Posts Tagged ‘england

30
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 3rd October 2012

 

Installation view of the 'Beach Portraits' (1992-2002) series from the exhibition 'Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective' at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

Installation view of the Beach Portraits (1992-2002) series from the exhibition Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

 

“For outness is but the feeling of otherness (alterity) rendered intuitive, or alterity visually represented.”

.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

 

In her most famous series, Beach Portraits (1992-2002), juveniles stare at the camera in a moment passif, caught by the camera between states – youth / adulthood, knowing / unknowing, Self / Other. Shot from a low perspective, lit by fill flash and with little contextual detail, the subjects exhibit – and I use the term advisedly – vulnerability, awkwardness (in the body and self), languidness of pose and bravuro self confidence that belies their beautiful alterity. These adolescents are not at one with themselves they are unsure of their place in the world. Dijkstra documents this uncertainty and enlarges it, blowing the photographs up to huge scale so that the viewer can examine every crevice of the persona in minute detail, their alterity visually represented.

Max Weintraub notes that Dijkstra has produced, “a set of carefully balanced compositions defined by the central, monumental presence of her youthful subjects. The classical simplicity of Dijkstra’s photographs focuses the viewer’s attention on the subtle particulars: the teens’ gawky, angular bodies, ill-fitting swimsuits and awkward postures… Her subjects hover somewhere between the receding past of their childhood and an unknown future. And while the identity of her subjects remain anonymous – each beach photograph is only identified by date and location – when viewed together a collective body emerges, one that stirs restlessly between the last physical and emotional trappings of youth and the social and psychological pressures of pending adulthood. The individuals depicted are so powerfully distinct that the effect of seeing these portraits en mass is symphonic, and the images begin to collectively hum with the sounds of the construction of self – its awkwardness, its uncertainty and above all, its heartbreakingly tender beauty.”

What a great piece of writing.

It is also interesting to observe that her own self portrait (Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 19, 19911991, below) is only printed at 35 x 28 cm whereas images from the Beach Portraits are printed at 117 x 94 cm. Surrounded by ceiling, floor and wall tiles Dijkstra is enclosed, minute within the frame. The photographer recedes into the background, even more vulnerable and less “visible” than her monumental models of innocence. Other series continue the artist’s investigation into themes of time and change to greater or lesser effect. The Olivier series is a very powerful body of work that documents the loss of youthful innocence and the military socialisation of a young mind, evidenced by the look in Olivier’s eyes and the change in his outward appearance. As the press release states, “the Olivier series (2000-03) follows a young man from his enlistment with the French Foreign Legion through the years of his service, showing his both physical and psychological development into a soldier.”

“In contemporaneous works, including portraits of new mothers after giving birth, and photographs of bullfighters immediately after leaving the ring, Dijkstra sought subjects whose physical exhaustion diminished the likelihood of an artificed pose… Later, Dijkstra took portraits of new initiates to the Israeli army, photographing female soldiers in their uniforms after induction and then again in their civilian dress, as well as male soldiers directly after military exercises,” states the Guggenheim website.

Basically, this time line of change is a version of the old before and after shot, used throughout the history of photography – from the documentation of the changes in Dr Barnado’s children in the 1870s to the “scientific” use of photography to document the science of physical fitness and the commodification of the body in the ‘Before and After’ bodybuilding photographs from the 1930s, the 1950s and from the contemporary era.

To conclude, the strongest work is where the artist gives the photographs a greater depth of field and adds a narrative element by adding a background to the images. The work with contextless backgrounds is too derivative of say, Thomas Ruff, who I think does it better, more frontally, more confrontingly than Dijkstra does.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Coney Island, N.Y., USA, June 20, 1993'
 1993

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Coney Island, N.Y., USA, June 20, 1993

1993
Chromogenic print
117 x 94cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Dubrovnik, Croatia, July 13, 1996' 1996

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Dubrovnik, Croatia, July 13, 1996
1996

Chromogenic print
117 x 94cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Hilton Head Island, S.C., USA, June 24, 1992' 1992

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Hilton Head Island, S.C., USA, June 24, 1992
1992

Chromogenic print
117 cm x 94cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26, 1992'
 1992

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26, 1992
1992
Chromogenic print
117 x 94cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 19, 1991' 1991

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 19, 1991
1991

Chromogenic print
35 x 28cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

 

From June 29 to October 3, 2012, the Guggenheim Museum will present Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, an extensive mid-career survey and the first major exhibition of the artist’s work organised by a North American institution. It is the most comprehensive museum exhibition of the artist’s oeuvre to date. Dijkstra, born in Sittard, the Netherlands, in 1959, has developed an international reputation as one of the most highly regarded photographers of her generation. The exhibition will include representative examples from the most significant bodies of work she has created over the past twenty years.

Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has produced a complex body of photographic and video work that offers a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale colour photographs of young, typically adolescent subjects recall 17th-century Dutch painting in their scale and visual acuity. The minimal contextual details present in her photographs and videos encourage us to focus on the exchange between photographer and subject and the relationship between viewer and viewed.

Dijkstra works in series, creating groups of photographs and videos around a specific typology or theme. In 1992, she started making portraits of adolescents posed on beaches from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Poland and Ukraine. Shot from a low perspective, the subjects of the Beach Portraits (1992-2002), poised on the brink of adulthood, take on a monumental presence. In contemporaneous works, including portraits of new mothers after giving birth and photographs of bullfighters immediately after leaving the ring, Dijkstra sought subjects whose physical exhaustion diminished the likelihood of an artificial pose.

Dijkstra has also photographed individuals repeatedly over the course of several months or years. Her ongoing Almerisa series began in 1994 with a single photograph of a young Bosnian girl at a Dutch refugee centre for asylum seekers and has grown as Dijkstra continued to photograph her regularly for more than a decade as she became a young woman with a child of her own. The outward signs of her transition into adulthood and her integration into mainstream Dutch culture reveal themselves incrementally over the course of many years. Similarly, the Olivier series (2000-03) follows a young man from his enlistment with the French Foreign Legion through the years of his service, showing his both physical and psychological development into a soldier. Later, Dijkstra took portraits of new initiates to the Israeli army, photographing female soldiers in their uniforms after induction and then again in their civilian dress, as well as male soldiers directly after military exercises.

For several years beginning in 1998, Dijkstra photographed young people, often in groups, posed in the lush landscapes of public parks. In contrast to the neutral backgrounds against which many of her subjects are pictured, the richness of the park settings lends these works a greater depth of field and adds a narrative element.

More recently, Dijkstra has built upon her revelatory work in video from the mid-1990s. In The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK/Mystery World, Zaandam, NL (1996-97) and The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee), Liverpool, UK (2009), Dijkstra filmed teenage habituées of local clubs dancing to their favourite music. Presented as multi-channel video installations, these works showcase their subjects’ teen personas and methods of self-expression, revealed in how they style themselves and in the movements of their bodies. Two video works made in 2009 at Tate Liverpool expand the artist’s interest in the empathic exchange between photographer and subject to include the affective response to artworks. In I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) (2009), a group of schoolchildren engage with art, discussing their perceptions of and reactions to a work by Pablo Picasso, while Ruth Drawing Picasso (2009) shows a girl pensively sketching a masterwork.

