent her “a beautiful image of an unknown man of African descent in a white straw hat, which had been in an exhibition at MoMA [catalogue page 61]. It was a five-way portrait probably taken by the same photographer who had taken the portraits of Picasso and Picabia. I could no longer resist or dis- miss this idea. I felt that it was demanding my attention.”

Shot in Simpson’s studio over the weekend of December 8, 2012, Chess is comprised of three video projections. For two of them Simpson again plays both female and male chess-players, and with the help of makeup and hair assistants, she now allows her characters to age. The third projection shows pianist Jason Moran performing his improvised score for this project, which was inspired by discussions between artist and composer about “mirroring in music,” especially “in the work of musician Cecil Taylor, who employs mirroring in his compositions.”

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Lorna Simpson. 'The Car' 1995

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Lorna Simpson
The Car
1995
Serigraph on 12 felt panels with felt text panel
102 x 104 in (259.1 x 264.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'The Car' (detail) 1995

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Lorna Simpson
The Car (detail)
1995
Serigraph on 12 felt panels with felt text panel
102 x 104 in (259.1 x 264.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. '1957-2009' (detail) 2009

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Lorna Simpson
1957-2009 (detail)
2009
299 gelatin silver prints, framed
5 x 5 in. (12.7 x 12.7 cm) each (image size)
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Lorna Simpson

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While collecting photo booth images on eBay, Simpson found the first of the vintage photographs – a woman in a tight sweater-dress leaning on a car – that would generate 1957-2009 (2009). The artist subsequently bought the entire album and in 2009 restaged these photographs of an anonymous black woman and sometimes a man performing for their camera between June and August 1957 in Los Angeles, which they may have done in the hope of gaining movie work in Hollywood or as an independent project of self-invention. For 1957-2009, Simpson reenacted both female and male roles, and the 299 images are comprised of both the 1957 originals and Simpson’s 2009 remakes. Simpson again reenacted a selection of these vignettes for her video installation Chess, 2013.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Cloudscape [Paysage nuageux]' 2004

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Lorna Simpson
Cloudscape [Paysage nuageux]
2004
Video projection, black & white, sound
3:00 minutes (loop)
Centre national des arts plastiques, purchase in 2005
Photo courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson/Centre national des arts plastiques

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Lorna Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape (2004) isolates one man, Simpson’s friend, the artist and musician Terry Adkins, in a dark room, spotlighted as he whistles a hymn and is enveloped in fog. Focusing on the ephemerality of performance, the artist employs a technique afforded by her medium to play with time as well. Simpson runs the video forward and then also backward in a continuous loop, creating new visual and oral/aural permutations of gesture and reenactment. In the reversal of the time sequence, the image remains somewhat familiar while the tune turns into something else, a different melody.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Momentum' 2010

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Lorna Simpson
Momentum
2010
HD video, color, sound
6:56 minutes
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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As Simpson explored new mediums, such as film and video starting in 1997 or found photographs in  the late 1990s, she continued to work in parallel with her felt serigraphs. In this gallery are three related sets of works that, unlike her earlier photo-text pieces, are all based on a personal memory: performing as a youngster, age 12, in gold costume, wig, and body paint in a ballet recital at New York’s Lincoln Center. Simpson re-staged such a performance for her video Momentum (2010).

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Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
T: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Friday: 12.00 – 19.00
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

Lorna Simpson website

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21
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th April 2012 – 29th April 2013

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Another fascinating exhibition and a bumper posting to boot (pardon the pun!)

A panoply of famous photographers along with a few I had never heard of before (such as Georges Hugnet) are represented in this posting. As the press blurb states, through “key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, ‘The Shaping of New Visions’ offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices.”

The large exhibition seems to have a finger in every pie, wandering from the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis, through “New Vision” photography in the 1920s, experimental film, Surrealism, Constructivism and New Objectivity, Dada, Rayographs, photographic avant-gardism, photocollages, photomontages, street photography of the  1960s, colour slide projection performance, through New Topographics, self-published books, and conceptual photography, featuring works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. “The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history.”

Without actually going to New York to see the exhibition (I wish!!) – from a distance it does seem a lot of ground to cover within 5 galleries even if there are 250 works. You could say this is a “meta” exhibition, drawing together themes and experiments from different areas of photography with rather a long bow. Have a look at the The Shaping of New Visions exhibition checklist to see the full listing of what’s on show and you be the judge. There are some rare and beautiful images that’s for sure. From the photographs in this posting I would have to say the distorted “eyes” have it…

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to MoMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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László Moholy-Nagy
Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray) (excerpt)
1930

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This short film made by László Moholy-Nagy is based on the shadow patterns created by his Light-Space Modulator, an early kinetic sculpture consisting of a variety of curved objects in a carefully choreographed cycle of movements. Created in 1930, the film was originally planned as the sixth and final part of a much longer work depicting the new space-time.

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Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
Manhatta
1921
Film
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

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In 1920 Paul Strand and artist Charles Sheeler collaborated on Manhatta, a short silent film that presents a day in the life of lower Manhattan. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass, the film includes multiple segments that express the character of New York. The sequences display a similar approach to the still photography of both artists. Attracted by the cityscape and its visual design, Strand and Sheeler favored extreme camera angles to capture New York’s dynamic qualities. Although influenced by Romanticism in its view of the urban environment, Manhatta is considered the first American avant-garde film.

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Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)
1929
Film
1 hr 6 mins 49 secs

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Excerpt from a camera operators diary
ATTENTION VIEWERS:
This film is an experiment in cinematic communication of real events
Without the help of Intertitles
Without the help of a story
Without the help of theatre
This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature

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Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971 – 1973
Photographed by Philip Steinmetz
Halftone reproductions on 51 cards
4 ½ x 7 in. each
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
© Eleanor Antin

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Josef Albers. 'Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)' 1931

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Josef Albers
Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)
1931
Twelve gelatin silver prints
Overall 11 11/16 x 16 7/16″ (29.7 x 41.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Josef Albers Foundation, Inc.
© 2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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August Sander. 'Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)' 1928

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August Sander
Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)
1928
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 x 9″ (17.9 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Dziga Vertov. 'Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)' (still) 1929

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Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera) (still)
1929
35mm film
65 min ( black and white, silent)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Film

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Man Ray. 'Rayograph' 1922

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Man Ray
Rayograph
1922
Gelatin silver print (photogram)
9 3/8 x 11 3/4″ (23.9 x 29.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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William Klein (American, born 1928) 'Gun, Gun, Gun, New York'  1955

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William Klein (American, born 1928)
Gun, Gun, Gun, New York 
1955
Gelatin silver print
10 1/4 x 13 5/8″ (26 x 34.6 cm)
Gift of Arthur and Marilyn Penn

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Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974) 'Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]' c. 1935

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Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974)
Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]
c. 1935
Collage of photogravure, lithograph, chromolithograph and gelatin silver prints on gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 9 7/16″ (30.2 x 24 cm)
Gift of Timothy Baum in memory of Harry H. Lunn, Jr.

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Martha-Rosler-Red-Stripe-Kitchen-from-the-series-House-Beautiful-Bringing-the-War-Home-1967-1972

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Martha Rosler
Red Stripe Kitchen
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful 
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 18 1/8″ (60.3 x 46 cm)
Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund

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“The Museum of Modern Art draws from its collection to present the exhibition The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook on view from April 18, 2012, to April 29, 2013. Filling the third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, this installation presents more than 250 works by approximately 90 artists, with a focus on new acquisitions and groundbreaking projects by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Germaine Krull, Dziga Vertov, Gerhard Rühm, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Daido Moriyama, Robert Heinecken, Edward Ruscha, Martha Rosler, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Paul Graham, and The Atlas Group/Walid Raad. The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Punctuated by key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, The Shaping of New Visions offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices. The shaping of what came to be known as “new vision” photography in the 1920s bore the obvious influence of “lens-based” and “time-based” works. The first gallery begins with photographs capturing the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis by Berenice Abbott, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz, presented next to the avant-garde film Manhatta (1921), a collaboration between Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.

The 1920s were a period of landmark constructions and scientific discoveries all related to light – from Thomas Edison’s development of incandescent light to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and light speed. Man Ray began experimenting with photograms (pictures made by exposing objects placed on photosensitive paper to light) – which he renamed “rayographs” after himself – in which light was both the subject and medium of his work. This exhibition presents Man Ray’s most exquisite rayographs, alongside his first short experimental film, Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason, 1923), in which he extended the technique to moving images.

In 1925, two years after he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus school in Weimar Germany, László Moholy-Nagy published his influential book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film) – part of a series that he coedited with Bauhaus director Walter Gropius – in which he asserted that photography and cinema are heralding a “culture of light” that has overtaken the most innovative aspects of painting. Moholy-Nagy extolled photography and, by extension, film as the quintessential medium of the future. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the movement of objects and light through space led him to construct Light-Space Modulator, the subject of his only abstract film, Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray, 1930), which is presented in the exhibition next to his own photographs and those of Florence Henri.

