Posts Tagged ‘ecological photography

09
May
21

Review: ‘Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Tom Goldner’ at the Meat Market Stables, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th February – 27th February 2021

Photography & Curation/Art Direction – Tom Goldner
Moving Image – Angus Scott
Sound – Sean Kenihan
Poetry – Dr Judith Crispin (publication)
Colourist – CJ Dobson (moving image)
Audio Visual – Toto Creative
Cover Art – Katherina Rodrigues (publication)

 

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

 

Strange Beauty

Bloated prostrate tentacles

wither into our idea of dying

overlapping human, shit

feeding foulest vegetables,

regenerating sourly

Kingdoms of foulest water

regorging sourly

Bloated brumbies, winged coal

rejigs

Strange Beauty

Floating in our mind

In grey greasy horror water

Full of surprises –

like a holocaust holding pond

At your peril

 

Skull twisted,

Served on corrugated soot

Land, once precious

disguised, drained

black, gold – split

burnt to reburn

charred brumbies, flying coal

rem/embers,

Millions of worst worst

Strange Beauty

lost as sources

Boiling, bubbling – like a holocaust

At your peril

 

Belching wishes to reassemble

Hexing new forms

Bottom of our nightmare

Bottom of our innings

Animals worst worst

Plants unredeemable

Satan not lucifer

Sky a trap

Wings a trap

Escape a trap

Strange Beauty

beside the dead and ugly

like a holocaust

Do you want to …

(At your peril)

… Remember ?

.
Marcus Bunyan and Ian Lobb, May 2021

 

 

Contested Ground

I saw this darkly mysterious, immersive exhibition by the artist Tom Goldner just after Melbourne suffered its mini-five day COVID lock down in February 2021, but I have been awaiting the installation photographs and video of the event to publish this posting.

This stimulating exhibition, with its wonderfully atmospheric sound track, was an overlapping animation of conceptual, documentary photographs that appear in Goldner’s book Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – and placed “the audience within the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alpine regions during the period of 2019-2020 referred to as the Black Summer“, the project (both multimedia exhibition and book) considering “the systems which position the Snowy Mountain brumby and the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires within a time of ecological uncertainty.” The starting point into Goldner’s investigation was that of the Snowy Mountain brumby, an Australian feral wild-roaming horse, an invasive, non-native species introduced during colonisation. The brumbies cannot see in red, and the artist wondered how the world must have appeared to them illuminated by the strange light of the raging bushfires. He uses this idea as a metonym throughout the project which acts as an entry point into both the human and nonhuman world, to begin to understand the human perception of this catastrophic event and the anthropogenic changes that are happening in the Australian landscape.

The research which underpins Goldner’s project is guided “by the work of English professor Timothy Morton and his theories on ‘ecological awareness’ in Dark Ecology (2016), which examine the intersection of places, scales and nonhuman interrelations. Running parallel to these ideas are those of American professor Donna Haraway’s most recent book, Staying with the Trouble (2016). Particularly her concept of the ‘Chthulucene’ that strives to capture a future in which all things in the world are connected, coexist and, in many cases, ‘collaborate’, and through this, we learn to ‘live and die well together’ and achieve a kind of ‘ongoingness’.” The artist seeks to flatten the hierarchy between human and nonhuman life by allowing us to recognise ourselves within the violence we inflict on the natural world during this human-assisted ecological disaster.

.
While the project professes to challenge the notion of clear and tidy boundaries in a time of ecological uncertainty, in reality it offers a particularly one-eyed perspective on the subject of anthropogenic changes to the landscape. I don’t mind this perspective at all, in fact I applaud it, for the ultimate goal of the photographs is to open our eyes to the destruction that human actions are inflicting on our environment. Through beautifully modulated photographs of great sensitivity Goldner pictures these spaces of destruction and re/generation. But is there ever an “original” landscape to which we must return?

In humans, a reduced sensitivity to red light due to missing or defective L-cones (or long wave cones) is known as protanopia or protanomaly. The derivation of the word protanopia is from the early 20th century: from proto- ‘original’ (red being regarded as the first component of colour vision) + an- ‘lacking’ + ‘opia’- (denoting a visual disorder). Protanomaly makes red look more green and less bright while protanopia makes you unable to tell the difference between red and green at all. People with protanopia are more likely to confuse black with many shades of red; dark brown with dark green, dark orange and dark red; some blues with some reds, purples and dark pinks; and mid-greens with some oranges (see image below).

