Archive for the 'video' Category

13
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th April to 13th August 2017

Curator: Dr Martin Engler, Head of the Collection of Contemporary Art, Städel Museum
Co-curator: Dr Jana Baumann, Städel Museum

Artists: Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich

 

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet' 1963

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet
1963
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
75.3 x 91.4 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

The Bechers depict the half-timbered houses from the Siegerland in a sober and restrained fashion. The picture removes the buildings from their original context. One view follows the next. Thus the form of the single building becomes more important than its function. In the photographs the half-timbered houses become aesthetic objects with a sculptural character. Bernd and Hilla Becher do not present their images individually, but in a grid. Not the single photo is the work, but the total of the typology is.

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

 

“What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.” (Press release)

WHAT ABSOLUTE RUBBISH – the second sentence, that is!

Just look at the photographs as pictures.

The Bechers and their students’ photographs might invoke a new concept of the pictorial but that does not mean the death of photography far from it. In fact, this conceptualisation opens up an expanded terrain of becoming for photography (continuing the theme of the last post on the work of Walker Evans). In this sense, the work of these artists is vital to an understanding of the place of photography within the observation, construction and taxonomy of contemporary culture and its pictorial representation.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. For more information please see the interactive website.

 

One of the most radical changes in art’s relation to its aesthetic, media, and economic contexts is closely associated with the students of the first Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy – but even more so with the names of their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher. The exhibition brings together 200 major works, some in large format, by these important artists, as well as a selection of their early works.

 

 

Candida Höfer (*1944) 'Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977' 1977 (2013)

 

Candida Höfer (*1944)
Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977
1977 (2013)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
42.6 x 36.7 cm
Loan from the artist
© Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Volker Döhne (*1953) 'Untitled (Colourful)' 1979 (2014)

 

Volker Döhne (*1953)
Untitled (Colourful)
1979 (2014)
Colour print from colour transparency
37 x 47 cm
Private collection
© Volker Döhne, Krefeld 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958) 'Interior 1 D' 1982

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Interior 1 D
1982
Chromogenic colour print
47 x 57 cm
Loan from the artist
© Thomas Ruff; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955) 'Doorman, Passport Control' 1982 (2007)

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Doorman, Passport Control
1982 (2007)
Inkjet print
43.2 x 52.5 cm
Loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers
© Andreas Gursky / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 / Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Moedling House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Moedling House
1982-1984
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan from the artist
© Axel Hütte

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954) 'Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy' 1989

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954)
Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy
1989
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
61 x 75,2 cm
Private collection
© Petra Wunderlich; VG Bild-Kunst 2017

 

 

From 27 April to 13 August 2017, the Städel Museum is staging a comprehensive survey on the Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy and the major paradigm shift in the medium of artistic photography with which the Bechers and their students are associated. With the aid of some 200 photographs by Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich – a group of whom some enjoy international renown and others are due for rediscovery – the exhibition will examine the influence exerted by Bernd and Hilla Becher on their students at the Düsseldorf school. What unites the students’ works with those of their teachers? How do they differ? Is there really such a thing as the “Becher School” or is it ‘merely’ a matter of several highly successful photographers who happened to be studying at the ‘right place’ at an especially propitious moment in history? And how have those artists influenced our present conception of what a picture is? Taking the artist duo’s work as a point of departure, the exhibition “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class” will acquaint viewers with the radical changes in the medium of artistic photography that became manifest in the works of the Becher pupils in the eighties and above all the nineties, and investigate the art-historical impact of this development up to the very present. It will feature major large-scale works as well as key early endeavours by the members of what is presumably the most influential generation of German photographers in the field of fine art.

The students of the first in a long line of Becher Classes at the Düsseldorfer art academy introduced elementary changes to contemporary art’s aesthetic, media and economic contexts. They not only contributed decisively to shaping international photography in the 1990s, but also fundamentally redefined the status and perception of artistic photography in general. Their works can be considered as one of the most self-confident emancipations of photography as art in the mediums history, while at the same time reflecting the (not merely digital) moment when the boundaries between the media dissolve.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher’s first – meanwhile world-famous – students played a tremendously important role in establishing photography as an expressive medium on a par with other art forms. The nine artists featured in our show occupy a realm where the distinction between painting and photography is no longer clear. The permeability of the boundary between the media is deliberate in their work, and in that respect they mirror one of the key focuses of the Städel Museum’s collection of contemporary art,” observes Städel director Dr Philipp Demandt. And exhibition curator Dr Martin Engler adds: “What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.”

The founding of a chair for artistic photography at the Düsseldorf art academy in 1976 provided perhaps the single most important impulse for a change in how the medium of photography was perceived. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla Becher, Bernd Becher held that chair until 1996. Even before their appointment to the Düsseldorf school, the Bechers had been taking pictures of historical industrial architecture, subscribing to a work concept that exceeded the scope of a common documentary approach in photography. They portrayed mining headframes, blast furnaces, gas tanks, water towers and other testimonies to a vanishing industrial culture – frontally, in central perspective, with fascinating depth of field, and where possible before the backdrop of a uniformly grey sky. They arranged the individual shots in grids to form large-scale tableaus they called typologies. The concern here was no longer merely the illustration of reality, but its perception. Reality could no longer be depicted singly, but only in a multiplicity of simultaneous images. From the formal aesthetic point of view, the staging of the pictorial subjects was now far more than documentary in nature. The affinity to minimal and concept art – evident in the rigour of the pictorial vocabulary, the industrial aesthetic and the new perception of a work in stages – is unmistakable.

Especially in their early work, the students of the first Becher Class explored their teachers’ artistic strategy with great intensity. Yet as they continued to pursue it in the nineties, they did so ever more independently, and in their own highly individual styles. With the aid of various strategies in terms of scale, presentation and motif, and not least of all with abstract pictorial inventions provoked by digital image techniques, they took the interpenetration of the mediums of painting and photography to an extreme. The result was a new concept of the picture that blurs aesthetic and media distinctions. “The dissolution of media boundaries, but also the use of technical innovations, are characteristic of the works of the first Becher Class. It is here that the impact of a changing media culture is felt,” explains Dr Jana Baumann, the co-curator of the exhibition.

A show devoted to such a complex phenomenon on the one hand, and such productive teaching activities on the other, must inevitably be limited in scope. “Photographs Become Pictures” concentrates deliberately on the students of the early years of the Becher Class, beginning with Höfer, Döhne, Hütte and Struth in 1976 and ending with the completion of Gursky’s and Sasse’s studies in 1987/1988. In retrospect, it is precisely in the heterogeneity of the first Becher Class – with its wide range of approaches that have influenced our present-day understanding of the pictorial image – that the success of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s teachings is evident.

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) is known above all for her pictures of public interiors such as libraries, universities, museums and waiting rooms. Nevertheless, the purely documentary aspect is ultimately of secondary importance to her, as is also true of her teachers. Particularly when she turned to colour photography, she began producing iconically clear shots of meaning-charged interiors extremely striking in their rigorous aesthetic. In composition, repetition and rhythm as well as the sculptural emphasis, Höfer’s formal staging of her interiors is reminiscent of the Becher typologies.

A distinct affinity to the typologies is also evident in early street shots by Thomas Struth (b. 1954), such as West Broadway, Tribeca, New York (1978) or Sommerstrasse, Düsseldorf (1980). He proceeded in a manner similar to his teachers, but broadened his spectrum of motifs. He is concerned in his work with cultural structures; in addition to streets he also depicts museums or religious cult sites and portrays families. With the aid of social and ethnological allusions he reveals orders and interrelationships, thus achieving a universal survey of human and their lifeworld in imagery.

Petra Wunderlich‘s (b. 1954) black-and-white series depict details of churches or quarries that the artist has introduced to a new, abstract compositional framework. By this method she reduces architecture visually to its stereometric tectonics in such a way that elementary architectonic forms unexpectedly emerge from the “broken” surfaces of nature. Wunderlich’s photographs, like those by the Bechers, can be read as sociological and historical testimonies.

The workgroups of Volker Döhne (b. 1953) closely resemble Bernd and Hilla Bechers’ typologies with regard to concept and motif alike. He developed series such as Small- Scale Iron Industry (1977/78) or Small Railway Bridges and Underpasses in the Bergisches and Märkisches Land (1979). With his experimental Colour (1979) series, he then emancipated himself from his teachers.

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) was interested primarily in factory gates, shop windows, beverage kiosks and snack bars, which she photographed in the even light of grey days. Many aspects of these works are strongly reminiscent of the Becher photographs: the consistent placement of the subject at the pictorial centre, the unchanging size of the prints, but also the serial, typologically comparative approach.

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is likewise deeply indebted to his teachers’ serial method, which we encounter in his work in ever-different formulations. His portraits as well as the strongly enlarged nocturnal shots of, in part, found material, convey his fundamentally sceptical attitude towards photography’s claim to truth and documentation. His persistent investigations of new pictorial sources and technologies are perhaps the most impressive demonstrations of the manner in which Ruff continues the approach of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Axel Hütte‘s (b. 1951) early architectural details investigate social situations using a mode of photographic expression distinguished by distance and anonymity. Within this context, he devotes himself as much to spoiled landscapes as to supposedly untouched nature which nevertheless has always been formed by human intervention. A conspicuous aspect of his work is the strong reference to historical landscape painting, whose formal compositional principles he both copies and deconstructs. Whereas the Bechers directed their attention to the sculptural or conceptual potential of their pictures, Hütte focusses on painting as the leading medium of modern art.

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) initially devoted himself to highly artificial and at the same time prosaic arrangements of petit-bourgeois domestic culture. His later “tableaus” represent a virtual antithesis to the reductive rigour of these early works. Using digital and analogue techniques alike, he began processing found pictures as well as images of his own making, in which context he blurred the distinction between painting and photograph beyond recognition.

Andreas Gursky‘s (b. 1955) early photographs are likewise characterised by a keen interest in everyday surroundings – the private as well as the public sphere, the context of work as well as leisure time. Like Sasse, he investigates the aesthetic boundary between photographic and painterly image production. By means of digital manipulations he uses to duplicate and mount the pictorial motif to the point of abstraction, he creates perplexing pictorial architectures that merge construction and reality in large-scale colour prints.

The development of the Becher Class shows how concept art’s expanding notion of the artwork led to a new concept of the pictorial including photography. What the teachers introduced in rudiments was taken by their students and the following generation of artists to a momentous change in the picturing of reality. The realisation that photography cannot reproduce reality impartially does not detract from the medium. On the contrary, it means an enhancement in terms of artistic potential. What is more, the lack of focus in the portrayal of reality – in the literal and figurative sense alike – enriches photography’s complexity. It is not least of digital changes that enables innovative pictorial invention. Yet the boundaries of the photographic image also became fluid in the development from individual work to typology and series, and from detail to overall image. The answer to all questions about the significance, classification, doctrine and conception of what we refer to as the “Becher School” can thus be found in an insight as simple as it is surprising: in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.

Press release from the Städel Museum

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

At left, Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail) 1988 (2003)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Candida Höfer (left) and Thomas Struth (*1954) Louvre 3, Paris 1989 1989 (2012) (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) Paradiese 09 Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Paradiese 09' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Paradiese 09
Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) with House No. 1 I 1987 (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Axel Hütte (*1951)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Castellina' 1992 (2015)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Castellina
1992 (2015)
Chromogenic colour print
98.4 x 120.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung © Axel Hütte

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) The Consolandi Family, Mailand, 1996 (2014) (left)

 

Exhibition views “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

 

The Bechers

For their photographs Bernd and Hilla Becher are awarded the “Golden Lion” in the category of “sculpture” at the Venice Biennale in 1990. How is that possible? Surprisingly at the time there was no separate category for photography at the Biennale. But this is not the real reason. Already in 1969 the first larger exhibition of the Bechers is called “Anonymous Sculptures”, just like their first volume of photographs. The artists very consciously link the genres of photography and sculpture. This idea informs their entire oeuvre.

Bernd Becher and Hilla Wobeser begin to collaborate in 1959. At the time both study at the art academy Düsseldorf. Two years later they marry. During the following five decades the artist couple produces mostly tableaus of several parts – consisting of three, nine, twelve or more photos; they call them typologies. Their subjects are disused headstocks, furnaces, oil refineries, water reservoir towers, grain silos, gasometres or even half-timbered houses in former workers’ settlements – all of them testimonies of a declining industrial culture.

 

An Overall Concept

When Hilla and Bernd Becher presented their works at the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1969, this coincided with an exhibition on US-American minimal art – a juxtaposition that was to prove programmatic. In 1972 the American sculptor Carl Andre mentioned the insightful connection of the Bechers’ works and the movements of minimal and conceptual art. This prominent, art-theoretical connection significantly contributed to the great international success of the Bechers. This is also why – especially in the USA – the two are considered concept artists more than photographers.

The Bechers’ method of working – ostensibly – is concerned with sobriety and anonymity, rigidity and objectivity. They work in series, where the whole and a part of this whole, total view and detail are balanced. Setting their photographs into the context of sculpture, they test the boundaries of the genres of photography and sculpture. Working and presenting their works in series, they move the photograph beyond the individual work: the viewer can never see everything at once; instead the eye oscillates between detail and general context.

The artist couple directs the attention to formal, creative aspects of the photographed edifices at the same time allowing them to disappear in the typology’s grid. The rigidity of their pictorial vocabulary and the interest in an industrial aesthetic evidences the close proximity of the Bechers’ creative work to minimal and concept art.

 

Photography in Germany

“In principle it [photography] was a fallow field, where nothing ‘noteworthy’ had taken place in the past fifty years. We saw us in the tradition of objective photography of the 1920s; Bernd and Hilla Becher were the first to reconnect to this. There was absolutely nothing that we could fight or needed to disengage with. We could start from scratch.” ~ Thomas Ruff

 

“New Objectivity” this was the motto of the 1920s – also in photography. It was no longer the pictorial language of painting, but precision, focus and truth to detail, characteristics of photography that had garnered the artists’ interest.

The photographer August Sander focused on the society of the Weimar Republic and created a typology: in 1925 his pictorial atlas People of the 20th Century, where he systematically assembled hundreds of portraits of stereotypes of people of the most diverse social backgrounds and occupations. All of his sitters are portrayed frontally, which makes the photographs comparable. Sander also engaged in the photography of landscapes, industrial sites and cities.

Two more representatives of the photography of New Objectivity are also worth mentioning here: Albert Renger-Patzsch recorded industrial buildings and machinery in a sober directness. Karl Blossfeldt adopted scientific standards and photographed plants – always before a neutral background, removed from their natural setting.

Bernd and Hilla Becher draw on these approaches and develop them in their works. With a few exemptions, photography was not considered an autonomous artistic medium in Germany. Still in the 1960s, photography in art predominantly served as a means of documentation of actions, happenings and performances. Yet painting and photography interact. The painter Gerhard Richter for example, used photos as templates for his paintings since the early 1960s. The Bechers in turn greatly contributed to the recognition of photography as autonomous artistic medium with their photographs.

 

The Becher Class: Adoption, Distinction

DÖHNE GURSKY HÖFER HÜTTE RONKHOLZ RUFF SASSE STRUTH WUNDERLICH

These are the students of the first Becher class. In 1976 Bernd Becher is appointed first professor for photography at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla he teaches there for twenty years. Their first students become artists, who will have a formative influence on photography in the 1980s and the 1990s internationally. The Becher students intensely study their teachers’ work. Especially in their early works comparable approaches develop: a distanced perspective, an interest in architecture and striving for technical precision.

The Bechers are preoccupied with an industrial architecture in decline, representative also of the social changes affecting the respective region. Taking this as a starting point, their students consider their direct surroundings and social contexts. They seek to identify systems of classification and in their photographs investigate the relationship of individual work and series. In the process the Becher students adopt their own positions. They discover new themes, techniques and creative strategies. Regardless of the distinctions they are indebted to the conceptual approach of their teachers, which they then developed in their individual ways.

In their teaching and their work Bernd and Hilla Becher explore a concept of the image, where medial and aesthetic distinctions of sculpture, painting and photography dissolve. Their students continue this work in very different ways. In the 1980s and 1990s their enquiries lead to a critical reflexion of the possibilities of representing reality. The lack of focus in the depiction of reality – literally and figuratively – represent an increase in artistic complexity. Innovative pictorial creations were now possible by way of digital intervention.

The borders of the photographic image blur at the stage between single work and typology and series. The alternation of perception, oscillating between detail and total image extend the possibilities of photography. The meaning of what is called “Becher school” can be summarised in a simple and surprising statement: at the historic moment, when photography becomes an independent medium, it also realises its potential and explores its limits. Photography reaches its limits, transgresses it and thus ultimately questions its existence.

 

Kiosks and Streets

The developments in American photography are also important to the Becher-students: Ed Ruscha, whose photos show everyday subjects, is one of their role models. In 1966 he creates Every Building on the Sunset Strip. With a simple handheld camera Ruscha photographs every building on the Los Angeles boulevard of that name; he presents his pictures in a fanfold or an artist’s book. This quickly reveals the serial principle behind the work. Volker Döhne’s approach in Reconstruction II is similar. He, too, documents the commercial architecture, largely determining the surrounding.