The rise of photographic avant-gardism from the 1920s to the 1940s is traced in the second gallery primarily through the work of European artists. A section on Constructivism and New Objectivity features works by Paul Citroën, Raoul Hausmann, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, El Lissitzky, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and August Sander. A special focus on Aleksandr Rodchenko underscores his engagement with the illustrated press through collaborations with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Tretyakov on the covers and layouts of Novyi LEF, the Soviet avant-garde journal of the “Left Front of the Arts,” which popularized the idea of “factography,” or the manufacture of innovative aesthetic facts through photomechanical processes. Alongside Rodchenko, film director Dziga Vertov redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the perfectible lens of the camera led to the creation of a novel perception of the world. The exhibition features the final clip of Vertov’s 1929 experimental film Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), in which the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once. This gallery also features a selection of Dada and Surrealist works, including rarely seen photographs, photocollages, and photomontages by Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, George Hugnet, André Kertész, Jan Lukas, and Grete Stern, alongside such avant-garde publications as Documents and Littérature.

The third gallery features artists exploring the social world of the postwar period. On view for the first time is a group of erotic and political typo-collages by Gerhard Rühm, a founder of the Wiener Gruppe (1959-60), an informal group of Vienna-based writers and artists who engaged in radical visual dialogues between pictures and texts. The rebels of street photography – Robert Frank, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, and Garry Winogrand – are represented with a selection of works that refute the then prevailing rules of photography, offering instead elliptical, off-kilter styles that are as personal and controversial as are their unsparing views of postwar society. A highlight of this section is the pioneering slide show Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (1971-74). Capturing the lively beat, humor, and drama of New York’s street theater, Levitt’s slide projection is shown for the first time at MoMA since its original presentation at the Museum in 1974.

Photography’s tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, which is divided into two sections. One section features “new topographic” works by Robert Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, along with a selection of Edward Ruscha’s self-published books, in which the use of photography as mapmaking signals a conceptual thrust. This section introduces notable works from the 1970s by artists who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool. Examples include Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots (1971-73), Mel Bochner’s Misunderstandings (A theory of photography) (1970), VALIE EXPORT’s Einkreisung (Encirclement) (1976), On Kawara’s I Got Up… (1977), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting (1974), all works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. The other section features two major and highly experimental recent acquisitions: Martha Rosler’s political magnum opus Bringing the War Home (1967-72), developed in the context of her anti-war and feminist activism, for which the artist spliced together images of domestic bliss clipped from the pages of House Beautiful with grim pictures of the war in Vietnam taken from Life magazine; and Sigmar Polke’s early 1970s experiments with multiple exposures, reversed tonal values, and under-and-over exposures, which underscore the artist’s idea that “a negative is never finished.” The unmistakably cinematic turn that photography takes in the 1980s and early 1990s is represented with a selection of innovative works ranging from Robert Heinecken’s Recto/Verso (1988) to Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s breakthrough Hustler series (1990-92).

The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history. Tapping into forms of archival reconstitution, The Atlas Group/Walid Raad is represented with My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (1996-2004), an installation of 100 pictures of car-bomb blasts in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) that provokes questions about the factual nature of existing records, the traces of war, and the symptoms of trauma. A selection from Harrell Fletcher’s The American War (2005) brings together bootlegged photojournalistic pictures of the U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, throwing into sharp focus photography’s role as a documentary and propagandistic medium in the shaping of historical memory. Jules Spinatsch’s Panorama: World Economic Forum, Davos (2003), made of thousands of still images and three surveillance video works, chronicles the preparations for the 2003 World Economic Forum, when the entire Davos valley was temporarily transformed into a high security zone. A selection of Paul Graham’s photographs from his major photobook project a shimmer of possibility (2007), consisting of filmic haikus about everyday life in today’s America, concludes the exhibition.”

Press release from the MOMA website
Online slideshow of images

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On Kawara. 'I Got Up At...' 1974-75

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On Kawara
I Got Up At…
1974-75
(Ninety postcards with printed rubber stamps)
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The semi autobiographical I Got Up At… by On Kawara is a series of postcards sent to John Baldessari. Each card was sent from his location that morning detailing the time he got up. The time marked on each card varies drastically from day to day, the time stamped on each card is the time he left his bed as opposed to actually waking up. Kawara’s work often acts to document his existence in time, giving a material form to which is formally immaterial. The series has been repeated frequently sending the cards to a variety of friends and colleagues.

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30' 1990-92

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30
1990-92
Chromogenic color print
24 x 35 15/16″ (61 x 91.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. E.T. Harmax Foundation Fund
© 2012 Philip-Lorca diCorcia, courtesy David Zwirner, New York

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Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

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Helen Levitt
Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (detail)
1971-74
40 color slides shown in continuous projection
Originally presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 26-October 20, 1974

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Atlas Group, Walid Raad. 'My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines' (detail) 1996-2004

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Atlas Group, Walid Raad
My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (detail)
1996-2004
100 pigmented inkjet prints
9 7/16 x 13 3/8″ (24 x 34 cm) each
Fund for the Twenty-First Century

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Daido Moriyama. 'Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu' 1967

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Daido Moriyama
Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu
1967
Gelatin silver print
18 7/8 x 28″ (48.0 x 71.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Daido Moriyama

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VALIE EXPORT. 'Einkreisung (Encirclement)' 1976

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VALIE EXPORT
Einkreisung (Encirclement)
1976
From the series Körperkonfigurationen (Body Configurations)
Gelatin silver print with red ink
14 x 23 7/16″ (35.5 x 59.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Carl Jacobs Fund
© 2012 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Austria

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Grete Stern. No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams) 1949

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Grete Stern
No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 9″ (26.6 x 22.9 cm)
Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin
© 2012 Horacio Coppola

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Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Mariette Althaus)' c. 1975

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Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Mariette Althaus)
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print (red toned)
9 1/4 x 11 13/16″ (23.5 x 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Edgar Wachenheim III and Ronald S. Lauder
© 2012 Estate of Sigmar Polke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

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Martha Rosler. 'Hands Up / Makeup' 1967-1972

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Martha Rosler
Hands Up / Makeup
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 13 15/16″ (60.4 x 35.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund
© 2012 Martha Rosler

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Robert Heinecken. 'Recto/Verso #2' 1988

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Robert Heinecken
Recto/Verso #2
1988
Silver dye bleach print
8 5/8 x 7 7/8″ (21.9 x 20 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund
© 2012 The Robert Heinecken Trust

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Berenice Abbott. 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman' Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950

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Berenice Abbott
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950
Gelatin silver print, 12 3/4 x 10 1/8″ (32.6 x 25.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frances Keech Fund in honor of Monroe Wheeler
© 2012 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

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Raoul Hausmann. 'Untitled' February 1931

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Raoul Hausmann
Untitled
February 1931
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 4 7/16″ (13.6 x 11.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2012 Raoul Hausmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Claude Cahun. 'Untitled' c. 1928

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Claude Cahun
Untitled
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
4 9/16 x 3 1/2″ (10 x 7.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and anonymous promised gift
© 2012 Estate of Claude Cahun

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Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo)' No. 10 October 1927

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Aleksandr Rodchenko
Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo) No. 10
October 1927
Letterpress
10 3/8 x 7 1/4″ (26.3 x 18.4 cm)
Publisher: Ogonek, Moscow
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Judith Rothschild Foundation

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The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday, 10.30 am – 8.00 pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

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27
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery’ at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2012 – 3rd February 2013

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I can die happy now that I have had the opportunity to do a posting on this amazing man. He challenged social stereotypes turning his body into an every changing, ever challenging work of art. He used his body as a canvas and inscribed narratives upon it. He used these narratives to challenge the dominant discourse, offering himself as material evidence to facilitate new perspectives. His body became a performance, the self as performance, one that was not fully pre-determined, for you never knew what he would do next, what social outrage he would offer up.

Through masks, makeup, wigs and body modification, Bowery confronted the viewer with an/other field of existence, one that promoted an encounter with the face of the other, causing an emotional response in the audience, the viewer. As Wendy Garden observes, “Being faced with another provokes a reaction: it makes an appeal, demands an engagement.”1 We cannot look away for we do not know what Bowery will do next. He used his large body, its bulk and presence to bringthe viewer face-to-face with an/other. The magnification of his size and the emphasis and manipulation of his face, especially the mouth and eyes, rescales his presence in front of the viewer – at his performances, in the photographs of Bowery. For example look at his creation Evening Wear – Andrew Logan’s 1986 Alternative Miss World (1986, below). Impossibly high and luridly coloured boots, leggings, a bustled and bedazzled jacket/skirt combo, crash helmet and the most maniacal black and white face you will ever see. Bowery unbalances the fixity of the single perspective and through his transgression destabilises the mastering gaze.