Press release from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier, The French Foreign Legion, Camp Raffalli, Calvi, Corsica, June 18, 2001' 2001

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier, The French Foreign Legion, Camp Raffalli, Calvi, Corsica, June 18, 2001
2001

Chromogenic print
90 x 72cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Installation view of the Olivier (2000-03) series from the exhibition 'Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective' at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

Installation view of the Olivier (2000-03) series from the exhibition Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994'
 1994

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
90 x 72cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Amy, The Krazyhouse, Liverpool, England, December 22, 2008' 2008

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Amy, The Krazyhouse, Liverpool, England, December 22, 2008
2008

Archival inkjet print
96.5 x 75cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'The Buzz Club, Liverpool, England, March 3, 1995' 1995

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
The Buzz Club, Liverpool, England, March 3, 1995
1995

Chromogenic print
110 x 88.5cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Omri, Givatti Brigade, Golan Heights, Israel, March 29, 2000'
 2000

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Omri, Givatti Brigade, Golan Heights, Israel, March 29, 2000
2000
Chromogenic print, 140 x 112.5cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Friday 10am – 5.45pm
Saturday 10am – 7.45pm
Thursday closed

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website

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23
Mar
12

Review: ‘Martin Parr: In Focus’ at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th March – 31st March 2012

 

Martin Parr. 'England. New Brighton' 1983-1985

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983-1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

This is a fine exhibition of the work of celebrated English photographer Martin Parr at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, albeit with one proviso. The mainly large colour prints are handsomely displayed in plain white frames within the gallery space and are taken from his well known series: Last Resort, Luxury, New British and British Food. Parr’s work is at its best when he concentrates on the volume of space within the image plane and the details that emerge from such a concentrated visualisation – whether it be the tension points within the image, assemblage of colour, incongruity of dress, messiness of childhood or philistine nature of luxury.

The best photographs have a wonderful frisson about them, a genuine love of and resonance with the things he is imaging. This frisson can be seen in all of the photographs in this posting but most notably in :

  • The incursion of the surreal red colour to left in England. New Brighton (above) and Parr’s masterful use of vertical and horizontal lines within the image. Note the verticality: of the child’s toy, the two children themselves, the pillars of the pavilion and the lighthouse holding the whole image together at right. If this lighthouse were not there the eye would fall out of the image. As it is it is contained, forcing the viewer to look closely at the absurdity of the melting ice cream and the splashes that have fallen on the ground.
    .
  • The complexity of the photograph England. New Brighton (below) where the eye does not know what to rest upon, constantly jumping from object to object. Do you look at the women on the ground, the shoes to right, the piece of fabric to left, the screaming baby, the sunlit pink umbrella, the women in blue bikini up the ramp, the long elongated shadowed wall with peek-a-boo heads leading to the outlined figures at the vanishing point of image – the top of the ramp. The understanding of light (with the use of flash) and the construction of the image is superlative. Wow!
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  • The incongruity evidenced in the photograph England, Ascot. 2003: the over tight pink sateen dress with unfortunate stain (which the eye is irrevocably drawn to), applique bow linked through to hideous flower embossed handbag which then contrasts with the seated women behind in hat and purple floral dress. In the large print in the gallery the background is more out of focus than in the small reproduction here, allowing the viewer’s eye an avenue of escape via the grass and deck chair beyond.
    .
  • The delicious, choreographed mise-en-scène of Australia, The Melbourne Cup. 2008 – the suits, ties and glasses, the teezed hair, the alcohol – where none of the participants is looking at the camera, where only the ladies hand clutches at the back of the man’s shoulder. They look down, they look left, they look right, they look away, they never engage with each other or the viewer. The critical space in this assemblage is the distance between the man and the woman’s noses, that vitally small space of separation that is a synonym for the interactions occurring in the rest of the image. The blindness of Lux’ry, its crassness, its stain.

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And so it goes. The dirt under the fingernails of the child eating a doughnut, the lurid colours of the popsicle and jacket of the kid with dribble on his face, all fantastic. There are moments of stasis, for example in the contemplative photograph Australia. South Hedland. Blackrock Tourist Park. 2011 (below) taken from Parr’s new series Australia, where Parr has photographed Australian life in three Western Australian port cities, Fremantle, Broome and Port Hedland. See the video at the bottom of the posting and listen to Parr talk about his work.

This is all fine and dandy, dressed up in polka dots and a lurid bow tie, but when the photographs become too reductive, as in the large photograph in the exhibition England. Dorset. West Bay. 1997 (see first column, fourth down) there is really not enough to hang your hat on. This feeling of over simplification, as though the photographer has said to himself “here’s something I have seen that you haven’t recognised, and I think it is important for you to recognise it” – the perceived essentialness of the object – can become a bit strained. I know that these type of images are part of the series about British or Scottish food or about objects from a specific place but do they really have this grand an importance in the scheme of things? This feeling is reinforced in the exhibition, and this is my proviso to show, when the images such as Scotland. Glasgow. Fairy cakes. 1999, England. Blackpool. 1995 (bread and butter on a plate on red check cloth) are presented at A4 size surrounded by heavy white frames. These photographs have to be large to have any chance of working at all and at the small size they fall flat.

The size of a photograph raises interesting questions about the display of contemporary photography. The giant light boxes of Jeff Wall, the huge group portraits of Thomas Struth, the huge portraits of Thomas Ruff, the huge environments of Candida Hofer and the huge panoramas of Andreas Gursky (to name but a few) are all points in case. Would they work at a smaller size? No. They rely on scale and detail, visual impact for their effect: the same with Martin Parr. What is really ‘In Focus’ is the visualisation of the artist, his ability to envisage the final print at this large size. The A4 prints in this exhibition simply do not work at that size, for these photographs.

Think of Ansel Adams’ famous Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, Calif., (circa 1926). Originally printed as a contact 8″ x 10″ from the negative, Adams gradually increased the size of this image till it became a huge print as tall as a man in his later life. The image works at multiple sizes, it spoke to him (and the viewer) at all these sizes: the small contact is intense and gem-like, the larger imitating the monolithic structure of the Face itself. I feel that some large contemporary photographs are quite vacuous at this large size, that there is no reason for them to be at this size. In other words it is not appropriate for the image. Conversely it would seem that artists previsualise for this size in the end print, which is fine, but that the print cannot exist, cannot breathe in the world at a smaller size. Is this a problem? Does this matter? I believe it does, especially when a photograph is displayed at a size that simply doesn’t work. I was always taught to print a photograph at an appropriate size for the image, whatever size(s) that may be (and there can be multiples), as long as it has resonance for that particular image.

As evidenced in this exhibition, if the photograph cannot “work” at the size that it is to be exhibited then it should not be displayed at all – it is a diminution not just of the artists vision but of the resonance of the photograph, in this case going from large to small. In an upcoming posting about the retrospective of the work of American photographer Fransceca Woodman, there is an installation photograph of the exhibition at The Guggenheim, New York (see above). Her vintage prints (seen in the background) – small, intense visions – have been printed at a huge scale (with her permission) and they simply do not work at this floor to ceiling height. They have lost all of their intimacy, which is one of the strengths of her photography. Again, I believe it is a diminution of the artists vision and the integrity of the photograph, this time from small to large. Artists are not always right. The same can be said of the retrospective of Cartier-Bresson that I saw at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2005. One room out of four had very small, intense vintage prints in brown hues and the other three galleries had large 20″ x 24″ grainy prints with strong contrast that really ruined any response I had to the work as evidenced by the vintage prints. They were almost reproductions, a simulacra of the real thing. I had a feeling that they weren’t even by the artist himself. The same could be said here.