Ice cream parlour, garage, drug store, stationers, dwelling house, shoe shop – nicely aligned. Volker Döhne focuses on the urban space dominated by nondescript post war architecture and empty sites. Other than his American colleague Ed Ruscha, Döhne always positions his camera head-on in the same angle. Surprisingly this emphasises the buildings’ volume. Like his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher he emphasises the three-dimensional, sculptural aspect of buildings and pursues a concept that he determined before he began to photograph.

The Bechers assemble identical, yet different photographs to a static tableau. Döhne on the other hand, required the viewer to move along the strip and proceed down the row of photographs. Above all the viewer must add together the photos of the Krefelder Straße by himself: the work forms as a result of the viewer’s active viewing and perception.

 

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31
1978
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
41.2 x 51.2 cm
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln/Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn
© Tata Ronkholz, Nachlassverwaltung Van Ham Art Estate 2017

 

 

Cigarette and gumball machines are fixed to exterior walls. Advertising posters overlap. Beverages, magazines and sweets are visibly lined up behind glass. It is Tata Ronkholz’ serial presentation that enables the comparison of the kiosks and their study as a social phenomenon in urban contexts.

Kiosks are everyday meeting points and the setting for social life. At the same time their role fundamentally changed in the past decades. Ronkholz photographs kiosks as socially grown places. She positions them centrally in their architectural environment – people are absent. This is what the photos have in common with Becher-photographs. Like her teachers, Ronkholz is committed to the conservation and archiving of a changing urban culture.

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107' 1977

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107
1977
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Without title' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Without title
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Foundation Culture, Cologne / Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

 

PICTURE PARALLELS

Bernd and Hilla Bechers students are linked to the work of their teachers in many ways. And yet they devote themselves, in part, to new motifs, subjects, and picture formats during their studies. In addition to architecture, they also photograph interiors, simple everyday objects or people.

In the early 1980s the Becher-students Axel Hütte and Thomas Ruff turn to portrait photography practically at the same time. They capture their models with neutral facial expressions, generally head-on before a monochrome background. The extreme setting makes the individual recede while the surface of the background dominates. In the series the single faces turn into an interchangeable motif somewhere between person and typology.

 

From Near and Far

The directions of the persons’ gazes differs. Nothing distracts from their faces. The neutral background and the close details are reminiscent of giant passport photographs. One almost overlooks that some of the sitters are famous artists today.

Axel Hütte’s portraits with their conscious play with blurring and sharpness are irritating: some areas in the photo show up the slightest detail, while others are slightly blurred – a conscious reference to the Bechers’ works, characterised by their extreme depth of focus. When observing Hütte’s works from close-up the face becomes a surface of structures. If one wants to see it in focus, one needs to distance oneself. Thus the viewer is kept at bay and always in motion.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' (detail) 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

PICTURES GENERATION

Thomas Ruff explores the gap between reality and image. This is something he shares with the American artists of the so-called “Pictures Generation” from the 1970s and 1980s. This informal group of artists, among them Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Richard Prince, grew up with a flood of pictures in cinema, television and the print media. Their works show distrust for the media, as well as a fascination with it. The artists make use of existing images from film, advertising and art. They copy, quote and redesign this material – more subtly than the artists from American Pop Art in the 1960s. Instead of working with found images in print, collage or painting, the artists of the “Pictures Generation” make small interventions. By introducing minor changes or by producing a practically identical copy of an image they very consciously play with conventional ways of perception. In their works they draw attention to mechanisms of picture production and the methods of artificial construction of reality through pictures.

 

Photos of Faces

Like Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff does not believe in an image of human character. He is convinced that only the exterior reality – the appearance – can be represented. In this sense Ruff’s portraits are photos of faces that resemble expressionless surfaces. The monochrome background hides any hint at a recognisable location.

The face becomes a surface and thus resembles a projection screen for an advertising message. The serial juxtaposition turns the individual in Ruff’s photographs into a type that also represents a particular generation. The stereotypes communicated by mass media and the influence of images on individual and collective opinion-forming are being questioned.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (G. Benzenberg)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Portrait (G. Benzenberg)
1985
Chromogenic colour print
41 × 33 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

“Looks good. Continue in colour.”

The bed, bath and living rooms, the kitchen unit and the furniture of the 1950s and 1970s, Thomas Ruff finds at the homes of relatives and friends in the Black Forest, where he comes from. Bernd and Hilla Becher preferably work in black and white. Ruff on the other hand starts experimenting with colour photography early on during his studies:

“At some point I started, making use of the colour practice, which I […] had developed, in my interiors, and I thought this looked better than in black and white photos. The colleagues said, you cannot do this. Then I also asked Bernd Becher and he said: “Looks good. Continue in colour.”

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Interior 3 A' 1979

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Interior 3 A
1979
Chromogenic paint removal
45.7 x 39.4 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

A Question of Mise-en-Scène

The two clips on yellow ground look like two flies. The bright background emphasises the form of the represented objects. Their original function becomes secondary. The simple stationary objects become worthy of the photographer’s meticulous attention. Jörg Sasse uses and parodies the strategies of advertising photography, ever concerned with presenting an object as something special.

From the start, Sasse’s work shows a painterly tendency as well as a penchant for abstraction. This is also apparent in a sequence of still lives with reduced colour and shapes. In his early work Sasse is interested in his immediate environment. He seeks to capture the unusual in the everyday. This links his work with the typologies of his teachers. Other than they do, Sasse does not give titles to his works; instead he gives them random numbers. This allows him to remove the represented object even further from its original context without offering a new interpretation.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'ST-84-12-06' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
ST-84-12-06
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
18 × 24 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Kitchen, Bath Room and Living Room

Almost in symmetry Jörg Sasse’s photo shows a light blue jug and a glass jug on two hobs. It belongs to a series, which Sasse dedicated to modest interiors between the post war years and the economic miracle. Sometimes the photos show individual objects, sometimes a combination of two or three objects. They capture details of tiles, furniture or floors.

They give the impression as if the objects were arranged by coincident or as if the inhabitants had left them behind like this. At the same time the scenes appear to be very artificial. Sasse transforms colour, shape and structure of the interior settings into individual, abstract compositions. He focuses on formal contrasts, sequences and similarities. According to the artist it is “not the preoccupation with interiors but with the picture.” The photographer is more interested in the painterly composition than in the representation of reality.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
57.2 × 67.6 cm
Courtesy Gallery Wilma Tolksdorf

 

 

Courtyards and Street Canyons

The artists Axel Hütte and Thomas Struth share an interest in urban non-spaces, indistinct streets or architectures.

In the 1980s modernist residential dwellings like the brutalist, square James Hammett House in London, become increasingly less popular and are turned into social housing. The raw concrete façade of the London block of flats spreads across almost the entire picture. The empty square in front of it is abandoned. There is no sign of inhabitants: a forbidding place.

Like Bernd and Hilla Becher in their pictures of industrial buildings, Axel Hütte emphasises the angular and unwieldy shapes of the architecture in his London series. From a distance the sad, functional façade appears to be an abstract pattern of rhythmically changing shades of grey, behind which the architecture recedes.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'James Hammett House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
James Hammett House
1982-1984
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan of the artist

 

 

In the Street

The row of houses on New York’s 21st Street seems never ending. Old houses and modern high rises alternate and form a sequence of textures and geometric forms rich in contrast. Thomas Struth was struck by the deep street canyons of the metropolis. He took his photos from the middle of the street, positioning the camera at eye-level – a method that resembles that of his teachers. It is an unusual perspective unfamiliar to both pedestrians and drivers.

Struth begins capturing urban spaces already when in Cologne and Düsseldorf. A stipend takes him to New York in 1978. His photographic approach offers a completely new view of the city’s urbanity and structure.

“I may very well stem from the legacy of documentary photography and do use its means and perspective, but my true concern exceeds this. […] To me the street is a space, where manifold influences and historical events convene and become apparent. The public space has a subconscious language, addressing us continuously.”

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York' 1978 (1987)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York
1978 (1987)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 84 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Thomas Struth

 

 

VARIETY

Landscapes, families, places of leisure, libraries, museums – the subjects of the Becher-students are equally as varied as their approach to photography. Their own positions develop more and more, while shared characteristics with their teachers’ oeuvre become apparent.

“Not the subject, but the representation of a landscape is what matters to me.” ~Axel Hütte

Almost two thirds of the picture are concealed by thick fog. The rocks in the foreground, however, are razor sharp. In Furka Axel Hütte plays with the contrast of diffusion and focussed parts of the picture. He explores landscape photography and thus consciously enters into competition with the genre of painting.

Foggy landscape is of great importance in the paintings of German Romanticism. This art movement, which began in the late 19th century, is characterised by mystic nature, where religious ideas are intertwined with subjective sentiment. Caspar David Friedrich is recognised as one of the most important representatives of Romanticist landscape painting. To him nature mirrored the human soul. In his painting Mountains in the Rising Fog, which he painted around 1835, the hills are veiled and only the outlines can be made out. In his photographs, Hütte refers to this tradition and employs similar techniques to guide the viewer’s gaze and to compose the picture. The landscape can be sensually grasped. The atmosphere and the subjective experience come to the fore. While his teachers sought the proximity to sculpture, Hütte’s work reflects the strategies of painting.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'Furka' 1994 (2012)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
Furka
1994 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
56.7 × 65.7 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung

 

 

The Silence Beside the Storm

Andreas Gursky’s works are dedicated to traffic hubs, mass events, economic centres, transit zones or places of leisure. Gursky’s focus is always on the common denominator and questions the relationship of man with nature and society. The photograph Teneriffa, Swimming Pool shows a holiday resort from a bird’s eye perspective that makes the tiny holidaymakers almost disappear. The force of nature represented by the foaming sea is in stark contrast with the artificial silence of the adjacent pool.

Like his teachers, Gursky keeps a distance to his subject. But unlike them he does not work in series and concentrates on single works. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s compositions are always about one centrally positioned object. Gursky’s images on the other hand are rich in detail and the motives are spread across the picture plane in captivating sharpness – he plays with visual challenge.

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Teneriffa, Swimming Pool' 1987

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Teneriffa, Swimming Pool
1987
Chromogenic colour print
104.5 × 127 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Own Vantage Points

Candida Höfer too, photographs public spaces. Her photographs follow the architecture of the buildings she finds. At the same time she chooses unusual positions for her camera and thus resists the symmetries or views prescribed by the spaces. Her photos defy architectural hierarchies and structures and thus communicate the spatial experience in a particular way.

Waiting Room Cologne III 1981 is an early example of Höfer’s artistic method. The furniture reaches diagonally into the space, a dynamic underscored by the pattern of the parquet flooring. The row of tables and chairs in the bottom corner is cut off by the edge. Instead of creating a balanced symmetrical composition, she works with alternative vantage points.

This allows Höfer to emphasize her personal view of the interior architecture. Concurrently she is enquiring how the architectural space is influenced by the way people use it in the course of time. The Waiting Room with Neo-Baroque décor dating from the second half of the 19th century forms a stark contrast to the simple furniture that is easily 100 years less old.

“By means of the print I then create my own space once again. It is not my intention to show the space in a manner as realistic as possible.”

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Waiting Room Cologne III 1981' 1981

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Waiting Room Cologne III 1981
1981
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 155 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Libraries as Brand

Above all Candida Höfer is famous for her large-scale interior views of libraries devoid of people. The workspaces in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris are lined up like books in libraries. The artist frequently focuses on places that preserve and order knowledge and culture. Apart from libraries she also worked on museums or operas. She is interested in how humans influence architecture through their culture. Her photos are always determined by a cool sobriety. This is what they have in common with the photographs of the Bechers. However, Höfer always works with the light and the space present in each situation. She strives to capture the atmosphere and aura of a space.

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998' 1998

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998
1998
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 215 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

The Picture in the Picture

In his series Museum Photographs Thomas Struth focuses on imposing interior spaces such as the gallery at the Louvre in Paris – unlike Höfer, he always shows the visitors, too. They become a multifaceted continuation of the figures in the paintings on the wall. Through the photograph Struth establishes a connection of pictorial space and real space, the painterly and photographic space. Here, the formerly competing media painting and photography enter into a dialogue as equals.

Simultaneously the viewer is confronted with different levels of viewing: those who contemplate Struth’s photos inevitably also observe the visitors at the Louvre contemplating the art works there. Thus the artist prompts a reflection on how we deal with art and its history, with seeing and being seen. Struth does not influence the positions of the visitors in his Museum Photographs. He waits for situations that can serve as the basis of his compositions. Struth merely decides on the space and the visual angle he takes.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Louvre 3, Paris 1989' 1989 (2012)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Louvre 3, Paris 1989
1989 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
152.2 × 168.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

 

 

Family Relations

The photo The Consolandi Family, Milano by Thomas Struth belongs to the series Family Portraits, which shows relationships that are complex and full of tension. The viewer is challenged to explore the connections of the family, reflected in subtle looks, mimics or posture.

The Family Portraits evolved from an unpublished project, which Struth and a friend of his, a psychoanalyst, pursued in the early 1980s. Patients were asked to submit a couple of photographs that were typical of their families, which Struth then combined in a portfolio. Drawing on this project, the photographer began to work with family portraits he took. He photographed people he knew in their homes. The individuals were asked to choose their position in a space that the artist had selected. Struth’s psychological interest in the family as a social fabric is evident. The order resembles a sociagram after all.

Like the Bechers’ works, Struth’s photographs are determined by an intrinsic dynamic full of tension. While his teachers work with industrial fields of force, he balances psychological energies. This results in an alternation of perception – the eye sways between single pictorial elements and the total composition.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996' 1996 (2014)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996
1996 (2014)
Chromogenic colour print
178 × 214.2 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

PICTURE EDITING

In February 1982 the first great scandal about a digitally edited press picture occurs: for the title of the periodical National Geographic – actually indebted to scientific exactitude – the pyramids at Gizeh have been pushed closer together so they would fit the portrait format. This represents a fundamental shift in photo and media culture that also affects the work of the Becher students.

Ruff, Sasse and Gursky especially, develop their works digitally. This inevitably distances them from their teachers’ documentary approach more and more. The artists do not depict reality they create their own reality. This results in photographs that cannot be explained through analogue camera technology. The truth in the pictures is questioned, just like the viewer’s perception. In nascent form this approach is already present in the typologies created by the Bechers.

 

Digital interventions

This photo of an average residential block from 1987 marks a turning point in Thomas Ruff’s oeuvre. Things – namely a tree and a street sign – are missing. Ruff decided to have these details erased. He also retouched an opened skylight. This is one of the first digitally edited pictures in the circle of the Becher students. Ruff’s idea is to emphasise the symmetrical appearance and the hermetic quality of the building. Still, he is not really meddling with the picture’s structure of reality.

Ruff’s photos of the House Series confront the viewer with urban banality. The enormous scale of the works, measuring nearly 2 x 3 metres exaggerates the uneventfulness as a crucial characteristic of this architecture. From the 1980s the Becher students increasingly use large formats. They become a trademark of the group. Mostly presented with a wooden frame the artists elevate the photos to the level of paintings. Like the Bechers, Ruff worked in series, but no longer arranged his works in typologies. His series preserve the suspicion of a single image that might represent the world.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'House No. 1 I' 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
House No. 1 I
1987
Chromogenic colour print
179 × 278 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

Giant Grid

In photos like Paris, Montparnasse Andreas Gursky enlarges the image to a monumental scale of over four metres in width. He, too, relies on digital editing. The frontal view of the residential block is presented in strictly right-angular lines. The building is so wide that it would be impossible to capture it in a single photo. Hence, Gursky used two photos and joined them on the computer.

From a distance, the geometrical grid of the building looks abstract. The skeleton structure of the block also means that the windows offer hundreds of single images. However, it is impossible to simultaneously perceive the detail as well as the overall structure. Gursky requires the viewer to constantly alternate his focus between close-up and distance.

“My pictures are always composed for two aspects […]. The smallest detail can be read from close up. From afar they are mega-signs.”

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

 

Exhibition view “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Paris, Montparnasse' 1993 (before 2003)

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Paris, Montparnasse
1993 (before 2003)
Chromogenic colour print
207 × 422 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Pixel and Pixel and Pixel

Sasse’s work 1546 (1993) also plays with perception at the border of abstraction. The single pixels as a trace of the digital reworking are immediately visible. The realistic representation of a curtain is ruptured. Instead pixel and square colour fields become the focus, while the original sense of space is lost. The photo appears two-dimensional.

Sasse takes up a basic issue with the illusion of space that has a long art historic tradition. Already in early Renaissance the artist and scholar Leon Battista Alberti considers painting as a window to the world. He considered it important for an illusionist way of painting to conceal the two-dimensionality of the canvas. In his oeuvre Sasses draws on this issue. He questions photography and painting’s claim to realism and questions the possibility of pictorially representing reality at all.