I was living in London at the time Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Marilyn and Divine were strutting their stuff in the nightclubs of London town. What a time. Maggie Thatcher (and I can hardly bring myself to type her name) was Prime Minister of a right wing Conservative government from 1979-1990, a period of social oppression of minorities, the breaking of the trade unions, the beginning of HIV/AIDS. Think Boy George’s famous song No Clause 28 that protested against a local government act that “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” Bowery was a child of his time, a prescient, sentient being who was out there doing his thing, challenging the dominant paradigms of apatriarchal society. He burned like a comet, bright in the sky, and then was gone all too early. But he will never be forgotten. What a man.

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Many thankx to Kunsthalle Wien for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien

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Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräsentation: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery

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Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien

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Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräs: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery; Cerith Wyn Evans, In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni, 2008
Courtesy Cerith Wyn Evans und White Cube

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Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien

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Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräsentation: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery

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Charles Atlas. 'Teach' 1992-98

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Charles Atlas
Teach
1992-98
Video-Still
© Charles Atlas, Courtesy Vilma Gold, London

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Werner Pawlok. 'Portrait Leigh Bowery 3' 1988

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Werner Pawlok
Portrait Leigh Bowery 3
1988
Courtesy Werner Pawlok

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“”I think of myself as a canvas,” fashion pioneer Leigh Bowery once said about himself. If there were a formula to describe this enfant terrible who refused all categorization throughout his life, this would be it: turning oneself into a work of art. Presenting himself in the most garish ways that defied all conventions and stylizing himself as a walking work of art, Leigh Bowery, who was born in Australia in 1961, stirred up London’s sub-culture of the 1980s in the wake of post punk and New Romanticism. Being friends with stars of the scene like Michael Clark and Cerith Wyn Evans, he continuously reinvented himself on the manifold stages of the metropolis.

The show highlights Leigh Bowery’s life and work between fashion, performance, music, dance, and sculpture by presenting rarely exhibited costumes, numerous films, photographs, music videos, talk shows, and magazines. It approaches Bowery by way of artistic descriptions, reflections, and documentations in the work of friends, supporters, and colleagues, whose source of inspiration, entertainer, and muse he was: Bowery’s performative enactments oscillating between masquerade and radical self-expression were captured by filmmakers such as Charles Atlas, Dick Jewell, Baillie Walsh, and John Maybury. It took Fergus Greer a number of sessions that stretched over six years to shoot the legendary photo series Looks. As Charles Atlas’s Teach shows, Leigh Bowery developed his unmistakable outfits, gestures, and poses in multiple forms of self-reflection under his companions’ critical eye. Bowery’s one-week performance in the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London (1988) involved a two-way mirror: while the public could watch Leigh Bowery changing his outfits for hours on end, he saw only his own mirror image and remained inescapably confronted with himself and his movements. Though Bowery claimed that he had had to fight his shame initially and hid his room-filling physique behind conspicuous materials such as tulle, glitter, paint, and satin, his performances were anything but embarrassing: “The rest of us used drag and make-up to disguise our blemishes and physical defects. Leigh made them the focal point of his art,” Boy George once remarked. The nightclubs of London provided Bowery with catwalks on which to flaunt his visions of himself and let him always come out on top in terms of maximum attention. Lucian Freud, the British prince of painters, took great pleasure in Leigh Bowery’s fascinating personality and the fullness of his naked body. Bowery became one of his most important models, and the artist depicted him as he could never be seen in public: natural, intimate, and vulnerable.

Leigh Bowery’s art clearly differs from the designs, presentation patterns, and distribution channels of fashion designers. With Trash and Bad Taste irony, Bowery, like his idol John Waters and his main actor Divine, abandoned all conventions and stylistic doctrines in a both cynical and humorous way. His craftsmanship in tailoring and his creative potential constitute the core of an expressive self-stylization which did not depend on encouraging the public through marketing strategies or offers of consumer goods. His vestimentary creations were based on the work with his own body, which he regarded as a malleable material and workable mass and which was to play an increasingly central part in his late oeuvre. Regarded as inexorably deficient, his body became the origin of those manifold appearances and kaleidoscopic diversifications that we find most astounding when confronted with Bowery’s work. He experimented with second skins of black latex, exaggerated the size and volume of his body with sweeping tulle attires, and made himself look taller with platform shoes. Bowery sabotaged glamorous, ornamental and transparent materials with steel helmets, toilet seats, and skulls. He fastened artificial lips in his cheeks with safety pins and wore flesh-colored velvet suits that transformed his body into a vagina. Using adhesive tape and a bodice, he shaped his flesh into an artificial bosom, and he concealed his member behind pubic hair toupees or overemphasized it as he did in one of the Michael Clark Company’s dance performances. He disparaged unequivocal gender definitions and transcended their socially informed attributions – Gender Trouble: everything was a look. By and by, Bowery turned into what has been called “the self as performance.”

Leigh Bowery’s existence was the epitome of extremes. He looked for exceptional emotional and physical states like pain and ecstasy that would release him from the mediocrity of everyday life, like in the performance The Laugh of No.12 in Fort Asperen on June 4, 1994. Suspended on one foot, stark naked, wearing a black face mask, and displaying some clothespins on his genitals, he swung through the air uttering a sprechgesang, before he smashed a pane of glass with his bulky body. Exposing himself to his vulnerability in his performances, Bowery overcame physical injuries by showcasing them. His sometimes sadomasochist appearances and provocative lifestyle culminated in an attitude that crystallized into a sociopolitical approach in his statement “I like doing the opposite of what people expect.” Far from nocturnal footlights and kindred spirits’ protection, he – who was “larger than life” in every respect – strained the social limits of propriety with his big and exalted appearance. He enjoyed causing offence and holding up a mirror to the dictatorship of conformism, unmasking its heteronomy.

After an excessive life, Leigh Bowery died from AIDS at the age of 33. He was more than an extraordinary peripheral figure making his mark in the urban arena of exhibitionism and voyeurism. His virtuoso works have influenced haute couture collections by such fashion stars as Rei Kawakubo, John Galliano, Walter van Beirendonck, and Alexander McQueen. In spite of its simplicity, the latest fall/winter collection of Comme des Garçons shows obvious parallels to Leigh Bowery’s designs.”

Press release from the Kunsthalle Wien website

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Robin Beeche. 'Evening Wear - Andrew Logan's 1986 Alternative Miss World' 1986

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Robin Beeche
Evening Wear – Andrew Logan’s 1986 Alternative Miss World
1986
Courtesy Robin Beeche

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Nick Knight. 'Untitled (Leigh Bowery with Scull)' 1992

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Nick Knight
Untitled (Leigh Bowery with Scull)
1992
© Nick Knight

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Ole Christiansen. 'Farrel House' 1989

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Ole Christiansen
Farrel House
1989
Courtesy Ole Christiansen

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Fergus Greer. 'Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 38, June 1994' 1994

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Fergus Greer
Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 38, June 1994
1994
Courtesy Fergus Greer
© Fergus Greer

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1. Garden, Wendy. “Ethical witnessing and the portrait photograph: Brook Andrew,” in Journal of Australian Studies Vol. 35, No. 2, June 2011, p.261.

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Kunsthalle Wien
Museumsplatz 1
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 7 pm
Thursday 10 am – 10 pm

Kunsthalle Wien website

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09
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974′ at Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2012 – 20th January 2013

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“Not taking Land art as a given the exhibition revisits various milieus and networks of heterogeneous practices around the world where the desire to engage the land or to work with the earth followed diverse artistic objectives and impulses. In researching this diversity, we found that the dominant art historical interpretation of Land art – as fundamentally an American sculptural phenomenon that developed out of Minimalism and Postminimalism, expanding into the “field” beyond art spaces to occupy or to become one with vast landscapes like the deserts of the Southwestern United States – accounts for only a limited number of artists’ works.”

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Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon. Ends of the Earth and Back catalogue essay, p.18

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This posting continues the theme of land/(e)scape, combining as it does performance, site, nonsite, language, film and earth. It is such a pity that the documentation of these early Land Art events in the form of photographs tends to be so poor. The paucity and quality of the visual evidence adds to the ephemeral, transient nature of the art while undermining the works cultural significance. As Robert Smithson notes in his commentary on the piece Spiral Jetty (1970), if the work occupies a “site” and the essay and the film are Nonsites where language (the essay), photographic images (the film), and earth (the jetty) are viewed as material equals – in other words, each is given equal weight within the project – then on the evidence of these images as a lasting artefacts of an action, the photographs seem to me to be just shorthand notes, cursory artefacts like a smudged fingerprint at a crime scene.

