Posts Tagged ‘horizon line

16
Oct
12

Paper: ‘Traversing the unknown’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne presented at the ‘Travel Ideals’ international conference, July 2012

International conference: Travel Ideals: Engaging with Spaces of Mobility, Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne, 18th – 20th July 2012

 

All cdv and cabinet cards © Joyce Evans collection © Marcus Bunyan.

Installation photographs of the exhibition Traverse by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton, 10th March – 8th April 2012.

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Keywords: refugees, asylum seekers, boat people, spaces of mobility, travel, early colonial photography, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, Second Fleet, John Dell, aborigine, Australia, white Australia, immigration, photography, early Australian photography, Foucault, non-place, Panopticon, inverted Panopticon, (in)visibility, visual parentheses, axis of visibility, symbolic capital, context of reason.

 

 

Installation of 'Traverse' by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

 

Installation of 'Traverse' by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

 

Installation of 'Traverse' by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

 

Installation of Traverse by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton
Installation photographs by Marcus Bunyan
© Kim Percy and Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Traversing the unknown

Dr Marcus Bunyan July 2012

What I am about to say, my musings if you like, are inspired by Kim Percy’s exhibition which took place at Stockroom gallery in Kyenton in March – April 2012. The work is the basis of my inquiry. The images that illustrate the paper are installation shots from the exhibition and Victorian cartes de visite, photographic portraits of an emerging nation taken from the 1850s-1890s. Unlike the business cards of today (where identity is represented by the name of the business owner and the printer of the card remains anonymous), in cartes de visite the name of the people or place being photographed is usually unknown and the name of the photographer is (sometimes) recorded. In other words the inverse of contemporary practice. Another point to note is that most of the photographers were immigrants to this country. I use these cards to illustrate the point that the construction of national identity has always been multifarious and, in terms of the representation of identity, unknown and unknowable.

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I would like to take you on a journey, at first personal and then physical, metaphorical and maybe even philosophical. I want to asks questions of the world, questions about the journey we all take as human beings. I would like to tell you two personal things.

First, I have nearly drowned three times in my life. Once, aged 12 years, my mother dove into the swimming pool and pulled my out as I was going under for the third time. The second time was in Australia at Squeaky Beach on Wilsons Prom and the third up at Byron Bay. All three times there was shear blind panic as the water tried to consume me, as my feet scrabbled to touch the bottom, seeking any purchase, the minutest toe hold so that I could pull myself to safety, so that I could save myself. Panic. Fear. Nothingness.

Second, I still vividly remember being dumped by my parents at boarding school in England at the age of twelve years. I watched disconsolately as they drove away and promptly burst into tears, terrified of being alone in an alien environment, with a different accent than everyone else (having grown up on a rural farm) and being different from other boys (just discovering that I was gay). Those were horrible years, suffering from depression that crept up on me, isolated with few friends and struggling with my nascent sexuality. Thoughts of suicide and self-harm were constant companions. Fast forward, arriving in Australia in 1986, again with no friends, living in a foreign culture. Even though I was white I felt alienated, isolated, alone. I hated my first years in Australia. Now imagine being an asylum seeker arriving here.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Borough of Clunes Notice Strike ..rm Rate]' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Borough of Clunes Notice Strike ..rm Rate]
Nd
Cabinet card
Albumen print
16.5cm x 10.7cm
Blank verso
© Joyce Evans collection

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mrs Dean, Dean & Co, Hay, Corn & Produce Merchants, Rea St, North Fitzroy' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Mrs Dean, Dean & Co, Hay, Corn & Produce Merchants, Rea St, North Fitzroy
Nd
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
10.4cm x 6.3cm
Blank verso
© Joyce Evans collection

 

National Photo Company. 'Untitled [Group of bricklayers holding their tools and a baby]' Nd

 

National Photo Company
Untitled [Group of bricklayers holding their tools and a baby]
Nd
140 Queen Street,
Woollahra,
Sydney
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
10.4cm x 6.3cm
© Joyce Evans collection

 

 

Imagine being an asylum seeker living in an (in)between space, living in a refugee camp over there. Marc Augé coined the phrase “non-place” to refer to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places”.1 These camps are such places. Put yourself in that predicament, seeking a better life, seeking to escape persecution, war, prejudice and death, deliberately placing yourself and your family in a fragile boat, like a seed pod floating upon the waters, taking the dangerous journey to reach Australia. Imagine the emotional and intellectual turmoil that must surround such a decision, the decision to place your life in the hands of the ocean. Important decisions affecting the entire course of one’s life are rarely made without some form of mental distress.

Nurtured in water, some baptised in it, water is the life-blood of the world and the asylum seeker must trust to its benevolence. Marc Auge “argues that we are in transit through non-place for more and more of our time, as if between immense parentheses.”2 This is the journey that the asylum seeker takes over water, a journey through an interstitial space that has no beginning and no end caught between a set of parentheses [insert life here / or not]. And now let us move our line of sight. What about a visual parentheses?