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 1546, 1993 (centre) and Jörg Sasse (*1962) 7341, 1996 (right)

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) '1546' 1993

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
1546
1993
Chromogenic colour print
137 × 200 cm
Private collection

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962) '7341' 1996

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962)
7341
1996
Chromogenic colour print
93 x 150 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Jörg Sasse; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

 

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

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03
Aug
17

Review: ‘Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 6th August 2017

“A GREAT review Marcus. As always. A master piece.” ~ Peter Barker, artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' c. 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Sunbaker
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1980

 

Anne Zahalka. 'The sunbather #2' 1989

 

Anne Zahalka
The sunbather #2
1989
From the series Bondi: playground of the Pacific
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1997

 

 

The misery of too much sun

Simply put (where the work in this exhibition is anything but), this is one of the most depressing Australian group photography exhibitions that I have seen in a very long time. I left the exhibition feeling like I wanted to slit my wrists.

“Reimagining” an image is always going to be problematic, especially such an iconic photograph as Max Dupain’s no-face, monolithic, Uluru-shaped, low depth of field, wet, British male tourist lying on Culburra Beach, New South Wales in the 1930s – an image that “supposedly conveys a quintessential Australian identity,” a “casual holiday snap that came to symbolise leisure and freedom in the 1970s [which] was taken in the uncertain economic times before the Second World War.”

The scope for such a contemporary conceptual exercise is vast and the artists in this exhibition don’t waste the opportunity. Variously but not exclusively we have:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Breakfast Club (1985), a movie in which five teenagers navigate identity issues
  • Indigenous massacres in Australia … positions of the planets between 1789 and 1928, when 63 massacres of Indigenous peoples took place
  • Samoan culture – malu – the female-Samoan tattoo (tatau)
  • The lifeless body of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach in Turkey which now haunts the figure of the Sunbaker
  • Sufi-inspired choreography, the dancers wearing a hammam cloth
  • 1920s swimwear based on wartime camouflage schemes
  • Reclaiming of the feminist body both as a medium of deliberate submission and active resistance through women’s strength, endurance and resilience by undertaking physical and psychological experiments that test the limits of her body, playfully and painfully
  • Denunciating the violence of the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its peoples
  • Grandfather opal-mine worker in South Australia excluded from Aboriginal rights until 1967
  • Paradox of a nation seen as a sun-blessed paradise while its shores have been a place of contestation and misery
  • Memories of childhood landscapes and research into the Massacre Map published by the Koorie Heritage Trust, which identified sites where Indigenous massacres occurred between 1836 and 1853
  • Digitally animated Sunbaker to make it resonate as a symbol of the 229 years since colonisation

.
How you get from a holiday snap of a tourist visiting Australia, having a swim, flopping down on the beach and all the joy that this entails to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Breakfast Club, female-Samoan tattoos, camouflage schemes, reclaiming the feminist body and more contestation and misery than you can poke a stick at – massacres, more massacres, symbol of 229 years of colonisation and a body of a three-year-old refugee which now supposedly haunts the figure of Sunbaker – is mind boggling. And no, the powerful image of that small body does not haunt Sunbaker. It never will. Only in the titular imagination of the artist!

Some of these reconceptualisations draw such a long bow that the arrow fell out of the sky long before the art work was finished. The trajectory of most of this work is so cerebral that you wonder whether the artists actually thought about visual and associative outcomes, something that the viewer would make connection to and with, before they started making the work. Is this really a good idea? Does the image, Sunbaker, actually evoke any of these relationships? For example, what have positions of the planets between 1789 and 1928 and identified sites where Indigenous massacres occurred between 1836 and 1853 have to do with a sun baker… other than to assuage white guilt over the invasion of Aboriginal land? That is the crux of the matter: it’s all about white guilt.

There is such a thing as acknowledging the past and letting it go, while taking responsibility for the present and the future. As a black American friend of mine said to me recently, he doesn’t blame white people for slavery, and neither do most black Americans… it’s history, acknowledge it and move on; take responsibility for present injustices. Of course, past, present and future time are linked; memory and history influence culture, narrative and identity. But to constantly conceptualise, as much contemporary Australian photography does, the past AS the present through existential angst ridden explorations that produce forgettable images simply beggars belief. Let’s have more contestation and misery; let’s perpetuate the cycle of guilt, shame, misery and despair that we acknowledge was totally wrong. Let’s invert Sunbaker into a demon – a fractured, negative identity – both literally and metaphysically. Two artists literally do this, as though by inverting an image using this trope, you give the negative image profound power.

Other than Anne Zahalka’s wonderful feminist re-imag(in)ing of Sunbaker, the most evocative excavation of relationship to the original image comes from that gorgeous photographer William Yang. Just a celebration of sun, sand, sea, and male identity through beautiful, intimate images of the male body – “At Bondi Beach, people were sunbathing. There was an attractive openness in the atmosphere…” An atmosphere and a generosity of spirit sorely lacking in the rest of the work.

Marcus

PS. And it’s Sunbaker not The Sunbaker!

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

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Sara Oscar’s Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution) (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

 

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW)
Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)
2017
Inkjet print on Hahnemuehle paper
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Sara Oscar draws connections between the present and the past. Interested in how time changes the meaning of images, her practice is drawn to allegory and metaphor.

In late 2015, photographs circulated widely of the lifeless body of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach in Turkey. The pose has come to symbolise the plight of all refugees and now haunts the figure of the Sunbaker. Nauru – a picturesque island in Micronesia that imprisons refugees to Australia under the Pacific Solution – is the subject of this series that draws connections between the themes of colonialism, beach culture and immigration.

 

 

Nasim Nasr (born 1964, Tehran, Iran; lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Still for Eighty Years
2017
Courtesy the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Monash Gallery of Art and Nasim Nasr

 

 

Nasim Nasr’s multimedia practice explores the cultural differences between East and West, looking at the complex identities that exist at their nexus.

Shot on Culburra Beach, NSW – where Dupain photographed the Sunbaker – Still for Eighty Years juxtaposes traditional motifs from the Middle East with the Australian beach landscape. Here, the beach becomes a place for cross-cultural dialogue. Inviting us to contemplate their mesmerising Sufi-inspired choreography, the dancers wear a hammam cloth specifically woven for the performance. Nasr’s work is a meditation on the transient nature of identity.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Nasim Nasr’s Still for Eighty Years (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

 

Nasim Nasr (born 1964, Tehran, Iran; lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Still for Eighty Years
2017
Production stills from video
Courtesy the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Justene Williams’ Home security: out of the sun (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Justene Williams (born 1970, Sydney, NSW) 'Home security: out of the sun' 2017

 

Justene Williams (born 1970, Sydney, NSW)
Home security: out of the sun
2017
Dye sublimation print on chromaluxe metal
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Home security is inspired by Dupain’s involvement in the Department of Home Security during the Second World War as part of the Sydney Camouflage Group. Working for the Australian Government, the group deployed visual illusions inspired by surrealism, cubism and abstraction to conceal military equipment. With his astute photographic eye for shadows, exposure and patterns, Dupain contributed to The Art of Camouflage, a manual that described techniques he later taught to soldiers in Darwin and Papua-new Guinea.

Inspired by the sheltering trees of the Sydney College of the Arts Callan Park Campus and 1920s swimwear based on wartime camouflage schemes, this work continues Williams exploration of the poetics and politics of camouflage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Daniel von Sturmer’s Sunbaker (MGA replica) (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

 

Continuing his After Images series (begun in 2013), Daniel von Sturmer has photographed the shadow cast by the replica of Dupain’s Sunbaker held in the Monash Gallery of Art collection. Using a specially constructed ‘set’, the resulting work – a 1:1 image of the Sunbaker shadow – questions the aura held by the original, iconic image. How relevant is the original when multiple reproductions exist?

Examining the ability of photography to accurately capture the real world, this abstract black square draws connections between an image’s meaning and how significance is transferred from the original to the shadow.

 

Daniel von Sturmer. 'Sunbaker (MGA replica)' 2017

 

Daniel von Sturmer (Born 1972, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand Lives and works in Melbourne, Vic)
Sunbaker (MGA replica)
2017
Unique archival pigment print
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne / Sydney

 

 

Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker is a large-scale exhibition of new works commissioned from 15 artists responding to Australian photographer Max Dupain’s iconic ‘Sunbaker’ image. Artists include Peta Clancy, Christopher Day, Destiny Deacon, Michaela Gleave, Nasim Nasr, Sara Oscar, Julie Rrap, Khaled Sabsabi, Yhonnie Scarce, Christian Thompson, Angela Tiatia. Kawita Vatanajyankur, Daniel Von Sturmer, Justene Williams and William Yang. Under the sun is a travelling exhibition produced by the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP).

MGA Curator Stella Loftus-Hills said, “MGA is delighted to be hosting Under the sun and to be revisiting Max Dupain’s ‘Sunbaker’ (1937) 80 years after its creation. Dupain’s iconic photograph entered MGA’s collection in 1980 and this exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for our audiences to view the work in the context of contemporary art and to reflect upon its relationship to current ideas around national identity.”

Under the sun explores views of our culture, our identity and our nationhood through works that surprise, challenge and enthuse audiences. Commissioned by ACP, the mix of artists reflects Australia’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith nature, enabling a creative and often very personal exploration of the question ‘is there something new under the sun?’ These artists contemplate, challenge and interpret the representation of Max Dupain’s photograph – which became an icon of a particular time and a particular vision of Australian culture – while offering unique perspectives on what it could possibly signify in our current society.

ACP Curator, Claire Monneraye said: “Max Dupain’s ‘Sunbaker’, remains an iconic representation of the Australian way of life and a milestone in the history of Australian photography. In this exhibition, the 15 artists have interrogated the social and political implications embedded within this image but also challenged the status of this photograph in our visual culture. Pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, their works expose the aesthetical complexities at play in discussions around collective identity.

Examining the legacy of the past and questioning the relevance that this image might retain in the future, the exhibition draws on a range of diverse practitioners and creative forms to consider questions of representation and cultural pluralism while also reflecting on the depiction of the idealised body, discussing gender issues, cultural and political ideas relating to immigration and colonisation, and our relationship with the land.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Kawita Vatanajyankur (Born 1987, Bangkok, Thailand Lives and works Bangkok and Sydney, NSW)
Carrier (extract)
2017
Video, duration: approx. 5 mins
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Monash Gallery of Art and Kawita Vatanajyankur

 

 

In this video work, Kawita Vatanajyankur reflects on her experience of migrating to Australia, exploring the resulting shift of identity. Celebrating women’s strength, endurance and resilience, Vatanajyankur’s captivating, seductive – and yet disquieting – videowork critiques the challenges faced by migrant Asian women in relation to everyday labour.

Referring to her performances as ‘meditation postures’, the artist undertakes physical and psychological experiments that test the limits of her body, playfully and painfully. The artist’s self-objectification is part of a feminist art tradition that reclaims the female body, both as a medium of deliberate submission and active resistance.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Kawita Vatanajyankur’s Carrier (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Kawita Vatanajyankur. 'Carrier' 2017

Kawita Vatanajyankur. 'Carrier' 2017

 

Kawita Vatanajyankur (Born 1987, Bangkok, Thailand Lives and works Bangkok and Sydney, NSW)
Carrier
2017
Video stills
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Destiny Deacon’s Sand minding and Sand grabs (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand minding' 2017

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand grabs' 2017

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand grabs' 2017

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand grabs' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Born 1957, Maryborough, Qld Lives and works Melbourne, Vic KuKu (Cape York) and Erub/Mer (Torres Strait) peoples)
Sand minding
2017
Archival inkjet pigment print
Sand grabs
2017
Archival inkjet pigment prints
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Throughout her career Destiny Deacon has orchestrated a personal and political theatre of kitsch and poignant ‘Aboriginalia’ to expose and deconstruct Indigenous issues. Deacon’s anti-art aesthetic confronts us with the cruelty of racism and the sombre reality of Australia’s colonial history.

Acknowledging the sand as central to Dupain’s photograph, Destiny Deacon denunciates the violence of the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its peoples. While hands are performing a destructive soil surgery, two uncanny dolls emerge from the sand. Both whistleblowers and guardians of the land, they invite us to consider a topical issue and its consequences.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Christopher Day’s Untitled (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Christopher Day. 'Untitled' 2017

 

Christopher Day (Born 1978, Melbourne, Vic, 1978 Lives and works Melbourne, Vic)
Untitled
2017
Pigment print

 

 

After processing, developing and scanning the photographs shot on his 35 mm camera, Christopher Day assembles, crops, combines and rearranges his images, again and again. Blending personal and historical narratives, Day’s complex imagery is ambiguous, humorous and allegorical, challenging simplistic definitions of identity and gender.

In this work a shiny round apple bearing visible teeth marks alludes to the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – each character embodying a set of clichés including Snow White herself, whose beauty and feminine charm become her undoing. The artist also refers to The Breakfast Club (1985), a movie in which five teenagers navigate identity issues.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Michaela Gleave’s Under One Sun (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Michaela Gleave. 'Under One Sun' (detail) 2017

 

Michaela Gleave (Born 1980, Alice Springs, NT Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Under One Sun (detail)
2017
Silver gelatin prints
Courtesy the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Under One Sun highlights the complexity of colonial history and the ambivalence of representing identity. Using Wikipedia’s listing of Indigenous massacres in Australia, Michaela Gleave highlights the lack of the associated verified historical data. Her zoomed out installation documents the positions of the planets between 1789 and 1928, when 63 massacres of Indigenous peoples took place.

James Cook’s first Pacific voyage, to document the 1769 Transit of Venus and investigate the existence of Terra Australis Incognita, opened the way for the European settlement of Australia. Drawing parallels between the development of photography, science and colonisation, the artist reminds us that technological advances in astronomy and navigation helped expand the British Empire, with science often justifying the atrocities committed.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Yhonnie Scarce’s Working Class Man (Andamooka Opal Fields) (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Yhonnie Scarce (Born 1973, Woomera, SA Lives and works Melbourne, Vic and Adelaide, SA Kokatha and Nukunu peoples)
Working Class Man (Andamooka Opal Fields)
2017
Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, vintage metal bucket, blown glass
Courtesy the artist and This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

In this deeply personal work, Yhonnie Scarce pays tribute to her grandfather, who endured many hardships during his life as an opal-mine worker in South Australia. Looking at this family photograph, Scarce felt compelled to tell the story of a man who provided for his family and contributed to society, yet remained excluded from the rights of Australian citizenship until 1967.

Beyond the nostalgic, Scarce includes vernacular photographs in her installations not only to control her personal narrative but also to reaffirm the presence of unsung heroes. ‘Politically motivated and emotionally driven’, Working Class Man (Andamooka Opal Fields) epitomises the experience of many Indigenous Australians while interrogating the effects of colonisation on future generations.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Angela Tiatia’s Dark Light (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Angela Tiatia (Born 1973, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand Lives and works in Sydney, NSW)
Dark Light
2017
Video, duration: 4 min, self-adhesive inkjet pigment print
Courtesy the artist and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

With Dark Light, Angela Tiatia deconstructs every element of the Sunbaker to reconfigure its exact opposite. The sensual tension created by this process forces us to re-examine the familiar.

Tiatia also reveals deeper contradictions. A chandelier symbolising opulence and power is hung over the artist’s body which is baring the malu – the female-Samoan tattoo (tatau). In pre-Christian times, the malu signified protection and shelter as young women entered womanhood. However, it was condemned by missionaries alongside their male equivalent (pe’a) and some Samoan communities still forbid women to publicly expose the malu. Dark Light sees Tiatia resisting the forces of colonialism embedded within Samoan culture.

 

Christian Thompson (Born 1978, Gawler, SA Lives and works in London, England Bidjara people) 'This Brutal World' 2017

 

Christian Thompson (Born 1978, Gawler, SA Lives and works in London, England Bidjara people)
This Brutal World
2017
Inkjet pigment print
Courtesy the artist and Michael Reid, Sydney / Berlin

 

 

With This Brutal World, Christian Thompson focuses on portraiture and its ability to trouble the relationship between past and present.

Where Dupain’s Sunbaker supposedly conveys a quintessential Australian identity, Thompson reminds us of assimilation policies first outlined at the Aboriginal Welfare Initial Conference of Commonwealth and State Aboriginal Authorities in 1937. Here the artist wears a costume borrowed from London’s National Theatre. His eyes are covered with dried roses and his body is superimposed on the glittering shallow creek beds – images captured during trips to his traditional homelands in outback Queensland. Thompson employs references to the natural world to evoke spirituality.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Julie Rrap’s Speechless (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Julie Rrap (Born 1950, Lismore, NSW Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Speechless' 2017

Julie Rrap (Born 1950, Lismore, NSW Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Speechless' 2017

 

Julie Rrap (Born 1950, Lismore, NSW Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Speechless
2017
Bronze and steel
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Julie Rrap’s long interest in the politics of the human body informed her investigation of the Sunbaker pose. A casual holiday snap that came to symbolise leisure and freedom in the 1970s, Dupain’s photograph was taken in the uncertain economic times before the Second World War.