Is it necessary that they be great art? No, because the art was not about ego it was about being there at the actual event. But, other than an overt ability to show the outcomes of the performance, what is necessary from these documentary photographs is that they engage the viewer on a higher level than just ocular observation. While Land Art must be extremely difficult to photograph there is nothing memorable here that will stick in my consciousness, that will trigger a memory of the photograph as “vision” (hallucination, simulation, projection?) of these amazing events, which is a great shame. Rendering shapes of things does not make for memorable art, even as that very (Land) art aimed to investigate higher concepts relating to “this tortured earth.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Haus der Kunst, Munich for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Please also read the accompanying essay, Ends of the Earth and Back by Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon (615kb pdf). See the excellent Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 MOCA website for more art work and photographs via Google Earth of the original locations of the Land Art.

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Alice Aycock. 'Clay #2' 1971/2012

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Alice Aycock
Clay #2
1971/2012
1,500 pounds of clay mixed with water in wood frame
Size: each 121.9 x 121.9 x 15.2 cm
Courtesy of the artist

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Zorka Saglova. 'Laying Napkins Near Sudomer' 1970

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Zorka Saglova
Laying Napkins Near Sudomer
1970
Six gelatin-silver prints
15 3/4 × 23 5/8 in. (40 × 60 cm) each
collection of Jan Sagl

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For Laying Napkins near Sudomer, the artist laid out approximately 700 napkins to form a triangle in a grass field near Sudomer, the site of a famous Hussite battle in 1420. The action referred to local folklore relating how Hussite women would spread pieces of cloth on a marshy field to snag the spurs of the Roman Catholic cavalrymen as they dismounted, making them easy targets for the Hussite warriors.

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Michael Snow. 'La Région Centrale' 1971

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Michael Snow
La Région Centrale
1971
16mm film transferred to DVD (blackbox projection), black-andwhite, sound
191 min.
Courtesy of the artist

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Robert Kinmont. '8 Natural Handstands' 1969/2009

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Robert Kinmont
8 Natural Handstands
1969/2009
Nine gelatine silver prints
Size: each 21.5 x 21.5 cm
Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

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Robert Kinmont 8. 'Natural Handstands' 1969/2009 (detail)

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Robert Kinmont
8 Natural Handstands (detail)
1969/2009
Nine gelatine silver prints
Size: each 21.5 x 21.5 cm
Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

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Keith Arnatt. 'Liverpool Beach Burial' 1968

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Keith Arnatt
Liverpool Beach Burial
1968 Gelatine silver print
Size: 40.6 x 50.8 cm
Courtesy of the Keith Arnatt Estate and Maureen Paley, London

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Liverpool Beach Burial, which the artist described as a “situational sculpture,” was realized by Arnatt with his students at the Manchester College of Art. It was first exhibited in “Konzeption – Conception: Dokumentation einer heutigen Kunstrichtung/Documentation of Today’s Art Tendency” at the Städtisches Museum, Leverkusen, Germany, in 1969. The artist recorded instructions for its making: “(1) Choosing a site and marking out a straight line. (2) Marking off 4-foot intervals. Each mark representing a digging position for each of the hundred-plus participants. (3) Each participant chose a site on the line and dug his/her own hole. (4) When the holes were deep enough the participants were ‘buried’ by nonparticipants.” (Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997], 50.)

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“As the first major museum exhibition on Land Art, Ends of the Earth provides the most comprehensive historical overview of this art movement to date. Land Art used the earth as its material and the land as its medium, thereby creating works beyond the familiar spatial framework of the art system. The time period covered in Ends of the Earth spans the 1960s to 1974, when, in the context of Land Art, movements such as Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Happenings, Performance Art, and Arte povera, became more distinct and began to diverge.

The nearly 200 works by more than 100 artists from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Switzerland demonstrate that Land Art was not a predominantly North American phenomenon. The exhibition presents works that are less well known than the canonical works Spiral Jetty, Lightning Field and Double Negative, thereby creating a shift in perspective. By including works of the then participating artists, the show refers to the earlier and pioneering exhibitions Earthworks and Earth Art (New York, 1968 and 1969). Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria are interested in realizations in outside and lend the mediated part within an exhibition only secondary importance. They are, therefore, not included in this presentation.

Even before the emergence of the movement in the 1960s, artists from the most varied locations around the globe were increasingly moved to claim the earth and use land as an artistic medium. In a basic sense, this also included the examination of the nature of the earth as a planet. Yves Klein, for instance, wondered what the earth looked like from space. In 1961, he transformed his vision that the dominant color from this perspective would be blue, and that all man-made boundaries could be overcome with this color, into his series Planetary Reliefs.

Land Art artists often worked under the open sky, making productive use of the fact that the great outdoors posed other conditions for a work’s lifespan than enclosed spaces did. Some works only existed for the short time of their creation, like Judy Chicago’s ephemeral works consisting of colored flames and smoke, which served as references to religious ceremonies and the landscape as a deity. For ten weeks, the cliffs along Little Bay, Sydney, were packed in synthetic fabric and rope for Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet, which, like many other works of Land Art, was enormous in scale. Another famous work of similar proportions was Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson; on the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, the artist built a 1,500-foot long spiral-shaped jetty made of material found on site.

Land Art artists were fascinated by remote locations like deserts. Hreinn Fridfinnsson constructed a house on an uninhabited lava field near Reykjavik. The inside was made of corrugated sheet metal and the outside was covered in wall paper, because, as wall paper is intended to please the eye, “it is reasonable to have it on the outside, where more people can enjoy it.” Some artists transported the conditions of specific places into exhibition spaces: The Japanese artist group “i” moved four truckloads of gravel on a conveyor belt into an exhibition space and arranged it into a pile there. Alice Aycock fills a minimalistic grid with wet clay. This work will be recreated for the exhibition in Haus der Kunst; the clay will dry out during the run of the exhibition, will crack and gradually come to resemble the land in California’s Death Valley (Clay #2, 1971/2012). With Hog Pasture: Survival Piece #1 (1970-71/2012), not only will new material – in this case a green pasture – make on selected occasions its way into the museum but a live domestic pig as well, which will pasture on the meadow from time to time.

From the earliest days of the movement, collectors, patrons, art dealers, and curators also explored sensitively which works of Land Art could be exhibited in museums and galleries, and how this should be done. In their own way, they helped establish Land Art as a legitimate artistic genre. In the case of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty an art dealer helped funding the production of an accompanying film, and the work was executed in three equally valid versions: as the site-specific headland, as an eponymous essay and as a film.

In general, language, film, and photography played a central role in Land Art’s creation and development. Land Art artists and members of the media established close connections to one another. Magazines and television stations commissioned art works and were the first to publish these. Now legendary is Gerry Schum’s Fernsehgalerie, which was the first exhibition created for television and was broadcast by Sender Freies Berlin on 15 April 1969. For eight consecutive days in October of that same year, the WDR television network interrupted its regularly scheduled programs, at 8:15 pm and 9:15 pm, for a few seconds and presented the eight photographs of Keith Arnatt’s Self-Burial, which depicted the artist gradually sinking into the ground. The television station refrained from accompanying this with an introduction or commentary.

Following the presentation of Tinguely’s self-destructing sculpture Hommage à New York, the NBC television network commissioned the artist to create a work. In collaboration with Niki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely made a large-scale kinetic sculpture out of waste material he had found in and around Las Vegas. The work was used in choreographed explosions that took place south-west of Las Vegas near a nuclear test site. Tinguely’s spectacle was presented in the same newscast as was a major report about the international nuclear talks, which took place that same week.

Many other works touched on the subject of “this tortured earth”, as Isamu Noguchi described it. Land Art artists examined the wounds and scars that humans inflict on the planet earth, whether by the war machinery (Robert Barry, Isamu Noguchi), dictatorships (Artur Barrio), nuclear testing (Heinz Mack, Jean Tinguely, Adrian Piper) or colonization (Yitzhak Danziger). The media’s intensive coverage of Land Art activities led to unusual and complex contributions. Receptive to Land Art’s demand for a sensitive consciousness regarding the conditions of production, presentation and dissemination of art, they also gave expression to the technological, social and political conditions of the time.

Organized in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.”

Press release from the Haus der Kunst website

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Charles Eames
Ray Eames

Powers of Ten
1977
© 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC

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Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward – into the hand of the sleeping picnicker – with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell.

