Posts Tagged ‘disaster

22
Sep
12

Review: ‘Jenny Reddin: The Art of Catastrophe’ at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 5th September – 29th September 2012

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“Each epoch dreams the one to follow, creates it in dreaming”

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Jules Michelet

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“Each epoch dreams of itself as annihilated by catastrophes”

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Theodor Adorno

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A star is born

The origin of the word catastrophe is Greek (kata + strophein) and its literal meaning was “overturn”. According to its definition, it is an event that causes trauma due to its capacity to destroy most of a community. Catastrophes are extreme events that affect a large number of victims in the affected community, and are easily identified as events that cause physical suffering.1 The use of words such as disaster (origin in the Italian word disastro (dis + astro, “bad star”)) and catastrophe create the idea of a “disaster taxonomy,” one which is based on the principle that there are variable emotional responses that depend on the type of disaster, the degree of personal impact, the size of the group affected, and the geographical and temporal range of the event.2 These pure words define the event itself and the havoc they wreak without incorporating the perceptions of the victims; in other words they are an objective reflection on the subjective performativity of the act itself.

Catastrophes fascinate humans as they clearly show them the limits of their own existence. The dystopian catastrophe challenges the temporal linearity of a utopian dreaming in which the darkness of the lived moment is illuminated by the anticipatory daydreams of the “not-yet-conscious” future. What catastrophe codes is a dialectical relation to Utopianism, a rejection of the holistic vision of an anticipatory consciousness of a utopian future. As Matthew Charles observes,

“The catastrophic signifies the dialectical intrusion of the whole of history (including the present in which it is represented) into the construction epoch, and by extension the whole of the epoch into the life of the artist, and the whole life of the artist into a particular work. Benjamin’s messianic account of the experience of truth imposes the theological concepts of the infinite, fulfilled and perfected state of the world into the immanence of finite, particular, existing phenomenon. In this way, the intrusion of the historical Absolute contributes to the catastrophic ruination of the work.”3

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As can be seen in the Jenny Reddin’s artist statement, the whole of the artist’s history is bound up in the creation of the work. The infinite possibilities of a subjective understanding of truth are bound together with the immanence of finite, particular, existing phenomenon, that of the art of catastrophe, the objective presentation of ruination, in the art itself. Reddin’s anticipatory daydreams become an anticipatory illumination as an image, a constellation, a configuration tied closely to the idea of the concrete/fluid utopic/dystopic landscapes of the body and the earth. Reddin’s paintings work at both a macro and micro level, a phenomenon that is cross-disciplinary like the phenomenon of catastrophe itself. The work reminds me of cellular structures at the micro level (cross-sections of diseased kidneys, the veins of the heart or scientific slides of blood cells) and of aerial views of the earth at the macro level (alluvial deltas and views of open cast mines). They balance beauty with serendipity, the manipulation of the “flow” of paint (from one point in time to many points) that captures light, the light of the cosmos and of the subconscious. These magnificent works of art have emerged from the artist’s life – much as Immanuel Velikovsky argued that the planet Venus is a former “comet” which was ejected from Jupiter – in an act of catastrophic creation. They are dreaming of the future and yet also dreaming of catastrophe. 

Running with these ideas you might argue that these dream images are both an act of emergence and an emergency, a catastrophe. For some thinkers the sociology of emergences aims to identify and enlarge the signs of possible future experiences, under the guise of tendencies and latencies, that are actively ignored by hegemonic rationality and knowledge. For Ernst Bloch the concept of The Not Yet, “is the way in which the future is inscribed in the present. It is not an indeterminate or infinite future, rather a concrete possibility and a capacity that neither exists in a vacuum nor are completely predetermined. Subjectively, the Not Yet is anticipatory consciousness, a form of consciousness that is extremely important in people’s lives. Objectively, the Not Yet is, on the one hand, capacity (potency) and, on the other, possibility (potentiality).”4