Exploring the ambivalence of the pose and transposing this contradiction to now, Rrap draws attention to the paradox of a nation seen as a sun-blessed paradise while its shores have been a place of contestation and misery. Speechless places the viewer in two positions, showing the viewpoint of both the person who speaks out and the one who keeps their head down.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Peta Clancy’s Fissures in time (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #3' 2017

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #1' 2017

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #2' 2017

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #4' 2017

 

Peta Clancy (Born 1970, Melbourne, Vic, Lives and works Melbourne, Vic)
Fissures in time (L to R) #3 #1 #2 #4
2017
Archival pigment prints
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Drawing on memories of childhood landscapes, Peta Clancy repeatedly visited several locations in Victoria, taking photographs with her large-format camera. Informed by her research into the Massacre Map published by the Koorie Heritage Trust, which identified sites where Indigenous massacres occurred between 1836 and 1853, the artist has produced placeless images that question our relationship to landscapes of trauma and how we perceive reality.

After photographing a site, Clancy returned to install a large print on a custom-designed frame in front of the same landscape; slicing through the paper, then revealing sections of the scene behind before re-photographing it. The resulting images challenge you to see with fresh eyes.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of William Yang’s SUMMER, A suite of images and My Time at South Bondi (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
SUMMER, A suite of images
2017
Digital pigment prints
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

My Time at South Bondi
2017
Video with music by Daniel Holdsworth
Duration: 4 min
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

A prolific documentary photographer, storyteller and performer, William Yang creates works that tell an intimate, autobiographical story.

For this installation, William Yang draws on his extensive archive of images, memories and sensual experiences, showing the unique atmosphere of freedom that prevailed on Sydney beaches in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Taken around Bondi and Tamarama, Yang has captured the joy of an era and the beauty of the elements with humour and generosity. More than reminiscence or exposé, Yang’s images reveal sensitive connections and insightful reflections about cultural identity.

 

William Yang. 'Golden Summer' 1987/2016

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Golden Summer
1987/2016
Digital print with gold foil
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Lifesaver Double' 1987/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Lifesaver Double
1987/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Lifesavers #3' 1987/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Lifesavers #3
1987/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #1' 1994/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Splashproof #1
1994/2017
Digital print with digital text
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #2' 1994/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Splashproof #2
1994/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #3' 1994/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Splashproof #3
1994/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Bondi Beach (1970s)' 1970s/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Bondi Beach (1970s)
1970s/2017
Digital print with text
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Tamarama Lifesavers' 1981/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Tamarama Lifesavers
1981/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang 'Checking Out Bondi' 1981/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Checking Out Bondi
1981/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Childhood of Icarus' 1975/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Childhood of Icarus
1975/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Khaled Sabsabi (Born 1965, Tripoli, Lebanon Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
229 (extract)
2017
Three-channel video with sound
Duration: 3 min 49 sec
Hand-painted laser prints on transparencies
C-type prints
Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Monash Gallery of Art and Khaled Sabsabi

 

 

Khaled Sabsabi has recreated the negative of the Sunbaker by reframing the image and playing with the essential codes of the photographic medium. Sabsabi has multiplied, handpainted and digitally animated the photograph to make it resonate as a symbol of the 229 years since colonisation.

229 challenges the representation of race by inverting black and white, forcing us to question the almost imperceptible alterations, and examine notions of copyright and origin. Ultimately, 229 asks the viewer to be actively engaged and socially responsible.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Khaled Sabsabi’s 229 (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

 

Khaled Sabsabi (Born 1965, Tripoli, Lebanon Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
229
2017
Production stills from video
Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

 

 

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Victoria 3150 Australia
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26
Jul
17

Review: ‘Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition’ as part of the NGV Festival of Photography at NGV Australia, Melbourne Part 2

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 30th July 2017

Photographs are in the chronological room order of the exhibition.

 

Entrance

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Pairs (and the double)' (detail) 2016-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The entrants (detail)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising objects collected by the artist and works from the NGV Collection
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

 

e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e

 

E

 

 

This polymorphic, inflated album of an exhibition by Patrick Pound at NGV Australia, Melbourne, is unfortunately stuck with a most ridiculous title.

The great “show and tell” consists of 6 large galleries which are crammed full of thousands of photographs from the artists collection and artefacts from the NGV collection which form a (according to the exhibition blurb) “diagrammatic network of intersections, and in that way shows one of the underlying ideas of the whole exhibition, which is to seek out patterns and similarities and connections across objects and works of art and ideas. In other words, one thing leads to another.” Not necessarily.

Pound is interested in the writing of Georges Perec (a member of the Oulipo group of writers and mathematicians which formed in France in 1960) and his use of “restrictions in his writing as a way of encouraging new patterns and structures.” Perec wrote a whole novel in 1969, A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, “The Disappearance”) entirely without using the letter e (except for the author’s name). Oulipo writers sought to produce a document that undermines its own reliability. Through structures – or constraints – on composition, Oulipo writers sought to produce new and interesting works.

In a similar vein Pound restricts his collections of photographs to restrictive themes, such as people falling, sleepers, holes, readers, the air, lamps, listening to music, hands, shadows, interventions, backs, possibly dead people, holding cameras, self-portraits, doubles, entrants, etc. He seeks to gather his thoughts through these collections, and proposes that collecting found photographs “is like taking cuttings from the world.” A form of collage.

For me the grouping of all these “found” photographs together in display cases is a form of conceptual conceit: the collection of such varied instances of the shadow of the photographer appearing in every image, for example, means very little. Unlike the restrictions that Perec proposes which lead to interesting outcomes, Pound’s restrictions do not enrich the individual photographs by placing them all together, in fact the opposite. The totality is less than the sum of the parts. Reductio ad absurdum.

As individual photographs (as seen below in this posting), the images have presence, they have an aura which emanates from the moment, and context, in which the photograph was taken. Different in each instance. But in this exhibition we are overwhelmed by thousands of images and cannot give them due attention; the photographic “trace” becomes specious. The aura of the singular image is denuded; the aura of the collective does not exist. The collections become the collective photograph (of space) as reassurance: that the interrupting time freeze of individual photographs is not unique and occurs again and again and again. Pound’s collections are a form of photographic cancer… a kind of photographic plate-spinning, where the artist tries to keep all topics rotating in mid-air.

Pound’s existential typologies and classifications are a form of superficial play, using one photo to beget another. The addition of artefacts from the NGV collection only highlights the folly, in which two ceramic parrots paired with a photograph of two parrots is almost the indulgent nadir. The typologies and collections can, however, be seen as an ironic comment on the nature of our image saturated society, where millions of photographs are uploaded and viewed on the www every day. They can also be seen as a comment on the way people view photography in contemporary culture, where every selfie or picture of what I had for breakfast is posted online for consumption. While I admire Pound’s pugnaciousness and the obsessiveness needed to collect all of these images (being a collector myself) and, further, the tenacity required to catalogue and arrange them all – I really wonder about the clinamen – a term coined by Lucretius to describe the unpredictable swerve of atoms in his version of physics. It was adopted by the Oulipo set as – quoting Paul Klee – ‘the error in the system’. By gathering all of these photographs together in groups, the periphery becomes the centre … AND LOSES ITS UNPREDICTABILITY – the collective photographs loose their punctum, their unpredicatability. The photographs loose their individual transcendence of time. Perec’s missing eeeeeeeeeeeeeee’s at the beginning of this text thus exclude chaos, randomness, the capital E.

Other statements and ideas also grate. “The camera reduces the world to a list of things to photograph. When I click BUY on eBay – for me that’s the equivalent of taking a photograph. The mouse is my camera.” Well, no actually. The camera never reduces the world, it just is, it’s a machine. It is the person who takes the photograph, the human, that reduces the world to what they want to photograph. And when you click BUY on eBay it is not the equivalent of taking a photograph. You have used your money, your capitalism, your CAPITAL, to purchase your DESIRE. You are taking someone else’s vernacular, their moment of deciding what to photograph, to purchase their desire so that you can possess it yourself. You are coveting time and space. “Eventually every photograph is a photograph of a dead person.” Well, no actually, because not every photograph is of a person. “The camera is an idling hearse.” Yes, and so is your body, and the motor car, and walking across the road. The effect of these oblique statements is to further dumb down the public understanding of photography.

The work in the exhibition starts to come alive in Room 2 The Museum of There / Not there, where all of the things in the room are asked to stand in for an absence, where everything is a remnant or a trace. “Each thing here is a reminder of something else, it can be seen a surrogate or a partial representation.” The dissociative associations challenge the viewer to create their own connections and narratives from the objects placed before them. They mentally challenge the viewer to imagine. This challenge is further heightened in some of the best work in the exhibition, the series Portmanteau – definition: a large travelling bag; a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others: podcast is a portmanteau, a made-up word coined from a combination of the words iPod and broadcast – in which visually disparate images (a cloud, a person blowing gum; a golf ball hovering over the cup, an eclipse) make unusual but sympathetic and intriguing connections across time and space. Photographs such as High wire act (2015) and The Fountainhead (2016, both below) are complex and creative examples of focused image making which reminded me of the Bauhaus collages of Josef Albers where Albers nowhere changes, “the rules of the game more profoundly than in his collages that feature a multitude of photographs. His collage of a bullfight in San Sebastian can be read as a short story or experimental film, where we as viewers recognise that we are being transported to a distant time and place, no less enchanting for its impossibility.” Randomness and synchronicity are back in the game.

Speaking of games, my favourite Pound objects in the exhibition were his Solander box series The game of things (2016, below). Their charm, wittiness, beauty, visual and mental acuity put paid to many other forced associations in the exhibition. He observes that, “Some things have little to do with each other until they come into contact.” But even when they do come into contact, they can still have very little to do with each other. Why The game of things series works so well is that Pound restricts himself (yes that Perec restriction that actually means something) in order/disorder to create something new and interesting, a document that undermines its own reliability (its a game!). The clinamen, the unpredictable swerve which, according to Lucretius occurs “at no fixed place or time” and which provides the “free will which living things throughout the world have” appears. Pound’s free will combines disparate elements in a pared down aesthetic, a playful game, where there is no need for thousands of photographs to focus his ideas.

While Pound’s description of multiplicities, repetitions and differences is engaging in a humorous and ironic way as “lines of escape from the generalities of society,” they create distance from laws and norms even while still re-enacting them. Much more interesting are Pound’s subversions of a singular reality through the overlapping of images – both mental and physical. While existing in a physical space, the “game of things” actually lives in my mind because humanness is the ultimate clinamen.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,372

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

 

 

A page from Georges Perec's book 'Species of Spaces (Espèces d'espaces) and Other Pieces' 1974

 

A page from Georges Perec’s book Species of Spaces (Espèces d’espaces) and Other Pieces 1974

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Entrance to the exhibition Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition with the work The photographer’s shadow (2000-17) right
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s work The photographer’s shadow (2000-17, detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s work The photographer’s shadow (2000-17, detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The photographer’s shadow
2000-17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'The photographer's shadow' (detail) 2000-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The photographer’s shadow (detail)
2000-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
People holding cameras
2007-17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Room 1

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography.
Photos: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation views of Patrick Pound’s work Damaged 2008-17 (detail)
Photos: Wayne Taylor

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Damaged' (detail) 2008-17

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Damaged' (detail) 2008-17

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Damaged' (detail) 2008-17

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Damaged' (detail) 2008-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Damaged (details)
2008-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s work People holding cameras 2007-17 (detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s work Listen to the music 2016-17 (detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s work Self portraits 2007-17 (detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'The hand of the photographer' (detail) 2007-17

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'The hand of the photographer' (detail) 2007-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The hand of the photographer (details)
2007-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The readers (installation view details)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist and works from the NGV Collection
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Photography and air (installation view details)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist and works from the NGV Collection
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Room 2

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation views of The Museum of there / Not there 2016-17 (detail) with (above) John Brack’s Self-portrait (1955), David Potts Cat show, London (1953), Eugène Atget’s Eclipse (1911, top right), Lee Friedlander’s Mount Rushmore (1969, middle right) and Erich Salomon’s Banquet at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, August 1931 (bottom right).
Photos: Wayne Taylor

 

Erich Salomon (Germany 1886-1944) 'Banquet at the Quai d'Orsay, Paris, August 1931. 'A le voilà, le roi des indiscrets!'' 1931, printed 1970

 

Erich Salomon (Germany 1886-1944)
Banquet at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, August 1931. ‘A le voilà, le roi des indiscrets!’
1931, printed 1970
Gelatin silver photograph, ed. 3/100
Purchased, 1971

 

 

Here are some examples of how
The Museum of There / Not there works:

From Rodin’s marble head
without its helmet …

to a sculpture that’s lost its head
yet remains holding onto its hair …

and from a broken comb found in
an Egyptian tomb to a novelty wig …

it is full of missing parts,
surrogates and substitutions,
apparitions and disappearing acts.

Every representation is, after all,
something of a conjurer’s trick.

Patrick Pound

 

The Museum of There / Not there is a collection of my things, and the NGV’s things. All of the things in this room are asked to stand in for an absence. To make its presence shimmer.

From a ventriloquist’s dummy to a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness; from a photo of an empty shell to a nineteenth-century bustle; from an American toy border patrol car to a painting of an immigrant – everything in this room is a remnant or a trace. They speak of being there or not being all there.

Each thing here is a reminder of something else, it can be seen a surrogate or a partial representation. There are things that are unfinished or incomplete; there are ghosts and traces; things that are missing parts or that are simply missing. Meanings too might have changed, or become fluid, with the passing of time. In effect, this is a giant collage where things are asked to stand in for other things. They are material realisations of ephemeral and ethereal states.

There is also a soundtrack, featuring music ranging from Tom Petty’s “Refugee” to Aretha Franklin’s “I Wonder (Where You Are Tonight)”.

Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound's 'The Museum of there / Not there' 2016-17 (detail)

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The Museum of There / Not there (installation view details)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising objects collected by the artist, a selection of works by the artist, and works from the NGV Collection
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Passageway

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The game of things (installation view detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

“Photographs and things reflect on each other as if in a game or a puzzle.” ~ Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The game of things (installation view detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The game of things (installation view detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The game of things (installation view detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The game of things (installation view detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

 

“To collect is to gather your thoughts through things.”

“When I began collecting photographs I was thinking of the way the camera reduces the world to a list of things to photograph. I thought that to photograph was to collect the world in the form of pictures… As writer Susan Sontag said, photography is not so much a representation of the world but a piece of it. Collecting found photos is like taking cuttings from the world. For me it is a form of collage.”

“I did suggest the call the show ‘Enough Already’ but they went with ‘The Great Exhibition’. Perhaps the best thing about that is that even people who really don’t like it will still have to call it ‘The Great Exhibition’.”

“The camera reduces the world to a list of things to photograph. When I click BUY on eBay – for me that’s the equivalent of taking a photograph. The mouse is my camera.”

“As Honoré de Balzac said, “A hobby, a mania, is pleasure transformed into the shape of an idea!””

“Some things have little to do with each other until  they come into contact.”

“To collect is to look for like-minded things. One thing inevitably leads to another. When you pair one thing with another, some things start to make sense – or not. In the
end, every collection is, after all, a reflecting pool.”

“Every representation is, after all, something of a conjurer’s trick.”

“Art traditionally becalms her sitters.”

“Photography stops people in their tracks. Eventually every photograph is a photograph of a dead person. The camera is an idling hearse.”

.
Patrick Pound

 

 

Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition is the first comprehensive exhibition of the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist. An avid collector, Patrick Pound is equally interested in systems and the ordering of objects: an attempt, perhaps, to make things coherent. As Pound says, ‘to collect is to gather your thoughts through things’.

Through complex arrangements and installations of objects drawn from the artist’s expansive archives, Pound’s work playfully and poetically explores the art of collecting, and the ways in which things can hold and project ideas. For this exhibition Pound has created several vast new collections, which he describes as ‘museums of things’. Objects that are seemingly redundant or overlooked are meticulously collected by the artist and put back into ‘use’ in these museums. There are museums of falling, sleepers, and of holes.

The Museum of there / not there houses objects ranging from a souvenir spoon to a mask, a mourning locket to a painted ruin – one thing standing in for another. Within each museum a new logic or narrative is created for the viewer to unravel or identify. In several of Pound’s museums, works from the NGV Collection are grouped into their own categories or sit alongside his ‘things’, with the artist inviting us to rethink these works and consider what it means to collect.

Text from the NGV

 

Room 3

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Pairs (and the double)' (detail) 2016-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Pairs (and the double) (detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

 

“This room started with my collection of photos of reflections, and of photos of pairs of things; of twins and double exposures. I then began researching the NGV Collection and found an abundance of “pairs and doubles”, assembled within paintings, decorative arts objects, prints and photographs.

To collect is to look for like-minded things. One thing inevitably leads to another. When you pair one thing with another, some things start to make sense – or not. In the end, every collection is, after all, a reflecting pool.”