This film was inspired by the 1957 book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke as well as by architect Eliel Saarinen’s statements about scale. It opens with an overhead shot of a man and a woman lyingon a picnic blanket in a park in Chicago. In an effort to depict the scale of the couple, the planet Earth, and the galaxy relative to one another and to that of the universe, the camera zooms out at a distance of a factor of ten every two seconds, until the galaxy is seen as merely a speckof light among many others. The camera then zooms back in, with ten times the magnification every ten seconds, focusing in the end on the proton of an atom.

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Charles Simonds. 'BodyEarth' 1974

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Charles Simonds
Body<—>Earth
1974
16mm film transferred to DVD, colour
3 min.
Collection of the artist

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Zorka Saglova. 'Homage to Gustav Obermann' March 1970

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Zorka Saglova
Homage to Gustav Obermann
March 1970
Six gelatin-silver prints
15 3/4 × 23 5/8 in. (40 × 60 cm) each
Collection of Jan Sagl; Courtesy Jan Sagl

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Beginning in the late 1960s, Saglova was one of the first artists to work in the landscape outside Prague, carrying out actions with her friends, many of whom were part of the artistic underground in then-Communist Czechoslovakia. For Homage to Gustav Obermann, Saglova arranged twenty-one plastic bags filled with jute and gasoline in Bransoudov (near Humpolec) in a circle during a snowstorm. The bags were set on fire at nightfall. This event was held in memory of a shoe-maker from the town who was said to have protested the German occupation during World War II by walking in the surrounding hills while spitting fire. Two months later, for Laying Napkins near Sudomer, the artist laid out approximately 700 napkins to form a triangle in a grass field near Sudomer, the site of a famous Hussite battle in 1420. The action referred to local folklore relating how Hussite women would spread pieces of cloth on a marshy field to snag the spurs of the Roman Catholic cavalrymen as they dismounted, making them easy targets for the Hussite warriors.

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Les Levine. 'Systems Burnoff X Residual Software' 1969/2012

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Les Levine
Systems Burnoff X Residual Software
1969/2012
Installation recreation 1,000 copies of 31 photographs (31,000 photographs total) taken by Levine at the March 1969 opening of EARTH ART exhibition in Ithaca, New York
Jello and chewing gum
Courtesy of the artist

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Christo and Jeanne-Claude. 'Wrapped Coast - One Million Square Feet' 1968-69

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Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet
1968-69
Collages, photographs, model, film
Collection of the artist

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The largest single artwork ever made, Wrapped Coast was mounted in Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, on October 28, 1969, and remained on view for ten weeks. Christo and Jeanne-Claude, with the assistance of 125 students, teachers, professional climbers, and workers and under the supervision of Major Ninian Melville, retired from the Army Corps of Engineers, wrapped approximately one and a half miles of coast, including cliffs up to 85 feet high, using synthetic fabric and rope. This was the first work in the series of Kaldor Public Art Projects initiated by Australian collector John Kaldor. The project was financed by the sale of Christo’s preparatory drawings, collages, models, and lithographs. In the end, all materials used were removed from the bay and recycled. ABC Australia filmed a documentary of the project.

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Peter Hutchinson. 'Paricutin Project' 1971

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Peter Hutchinson
Paricutin Project
1971
Photo and ink on cardboard and molded bread in object-frame
Size: 40 x 55 cm
Courtesy Galerie Bugdahn und Kaimer, Düsseldorf

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The Paricutin Project was first shown in 1969 at John Gibson Gallery in New York as a model illustrating Hutchinson’s conception of an action to take place on Mt. Paricutin, a volcanoin Michoacán, Mexico. A year later, Time magazine funded Hutchinson’s trip to the site to make the work in exchange for exclusive rights to publish the photographs. In an attempt to produce life in a place generally thought of as lifeless, the artist laid 450 pounds of bread crumbs in a line approximately 250 feet long around the rim of the volcano. Mold appeared after six days, in part because of the heat and steam rising from the earth. Two photographs of the project were published in the June 29, 1970, issue of Time. Later that same year, large-scale photographs of the work, along with text describing the trip, were shown at John Gibson Gallery.

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Patricia Johanson. 'Stephen Long' 1968

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Patricia Johanson
Stephen Long
1968
CBSTV 1968; edited by Joanna Alexander, WNET TV, New York, 1971
16mm film transferred to DVD, colour, sound
5 min.
Courtesy of the artist

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Interested in the physical limitations of sight and in measuring how far the eye can see, Johanson created this 1,600-foot-long by 2-foot-wide sculpture made of plywood planks painted with yellow, red, and blue bands. Sited on a portion of the defunct Boston & Maine Railroad tracks from Buskirk, New York, to Bennington, Vermont, the work is named after Stephen Long, a military officer who became a railroad surveyor and engineer. Both the location of the work and its title emphasize the impact of rail transportation on modern perceptions and experience of the landscape. The work gained considerable local media attention, and John Lindsay, Mayor of New York, invited Johanson to permanently install the piece in the mall at Central Park. As the available space was only 1,300 feet long, the artist, unwilling to alter the work’s length, declined the invitation.

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Kristjan Gudmundsson. 'Painting of the specific gravity of the planet Earth' 1972-73

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Kristjan Gudmundsson
Painting of the specific gravity of the planet Earth
1972-73
Acrylic on metal
Size: 25.4 x 25.4 cm
Sólveig Magnúsdóttir, Reykjavik

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Judy Chicago. 'Atmospheres: Duration Performances' 1967-74

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Judy Chicago
Atmospheres: Duration Performances
1967-74
16mm film transferred to DVD, colour, sound
14:12 min.
Courtesy of the artist

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Heinz Mack. 'Tele-Mack' 1968

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Heinz Mack
Tele-Mack
1968
16mm film transferred on DVD, colour, sound
24:35 min.
Production of Saarländischer Rundfunk, author Professor Heinz Mack
Courtesy of Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH

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A founding member of Group Zero – an artist collective established in Düsseldorf in 1958 – Mack drafted the final version of his manifesto for Sahara Project in 1959. It was first published in Zero magazine in 1961, and subsequently republished and translated from German into French, Dutch, and English in 1967 for Mackazin, the artist’s journal-catalogue. Sahara Project, made in homage to Yves Klein, proposes placing large-scale sculptural works in remote areas of the world’s deserts, like mirages to be encountered by anyone coming upon them. One such location was the Sahara Desert, which was the main testing site for French nuclear weaponry after 1958. In 1967 Mack went on an expedition to the Sahara with the German public television station Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), which led to two televised presentations of the project the following year – one for WDR and the other for Saarländischer Rundfunk. The popular weekly German magazine Stern presented the project in a feature spread in 1977.

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Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstraße 1
80538 Munich
Germany
T: +49 89 21127 113

Opening hours:
Monday - Sunday 10 am - 8 pm
Thursday 10 am - 10 pm

Haus der Kunst website

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09
Mar
12

Notes from the lecture ‘Anti-Entropy: A natural History of the Studio’ by William Kentridge at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne

Date: 8th March 2012

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A munificence of Minor White and the revelation of the object through contemplation could be found in the lecture by William Kentridge. As an artist you must keep repeating and constructively playing and something else, some new idea, some new way of looking at the world may emerge. As a glimpse into the working methodology of one of the worlds great artists the lecture was fascinating stuff!

Images in this posting are used under fair use for commentary and illustration of the lecture notes. No copyright breach is intended. © All rights remain with the copyright holder. My additions to the text can be found in [ ] brackets.

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On self-doubt as an artist
“At four in the morning there are no lack of branches for the crow of doubt to land upon.”

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On Memory
“Memory – both memory and the forgetting of memory. For example, the building of monuments [monuments to the Holocaust, to wars] takes the responsibility of remembering away.”

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On Play
“We absolutely want to make sense of the world in that way. That’s one of the principles of play – that however much you distort and break things apart, in the end we will try to reconstruct them in some way to make sense of the world. I think that every child does it. It’s fundamental.”
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On Looking
“It’s the capacity for recognition that makes a difference between order and disorder in looking at visual images. And it’s the vocabulary of recognizable images that we have inside us, which is completely vital to what it is to see. I don’t really buy the idea that order and disorder are the same.”

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William Kentridge

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Edward Francis Burney
A view of Philip James de Loutherbourg’s Eidophusikon
c.1782
At left a man bowing to a woman, to right figures seated on a bench in the foreground, watching a scene titled ‘Satan Arraying his Troops on the Banks of a Fiery Lake, with the Raising of the Palace of Pandemonium’ during a performance of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” on a stage labelled EIDOPHUSIKON in a cartouche above
Pen and grey ink and grey wash, with watercolour
© The Trustees of the British Museum

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First History of the Cinema

Performances of Transformation

  • Cinema
  • Shadow dancing
  • Eidophusikon (The Eidophusikon was a piece of art, no longer extant, created by 18th century English painter Philip James de Loutherbourg. It opened in Leicester Square in February 1781.Described by the media of his day as “Moving Pictures, representing Phenomena of Nature,” the Eidophusikon can be considered an early form of movie making. The effect was achieved by mirrors and pulleys.
  • Quick change artist
  • Stage magicians

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All work against the time of the audience e.g. the quick change artist may take 3 seconds, the sunset in a Georges Méliès film may take 2 minutes instead of 2 hours. The technology /scrims / screens happen at different speeds but the different times become one in the finished film. There is an elision of time: appearances / disappearances. Stopping time [changing a scene, changing clothing etc...], starting time again.

