Posts Tagged ‘belonging

09
Jun
17

Exhibition: ‘Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 15th February – 11th June 2017

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The State We're In, A' 2015

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The State We’re In, A (Room 14)
2015
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Cock (Kiss)' 2002

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Cock (Kiss)
2002
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

If one thing matters, everything matters
(A love letter to Wolfgang Tillmans)

I believe that Wolfgang Tillmans is the number one photo-media artist working today. I know it’s a big call, but that’s how I see it.

His whole body of work is akin to a working archive – of memories, places, contexts, identities, landscapes (both physical and imagined) and people. He experiments, engages, and imagines all different possibilities in and through art. As Adrian Searle observes, “Tillmans’ work is all a kind of evidence – a sifting through material to find meaning.” And that meaning varies depending on the point of view one comes from, or adopts, in relation to the art. The viewer is allowed to make their own mind up, to dis/assemble or deepen relationships between things as they would like, or require, or not as the case may be. Tillmans is not didactic, but guides the viewer on that journey through intersections and nodal points of existence. The nexus of life.

Much as I admire the writing of art critic John McDonald, I disagree with his assessment of the work of Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern (see quotation below). Personally, I find that there are many memorable photographs in this exhibition … as valuable and as valid a way of seeing the world in a contemporary sense, as Eggleston’s photographs are in a historic visualisation. I can recall Tillmans’ images just an intimately as I can Eggleston’s. But they are of a different nature, and this is where McDonald’s analysis is like comparing apples and pears. Eggleston’s classical modernist photographs depend on the centrality of composition where his images are perfectly self-contained, whether he is photographing a woman in a blue dress sitting on a kerb or an all green bathroom. They are of their time. Times have changed, and how we view the world has changed.

For Tillmans no subject matter is trivial (If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters – the title of a 2003 exhibition at Tate Britain), and how he approaches the subject is totally different from Eggleston. As he says of his work, his images are “calls to attentiveness.” What does he mean by this? Influenced by the work of the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti whom I have also studied, a call to attentiveness is a way of being open and responsive to the world around you, to its infinite inflections, and to not walk around as if in a dream, letting the world pass you by. To be open and receptive to the energies and connections of the world spirit by seeing clearly.

Krishnamurti insightfully observed that we do not need to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. We must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – and then we might become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more.1 Then there would be less need for the absenting of self into the technological ether or the day dreams of foreign lands or the desire for a better life. But being aware is not enough, we must be attentive of that awareness and not make images just because we can or must. This is a very contemporary way of looking at the world. As Krishnamurti says,

“Now with that same attention I’m going to see that when you flatter me, or insult me, there is no image, because I’m tremendously attentive … I listen because the mind wants to find out if it is creating an image out of every word, out of every contact. I’m tremendously awake, therefore I find in myself a person who is inattentive, asleep, dull, who makes images and gets hurt – not an intelligent man. Have you understood it at least verbally? Now apply it. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. And if anybody says something to you, you are tremendously attentive, not to any prejudices, but you are attentive to your conditioning. Therefore you have established a relationship with him, which is entirely different from his relationship with you. Because if he is prejudiced, you are not; if he is unaware, you are aware. Therefore you will never create an image about him. You see the difference?”2

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Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. You are attentive and tremendously awake.

This is the essence of Tillmans work. He is tremendously attentive to the images he is making (“a representation of an unprivileged gaze or view” as he puts it) and to the associations that are possible between images, that we make as human beings. He is open and receptive to his conditioning and offers that gift to us through his art, if we recognise it and accept it for what it is. If you really look and understand what the artist is doing, these images are music, poetry and beauty – are time, place, belonging, voyeurism, affection, sex. They are archaic and shapeless and fluid and joy and magic and love…

They are the air between everything.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Krishnamurti. Beginnings of Learning. London: Penguin, 1975, p. 131
  2. Ibid., pp. 130-131

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

 

 

“To look at Eggleston alongside those he has inspire [Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller for example] is to see a surprisingly old-fashioned artist. No matter how instinctive his approach or how trivial his subjects, Eggleston believes in the centrality of composition. His images are perfectly self-contained. They don’t depend on a splashy, messy installation or a political stance. …

In the current survey of Tillmans’s work at Tate Modern photos of every description are plastered across the walls in the most anarchic manner, with hardly a memorable composition. Yet this shapeless stuff is no longer reviled by the critics – it’s the height of fashion.”

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John McDonald “William Eggleston: Portraits”

 

“For a long time in Britain, there was a deep suspicion of my work. People saw me as a commercial artist trying to get into the art world, and the work was dismissed as shallow or somehow lightweight. There are still many misconceptions about what I do – that my images are random and everyday, when they are actually neither. They are, in fact, the opposite. They are calls to attentiveness.”

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Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Installation view of room 4 (detail) from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017', which includes the latest iteration of the 'truth study centre' project

 

Installation view of room 4 (detail), which includes the latest iteration of the truth study centre project, with
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

 

The Tate show includes a room full of his “truth study centres”, which comprise often contradictory newspaper cuttings as well as photographs and pamphlets that aim to show how news is manipulated according to the political loyalties of those who produce it. As activists go, though, Tillmans is defiantly centre ground. “This is about strengthening the centre. I can understand left-wing politics from a passionate, idealistic point of view, but I do not think it is the solution to where we are now. The solution is good governance, moderation, agreement. Post-Brexit, post-Trump, the voices of reason need to be heard more than ever.”

Wolfgang Tillmans quoted on The Guardian website

 

Installation view of room 13 (detail) from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern

 

Installation view of room 13 (detail), which focuses in on Tillmans’ portraiture with Eleanor / Lutz, a (2016) at right
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Eleanor / Lutz, a' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Eleanor / Lutz, a
2016
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Portrait of Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern Boiler House, Level 3, 14/02/2017 in front of his works, Transient 2, 2015 and Tag/Nacht II, 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tag/Nacht II' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tag/Nacht II
2010
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

The State We’re In, A, is part of Neue Welt [New World], the loose family of pictures I began at the end of the last decade. These had two points of departure: “What does the outside world look like to me 20 years after I began photographing?” and “What does it look like in particular with a new photographic medium?”