~ Patrick Pound

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Pairs (and the double)' (detail) 2016-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Pairs (and the double) (detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Pairs (and the double)' (detail) 2016-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Pairs (and the double) (detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

William De Morgan (designer, England 1839-1917) 'Startled tigers, dish' c. 1880

 

William De Morgan & Co., London (manufacturer, England 1872-1911)
William De Morgan (designer, England 1839-1917)
Startled tigers, dish
c. 1880
Earthenware
Felton Bequest, 1980

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Man Ray (born United States 1890, lived in France 1921-39, 1951-76, died France 1976)
Solarised double portrait
1930s
Gelatin silver photograph
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Miss F. MacDonald Anderson and Mrs E. E. O. Lumsden, Founder Benefactors, 1983

Guercino (Italy 1591-1666)
Study for Esther before Ahasuerus
c. 1639
Red chalk
Felton Bequest, 1923

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Pairs (and the double) (installation view details)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Room 4

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The collection of shelves (installation view)
1999-2017
Circles 1999-2015
28 (screwed) 2004
Knife blocks 1999-2017
Things Change 2015
The Collector 2000-17
Some French things 2014
Museum darts 1989-2017
Twenty six and one books 2010
Tangled 2012-15
Blade magazine 2014
Criminal records 2012
Index cards 2012
Lost birds 1999-2014
Index photos 2013
The names 2007
Small arms 2000-17
Soldiers 2009
Lockets 1989-2016
26 brown things 2002
Site specific installation comprising objects collected by the artist
Photos: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s work Twenty six and one books 2010 (detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Twenty six and one books (installation view detail)
2010
Museum darts (detail)
1989-2017
From the work Twenty six and one books 2010
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

 

These shelves house a range of collections which Pound has been gathering over many years: they demonstrate how collections of things gradually evolved into works of art. These collections tend to be smaller than others seen throughout this exhibition, and each one operates according to a very specific constraint. Their organisational technique derives from Pound’s interest in the Oulipo group of writers and mathematicians which formed in France in 1960 and, specifically, in the writing of key member Georges Perec. Pound is fascinated by Perec’s use of restrictions in his writing as a way of encouraging new patterns and structures, and has translated some of those ideas into the formation of these collections.

In Pound’s work Twenty six and one books, 2010, each book has a number in the title, starting with Ground Zero, all the way through to Maxim Gorky’s story collection
Twenty-Six and One. The entire 26 brown things, 2002, collection was found and purchased by the artist in one shop, on the same day, with everything being – you guessed it – brown.

Like some vast novel cycle, collections reflect the world. The use of such constraints when organising the collections allows for surprising and poetic responses. If we look closely enough, things are found to reflect, to hold and to project ideas.

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Tangled' 2012-15

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Tangled' 2012-15

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Tangled (details)
2012-15
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition at NGV Australia with the work Portmanteau (2015-17) at middle centre. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography.
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Portmanteau' 2015-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Portmanteau (detail)
2015-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Portmanteau (installation view detail)
2015-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Portmanteau (installation view detail)
2015-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Portmanteau (installation view detail)
2015-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Portmanteau (installation view detail)
2015-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Portmanteau (installation view detail)
2015-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
High wire act (installation view)
2015
Collage of photographs
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The Fountainhead (installation view)
2016
Collage of photographs
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

 

Photographs, objects and curios sourced from the internet and op shops will be organised alongside artworks from the NGV Collection in a wondrous series of encyclopaedic displays for Patrick Pound’s major exhibition Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition.

An avid collector, the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist is fascinated by the categorisation and ordering of objects. Irreverently titled The Great Exhibition, with a knowing nod to the epic ambitions of the famous London exposition of 1851, in his largest ever presentation Pound will showcase more than 50 collections, which he describes as ‘museums of things’, featuring hundreds of items from the artist’s expansive archives.

Pound has also extensively researched the scope of the NGV Collection, identifying more than 300 works from across all of the NGV collecting departments to incorporate into his ‘museums of things’. The connections that Pound draws between objects will allow audiences to see the NGV’s diverse holdings in surprising new contexts.

Among the ‘museums’, viewers will encounter vast displays of found photographs which, at closer glance, reveal their common thread, such as The hand of the photographer, a display in which the eclipsing thumb of the photographer is ever-present, and Damaged, a huge display of photographs which have been defaced by their original owners; faces marred by cigarette burns, marker or ripped out of the photo entirely.

Other ‘museums’ incorporate seemingly disparate items, like The Museum of there / Not there, which explores the idea of absence and presence, illustrated by a curated selection of objects such as an obsolete Australian $2 banknote and a mourning locket alongside a milk jug produced to commemorate the forthcoming coronation of King Edward VIII, who abdicated before he was crowned.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, commented, “Through complex arrangements of items drawn from the artist’s archives alongside works from the NGV Collection, Pound’s installations playfully explore the art of collecting, and the ways in which things can hold and project ideas. Within each museum a new logic or exciting narrative is created for the viewer to unravel or identify.”

Pound last exhibited at the NGV in the 2013 exhibition Melbourne Now with his popular “Gallery of Air”, a wunderkammer of diverse artworks and objects that held the idea of air, drawn from the NGV Collection and the artist’s archives.

Press release from the NGV

 

Room 5

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography.
Photos: Wayne Taylor

 

 

This room contains several of Pound’s collections which intersect with each other in various ways, revealing what the artist describes as a ‘matrix of connections’. Occasionally the collections also connect to works of art in the NGV Collection, and vice versa. The room is a vast diagrammatic network of intersections, and in that way shows one of the underlying ideas of the whole exhibition, which is to seek out patterns and similarities and connections across objects and works of art and ideas. In other words, one thing leads to another.

This installation also reflects the way in which Pound searches on the internet, and the ways in which the internet leads us from one thing to another via algorithms. The room is a visual representation of what Pound describes as ‘thinking through things’.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
In tears (installation view)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Man Ray. 'Eye and tears' 1930s, printed 1972

 

Man Ray (born United States 1890, lived in France 1921-39, 1951-76, died France 1976)
Eye and tears
1930s, printed 1972
Gelatin silver photograph
Purchased, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
With arms outstretched (installation view detail)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- ) 'Drive by (en passant)' (detail) 2016-17

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Drive by (en passant) (detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Drive by (en passant) (installation view detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Drive by (en passant) (installation view detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
Drive by (en passant) (installation view detail)
2016-17
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

 

The photographs collected by Patrick Pound include masses of family and vernacular snapshots, as well as newspaper archives and movie stills, which he describes as being ‘unhinged’ from their original sources. Pound does not create photographs in the traditional sense; rather, he spends hours searching for, sorting and buying prints on the internet. He describes this process as a form of ‘retaking’ the photograph.

The images are then organised according to an idea or theme or pattern, such as: ‘readers’, ‘the air’, ‘lamps’ or ‘listening to music’. Pound says he likes the idea of photographing something you cannot otherwise see. Unexpected connections, repetitions and coincidences emerge when the images are placed together in this way. Looking through these images reminds the viewer of the dramatic changes that have occurred in photography – not only in terms of the evolving technology of cameras and prints, but also in terms of what people photograph, why, and how these photographs are shared.

“When I began collecting photographs I was thinking of the way the camera reduces the world to a list of things to photograph. I thought that to photograph was to collect the world in the form of pictures. I love the way photography is so directly connected with the world. It has a remarkable familiarity. We all think we can understand it immediately. As writer Susan Sontag said, photography is not so much a representation of the world but a piece of it. Collecting found photos is like taking cuttings from the world. For me it is a form of collage.

Typically, the analogue photograph stopped life in its tracks. It couldn’t stop time, of course, but it could hold it up to a mirror. The vernacular snap reminds us that the camera is both a portal and a mirror. Photographers used to put photographs in albums and in boxes to be viewed and reviewed at will. Photographs were never made to be scanned and redistributed on eBay. Whether they are analogue or digital, printed photographs have an afterlife that no one saw coming. Photography used to be the medium of record. Now it is equally the medium of transmission.”

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Room 6

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition at NGV Australia with at left, People from behind 2016-17; at centre, People who look dead but (probably) aren’t 2011-14; and at right, The sleepers 2007-17. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography.
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

 

The exhibition ends as it began, with figures whose backs are turned to us. Alongside are images of people who are asleep for the moment, and some forever; this gallery houses images of people who are all somehow removed from us. They are absorbed in their actions; they are unconscious, or not conscious, of us as they look away. There is a peculiar aspect of voyeurism that is afforded by the camera; the people in these photographs cannot see us looking at them. The camera also has a long association with the idea of stopping time – of freezing, or embalming, fleeting moments.

As Pound says, “Photography stops people in their tracks. Eventually every photograph is a photograph of a dead person. The camera is an idling hearse.”

 

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
People who look dead but (probably) aren’t
2011-14
Gelatin silver photographs and type C photographs
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Patrick Pound
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s People who look dead but (probably) aren’t 2011-14 (installation view detail)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
People who look dead but (probably) aren’t (installation view detail)
2011-14
Gelatin silver photographs and type C photographs
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s The sleepers 2007-17 (installation view)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
The sleepers (installation view detail)
2007–17
Site specific installation comprising photographs collected by the artist
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Installation view of Patrick Pound’s People from behind 2016-17 (installation view)
Photo: Wayne Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition' at NGV Australia, Federation Square. Presented as part of the NGV Festival of Photography

 

Patrick Pound (New Zealander/Australian 1962- )
People from behind (installation view details)
2016-17
Site specific installation comprising works from the NGV Collection
Courtesy of the artist, Station, Melbourne, Stills Gallery, Sydney, Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland
© Patrick Pound
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, National Gallery of Victoria and Patrick Pound

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Bondi' 1939, printed c. 1975

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Bondi
1939, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board, 1976

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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12
Jul
17

Exhibition: ‘Irving Penn: Centennial’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Part 1

Exhibition dates: 24th April – 30th July 2017

Part 1 of this bumper posting, with some biographical information on the lesser known sitters. More to follow ~ Marcus

 

'Irving Penn: Centennial' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The most comprehensive retrospective to date of the work of the great American photographer Irving Penn (1917-2009), this exhibition will mark the centennial of the artist’s birth. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Penn mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, and detail.

The exhibition follows the 2015 announcement of the landmark promised gift from The Irving Penn Foundation to The Met of more than 150 photographs by Penn, representing every period of the artist’s dynamic career with the camera. The gift will form the core of the exhibition, which will feature more than 200 photographs by Penn, including iconic fashion studies of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the artist’s wife; exquisite still lifes; Quechua children in Cuzco, Peru; portraits of urban labourers; female nudes; tribesmen in New Guinea; and colour flower studies. The artist’s beloved portraits of cultural figures from Truman Capote, Picasso, and Colette to Ingmar Bergman and Issey Miyake will also be featured. Rounding out the exhibition will be photographs by Penn that entered The Met collection prior to the promised gift.

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Union Bar Window, American South' 1941, printed c. 1941-42

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Union Bar Window, American South
1941, printed c. 1941-42
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 3/16 x 8 3/4 in. (18.2 x 22.3 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'O'Sullivan's Heels, New York' c. 1939

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
O’Sullivan’s Heels, New York
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 x 9 3/8 in. (22.9 x 23.8 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Pulquería Decoration, Mexico' 1942

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Pulquería Decoration, Mexico
1942
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 7/8 x 10 9/16 in. (30.2 x 26.8 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Le Corbusier, New York' 1947

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Le Corbusier, New York
1947
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in. (25.3 x 20.2 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917–2009 New York) 'Elsa Schiaparelli, New York' March 29, 1948, printed c. 1948

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Elsa Schiaparelli, New York
March 29, 1948, printed c. 1948
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (25.1 x 20 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Charles James, New York' February 28, 1948, printed June 2002

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Charles James, New York
February 28, 1948, printed June 2002
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in. (25.3 x 20.1 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

Charles Wilson Brega James (18 July 1906 – 23 September 1978) was a British-born fashion designer known as “America’s First Couturier”. He is widely considered to have been a master of cutting and is known for his highly structured aesthetic. …

James looked upon his dresses as works of art, as did many of his customers. Year after year, he reworked original designs, ignoring the sacrosanct schedule of seasons. The components of the precisely constructed designs were interchangeable, so that James had a never-ending fund of ideas on which to draw. He is most famous for his sculpted ball gowns made of lavish fabrics and to exacting tailoring standards, but is also remembered for his capes and coats, often trimmed with fur and embroidery, and his spiral zipped dresses. He is also famed for a unique, one of a kind white satin quilted jacket made in 1938 and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, described as the starting point for “anoraks, space man and even fur jackets”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Ballet Society, New York [Tanaquil Le Clercq with Corrado Cagli, Vittorio Rieti, and George Balanchine]' March 5, 1948, printed November 1976

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Ballet Society, New York [Tanaquil Le Clercq with Corrado Cagli, Vittorio Rieti, and George Balanchine]
March 5, 1948, printed November 1976
Platinum-palladium print
Image: 22 3/4 x 18 3/8 in. (57.8 x 46.7 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

 

Tanaquil Le Clercq (October 2, 1929 – December 31, 2000) was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Her dancing career ended abruptly when she was stricken with polio in Copenhagen during the company’s European tour in 1956. Eventually regaining most of the use of her arms and torso, she remained paralysed from the waist down for the rest of her life. …

When she was fifteen years old, George Balanchine asked her to perform with him in a dance he choreographed for a polio charity benefit. In an eerie portent of things to come, he played a character named Polio, and Le Clercq was his victim who became paralysed and fell to the floor. Then, children tossed dimes at her character, prompting her to get up and dance again.

Corrado Cagli (Ancona, 1910 – Rome, 1976) was an Italian painter of Jewish heritage, who lived in the United States during World War II. …

He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was involved in the 1944 Normandy landings, and fought in Belgium and Germany. He was with the forces that liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp, and made a series of dramatic drawings on that subject. In 1948, Cagli returned to Rome to take up permanent residence there. From that time forward, he experimented in various abstract and non-figurative techniques (neo-metaphysical, neo-cubist, informal). He was awarded the Guggenheim prize (1946) and the Marzotto prize (1954).

Vittorio Rieti (January 28, 1898 – February 19, 1994) was a Jewish-Italian composer. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Rieti moved to Milan to study economics. He subsequently studied in Rome under Respighi and Casella, and lived there until 1940. … He emigrated to the United States in 1940, becoming a naturalised American citizen on the 1st of June 1944. He taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore (1948-49), Chicago Musical College (1950-54), Queens College, New York (1958-60), and New York College of Music (1960-64).

George Balanchine (January 22 [O.S. January 9] 1904 – April 30, 1983) was a choreographer. Styled as the father of American ballet, he co-founded the New York City Ballet and remained its Artistic Director for more than 35 years.

Balanchine took the standards and technique from his time at the Imperial Ballet School and fused it with other schools of movement that he had adopted during his tenure on Broadway and in Hollywood, creating his signature “neoclassical style”. He was a choreographer known for his musicality; he expressed music with dance and worked extensively with leading composers of his time like Igor Stravinsky. Balanchine was invited to America in 1933 by a young arts patron named Lincoln Kirstein, and together they founded the School of American Ballet. Along with Kirstein, Balanchine also co-founded the New York City Ballet (NYCB).

All texts from the Wikipedia website

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Truman Capote, New York' March 5, 1948

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Truman Capote, New York
March 5, 1948
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10 1/16 x 8 3/16 in. (25.5 x 20.8 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a major retrospective of the photographs of Irving Penn to mark the centennial of the artist’s birth. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Irving Penn (1917-2009) mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, detail, and printmaking. Irving Penn: Centennial, opening April 24, 2017, will be the most comprehensive exhibition of the great American photographer’s work to date and will include both masterpieces and hitherto unknown prints from all his major series.

Long celebrated for more than six decades of influential work at Vogue magazine, Penn was first and foremost a fashion photographer. His early photographs of couture are masterpieces that established a new standard for photographic renderings of style at mid-century, and he continued to record the cycles of fashions year after year in exquisite images characterised by striking shapes and formal brilliance. His rigorous modern compositions, minimal backgrounds, and diffused lighting were innovative and immensely influential. Yet Penn’s photographs of fashion are merely the most salient of his specialties. He was a peerless portraitist, whose perceptions extended beyond the human face and figure to take in more complete codes of demeanour, adornment, and artefact. He was also blessed with an acute graphic intelligence and a sculptor’s sensitivity to volumes in light, talents that served his superb nude studies and life-long explorations of still life.

Penn dealt with so many subjects throughout his long career that he is conventionally seen either with a single lens – as the portraitist, fashion photographer, or still life virtuoso – or as the master of all trades, the jeweller of journalists who could fine-tool anything. The exhibition at The Met will chart a different course, mapping the overall geography of the work and the relative importance of the subjects and campaigns the artist explored most creatively. Its organisation largely follows the pattern of his development so that the structure of the work, its internal coherence, and the tenor of the times of the artist’s experience all become evident.