To conclude I would say this is a fine exhibition of large photographs by Martin Parr that would have been even more focused without the small A4 prints. They are joyous paeans to the quirky, incongruous worlds in which we live and circulate. They evidence life itself in all its orthogonal absurdity. I love ’em!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Francesca Woodman installation photograph at The Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

Francesca Woodman installation photograph at The Guggenheim Museum, New York. Note the small, vintage prints on the far wall.

 

Martin Parr. 'England. New Brighton' 1983-1985

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983-1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

Martin Parr. 'Australia. South Hedland. Blackrock Tourist Park. 2011'

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
Australia. South Hedland. Blackrock Tourist Park. 2011.
From the series Australia
2011
Pigment print
Edition of 5
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

Martin Parr. 'England, Ascot 2003'

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England, Ascot. 2003.
From the series Luxury
1995-2009
Traditional C-type print
Edition of 5
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

Martin Parr. 'Australia, The Melbourne Cup 2008'

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
Australia, The Melbourne Cup. 2008.
From the series Luxury
1995-2009
Pigment print
Edition of 5
101.6 x 152.4 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

Martin Parr. 'England. Ramsgate. 1996'

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. Ramsgate. 1996.
From the series New British
1994-1996
Traditional C-type print
Edition of 5
105.5 x 157.5 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

Martin Parr. 'England. Bristol. Car boot sale. 1995'

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. Bristol. Car boot sale. 1995.
From the series British Food
1994-1995
Traditional C-type print
Edition of 33
18 x 25.5 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

No Worries: Martin Parr – FotoFreo 2012

Magnum photographer Martin Parr was asked by FotoFreo Festival Director Bob Hewitt to photograph three Western Australian port cities, Fremantle, Broome and Port Hedland. Photographer David Dare Parker was assigned to document the project, the work titled No Worries.

© David Dare Parker

 

 

Niagara Galleries
245 Punt Road
Richmond, Melbourne
Victoria, 3121
Australia
Phone: +61 3 9429 3666

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 12pm – 5pm

Niagara Galleries website

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08
Nov
11

Review: ‘ManStyle’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition: 2 venues

NGV International (St Kilda Road) 11 March – 30 October 2011
NGV Australia (Federation Square) 11 March – 27 November 2011

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan at the opening of Manstyle in front of a two-piece c. 1949 Simpsons of Picadilly, London blue pin-stripped suit and 1940's tie from his collection

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan at the opening of Manstyle in front of a two-piece Simpsons of Picadilly, London blue pin-stripped suit c. 1949 and Van Heusen 1940’s tie loaned from his collection for the exhibition. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

 

The joy of this exhibition, spread across two NGV locations, is the creativity of local contemporary designers such Gavin Brown, Leigh Bowery, Peter Tully, Michael Glover and Sarah Thorn – a match for anything the international contingent has to offer. Another positive is the wonderful catalogue with its luscious colour plates, insightful essays and interviews with people such as Benny Castles, Luke Sales, Rick Owens and Walter Van Beirendonck.

Less enamouring is the prosaic way that the male attire is displayed – either hermetically sealed behind glass (look, but don’t touch!) or assembled in serried ranks on mannequins that make the clothes look two-dimensional. The display of these historical objects takes all the fun out of their being visually alive garments; it takes all the fun out of men “dressing up.” While acknowledging the conservation issues inherent when displaying such costume the display, the performance, the spectacle of male attire could have been better conveyed to the viewing public. Moving images, placing the work in context both locally and internationally, would have helped.

Continuing with these thoughts, what we wear can be seen as a spectacular, hypertextual construction. This construction comprises the authorship/designer of individual pieces (such as jacket, trousers, shirt) which can be seen as lexias, or nodal points, complimented by the wearer (reader) as author. The wearer appropriates and recasts individual garments, partially constructing the outfit through active choice, through a dissolution of the author-reader binary, through a very public characterisation of form: look at me, look at my style! Fashion can be seen as a “set of interconnecting and competing discourses than can never result in a single articulation,”1 discourses that generate and dissolve meaning. Men now use these discourses to enact the ‘performing self’, as it is known, which places greater emphasis on appearance.

“Within consumer culture … the new conception of self which has emerged, which we shall refer to as the ‘performing self’, places greater emphasis upon appearance, display and the management of impressions.”2

Appearance is critical to an understanding of self-concept. This self-concept consists of:

a/ the actual self (how a person perceives him/herself),
b/ the ideal self (how a person would like to perceive him/herself), and
c/ the social self (how a person presents him/herself to others).3

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As Sproles and Burns observe, “Appearance is an extremely important part of the self-concept. Through personal appearance – dress, cosmetics, fashion expressions, body movements – an individual presents personal identity, attitudes, moods, and value or self-worth. In addition, individuals receive positive or negative evaluations from others with regard to appearance. Hence, appearance is one of the most prominent ways to display and reinforce a self-concept.”4

Appearance and the textuality of representation (stressing that representations are presentations entailing the use of codes and conventions of the available cultural forms of presentation),5 are continually being subverted throughout the history of fashion. In postmodernist fashion imitation and integration of an eclectic mixture of styles and periods into a new discourse (or montage, or collage, or bricolage)6 is critical to the constant regeneration of self using appearance as the embodiment of self-concept. Why this exhibition is so crucial is it shows that men are becoming more and more adept at manipulating their aesthetic style, not as something to be afraid of, not as something that they have to conform to, but as an expression of personal freedom. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the display of the male attire is so staid and reserved. The aesthetic display of these garments did not match up to the clothes exuberance.

Small things also irritated. At the opening a great deal was made of the multimedia element where local designers and celebrities talked about male style. In several of these videos, the men being interviewed mentioned how the shoe was always the basis for a good outfit. Fast forward to the exhibition and what do we find – photostated paper cut-outs of shoes on the mannequins instead of the real thing! Apparently the multimedia was shot after the design of the exhibition was finalised. Surely, if several people mention the basis of a good outfit is the shoe, and you promote the videos heavily, then you need to follow through on this concept. It is like putting the cart before the horse.

The fragmentary dis/locating mix and match eclecticism of contemporary male fashion needed more of a run in this exhibition, but as it stands it gives the viewer a solid overview of male attire throughout the centuries.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Endnotes

  1. Johnson-Eilola cited in Mason, J.S. From Text To Hypertext [Online] Cited 28th May, 2003. No longer available online
  2. Lasch, C. The Culture of Narcissism. New York: Norton, 1979, quoted in Featherstone, Mike. “The Body in Consumer Culture,” in Featherstone, Mike; Hepworth, Mike and Turner, Bryan (eds.). The Body. London: Sage Publications, 1991, p. 187
  3. Sproles, George and Burns, Leslie Davis. Changing Appearances: Understanding Dress in Contemporary Society. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1994, pp. 208-209
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Dyer, Richard. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations. London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 2-3
  6. Tseëlon, E. The Masque of Femininity: The Representation of Women in Everyday Life. London: Sage, 1995, pp. 132-133

 

 

H. Lehmann, Aldershot. 'Royal Gloucester Hussar's uniform' c. 1900

 

H. Lehmann, Aldershot (tailor)
active in England c.1900
Royal Gloucester Hussar’s uniform
c. 1900
Wool, cotton, metal
(a) 51.0 cm (centre back), 64.0 cm (sleeve length) (jacket)
(b) 48.0 cm (centre back), 44.0 cm (width) (waistcoat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the Stone Family, 1963

 

England 'Coat' 1740s

 

England
Coat
1740s
Silk, wood, wool, linen
102.0 cm (centre back), 65.0 cm (sleeve length)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1970

 

England 'Coat' 1740s (detail)

 