Asylum seekers are almost invisible from Australia living over there. They are over the horizon, out of sight and out of mind. When they journey across the sea – an open ended journey passing through a liminal space, a forgotten space – they suddenly appear as if by magic washed up on the shore, unseen despite surveillance planes, ships and other forms of tracking and reconnaissance. Think, for example, of the sudden and surprising arrival of the boat SIEV-221 when it was washed onto the rocks of Christmas Island in December 2010. The invisible made visible caught in a non-place.

This (in)visibility can be evidenced in other ways. The specks of humanity waving from the deck of the Tampa, the asylum seekers being escorted from arriving boats, seen for a few brief seconds on the evening news and then disappearing from view, almost like being sucked into the depths of the sea. Here and not here; here and there. Halfway between nothingness and being: they walk between one state and another, forward and backward, backward and forward.

Displacement
Diaspora
Disruption

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There is much discussion in political circles in relation to the retrieval, processing and housing of detainees, that is, the control of the artefact within space (of Australia) and, consequently, the impact on the citizens of Australia and that of public sentiment. The axis of visibility3 that operates in relation to subject, object, and space is not interrogated as to the representations that are constructed. This is what I am interested in here.

The spectacle of the asylum seekers is despectacularised by and for the viewer. We remove ourselves from the emotion of these people, the presence of these images. They become ordinary as if seen from far away – glimpsed every so often as though viewing the world of another. They become Other. The movement of the ship, the movement of the sky, the movement of vision is a constant decentering through a push/pull with something else – some other order of the world. The journey into the unknown is a journey to submit to the ordering of another: the socially constructed system of classification: “refugee,” “asylum seeker.”

These vital, alive human beings come from one taxonomic system (of ordered death, persecution, injustice), become visible from a brief instance, and are then fed into another taxonomic system of order – that of the detention centre. Through the journey and in the detention centres there is an effacement of specific religious, political or personal symbolic features as the refugees become part of a disciplinary system whereby they can be viewed as symbolic capital (both political and economic tools). This process of effacement and simultaneous self-negation, this neutralisation of original context and content is hidden in the forgotten spaces, of the sea and of the processing centres.

And then the seekers are naturalised, becoming one with the body of Australia, as though they were unnatural before.

 

Kim Percy. 'Pale Sea' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Pale Sea
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Where' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Where
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Rough Water' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Rough Water
2012
Digital photograph

 

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
Nd
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
6.3cm x 10.4cm
Blank verso
© Joyce Evans collection

 

E. B. Pike. 'Untitled [Older man with moustache and parted beard]' Nd

 

E. B. Pike
Untitled [Older man with moustache and parted beard]
Nd
Cartes de visite
Verso of card
6.3cm x 10.4cm
© Joyce Evans collection

 

Otto von Hartitzsch. 'Untitled [Man with quaffed hair and very thin tie]' 1867-1883

 

Otto von Hartitzsch (Australian, c. 1838-1910)
Artist & Photographer
Untitled [Man with quaffed hair and very thin tie]
1867-1883
Verso of card
Established 1867, 127 Rundle Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Cartes de visite
6.3cm x 10.4cm
© Joyce Evans collection

 

Kim Percy. 'Traverse' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Traverse
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Red Horizon No.1' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Red Horizon No.1
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Red Horizon No.2' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Red Horizon No.2
2012
Digital photograph

 

 

Taking the metaphor of the horizon line further, I would argue that the detention centres are like that of an inverted Panopticon. The Panopticon is a type of institutional building, a prison, designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe all inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.4 The guard sits in a central tower and can observe and inspect all prisoners on the outer 360 degree circle, while the prisoners cannot see the guard and can only presume he is there (an omnipresent God) and hence they behave. Let us invert this concept. Now the asylum seekers sit in the tower looking outwards, seeing the promised land but unable to touch it and the guards (prison officers, government, the Australian people) are all around but most are blind. They look inwards but cannot see / they look outwards and most go about their daily business. The perimeter fence of the detention centre becomes the horizon line of the sea. Over the horizon is out of sight and out of mind.

This regime of acceptability, the common-sense world within which we all live and usually take for granted, this form of rationality has a historical specificity. Think convict for example: such branding appeared at a time of historic specificity. What we take to be rational, the bearer of truth, is rooted in domination and subjugation, and is constituted by the relationship of forces and powers. But, as Foucault observes “what counts as a rational act at one time will not so count at another time, and this is dependent on the context of reason that prevails.”5

Hence no more convicts, in the future one hopes no more refugees.

 

Profesor Hawkins. 'Untitled [Chinese women with handkerchief]' c. 1858-1875

 

Profesor Hawkins (Australian, active 1861-1875)
Photographic Artist
Untitled [Chinese women with handkerchief]
c. 1858-1875
20, Queensbury St Et. near Dight’s Mills, Melbourne
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
6.3cm x 10.4cm
© Joyce Evans collection

 

Jeffrey Hawkins was a professional photographer based in Melbourne.

