Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Martin Charcot

22
Jun
17

Exhibition: ‘Acting for the Camera’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 5th June 2017

Featured artists (selection): Ottomar Anschütz | Bill Brandt | Brassaï | Günter Brus | John Coplans | Hugo Erfurth | Trude Fleischmann | Seiichi Furuya | Eikoh Hosoe | Martin Imboden | Dora Kallmus | Rudolf Koppitz | Johann Victor Krämer | Heinrich Kühn | Helmar Lerski | O. Winston Link | Will McBride | Arnulf Rainer | Henry Peach Robinson | Otto Schmidt | Rudolf Schwarzkogler | Franz Xaver Setzer | Anton Josef Trčka | Erwin Wurm

 

 

Anonymous. 'The Sculptor Hans Gasser and Workshop Assistants at Work' 1855-1857

 

Anonymous
The Sculptor Hans Gasser and Workshop Assistants at Work
1855-1857
Daguerreotype
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna

 

 

I made this posting way before my operation, but have been unable to post until now because of my ongoing recuperation.

While the exhibition may have finished, I am so enamoured of the theme of the exhibition, the people and artists, that I think it’s valuable to have the posting, images and the additional research I did online. I especially like the striking work of Helmar Lerski and the “Aktionen” of Rudolf Schwarzkogler which reflect on the hurtfulness of the world, but remind me of the yet to come political art of the first wave of HIV/AIDS. What a beautiful installation as well…

Marcus

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

 

 

 

Ottomar Anschütz (German, 1846-1907)
Elektrischer Schnellseher
1886

 

Anton Josef Trčka. 'Egon Schiele' 1914

 

Anton Josef Trčka (Czech, 1893-1940)
Egon Schiele
1914
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Josef Anton Trčka, Antios (7. September 1893 Vienna – 16. March 1940), was a Czech photographer , painter, sculptor, draftsman, designer of tapestries and silver jewellery, collector of folk art Moravian, occasional antiquarian, poet and philosopher. He was a representative of Viennese Modernism, Art Movement, which influenced European culture of the 20th century…

Around 1910 the Trčka decided to study at the professional school of photography Lehr- Graphische und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna, one of the best in Europe. Coincidentally, at the school was Professor Karel Novák, in his time one of the most important personalities of the beginnings of art photography. In 1914 he got the opportunity to portray several leading personalities of Viennese Modernism. Among them was Gustav Klimt, Peter Alternberg and the 50 year old Josef Svatopluk Machar. However, the highlight for Trčka prewar contracts were the photographic series of portraits of Egon Schiele, which focused on facial expressions and hand gestures.

 

Franz Xaver Setzer. 'Conrad Veidt' 1919

 

Franz Xaver Setzer (Austrian, 1886-1939)
Conrad Veidt
1919
Gelatin Silver Print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Franz Xaver Setzer, actually Franz Anton Adolf (6 August 1886 in Vienna – 10 January 1939) was an Austrian photographer.

Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (22 January 1893 – 3 April 1943) was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Man Who Laughs (1928), and, after being forced to migrate to Britain by the rise of Nazism in Germany, his English-speaking roles in The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and, in Hollywood, Casablanca (1942). After a successful career in German silent film, where he was one of the best-paid stars of Ufa, he left Germany in 1933 with his new Jewish wife after the Nazis came to power. They settled in Britain, where he participated in a number of films before emigrating to the United States around 1941…

He starred in a few films, such as George Cukor’s A Woman’s Face (1941) where he received billing just under Joan Crawford’s and Nazi Agent (1942), in which he had a dual role as both an aristocratic German Nazi spy and as the man’s twin brother, an anti-Nazi American. His best-known Hollywood role was as the sinister Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (1942), a film which was written and began pre-production before the United States entered the war.

In 1943, at the age of fifty, he died of a massive heart attack while playing golf at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. In 1998, his ashes were placed in a niche of the columbarium at the Golders Green Crematorium in north London.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Dora Kallmus, Arthur Benda. 'Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste in their dance Märtyrer [Martyrs]' 1922

 

Dora Kallmus (Madame d’Ora) (Austrian, 1881-1963), Arthur Benda (German, 1885-1969)
Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste in their dance Märtyrer [Martyrs]
1922
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Dora Philippine Kallmus (20 March 1881 – 28 October 1963), also known as Madame D’Ora or Madame d’Ora, was an Austrian fashion and portrait photographer.

In 1907, she established her own studio with Arthur Benda in Vienna called the Atelier d’Ora or Madame D’Ora-Benda. The name was based on the pseudonym “Madame d’Ora”, which she used professionally. D’ora and Benda operated a summer studio from 1921 to 1926 in Karlsbad, Germany, and opened another gallery in Paris in 1925. She was represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal) and it was her intervention that saved the agency’s owner after his arrest by the Nazis, enabling him to flee to Paris from Vienna.

Her subjects included Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Tamara de Lempicka, Alban Berg, Maurice Chevalier, Colette, and other dancers, actors, painters, and writers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Arthur Benda (23 March 1885, in Berlin – 7 September 1969, in Vienna) was a German photographer. From 1907 to 1938 he worked in the photo studio d’Ora in Vienna, from 1921 as a partner of Dora Kallmus and from 1927 under the name d’Ora-Benda as the sole owner. …

In 1906, Arthur Benda met photographer Dora Kallmus, who also trained with Perscheid. When she opened the Atelier d’Ora on Wipplingerstrasse in Vienna in 1907, Benda became her assistant. The Atelier d’Ora specialised in portrait and fashion photography. Kallmus and Benda quickly made a name for themselves and soon supplied the most important magazines. The peak of renown was reached when Madame d’Ora photographed the present nobility in 1916 on the occasion of the coronation of Emperor Charles I as King of Hungary.