When the first component of colour vision (red) is lacking we have a visual disorder. How, then, can we see the intersection of the human and non-human world clearly if we have a visual disorder? To what are we to return, to an untouched paradisiacal landscape pre-colonisation, pre-human inhabitation – to an “original” we can no longer see – or do we acknowledge the paradoxical “nature” of our contemporary existence on this earth in a more balanced way. Nothing is ever black and white, or in this case colour(–).1

For many generations humans have lived in the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alpine regions, singing pastorals to the gods, seeking guidance to live on the land: the mountain ranges are thought to have had Aboriginal occupation for 20,000 years and after the areas were first explored by Europeans from the 1830s-1850s, high country stockmen followed using the mountains for grazing during the summer months (Wikipedia). Over the last few years, people of Victoria’s high country and animal lovers have rallied against the proposed culling of feral brumbies in the state’s national parks. They cite that brumbies hold “heritage value, they are part of our cultural and social history. Brumbies have lived in our Heritage National Parks for two centuries; are descendants of remounts that were sent to War with our soldiers… Brumbies were immortalised by Banjo Patterson, feature in paintings by Sydney Nolan and written about in the Silvery Brumby novels by Ellyne Mitchell. Brumbies are part of the fabric of our Australian society. It is undeniable that extremist elements must not be allowed to dictate on cultural and social values.”2 Goldner states that, “Brumbies are a symbol of national consciousness. While they may be labelled as a ‘feral species’ and a threat to native ecosystems by environmentalists, they are also valued as an important part of Australia’s history as a symbol of national spirit.”

Contested ground indeed, and perhaps one that needed to be more fully investigated in Goldner’s project.

While the second sentence in the above paragraph is true I would argue that the opposite of the first sentence is at least possible – that brumbies are an anti-symbol of national consciousness, for the animals hardly ever impinge on the collective consciousness of most Australians when they think about the Australian landscape. How often would the vast bulk of the city-dwelling Australian population think about the brumby as a symbol of national consciousness? Hardly ever would be my answer. It is not an original thought about the landscape that they would have.

.
Walking through the darkened spaces of the exhibition, I let the phenomena of superb images and sounds wash over me. The experience was particularly moving given the strange beauty of the limited colour palette images and the atmospheric vibrations of the music. For me, the key image of the exhibition was not that of the bloated brumby lying prostrate on the blackened earth, but that of an isolated grave standing erect in the scorched landscape. With no context to allow the viewer to anchor this grave to a historical past, all we are left with are questions and metaphors. What is this grave doing seemingly in the middle of nowhere? Who is the person buried there? The metaphors are rich indeed: the erect whiteness of the white man’s grave stone isolated against the black ness of the landscape, a landscape not their own, and perhaps not of their own making. The anonymous writing on the grave stone standing as a metaphor for any human who has ever lived. The iron fence that segregates the human from the land even as they buried in it… as though they are a part of this earth but apart from it. A masterful image if ever I saw one.

In the overlapping, interstitial, spatio-temporal dimensions of the gallery I placed myself into the existence of these works, into their networks of existence. As the artist wanted, I recognised “the violence we inflict on the natural world during this human-assisted ecological disaster” but not, I insist, through the flattening of the hierarchy between human and nonhuman life but through it’s very opposite – through an acknowledgement of the multiple, fragmented, lexias of existence,2 networks that live in multiple levels of intersectionality, like a spiders web created in the dimensions of extended space. Into this geometry of space, into the spatio-temporal ‘nature’ of photography – death, power, transcendence, timelines, delay, exposure, territorialisations, assemblage, bricolage, rhizomic structures and the author – “seeing is no longer framed or presupposed through relations of distance or perspective. Rather, the eye and the visible are embodied as they struggle with positionality, in the physical, mental, and emotional conflicts that result when you have to take responsibility for what you see, instead of conferring that responsibility on an-other.”4

Goldner’s vision embodies this ongoing thickness, this ongoing responsibility.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. “Conceptually, wholes are divided up or taken apart, dis-integrated into component pieces. They may be reintegrated, but in a way that reflects the understanding of those pieces at the time of their disassembly; the way the functions of individual parts of a whole are seen depends on the way the whole is divided into parts. Different visions result in different views of the whole.”
    Wolf, Mark. Abstracting Reality: Art, Communication, and Cognition in the Digital Age. Lanham: University Press of America, 2000, p. 196.
  2. Anonymous author. “Melbourne rally “Stop the bullets”,” media release on the Australian Brumby Alliance website May 1, 2021 [Online] Cited 09/05/2021.
  3. Lexia is perhaps the most widely applicable term for describing the linked pieces of information within a hypertext, referred to in various contexts as nodes, pages, frames and workspaces.
  4. Burnett, Ron. Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, & the Imaginary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 137-138.