 

J. R. Tanner. 'Untitled [Two woman wearing elaborate hats]' 1875

 

J. R. Tanner (Australian, active 1866-1899)
Untitled [Two woman wearing elaborate hats]
1875
96 Elizabeth Street
“Truth in a Pleasing Form”
Photographer and Photo-Enameler
“Permanent Pictures in Carbon”
“Imperishable Portrais on Enamel”
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
6.3cm x 10.4cm
© Joyce Evans collection

 

 

What Kim’s eloquent, minimal, brooding installation does is hold our attention and ask certain questions of us as human beings. If photography is a mode of visually addressing a certain order in the world – be it horror, war, peace, human tragedy, public, private – and then destabilising it, then Kim’s images destabilise the binary sea/sky through fragmentation and isolation. She redlines our experience and asks us to inhabit the non-space, the non-place of the gallery, allowing us to hover between boat and image, between sea and sky, between seeing and sky. Through her work she asks us to become more aware. She asks us to see things more clearly. Above all she asks us to have faith in the compassion of human beings. The asylum seekers have faith: faith to get into a fragile boat to venture upon the sea in search of a better life.

I will finish with a quote from Jeff Brown

“Sometimes we have to surrender to the not knowing. At other times, it is helpful to adventure outward and explore new possibilities. Like swashbucklers of the spirit, we bravely seek out any experience that might inform our path. When we are afraid of something, we live it fully and see what floats to the surface in the doing. We participate in our own revealing. We have faith in the shaping of what we cannot see.”6

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The seekers surrender to the not knowing and have faith in the shaping of what they cannot see. These risk takers are the strong ones that are going to make a difference in a new society by the very fact of their strength and determination to survive and live in a free society, for the very fact of the risks undertaken. This exhibition and this paper informs their path as it informs our path. Be aware of the doing, be bold and forthright in the being.

Dr Marcus Bunyan, July 2012

 

Endnotes

  1. Augé, Marc (trans. John Howe). Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995
  2. Ibid.,
  3. Hooper-Grenhill, Eilean. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. London: Routledge, 2000, p. 7
  4. Anon. “Panopticon,” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 09/03/2012 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon
  5. Hooper-Grenhill Op cit., p. 8
  6. Brown, Jeff quoted on Stroud, Jeff. The reluctant blogger website. [Online] Cited 09/03/2012 jeffstroud.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/884/

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

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Addendum – Australia from settlement to subjugation

The cartes de visite below is one of the most important cards that I have ever held.

Private John Dell (1763-1866) of the The New South Wales Corps. (Rum Corps.) “Renamed 1st /102nd Regiment of Foot” arrived on the ship Surprize of the Second Fleet on the 26 June 1790 (not, as stated in pencil on the verso of the card, in 1788). The Second Fleet has been regarded as being the three convict ships which arrived together at Sydney Cove in June 1790: these ships were the Surprize , Neptune, and Scarborough.

The Surprize weighed 400 tons, she was the smallest ship of the fleet, she proved an unsuitable vessel as for her size and she was a wet vessel even in clam waters. Sailing from England on January 19th 1790 with 254 male convicts. Her master was Nicholas Antis, formerly chief mate on the Lady Penrhyn in the First Fleet. The surgeon was William Waters. 36 convicts died on the voyage. Soldiers of the New South Wales Corps on board may have stayed. Some where convicts who later enlisted.

Private John Dell served in 102nd Foot Regiment. He was discharged aged 42 after 21 years 10 months of service. Covering dates give year of enlistment to year of discharge: 1789-1811. He enlisted on 3rd July 1789 and was discharged in May 1810. He married three times and had numerous children, dying in Tasmania on the 2nd March 1866. He was born on 5th of November 1763 so this would make him over the age of 87 when this photograph could have first been taken or, if later, between the age of 96-103. We can date this photograph from the time that W. Paul Dowling worked in Launceston (1851-1852 / 1859-1866).

We are looking at one of the first English migrants to ever settle in Australia during the invasion of the supposed terra nullius. This is an important photograph. The photographer obviously thought it was important to document the appearance of this person, present in the first two years of colonial settlement and later injured by an aborigine spear. For us, the photograph traverses the history of white Australia, from settlement to subjugation, from 1790 to 1866. One can only imagine the agony, the death and destruction that occurred during this man’s lifetime.