England
Coat (detail)
1740s
Silk, wood, wool, linen
102.0 cm (centre back), 65.0 cm (sleeve length)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1970

 

France 'Coat' c. 1810

 

France
Coat
c. 1810
Wool, silk, wood
105.8 cm (centre back), 70.5 cm (sleeve length)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1975

 

England 'Waistcoat' c. 1850

 

England
Waistcoat
c. 1850
Silk, cotton, leather, metal
65.5 cm (centre back), 51.5 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs A. Butler, 1954

 

Nutters, London (tailor) est. 1968. Tommy Nutter (designer) 'Suit and tie 1971' (detail)

 

Nutters, London (tailor)
est. 1968
Tommy Nutter (designer)(Wales, b. 1943, lived in England c. 1952- )
Suit and tie 1971 (detail)
Wool, silk, cotton, acetate (lining), metal
(a) 77.0 cm (centre back), 58.0 cm (sleeve length) (jacket)
(b) 52.0 cm (centre back), 40.4 cm (waist, flat) (vest)
(c) 103.0 cm (outer leg), 37.0 cm (waist, flat) (trousers)
(d) 142.0 x 10.5 cm (tie)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Roger Evans, 1998

 

 

This March, the National Gallery of Victoria will showcase the first exhibition in Australia to focus on men’s fashion from the 18th century to the present day. Drawn largely from the NGV Collection, ManStyle will feature over 80 works including outfits and a selection of paintings exploring influential ideas in menswear over the past three centuries.

Charting a course between flamboyant display and absolute restraint, the exhibition begins in the 18th century with the evolution of the modern suit and concludes with contemporary outfits from today’s menswear designers. ManStyle will explore the elegantly honed lines and details of the dandy in the 19th century, a period which heralded the rise of tailoring with its focus on perfect cut and fit.

This exhibition will include recent works by contemporary designers such as Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme who have drawn upon this legacy of exacting tailoring for a new generation of young men. Roger Leong, Curator, International Fashion and Textiles, NGV said: “Men’s fashion is often seen as bound by tradition when, in fact, it has undergone a number of profound changes that reflect the shifting attitudes to class, sexuality, work and leisure over the past three centuries.

From the beginnings of the modern suit in the 18th century to 20th century sportswear, sub-cultural attire and street wear, men’s fashion has continued to transform in style and function to the present day,” said Mr Leong.

The most dramatic changes to men’s fashion occurred during the 1960s when designers such as Pierre Cardin challenged convention by creating streamlined Space-Age style outfits. Likewise, the ‘peacock revolution’ of this era reintroduced the phenomenon of the decorated man, adorned with colour, pattern and texture. Katie Somerville, Curator, Australian Fashion and Textiles, NGV said the House of Merivale was Australia’s answer to this new, colourful trend.

“Embodying the Carnaby Street look and style of bands like The Beatles, design houses such as Biba and the House of Merivale dressed men in flamboyant, body-hugging suits with wide flared trousers and shirts of contrasting patterns.

During this period, men ‘dressed up’, preened and flaunted their bodies in a new display of ostentatious masculine style.”

By the late 1970s, men’s style had fractured into a heady mix of alternatives. ManStyle features works by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, who defined the punk era with their ripped and distressed clothes plastered with offensive and anarchic slogans and symbols. This exhibition also captures the intense mood of the 1980s; which witnessed an outpouring of creativity across the spectrum of art, music and fashion, unleashing ideas from underground club cultures that reconfigured ideas about men’s sexuality.

“Today, new and traditional modes of dressing are continually merging to challenge our view of masculinity and contemporary style. ManStyle, it seems, offers greater possibilities than ever before,” said Ms Somerville.

Gerard Vaughan, NGV Director said: “By defining these periods in men’s fashion, visitors will be able to discover the contrasting identities men have experimented with over the past three centuries.

Visitors will be mesmerised and surprised by the richness of works in this Australia-first exhibition, showcasing the NGV’s magnificent Collection of this otherwise under-documented genre.”

ManStyle will be on display at the National Gallery of Victoria’s two locations. NGV Australia will look at transformations in the history of tailoring beginning with the notion of the dandy – a gallant man who put a lot of effort into a flawless appearance. The most famous dandy was Beau Brummell (1778-1840) who was always immaculately dressed, seeking to reflect an aristocratic style of life. The display at NGV International will focus on the peacock male, tracing a history of sartorial decoration and display that has its roots in the Renaissance and Tudor eras, and which was spectacularly revived during the 1960s when plain dark suits were discarded in favour of colour, cravats and frilled collars. Ever since then, the peacock phenomenon continues to surface with vivid intensity.

This exhibition will feature works by Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Morrissey & Edmiston, Leigh Bowery, Walter Van Beirendonck, Romance Was Born, Bernhard Willhelm, Rick Owens, Pierre Cardin, Biba and many more.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

WORLD, Auckland (fashion house). 'Percy shops at WORLD' 1999

 

WORLD, Auckland (fashion house)
est. 1989
Denise L’Estrange-Corbet (designer)(New Zealand, b. 1964)
Percy shops at WORLD
1999
Wool, acetate, raffia, leather, velcro, brass
(a) 68.1 cm (centre back), 60.0 cm (sleeve length) (jumper)
(b) 90.0 x 40.0 cm (corset)
(c) 59.4 cm (outer leg), 35.5 cm (waist, flat) (knickerbockers)
(d) 120.0 x 4.0 cm
(e-f) 40.0 x 11.0 cm (each) (socks)
(g-h) 27.0 x 15.0 x 12.0 cm (each) (sandals)
(i) 85.0 cm (outer circumference), 22.0 cm (height), 25.9 cm (width) (hat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999

 

Plain Jane, Melbourne (fashion house). Gavin Brown (designer) 'Indian snakes and ladders outfit' 1985

 

Plain Jane, Melbourne (fashion house)
Australia 1984-87
Gavin Brown (designer)(Australia, b. 1964)
Indian snakes and ladders outfit
1985
Screenprinted cotton, metal, plastic, wood
(a) 109.0 cm (centre back), 61.0 cm (sleeve length) (frock shirt)
(b) 114.0 cm (outer leg), 41.0 cm (waist, flat) (pants)
(c) 52.0 x 20.5 x 4.5 cm (necklace)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2009

 

Leigh Bowery. 'Pregnant tutu head' 1992

 

Leigh Bowery (Australia 1961-94, worked in England 1981-94)
Pregnant tutu head
1992
Cotton, rayon, polyester, nylon, foam, leather
(a) 87.0 cm (centre back), 25.0 cm (sleeve length) (top)
(b) 130.0 cm (length), 92.0 cm (inner leg) (tights)
(c) 45.0 cm (height), 130.0 cm (outer circumference) (headpiece)
(d-e) 54.0 x 14.0 cm irreg. (each) (gloves)
(f-g) 35.0 x 29.5 x 50.0 cm (each) (shoes)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Nicola Bateman Bowery, 1999

 

Sara Thorn, Melbourne (fashion house). 'Jacket and kilt' 1985

 

Sara Thorn, Melbourne (fashion house)
1983-85
Sara Thorn (designer)(Australia, b. 1961)
Bruce Slorach (designer)(Australia, b. 1961)
Jacket and kilt
1985
Screenprinted cotton
(a) 57.0 cm (centre back), 59.0 cm (sleeve length) (jacket)
(b) 73.0 cm (centre back), 43.0 cm (waist, flat) (kilt)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1995
© Courtesy of the artists

 

Vivienne Westwood, London (fashion house). 'Outfit' (detail) 1991 spring-summer 1991 'Cut and Slash' collection