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Wolfgang Tillmans

 

“This exhibition is not about politics, it’s about poetry, it’s about installation art. It’s about thinking about the world. I’ve never felt that l can be separated, because the political is only the accumulation of many people’s private lives, which constitute the body politics…”

“My work has always been motivated by talking about society, by talking about how we live together, by how we feel in our bodies. Sexuality, like beauty, is never un-political, because they relate to what’s accepted in society. Two men kissing, is that acceptable? These are all questions to do with beauty.”

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Wolfgang Tillmans quoted on the Art News website

 

“There is music. There is dancing. Bewilderment is part of the pleasure, as we move between images and photographic abstractions. Tillmans’ asks us to make connections of all kinds – formal, thematic, spatial, political. He asks what the limits of photography are. There are questions here about time, place, belonging, voyeurism, affection, sex. After a while it all starts to tumble through me.”

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Adrian Searle review on the Guardian website

 

 

What are we to make of the world in which we find ourselves today? Contemporary artist Wolfgang Tillmans offers plenty of food for thought.

This is Wolfgang Tillmans’s first ever exhibition at Tate Modern and brings together works in an exciting variety of media – photographs, of course, but also video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music – all staged by the artist in characteristically innovative style. Alongside portraiture, landscape and intimate still lifes, Tillmans pushes the boundaries of the photographic form in abstract artworks that range from the sculptural to the immersive.

The year 2003 is the exhibition’s point of departure, representing for Tillmans the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. The social and political form a rich vein throughout the artist’s work. German-born, international in outlook and exhibited around the world, Tillmans spent many years in the UK and is currently based in Berlin. In 2000, he was the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize.

 

Room one

Static interference typically appears on a television screen when an analogue signal is switched off. This can occur when a station’s official programme finishes for the night or if a broadcast is censored. In Tillmans’s Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast 2014 it represents the coexistence of two different generations of technology. The chaotic analogue static was displayed on a digital television, which allowed Tillmans’s high-resolution digital camera to record the pattern as it really appeared, something that would not have been possible with a traditional cathode ray tube television. This work shows Tillmans’s interest in questioning what we believe to be true: the seemingly black-and-white image turns out to be extremely colourful when viewed very close up.

Other works in this room reflect on digital printmaking and photography today. For example, the technical ability to photograph a nightscape from a moving vehicle without blurring, as in these images of Sunset Boulevard, is unprecedented. Itself the subject of many famous art photographs, this iconic roadway appears here littered with large format inkjet prints in the form of advertising billboards. In Double Exposure 2012-13 Tillmans juxtaposes images of two trade fairs – one for digital printers, the other for fruit and vegetables. Encounter 2014 shows a different photo-sensitive process. A pot had been left on top of a planter preventing light from reaching the sprouts underneath and leaving them white, while the surrounding growths that caught the daylight turned green.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I
2014
Pigmented inkjet print
107 1/2 × 161 1/2″ (273.1 × 410.2 cm)
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Television white noise that the artist photographed while in Russia. For Tillmans, the image signifies resistance on his part to making clear images, but without the text its ostensibly radical nature would not be known.

 

Installation view of room 1 (detail), with 'Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I' 2014, at left

 

Installation view of room 1 (detail), with Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I, 2014, at left

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Double Exposure' 2012-13

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Double Exposure
2012-13
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room two

Tillmans spends much of his time in the studio, yet he only occasionally uses it as a set for taking portraits. Instead, it is where prints are made and exhibitions are planned in architectural models, and where he collects materials and generates ideas. Over the years this environment has become a subject for his photographs, presenting a radically different view of the artist’s studio to the more traditional depictions seen in paintings over the centuries.

These works made around the studio demonstrate Tillmans’s concern with the physical process of making photographs, from chemical darkroom processes and their potential to create abstract pictures without the camera, to digital technology that is vital to the production of contemporary images, and the paper onto which they are printed. Tillmans’s understanding of the material qualities of paper is fundamental to his work, and photographs can take on a sculptural quality in series such as Lighter, 2005-ongoing and paper drop, 2001-ongoing, seen later in the exhibition.

In CLC 800, dismantled 2011 Tillmans uses photography to record a temporary installation, the result of unfastening every single screw in his defunct colour photocopier. He prefers to photograph his three-dimensional staged scenarios rather than actually displaying them as sculptures. He has often described the core of his work as ‘translating the three dimensional world into two dimensional pictures’.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'paper drop' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
paper drop Prinzessinnenstrasse
2014
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Perhaps as a continuation of his more textural photographs – depicting fabrics and still lifes so close up they become difficult to read – experiments in abstraction followed suit, many of them featuring what is perhaps his favourite motif: the fold, which, as the exhibition’s curator Chris Dercon kindly reminded us, was considered by the philosopher Leibniz as one of the most accurate ways to depict the complexities of the human soul.

Text from the Art News website

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'CLC 800, dismantled' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
CLC 800, dismantled
2011
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room three

Having spent the preceding decade working largely on conceptual and abstract photographs, in 2009 Tillmans embarked on the four-year project Neue Welt. Looking at the world with fresh eyes, he aimed to depict how it has changed since he first took up the camera in 1988. He travelled to five continents to find places unknown to him and visited familiar places as if experiencing them for the first time. Interested in the surface of things as they appeared in those lucid first days of being in a new environment, he immersed himself in each location for just a brief period. Now using a high resolution digital camera, Tillmans captured images in a depth of detail that is immediately compelling, but also suggests the excess of information that is often described as a condition of contemporary life.

Communal spaces, people, animals, and still-life studies of nature or food are just some of the subjects that feature in Neue Welt. Seen together, these images offer a deliberately fragmented view. Rather than making an overarching statement about the changing character of modern life, Tillmans sought only to record, and to create a more empathetic understanding of the world. Over the course of the project, however, some shrewd observations about contemporary worldviews did emerge. One related to the changing shape of car headlights, which he noted are now very angular in shape, giving them a predatory appearance that might reflect a more competitive climate.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'astro crusto, a' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
astro crusto, a
2012
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Installation shot of room 3 from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern

 

Installation view of room 3 (detail), with Headlight (f) 2012, at left; and Munuwata sky, 2011 at right
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Headlight (f)' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Headlight (f)
2012
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Munuwata sky' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Munuwata sky
2011
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room four

In the mid-2000s, prompted by global events, such as the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Tillmans became interested in the assertions made by individuals, groups or organisations around the world that their viewpoint represented the absolute truth about a number of political and ethical questions.