 

THE LATE MR. JOHN DELL (From the Melbourne Spectator)

The following reminiscences of the olden times were furnished to us by a gentleman who took them down as they fell from the lips of John Dell, the Greenwich pensioner, a few months before his, death, which happened at Launceston, in the early part of the present year: He was born, he said, at Reading, in Berkshire, on the 5th of November, 1763. He was one of a family of twenty four children. He remembered the excitement occasioned by the Gordon riots, and how the people gathered round the London coach which brought down the tidings of the tumult, incendiarism, and bloodshed. He was apprenticed with another Reading lad, to a veneer cutter in London; and as he and his fellow-apprentice were one day staring in at a shop window in Fleet-street, and observing to each other that there was nothing like that in Reading, they were accosted by a respectably dressed man, who said his wife was from Reading, and would so like to have a chat with them about the dear old place; would they go home to tea with him? They cheerfully assented; and were taken to a house in an obscure neighbourhood, at the back of the Fleet Prison…

“THE LATE MR. JOHN DELL,” in Launceston Examiner (Tas.: 1842-1899), 25 July 1866, p. 2. [Online] Cited 15 July, 2012 on the Trove website. nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36636642

 

DEATH OF MR JOHN DELL (From the The Cornwall Chronicle)

It is with feelings of sincere regret that we record tbe death of Mr. John Dell, at the patriarchal age of 102 years and four months. He had been ailing but a very short time, and had the use of his faculties to the last hour of his life. He was reading as usual without the use of spectacles, and out of bed on Thursday night, but be breathed his last yesterday, at the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. William Brean, of Brisbane Street, and his remains are to be interred on Monday.

Mr. Dell was born at Reading, in Berkshire, in 1763, and arrived in New South Wales with the 102nd Regiment of Foot, in 1790, in the ship ‘Surprize,’ the first of the fleet which brought convicts to Botany Bay, and he was present in Sydney during the whole of the period of the government of Governor Phillip, and at the arrest of Governor Bligh, who it will be remembered by those who have read the early history of New South Wales, was arrested by Colonel Johnson, the Colonel of the regiment in which Dell served, the 102nd. This corps was raised specially for service in New South Wales, and Mr. Dell returned with in 1808, and on board the vessel in which Governor Bligh died on the passage to England. He was pensioned in 1815, and has been in life receipt of a pension for more than half a century.

He arrived in this colony in 1818, and was for some time Chief Constable of Launceston, but retired many years ago from office, to a large farm at Norfolk Plains. Mr. Dell was the owner of very valuable property in this colony, though be did not die wealthy, the Court House Square belonged to him at one time, and he fenced it in, but subsequently he returned it to the Government in exchange for a grant of six hundred and forty acres of land in the country. Mr. Dell was a temperate man but not a teetotaller. It is strange that throughout his eventful career, be never learned to smoke, but this may account for the steadiness of his nerves to the latest day of his long life. He had encountered great hardships in New South Wales, having been in the bush there for three day disabled by a spear wound inflicted by an aborigine. He was in a very exhausted state when discovered, but his iron constitution enabled him to rally, and he was soon in as sound a state of health as ever.

For some years past his sight keener and his hair of a darker colour than they had been twenty years previous. He was rather eccentric of late, but no one from his hale appearance would suppose him to be much above seventy years of age. His voice was a good strong firm bass without a quaver in it. Very few men have ever been blessed with such a long period of interrupted sound health as Mr Dell. He will be missed and his death lamented by a wide circle of relatives and friends.

“DEATH OF MR JOHN DELL,” in The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas.: 1835-1880) Saturday 3rd March 1866. [Online] Cited 15 July, 2012 on the Trove website. trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/72358170

See the Rootsweb website for more information on John Dell.

 

W. Paul Dowling. Photographer. 'John Dell' 1851-1852 / 1859-1866

 

W. Paul Dowling (Australian, 1824-1877)
Photographer
John Dell
1851-1852 / 1859-1866
Launceston, Tasmania
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
6.3cm x 10.4cm
© Joyce Evans collection

John Dell
Born at Reading, Berkshire
5 Nov 1763
came out with his regiment (the 102nd) to Sydney in 1788
Nov 5th 1763

In pencil on verso

 

 

William Paul Dowling was a painter, engraver and photographer. In 1849 he was transported to Hobart Town as a political prisoner. Dowling worked in partnership with his photographer brother, Matthew Patrick Dowling until the latter accused William of selling his photographs as his own.

 

W. Paul Dowling. Photographer. 'John Dell' 1851-1852 / 1859-1866

 

W. Paul Dowling (Australian, 1824-1877)
Photographer
John Dell
1851-1852 / 1859-1866
Launceston, Tasmania
Cartes de visite
Albumen print
6.3cm x 10.4cm
© Joyce Evans collection

 

 

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02
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 23rd September 2012

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation' at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

Installation view of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt showing Victor Burgin’s Office at Night (Red), 1985

 

 

“To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”

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“Art Byting the Dust” Tony Fry 1990 1

 

 

They said that photography would be the death of painting. It never happened. Recently they thought that digital photography would be the death of analogue photography. It hasn’t happened for there are people who care enough about analogue photography to keep it going, no matter what. As the quotation astutely observes, the digital age has changed the conditions of production updating the techniques of montage and collage for the 21st century. Now through assemblage the composition may be prefigured but that does not mean that there are not echoes, traces and deposits of other technologies, other processes that are not evidenced in contemporary photography.