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George Méliès starring in The Living Playing Cards (1904)

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Second History of the Cinema

The sedimented gaze of the early camera. The slow chemicals meant that the object had to wait under the camera’s gaze for minutes. People were held in place by stiff neck braces to capture the trace of their likeness. Congealed time.

On the other hand, in cinema, a tear forward becomes a repair in reverse.

By rolling the film in reverse there is a REVERSAL of time, a REMAKING of the world – the power to be more than you are – by reversing to perfection. You throw a book or smash a plate: in reverse they become perfect again, a utopian world.

YOU MUST GIVE YOURSELF OVER TO PLAY!

Giving yourself over to what the medium suggests, you follow the metaphor back to the surface. Following the activity [of play] back to its root. Projecting forwards, projecting backwards. There is endless rehearsal, constant repetition, then discovering the nature of the final shot or drawing to be made. New ideas get thrown around: leaning into the experience, the experiment, the repetition, the rehearsal.

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Four elements

  1. something to be seen
  2. the utopian perfection: perfectibility
  3. the grammar of learning that action
  4. Greater ideas, further ideas and thoughts; potentiality and its LOSS
    Further meanings arise

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How is this achieved?
Rehearsal, repetition

New thoughts will arise being led by the body in the studio NOT in the mind. Not conceptual but the feeling of the body walking in the studio.

The physical action as the starting point not the concept. 

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Six different degrees of tension

  1. Least tension in the body possible: slumped
  2. Relaxed
  3. Neutral
  4. Purpose: an impulse to make things happen – desire
  5. Insistence: listen to me, this is very important
  6. Manic: Noh theatre with its rictus of the body

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What the body suggests is the construction of an image.

There are different degrees of tension in these performances. What do they suggest? This reverse osmosis from one state to another?

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Third History of Cinema

Technologies of Looking

Pre-cinematic devices – a process of seeing in the world, of looking. Produces a reconfigured seeing, the invisible made [moving] visible.

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Stereoscope

3D world made into a 2D image put back into 3D by our brains. The nature of binocularity, of depth perception. We see an illusion of depth, a construction by the eyes. Our brain is a muscle combining the two images. Depth of Field (DOF): focusing at different distances, we are inside the field of the image. Peripheral vision is blanked off; we look through a magnifying glass. A machine for demonstrating seeing.

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William Kentridge
Drawing for the film Stereoscope
1998 – 99
Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2008 William Kentridge

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Zoetrope by William George Horner, 1834

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Zoetrope

An illusion of movement not depth. Double revelation:

A/ the brain constructed illusion of movement
B/ Caught in time [as the action goes around and around] and wanting to get out of it!

THIS IS CRITICAL – THE ACTION OF REPETITION IS IMPORTANT!

In the reordering, in the crack, something else may emerge, some new idea may eventuate. The tearing of time. 

[Marcus: the cleft in time]

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The Etching Press

There are erotics built into the language of the etching, but there is also a logic built into the machine used for etching. The Proof print, arriving at the first state. Going on the journey from artist as maker to artist as viewer through the mechanism of the etching press.

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Claude Glass

“A Claude glass (or black mirror) is a small mirror, slightly convex in shape, with its surface tinted a dark colour. Bound up like a pocket-book or in a carrying case, black mirrors were used by artists, travellers and connoisseurs of landscape and landscape painting. Black Mirrors have the effect of abstracting the subject reflected in it from its surroundings, reducing and simplifying the colour and tonal range of scenes and scenery to give them a painterly quality).” From Wikipedia.

“The Claude glass was standard equipment for Picturesque tourists, producing instant tonal images that supposedly resembled works by Claude. “The person using it ought always to turn his back to the object that he views,” Thomas West explained in his Guide to the Lakes. “It should be suspended by the upper part of the case… holding it a little to the right or the left (as the position of the parts to be viewed require) and the face screened from the sun.”” From the V & A website

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Claude Glass, manufactured in England, 18th century. V & A.

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Anamorphic Mirror

A counter intuitive way of drawing; turning 2D into 3D. The landscape has no edge, like a carrousel.

A LINK TO THE ENDLESS CIRCLING AND WALKING AROUND THE STUDIO!

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Anamorphic drawing and cone shaped mirror

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William Kentridge studio
Photo by John Hodgkiss
Art Tatler

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The Studio

In the studio you gather the pieces together like a kind of Zoetrope. You may arrive at a new idea, a new starting point. Repetition, going around and around your head (at four in the morning!). There must be a truce between the artist as maker and the artist as viewer. As in earlier times, you walk the cloisters, you promenade.

You find the walk that is the prehistory of the drawing, that is the prehistory to the work.

A multiple, fragmented, layered performance of walking. You are trying to find the grammar of the studio – the necessary stupidity. Making a space for uncertainty. The conscious suppression of rationality. At some point, emerging, escpaping the Zoetrope, from the physical making, something will be revealed. The spaces open up by the stupidities. Something new emerges.

THIS IS THE SPACE OF THE STUDIO.

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Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

William Kentridge: Five Themes

Thursday 8 March – Sunday 27 May 2012
Exhibition open daily 10am – 6pm

ACMI website

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13
Sep
11

Films, Events and Symposia: ‘Jack Smith: A Feast for Open Eyes’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London

Dates: 7th – 18th September 2011

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His photographic works are rare and remain largely unknown according to Wikipedia. They shouldn’t be.

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“Jack Smith (November 14, 1932 in Columbus, Ohio – September 25, 1989 in New York City) was an American filmmaker, actor, and pioneer of underground cinema. He is generally acclaimed as a founding father of American performance art, and has been critically recognized as a master photographer, though his photographic works are rare and remain largely unknown.

Smith was one of the first proponents of the aesthetics which came to be known as ‘camp’ and ‘trash’, using no-budget means of production (e.g. using discarded color reversal film stock) to create a visual cosmos heavily influenced by Hollywood kitsch, orientalism and with Flaming Creatures created drag culture as it is currently known. Smith was heavily involved with John Vaccaro, founder of The Playhouse of The Ridiculous, whose disregard for conventional theater practice deeply influenced Smith’s ideas about performance art. In turn, Vaccaro was deeply influenced by Smith’s aesthetics. It was Vaccaro who introduced Smith to glitter and in 1966 and 1967, Smith created costumes for Vaccaro’s Playhouse of The Ridiculous. Smith’s style influenced the film work of Andy Warhol as well as the early work of John Waters. While all three were part of the 1960s gay arts movement, Vaccaro and Smith refuted the idea that their sexual orientation was responsible for their art.

After his last film, No President (1967), Smith created performance and experimental theatre work until his death on September 25, 1989 from AIDS-related pneumonia.”

Text from Wikipedia entry

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Many thankx to the ICA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original color negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
1982
Mixed media on paper
6 1/8 x 8 7/8 inches (15.6 x 22.5 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1958-1962/2011
Black and white gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original color negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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“Legendary American artist, filmmaker and actor Jack Smith (1932-1989), described by Andy Warhol as the only person he would ever copy and by John Waters as “the only true underground filmmaker”, is celebrated at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in film, performance and debate with a retrospective of Smith’s work from 7 to 18 September 2011.

Working in New York from the 1950s until his death in 1989, Smith unequivocally resisted and upturned accepted conventions, whether artistic, moral or legal. Irreverent in tone and delirious in effect, Smith’s films, such as the notorious Flaming Creatures (1963), are both wildly camp and subtly polemical. Smith is best known for his contributions to underground cinema but his influence extends across performance art, photography and experimental theatre.

A Feast for Open Eyes: Jack Smith maps out the breadth of Smith’s practice, from his collaborative film productions to his individual writings, and looks at his legacy in the UK drawing upon a generation of New York artists with whom Smith was closely involved, including Jonas Mekas and Penny Arcade, and younger artists and filmmakers whom he influenced. John Zorn, a long-term Smith collaborator selects records to accompany an installation of slides documenting Smith’s work, as he used to in collaboration with Smith in the 1970s and 80s.

The retrospective opens with a screening of Flaming Creatures introduced by Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, who was a close friend of Smith’s. The film is followed by the screening of an interview, recorded exclusively for the ICA this summer, with Jonas Mekas, a founder member of Anthology Film Archives who faced obscenity charges for defending Flaming Creatures in the 1960s. The presentation is introduced by Dominic Johnson, author of the forthcoming monograph Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture (Manchester University Press) and co-curator of A Feast for Open Eyes.”