He began his wryly-named truth study center project in 2005. Photographs, clippings from newspapers and magazines, objects, drawings, and copies of his own images are laid out in deliberate – and often provocative – juxtapositions. These arrangements reflect the presentation of information by news outlets in print and online. They also draw attention to gaps in knowledge, or areas where there is room for doubt. For each installation, the material presented in the truth study centers is selected according to its topical and geographic context. In 2017, the subject of truth and fake news is at the heart of political discourse across the world. This iteration of the project focuses in particular on how constructions of truth work on a psychological and physiological level.

The Silver 1998-ongoing prints connect to reality in a different way. Made by passing monochromatically exposed photographic paper through a dirty photo-developing machine, they collect particles and residue from the rollers and liquids. This makes them, in effect, a record of the chemical and mechanical process from which they originate.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'truth study center' 2017

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
truth study center
2017
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room five

Tillmans has described how, as a photographer, he feels increasingly less obligated to reflect solely on the outside world through documentary images. In his abstract works, he looks inwards: exploring the rudiments of photographic processes and their potential to be used as a form of self-expression.

Like the Silver works in the previous room, the abstract Greifbar 2014-15 images are made without a camera. Working in the darkroom, Tillmans traces light directly onto photographic paper. The vast swathes of colour are a record of the physical gestures involved in their construction, but also suggest aspects of the body such as hair, or pigmentation of the skin. This reference to the figurative is reflected in the title, which translates as ‘tangible’.

Tillmans has observed that even though these works are made by the artist’s hand, they look as though they could be ‘scientific’ evidence of natural processes. For him, this interpretation is important, because it disassociates the works from the traditional gestural technique of painting. That the image is read as a photographic record, and not the result of the artist’s brushstroke, is essential to its conceptual meaning.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Greifbar 29' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Greifbar 29
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room six

Tillmans is interested in social life in its broadest sense, encompassing our participation in society. His photographs of individuals and groups are underpinned by his conviction that we are all vulnerable, and that our well-being depends upon knowing that we are not alone in the world.

Tillmans has observed that although cultural attitudes towards race, gender and sexuality have become more open over the three decades since he began his artistic practice, there is also greater policing of nightlife, and urban social spaces are closing down. His photographs taken in clubs, for example, testify to the importance of places where people can go today to feel safe, included, and free.

This concern with freedom also extends to the ways in which people organise themselves to make their voices heard. Images of political marches and protests draw attention to the cause for which they are fighting. They also form part of a wider study of what Tillmans describes as the recent ‘re-emergence’ of activism.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'NICE HERE but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN free Gender Expression WORLDWIDE' 2006

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
NICE HERE but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN free Gender Expression WORLDWIDE
2006
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room seven

Playback Room is a space designed for listening to recorded music. The project first ran at Between Bridges, the non-profit exhibition space Tillmans opened in London in 2006 and has since transferred to Berlin. In three exhibition (‘Colourbox’, ‘American Producers’ ‘Bring Your Own’) that took place between September 2014 and February 2015, he invited visitors to come and listen to music at almost the same quality at which it was originally mastered.

Whereas live music can be enjoyed in concert halls and stadiums, and visual art can be enjoyed in museums, no comparable space exists for appreciating studio music. Musicians and producers spend months recording tracks at optimal quality, yet we often listen to the results through audio equipment and personal devices that are not fit for perfect sound reproduction. Playback Room is a response to this. An example of Tillmans’s curatorial practice, he has chosen to include it here to encourage others to think about how recorded music can be given prominence within the museum setting.

The three tracks you hear in this room are by Colourbox, an English band who were active between 1982 and 1987. Tillmans, a long-term fan of the band, chose their music for Playback Room because they never performed live, thus emphasising the importance of the studio recordings.

 

Room eight

Tillmans began experimenting with abstraction while in high school, using the powerful enlargement function of an early digital photocopier to copy and degrade his own photographs as well as those cut from newspapers. He describes the coexistence of chance and control involved in this process as an essential ingredient in most of his work.

Ever since then, he has found ways to resist the idea that the photograph is solely a direct record of reality. In 2011, this area of his practice was compiled for the first time in his book Abstract Pictures. For a special edition of 176 copies Tillmans manipulated the printing press, for example by running it without plates or pouring ink into the wrong compartments, to create random effects and overprinted pages.

Some of his abstract photographs are made with a camera and others without, through the manipulation of chemicals, light, or the paper itself. Importantly, however, Tillmans does not distinguish between the abstract and the representational. He is more interested in what they have in common. The relationship between photography, sculpture and the body, for example, is expressed in abstract photographs made by crumpling a sheet of photographic paper, but also in close-ups of draped and wrinkled clothing such as Faltenwurf (Pines) a, 2016 in Room 9.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Concorde L433-11' 1997

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Concorde L433-11
1997
Ink-jet print
Tate
© Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

 

 

Room nine

Artist books, exhibition catalogues, newspaper supplements and magazine spreads, posters and leaflets are an integral part of Tillmans’s output. These various formats and the ways in which they are distributed or made visible in the public space allow him to present work and engage audiences in a completely different manner to exhibitions. For him the printed page is as valid a venue for artistic creation as the walls of a museum. Many such projects are vital platforms on which he can speak out about a political topic, or express his continued interest in subjects such as musicians, or portraiture in general.

Recently, the print layout has enabled Tillmans to share a more personal aspect of his visual archive. Originally designed as a sixty-six page spread for the Winter 2015/Spring 2016 edition of Arena Homme +, this grid of images looks back at Fragile, the name he gave as a teenager to his creative alter-ego. Spanning 1983 to 1989 – the year before he moved to England to study – the photographs and illustrations provide a sensitive insight into a formative period in Tillmans’s life, predating the time when he chose photography as his main medium of expression.