The exhibition will most thoroughly explore the following series: street signs, including examples of early work in New York, the American South, and Mexico; fashion and style, with many classic photographs of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the former dancer who became the first supermodel as well as the artist’s wife; portraits of indigenous people in Cuzco, Peru; the Small Trades portraits of urban labourers; portraits of beloved cultural figures from Truman Capote, Joe Louis, Picasso, and Colette to Alvin Ailey, Ingmar Bergman, and Joan Didion; the infamous cigarette still lifes; portraits of the fabulously dressed citizens of Dahomey (Benin), New Guinea, and Morocco; the late “Morandi” still lifes; voluptuous nudes; and glorious colour studies of flowers. These subjects chart the artist’s path through the demands of the cultural journal, the changes in fashion itself and in editorial approach, the fortunes of the picture press in the age of television, the requirements of an artistic inner voice in a commercial world, the moral condition of the American conscience during the Vietnam War era, the growth of photography as a fine art in the 1970s and 1980s, and personal intimations of mortality. All these strands of meaning are embedded in the images – a web of deep and complex ideas belied by the seeming forthrightness of what is represented.

Penn generally worked in a studio or in a traveling tent that served the same purpose, and favoured a simple background of white or light grey tones. His preferred backdrop was made from an old theatre curtain found in Paris that had been softly painted with diffused grey clouds. This backdrop followed Penn from studio to studio; a companion of over 60 years, it will be displayed in one of the Museum’s galleries among celebrated portraits it helped create. Other highlights of the exhibition include newly unearthed footage of the photographer at work in his tent in Morocco; issues of Vogue magazine illustrating the original use of the photographs and, in some cases, to demonstrate the difference between those brilliantly coloured, journalistic presentations and Penn’s later reconsidered reuse of the imagery; and several of Penn’s drawings shown near similar still life photographs.

 

Exhibition credits

Irving Penn: Centennial is co-curated by Maria Morris Hambourg, independent curator and the founding curator of The Met’s Department of Photographs, and Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at The Met.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Glove and Shoe, New York' July 7, 1947

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Glove and Shoe, New York
July 7, 1947
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 9/16 x 7 3/4 in. (24.3 x 19.7 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) The 'Tarot Reader (Bridget Tichenor and Jean Patchett), New York' 1949, printed 1984

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
The Tarot Reader (Bridget Tichenor and Jean Patchett), New York
1949, printed 1984
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19 5/16 x 18 1/2 in. (49 x 47 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

 

Bridget Bate Tichenor (born Bridget Pamela Arkwright Bate on November 22, 1917 – died on October 20, 1990), also known as Bridget Tichenor or B.B.T., was a Mexican surrealist painter of fantastic art in the school of magic realism and a fashion editor. Born in Paris and of British descent, she later embraced Mexico as her home. …

Bate Tichenor’s painting technique was based upon 16th-century Italian tempera formulas that artist Paul Cadmus taught her in New York in 1945, where she would prepare an eggshell-finished gesso ground on masonite board and apply (instead of tempera) multiple transparent oil glazes defined through chiaroscuro with sometimes one hair of a #00 sable brush. Bate Tichenor considered her work to be of a spiritual nature, reflecting ancient occult religions, magic, alchemy, and Mesoamerican mythology in her Italian Renaissance style of painting.

The cultures of Mesoamerica and her international background would influence the style and themes of Bate Tichenor’s work as a magic realist painter in Mexico. She was among a group of surrealist and magic realist female artists who came to live in Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Jean Patchett (February 16, 1926 – January 22, 2002) was a leading fashion model of the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. She was among the best known models of that era, which included Dovima, Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker, Evelyn Tripp and Lisa Fonssagrives. Patchett was the subject of two of Vogue Magazine’s most famous covers, both shot in 1950 by Erwin Blumenfeld and Irving Penn. She was famous for being one of the first high-fashion models to appear remote; previously, models had appeared warm and friendly. Irving Penn described her as “a young American goddess in Paris couture”.

Texts from the Wikipedia website

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'The Twelve Most Photographed Models, New York' 1947

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
The Twelve Most Photographed Models, New York
1947
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 3/8 x 16 15/16 in. (34 x 43 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Girl Drinking (Mary Jane Russell), New York' 1949, printed December 1977

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Girl Drinking (Mary Jane Russell), New York
1949, printed December 1977
Platinum-palladium print
Image: 20 1/2 x 19 1/4 in. (52.1 x 48.9 cm.)
Loan from The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

 

Mary Jane Russell (10 July 1926 – 2003) was a successful New York-based American photographic fashion model between 1948 and 1961. She often worked with Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Irving Penn, and appeared on many covers for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar during the course of her modelling career. …

Russell was … a favourite model of Irving Penn, who remembered her qualities of concentration and tenderness. Two of Penn’s better known images of her were Girl Drinking, published in Vogue in 1949, and the 1951 photograph Girl with Tobacco on Tongue. As Russell did not smoke, the process of taking the latter photograph made her physically sick.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Marlene Dietrich, New York' November 3, 1948, printed April 2000

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Marlene Dietrich, New York
November 3, 1948, printed April 2000
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10 x 8 1/16 in. (25.4 x 20.4 cm.) Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Theatre Accident, New York' 1947, printed 1984

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Theatre Accident, New York
1947, printed 1984
Dye transfer print
Image: 19 1/2 x 15 1/4 in. (49.6 x 38.8 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Still Life with Watermelon, New York' 1947, printed 1985

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Still Life with Watermelon, New York
1947, printed 1985
Dye transfer print
Image: 22 x 17 1/2 in. (55.9 x 44.5 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'Salad Ingredients, New York' 1947, printed 1984

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
Salad Ingredients, New York
1947, printed 1984
Dye transfer print
Image: 19 7/16 x 15 3/16 in. (49.3 x 38.6 cm.)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York) 'After-Dinner Games, New York' 1947, printed 1985

 

Irving Penn (American, Plainfield, New Jersey 1917-2009 New York)
After-Dinner Games, New York
1947, printed 1985
Dye transfer print
Image: 22 3/16 x 18 1/16 in. (56.4 x 45.8 cm)
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast

 

 

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01
Jul
17

Review: ‘Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy’ at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 27th April – 8th July 2017

This project has been supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria

 

PLEASE NOTE: I am still recovering from my hand operation which is going to take longer than expected. All of the text has been constructed using a dictation programme and corrected using only my right hand – a tedious process. I have to keep my mental faculties together, otherwise this hand will drive me to distraction… Marcus

 

Christian Thompson. 'Black gum 1-3' 2007

 

Christian Thompson
Black gum 1-3
2007
From the series Australian graffiti
C-type prints
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Christian Thompson. 'Black gum 1' 2007

 

Christian Thompson
Black gum 1
2007
From the series Australian graffiti
C-type print
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Christian Thompson. 'Black gum 2' 2007

 

Christian Thompson
Black gum 2
C-type print
2007
From the series Australian graffiti
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

“While I’m interested in portraiture – I don’t consider my work as portraiture because that suggests that I’m trying to portray myself, my own visage, my own image. I employ images, icons, materials, metaphors to capture and idea and moment in time. There are many different things at play; taking a picture of myself is really the last thing that’s on my mind.”

.
Christian Thompson in conversation with Hetti Perkins, catalogue extract

 

“I’m interested in simple aesthetic gestures that can say something … something quite profound about the world that we live in. I tend to build images how I create a sculpture. I borrow from the world around me.”

On being away from home: “You’re able to remove yourself from the local discourse, and romanticise home. When you’re displaced you tend to gravitate towards certain memories … But this is who I am. It would be weird not to express that somehow. I combine memories of my past with my lived experience and an idea of where I’d like to be … it’s all montaged into one.”

.
Christian Thompson

 

“But Thompson makes things up. His ‘We bury our own’ does not let us see the early daguerreotype but improvises a series of fugues on its spiritual essence. This is the crucial step that Thompson has taken: if you repeat the spectacle you cannot escape the past. But if you, a spiritual descendant, transmogrify yourself in keeping with the aura of the image’s subject, during the prolonged period of encounter and immersion, you can ‘repatriate’ that forebear. Or so he desires.”

“Through these conjurings of the language his people spoke before colonisation set out to strip them of their culture as well as their land, Christian Thompson performs private ceremonies – to reach beyond visual statements of personal presence and reawaken the knowledge of his forebears, and allow us, his listeners and viewers, into their living story.”

.
Marina Warner. “Magical Aesthetics,” extracts from the catalogue essay

 

 

Still singing, still Dreaming,
still loving… not dying.

This is a strong survey exhibition of the work of contemporary Australian Indigenous artist and Bidjara man exploring the world, Christian Thompson. As with any survey exhibition, it can only give us a glimpse into the long standing development of the artist’s work, inviting the viewer to then research more fully the themes, conceptual acts and bodies (of work) that have led the artist to this point in his artistic development. Having said that the exhibition, together with its insightful catalogue essays and additional images that do not appear in the exhibition, allow the viewer to be challenged intellectually, aesthetically and most importantly … spiritually. And to be somewhat conflicted by the art as well, it has to be said.

Thompson’s “multidisciplinary practice explores notions of cultural hybridity, along with identity and history, creating works that transcend cultural boundaries.” His self-reflexive and self-referential bodies of work, often with the artist using his body as an “armature for his characters, costumes and various props,” are intuitive and imaginative in how they relate Aboriginal and Australian/European history, taking past time into present time which influences future time. Time, memory, history, space, landscape are conflated into one point, enunciated through acts of ritual intimacy. These ritual intimacies, these performative acts, are enabled through an understanding of a regularised and constrained repetition of norms (in this case, the declarative power of colonialism), where the taking of a photograph of an Aboriginal person (for example), is “a ritual reiterated under and through constraint, under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death controlling and compelling the shape of the production…” (Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 95).

What is so heartening to see in this exhibition is a contemporary Indigenous artist not relying on re-animating colonial images of past injustices, but re-imagining these images to produce a spiritual connection to Country, to place, to people in the present moment. As Charlotte Day, Director, MUMA and Hetti Perkins, guest curator observe in the wall text at the beginning of the exhibition, “Rather than appropriating or restaging problematic ethnographic images of indigenous ancestors held in the Museum’s photographic collection, Thompson has chosen to spend significant periods of time with these images, absorbing their ‘aura’ and developing a personal artistic and deferential response that is decisively empowered.” As Marina Warner states in her excellent catalogue essay “Magical Aesthetics”, these ritual intimacies are a “magical re-animation and adopt time-honoured processes of making holy – of hallowing. Adornment is central to ritual and a prime way of glorifying and consecration.” What Thompson is doing is not quoting but translating the source-text into new material. As Mary Jacobus notes of the work of the painter Cy Twombly, “Quotation involves the repurposing of an existing text: translation requires a swerve from the source-text as it finds new directions and enters unknown terrain.” (Mary Jacobus. Reading Cy Twombly: Poetry in Paint.  Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016, p. 7).

This auto-ethnographic exploration and adornment leads to a deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation of time in a heterotopic space, juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites of contestation – Thompson’s travels and research from around the world, the embodiment in his own culture and that of contemporary Australia, pop culture, fashion, music and language – where, as Hetti Perkins says, “the unknowable is a lovely thing” and where Thompson can affect and influence “the Zeitgeist through more subversive means.” These spaces of ritualised production overlaid with memory, imagination, desire, and nostalgia, these fragmented images, become a process and a performance in which Thompson seeks to ameliorate the objects aura through a process of ‘spiritual repatriation’. Thompson’s performativity is where the ritual of production and meaning is never fully predetermined at any stage of production and reception.

Here, in terms of ‘aura’ and ‘spirit’, I am interested in the word “repatriation”. Repatriation means to send (someone) back to their own country – from the verb repatriare, from re- ‘back’ + Latin patria ‘native land’. It has an etymological link to the word “patriot” – from late Latin patriota ‘fellow countryman’, from Greek patriōtēs, from patrios ‘of one’s fathers’, from patris ‘fatherland’ – and all the imperial connotations that are associated with the word. So, to send someone back (against their own will? by force?) or to be patriotic, as belonging to or coming from, the fatherland. A land that is father, farther away. Therefore, it is with regard to a centralised, monolithic body and its materialities (for the body is usually centrally placed in Thompson’s work) in Thompson’s instinctive works, that relations of discourse and power will always produce hierarchies and overlappings which are going to be contested. As Judith Butler notes,

“That each of those categories [body and materiality] have a history and a historicity, that each of them is constituted through the boundary lines that distinguish them and, hence, by what they exclude, that relations of discourse and power produce hierarchies and overlappings among them and challenge those boundaries, implies that these are both persistent and contested regions.” (Judith Butler. Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993, pp. 66-67)

.
Thus performativity is the power of discourse, the politicisation of abjection, and the ritual of being.

This is where I become conflicted by much of this work. Intellectually and conceptually I fully understand the instinctive, intuitive elements behind the work (crystals, flowers, maps, butterflies, dreams) but aesthetically I feel little ‘aura’ emanating from the photographs. Thompson’s “peripatetic life and your bowerbird, magpie-like fascination” (p. 107) lead to all sorts of influences emerging in the work – orange from The Netherlands, Morris dancers from England, Jewish heritage, Aboriginal and Australian heritage, fashion, pop culture, music, language – all evidenced through “acts of concealment in his self-portraits.” (p. 75). Now there’s the rub!

In Thompson’s ritual intimacies the intimacy is performed only once, for the camera. It is not didactic, but it is interior and hidden, leaving much to the feelings of the viewer, looking. The re-presentation of that intimacy is performed by the viewer every time they look at the art. I think of the work of one of my favourite performance artists, Claude Cahun, where the artist inhabits her personas, adorning her androgynous face with costume after costume to become something that she wants to become – a buddha, a double, a harpy, a lunatic or a doll with equal ease. Cahun is always and emphatically herself, undermining a certain authority… and she produces indelible images that sear the mind.

I don’t get that from Thompson. I don’t know who he really is. Does it matter? Yes it does. In supposedly his most autobiographic work (according to Hetti Perkins), the video Heat (2010, below) the work emerges out of Thompson’s memories of growing up in the desert surrounding Barcaldine in central west Queensland where “heat captures the sensation that he associates with being on his country: the dry wind blowing through his hair.” Perhaps for him or someone from the desert country like Hetti Perkins (as she states in the catalogue), but not for me. I feel no ‘heat’ from these three beautiful woman standing in a contextless background with a wind machine blowing their hair. The only ‘heat’ I felt was perhaps the metaphoric heat of colonisation, violence and abuse thrust on a vulnerable culture.

Talking of vulnerable cultures, in the work Polari (2014, below) Thompson invokes the history of languages in an intimate ritual “as he seeks to reanimate and repossess vanishing knowledge. Polari is a private language … a kind of code used by sailors, circus and fairground folk, and in gay circles. … Thompson’s Polari series warns us that the artist has a language of his own, which we can overhear but not fully understand: something is withheld, in contrast to the imposed and implacable exposure which the subjects of scientific collections were made to suffer in the past.” (Warner, p. 74) But why is he using Polari specifically, a language that is strongly associated with the libertine gay culture of the 1950s-70s? Does he have a right to use this word and its linguistic heritage because he is gay? It is never stated, again another thing left hidden, concealed and unresolved.

Although no culture can ever fully own its language (language is a construct after all) … if Thompson is not gay, then I would take exception to his invoking the Polari language, just as an Indigenous artist would take exception to me using Bidjara language in an art work of my own. I remember coming out in London in 1975 and speaking Polari myself when it was still being used in pubs and clubs such as the A + B club in Soho. It was not being used as a language of resistance, far from it, but as a language of desire. It was a language used to inculcate that desire. As a video on YouTube observes of speaking Polari, “you didn’t think, oh God I’m so oppressed I can never speak about myself, you just did it, you just slipped into it without thinking.” It was your own language, like a comfortable pair of slippers. Does Thompson understand how using that word to title a body of work could be as offensive to some people as he finds the denaturing of his own culture? For me this is where the work really becomes problematic, when an artist does not enunciate these connections, where things, like sexuality, remain hidden. Similarly, with historical photographs of Indigenous people taken for ethnographic study, Thompson fails to acknowledge the work of academics such as Jane Lydon and her important books Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians (2005) and Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire (2016) where she unpacks the historical baggage of the images and notes that the photographs were not solely a tool of colonial exploitation. Lydon articulates an understanding in Eye Contact that the residents of Coranderrk, an Aboriginal settlement near Healsville, Melbourne, “had a sophisticated understanding of how they were portrayed, and they became adept at manipulating their representations.” Again, there is more than meets the eye, more than just ‘spiritual repatriation’ of aura.

For me, the magic of this exhibition arrives when Thompson lets go all obfuscation, let’s go all actions that make something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible. Where his ritual intimacies become grounded in language, earth and spirit. This happens in the video works, Desert slippers (2006, below), Refuge (2014, below), Gamu Mambu (Blood Song) (2011) and Dhagunyilangu (Brother) (2011, below). In these videos, the Other’s gaze disintegrates and we are left with poignant, heart felt words and actions that engage history, emotion, family and Country.