 

Vivienne Westwood, London (fashion house)
est. 1985
Vivienne Westwood (designer)(England, b. 1941)
Outfit (detail)
1991
Spring-summer 1991 Cut and Slash collection
Cotton, polyester, metal buttons
(a) 62.5 cm (centre back), 55.0 cm (sleeve length) (jacket)
(b) 93.4 cm (outer leg), 41.2 cm (waist, flat) (jeans)
(c) 27.0 x 17.0 cm (codpiece)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1995

 

Peter Tully. 'Early flight attendant's vest' 1990

 

Peter Tully (Australia 1947-92)
Early flight attendant’s vest
1990
Retrospectra graphic plastic, lamé, metallic thread, cotton
48.5 cm (centre back), 48.0 cm (width)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist’s Estate

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

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

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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22
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures’ at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

Many thankx to the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All text comes from the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina website. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence with the work of Rineke Dijkstra at right

 

 

Portraits and Power explores portraiture and the representation of political, economical and social power in the contemporary world through the works of contemporary artists. Portraits of famous political figures, investigations into the lifestyle of the social elite, as well as inquiries into the power structures of international institutions.

The exhibition explores its theme from three main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light; and it investigates the hidden mechanisms of powerful authorities.

Portraits and Power is a project of the CCC Strozzina, with the consultancy of Peter Funnell (National Portrait Gallery, London), Walter Guadagnini (“UniCredit & Art” project) and Roberta Valtorta (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Cinisello Balsamo) coordinated by Franziska Nori (CCCS, Firenze).

Text from the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina website [Online] Cited 02/02/2020

 

Tina Barney. 'The Ancestor' 2001

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Ancestor
2001
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Tina Barney. 'The Brocade Walls' 2004

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Brocade Walls
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Tina Barney installation view

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Tina Barney

 

 

The characters Tina Barney portrays are the representatives of a social class that normally exercises careful control over the circulation of pictures of its members, whether in the form of family photographs or official portraits, which are often published on the pages of glossy magazines. She is one of the first photographers to have made artistic use of this kind of representation. Hers is not merely the gaze of an onlooker, but that of a trusted person, who has personal relationships with her subjects. What she is interested in is not so much the idea of displaying the wealth of these families, but that of analysing social and family dynamics – such as the ambivalent relationship between children and parents. Her work is conceived as a means to improve self-understanding.

The people portrayed all come from families educated in the awareness of their own social role: discipline, self-control and rigour are features to be observed in all the subjects photographed, and they share the same high level of composure. For the series entitled The Europeans, which was produced over a period of about eight years, the author was introduced by one circle of friends to another, and thus given the opportunity to portray Italian nobles, Austrian bankers and landowners, proud representatives of the wealthy Spanish bourgeoisie, and English gentlemen in their sophisticated dwellings. Neither the formal way of dressing nor the furnishings can be traced back to any particular fashion: Tina Barney seeks to produce timeless pictures that at first sight will appear closer to traditional painting than to contemporary photography. Tina Barney creates her portraits through a careful observation of people in their everyday lives; to capture transient moments she asks her subjects to repeat something in front of the camera in such a way as to fix them. Her work tool is a fixed, large-size camera; an extended time exposure and high resolution enable her to render the details of each setting in detail. The figures portrayed have a rigid and formal countenance, which makes them appear markedly detached from one another, even though it is often brothers and sisters or parents and children who are photographed together: “this is the best that we can do. This inability to show physical affection is in our heritage”.

Tina Barney’s photographs give a sense of the fleetingness of their relationships behind the mask of self-controlled bearing. The artist thus unveils the game of social roles and attitudes conducted by her subjects, a veritable Theater of Manners (to quote the title of one of her most famous series) which demands enough sensitivity on the viewers’ part for them to focus on those details in the pictures that render hidden and non-immediately obvious features visible.

Since the mid-1970s, Tina Barney has been focusing her work on the portrayal of the privileged exponents of New York and New England high society, seen either in their own homes or on certain special occasions. The style of the pictures ranges from that of tableaux vivant to that of genre paintings, drawing expressive force from the interaction between wealthy settings and the people who move about in them.

 

Tina Barney. 'The Granddaughter' 2004

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Granddaughter
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Jim Dow

 

Jim Dow. 'Library Metropolitan Club, New York' 1999 / 2010

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Library Metropolitan Club, New York
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

 

Jim Dow. 'Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York' 1999 / 2010

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

 

 

By taking shots that are as objective as possible and completely devoid of any human presence, Dow gives a concentrated and authentic view of the architecture, furnishings and frameworks of these backdrops of life. “My interest in photography centres on its capacity for exact description. I use photography to try to record the manifestations of human ingenuity and spirit still remaining in our country’s everyday landscape.” For one of his most recent series, Dow has been able to make his way into some of the most exclusive private circles of New York City. He selected circles that are still active and have a long and significant history behind, such as the renowned Metropolitan Club, which was founded in 1891 by John Pierpont Morgan, and once listed James Roosevelt and William K. Vanderbilt among its most illustrious members. Most of these circles require strict adherence to rules consolidated by tradition. Only those introduced to the club by one of its members can join it, a practice that contributes to keep it a kind of network; a specific commission will then consider whether the candidate is fit for acceptance. Though there are over twenty circles of this kind in New York, outsiders will rarely notice their presence. While they no longer exercise the kind of political influence they used to as seats of power and decision making bodies, these clubs are now undergoing a new renaissance. An increasing number of politicians and businessmen are choosing to meet in their secluded rooms, which public opinion often perceives as places of intrigue and the setting for secret appointments of various kinds. With his descriptive and comparative photographs, Dow is giving a face to these exclusive meeting places, inviting viewers to join him in admiring the timeless opulence of their rooms. Architecture is the “primary and most powerful form of mass-communication”; at the same time, it is a mirror for power and its strategies, for the consolidation of authority and its effects on those who exercise it. “Architecture is power. The powerful build precisely because they are powerful. Yet architecture is also an expression of the capability and resoluteness – as well as resolve – of the powerful. Politicians intentionally exploit architecture to seduce, impress, and intimidate.” (Deyan Sudjic, The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, 2006).

American photographer Jim Dow approaches places as meeting points bearing visible traces of people’s mutual interactions. In different photographic series, the artist has portrayed American barbecue joints, pie and mash shops in London, tango halls in Buenos Aires, the workplaces of farmers, tinsmiths and iron-smiths, and baseball stadiums from one coast of the US to the other.

 

CLEGG & GUTTMANN (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann) 'Grand Master' 1985

 

Clegg & Guttmann (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann)
Grand Master
1985
Cibachrome
Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Berlin, Antwerp

 

 

For Grand Master, part of a photographic series produced in the 1980s, Clegg & Guttmann asked an actor to display certain poses characteristic of power, presenting him as the representative of a non-specified institution. The background of the image consists in a fictional architectural scenario – one simply simulated by using photographed space – the artificial nature of which is revealed by certain incongruities in the lighting effects. What is central here, once more, is the reflection offered on the controlled and never spontaneous construction of an image of power.

The tension conveyed by Clegg & Guttmann’s works springs from the subtle gap characterising the artists’ relationship with tradition. Their classical and apparently affirmative representations of people with power should be interpreted, within the context of their career spanning several decades, as different ways of visualising an analytical and deconstructive practice engaging with the mechanisms of authority.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Clegg & Guttmann

 

 

The CCCS – Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, will be staging an exhibition entitled Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures, from 1 October 2010 to 23 January 2011, which will run concurrently with the retrospective devoted to Bronzino, the undisputed master of the Mannerist portrait, on Palazzo Strozzi’s piano nobile.