The layout is also an example of the intricate collaging technique that he has employed in printed matter since 2011, deliberately obscuring some images by overlapping others on top of them

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Faltenwurf (Pines), a' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Faltenwurf (Pines), a
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tukan' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tukan
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room ten

An acute awareness of fragility endures across Tillmans’s practice in all of its different forms. Often this is expressed in his attentiveness to textures and surfaces. Collum 2011 is taken from Central Nervous System 2008-13, a group of portraits featuring only one subject, where the focus on intimate details, such as the nape of the neck or the soft skin of the outer ear, both emphasises and celebrates the frailty of the human body.

Weed 2014, a four-metre tall photograph taken in the garden of the artist’s London home, invites us to consider the beauty and complexity of a plant usually seen as a nuisance. The dead leaf of a nearby fig tree appears as both a sculptural form and a memento mori. Dusty Vehicle 2012, photographed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is highly specific in its depiction of texture, yet the reasons leading to this roadside arrangement remain a mystery.

The focus on a very few works in this room serves as an example of Tillmans’s varied approaches to exhibiting his prints. Though best known for installations comprising many pictures, he always places emphasis on the strength of the individual image. By pinning and taping work to the wall, as well as using frames, Tillmans draws attention to the edges of the print, encouraging the viewer to interact with the photograph as an object, rather than a conduit for an image.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Dusty Vehicle' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Dusty Vehicle
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Collum' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Collum
2011
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Weed' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Weed
2014
Photograph, inkjet print on paper
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room eleven

In this room Tillmans highlights the coexistence of the personal, private, public, and political spheres in our lives. The simultaneity of a life lived as a sexual being as well as a political being, or in Tillmans’s case as a conceptual artist as well as a visually curious individual, plays out through the installation.

The entirely white view taken from the inside of a cloud, a word charged with multiple meanings, is presented alongside the close-up and matter-of-fact view of male buttocks and testicles. Like nackt, 2 2014, the small photograph The Air Between 2016 is the result of a lifelong interest in visually describing what it feels like to live in our bodies. Here the attention lies in photographing the air, the empty space between our skin and our clothes.

In still life, Calle Real II 2013, a severed agave chunk is placed on a German newspaper article describing the online depiction of atrocities by Islamic State. The image is as startling in its depiction of the finest green hues as it is in capturing how, simultaneously, we take in world events alongside details of our personal environment.

This room, which Tillmans considers as one work or installation in its entirety, is an example of his innovative use of different photographic prints and formats to reflect upon how we experience vastly different aspects of the world at the same time.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Air Between' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Air Between
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Still life, Calle Real II' 2013

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Still life, Calle Real II
2013
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Nackt, 2 (nude, 2)' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Nackt, 2 (nude, 2)
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room twelve

Tillmans has always been sensitive to the public side of his role as an artist, acknowledging that putting images out in the public world unavoidably places himself in the picture as well. His participation in activities such as lectures and interviews has been a platform for his voice from the beginning of his career.

Since 2014 he has also allowed performance to become a more prominent strand of his practice. Filmed in a hotel room in Los Angeles and an apartment in Tehran, Instrument 2015 is the first time that Tillmans has put himself in front of the camera for a video piece. Across a split screen, we see two separate occasions on which he has filmed himself dancing. The accompanying soundtrack was created by distorting the sound of his feet hitting the floor. In the absence of any other music, his body becomes an instrument.

On one side of the screen we see his body, on the other only his shadow. Referring to the shadow, New York Times critic Roberta Smith commented that:

“Disconcertingly, this insubstantial body is slightly out of sync with the fleshly one. It is a ghost, a shade, the specter that drives us all. The ease with which we want to believe that the two images are connected, even though they were filmed separately, might also act as a reminder to question what we assume to be true.”

 

Room thirteen

Portraiture has been central to Tillmans’s practice for three decades. For him, it is a collaborative act that he has described as ‘a good levelling instrument’. No matter who the sitter – a stranger or someone close to him, a public figure, an unknown individual, or even the artist himself – the process is characterised by the same dynamics: of vulnerability, exposure, honesty and always, to some extent, self-consciousness. Tillmans sees every portrait as resulting from the expectations and hopes of both sitter and photographer.

The portrait’s ability to highlight the relationship between appearance and identity is a recurring point of interest. In 2016, at HM Prison Reading, Tillmans took a distorted self-portrait in a damaged mirror once used by inmates. The disfigured result is the artist’s expression of the effects on the soul wrought by physical and psychological confinement and also censorship. Whoever looked into the reflective surface would gain a completely inaccurate impression of what they looked like, and how they are perceived by others.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Separate System, Reading Prison' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Separate System, Reading Prison
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Anders pulling splinter from his foot' 2004

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Anders pulling splinter from his foot
2004
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“The image’s reference to both Dorian Gray and Francis Bacon is evident. This catapults a new association: perhaps Bacon was painting Gray all along. Insistently, fearlessly, longingly.

As with much of Bacon’s oeuvre, and the very particular picture of Dorian Gray, a distorted, forward-facing male figure intimidates the viewer with his unmade face. However, Tillsman’s piece is not a picture, it is a photograph. Here, the artist (as was the case with Bacon/Wilde) is not the one dissembling what’s inside the frame, subjecting it with his brush. No. In Tillsman’s image, a piece of thick glass distorts the artist. Here, the artist is no longer the lens that is able to affect his surroundings. Here, the surroundings distort the artist.

The message Tillsman delivers is clear: things have changed. The world disfigures the subject while the artist is trapped, forced to stand there and watch.”

Text by Ana Maria Caballero on The Drugstore Notebook website

 

Room fourteen

Symbol and allegory are artistic strategies Tillmans is usually keen to avoid. The State We’re In, A 2015 is a departure from this stance: the work’s title is a direct reference to current global political tensions. Depicting the Atlantic Ocean, a vast area that crosses time zones and national frontiers, it records the sea energised by opposing forces, but not yet breaking into waves. Differing energies collide, about to erupt into conflict.

The photographs in this room deal with borders and how they seem clear-cut but are actually fluid. In these images, borders are made tangible in the vapour between clouds, the horizon itself or the folds in the two Lighter photo-objects. The shipwreck left behind by refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa, depicted in this photograph from 2008, is a reminder that borders, represented elsewhere in more poetic delineations, can mean a question of life and death.

