Posts Tagged ‘consumerism

20
May
12

Review: ‘Littoral’ by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 26th May 2012

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Truck in Safi
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
New Homes
2011
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Jeff Wall, the renowned Canadian photographer, observed recently that, “Photography is such a wide, complex art form medium that there’s no real single way of practising it. Up until 30 to 40 years ago, it was pretty much presumed that the way you practised photography seriously was in the documentary mode. It was very unilateral, other things weren’t really plausible. I never objected to documentary photography, but it’s not the whole story…”1

How true. In this post-photography world there are many spaces in the city for showing all kinds of photographic work, notably at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Fitzroy. While the viewer does learn about different modes of photographic representation through experiential learning (making meaning from the direct experience of looking at such work), personally some contemporary photography often leaves me feeling rather underwhelmed. Rarely do I leave the CCP thinking, wow, that was a great “photography” exhibition, I have seen something amazing about the world that I had not recognised before. Interesting: possibly; inspiring/engaging/memorable: occasionally, which is perhaps why reviews of exhibitions at the CCP occur rather rarely on this blog. This is not to belittle the work that the CCP does as an establishment, far from it, but just to note that not much contemporary photography lasts long in the mind.

It was such a joy then to walk around the corner from the CCP to the Colour Factory Gallery and view the exhibition Littoral by emerging artist Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. This is one of the best, if not the best, “photography” exhibition I have seen so far this year. As soon as you walk into the simple, elegant gallery you are surrounded by fourteen large scale horizontal photographs that are suffused with colour variations bouncing across the gallery – here a blue, there a green, now a lush orange palette. The effect is much like Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris; seated in the middle of the four curved paintings you are surrounded by large daubs of paint of various hues that have an elemental effect – resonances of earth, air, water, fire – on the viewer. The same affection of colour and space can be found in Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs.

The artist’s literal rendition (the definition of littoral is that it relates to the coastal zone between the limits of high and low tides) of the interstitial spaces at the edge of urbana, the fluid spaces of a no man’s land, are beautifully visualised in the work. These entropic spaces are mainly devoid of physical human presence but filled with the detritus of humanity: concrete boxes and tangled beams of steel, satellite dishes and red-eyed chimney stacks. In Casablanca Terrace II (2010, below) satellite dishes shimmer in orange while in the distance alien lights seem to hover over the city; in Manneheim (2010, below) the whole photograph is a cold, chilly blue the only visible signs of human existence a couple of lights peeping from the flat windows (at left) while the belching smoke from numerous alien, red-eyed War of the Worlds chimney stacks blends seamlessly into the overcast sky (please enlarge the photograph to see these). When first looking at New Homes (2011, above) I thought the green lines at bottom left were trenches until I realised they were hedges. Then I noticed the empty oval in the upper right quadrant – a demolished sporting facility… a racetrack… a spaceship landing pad? In these familiar but alien landscapes (ice covered swimming pools, graveyards sitting under mountains) Laemmle-Ruff plays with colour, space and depth of field. In some photographs, such as Road to Essaouira (2010, below bottom) the depth of field is very shallow, the focus point in the photograph being the road and gravel, silver road sign and buildings falling out of focus beyond. Like the shifting of colour, this expansion and contraction of DOF from one photograph to the next adds to the body of works ethereality.

The best print in the exhibition is Truck in Safi (2010, above) which is an absolute knockout. The composition is beautifully visualised and the print is incredibly luminous and well balanced. The large white ‘M’ on the back of the earth-filled truck solidifies our gaze in the mid-foreground while, metaphorically, the letter stamps the earth as the possession of man. The road curves into the distance and upon it, as minute specks, are a bicycle and two motorbikes. The sweep of an industrial plant fills the horizon line in a sensuous entanglement of vessels and pipes. This truly is a beautiful photograph and therein lies the contradiction present in Laemmle-Ruff’s body of work. While seeking to capture the paradoxes of urbanisation and consumerism, a vernacular world, familiar and normal (both the beauty and frailty of our times as Laemmle-Ruff puts it), the beauty of the photographs becomes the heart of the work, its strength in the presence of the viewer and perhaps its slight weakness as well. The artist’s visual acoustics, his mythologising of the city if you like – the (dis)ease of the city as sublime photograph picturing the picturesque – has, to my mind, elements of Pictorialism in the artist’s scopophiliac looking. Nothing wrong with that, but we must acknowledge that there is a contradiction here, not between the beauty and frailty of our times, but between the frailty of the earth and the constructed beauty of the photograph seen through a desirous looking that might be at odds with Laemmle-Ruff’s intended project.