The video Desert slippers “features a Bidjara ritual in which a father and son transfer sweat. The desert slipper is a native cactus that symbolises the transferal of the spirit back to earth as the plant grows.” It is simple, eloquent, powerful, present. The other videos feature two baroque singers from Europe and Thompson singing in his native tongue Bidjara (Bidyara, Pitjara), a language that Wikipedia states “is an extinct Australian Aboriginal language. In 1980 it was spoken by twenty elders in Queensland, between Tambo and Augathella, Warrego and Langlo rivers.” Spelt out in black and white. Extinct. To hear Thompson sing a berceuse (French, from bercer ‘to rock’), or lullaby in his native language, a language taught to him by his father, is the most emotional of experiences. The work “combines evocative chanting and electronic elements to invoke the cultural experiences and narratives of his Bidjara culture,” and “is premised on the notion that if one word of Bidjara is spoken, or sung in this case, it remains a living language.” Amen to that.

This is the real hallowing, not the dress ups or the concealments. It is in these videos that the raw material of his and his cultures experience is transmuted into living, breathing stories, in an alchemical transmutation, a magical re-animation of past time into present and future time. My transfiguration into a more spiritual state was complete when listening in quiet contemplation. For I was given, if only for a very brief moment, access to the pain of our first peoples and a vision of hope for their future healing.

Still singing, still Dreaming,
still loving… and certainly not dying.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 2,053

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

 

 

“At the heart of my practice is a concern with aura: what it is, how it can be photographed and how it can be repatriated.”

.
Christian Thompson

 

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Christian Thompson. 'Untitled #6' 2010

 

Christian Thompson
Untitled #6
2010
From the series King Billy
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring stills from the video Berceuse (2017)

 

 

Christian Thompson
Berceuse (extract installation view)
2017
Three-channel digital colour video, sound
5.47 minutes
Sound design: Duane Morrison

 

 

Christian Thompson
Berceuse
2017
Three-channel digital colour video, sound
5.47 minutes
Sound design: Duane Morrison

 

 

In this newly commissioned work, Thompson sings a berceuse – a cradle song or lullaby – that combines evocative chanting and electronic elements to invoke the cultural experiences and narratives of his Bidjara culture. Intended as a gesture of re-imagining his traditional Bidjara language, which is been categorised as extinct, the work is premised on the notion that if one word of Bidjara is spoken, or sung in this case, it remains a living language.

Thompson makes subtle reference to his maternal Sephardic Jewish roots by ruminating in this work on the lullaby Nani Nani:

 

Lullaby, lullaby
The boy wants a lullaby,
The mother’s son,
Who although small will grow.

Oh, oh my lady open,
Open the door,
I come home tired,
From ploughing the fields.

Oh, I won’t open them,
You don’t come home tired,
You’ve just come back,
From seeing your new lover.

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring the series Museum of Others (2016)

 

Installation view of 'Museum of Others (Othering the Ethnologist, Augustus Pitt Rivers)' 2016

 

Installation view of Museum of Others (Othering the Ethnologist, Augustus Pitt Rivers) 2016

 

Christian Thompson. 'Museum of Others (Othering the Anthropologist, Walter Baldwin Spencer)' 2016

 

Christian Thompson
Museum of Others (Othering the Anthropologist, Walter Baldwin Spencer)
2016
From the series Museum of Others
C-type print

 

Installation view of 'Museum of Others (Othering the Explorer, James Cook)' 2016

 

Installation view of Museum of Others (Othering the Explorer, James Cook) 2016

 

Christian Thompson. 'Othering the Explorer, James Cook' 2016

 

Christian Thompson
Museum of Others (Othering the Explorer, James Cook)
2016
From the series Museum of Others
C-type print

 

Christian Thompson. 'Equilibrium' 2016

 

Christian Thompson
Equilibrium
2016
From the series Museum of Others
C-type print

 

 

Museum of others is Thompson’s most recent photographic series and continues to reflect on his time at the University of Oxford. It features several ‘dead white males’ from the pantheon of British and Australian culture. The explorer, the ethnologist and the anthropologist all had roles in the process of colonisation in Australia but the art critic is particular to Thompson; Ruskin was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at University of Oxford, just as Thompson was one of its first Australian Aboriginal students. Thompson explains his motivation for the series:

“Historically, it was the western gaze that was projected onto the ethnic other and I thought I’ll create a ‘museum of others’ and I’ll be the one othering, so to speak. ‘Equilibrium’ is based around the idea that the vessel is the equaliser. The vessel is the cradle of all civilisations. We all have that in common.”

Wall text from the exhibition

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring photographs from the series We bury our own 2010 (C-type prints)
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

 

We bury our own is a body of work that was developed in response to the historic collection of photography, featuring Aboriginal people from the late nineteenth century, at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Thompson noted in 2012 that these early images “have permeated my work over the last year. They have remained at the forefront of every artistic experiment and they have pushed me into new territory, they have travelled with me… I was drawn to elements of opulence, ritual, homage, fragility, melancholy, strength and even a sense of play operating in the photographs…”

Each of Thompson’s lyrical photographic images from We bury our own and Pagan sun feature himself partially disguised with props and costumes. The works are virtually monochromatic with elements highlighted in full colour, and his eyes, or face, are partially concealed or painted. The use of votive objects is explained in his equally lyrical 2012 statement: “I lamented the passing of the flowers at the meadow, I lit candles and offered blood to the ancestral beings, looked into the black sparkling sea, donned the Oxford garb, visited the water by fire light and bowed at the knees of the old father ghost gum.”

Text from the Turner Galleries website

 

Christian Thompson. 'Energy Matter' 2010

 

Christian Thompson
Energy Matter
2010
From the series We bury our own
C-type print

 

Christian Thompson. 'Lamenting the flowers' 2010

 

Christian Thompson
Lamenting the flowers
2010
From the series We bury our own
C-type print

 

Christian Thompson. 'Forgiveness of Land' 2010

 

Christian Thompson
Forgiveness of Land
2010
From the series We bury our own
C-type print

 

Christian Thompson. 'Down Under World' 2010

 

Christian Thompson
Down Under World
2010
From the series We bury our own
C-type print

 

 

“I conceived the We Bury Our Own series in 2010 after curator Christopher Morton invited me to develop a body of work that would be inspired by and in dialogue with the Australian photographic collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum…

The archival images have permeated my work over the last year. They have remained at the forefront of every artistic experiment and pushed me into new territory; they have travelled with me to residencies at the Fonderie Darling in Montreal and Greene Street Studio, New York. I was drawn to elements of opulence, ritual, homage, fragility, melancholy, strength and even a sense of play operating in the photographs. The simplicity of a monochrome and sepia palette, the frayed delicate edges and the cracks on the surface like a dry desert floor that reminded me of the salt plains of my own traditional lands.

I wanted to generate an aura around this series, a meditative space that was focused on freeing oneself of hurt, employing crystals and other votive objects that emit frequencies that can heal, ward off negative energies, psychic attack, geopathic stress and electro magnetic fields, and, importantly, transmit ideas.

I lamented the passing of the flowers at the meadow, I lit candles and offered blood to the ancestral beings, looked into the black sparkling sea, donned the Oxford garb, visited the water by fire light and bowed at the knees of the old father ghost gum. I asked the photographs in the Pitt Rivers Museum to be catalysts and waited patiently to see what ideas and images would surface in the work, I think with surprising results. Perhaps this is what art is able to do, perform a ‘spiritual repatriation’ rather than a physical one, fragment the historical narrative and traverse time and place to establish a new realm in the cosmos, set something free, allow it to embody the past and be intrinsically connected to the present?

I heard a story many years ago from some old men, they told me about a ceremony where young warriors would make incisions through the flesh exposing the joints, they would insert gems between the bones to emulate the creator spirits, often enduring infection and agonizing pain or resulting in death. The story has stuck with me for many years, one that suggests immense pain fused with intoxicating beauty. The idea of aspiring to embody the creators, to transgress the physical body by offering to our gods our spiritual heart, freeing ourselves of suffering by inducing a kind of excruciating decadent torture. This was something that played on my mind during the production of this series of photos and video work. The deliverance of the spirit back to land – the notion that art could be the vehicle for such a passage, the aspiration to occupy a space that belongs to something higher than one’s physical self.”

Christian Thompson

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring Ship of dreams, Ancient bloom, Death’s second self, and Gods and kings from the series Imperial relic 2015 (C-type prints) and a still from the video dead tongue 2015
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

 

In Dead tongue Thompson continues to interrogate the implications of England’s empirical quest on the former colonies of the British Empire through the threat to or loss of Indigenous languages. In works such as this, Thompson actively challenges the perception that Aboriginal culture has become reduced to a captured trophy of Empire.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring Ship of dreams, Ancient bloom, Death’s second self, and Gods and kings from the series Imperial relic 2015 (C-type prints)
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

 

In … Imperial relic, he continues to use himself as the ‘armature for his characters, costumes and various props’. Drawing on his background in sculpture, he has created ‘wearable sculptures’ including a trumpet shaped shirt collar, an eruption of white flowers from a union jack hoodie, and an armature of maps. In each his face is partially or fully obscured again. “I’m interested in ideas of submission and domination,” he says. “So the trumpet headpiece is beautiful, but it also potentially muffles or silences the voice. The same thing with maps: they are purporting different kinds of historical narrative, depending who is telling the story. One is about the history of Indigenous people, one is about the history of white colonisers and then one is about the idea of charting the land and of discovery. I’m wearing it as an armature over my own body: that’s part of my own history but also of Australian history.”

Text from the Turner Galleries website

 

Christian Thompson. 'Ancient bloom' 2015

 

Christian Thompson
Ancient bloom
2015
From the series Imperial relic
C-type print on fuji pearl metallic paper
100 x 100 cm
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

Christian Thompson. 'Ship of dreams' 2015

 

Christian Thompson
Ship of dreams
2015
From the series Imperial relic
C-type print on fuji pearl metallic paper
100 x 100 cm
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

 

The series title Imperial relic, summarises the fundamental philosophy underpinning the colonial occupation of Australia. Like the nearby series We bury our own, it is closely connected to Thompson’s studies in the collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum and shares with the Australian graffiti series Thomson’s physical presence is standing in for the Australian landscape.

The work Ancient bloom alludes to the phonograph horn out which might be heard the voice of Fanny Cochran Smith, who’s wax cylinder recordings of songs are the only historical audio recordings of any of the Tasmanian Aboriginal languages. Is also represents a Victorian-era shirt collar – a motif that has appeared in Thompson’s work since his Emotional striptease series of 2003 – but here is exaggerated into a soft-sculptural form that both projects and stifles the voice.

In Death’s second self the artist’s face is uncovered but distorted by make up and digital postproduction effects.The title quotes William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73:

As after sunset fadeth in the west, 
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In God and Kings Thompson is cloaked with a map of Aboriginal language groups like a coat of armour. In the Ship of dreams he reprises the motif of Australian flora obscuring his face but here his hoodie is stitched together from several flags: the red ensign (flown by British registered ships), the RAAF flag and the Australian flag.

 

“I’m interested in ideas of submission and domination … So the trumpet headpiece is beautiful, but it also potentially muffles or silences the voice. The same thing with maps: they are purporting different kinds of historical narrative, depending who is telling the story. One is about the history of Indigenous people, one is about the history of white colonisers and then one is about the idea of charting the land and of discovery. I’m wearing it as an armature over my own body: that’s part of my own history but also of Australian history.”

.
Christian Thompson

 

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring Isabella kept her dignity, I’m not going anywhere without you, Dead as a door nail and Hannah’s diary from the series Lost together 2009 (C-type prints)
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

 

On 13 February 2008 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an official apology to Aboriginal Australians for the Stolen Generations – the children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970 under the respective Federal and State government policies of assimilation. At the time, Thompson was preparing to leave Australia for further studies aboard and felt this historic gesture allowed him to proudly take his culture and history with him as he ventured into the world.

Thompson photographed the series Lost together in the Netherlands while studying at the DasArts Academy of Theatre and Dance at Amsterdam University. The theme of the orange throughout the series is a reference to the national colour of the Netherlands, while the tartan patterning refers to early clan societies in the United Kingdom. The combination of these different styles is based on counter-cultural aesthetics – particularly punk collage of 1970s London.

 

Christian Thompson. 'Hannah's Diary' 2009

 

Christian Thompson
Hannah’s Diary
2009
From the series Lost Together
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

 

MUMA | Monash University Museum of Art is proud to announce the first major survey exhibition of the work of Bidjara artist, Christian Thompson, one of Australia’s leading and most intriguing contemporary artists.

Thompson works across photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound, interweaving themes of identity, race and history with his lived experience. His work is held in the collections of major state and national art museums in Australia and internationally.

Thompson made history as one of the first two Aboriginal Australians to be accepted into the University of Oxford as a Charlie Perkins Scholar, where he completed his Doctorate of Philosophy (Fine Art) in 2016. Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy opens as the artist looks forward to the graduation ceremony in July, when he will be conferred his degree.

Featuring a major new commission created for this exhibition, Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy will survey Thompson’s diverse practice, spanning fifteen years, and will also be accompanied by the publication of the first monograph on the artist’s career and work, including essays by Brian Catling RA and Professor Dame Marina Warner DBE, CBE, FBA, FRSL.

The specially commissioned installation will be an ambitious multichannel composition, developing the sonic experimentation that is a signature of Thompson’s work. Incorporating Bidjara language, it will invite viewers into an immersive space of wall-to-wall imagery and sound:

“Bidjara is officially an endangered language but my work is motivated by the simple yet profound idea that if even one word of an endangered language is spoken it continues to be a living language,” Thompson says.

Christian Thompson: Ritual Intimacy explores the unique perspective and breadth of Thompson’s practice from the fashioning of identity through to his ongoing interest in Indigenous language as the expression of cultural survival. The new multichannel work will develop musical ideas Thompson has previously explored.

“It will be a much more ambitious iteration of a song in Bidjara. At one stage I’m singing on one screen and then other versions of me appear singing the melodies. I really see it as an opportunity to do something that’s more complex musically, more textured sonically – I also want it to be more intricate with my use of language,” the artist says.

Ritual Intimacy is curated by MUMA director Charlotte Day and guest curator Hetti Perkins. Day explains that the exhibition is part of MUMA’s Australian artist series, which affords the opportunity to look at each artist’s practice in depth. “Christian’s exhibition traces a particularly productive period of research and development, from early well-known works such as the Australian Graffiti series to more recent experiments with language in sound and song works,” Day says.

A long-time curatorial collaborator with Thompson, Perkins is the writer and presenter of art + soul, the ABC’s acclaimed television series about contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Thompson was accepted to Oxford University on an inaugural Charlie Perkins Scholarship, set up to honour Hetti Perkins’s famous father – a leader, activist and the first Aboriginal Australian to graduate from university. Perkins says the MUMA exhibition is well-earned recognition for Thompson’s work, which she featured in the second series of art + soul.

“Christian has spent periods of his adult life, as a practicing artist, away from home, but there is a common thread in his work, and it’s this connection to home or Country,” Perkins says. “In terms of the rituals or rites of the exhibition title, he is constantly reiterating that connection to home – through words, through performance, through his art, through ideas and writing,” she says.

Alongside performance and ritual, Thompson’s concept of “spiritual repatriation” is central to his work. Working with the Australian collection at famed ethnographic storehouse the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, the artist was offered copies of colonial photographs of Aboriginal people but preferred not to work this way. Instead, he chose to spend significant periods of time with these ancestral images, absorbing their “aura” in order to then make his own artistic response that did not reproduce those original problematic images.

Dr Christian Thompson is a Bidjara contemporary artist whose work explores notions of identity, cultural hybridity, and history; often referring to the relationships between these concepts and the environment. Formally trained as a sculptor, Thompson’s multidisciplinary practice engages mediums such as photography, video, sculpture, performance, and sound. His work focuses on the exploration of identity, sexuality, gender, race, and memory. In his live performances and conceptual anti-portraits he inhabits a range of personas achieved through handcrafted sculptures and carefully orchestrated poses and backdrops.

Press release from MUMA

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring the series Polari (2014)

 

 

‘Polari’ is a form of cant or cryptic slang that evolved over several centuries from the various languages that converged in London’s theatres, circuses and fairgrounds, the merchant navy and criminal circles. It came to be associated with gay subculture, as many gay men worked in theatrical entertainment or joined ocean liners as waiters, stewards and entertainers at a time when homosexual activity was illegal. This slang rendered the speaker unintelligible to hostile outsiders, such as policeman, but fell out of use after the Sexual Offences Act (1967) effectively decriminalised homosexuality in the United Kingdom. Attracted to the theatricality and defiant nature of Polari (which he likens to the situation of Australian Indigenous languages under assimilationist policies), Thompson borrowed its name for the series which examines how subcultures express themselves.

 

Christian Thompson. 'Siren' 2014

 

Christian Thompson
Siren
2014
From the series Polari
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

Christian Thompson. 'Trinity II' 2014

 

Christian Thompson
Trinity II
2014
From the series Polari
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

Christian Thompson. 'Trinity III' 2014

 

Christian Thompson
Trinity III
2014
From the series Polari
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

Christian Thompson. 'Ariel' 2014

 

Christian Thompson
Ariel
2014
From the series Polari
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson. 'Ellipse' 2014

 

Christian Thompson
Ellipse
2014
From the series Polari
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

 

Polari was a form of slang used by gay men in Britain prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, used primarily as a coded way for them to discuss their experiences. It quickly fell out of use in the 70s, although several words entered mainstream English and are still used today. For more about Polari see Wikipedia.