The text and tables sculpture Time Mirrored 3 2017 represents Tillmans’s interest in connecting the time in which we live to a broader historical context. He always understands the ‘Now’ as the history of the future. Events perceived as having happened over a vast gulf of time between us and the past, become tangible when ‘mathematically mirrored’ and connected to more recent periods of time in our living memory.

In contrast to the epic themes of sea and time, the pictures of an apple tree outside the artist’s London front door, a subject he has photographed since 2002, suggest a day-to-day positive outlook.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa' 2008

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa
2008
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Lampedusa' 2008

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Lampedusa
2008
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Installation view of room 14 (detail)

 

Installation view of room 14 (detail), featuring at left, pictures of an apple tree outside the artist’s London front door and at right, La Palma 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'La Palma' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
La Palma
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Apple tree' 2007

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Apple tree
2007
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Apple tree' Various dates

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Apple tree
Various dates
Ink-jet prints
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Book for Architects

Book for Architects 2014 is the culmination of Tillmans’s longstanding fascination with architecture. First presented at Rem Koolhaas’s 14th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, 2013, it explores the contrast between the rationality and utopianism that inform design and the reality of how buildings and streets come to be constructed and inhabited.

In 450 images taken in 37 countries, across 5 continents, Tillmans hones in on the resourceful and ingenious ways in which people adapt their surroundings to fit their needs. These are individual and uncoordinated decisions that were not anticipated in architects’ plans, but still impact the contemporary built environment.

Across the double projection, we see examples of how buildings come to sit within a city plan, the ad-hoc ways in which they are modified, and the supposed ‘weaknesses’ of a space such as the corners where there are service doors, fire escapes, or alarm systems.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Shit buildings going up left, right and centre' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Shit buildings going up left, right and centre
2014
Book for Architects Plate 083 2014
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Untitled' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Untitled
2012
Book for Architects 2014
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“He has said of his photographs that “they are a representation of an unprivileged gaze or view … In photography I like to assume exactly the unprivileged position, the position that everybody can take, that chooses to sit at an airplane window or chooses to climb a tower.”

.
Wolfgang Tillmans quoted in Peter Halley, Midori Matsui, Jan Verwoert, Wolfgang Tillmans, London 2002, p. 136

 

 

Wolfgang Tillmans has earned recognition as one of the most exciting and innovative artists working today. Tate Modern presents an exhibition concentrating on his production across different media since 2003. First rising to prominence in the 1990s for his photographs of everyday life and contemporary culture, Tillmans has gone on to work in an ever greater variety of media and has taken an increasingly innovative approach to staging exhibitions. Tate Modern brings this variety to the fore, offering a new focus on his photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music.

Social and political themes form a rich vein throughout Tillmans’s work. The destabilisation of the world has arisen as a recurring concern for the artist since 2003, an important year when he felt the world changed with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. In 2017, at a moment when the subject of truth and fake news is at the heart of political discourse, Tillmans presents a new configuration of his tabletop installation truth study center 2005-ongoing. This ongoing project uses an assembly of printed matter from pamphlets to newspaper cuttings to his own works on paper to highlight Tillmans’s continued interest in word events and how they are communicated in the media.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 will particularly highlight the artist’s deeper engagement with abstraction, beginning with the important work Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I 2014. Based on images the artist took of an analogue TV losing signal, this work combines two opposing technologies – the digital and the analogue. Other works such as the series Blushes 2000-ongoing, made without a camera by manipulating the effects of light directly on photographic paper, show how the artist’s work with abstraction continues to push the boundaries and definitions of the photographic form.

The exhibition includes portraiture, landscape and still lives. A nightclub scene might record the joy of a safe social space for people to be themselves, while large-scale images of the sea such as La Palma 2014 or The State We’re In, A 2015 document places where borders intersect and margins are ever shifting. At the same time, intimate portraits like Collum 2011 focus on the delicacy, fragility and beauty of the human body. In 2009, Tillmans began using digital photography and was struck by the expanded opportunities the technology offered him. He began to travel more extensively to capture images of the commonplace and the extraordinary, photographing people and places across the world for the series Neue Welt 2009 – 2012.

The importance of Tillmans’s interdisciplinary practice is showcased throughout the exhibition. His Playback Room project, first shown at his Berlin exhibition space Between Bridges, provides a space within the museum for visitors to experience popular music by Colourbox at the best possible quality. The video installation Instrument 2015 shows Tillmans dancing to a soundtrack made by manipulating the sound of his own footsteps, while in the Tanks Studio his slide projection Book for Architects 2014 is being shown for the first time in the UK. Featuring thirty-seven countries and five continents, it reveals the tension between architectural form and function. In March, Tillmans will also take over Tate Modern’s south Tank for ten days with a specially-commissioned installation featuring live music events.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 is co-curated by Chris Dercon and Helen Sainsbury, Head of Programme Realisation, Tate Modern with Emma Lewis, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing designed by Wolfgang Tillmans and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Images from the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern 15 February - 11 June

 

Installation view of the exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 with at left, Sunset night drive (2014) and at centre right, Young Man, Jeddah (2012)

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Sunset night drive' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Sunset night drive
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Young Man, Jeddah' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Young Man, Jeddah
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Young Man, Jeddah (B)' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Young Man, Jeddah (B)
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) '17 Years Supply' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
17 Years Supply
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“Now the camera is staring into a big cardboard box, half-filled with pharmacist’s tubs and packages, 17 years’ supply of antiretroviral and other medications to treat HIV/Aids. I imagine the sound that box would make if you shook it, what that sound might say about a human life, its vulnerability and value.” ~ Adrian Searle

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Market I' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Market I
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Studio still life, c' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Studio still life, c
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Juan Pablo & Karl Chingaza' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Juan Pablo & Karl Chingaza
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Iguazu' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Iguazu
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Oscar Niemeyer' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Oscar Niemeyer
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tube escalator joint' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tube escalator joint
2009
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'JAL' 1997

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
JAL
1997
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Port-au-Prince' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Port-au-Prince
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'London Olympics' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
London Olympics
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Fespa Car' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Fespa Car
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Spectrum Dagger' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Spectrum Dagger
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Gaza Wall' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Gaza Wall
2009
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Simon, Sebastian Street' 2013

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Simon, Sebastian Street
2013
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Arms and Legs' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Arms and Legs
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

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Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

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03
Jul
14

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

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 6th July 2014

 

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

Marcus

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

.
Ana Mendieta

 

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

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

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

 

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

.
Raquelin
 Mendieta

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape' 1973

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape Scene' 1973

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Body Tracks)' 1974

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1973

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Blood and Feathers #2' 1974

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Imagen de Yagul' 1973

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Silueta Series)' 1978

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)' 1973

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Tree of Life' 1976

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1982

 

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

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne website

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12
Jun
13

Review: ‘Lee Grant / Belco Pride’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 22nd June 2013

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In Belco Pride, the photographer Lee Grant comes as close as you are ever likely to come to an Australian version of the American photographer Alec Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara). That is a great compliment indeed.