Here the field of possibility has a dimension of darkness (disaster) as it originates in the lived moment whilst the sociology of emergences inquires into the alternatives that are contained in the horizon of concrete, utopian possibilities in order to identify therein the tendencies of the future (the Not Yet): the light of the future. Hence these images contain both emergency (of the catastrophe, of the lived moment) and an emergence (into the future). A (bad) star is born. I also believe that in this artist another star has been born, one that will shine strongly in future dreamings.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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Jenny Reddin
Caught in an Effervescent Breeze
2012
Oil on canvas
122 x 122 cm

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Jenny Reddin
Ms. Broadhurst’s Poppy
2012
Oil on canvas
122 x 122 cm

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Jenny Reddin
A Shifting Reality
2012
Mixes media on linen
137 x 122 cm

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“At the heart of a catastrophe there is a massive burst of energy. Jenny Reddin’s works seek to capture that energy in an alchemic process that involves the dissolving of pigments in various solutions and pouring the viscous mixes onto prepared structures. Due to the varying specific gravities the pigments drop out at different rates offering alternately dry, textured or smooth, mirror-like fields. This series presents works inspired by the natural phenomenon and the interaction of the human form, capturing the juxtaposition of the beauty of the Australian country with the ongoing cycle of natural catastrophe.”

Text from the gallery website

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“I have been painting for around 14 years. At a time when I should have been at Art School, I was studying for a bachelor of business. When I should have been exhibiting my work, I was running a consulting practice and managing people. It wasn’t until my husband and I adopted a little girl from India that I was able to take the time to explore my creative side. I have been painting ever since.

Catastrophe plays an important role in my life. I am an idea, act, plan person in everything I do. It’s how I live my life and it’s how I paint. I had to make a decision early on in my painting career that I either learned to celebrate the spontaneous nature of catastrophes or go mad trying to paint in a conventional manner. I found also that it was becoming increasingly important for me to find my own style and form of expression. I would cringe when people would compliment me by telling me that a work looked just like a Fred Williams or a John Olsen.

To a large extent, I have had to learn to paint from the subconscious. The more deliberate and planned I am at the commencement of a work, the less spontaneous and evocative the result. I go through what feels like long periods where the works are muddy and unsatisfying and I have to rip off the canvas and start again. I usually find when I take the time to analyse why, I have been trying to force an outcome and then all of a sudden, as my consciousness steps back and my subconscious takes over, they work.

Catastrophe is a piece that was painted early this year. It is a good example of the elements that I am looking for in my work, drama and light. The dramatic effect is created by dissolving pigments in viscous solvent solutions and then pouring them onto prepared canvas supports. I often pour two and three colours together so that they bump into each other creating riverlets and craters as the pigments drop out of solution at different rates. Light is captured by manipulating the flow of paint to trap sections of blank, white canvas which to my eye increase the sense of drama and luminance of the work.

It’s hard to say who inspires my work because I am unaware of anyone else painting in quite the same way. What I take from other artists would be honesty and integrity from artists such as Andy Goldsworthy; simplicity of form from the likes of Anthony Gormley and Antonio Tapies; the love of limited palette from Godwin Bradbeer; the beauty of gesture and rhythm from Yvonne Audette and Susan Rothenburg.”

Jenny Reddin’s opening speech at the exhibition The Art of Catastrophe

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Jenny Reddin
Space within space within space
2012
Oil in linen
122 x 122 cm

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Jenny Reddin
Amillaria
2012
Oil on canvas
120 x 100 cm

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Jenny Reddin
Suspended Journey
2012
Oil on linen
138 x 97 cm

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1. Braga, Luciana L., Fiks, Jose P., Mari, Jair J. and Mello, Marcelo F. “The importance of the concepts of disaster, catastrophe, violence, trauma and barbarism in defining posttraumatic stress disorder in clinical practice,” in BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:68 [Online] Cited 22/09/2012

2. Ibid.,

3. Charles, Matthew. “The Future is History: Dreams of Catastrophe in Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin,” Proceedings of the No Future
conference, Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham University, 25-27 March 2011 [Online] Cited 22/09/2012.