.
Many thankx to Tom Goldner for allowing me to publish the photographs and video in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Photo Book is available from Tom Goldner’s website.

 

 

protanopia vision

 

Protanopia vision

 

 

Photography & Curation/Art Direction – Tom Goldner
Moving Image – Angus Scott

 

 

Photography & Curation/Art Direction – Tom Goldner
Moving Image – Angus Scott

 

 

“A large portion of the project was made in the Snowy Mountain region of New South Wales.

During the first tip to the fire grounds in early January 2020 we came across a wild horse… It had died of a lung bleed while trying to escape the bushfires. I used the brumby as an entry point into Australia’s colonial history, proposing that the brumby is a manifestation of our collective actions.

I later learn that horses only see in blues and greens, and I wondered how the world must have appeared to them illuminated by that strange red light.

The project asks, can we too see the world differently?”

.
Tom Goldner on the Blackriver website [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

 

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? is a research-driven project which explores anthropogenic changes in the Australian landscape through the use of conceptual documentary photography. Presented as an immersive experience this collaborative project utilises large-scale projection to place the audience within the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alpine regions during the period of 2019-2020 referred to as the Black Summer.

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? negotiates the human perception of this catastrophic event. This exhibition and publication reveals the bushfires and resulting damage through the eyes of another human-assisted ecological disaster, one of an invasive species: the Snowy Mountain Brumby.

The project considers the systems which position the Snowy Mountain brumby and the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires within a time of ecological uncertainty. The Snowy Mountain brumby, an Australian feral wild-roaming horse, appears as a metonym throughout the project and acts as an entry point into both the human and nonhuman world.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

 

Installation views of the exhibition Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner 2021 at the Meat Market Stables, Melbourne

 

 

“Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy – with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence. The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present. Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places.”

.
Donna Haraway, 2016

 

 

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? is a project driven by research which explores anthropogenic changes in the Australian landscape through the use of conceptual documentary photography, video and audio recordings.

The project considers the systems which position the Snowy Mountain brumby and the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires within a time of ecological uncertainty. The Snowy Mountain brumby, an Australian feral wild-roaming horse, appears as a metonym throughout the project and acts as an entry point into both the human and nonhuman world.

Brumbies are a symbol of national consciousness. While they may be labelled as a ‘feral species’ and a threat to native ecosystems by environmentalists, they are also valued as an important part of Australia’s history as a symbol of national spirit. Brumbies represent wildness and the way we relate to, and attempt to control, nature.

The project challenges the notion of clear and tidy boundaries in a time of ecological uncertainty. The research is underpinned by the work of English professor Timothy Morton and his theories on ‘ecological awareness’ in Dark Ecology (2016), which examine the intersection of places, scales and nonhuman interrelations. Running parallel to these ideas are those of American professor Donna Haraway’s most recent book, Staying with the Trouble (2016). Particularly her concept of the ‘Chthulucene’ that strives to capture a future in which all things in the world are connected, coexist and, in many cases, ‘collaborate’, and through this, we learn to ‘live and die well together’ and achieve a kind of ‘ongoingness’.

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? seeks to flatten the hierarchy between human and nonhuman life by allowing us to recognise ourselves within the violence we inflict on the natural world. The visual outcomes that navigate these ideas are intertwined and are driven by a series of photographs, moving images and audio recordings. The project culminates in a photobook with an accompanying poem by Australian artist and academic Dr Judith Nangala Crispin. The publication was produced to be presented alongside a mixed-media exhibition, comprising of large-format projected still and moving imagery and a soundscape.