This is an intelligent, cohesive exhibition which features 5 large colour photographs and a grid of 3 x 9 smaller colour photographs that form a topographical map of a suburb in Canberra called Belconnen. The body of work investigates how humans inhabit a specific place and how that place in turn influences the formation of identity and a sense of belonging and community. These themes are set in the context of a shifting, migratory, multicultural Australian suburb. The photographs are beautifully shot and individually well resolved; these square photographs then go on to form a holistic body that gives the viewer a wonderful sense of the people and place being photographed.

Grant likes to shoot formally and frontally, but that does not mean that there is not subtly and humour present in these photogrpahs. Technically she likes to vary depth of field to emphasise the context of place: in some images, for example Ashleigh in her Formal Dress (2008, below), depth of field is minimal in order to bring focus onto Ashleigh and the texture of her formal dress. The artist also likes to change light conditions from bright sunlight (Alisha and baby Saul, 2009 below), to overcast (Belco Pride, 2008 below) to gathering gloom (George with his model aeroplane, 2008 below); she also likes to push and pull figures and objects within the pictorial frame, from close up to mid-distance to infinity (the rendering of houses for example). This shading of space and tonality adds a beautiful luminosity to the series.

The humour and detail present is also fun: the suits of the sons two sizes too big in The Duot Family (2009, below); the barbed wire looming ominously above the white graffiti  ‘Belco Pride’; the off kilter lamp post in Suburban Hedge (2008, below) being swallowed by the hedge; and the delicious way that the lead from Kiki travels down and trails along the ground to Chucky the dog. There is a real affection and affinity for this place and people that is expressed in these photographs. They are unusually contemplative for this type of photography and that is perhaps a reflection on Grant’s Korean-Australian heritage.

Other work on her website is a mixed bag: the Sudanese Portraits are very successful, reminding me of the work of Mali photographer Malick Sidibé, while Oriental Dinner is interesting but the photographs are a little ‘flat’ due to their subject matter. The Road to Kuvera and Welcome to Vietnam lack the same connection and insight into the human condition that Belco Pride possesses, and this body of work seems to be her strongest so far in terms of an enunciation of her inner vision. Work in progress from The Korea Project again seems to possess an aura similar to Belco Pride so I await new work with interest.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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6_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
The Duot Family
2009
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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3_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Cactus Garden
2012
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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8_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Belco Pride
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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4_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Ashleigh in her Formal Dress
2008
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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1_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Suburban Hedge
2008
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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12_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Graffheads
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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31_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Roxy and Jess
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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“Belco’s a hole…. but it’s our hole

I’ve been told that you never truly leave behind the place you grew up. That it remains deep within your experience of the world. Feeling conflicted about one’s place of origin is certainly not unique, but for me, the process of returning ‘home’ and reconciling my perception of place with its banal and vernacular reality was a surprising yet cathartic experience. The photographs in this series express the idea that belonging, connection and identity is deeply rooted in the specifics of one’s inhabited landscape. The landscape depicted here being the 25 northernmost suburbs of Canberra known as Belconnen, or to us locals, as ‘Belco’.

As a photographer, I am interested in the way migrant communities adapt to new environments, particularly in western cultures and much of my work explores themes of identity, belonging and community set often in the context of the Australian suburbs.”

Lee Grant

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“I always believed it was the things you don’t choose that makes you who you are. Your city, your neighbourhood, your family. People here take pride in these things, like it was something they’d accomplished. The bodies around their souls, the cities wrapped around those. I lived on this block my whole life; most of these people have.”

Dennis Lehane

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Lee Grant’s latest exhibition at Edmund Pearce, Belco Pride, explores how belonging, connection and identity is deeply rooted in the specifics of one’s inhabited landscape. The landscape depicted here being the 25 northernmost suburbs of Canberra known as Belconnen, or to the locals, as ‘Belco’.

Lee is a documentary photographer who lives and works in Canberra. She holds a degree in Anthropology and in 2010 completed a Master of Philosophy at the ANU School of Art. Lee has exhibited at the Australian Centre for Photography, the Monash Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery amongst others. She has been a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize, the Head On Alternative Portrait Prize, the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Prize and the Olive Cotton Award. Lee was also the winner of the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize in 2010. Her work is held in the National Library, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery as well as numerous private collections.

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11_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Kiki and Chucky
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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16_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Nathan & Mac, BMX bros
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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13_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
A View of Suburbia
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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25_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Alisha and baby Saul
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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26_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
George with his model aeroplane
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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27_Lee_Grant_Belco-WEB

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Lee Grant
Ginninderra Creek on a Winter’s morning
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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17_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
The Beehive
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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Lee Grant
Lee
2010
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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28
Feb
11

Review: ‘Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography’ at NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2010 – 20th March 2011

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This review took a lot of research, reading, thinking and writing, all good stuff – I hope you enjoy it!

Addendum: Further to my argument below there is a session ‘Australian Identity: Australian Bio-diversity and the Landscape of the Imagination’ at the Festival of Ideas, Friday June 17th 2011 at The University of Melbourne where, in the details of the upcoming session, Ian Burn has been quoted about the loss of the landscape:

Details of the session: ‘The connection between landscape and national identity figures prominently in discussions of Australian experience. Recently the pairing of the two has taken a melancholic turn; artist Ian Burn has remarked that ‘A commitment to representing the landscape has come to be about the “loss” of the landscape’. Has the landscape that once supported the Australian legend disappeared? The landscape is represented not only in art but also through science, law and commerce. Are new landscapes and new identities now being imagined and discovered?’