Be that as it may, it is a great pleasure to see a young, emerging artist produce such memorable photographic works. Walking into the gallery the viewer can littorally feel the pleasure that the artist has in capturing these complex, fluid spaces. The artist is at the beginning of a path of exploration where each new body of work will develop thematically out of concerns that have been evidenced here. Where this journey will take him is unknown but with courage, fortitude, knowledge, passion, a good eye and a camera he will go far. Good stuff!

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Many thankx to the artist and the Colour Factory Gallery 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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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Casablanca Terrace II
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Manneheim
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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“Littoral examines the shifting overlap between landscape and urbanscape. As a reaction to a traditional approach where the two are consciously separated, Laemmle-Ruff focuses on the often grotesque and ever-expanding littoral zone between civilisation and nature.

“I found these undefined zones did not discriminate on place or culture. From Morocco to the post WWII suburbs of Germany, somber skies were met with stubborn and aggressive urbanisation. I was drawn to contradictions. “The World Tastes Better with Pall Mall” claimed the cigarette ad. These empty remarks of consumerism seemed to go unchallenged. My intention was to capture these paradoxes and pull them from the wallpaper of modern sensibility. Our gaze once traveled to picturesque, unspoiled horizons, forests in mist and rolling plains. Instead it stops on concrete or becomes tangled in steel beams.”

Littoral presents us with spaces anticipating themselves. Housing estates on the fringe of development yet to be occupied; North African peasants walking past the mall’s facade where the market once stood; roof top terraces lined with satellite dishes streaming immaculate reception. We are left to wonder who will fill these homes. Who is in control of where urbanisation will go next?

Ultimately, this series may appear to be a presentation of a vernacular world, familiar and normal. This, in turn alludes to a desensitisation to our changing surroundings in an age of globalisation and overpopulation. Our landscape is increasingly becoming a manifestation of ourselves. Littoral urges one to question where the present seems to be leading us.

Practicing in both documentary and conceptual photography, from warm narratives to surreal visions, Kristian Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs subtly bring to light both the beauty and frailty of our times. As we spiral up the exponential curve of ‘progress’ there are dynamic ruptures, vulnerabilities and regenerative possibilities in our human reality – this is his motivation – a truth worth capturing.”

Press release from the Colour Factory Gallery website

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Olympic Stadium
2012
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Road to Essaouira
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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1. Wall, Jeff quoted in Laurie, Victoria. “Lights, Camera,” in The Weekend Australian Review. May 19-20 2012, p.5.

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Colour Factory Gallery
409 – 429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
T: +61 3 9419 8756

Colour Factory Gallery website

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff website

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18
Jun
09

Opening 2: ‘In-Sight’ by Lisa Roet at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

Opening: 17th June, 2009

Exhibition dates: 17th June – 11th July, 2009

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Another excellent opening this time of the work of the delightful Lisa Roet. If you visit the gallery don’t forget the upstairs exhibition space with further work by the artist including a marvelous large bronze Orangutan Foot. Review to follow.

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'In-Sight' by Lisa Roet opening at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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'In-Sight' by Lisa Roet opening at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Opening night crowd in front of the works ‘Target’ (2009) by Lisa Roet at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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'In-Sight' by Lisa Roet opening at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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'In-Sight' by Lisa Roet opening at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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'In-Sight' by Lisa Roet opening at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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The artist Lisa Roet in front of one of her works ‘Cross Bones’ (2009)

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'In-Sight' by Lisa Roet opening at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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'Orangutan Foot' (2007/08) by Lisa Roet at the opening of 'In-Sight' exhibition at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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‘Orangutan Foot’ (2007/08) by Lisa Roet at the opening of ‘In-Sight’ exhibition at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Karen Woodbury Gallery