As photography influenced painting when it first appeared and vice versa (photography went through a period known as Pictorialism where where it imitated Impressionist painting), this exhibition highlights the influence of painting on later photography. Whatever process it takes photography has always been about painting with light – through a pinhole, through a microscope, through a camera lens; using light directly onto photographic paper, using the light of the scanner or the computer screen. As Paul Virilio observes, no longer is there a horizon line but the horizon square of the computer screen, still a picture plane that evidences the history of art and life. Vestiges of time and technology are somehow always present not matter what medium an artist chooses. They always have a complex afterlife and afterimage.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. I really don’t think it is a decomposition, more like a re/composition or reanimation.
PPS. Notice how Otto Steinert’s Luminogramm (1952, below), is eerily similar to some of Pierre Soulages paintings.

 

  1. Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp. 169-170

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation' at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

Installation view of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt showing at left, Thomas Ruff’s Substrat 10 (2002, below)

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Substrat 10' 2002

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Substrat 10
2002
C-type print
186 x 238cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation' at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

Installation view of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt showing Wolfgang Tillmans Paper drop (window) (2006, below)

 

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968)
paper drop (window)
2006
C-type print in artists frame
145 x 200cm
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Ein-Fuß-Gänger' 1950

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 39cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' c. 1923-25

 

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photogram
c. 1923-1925
Unique photogram, toned printing-out paper
12.6 x 17.6cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) '10-80-C-17 (NYC)' 1980

 

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008)
10-80-C-17 (NYC)
1980
From the series: In + Out of City Limits: New York / Boston
Gelatin silver print on fibre-based paper
58 x 73cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948) 'Sam Eric, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978) 'Luminogramm' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Luminogramm
1952, printed c. 1952
Gelatin silver print
41.5 x 60cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

From 27 June to 23 September 2012, the Städel Museum will show the exhibition “Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation.” The comprehensive presentation will highlight the influence of painting on the imagery produced by contemporary photographic art. Based on the museum’s own collection and including important loans from the DZ Bank Kunstsammlung as well as international private collections and galleries, the exhibition at the Städel will centre on about 60 examples, among them major works by László Moholy-Nagy, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall, and Amelie von Wulffen. Whereas the influence of the medium of photography on the “classic genres of art” has already been the subject of analysis in numerous exhibitions and publications, less attention has been paid to the impact of painting on contemporary photography to date. The show at the Städel explores the reflection of painting in the photographic image by pursuing various artistic strategies of appropriation which have one thing in common: they reject the general expectation held about photography that it will document reality in an authentic way.

The key significance of photography within contemporary art and its incorporation into the collection of the Städel Museum offer an occasion to fathom the relationship between painting and photography in an exhibition. While painting dealt with the use of photography in the mass media in the 1960s, today’s photographic art shows itself seriously concerned with the conditions of painting. Again and again, photography reflects, thematises, or represents the traditional pictorial medium, maintaining an ambivalent relationship between appropriation and detachment.

Numerous works presented in the Städel’s exhibition return to the painterly abstractions of the prewar and postwar avant-gardes, translate them into the medium of photography, and thus avoid a reproduction of reality. Early examples for the adaption of techniques of painting in photography are László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) photograms dating from the 1920s. For his photographs shot without a camera, the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus teacher arranged objects on a sensitised paper; these objects left concrete marks as supposedly abstract forms under the influence of direct sunlight. In Otto Steinert’s (1915-1978) non-representational light drawings or “luminigrams,” the photographer’s movement inscribed itself directly into the sensitised film. The pictures correlate with the gestural painting of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism. A product of random operations during the exposure and development of the photographic paper, Wolfgang Tillmans’ (b. 1968) work “Freischwimmer 54” (2004) is equally far from representing the external world. It is the pictures’ fictitious depth, transparency, and dynamics that lend Thomas Ruff’s photographic series “Substrat” its extraordinary painterly quality recalling colour field paintings or Informel works. For his series “Seascapes” the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948) seems to have “emptied” the motif through a long exposure time: the sublime pictures of the surface of the sea and the sky – which either blur or are set off against each other – seem to transcend time and space.

In addition to the photographs mentioned, the exhibition “Painting in Photography” includes works by artists who directly draw on the history of painting in their choice of motifs. The mise-en-scène piece “Picture for Women” (1979) by the Canadian photo artist Jeff Wall (b. 1946), which relates to Édouard Manet’s famous painting “Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère” from 1882, may be cited as an example for this approach. The camera positioned in the centre of the picture reveals the mirrored scene and turns into the eye of the beholder. The fictitious landscape pictures by Beate Gütschow (b. 1970), which consist of digitally assembled fragments, recall ideal Arcadian sceneries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The photographs taken by Italian Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) in the studio of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) “copy” Morandi’s still lifes by representing the real objects in the painter’s studio instead of his paintings.