Press release from the ICA website

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1978
Mixed media on paper
13 x 20 3/4 inches (33 x 52.7 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original color negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1958-1962/2011
Black and white gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c.1958-1962/2011
Black and white gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Jack Smith
Untitled
c. 1958-62
Color negative
2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches 
(5.7 x 5.7 cm)
Copyright Estate of Jack Smith
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall,
London,
SW1Y 5AH

Opening hours:
Monday – Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 12 noon – 11pm
Thursday – Saturday 12 noon – 1am
Sunday 12 noon – 9pm

ICA website

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07
May
11

Exhibition: ‘Staging Action: Performance in Photography Since 1960′ at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 26th January – 9th May 2011

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Many thank to The Museum of Modern Art, New York for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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William Wegman
Foamy Aftershave (L-Foamy; R-Aftershave)
1982
28 1/2 x 22″ (72.4 x 55.9 cm) each
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Robert and Gayle Greenhill
© 2010 William Wegman

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Laurel Nakadate
Lucky Tiger #151
2009
Chromogenic color print with ink fingerprints
4 x 6″ (10.2 x 15.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of the Peter Norton Family Foundation
© 2010 Laurel Nakadate

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Laurel Nakadate
Lucky Tiger #181
2009
Chromogenic color print with ink fingerprints
4 x 6″ (10.2 x 15.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of the Peter Norton Family Foundation
© 2010 Laurel Nakadate

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Gilbert & George
The Red Sculpture
1975
Chromogenic color print with text
9 1/8 x 13 7/8″ (23.2 x 35.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Art & Project/Depot VBVR Gift.
© 2010 Gilbert & George

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Matthew Barney
Drawing Restraint 9: Shimenawa
2005
Chromogenic color print in self-lubricating plastic frame
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Barbara Gladstone
© 2010 Matthew Barney

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“Focusing on a wide range of images of performances that were expressly made for the artist’s camera, Staging Action: Performance in Photography Since 1960 draws together approximately 50 works from the Museum’s collection, and is on view from January 28 to May 9, 2011. Though performances are often intended to be experienced live, in real time, with photography playing an ancillary function in recording them, these works function as independent, expressive pictures, often staged in the absence of a public audience. At the center of these pictures is a performer (often the artist), posing or enacting an action conceived for the photographic lens. Among the works on view, approximately half are recent acquisitions by MoMA, including pieces by Laurel Nakadate, Rong Rong, Ai Weiwei, Huang Yan, and La Monte Young. Staging Action is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, and Eva Respini, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Beginning with Fluxus artists in the 1960s, Staging Action includes the work of George Maciunas, an artist who engaged the production of the self as positional rather than fixed and often played with transvestism. According to personal reminiscences of the American poet Emmett Williams, a friend, Maciunas’s closets were full of prom dresses that he scavenged from the Salvation Army. In his 1966 cross-dressing striptease, George Maciunas Performing for Self-Exposing Camera, New York, he reinforced the active construction of identity through gender indeterminacy. The participation of the camera as accomplice to the artist’s actions was also a constant theme in Vito Acconci’s work of the early 1970s. In Conversions I: Light, Reflections, Self-Control (1970-71), Acconci tried to feminize his male body by plucking hair from his chest and navel area, pushing his pectorals together to mimic breasts, and hiding his genitals between his legs. Performances that explored gender play were soon embraced by other artists. A few years later, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman collaborated on a photo shoot in which they sported identical suits and red-haired wigs, each playing androgynous double to the other.

Staging Action continues with artists who experimented with the camera to test the physical and psychological limits of the body. Reacting against the post-World War II repressive sexual and political atmosphere of Austrian society, the group known as the Vienna Actionists – including Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Herman Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler – staged highly provocative actions that were mostly ritualistic, incorporating elements such as wine and animal blood from Dionysian rites and Christian ceremonies in an attempt to free human instincts that had been repressed by society. In the early 1990s, numerous artists living in Beijing’s East Village artist community actively engaged in endurance-based performances. On view is East Village, Beijing No. 22 (1994) by Rong Rong, an iconic picture of the now seminal performance known as 12 Square Meters, which takes its title from the size of the public urinal where the action took place. The artist Zhang Huan covered himself in fish guts and honey and sat motionless for an hour in the heat of a summer day as flies gathered on his body, while the photographer Rong Rong captured the gritty performance.

The face as a site for alteration and extreme expression is of particular interest to several artists in the exhibition. In his five-part work, Studies for Holograms (1970), Bruce Nauman poked, pulled, pinched, and kneaded his mouth, neck, and cheeks in extreme and cartoonish ways. For her 1972 work (Untitled) Facial Cosmetic Variations, Ana Mendieta used tape and make-up to mold and manipulate her face to create, at turns, disturbing and humorous results that reference the cosmetic changes women inflict upon themselves in the name of beauty. Lucas Samaras’s transformations in a series of self-portrait Polaroids from 1969-71 suggest the plasticity or mutability of identity itself. For these works, the artist utilized an array of wigs, pancake make-up, and props to transform himself into grotesque characters for the camera.

Other performances required a sustained, emotional engagement on the part of the artist. Bas Jan Ader’s particular brand of existential-based Conceptualism is crystallized in I’m too sad to tell you (1970), in which the artist cried in front of the camera. In 1971, Adrian Piper performed a time-lapse piece titled Food for Spirit. Inspired by an assignment to write a text on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Piper began fasting in order to isolate herself into a state of self-transcendence, and took pictures of herself in front of a mirror to insure reconnaissance of her own body. The ability of the camera to both freeze and extend a moment in time was also instrumental to the Japanese artist Mieko Shiomi. In Disappearing Music for Face (1966), Shiomi sequenced a series of film stills focusing on the mouth of Yoko Ono as her smile intermittently faded into a neutral facial expression. In Laurel Nakadate’s pictures from the Lucky Tiger series that she conceived of in 2009 during a road trip through the American West, the artist is seen riding a horse in a cropped T-shirt, doing a backbend in cowboy boots by the Grand Canyon, and striking a Playboy pose in her “lucky tiger” bikinis, rehashing photographic conventions inspired by 1950s-style “cheesecake” and camera-club pictures. Lorna Simpson’s multi-part work, May, June, July, August ’57 / ’09 (2009) also responds to the photographic conventions of posing for the camera. Simpson turned to the photographic archive as source material, combining found photographs of a young African-American woman who posed for hundreds of pin-up pictures in 1957 in Los Angeles with her own performative self-portraits, in which she replicates every outfit, pose, and setting of the original photographs. Through juxtaposition, repetition, and de-contextualization, a historical fiction arises, whereby the two women, despite the many differences that separate them, seem to be joined through a shared identity.

The exhibition includes both off-the-cuff and staged performative gestures of political dissent. Ai Weiwei’s photographic series Study of Perspective (1995-2003) reveals a spirited irreverence toward national monuments. Traveling to various landmarks – from the Eiffel Tower to Tiananmen Square to the White House – the artist photographed his own arm extended in front of the camera’s lens as he gave each marker the middle finger. Robin Rhode’s pictures, presented sequentially in storyboard format, record situations in which the artist interacts with a set of objects that he has drawn, erased and redrawn in black charcoal on dilapidated walls. Untitled, (Dream House) (2005) comprises a sequence of 28 color photographs in which Rhode mimics the act of struggling to catch a television set, a chair, and a car that appear to have been thrown at him from above. In reality, these items are drawn in cartoonish lines on an exterior wall. Referencing the South African New Year custom of tossing out old objects, the artist identifies society’s two opposing poles: consumerism and dispossession. Rhode’s pictures, like those of the other artists in Staging Action, attest to the myriad ways in which photography constitutes – not just documents – performance as a conceptual exercise.”

Press release from the MOMA website

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Rong Rong
East Village, Beijing, No. 22
1994
Gelatin silver print
21 7/16 x 14 5/8″ (54.5 x 37.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Family of Man Fund
© 2010 Rong Rong

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Rong Rong
East Village, Beijing, No. 81
1994
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Peter and Susan MacGill
© 2010 Rong Rong

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Robert Gober
Untitled
1992-93. 
Gelatin silver print
16 3/4 x 12 5/8″ (42.5 x 32.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser
© 2010 Robert Gober

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Günter Brus
Self-Painting 1
1964
Gelatin silver print
15 7/8 x 11 15/16″ (40.4 x 30.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art
Gift of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol
© 2010 Günter Brus

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Arnulf Rainer
Braids
1966
Photograph, oil stick, crayon, and pencil on paper
11 1/2 x 10″ (29.2 x 25.1 cm)
Gift of The Cosmopolitan Arts Foundation
© 2010 Arnulf Rainer

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Lee Friedlander
California
1997
Gelatin silver print
14 15/16 x 14 13/16″ (37.7 x 37.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund.
© 2010 Lee Friedlander

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The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday: 10.30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday: 10.30 a.m. – 8.00 p.m.
Closed Tuesday

The Museum of Modern Art website

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29
Jun
10

Review: ‘Jill Orr: Vision’ at Jenny Port Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd June – 3rd July, 2010

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Many thankx to Amelia Douglas and Jenny Port Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in this posting.