4, Albert Street, Richmond, Vic 3121
Opening hours: Wed – Sat 11-5pm

Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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17
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Hyper’ by Denis Darzacq at Australian Centre for Photography (ACP), Sydney

Exhibition dates: Friday 13th March – Sunday 12th April 2009

 

“The astonishing photographs that make up Hyper involve no digital manipulation, just close collaboration between young dancers and sportspeople as they jump for the camera to form strange, exaggerated poses and body gestures. Denis Darzacq was drawn to the trashy, consumerist nature of the French Hypermarkets (the equivalent of our supermarkets) and the hyper coloured backgrounds they provided. These supermarkets offered a sharp juxtaposition to the sublime, almost-spiritual bodies that appear to float in their aisles.

Hyper is the latest series of works by French photographer Denis Darzacq, who continues to explore the place of the individual in society, a theme which has been crucial to his work in the last few years.”

Text from the ACP website

 

Denis Darzacq. 'Hyper #3' 2007

 

Denis Darzacq
‘Hyper #3’
2007

 

Denis Darzacq. 'Hyper #7' 2007

 

Denis Darzacq
‘Hyper #7’
2007

 

These images form an interesting body of work: levitating bodies suspended between heaven and earth, neither here nor there, form a hyper-real image grounded in the context of the fluorescent isles of French supermarkets. The mainly anonymous humans look like mannequins in their inertness, frozen at the moment of throwing themselves/being thrown into the consumer environment. After his brilliant series La Chute (The Fall) Darzacq has taken people gathered in a casting call from around the town of Rouen and made their frozen bodies complicit in the mass production of the supermarket and the mass consumption of the image as tableaux vivant: the mis en scene directed by the photographer to limited effect. There is something unsettling about these images but ultimately they are unrewarding, as surface as the environment the bodies are suspended in, and perhaps this is the point.

Suspension of bodies is not a new idea in photography. Jacques Henri Lartigue used the freeze frame to good effect long before Henri Cartier-Bresson came up with his ‘decisive moment’: playing with the effect of speed and gravity in an era of Futurism, Lartigue used the arrested movement of instant photography then afforded by smaller cameras and faster film to capture the spirit of liberation in the ‘Belle Epoque’ period before the First World War.

“All the jumping and flying in Lartigue’s photographs, it looks like the whole world at the turn of the century is on springs or something. There’s a kind of spirit of liberation that’s happening at the time and Lartigue matches that up with what stop action photography can do at the time, so you get these really dynamic pictures. And for Lartigue part of the joke, most of the time, is that these people look elegant but they are doing these crazy stunts.”

Kevin Moore (Lartigue biographer)

BBC Photography Genius of Photography website

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue. 'Bichonnade, 40, Rue Cortambert, Paris' 1905

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue
‘Bichonnade, 40, Rue Cortambert, Paris’
1905

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue. mr-folletete-plitt-et-tupy-paris-mars-1912

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue
‘Mr Folletete (Plitt) et Tupy, Paris, March 1912’

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue. 'Fuborg' 1929

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue
‘Fuborg’
1929

 

Herni Cartier-Bresson. 'Behind Saint Lazare Station, Paris, France' 1932

 

Herni Cartier-Bresson
‘Behind Saint Lazare Station, Paris, France’
1932

 

One of the greatest if not the greatest ever series of photographs of levitating bodies is that by American photographer Aaron Siskind. Called ‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation’ (sometimes reversed as ‘Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation’ as on the George Eastman House website) they feature divers suspended in mid-air with the sky as their blank background canvas. The images formal construction makes the viewer concentrate on the state of the body, its positioning in the air, and the look on the face of some of the divers caught between joy and fear.

“Highly formal, yet concerned with their subject as well as the idea they communicate, The Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation photographs depict the dark shapes of divers suspended mid-leap against a blank white sky. Shot with a hand-held twin-lens reflex camera at the edge of Lake Michigan in Chicago, the balance and conflict suggested by the series’ title is evident in the divers’ sublime contortions.”