 

 

Author and academic Paul Baker of Lancaster University discusses a form of gay slang known as Polari that was spoken in Britain. It was a secret type of language used mainly by gay men and some lesbians and members of the trans, drag and other communities in the United Kingdom in the 20th century until it largely died out by the early 1970s.

 

 

Christian Thompson
Refuge
2014
Video and sound
4 mins 18 secs

 

Refuge is a video work by contemporary Australian artist Christian Thompson. Thompson sings in the endangered Bidjara language of his heritage. A collaboration with James Young formerly of ‘Nico’ and recorded the original track in Oxford, United Kingdom.

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring stills from the video Heat (2010)

 

 

Christian Thompson
Heat (extract)
2010
Three-channel digital colour video, sound
5.52 minutes

 

 

Like the Australian graffiti photographs [see photographs below], Heat come out of Thompson’s memories of growing up in the desert surrounding Barcaldine in central west Queensland. Barcaldine is famous for its role in the foundation organised labor in Queensland and ultimately the formation of the Australian Labor Party. It also holds historical significance for Thompson’s family as it is where his great-great-grandfather, Charlie Thompson, surreptitiously bought a block of land before Aboriginal people could legally buy land, creating a safe haven for his family and other Aboriginal families at the time when Aboriginal people had few legal rights. For Thompson, heat captures the sensation that he associates with being on his country: the dry wind blowing through his hair. It features the three granddaughters of Aboriginal rights pioneer Charlie Perkins, who are the daughters of Thompson’s Long time collaborator Hetti Perkins.

 

'Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy', installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017

 

Christian Thompson: Ritual intimacy, installation view: Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne 2017 featuring photographs from the series Australian graffiti (2007)

 

Christian Thompson. 'Untitled (Blue Gum)' 2007

 

Christian Thompson
Untitled (blue gum)
2007
From the series Australian graffiti
C-type print
Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin

 

Christian Thompson. 'Untitled (banksia)' 2007

 

Christian Thompson
Untitled (banksia)
2007
From the series Australian graffiti
C-type print
Monash University Collection

 

 

Australian graffiti was the last work that Thompson made before leaving Australia for Europe. It connects with his memories of growing up in the outback and its desert flowers, which he perceives to be both fragile and immensely powerful. I adorning himself with garlands of these flowers and flamboyant garments of the 1980s and 1990s – the period in which he grew up – Thompson juxtaposes these elements against his own Bidjara masculinity. By wearing native flora he also stands in for the landscape, invoking an Indigenous understanding of the landscape as a corporeal, living ancestral being.

 

 

Christian Thompson
Desert slippers
2006
Single-channel digital colour video, sound
34 seconds

 

 

Desert slippers was made at the time the Northern Territory government commissioned research into allegations of the abuse of children in Aboriginal communities. When the ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report was tabled the following year, the federal government under John Howard staged the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), which quickly became known as ‘the intervention’. This action was enacted without consultation with Indigenous people and ignored the substantive recommendations of the report to which it was allegedly responding.

Thompson made this video, involving his father, and the ceremonial aspects of their daily lives, during this period. Desert slippers features a Bidjara ritual in which a father and son transfer sweat. The desert slipper is a native cactus that symbolises the transferal of the spirit back to earth as the plant grows.

 

 

Christian Thompson
Dhagunyilangu (Brother) 
(extract installation view)
2011
Single-channel digital colour video, sound, subtitled
2.19 minutes

 

 

Christian Thompson
Dhagunyilangu (Brother)

2011
Single-channel digital colour video, sound, subtitled
2.19 minutes

 

 

Gamu Mambu (Blood Song) and Dhagunyilangu (Brother) were made in England and in the Netherlands respectively. While studying at the DasArts Academy of Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam, a centre for the study of early musical styles such as the baroque, Thompson realised that his own Bidjara language could be interpreted through the matrix of another cultural context and sphere. He undertook operatic training with this in mind, choosing in the end to work with specialist singers Sonja Gruys and Jeremy Vinogradov to realise the two works.

 

 

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
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900 Dandenong Road,
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
T: 61 3 9905 4217

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22
Jun
17

Exhibition: ‘Acting for the Camera’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 5th June 2017

Featured artists (selection):
Ottomar Anschütz | Bill Brandt | Brassaï | Günter Brus | John Coplans | Hugo Erfurth | Trude Fleischmann | Seiichi Furuya | Eikoh Hosoe | Martin Imboden | Dora Kallmus | Rudolf Koppitz | Johann Victor Krämer | Heinrich Kühn | Helmar Lerski | O. Winston Link | Will McBride | Arnulf Rainer | Henry Peach Robinson | Otto Schmidt | Rudolf Schwarzkogler | Franz Xaver Setzer | Anton Josef Trčka | Erwin Wurm

 

 

I made this posting way before my operation, but have been unable to post until now because of my ongoing recuperation.

While the exhibition may have finished, I am so enamoured of the theme of the exhibition, the people and artists, that I think it’s valuable to have the posting, images and the additional research I did online. I especially like the striking work of Helmar Lerski and the “Aktionen” of Rudolf Schwarzkogler which reflect on the hurtfulness of the world, but remind me of the yet to come political art of the first wave of HIV/AIDS. What a beautiful installation as well…

Marcus

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

 

 

Anonymous. 'The Sculptor Hans Gasser and Workshop Assistants at Work' 1855-1857

 

Anonymous
The Sculptor Hans Gasser and Workshop Assistants at Work
1855-1857
Daguerreotype
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna

 

 

Ottomar Anschütz
Elektrischer Schnellseher
1886

 

Anton Josef Trčka. 'Egon Schiele' 1914

 

Anton Josef Trčka
Egon Schiele
1914
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Josef Anton Trčka, Antios (7. September 1893 Vienna – 16. March 1940), was a Czech photographer , painter, sculptor, draftsman, designer of tapestries and silver jewellery, collector of folk art Moravian, occasional antiquarian, poet and philosopher . He was a representative of Viennese Modernism, Art Movement, which influenced European culture of the 20th century…

Around 1910 the Trčka decided to study at the professional school of photography Lehr- Graphische und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna, one of the best in Europe. Coincidentally, at the school was Professor Karel Novák, in his time one of the most important personalities of the beginnings of art photography. In 1914 he got the opportunity to portray several leading personalities of Viennese Modernism. Among them was Gustav Klimt, Peter Alternberg and the 50 year old Josef Svatopluk Machar. However, the highlight for Trčka prewar contracts were the photographic series of portraits of Egon Schiele, which focused on facial expressions and hand gestures.

 

Franz Xaver Setzer. 'Conrad Veidt' 1919

 

Franz Xaver Setzer
Conrad Veidt
1919
Gelatin Silver Print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (22 January 1893 – 3 April 1943) was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Man Who Laughs (1928), and, after being forced to migrate to Britain by the rise of Nazism in Germany, his English-speaking roles in The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and, in Hollywood, Casablanca (1942). After a successful career in German silent film, where he was one of the best-paid stars of Ufa, he left Germany in 1933 with his new Jewish wife after the Nazis came to power. They settled in Britain, where he participated in a number of films before emigrating to the United States around 1941…

He starred in a few films, such as George Cukor’s A Woman’s Face (1941) where he received billing just under Joan Crawford’s and Nazi Agent (1942), in which he had a dual role as both an aristocratic German Nazi spy and as the man’s twin brother, an anti-Nazi American. His best-known Hollywood role was as the sinister Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (1942), a film which was written and began pre-production before the United States entered the war.

In 1943, at the age of fifty, he died of a massive heart attack while playing golf at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. In 1998, his ashes were placed in a niche of the columbarium at the Golders Green Crematorium in north London.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Dora Kallmus, Arthur Benda. 'Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste in their dance Märtyrer [Martyrs]' 1922

 

Dora Kallmus, Arthur Benda
Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste in their dance Märtyrer [Martyrs]
1922
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Her hair was cut fashionably into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled “The Dancer Anita Berber”. Her dancer friend and sometime lover Sebastian Droste, who performed in the film Algol (1920), was skinny and had black hair with gelled up curls much like sideburns. Neither of them wore much more than low slung loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage worn well below her small breasts.

Her performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber’s favourites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.

Aside from her addiction to narcotic drugs, she was also a heavy alcoholic. In 1928, at the age of 29, she suddenly gave up alcohol completely, but died later the same year. She was said to be surrounded by empty morphine syringes.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Rudolf Koppitz. 'In the Arms of Nature' 1923

 

Rudolf Koppitz
In the Arms of Nature
1923
Multicolor gum bichromate print
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolf Koppitz
Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study)
1926
Multicolor gum bichromate print
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna

 

 

Rudolf Koppitz (4 January 1884 – 8 July 1936), often credited as Viennese or Austrian, was a Photo-Secessionist whose work includes straight photography and modernist images. He was one of the leading representatives of art photography in Vienna between the world wars. Koppitz is best known for his works of the human figure including his iconic Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study” and his use of the nude in natural settings….

Koppitz’s work is marked by a pronounced awareness of form, line, and the surface play of light and shadow. Early in his career, Koppitz was known for staging groups of subjects in the style of the Vienna Secession, the most well known example of this being his Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study”.

Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study) is surely the most widely published and best known image in Austrian photography from the early decades of the last century. This is for good reason, as no photograph better captures the cultural strands that characterized the Austrian avant-garde at that time. Here one can see a graphic strength and compositional clarity that reflects the modernist ambitions initiated in the fine as in the applied arts by the Secession and by the Wiener Werkstätte. But what gives the image its power is the aura of mystery, of symbolist sensuality that resonates through this enigmatic grouping of the three uniformly coiffed and draped figures and the one single naked figure.” ~ Christies

Bewegungsstudie’s languid nude, elaborately robed women and undeniable sensuality, in the context of its rigorous and artistic composition, bring to mind the sexual morbidity of Viennese artists like Gustav Klimt and Alphonse Mucha, as well as the Swiss symbolist painter Ferdinand Hodler and has made it as unforgettable then as it is today. It has become the Koppitz’s signature image, and was also his best-seller. Prints of the image were purchased by, among others, the Toledo Museum of Art; the New York Camera Club notable Joseph Bing, head of that club’s print committee; and the Englishman Stephen Tyng, who published it in a small portfolio of works from his collection.

His earliest works show evidence of influence by Gustav Klimt, Japanese art, Art Nouveau and Constructivism. During the First World War, Koppitz’s photographs took on a documentary quality when his photographs became more simple and direct in their subject matter and composition. Koppitz’s work came of age during the inter-war period when most of Austria’s photographers were supporters of art photography. Photographs from that time are full of symbolic meanings often capturing nude and clothed dancers as well as liberal use of both male and female, many of which were of Koppitz himself and female nudes placed in elements of nature and posed to give the impression of a Greek or Roman statue…

Although he did not possess a consistent style, Koppitz was a virtuoso of the dark room, seemingly determined to make the photograph as much of an art object as possible. His beautifully grainy, subtly tinted images align him with American Pictorialists like Edward Steichen and Clarence Smith. Koppitz’s work, much of it using the gum bichromate process, reflected his links with modern artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and their involvement with the ‘life reform’ movement including; nudism, sun culture, and expressive dance popular in Central Europe from the early 1900s as well as agrarian romanticism. Koppitz’s extraordinary mastery of pictorial processes – pigment, carbon, gum, and bromoil process of transfer printing – gained the respect of his colleagues throughout the world and garnered mention in the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1929.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Trude Fleischmann. 'Actress and Dancer Lucy Kieselhausen' c. 1925

 

Trude Fleischmann
Actress and Dancer Lucy Kieselhausen
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Lucy Kieselhausen was born in 1897 in Vienna, Austria. She was an actress, known for Tausend und eine Frau. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Junggesellen (1918), Erdgeist (1923) and Die siebente Großmacht (1919). She was a student of Grete Wiesenthal and was celebrated as a successful dancer at the beginning of the 20th century who had great successes on German stages. Besides her dancing activity she also wrote the dance drama “Salambo”, which was set to music by Heinz Tiessen. She died in December 1926 in Berlin, Germany.

“Around 1915 another Viennese, Lucy Kieselhausen (1897-1927), began specializing in performing waltzes. She, too, had evolved out of ballet culture, but her embodiment of the waltz was virtually opposite that of Wiesenthal. She favoured luxuriously decorative hothouse costumes and the utmost refinement of movement. For her the waltz was not a lyrical expansion of space into the freedom of nature but an almost perfumed distillation of the stirrings within an opulent boudoir, with its scenography of exquisite privileges and voluptuous secrets. An adroit sense of irony shaded her movements with a abruptly “bizarre and jerky” rhythms; “her joyfully flashing temperament did not hover on a smooth surface but over a shadowy abyss from which issued her fool’s dance with its slumbering, half-animal rapture.” Her curious appropriation of the waltz ended suddenly when she died in a benzine explosion.”

Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 161-162.

 

Hugo Erfurth. 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna – permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science

 

 

Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship…

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and. with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff”. Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Martin Imboden. 'The Dancer Gertrud Kraus' c. 1929

 

Martin Imboden
The Dancer Gertrud Kraus
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

In the 1920s, Gertrud Kraus’s style was known as expressionistic dance, or German dance. In 1929 Gertrud Kraus, together with Gisa Geert, was chief assistant to Rudolf von Laban, director of a trade union parade during the “Vienna Festival” in Vienna.

In 1930, an impresario invited her to perform in Mandate Palestine. Her tour was a great success and she was invited back the following season. In 1933, her company performed her work Die Stadt wartet (“The City Waits”), presenting the modern metropolis as a fascinating but dangerous place. It was based on a short story by Maxim Gorki. On the night that Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany, Kraus’s company performed this piece on the open-air stage in the Burg-garden next to the Hofburg.

In 1933, while she was in Prague performing for the Zionist Congress, leaders of a Czech communist cell contacted her and tried to recruit her for their purposes. The next day, she went to the Palestine Office in Prague, and applied for immigration. Kraus moved to Tel Aviv in 1935, first living with friends and then renting a basement that became her studio. She formed a modern dance company affiliated with the Tel Aviv Folk Opera, which was probably the only one of its kind in the world. In 1949, she won a scholarship to travel to the United States to learn the newest trends in modern dance.

In 1950-1951, she founded the Israel Ballet Theatre, and became its artistic director. The company folded after a year due to financial difficulties. Until her death in 1977, Kraus devoted herself to teaching dance, as well as painting and sculpture.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

The work of Jan Coplans left and centre

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures at right

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

 

Installation views of the exhibition Acting for the Camera at the Albertina, Vienna, March – June 2017

 

 

With circa 120 works from the Albertina’s Photographic Collection, the exhibition Acting for the Camera examines the diverse ways in which models are staged or stage themselves before the camera. The featured photographic works, created between the 1850s and the present, represent a cross-section of photographic history as well as the diversity of the Albertina’s own holdings. The present selection is divided between six thematic emphases: motion studies, models for artists, dance, picture stories, portraits of actresses and actors, and Viennese Actionist stagings of the body.

All of these photographs arose from diverse and multi-layered forms of collaboration between the model before and the photographer behind the camera lens. Some of the models are staged according to their photographers’ instructions, while other shots originated via a creative process in which model and photographer collaborated on an equal footing. And in some cases, the pictures were even taken according to highly specific instructions given by the model.

 

Beginnings

It was photographic studies done in the interest of scientific research that made it possible for the first time to visually analyse the processes of human locomotion in high detail. Anonymous models, such as in the photographs taken by Ottomar Anschütz beginning around 1890, made themselves available in order to render understandable processes such as spear-throwing. The individuals seen in such works act according to the exact instructions of the photographer. Series of this type were used to compare the motion patterns of “healthy” and “unhealthy” bodies as well as undergird medical theories with visual evidence.

While such motion studies occasionally doubled as working studies for artworks by other artists, there was also a category of works created specifically for this purpose such as Johann Victor Krämer’s staged studio photographs as well as Otto Schmidt’s nudes, and some of these were also sold “under the table” as pornography.

 

Expressive Gestures

A strong and likewise mutually influential relationship arose between photography and dance. At the beginning of the 20th century, modern expressionist dance was an avant-garde art form, and dancers would work together closely with photographers in order to document and disseminate their performances. Such partnerships made possible expressive stagings that helped define the styles of that era. The expressive gestures often seen therein were also taken up by Anton Josef Trčka, who had Egon Schiele pose with a hand position reminiscent of something one might see in dance.

Portraits of well-known actors such as a laughing Romy Schneider, along with role-portraits for film productions, were created in Viennese studios by photographers such as Trude Fleischmann and Madame d’Ora, and these iconic pictures represent yet another emphasis in this presentation.

 

Bodies as Photographic Material

Much like the way in which classic portraits convey the personalities of those being portrayed, photography can also stage the body in the opposite way, as something purely material. Helmar Lerski, for example, treated the human face as a landscape that could be modelled by light and shadow. John Coplans, on the other hand, explored his own naked body centime