Another appropriative strategy sees the artist actually becoming active as a painter, transforming either the object he has photographed or its photographic representation. Oliver Boberg’s, Richard Hamilton’s, Georges Rousse’s and Amelie von Wulffen’s works rank in this category. For her series “Stadtcollagen” (1998-1999) Amelie von Wulffen (b. 1966) assembled drawing, photography, and painting to arrive at the montage of a new reality. The artist’s recollections merge with imaginary spaces offering the viewer’s fantasy an opportunity for his or her own associations.

The exhibition also encompasses positions of photography for which painting is the object represented in the picture. The most prominent examples in this section come from Sherrie Levine (b. 1947) and Louise Lawler (b. 1947), both representatives of US Appropriation Art. From the late 1970s on, Levine and Lawler have photographically appropriated originals from art history. Levine uses reproductions of paintings from a catalogue published in the 1920s: she photographs them and makes lithographs of her pictures. Lawler photographs works of art in private rooms, museums, and galleries and thus rather elucidates the works’ art world context than the works as such.

Press release from the Städel Museum website

 

Sherrie Levine (b. 1947) 'After Edgar Degas' 1987 (detail)

 

Sherrie Levine (American, b. 1947)
After Edgar Degas (detail)
1987
5 lithographs on hand-made paper
69 x 56cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Frankfurt
© Sherrie Levine / Courtesy Jablonka Galerie, Köln

 

Beate Gütschow (German, b. 1970) 'PN #1' 2000

 

Beate Gütschow (German, b. 1970)
PN #1
2000
C-Print, mounted on aluminium dibond
Acquired in 2013, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Eigentum des Städelschen Museums-Vereins e.V.

 

 

… these images do not evoke a sense of the sublime. On closer inspection, not only is the virginity of nature lost forever, but the innocence of perception is also denied. The natural realms presented here are simply too beautiful to be true. The beauty, wildness, and potentially threatening aspects of nature have been skillfully merged into a decorative whole, as they were in landscape painting from the 17th through to the 19th century. Beate Gütschow’s photographic works reproduce traditional patterns of depiction, incorporating landscape elements that recall compositions by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682), Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), John Constable (1776-1837), and Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810). The subjects portrayed by these landscape painters were based on an idealised worldview, the construction of which reflected the dominant philosophical ethos of their time. The artists themselves, however, presented this ideal in a manner bordering on the absolute. …

Beate Gütschow photographs landscapes with a medium-format analog camera, then converts the images into digital files. From this archived material she then constructs new landscapes in Photoshop, basing their spatial arrangements and compositional structures on the principles of landscape painting. As part of this subsequent editing process, she adjusts the light and colours in the images, applying lighting techniques from the realm of painting to her photographs. Because Gütschow uses only the retouching tool and other traditional darkroom techniques offered by Photoshop, not its painting tools, the photographic surface is preserved and the joins between the component parts are not immediately visible. These digital tools make it possible to employ a painterly method without the resulting picture being a painting. The viewer is given the impression that this is a completely normal photograph. When, however, an ideal landscape is presented in the form of a photograph, it appears more unnatural than the painted version of the same view. In this way, Gütschow’s work explores concepts of representation, colour, and light – the formal attributes of painting and photography – as well as the distinctions between documentation and staging.

Extract from Gebbers, Anna-Catharina. “Larger than Life,” in Beate Gütschow: ZISLS. Heidelberg, 2016, pp. 8-17. Translated by Jacqueline Todd [Online] Cited 23/08/2022

 

Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) 'L'atelier de Giorgio Morandi, Bologne' 1989

 

Luigi Ghirri (Italian, 1943-1992)
L’atelier de Giorgio Morandi, Bologne
1989

 

 

Luigi Ghirri (5 January 1943 – 14 February 1992) was an Italian artist and photographer who gained a far-reaching reputation as a pioneer and master of contemporary photography, with particular reference to its relationship between fiction and reality.

 

Amelie von Wulffen (German, b. 1966) 'Untitled (City Collages, VIII)' 1998

 

Amelie von Wulffen (German, b. 1966)
Untitled (City Collages, VIII)
1998
Oil paint, photographs on paper
42 x 59.7cm
Acquired in 2009 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Eigentum des Städelschen Museums-Vereins e.V.

 

 

The starting point for Amelie von Wulffen’s city collages is the urban architecture which she has photographed herself. These photographs are affixed to a surface and then processed pictorially: the artist alienates the perspective, adds abstract patterns and confronts the scene with quirky objects. The painted forms and unreal connections intervene in the relationship to reality of the supposedly objective photograph. The combination of photograph and painting is accompanied by a reflection on the characteristics of the medium concerned. The photographic reproduction of a situation which has been experienced may adequately record the place but not necessarily the memory. With this in mind, the artist sees painting as a suitable medium to equip photography with an authentic means of expression. During the chemical process of photography, real objects are registered on the light-sensitive material, just as the mood of the place and the memory of the artist are translated into the painting process. With regard to form, Wulffen reveals a wealth of references to Constructivism, Surrealism and Dadaism.