Actual quote: ‘The idea of landscape does not just invoke rival institutional discourses, but today attracts wider and more urgent reflections. A commitment to representing the landscape has become about the ‘loss’ of landscape in the twentieth century … that is about its necessity and impossibility at the same time. Seeing a landscape means focusing on a picture, implicating language in our seeing of the landscape.’

Burn, Ian quoted in Stephen, Ann (ed.,). Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn. Sydney: Power Publications in association with Monash University Gallery, Melbourne, 1996, p. 8.

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Other sessions on Saturday June 18th 2011 include ‘The Pull of the Landscape’ and ‘Contemporary Visions and Critiques of the Landscape’. See the Festival of Ideas Events web page. Free tickets to sessions are available if you are quick!

Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier and 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.

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Nici Cumpston
Barkindji born 1963
Nookamka – Lake Bonney
2007
watercolour and coloured pencils on ink on canvas
74.2 x 203.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2008
© Nici Cumpston

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Harry Nankin
born Australia 1953
Of Great Western tears / Duet 2
2006
from The rain series 2006–07
gelatin silver photographs
(a-b) 107.1 x 214.3 cm (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2007
© Harry Nankin

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“It is this irreversibly modified world, from the polar caps to the equatorial forests, that is all the nature we have.”

Simon Schama. Landscape and Memory 1

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“The term “landscape” can be ambiguous and is often used to describe a creative interpretation of the land by an artist and the terrain itself. But there is a clear distinction: the land is shaped by natural forces while the artist’s act of framing a piece of external reality involves exerting creative control. The terms of this ‘control’ have be theorised since the Renaissance and, while representations of nature have changed over the centuries, a landscape is essentially a mediated view of nature.”

Dr Isobel Crombie 2

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“And, finally, what of the vexed, interrelated matter of non-Aboriginal Australians’ sense of belonging? While the Australian historian Manning Clark speculated that European settlers were eternal outsiders who could never know ‘heart’s ease in a foreign land, because … there live foreign ancestral spirits’, it now seems plausible that non-Aboriginal Australians are developing their own form of attachment, not to land as such, but to place. Indeed, it has recently been argued that for contemporary non-Aboriginal Australians, belonging may have no connection with land at all. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why art photographs of the natural landscape have lost their currency and are now far outnumbered by photographs of urban and suburban environments – after all, it is ‘here’ that most Australians live and ‘there’ that the tourist industry beckons them to escape.”

Helen Ennis. Photography and Australia 3

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Heavy Weather: Photography and the Australian Land(e)scape

There is nothing fresh about the work in this exhibition. If feels like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the term ‘landscape’, the land itself gasping for air, for life. What the exhibition does evince is an “undercurrent of disruption and contradiction that suggests that all is not as it may appear” (wall text) – and on this evidence the process of photographing the Australian landscape seems to have become an escape from the land, a fragmented and dislocated scoping, mapping and photographing of mental aspects of the land that have little to do with the landscape itself. Landscape as a site of psychological performance. In this sense, the title ‘Stormy Weather’ should perhaps have been ‘Heavy Weather’ for contemporary photographic artists seem to make heavy going of photographing our sense of belonging to land, to place.

Is it the artists or the curators that seek to name this work ‘landscape photography’ for it is about everything but the landscape – an escape from the land, perhaps even a denial of it’s very existence. I believe it is the framing of landscape and its imaging in terms of another subject matter. While I am not going to critique individual works in the exhibition, what I am interested in is this framing of the work as ‘landscape photography’.

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Since colonial settlement there has been a rich history of photographing the Australian landscape. In the early colonial period the emphasis was on documenting the building of new cities and communities through realist photography and later more picturesque and panoramic vistas of the Australian land as settlers sought comfort in familiar surroundings and a sense of ‘belonging’ to the land (for example day trippers and photographers travelling to the Blue Mountains). Photographers rarely accompanied expeditions into the interior, unlike the exploration and mapping of the land from the East Coast to the West Coast in the United States. Unlike America there has been little tradition of photographing sublime places in Australia because they are not of the same scale as in the USA. It is very difficult to photograph the vast horizon line of the Australian outback and make it sublime. Photographing the landscape then ventured through Pictorialism in the interwar years, Modernism after WWII through to the emergence of art photography in the 1970s (for example see my posting on Dr John Cato), wilderness and tourist photography. An excellent book to begin to understand the history of photography in Australia is ‘Photography and Australia’ by Helen Ennis (London: Reaktion Books, 2007) that contains the chapter “Land and Landscape.” As Ennis comments in this chapter, “… landscape photography has been the practice of settler Australians and the expression of a settler-colonial culture … The viewpoint in landscape photography has therefore been almost exclusively European”4 although this culture has been changing in recent years with the emergence of Indigenous photographers.

Ennis observes that contemporary landscape photographers embrace internationalist styles, showing a distaste for totalising nationalist narratives and a rejection of essentialist or absolutist viewpoints, noting that an overarching framework like multiculturalism has lost its currency in favour of transnationalism (which is a social movement grown out of the heightened interconnectivity between people and the loosening of boundaries between countries) that does not disavow colonial inequalities and asymmetrical relations between countries and continents.5 Photographers have developed a “photographic language that allows for the expression of the contradictions inherent in contemporary settler Australians’ relations with the land,”6 whilst offering visual artists a “non-linear, non-didactic way of dealing with the complexities of Australia history and experience, and the relationship between past and present.”7

This much then is a given. Let us now look at the framing of the work in the exhibition as ‘landscape photography’.

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Simon Schama in his erudite book ‘Landscape and Memory’ (New York: Vintage, 1996) believes that there can never be a natural or neutral landscape (even the brilliant meadow-floor [at Yosemite] which suggested to its first eulogists a pristine Eden was in fact the result of regular fire-clearances by its Ahwahneechee Indian occupants) and that it is our shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape. There was also a recognition that ‘nature’ was neither neutral nor beyond ideology during the 1970s – 1980s. Hence there is a double mediation – by both nature and the artist.