Museum of Contemporary Photography website

 

Aaron Siskind. 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #37' 1956

 

Aaron Siskind
‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #37’
1956

 

siskind-pleasures-and-terrors-of-levitaiton-1956

 

Aaron Siskind
‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #63’
1956

 

Aaron Siskind. 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #298' 1956

 

Aaron Siskind
‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #298’
1956

 

Aaron Siskind. 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #99' 1956

 

Aaron Siskind
‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #99’
1956

 

Aaron Siskind. 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #491' 1956

 

Aaron Siskind
‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #491’
1956

 

For more images see the George Eastman House website

 

Perhaps because of their air of balance and conflict we can return to these vibrant images again and again and they never loose their freshness, intensity and wonder. The same cannot be said of Denis Darzacq ‘Hyper’ photographs. Slick and surface like the consumer society on which they comment the somnambulistic bodies are more like floating helium balloons, perhaps even tortured souls leaving the earth. Reminiscent of the magicians trick where the girl is suspended and a hoop passed around her body to prove the suspension is real these photographs really are more smoke and mirrors than any comment on the binary between being and having as some commentators have suggested.1 There is no spirit of liberation here, no sublime revelation as the seemingly lifeless bodies are trapped between the supermarket shelves, as oblivious to and as anonymous as the products that surround them. Of course the well shot images possess a sense of fun as Darzacq plays with our understanding of reality but are they more than that or is the Emperor just wearing very thin consumer clothing?

M Bunyan

 

number-2

 

Denis Darzacq
‘Hyper #2’
2007

 

Denis Darzacq. 'Hyper #13' 2007

 

Denis Darzacq
‘Hyper #13’
2007

 

 

Denis Darzacq website

Denis Darzacq ‘Hyper’ images

Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) website

 

            

1. “Denis Darzacq is drawn to the contradictions he sees, or would like to see, in everyday life. Indeed his past series have reflected this — bold naked people walking through bland and conformist suburban housing estates, groups of immigrants in the classic and serene poses found in French masterpieces, French youths appearing mid-flight or mid-fall in bleak, unpopulated urban landscapes.

Darzacq’s practice includes press photography. Just last year he won the prestigious World Press Photo Award. It is intriguing to see how his “anthropological” press photographer’s eye and sensibility makes its way into his fine art work.


His newest series, Hyper, is concerned with the binary between being and having.

Hyper refers to the Hypermarkets (French equivalent to our supermarkets) in which these works are shot. Darzacq was drawn to the trashy, pop nature of the Hypermarkets and the hyper coloured background they provided.


Here he explores the idea of the body in levitation, using straight photography and no PhotoShop tricks. Shot in Rouen with subjects sourced from a casting call in the area, these images offer a sharp juxtaposition, as sublime, almost-spiritual bodies float within that epitome of mass production and mindless consumption.

There is humour here too, as these young people appear to achieve the impossible — levitation — in front of products claiming similarly unreachable outcomes, such as perfect hair, eternal youth, a slim waist no matter how much you eat, a germ-free home……



Not all these bodies are in calm repose, however. There are those caught as if in the aftermath of a violent act — a punch, a throw, a kick, Darzacq tells me that areas around Rouen have had a bad reputation for youth violence — and so here we see this played out quite dramatically, almost ballet-like in the clinical, normally “safe” environment of the hypermarket.

For me, someone who hates going to the supermarket and avoids it all costs, these images are especially surreal — for here they are devoid of the chaos and hubbub of the usual grocery shopping experience, goods are within easy reach, aisles are clear. And in my mind the young man leaping in front of the stack of trolleys is doing so because he has found one without a dodgy wheel and an annoying squeak.


These images are also disturbing. It is hard to believe that they are real — a young man in mid air, snap frozen like the vegetables in the aisle he is hovering above? But Darzacq is playing with us. We are being manipulated, but not in the way we think we are. They are both real (in the sense that the image has not been doctored) and not real, since what we are seeing is the fraction of a second of a body in motion — an image impossible to contemplate in reality.

It is these types of contradictions that of course make life and people  — and photography — so fascinating.”

Amy Barrett-Lennard, Director Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts


Barrett-Lennard, Amy. “Hyper” [Online] cited 16th March, 2009 on Lens Culture: Photograph and Shared Territories website.

 

 

 

 




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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