4. Anon. “Sociology of Emergences,” on the P2P Foundation website [Online] Cited 22/09/2012.

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Anita Traverso Gallery
7, Albert Street
Richmond, Vic 3121

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 – 5

Anita Traverso Gallery website

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08
Jul
12

Review: Lost & Found: Family Photos Swept away by the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 15th July 2012

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Opening of the Lost & Found exhibition at the CCP

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This is an profound exhibition of photographs that have been lost then found. Too damaged to be returned to the families of their missing owners after the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami they have been cleaned, dried, digitally catalogued and put on display. As remnants of disaster they have taken on an ethereal, abstract expressionist beauty.

Like Atget’s photographs (his “documents for artists”) they were never meant to be “art”, but through morphogenesis these snapshots of places, family and friends reveal their inherent form. This beginning of form has been exposed through displacement, washing and erasure. Through this process of erasure these anonymous images reveal their underlying structure with its link to alchemy, as the image dis/appears from view; they have become unfixed (as in the fixer that stabilises the image in the analogue darkroom) from reality. In this process they have become art.

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The images are incredibly beautiful.

They hid secrets (of ownership, names, families and places, of time and space).

Something (energy, spirit?) emerges when you least expect it.

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Photographs are coded, but usually so as to appear uncoded but here the link to the indexicality of the image – the idea of the visible as evidence of truth – has been broken. These photographs, taken out of their original context, have lost their specific use value in the particular time and place of their consumption. The fragmentation of this use value, together with the dissolution of their formal characteristics, means that they are freed of the conditions that limit and determine their meaning.1 As Annette Kuhn has written in The Power of the Image“Meanings do not reside in images, then: they are circulated between representation, spectator and social function.”2 And in these images all three things have changed.

Further, the link between the image and its referent, the photograph and the thing being photographed has been irreversibly broken. As the French critic Maurice Blanchot has written, “The image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day. Not only is the image of an object not the meaning of that object and of no help in comprehending it, but it tends to withdraw it from its meaning by maintaining it in the immobility of a resemblance that it has nothing to resemble.”3 In other words (and especially in these photographs) it is this severance of meaning and its object, this resemblance of nothing.

But think about this idea:

THINK ABOUT THE IDEA OF RE(AS)SEMBLANCE!
DOES THE PHOTOGRAPH REASSEMBLE A SIGNIFICATION, A MEANING WHOLLY ITS OWN, OR IS THAT RE(AS)SEMBLANCE PART OF THE ORIGINAL MEANING OF THE OBJECT PHOTOGRAPHED?

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In these photographs there is an obfuscation of reality in which the usually coded photographs now appear to be uncoded in some visceral sense. In fact there is a double obfuscation, a double effacement, as the images are displayed on the wall like a series of bathroom tiles in plastic sleeves, here not at one remove but at two (the clouding of the image and the clouding through the plastic). What emerges from this alchemical miasma is the ghost of the meaning of the object, where we acknowledge that the essence of these people did really exist. The recognition of their presence, this partial reassemblance of the context and meaning of the object originally photographed, is the strength of these images: our acknowledgment of some form of existence in the trace of the photograph, where seeing is subconsciously believing.

What we are left with in these images are vestiges of presence, remnants or traces of people that have passed on. In a kind of divine intervention, these photographs ask the viewer questions about the one fact that we cannot avoid in our lives, our own mortality, and what remains after we pass on. We can never know these people and places, just as we can never know the place and time of our death – when our “time” is up – but these photographs awaken in us a subconscious remembering: that we may be found (in life), then lost (through death), then found again in the gaze of the viewer looking at the photographs in the future present. We are (dis)continuous beings.

There is no one single reading of these photographs for “there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described.”4 These indescribable photographs impinge on our consciousness calling on us to remember even as the speed of contemporary life asks us to forget. This ethical act of looking, of mourning and remembering, of paying homage to presence acknowledges that we choose not to let pass into the dark night of the soul these traces of our forebears, for each emanation is deeply embedded within individual and cultural memory.