Text from the Tom Goldner website [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

'Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Photo Book'

 

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Photo Book

 

 

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2 Wreckyn St, North Melbourne

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14
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Naoya Hatakeyama: Natural Stories’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA)

Exhibition dates: 28th July – 4th November 2012

 

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

 

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Lime Hills #12801' 1986

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Lime Hills #12801
1986
Chromogenic print
11 13/16 in. x 14 15/16 in (30 cm x 38cm)
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photograph
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Lime Hills #22916' 1988

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Lime Hills #22916
1988
Chromogenic print
11 13/16 in. x 14 15/16 in (30 cm x 38cm)
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Lime Hills #23514' 1988

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Lime Hills #23514
1988
Chromogenic print
11 13/16 in. x 14 15/16 in (30 cm x 38cm)
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Lime Hills #27403' 1989

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Lime Hills #27403
1989
Chromogenic print
11 13/16 in. x 14 15/16 in (30 cm x 38cm)
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Lime Hills #29211' 1990

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Lime Hills #29211
1990
Chromogenic print
11 13/16 in. x 14 15/16 in (30 cm x 38cm)
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Lime Hills (Quarry Series), 1986-1991

Each year nearly two hundred million tons of limestone – virtually the only natural resource in Japan – are cut to produce the cement necessary to build the nation’s many cities, as well as to make additives used in paper, medicine, and food products. Hatakeyama was drawn to this industrial subject from a young age; his first artistic explorations took the form of paintings of the cement factory that he passed each day as a child. For Lime Hills, his earliest photographic series, Hatakeyama returned to the area near his hometown on the northeastern coast of Japan to investigate the nearby limestone quarries and their corresponding factories. Over the next five years he broadened his scope to include mines throughout Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. Reflecting on the physical connection between these sites and civilisation, the artist later noted: “If the concrete buildings and highways that stretch to the horizon are all made from limestone dug from the hills, and if they should all be ground to dust and this vast quantity of calcium carbonate returned to its precise points of origin, why then, with the last spoonful, the ridge lines of the hills would be restored to their original dimensions.”

These small-scale photographs offer visions of the excavated land that at first glance seem idyllic. Often shooting in the golden evening light with a large-format camera, Hatakeyama captured the sculptural contours of the processed earth, infusing it with the luminous glow seen in many Romantic landscape paintings of the nineteenth century. Yet the Romantic tradition, which highlighted the awesome terror of nature, is upended in Hatakeyama’s pictures, which instead uncover unexpected pleasures in the tamed and built environment, ultimately suggesting the artificiality of conventional notions of beauty.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Sollac Méditerranée, Fos-sur-Mer, #06709' 2003

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Sollac Méditerranée, Fos-sur-Mer, #06709
2003
From the series Atmos
Chromogenic print
27 9/16 in. x 35 7/16 in (70 cm x 90cm)
Courtesy the artist
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Sollac Méditerranée, Fos-sur-Mer, #06709' 2003

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Sollac Méditerranée, Fos-sur-Mer, #06709
2003
From the series Atmos
Chromogenic print
27 9/16 in. x 35 7/16 in (70 cm x 90cm)
Courtesy the artist
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Atmos, 2003

In 2003 Hatakeyama was invited to the Camargue, near Fos-sur-Mer, France, to photograph the landscape surrounding a steel factory located on the eastern edge of the Rhône delta. He worked from two perspectives, shooting on the factory grounds as well as from the surrounding landscape, much of which is conserved as a nature park. His photographs contrast the idyllic serenity of the flat plains where the Rhône river meets the Mediterranean Sea with the dramatic clouds of steam – formed when the coke used in steel making is doused in cool water – that often rise above this terrain.

Upon discovering this impressive phenomenon the artist reflected: “The etymology of ‘atmosphere’ is the ancient Greek words for vapor (atmos) and sphere (sphaira). Once I learned this, the air that filled the Camargue and the steam from the factory seemed to fuse into one before my eyes. It no longer felt strange to see signs of humanity in the sky and the land, or to sense nature in the cloud of steam from the factory. And I began to feel that it would no longer be possible to draw a clear line at the border between nature and the artificial.” Through Hatakeyama’s lens, the factory seems at once tranquil and volatile, surrounded by the golden light, billowing pastel clouds, and thick atmosphere found in many early twentieth-century paintings of industrial sites. Like the Impressionists, who embraced modern life by finding their subjects in new technologies, Hatakeyama presents new landscapes that complicate the conventional boundaries between nature and industry.”

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

From July 28 through November 4, 2012, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present the work of one of Japan’s most important contemporary photographers in the exhibition Naoya Hatakeyama: Natural Stories. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in a U.S. museum and the first presentation of his work on the West Coast.

Organised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in association with SFMOMA, the exhibition gathers work spanning Naoya Hatakeyama’s entire career, including more than 100 photographs and two video installations, offering viewers new insight into the artist’s practice and place in the rich history of Japanese photography. The presentation at SFMOMA, the sole U.S. venue for this internationally traveling retrospective, is overseen by Lisa J. Sutcliffe, assistant curator of photography.