Text from the Städel Museum website

 

 

 

Art after 1945: Amelie von Wulffen

In our “Art after 1945” series, artists introduce their artworks in the Städel collection. In this episode Amelie von Wulffen explains her series “Stadtcollagen”.

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, b. 1946) 'Picture for Women' 1979

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, b. 1946)
Picture for Women
1979
Cibachrome transparency in lightbox
204.5 × 142.5cm (80.5 in × 56.1 in)

 

 

Picture for Women is a photographic work by Canadian artist Jeff Wall. Produced in 1979, Picture for Women is a key early work in Wall’s career and exemplifies a number of conceptual, material and visual concerns found in his art throughout the 1980s and 1990s. An influential photographic work, Picture for Women is a response to Édouard Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère and is a key photograph in the shift from small-scale black and white photographs to large-scale colour that took place in the 1980s in art photography and museum exhibitions. …

Picture for Women is a 142.5 by 204.5 cm Cibachrome transparency mounted on a lightbox. Along with The Destroyed Room (1978), Wall considers Picture for Women to be his first success in challenging photographic tradition. According to Tate Modern, this success allows Wall to reference “both popular culture (the illuminated signs of cinema and advertising hoardings) and the sense of scale he admires in classical painting. As three-dimensional objects, the lightboxes take on a sculptural presence, impacting on the viewer’s physical sense of orientation in relationship to the work.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947) 'It Could Be Elvis' 1994

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
It Could Be Elvis
1994
Cibachrome, varnished with shellac
74.5 x 91cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

 

Oliver Boberg (German, b. 1965) 'Unterführung' [Underpass] 1997

 

Oliver Boberg (German, b. 1965)
Unterführung [Underpass]
1997
C-type print
75 x 84cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© Oliver Boberg / Courtesy L.A. Galerie – Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

 

Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) 'Eight-Self-Portraits' 1994 (detail)

 

Richard Hamilton (English, 1922-2011)
Eight-Self-Portraits (detail)
1994
Thermal dye sublimation prints
40 x 35cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968) 'Freischwimmer 54' 2004

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968)
Freischwimmer 54
2004
C-type in artists frame
237 x 181 x 6cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Städel Museum website

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11
Mar
12

Opening: ‘Traverse’ by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 8th April 2012

 

Installation of 'Traverse' by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

 

Installation of Traverse by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton
Installation photograph by Marcus Bunyan © Kim Percy and Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Many thanx to Jason, Magali and Kent for inviting me to the gallery, and Kim for asking me to open the exhibition – it was fun!

I have known Kim since the early 1990s when we both did our Bachelor of Arts in photography at RMIT University so it was wonderful to have opened her show yesterday. Reprinted below is the speech I gave at the opening with its musings on the (in)visibility of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia. I hope you enjoy reading the text. Marcus.

 

Opening speech by Dr Marcus Bunyan, 10th March 2012

Out of Sight, Out of Mind _______________

“What I am about to say, my musings if you like, are inspired by Kim’s wonderful installation. The work before you is the basis of my inquiry. The issues involved are difficult and not to be dealt with lightly but I hope you will follow my drift, my traverse if you like.

I would like to take you on a journey – physical, metaphorical and maybe even philosophical. I want to ask questions of the world, questions about the journey we all take as human beings. These questions are prompted by my personal response to two elements of Kim’s work – water and the journey, specifically the image of asylum seekers arriving here in Australia. Imagine being an asylum seeker making that journey.

Imagine living in an (in)between space, living in a refugee camp over there. Marc Augé coined the phrase “non-place” to refer to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places.”1 These camps are such places. Put yourself in that predicament, seeking a better life, seeking to escape persecution, war (of which we as a nation are often part), prejudice and death, deliberately placing yourself and your family in a fragile boat, like a seed pod floating upon the waters, taking the dangerous journey to reach Australia. Imagine the emotional and intellectual turmoil that must surround such a decision, the decision to place your life in the hands of the ocean. Important decisions affecting the entire course of one’s life are rarely made without some form of mental distress.

Nurtured in water, some baptised in it, water is the life-blood of the world and the asylum seeker must trust to its benevolence. Marc Augé “argues that we are in transit through non-place for more and more of our time, as if between immense parentheses.”2 This is the journey that the asylum seeker takes over water, a journey through an interstitial space that has no beginning and no end caught between a set of parentheses [insert life here / or not].

Now let us move our line of sight. What about a visual parentheses?