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A huge gallery crawl on Wednesday last saw me take in exhibitions at Nellie Castan Gallery (‘Malleus Melficarum’: strong sculptural work by James and Eleanor Avery; ‘Broken Canon’: vibrant mixed media collages by Marc Freeman); Anita Traverso Gallery (‘Peristereonas’: sculptures, photographs and mixed media by Barry Thompson); John Buckley Gallery (‘Perpetua’ by Emma can Leest, beautiful cut paper works; rather mundane paintings by Christian Lock); Karen Woodbury Gallery (‘Every breath you take’: wonderful galaxy-like paintings, perhaps as seen by the Hubble telescope, with a geometric/cellular base by Lara Merrett); The Centre for Contemporary Photography (‘Event horizon’: a group exhibition that “engages the horizon as a means to establish a physical locality with relation to the Earth’s surface and more broadly to the universe of which it is a miniscule component.” An exhibition that left me rather cold); and ACCA (‘Towards an elegant solution’ by Peter Cripps, again a singularly unemotional engagement with the precise, contained work: interesting for how the work explores spatial environments but in an abstract, intellectual way).

The stand out work from this mammoth day was ‘Jill Orr: Vision’ at Jenny Port Gallery. Simply put, it was the strongest, most direct, most emotionally powerful work that I saw all day.

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Jill Orr
‘Megan’
2009

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Jill Orr’s new participatory performances are photographs of children from Avoca Primary School painted with white clay from the area, displayed in pairs. The children are photographed once with eyes open, once with eyes closed. Orr asked the children to imagine their future life when they had their eyes closed. The key to the work is a group photograph of the ghostly children outside the primary school where everyone is isolated from each other (see photograph below).

“White faces loom up out of a dark ground, described by Orr as a void. On the surface these portraits are finely crafted, the skin of masked face becomes one with the digital file to create a facial landscape. The materiality of the face and the photographic file are exposed for the viewer. Titling the series ‘vision’ Orr ventures into a ‘haptic visuality’ where “vision itself can be tactile, as though one were touching a film with one’s eyes.”

From the catalogue essay by Professor Anne Marsh, Monash University

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In the performance, the ritual of being photographed, Orr instructs the children who are placed under the surveillance of the camera. “We are confronted  with the pose, the conscious composition of the image to be photographed, the inherent constructedness of the posed photograph.”1 The child assumes the pose by which they wish to be memorialized. The gaze (of the camera, of the viewer) is returned/or not in this spectacle.

Something happens when we look at these photographs. The text of the photographs becomes intertextual, producing as Barthes understands a “plurality of meanings and signifying/interpretive gestures that escape the reduction of knowledge to fixed, monological re-presentations, or presences.”2 This is because, as Foucault observes, texts “are caught up in a system of references to … other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network …  Its unity is variable and relative.”3

The photographs invite us to share not only the mapping of the surface of the skin and the mapping of place (the history of white people living on the land in country Australia) and identity but the sharing of inner light, the light of the imaginary as well – and in this observation the images become unstable, open to reinterpretation. The distance between viewer and subject is transcended through an innate understanding of inner and outer light. The photographs seduce, meaning, literally, to be led astray.

As American photographer Minor White, who photographed in meditation hoping for a revelation in spirit though connection between person > subject > camera > negative > print, observes in one of his Three Canons

When the image mirrors the man
And the man mirrors the subject
Something might take over
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Here the power of the photographer acting in isolation, the modernist tenet of authorship, is overthrown. In it’s place, “White supposes a relationship with subject that is a two way street: by granting the world some role in its own representation we create a photograph that is not so much a product solely of individual actions as it is the result of a negotiation in which the world and all its subjects might participate.”5 The autobiography of a soul born in the age of mechanical reproduction. This is the power of these photographs for something intangible within the viewer does take over. I found myself looking at the photographs again and again for small nuances, the detail of hairs on the head, the imagining of what the person was thinking about with their eyes closed: their future, their fears, their hopes, the ‘active imagination as a means to visualise sustainable futures’ (Orr, 2010).

These photographs seem to lengthen or protract time through this haptic touching of inner light. As Pablo Helguera observes in his excellent essay ‘How To Understand the Light on a Landscape’ that examines different types of light (including experiental light, somber light, home light, ghost light, the light of the deathbed, protective light, artificial light, working light, Sunday light, used light, narrated light, the last light of day, hotel light, transparent light, after light, the light of the truly blind and the light of adolescence but not, strangely, inner light)

“Experience is triggered by light, but not exclusively by the visible light of the electro-magnetic spectrum. What the human eye is incapable to perceive is absorbed by other sensory parts of the body, which contribute to the perception that light causes an effect that goes beyond the merely visual …

There is the LIGHT OF ADOLESCENCE, a blinding light that is similar to the one we feel when we are asleep facing the sun and we feel its warmth but don’t see it directly. Sometimes it marks the unplace, perhaps the commonality of all places or perhaps, for those who are pessimists, the unplaceness of every location …

We may choose to openly embrace the darkness of light, and thus let ourselves through the great gates of placehood, where we can finally accept the unexplainabe concreteness of our moments for what they are.”6

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In the imagination of the darkness that lies behind these children’s closed eyes is the commonality of all places, a shared humanity of memory, of dreams. These photographs testify to our presence and ask us to decide how we feel about our life, our place and the relation to that (un)placeness where we must all, eventually, return.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Jill Orr
‘Jacinta’
2009

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Jill Orr
‘Avoca Primary School’
2009

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“Jill Orr’s work centres on issues of the psycho-social and environmental where she draws on land and identities. Grappling with the balance and discord that exists between the human spirit, art and nature, Orr has, since the 1970s, delighted, shocked and moved audiences through her performance installations.

This current body of work involved children from the Avoca Primary School as active participants in Orr’s performance for the camera. The result is a series of high contrast black and white photographic portraits, which are shown as diptychs portraying the different states of seeing both outwardly and inwardly. One of each pair frames the child looking directly at the camera. The gaze meets the viewer. Who is looking at whom? The second captures the child whose eyes are closed. An inner world is intimated, but not accessible to the viewer.

In terms of the ‘gaze’, these works turn to the child as conveyer of the imaginary engaging both within and without. ‘I have found that creative acts require the visionary sensibilities of both the inner and outer world to operate simultaneously, consciously and unconsciously as dual aspects of the one action. In this instance the action is that of active imagination as a means to visualise sustainable futures.’[Jill Orr, 2010]. The portraits also reflect the present relationship to place that is etched into the faces of youth as already kissed by the harsh Australian sun.

Avoca is one of many townships that has been socially, economically and environmentally affected by drought and climate change. The portraits are created against this background.”

Text from the Jenny Port Gallery website

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Jill Orr
‘Vision’ installation photograph at Jenny Port Gallery
June 2010

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1. Feiereisen, Florence and Pope, Daniel. “True Fiction and Fictional Truths: The Enigmatic in Sebald’s Use of Images in ‘The Emigrants'” in Patt, Lise (ed.,). Searching for Sebald: Photography after W.G. Sebald. Los Angeles: The Institute of Cultural Inquiry, 2007, p.175.

2. Barthes, Roland. “From Work to Text” in Image, Music, Text. trans. S. Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977 quoted in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/08/2006. www.forkbeds.com/visual-pedagogy.htm (link no longer active)

3. Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage, 1973 quoted in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/08/2006. www.forkbeds.com/visual-pedagogy.htm (link no longer active)

4. White, Minor. Mirrors, Messages and Manifestations. Aperture, 1969.

5. Leo, Vince. Review of Mirrors, Messages and Manifestations on Amazon website [Online] Cited 26/06/2010.

6. Helguera, Pablo. “How to Understand the Light on a Landscape,” in Patt, Lise (ed.,). Searching for Sebald: Photography after W.G. Sebald. Los Angeles: The Institute of Cultural Inquiry, 2007, pp.110-119.

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Jenny Port Gallery

Level One, 7 Albert Street
Richmond, Victoria, Australia

Open: Wed-Sat 11-5pm, or by Appointment

Jenny Port Gallery website

Jill Orr website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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