Hatakeyama is known for austere and beautiful large-scale color pictures that capture the extraordinary powers routinely deployed to shape nature to our will – and, in the case of his photographs made after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the equally powerful impact of natural forces on human activities. Whether photographing factories, quarries, mines, or tsunami-swept landscapes, Hatakeyama has developed a thorough and analytical method for observing the ways in which the human and natural worlds have both coexisted and clashed. “For the past 25 years Naoya Hatakeyama has made pictures that focus on the complicated relationship between man and nature,” says Sutcliffe. “Approaching his subjects from diverse perspectives and across time, he redefines the ways in which we visualize the natural world.”

Hatakeyama has long been interested in the relationship between human industry and the natural environment. His early series of photographs of limestone quarries, Lime Hills (1986-91), references the Romantic painterly tradition of the sublime, but links it to the relentless pursuit of raw materials for modern development. After observing that “the quarries and the cities are like negative and positive images of a single photograph,” Hatakeyama began to investigate urban centers built from limestone and concrete. In Underground (1999), he explores the pitch-black depths of Tokyo’s underbelly from the tunnels of the Shibuya River, revealing the ecosystems of the city’s sewer network that often go unseen. Nearly a decade later he returned to the subject, photographing the remnants of decaying limestone quarries underneath Paris in Ciel Tombé (2007).

Several of Hatakeyama’s photographic series capture scenes of destruction with calm precision. Contemplating the abandoned structures surrounding a disused coal mine, Zeche Westfalen I/II Ahlen (2003/2004) includes images of a German factory hall seemingly suspended in midair at the moment of its demolition. For the Blast series (2005), the photographer used a high-speed motor-driven camera to document explosions in an open-cast limestone mine, framing the instant of impact in a series of still photographs. The exhibition will present the U.S. debut of Twenty-Four Blasts (2011), a video installation of his still photographs from Blast that transforms these explosions into a found sculptural event.

Hatakeyama has applied his measured and unsentimental method of observation to landscapes in transition around the world. In the series Atmos (2003), his representations of tranquil French landscapes include steam clouds generated by steelworks. Also made in France, the series Terrils (2009-10) pictures the massive conical hills created by coal mining, documenting landscapes transformed by the human exploitation of natural resources. Considering a different type of human impact on the natural world, Hatakeyama observes the conquest of the Swiss Alps by tourism in Another Mountain (2005), invoking the sublime both through choice of subject matter and through the contrast in scale between man and nature.

The most recent series in the exhibition, Rikuzentakata (2011), records the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan. For Hatakeyama, the disaster struck very close to home: his hometown of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture was left in ruins, his mother was killed, and the house he grew up in was destroyed. Although these are some of the most personal photographs the artist has ever exhibited, they are remarkably unsentimental, displaying the same clarity and refinement that mark the rest of his work. The video installation Kesengawa (2002-10), named after the river that flows through Rikuzentakata, presents his personal photographs of the area made before the tsunami, creating a poignant dialogue with the 2011 series.

Press release from the SFMOMA website

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'A BIRD/Blast #130' 2006

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
A BIRD/Blast #130
2006
#7 from a series of 17 chromogenic prints
8 in. x 10 in (20.32 cm x 25.4cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, promised gift of Kurenboh
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'A BIRD/Blast #130' 2006

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
A BIRD/Blast #130
2006
#15 from a series of 17 chromogenic prints
8 in. x 10 in (20.32 cm x 25.4cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, promised gift of Kurenboh
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. Still from 'Twenty-Four Blasts' 2011

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Still from Twenty-Four Blasts
2011
HD video installation from a sequence of 35 mm film
Courtesy the artist
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Blast, 1995
Zeche Westfalen I/II, Ahlen, 2003-2004

While photographing Japanese quarries and factories for Lime Hills, Hatakeyama became intrigued by the regular explosions designed to free limestone from the cliffs. He was interested in the violence and force of the blasts as well as in the engineers’ deep understanding of the “nature” of the rock. Working with these experts, he was able to calculate exactly how close he could place his remote controlled, motorised camera to the blast to capture the explosion in still frames. The striking large-scale photographs this method produced dramatise the tension between the slow geologic formation of the rocks and the split-second detonation that destroys them. Distilling his study to a series of frozen moments of intense scrutiny, Hatakeyama emphasises the volatile character of the blast, offering a perspective that cannot be seen by the naked eye. In the video projection Twenty-Four Blasts, presented in the next room, these explosions are set to motion, serving as documentation of the mining process while also reflecting an understanding of the blast as a sculptural event.