The exhibition, based on an original project by the CCCS in consultation with Peter Funnell (curator and director of research programmes at the National Portrait Gallery in London), Walter Guadagnini (chairman of the “UniCredit & Art” project’s scientific committee) and Roberta Valtorta (director of the Cinisello Balsamo Museum of Contemporary Photography) and coordinated by Franziska Nori (director of the CCCS), will show the work of international artists and collectives such as Tina Barney, Christoph Brech, Bureau d’études, Fabio Cifariello Ciardi, Clegg & Guttmann, Nick Danziger, Rineke Dijkstra, Jim Dow, Francesco Jodice, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, Trevor Paglen, Martin Parr, Wang Qingsong, Daniela Rossell, Jules Spinatsch, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and The Yes Men – who have all proved capable of developing a critical analysis of the portrayal and depiction of political, economic and social power in the media.

The exhibition explores its theme from two main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; and it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light.

The role played by images has grown to such an extent that it has led to the predominant emergence of their value not only in terms of portrayal but also of the successful establishment of power. The works of art on display bear witness not only to the self-referential strategies of power, but also to the different approaches artists adopt in deconstructing or chipping away at the images that represent social, economic and political power in a way that can not only bolster a leadership but that can also undermine its authority.

The National Portrait Gallery in London will be contributing works by three famous international photographers that explore the image of political authority. The series devoted to Queen Elizabeth II by Annie Leibovitz evinces a celebrated contemporary artist’s dialogue with the great tradition of official portraiture, and the cycle entitled Blair at War by Nick Danziger gives an extraordinary vision of Tony Blair’s daily life in the days immediately preceding the outbreak of the war in Iraq. The portrait of Margaret Thatcher by Helmut Newton keeps alive the iconic role of one of the most influential politicians of recent decades despite the fact that her authority had waned.

Clegg & Guttmann show the photographs of three managing directors of the Deutsche Bank. These images, while based on the official portraiture genre, provide the opportunity for a conceptual reflection on the theme of the public presentation of individuals who are at the same time both subject and patron of the work. Christoph Brech portrays a modern patron of the arts in a video that dwells on a detail of the hull of his yacht, Sea Force One, a floating museum filmed from a distance in Venetian waters.

The role of the image not only as representation but also as a tool for the construction or exploration of power is analysed by artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose Portraits bring to life wax effigies of historical or contemporary political figures through the evocative power of photography, and Rineke Dijkstra whose series of images of a soldier with the French Foreign Legion prompts a reflection on what remains of the individual when he becomes the representative of a military authority. Francesco Jodice, in his video entitled Dubai Citytellers, analyses the development and the social impact of one of the new centres of global economic power.

In the photo triptych Past, Present and Future, Wang Qingsong portrays himself as a bystander, bearing witness to fighters in poses mimicking celebrative and monumental Socialist sculptures, reflecting upon the contradictory nature of the actual power of masses in contemporary China.

Tina Barney records the life and domestic environment of the beau monde, combining the spontaneous feel of a private snapshot with a sophisticated aesthetic approach strongly echoing the world of art and traditional photography. The provocative photo series Ricas y Famosas by Daniela Rossell portrays the taste and excesses of the new super wealthy social oligarchy in Mexico, while Martin Parr’s series entitled Luxury, which is devoted to fashion shows, horse-racing and art fairs in the world’s major capitals, probes the lifestyle of the upper class in a globalised Western world. The pictures of Jim Dow portray the luxurious rooms of the great private social clubs of New York City’s elite, fashionable places that are inaccessible to the general public.

A different critical approach to the theme of power is offered by the French collective Bureau d’études with its project involving mapping the links between political and economic power. The CIA’s secret missions and operations, on the other hand, provide the focus for the work of Trevor Paglen who reconstructs top secret movements and connections. Jules Spinatsch presents a new work taken from his Temporary Discomfort video-photographic series, denouncing the controversial transformation of a place such as the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia into the venue for the G8 summit that never took place. Also on view is the antagonistic activism of The Yes Men, a collective who will be presenting their spectacular media initiative that rocked the image and power of the multinational corporation responsible for the Bhopal environmental catastrophe in India.

Finally, the composer Fabio Cifariello Ciardi uses famous politicians’ public speeches as his raw material for the creation of electroacoustic music that will underline their rhetorical techniques of persuasion.

The exhibition catalogue, published in Italian and English, contains a series of essays by authors from different countries, backgrounds and disciplines, offering the visitor a chance to explore in greater depth the themes addressed by the exhibition.

Press release from the Strozzina website [Online] Cited 02/02/2020

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier' Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier
Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier' Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier
Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 

 

A crucial feature of Dijkstra’s photography is her desire to show the true personality of her subjects, as opposed to any simulated one. Up against the contemporary mystifying quality of the Internet and digital manipulation, her images illustrate in a very convincing way how photography is still capable of transcending the surface of subjects to grasp their deeper and constantly evolving identities. Her series feature, for instance, young bullfighters immediately after a bullfight, young mothers with babies born only a few minutes before, and portraits of boys and girls from various parts of the world at the beach. Her work method, whereby subjects are given very few directions and are usually portrayed frontally, leads to the creation of bare and detached pictures in which people display an inevitably fragile and vulnerable air. The Olivier Silva project, which the artist has developed over the course of more than three years, centres on the figure of a young man who in July 2000 voluntarily enrolled in the French Foreign Legion. Dijkstra portrays crucial moments of his intense training in France and Africa – from the day of his enrolment, in Aubagne, near Marseille, to the missions he was sent to fulfil in various parts of the world (Gabon, Ivory Coast and Gibuti) in 2003. The photographs clearly illustrate the metamorphoses the young man underwent over the course of the years: the innocent looking boy becomes an energetic and professional elite soldier enlisted in one of the world’s toughest and most controversial army corps. The centrepiece of the work is the artist’s interest in Olivier as an individual whose personality evolves in the course of his training, as is clearly revealed by his attitude and the look in his eyes, as well as by the very way in which his facial features change. The training imparted in military units of this kind is aimed at annulling the recruit’s personality in order to then recreate it according to new parameters: the youngster draws closer and closer to the prototype of the soldier as we progress from one photograph to the next. Just as all new recruits of the Foreign Legion are assigned a new name and identity, after three years Olivier no longer looks (even physically) like the same person as before. Like an accelerated film sequence, this series shows the dissolution of the original identity of a man subjected to the conditions dictated by an apparatus of power. Every soldier is at the service of the country he fights for and becomes one of its official public representations, embodying its military power. The same power he now wields is that which in a few years has conditioned him – or even produced him, one may say. Through her aesthetically minimalist photographs, Rineke Dijkstra illustrates the paradox of opposition between individual values and those of the community, between identity and conformity.

Rineke Dijkstra has carried out profound research in the field of photographic portraiture. Her subjects are adolescents who are still searching for themselves and who are incapable of acting in front of a camera, as well as adults caught in decisive moments in their personal development. By portraying these subjects, the artist explores the theme of identity and its representation.