Despite the rejection of essentialist or absolutist viewpoints by contemporary photographers and an acknowledgment of the mediated view by/of nature one can say that there is not a single photograph in this exhibition that is just a ‘landscape’. Even the most sublime photographs in the exhibition, David Stephenson’s ‘(Self-portrait), Reflected moon, Tasmania’ (1985) is cut up into a grid, or Murray Fredericks ‘Salt’ photographs (2005, see below) where the photographer has waited agonisingly for weeks for just the right weather conditions to take his photographs which the general public, when visiting Lake Eyre, would have no chance of ever seeing. Through this mediation there seems to have emerged an abrogation or denial of landscape by the artists and curators conceptualisation of it, as though they are performing a particular condition, a style; working out a plan of what to do and say. Is it just a denial or is it an artistic strategy?

I believe that these are strategies that limit artists, not strategies that enable them. The curators are equally implicated in these strategies by their naming of these works ‘landscapes’. What purpose does this naming serve, in terms of the development of a sense of place, not nation, that people living in Australia seek to have? We can ask the question: Where do you stand in relationship to the landscape both philosophically and geographically?
After Butler, we can also ask: What forms of cultural myth making are “embedded” in the framing of landscape by the curators, the naming of such work as ‘landscape photography’?

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Rarely is the framing recognised for what it is, when it is the viewer interpreting the interpretation that has been imposed upon us, that limits the visual discourse, producing a view of Australian landscape as fragmented norms enacted through visual narrative frames – that in this case efface the representation of land and place. This conceptual framing of what the work is about limits the grounds for discourse for a frame excludes as much as it corrals. The curators form an interpretative matrix of what is seen (or not seen, or withheld), reinforcing notions of landscape photography, the ‘landscape photography’ “that requires a certain kind of subject that actually institutes that conceptual requirement as part of its description and diagnosis.”8 In other words the description ‘landscape photography’ established by the curators becomes a limiting, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Personally, I think the problem with a landscape exhibition is that this is virtually an inane topic. Somehow “documentary” works as a topic because it is about a mental discipline. But “landscape” is no longer really a topic – it used to be a topic when landscape painters wanted to show the landscape (!) but does anyone really want to show this today? Even when the landscape painters wanted to show the sublime, the landscape was always treated with deference. No-one thinks of Minor White as a landscape photographer for he was a metaphysical photographer. And that’s what this exhibition needs – another word to give sense to a photographers efforts.

This is difficult subject matter. While artists may reject essentialist or absolutist viewpoints what has been substituted in their place is a framing, a definition that is post-nature, that undermines any sense of belonging to land, to place. The dissolutive pendulum has swung too far the other way; we look to theory to be inclusive and sometimes stand on our heads to achieve this to our detriment.
As of this moment we are not at the point where we can look back with some certainty and see that we have reached the beginning of the path of understanding. What I would propose to any artist is a photography that is broadly based, cumulative, offering a layered body of work that builds and refers back to an original body of work, much like the photographs of Robert Adams – photographs that do not make claims but ask questions and hint at a more responsive engagement with the landscape.

My hope is that a more broadly based view of place and our sense of belonging to the land emerges, one that challenges our contemporary understanding of the landscape, a viewpoint and line of sight that calm our troubled sense of reality. Robert Adams has written eloquently about photography and the art of seeing. Here is a quote from his seminal book ‘Why People Photograph’ (Aperture Foundation, 1994) that aptly concludes this review.

“At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect – a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.”9

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Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Stephanie Valentin
born Australia 1962
Rainbook
2009
from the earthbound series 2009
colour inkjet print
69.9 x 86.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Philip Ross and Sophia Pavlovski-Ross, 2009
© Stephanie Valentin

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Murray Fredericks
born Australia 1970
Salt 154
2005
from the Salt series 2003–
colour inkjet print
119.3 x 149.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Murray Fredericks

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Siri Hayes
born Australia 1977
Plein air explorers
2008
type C photograph
104.3 x 134.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Siri Hayes

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“The work of the contemporary Australian photographers highlighted in this exhibition comes from a profound engagement with the lived landscape around them. The quiet intensity of their work comes from their close and sustained relationship to particular environments. These photographers may use that lived observation to reveal the layers of history in a landscape; to provoke ecological concerns; as the place for site specific performances; or to use the specific poetics of light to reveal the beauty of a place.  However for all of them, the real world is the starting point for images of particularity.

Photographers’ interest in the landscape has increased in the last few years. Perhaps as a result of heightened environmental awareness, or an evolution in our engagement with Australian history, practitioners are again turning to the natural world as a site for critical practice and inspiration.

Drawn from the permanent collection the National Gallery of Victoria, the selected photographers in this exhibition have a particular focus that comes from their active relationship to various environments. The artists displayed here reveal history in a landscape; provoke ecological concerns; use the landscape as a site of performance; or reveal the distinctive beauty of a place.

Frequently underpinning these works of quiet intensity and considerable beauty is an undercurrent of disruption and contradiction that suggests all is not as it may first appear.”

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Rosemary Laing
born Australia 1959
weather #9
2006
from the weather series 2006
type C photograph
109.9 x 184.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007
© Rosemary Laing and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

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Jill Orr
born Australia 1952, lived in the Netherlands 1980–84
Southern Cross to bear and behold – Burning
2007
colour inkjet print
65.5 x 134.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2010
Photographer: Naomi Herzog for Jill Orr
© Jill Orr

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1. Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage, 1996, p.7.

2. Crombie, Isobel. Stormy Weather. Contemporary Landscape Photography (exhibition catalogue). Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2010, p.15.

3. Clark, Manning quoted by Peter Read in “A Haunted Land No Longer? Changing Relationships to a Spiritualised Australia” in Australian Book Review CCLXV (October 2004) pp.28-33 in Ennis, Helen. “Land and Landscape,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, pp.71-72.

4. Ennis, Helen. “Land and Landscape,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, pp.51-52.

5. Ennis, Helen. Land and Landscape,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p.123, p.133.

6. Ibid., “Land and Landscape,” pp.71-72.

7. Ibid., “Localism and Internationalism,” p.128.

8. Butler, Judith. Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2010. p.161.

9. Adams, Robert. Why People Photograph. New York: Aperture Foundation, 1994, p.179.

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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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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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