.
Asylum seekers are almost invisible from Australia living over there. They are over the horizon, out of sight and out of mind. When they journey across the sea – an open ended journey passing through a liminal space, a forgotten space – they suddenly appear as if by magic washed up on the shore, unseen despite surveillance planes, ships and other forms of tracking and reconnaissance. Think, for example, of the sudden and surprising arrival of the boat SIEV-221 when it was washed onto the rocks of Christmas Island in December 2010. The invisible made visible caught in a non-place.

This (in)visibility can be evidenced in other ways. The specks of humanity waving from the deck of the Tampa, the asylum seekers being escorted from arriving boats, seen for a few brief seconds on the evening news and then disappearing from view, almost like being sucked into the depths of the sea. Here and not here; here and there. Halfway between nothingness and being: they walk between one state and another, forward and backward, backward and forward.

.
Displacement
Diaspora
Disruption

.
The spectacle of the asylum seekers is despectacularised by and for the viewer. We remove ourselves from the emotion of these people, the presence of these images. They become ordinary as if seen from far away – glimpsed every so often as though viewing the world of another. They become Other.

The movement of the ship, the movement of the sky, the movement of vision is a constant decentering through a push / pull with something else – some other order of the world. Their journey into the unknown is a journey to submit to the ordering of another: the socially constructed system of classification: “refugee,” “asylum seeker.” The axis of visibility3 that operates in relation to subject, object, and space is not interrogated as to the representations that are constructed. This is what I am interested in here. These vital, alive human beings come from one taxonomic system (of ordered death, persecution, injustice), become visible from a brief instance, and are then fed into another taxonomic system of order – that of the detention centre.

Taking the metaphor of the horizon line further, I would argue that detention centres are like an inverted Panopticon. The Panopticon “is a type of institutional building, a prison, designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe all inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.”4 The guard sits in a central tower and can observe and inspect all prisoners on the outer 360 degree circle, while the prisoners cannot see the guard and can only presume he is there (an omnipresent God) and hence they behave.

Let us invert this concept.

Now the asylum seekers sit in the tower looking outwards, seeing the promised land but unable to touch it and the guards (prison officers, government, the Australian people) are all around but most are blind. They look inwards but cannot see / they look outwards and most go about their daily business. The perimeter fence of the detention centre becomes the horizon line of the sea. As in Kim’s red lined horizons, over the horizon is out of sight, out of mind _________________

.
What Kim’s eloquent, minimal, brooding installation does is hold our attention and ask certain questions of us as human beings. If photography is a mode of visually addressing a certain order in the world – be it horror, war, peace, human tragedy, public, private – and then destabilising it, then Kim destabilises the binary sea / sky through fragmentation and isolation. She redlines our experience and asks us to inhabit the non-space, the non-place of the gallery, allowing us to hover between boat and image, between sea and sky, between seeing and feeling. Through her work she asks us to become more aware. She asks us to see things more clearly. Above all she asks us to have faith in the compassion of human beings.

The asylum seekers have faith: faith to get into a fragile boat to venture upon the sea in search of a better life. If we had more faith in ourselves then we would have less need to rely on the images of the past, a white colonial past.

I will finish with a quote from Jeff Brown.

“Sometimes we have to surrender to the not knowing. At other times, it is helpful to adventure outward and explore new possibilities. Like swashbucklers of the spirit, we bravely seek out any experience that might inform our path. When we are afraid of something, we live it fully and see what floats to the surface in the doing. We participate in our own revealing. We have faith in the shaping of what we cannot see.”5

.
The seekers surrender to the not knowing and have faith in the shaping of what they cannot see. These risk takers are the strong ones that are going to make a difference in a new society by the very fact of their strength and determination to survive and live in a free society, for the very fact of the risks undertaken. This exhibition informs their path as it informs our path. Be aware of the doing, be bold and forthright in the being. Enjoy.

Thank you

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Augé, Marc (trans. John Howe). Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995
  2. Ibid.,
  3. Hooper-Grenhill, Eilean. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. London: Routledge, 2000, p. 7
  4. Anon. “Panopticon,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 09/03/2012
  5. Brown, Jeff. Soulshaping. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2009, np quoted on Stroud, Jeff. The reluctant blogger website. [Online] Cited 09/03/2012

 

 

Installation of 'Traverse' by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

 

Installation of 'Traverse' by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton

 

Installation of Traverse by Kim Percy at Stockroom, Kyneton
Installation photographs by Marcus Bunyan © Kim Percy and Marcus Bunyan

 

Kim Percy. 'Pale Sea' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Pale Sea
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Where' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Where
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Rough Water' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Rough Water
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Traverse' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Traverse
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Red Horizon No.1' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Red Horizon No.1
2012
Digital photograph

 

Kim Percy. 'Red Horizon No.2' 2012

 

Kim Percy (Australian)
Red Horizon No.2
2012
Digital photograph

 

 

Stockroom
98 Piper street, Kyneton
Phone: 03 5422 3215

Opening hours:
Thursday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 11am – 3pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Wednesday by appointment

Stockroom website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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