 

Martin Parr. 'France. Paris. Haute Couture' 2007

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
France. Paris. Haute Couture
2007
from the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

Martin Parr. 'England. Epsom. The Derby' 2004

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. Epsom. The Derby
2004
from the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

Martin Parr. 'Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week' 2004

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week
2004
From the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

 

Unlike most of his colleagues, Parr has little interest in the great themes of photographic reporting, such as the documenting of war and poverty. Working around the world, he finds his motifs in everyday life. At the beginning of his career, he focused in particular on the observation of people from lower middle class backgrounds engaged in different activities, in the context of themes such as consumption, communication and leisure. He has left it ambiguous as to whether these pictures of his are charged with critical overtones or intended to serve as a mere means of social documentation. Through this approach to his work, Parr has developed a highly distinctive and almost unmistakable style marked by dazzling colours obtained by the use of flash on top of natural light. Parr takes his camera near people and their social milieus, creating images that appear grotesque or exaggerated at first. Their motifs, which often coincide with moments of everyday life, are shot from unusual perspectives.

The feeling these pictures convey is that of being spontaneous photos, similar to snapshots. Only under closer scrutiny you understand they have been skilfully construed and arranged. While always highly charged and taking widespread social stereotypes as their starting point, Parr’s images are never banal. The perspective they convey stands out for the way in which it takes viewers by surprise and for the ironic detachment with which the photographer turns to his subjects.

According to Parr, his photographs never fail to elicit extreme emotions because they always show some truths: “We are so used to digesting pictures that are pure propaganda, that people are surprised when someone like me shows them images that are closely tied to reality. I, at least, don’t lie”. The photographer’s gaze takes the viewer into his confidence, leading him through the pictures to discover the absurdity of what we deem normal. Gathered in large series regularly published in volumes, these shots transcend the irony of individual images to concentrate on the analysis of a given social milieu.

The Luxury series portrays personages from the international jet set, photographed in different settings around the world – from the Miami Art Fair to horse races in Durban, from polo tournaments in Dubai to the Beijing Auto Show. With these images, Parr has intentionally moved away from his previous subjects to focus on the life of the upper classes: for, as he himself has noted, the main problem the world is facing is not poverty but wealth – excessive development and prosperity. These photographs offer the perspective of an external, noninvolved observer, whose gaze is drawn towards minor details that usually find no place in the common representations of these events.

The centrepieces of these photos are the superficial clichés that the people participating in the events adopt as tokens of their upper-class identity. The pictures fix moments in which this enactment reveals itself to be so fragile or so exaggerated that the people involved become extras in a comedy – one that the photographer’s eye has fallen upon, finding interest not in individuals as such, but in their belonging to a given social system with all its rules and values.

Martin Parr describes himself as a “chronicler of our times”. In his photographic series he records the behaviour of people of different social classes in different contexts, searching not so much for mutual differences as for what brings human beings together when they find themselves in certain roles.

 

Nick Danziger. 'Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003'

 

Nick Danziger (British, b. 1958)
Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003

Bromide print
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London
© Nick Danziger

 

 

This opportunity had arisen thanks to The Saturday Times Magazine, which had launched a project to produce a special report on the occasion of Blair’s fiftieth birthday, one based not on official photographs but on a way of perceiving and depicting power from the point of view of everyday life – the interior of private and usually inaccessible places, removed from the conventional and more distinctly representational ones. These were the very days in which Blair was facing one of the most challenging decisions of his mandate: that concerning Great Britain’s intervention in the Second Gulf War on the side of the United States.

Danziger was able to document moments and scenes that could otherwise never have been made visible, capturing apparently insignificant moments that actually express all the underlying tensions and dynamics of those crucial days in 2003. On his first day of work, 14 March, Danziger was in Blair’s so called “den” – the Prime Minister’s private workroom in Downing Street. While engaged in a telephone call with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Blair is shown in a non-conventional and informal, rather than simply official, pose. A mirror here gives us a glimpse of Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s ever-present spin doctor, and the person responsible for his public image. This reflection becomes a sort of picture within the picture, a reminder of the assemblage of Danziger’s photographic documents, which are never created by chance or artlessly, but always follow from a conscious decision on the photographer’s part.

Danziger seems to be providing an almost intimate depiction of power, one that catches its subjects unawares. Yet it is worth recalling that the Blair government had developed a very careful and well-thought strategy for controlling its own public identity. New Labour’s promotion of an image of its Prime Minister as a young man from next door and of its own political class as one close to ordinary people has been a central feature of its political platform – a way of making a break after the long years of Conservatism under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

The power of Danziger’s photographs lies in their ability to suggest the moments preceding and following the one portrayed, as illustrated for instance by the pictures of the Prime Minister’s transfer by plane, or the conversation held by a group of politicians outside Blair’s cabinet as they wait for the imminent war decisions to be made. In these pictures the outside world is always cut off; still, as critic John Berger has noted, the importance of photographs lies precisely in their ability to show things they do not directly portray.

Danziger himself bears witness to this when he writes that “in some of the pictures, from where the Prime Minister is sitting, he could hear people shouting ‘stop the war’ outside”. Power censors what might damage or shed doubt upon the reassuring appearance of a politician, and always seeks to portray itself in a manner useful for its own preservation.

The work of photojournalist Nick Danziger features videos and photographs in a documentary style, which often accompany the diaries he writes during his many trips around the world – from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Great Britain to Brazil, and so on. Between March and April 2003, Danziger and journalist Peter Stothard spent thirty days in close contact with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and his entourage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

The Portraits series was first developed in 1999, starting from a portrait of King Henry VIII of England inspired by the work of Dutch painter Hans Holbein. Sugimoto’s self-professed aim was to become “the first sixteenth-century photographer.” The series then continued with different subjects, including famous contemporary figures who have entered the collective imagination, such as the Cuban lider máximo Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II.

Sugimoto’s works are not portraits of the original subjects, but of wax sculptures reproducing them in the most hyper-realist way possible. The figures are illumined by a source of direct light and strongly stand out against a black background in an extremely theatrical way, imitating poses typical of the characters they represent, while removing them from all context and thus emphasising their nature as icons rather than human beings.
For these works Sugimoto has not made use of the 50 x 60 cm format that is typical of him. Yet, they stand in continuity with the artist’s unique reflection upon the nature of photography and its relation to history and time. Here he embarks upon a reflection on portraiture and the process whereby an image is translated using different media, emphasising the problematic “realistic effect” of photographic reproduction.

An attentive gaze will notice small disproportions in the various parts of the subjects’ bodies or strange lighting effects due to the way in which light reflects on wax as opposed to real skin. Still, these pictures invite us to look at them as we would other photographs. Thinking, that is, about the genuine subjects they portray, something that paradoxically makes them “more real” than the wax statues that constitute their actual subjects. Different levels of reproduction are at play here: from the original subject to an initial photograph that served as a model for the wax statue that Sugimoto then portrayed in his photographic work. Our gaze will strongly be drawn towards the extraordinary elegance and aesthetic refinement of these works, which reveal the uncommon technical abilities of Sugimoto, marked as they are by the endless range of white, grey and black shades typical of him. Despite all this, his works remain emotionally cold: they consist in conceptual reflections upon the very notion of portrait and its political and cultural value as an icon of the characters it represents, and explicitly forgo any realist view of the individuals they take as their subjects. The artist seems to be causing all sense of natural time to collapse – in such a way as to stress that of absolute time. He attains a balance between life and death that is characteristic of photography but also of portraiture, whereby what counts is not the reality or the life of a subject, but the latter’s value as an image in itself, beyond time and everyday life.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs convey a conceptual attitude aimed at stripping images down to their bare essence, thus emphasising the primacy of the idea over the object portrayed. His famous marine landscapes and dioramas express a view of photography as a sort of time machine – a way of preserving or constructing memories and emotions.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) Pope John Paul II 1999 (installation view)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Pope John Paul II (installation view)
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Rosa e Gilberto Sandretto
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Pope John Paul II' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Pope John Paul II
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Rosa e Gilberto Sandretto
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Fidel Castro' 1999 (installation view)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Fidel Castro (installation view)
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Fidel Castro' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Fidel Castro
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina
Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, Firenze