In Zeche Westfalen I/II, Ahlen, a series taken in Germany, Hatakeyama used a remote-controlled camera shutter to photograph the destruction of the Zeche Westfalen coal plant at the time of detonation. An industrial centre since the mid-nineteenth century, the area is experiencing new development as mines are destroyed to make way for commercial and residential growth. These pictures serve as a record of one such transition, trapping the building as it hovers in midair in the moments just before its destruction. Although photography is often used to capture an image of something before it is gone, these pictures reveal Hatakeyama’s interest in documenting destruction analytically and in real time, as a celebration of the future rather than an elegy to the past.

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Underground #7109' 1999

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Underground #7109
1999
Chromogenic print
19 5/16 in. x 19 5/16 in (49 cm x 49cm)
Collection of Michael and Jeanne Klein
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Underground #6302' 1999

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Underground #6302
1999
Chromogenic print
19 5/16 in. x 19 5/16 in (49 cm x 49cm)
Collection of Michael and Jeanne Klein
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Underground #7001' 1999

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Underground #7001
1999
Chromogenic print
19 5/16 in. x 19 5/16 in (49 cm x 49cm)
Collection of Michael and Jeanne Klein
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Underground, 1999 / Ciel Tombé, 2007

After photographing the limestone quarries around Japan, Hatakeyama realised that the urban fabric of Tokyo resembles a mirror image of the excavated earth when viewed from above. As he later wrote, “the quarries and the cities are like negative and positive images of a single photograph.” This revelation led him to photograph the city from great heights and, later, to document the tunnels snaking beneath it. The Shibuya River, diverted beneath Tokyo like a sewer, echoes the chambers Hatakeyama observed within the quarries, yet it is shrouded in darkness and mystery. His abstract and often theatrically lit pictures of the underground river, illuminated by a strobe at the centre of each composition, investigate the process of photographing complete darkness.

Long interested in exploring the subterranean landscapes of France, where limestone was quarried in the carrières below Paris beginning in the thirteenth century, Hatakeyama followed his Tokyo pictures with a Parisian series. For Ciel Tombé he photographed the tunnels beneath the Bois de Vincennes, a wooded park to the east of the city. The series title, which translates literally as “fallen sky,” is a term often used to describe the collapsed ceilings in Parisian underground tunnels. The resulting pictures, which share the dramatic lighting of his Shibuya River series, emphasise the fragility of a built environment exposed to the ravages of time. Hatakeyama has remarked that in these tunnels, “the sky has now become an ancient layer of earth permeating below the city [in which] we live.”

 

Naoya Hatakeyama. 'Noyelles-sous-Lens, #07729' 2009

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Noyelles-sous-Lens, #07729
2009
From the series Terrils
Chromogenic print
23 5/8 in. x 29 1/2 in (60 cm x 75cm)
Courtesy the artist
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958) 'Loos-en-Gohelle, #02607' 2009

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japan, b. 1958)
Loos-en-Gohelle, #02607
2009
From the series Terrils
Chromogenic print
23 5/8 in. x 29 1/2 in (60 cm x 75cm)
Courtesy the artist
© Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Terrils, 2009-2010

During 2009 and 2010 Hatakeyama was a photographer in residence in the Nord-Pas de Calais, a region in northern France along the Belgian border. A historically contested area often in the path of wars between France and its neighbours, the Nord became a major centre for industry in the nineteenth century due to its wealth of coal mines, steel mills, and textile factories. Today the landscape is marked by terrils, slag heaps composed of waste products from the mining process, which in the context of the region’s current economic troubles serve as monumental reminders of a prosperous industrial past.

Hatakeyama’s photographs explore the terrain from different perspectives, with conical towers of slag looming in nearly every picture. While some of the pictures expose the burnt orange soil just beneath the earth’s surface, others soften the mining site with a wintry, atmospheric haze. By transforming this man-made wasteland to the point that the viewer can no longer determine its contours, Hatakeyama reveals a complex natural environment that incorporates human developments. According to the artist, “history is not simply a list of events, but a human narrative which weaves together time and memory. The interweaving of passing time and the memory of events creates the fabric where History appears as a pattern from which each individual perceives his own personal story.” In these pictures Hatakeyama maps the traces of one such story on the landscape through the conical forms of the mining deposits. These “hills” not only serve as reminders of the ways in which the land has been used but also evoke the long-established cultural role of mountains as mythological symbols.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

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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: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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