These photographs are a contemporary form of Western ‘dreaming’ in which we feel a link to the collective human experience. In this reification, we bear witness to the (re)assemblance of life, the abstract made (subconsciously) concrete, as material thing. These images of absent presence certainly reached out and touched my soul. Vividly, I choose to remember rather than to forget.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Munemasa Takahashi, Kristian Haggblom and Karra Rees for their help and the CCP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

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“Lost & Found is a profoundly moving exhibition of collected photographs recovered from the devastation following the earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear catastrophe that took place in the Tohoku region in 2011. 

The tsunami not only swept the harbour away, but also houses, cars, trains; and many people lost their lives. Although no longer in the media, people in this region are still in great need. These photographs remind us of their presence and make us aware of their silent voices. The exhibition also gives us an opportunity to think about the relationship people have with their photographs.

The Lost & Found project is attempting to return pictures from the collection to their owners by cleaning, cataloguing and creating a digital database of the photographs. Many images were too badly damaged and can not be returned; rather than discard them, the project team decided to exhibit the imagery and give people the opportunity to see these photographs in the belief that they carry powerful messages. 

This project was initiated by Munemasa Takahashi and Hiroshi Hatate in Japan and Kristian Haggblom from Wallflower Photomedia Gallery in Australia. Funds raised will go directly to the people of Yamamoto-cho.”

Text from the CCP website

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All photographs are from the exhibition Lost & Found

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1. Kuhn, Annette. The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985, p.6.

2. Ibid.,

3. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p.85.

4. Townsend, Chris. Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking. Munich: Prestel, 1998, p.10.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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26
Nov
09

Exhibition: ‘The Eventuality of Daybreak’ by Alex Lukas at Glowlab, New York

Exhibition dates: 12th November – 6th December 2009

 

 

Alex Lukas (American, b. 1981)
Untitled
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

 

 

These are terrific – I want one!

A big thank you to Alex for allowing me to reproduce the images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Alex Lukas (American, b. 1981)
Untitled
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

 

 

Glowlab is pleased to present The Eventuality of Daybreak, a solo exhibition by Alex Lukas featuring a new series of post-apocalyptic urban landscapes that blur the visual boundaries of fiction and reality.

Lukas’ work explores the existence of disaster, be it realised or fictitious, in contemporary society. Hyper-realistic motion pictures and unforgiving news footage depict seemingly identical – and equally riveting – facades of tragedy. The artist recognises that relentless visual bombardment has resulted in society’s desensitisation to the aesthetics of destruction.

For The Eventuality of Daybreak, Lukas has selected photographic spreads of well-known metropolises from vintage publications and uses them dually as canvas and unlikely subject. Through a deft handling of paint and carefully placed screen-printed passages, the artist pushes these ageing illustrations in futuristic contexts. Submerging these cities conceptually and physically, Lukas inundates images of American cities with layers of media representing cataclysmic floods and crippling overgrowth.

Also included in the exhibition are works on paper depicting near-future scenes of devastated landscapes – crumbling infrastructure, overturned trucks and telling signs of human despair. As a counterpoint to the underwater cities, these darkly atmospheric and barren vistas signal devastation through an unsettling sense of absence.

Lukas’ intentional use of dated imagery presented in tandem with contemporary situations forces the viewer to reconcile two differing ideologies of urban space. The artist’s work calls into question society’s collective acceptance of the urban environment as an arena of destruction, once thought unthinkable and now seemingly inevitable.

The Eventuality of Daybreak is Lukas’ first solo exhibition with Glowlab. Lukas’ work has also been exhibited in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Stockholm and Copenhagen as well as in the pages of Swindle Quarterly, Proximity Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, The Drama and The New York Times Book Review. Lukas is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives and works in Philadelphia, where he is a member of the artist collective Space 1026.

Press release on the Glowlab website [Online] Cited 20/11/2009 no longer available online

 

 

Alex Lukas (American, b. 1981)
Untitled
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

 

 

Alex Lukas (American, b. 1981)
Untitled
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

 

 

Alex Lukas (American, b. 1981)
Untitled
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

 

 

Alex Lukas (American, b. 1981)
Untitled
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

 

 

Glowlab

This gallery has now closed

Alex Lukas website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: 'Sleep/Wound' 1995-96 *PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY - IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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