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Special free Thursday 6.00 – 11.00 pm
Monday closed (open on 1/11, 6/12, 27/12)

Strozinna website

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18
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘We English’ by Simon Roberts at Robert Morat Galerie, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 2nd October – 4th December 2010

 

Simon Roberts. 'Skegness Beach, Lincolnshire, 12th August 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Skegness Beach, Lincolnshire, 12th August 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

 

Being an ex-pat English these photographs have a very special resonance for me. They are beautifully visualised and resolved photographs that do not rely too heavily on the artist’s conceptualisation of landscape (the ever present hand of the artist) in the construction of narrative within the picture plane. In other words the artist allows the image to speak for itself, “a sensitive, resolved response to scenes of ordinary people and how they inhabit and utilise the spaces around them,” with the layering of meaning, the back stories (boundaries, sites of contestation, notions of identity and colonisation of spaces amongst others) kept in balance with the sublime elements of the constructed landscape. The photographs work all the better for this restraint and offer the viewer sensual images that are open and receptive, spaces that are invigorating and enlightening, Roberts has created a magical series of photographs that poignantly capture the essence of what it is to be English.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Simon Roberts for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. The permission is much appreciated. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

Simon Roberts. 'South Downs Way, West Sussex, 8th October 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
South Downs Way, West Sussex, 8th October 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Heberdens Farm, Finchdean, Hampshire, 20th December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Heberdens Farm, Finchdean, Hampshire, 20th December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Rushey Hill Caravan Park, Peacehaven, East Sussex, 21st December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Rushey Hill Caravan Park, Peacehaven, East Sussex, 21st December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, 28th December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, 28th December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts. 'Mad Maldon Mud Race, River Blackwater, Maldon, Essex, 30th December 2007' from the series 'We English'

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Mad Maldon Mud Race, River Blackwater, Maldon, Essex, 30th December 2007 from the series We English
2007

 

Simon Roberts 'The Haxey Hood, Haxey, North Lincolnshire, 5th January 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
The Haxey Hood, Haxey, North Lincolnshire, 5th January 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

 

“We English is the result of a year’s travel around England by Roberts, in a motorhome, documenting its landscape on a large format 5 x 4 camera. Informed by the photography of his predecessors Tony Ray Jones, John Davies and Martin Parr, and by the romantic tradition of English landscape painting, Roberts depicts the English at leisure within pastoral landscapes in a manner that is entirely his own. The work is beautiful, accessible and often heart-warming. This is the most significant contribution to the photography of England since John Davies’s ‘The British Landscape’.”

Chris Boot, Publisher, 2009

 

Artist statement

Initially, I was simply thinking about Englishness and how my upbringing had been quintessentially English. How much of this was an intrinsic part of my identity? In what ways was my idea of what constitutes an ‘English life’ or English pastimes (if there are such things) different to those of others’? My own memories of holidays, for example, were infused with very particular landscapes; the lush green-ness around Derwent Water or the flinty grey skies – and pebbles – of Angmering’s beaches. It seemed to me that these landscapes formed an important part of my consciousness of who I am and how I ‘remember’ England.

Seeking out ordinary people engaged in diverse pastimes, I aim to show a populace with a profound attachment to its’ local environments and homeland. We English explores the notion that nationhood – that what it means to be English – is to be found on the surface of contemporary life, encapsulated by banal everyday rituals and activities.

My first major body of work, Motherland, was a study about Russian identity. The images are not clichéd representations of a Russia ground down by poverty and despair, rather, photographs of a land of dignified people empowered by a growing optimism and a deep rooted sense of national esteem.

The same themes of identity, memory, history and attachment to place – of belonging – resonate throughout We English. To access these abstractions, I’ve produced a series of colour landscape photographs, which record places where groups of people congregate for a common purpose and shared experience. Since landscape has long been used as a commodity to be consumed, I focus on leisure activities as a way of looking at England’s shifting cultural and aesthetic identity. The photographs are rooted in a consciousness of my own attachment to my homeland and are an intentionally lyrical rendering of everyday English landscapes. They draw on issues of cultural geography and contemporary landscape theory, together with vestiges of English romanticism.

We English is not just a mode of social and anthropological commentary, although there are important elements of this in the work; more, it aims to constitute a sensitive, resolved response to scenes of ordinary people and how they inhabit and utilise the spaces around them. The photographs also explore the way in which landscapes can become a site of conflict or unease, where perceived notions of nationhood and quintessential Englishness are challenged, as diverse social groups seek to colonise shared public spaces. Notions of limits and boundaries re-appear throughout the work, reflected in the rivers, trees and hedges that create physical divisions, delineating and defining the limits of human interaction. Indeed, leisure activities often occur at boundary points: the edge of towns and cities, next to lakes and reservoirs, alongside footpaths and mountain ridges.

The project derives its title from the suggestion that photographer and subjects – we ‘English’ – are complicit in the act of representation. (During the five months that I travelled around England in a motorhome, people were invited to post their ideas about events I could photograph on a dedicated website and to share their experiences of living in their particular locality).

The project has been supported by Arts Council England, the National Media Museum and the John Kobal Foundation. A monograph of the photographs will be published in September 2009 by Chris Boot Ltd.

 

Simon Roberts 'Grantchester Meadows, Cambridgeshire, 23rd January 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Grantchester Meadows, Cambridgeshire, 23rd January 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Cotswold Water Park, Shornecote, Gloucestershire, 11th May 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Cotswold Water Park, Shornecote, Gloucestershire, 11th May 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Paul Herrington's 50th Birthday, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, 15th June 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Paul Herrington’s 50th Birthday, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, 15th June 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, Nottinghamshire, 16th June 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, Nottinghamshire, 16th June 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Blackpool Promenade, Lancashire, 24th July 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Blackpool Promenade, Lancashire, 24th July 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, 7th August 2008' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, 7th August 2008 from the series We English
2008

 

Simon Roberts 'Bradford Bandits BMX Club, Peel Park, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 17th October 2009' from the series 'We English' 2008

 

Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
Bradford Bandits BMX Club, Peel Park, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 17th October 2009 from the series We English
2008

 

 

Robert Morat Galerie
Linienstraße 107
10115 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 25209358

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 12 – 6 pm

Robert Morat Galerie website

Simon Roberts website

We English website

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13
Nov
08

Television: ‘The First Australians’ SBS TV Australia

November 2008

 

A wonderful, long overdue documentary series on SBS television about the history of ‘Terra Nullius’, the white occupation of lands through the persecutions, massacres and genocide enacted upon the Aboriginal population.

Although some of the ‘academic’ comment lacks balance this can hardly be blamed.

As an Englishman who is now an Australian I feel deep shame over the actions of my predecessors and empathy towards those whose civilisation was uprooted. And so it continues …

In episode 3 the nobleness of the Aboriginal leader Barak broke my heart:

“And may the Lord bless you sir,
and give you good knowledge.”

.
he wrote to his persecutors.

After his son had died
After the promises had been broken.

.
There is a moment in Greek tragedy when the hero realises all he knows is untrue: peripateum.

Barak must have had such a moment and he returned to his people and his cultural roots, in the last years of his life painting his memories: alive, wonderful, moving.

Vale

 

 

First Australians on SBS

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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: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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