In 1921, Arthur Benda became a partner in Atelier d’Ora, which also ran a branch in Karlovy Vary during the season. In 1927 Arthur Benda took over the studio of Dora Kallmus, who had run a second studio in Paris since 1925, and continued it under the name d’Ora-Benda together with his wife Hanny Mittler. In addition to portraits, he mainly photographed nudes that made the new company name known in men’s magazines worldwide. A major order from the King of Albania Zogu I, who had himself and his family photographed in 1937 for three weeks by Arthur Benda in Tirana secured Arthur Benda financially. In 1938 he opened a new studio at the Kärntnerring in Vienna, which he continued to operate under his own name after the Second World War.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Anita Berber (10 June 1899 – 10 November 1928) was a German dancer, actress, and writer who was the subject of an Otto Dix painting. She lived during the time of the Weimar Republic. …

Her hair was cut fashionably into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled “The Dancer Anita Berber”. Her dancer friend and sometime lover Sebastian Droste, who performed in the film Algol (1920), was skinny and had black hair with gelled up curls much like sideburns. Neither of them wore much more than low slung loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage worn well below her small breasts.

Her performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber’s favourites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.

Aside from her addiction to narcotic drugs, she was also a heavy alcoholic. In 1928, at the age of 29, she suddenly gave up alcohol completely, but died later the same year. She was said to be surrounded by empty morphine syringes.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Rudolf Koppitz. 'In the Arms of Nature' 1923

 

Rudolf Koppitz (Austrian, 1884-1936)
In the Arms of Nature [self-portrait]
1923
Multicolour gum bichromate print
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna

 

 

Rudolf Koppitz (4 January 1884 – 8 July 1936), often credited as Viennese or Austrian, was a Photo-Secessionist whose work includes straight photography and modernist images. He was one of the leading representatives of art photography in Vienna between the world wars. Koppitz is best known for his works of the human figure including his iconic Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study” and his use of the nude in natural settings. …

After the [First World] war, Koppitz returned to the Institute to teach photography where in 1923 he took the nude self-portrait, In the Bosom of Nature [above], in which he framed himself by tree trunks, rocks, snowy mountains, and is posed to convey a dreamlike harmony reminiscent of a symbolist painting and graphic art. In c. 1925 Koppitz created his masterpiece, Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study” in which he photographed dancers from the Vienna State Opera; the nude dancer, credited to be the Russian Claudia Issatschenko but is more likely, her daughter, ballet dancer and choreographer, Tatyana Issatschenko Gsovsky, with her head thrown dramatically back and flanked by three dark-robed women, lends Bewegungsstudie to the highly decorative and symbolist tradition of the Viennese Jugendstil.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolf Koppitz
Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study)
1926
Multicolor gum bichromate print
Albertina, permanent loan of the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna

 

 

Rudolf Koppitz (4 January 1884 – 8 July 1936), often credited as Viennese or Austrian, was a Photo-Secessionist whose work includes straight photography and modernist images. He was one of the leading representatives of art photography in Vienna between the world wars. Koppitz is best known for his works of the human figure including his iconic Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study” and his use of the nude in natural settings….

Koppitz’s work is marked by a pronounced awareness of form, line, and the surface play of light and shadow. Early in his career, Koppitz was known for staging groups of subjects in the style of the Vienna Secession, the most well known example of this being his Bewegungsstudie, “Motion Study”.

Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study) is surely the most widely published and best known image in Austrian photography from the early decades of the last century. This is for good reason, as no photograph better captures the cultural strands that characterized the Austrian avant-garde at that time. Here one can see a graphic strength and compositional clarity that reflects the modernist ambitions initiated in the fine as in the applied arts by the Secession and by the Wiener Werkstätte. But what gives the image its power is the aura of mystery, of symbolist sensuality that resonates through this enigmatic grouping of the three uniformly coiffed and draped figures and the one single naked figure.” ~ Christies

Bewegungsstudie’s languid nude, elaborately robed women and undeniable sensuality, in the context of its rigorous and artistic composition, bring to mind the sexual morbidity of Viennese artists like Gustav Klimt and Alphonse Mucha, as well as the Swiss symbolist painter Ferdinand Hodler and has made it as unforgettable then as it is today. It has become the Koppitz’s signature image, and was also his best-seller. Prints of the image were purchased by, among others, the Toledo Museum of Art; the New York Camera Club notable Joseph Bing, head of that club’s print committee; and the Englishman Stephen Tyng, who published it in a small portfolio of works from his collection.

His earliest works show evidence of influence by Gustav Klimt, Japanese art, Art Nouveau and Constructivism. During the First World War, Koppitz’s photographs took on a documentary quality when his photographs became more simple and direct in their subject matter and composition. Koppitz’s work came of age during the inter-war period when most of Austria’s photographers were supporters of art photography. Photographs from that time are full of symbolic meanings often capturing nude and clothed dancers as well as liberal use of both male and female, many of which were of Koppitz himself and female nudes placed in elements of nature and posed to give the impression of a Greek or Roman statue…

Although he did not possess a consistent style, Koppitz was a virtuoso of the dark room, seemingly determined to make the photograph as much of an art object as possible. His beautifully grainy, subtly tinted images align him with American Pictorialists like Edward Steichen and Clarence Smith. Koppitz’s work, much of it using the gum bichromate process, reflected his links with modern artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and their involvement with the ‘life reform’ movement including; nudism, sun culture, and expressive dance popular in Central Europe from the early 1900s as well as agrarian romanticism. Koppitz’s extraordinary mastery of pictorial processes – pigment, carbon, gum, and bromoil process of transfer printing – gained the respect of his colleagues throughout the world and garnered mention in the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1929.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Trude Fleischmann. 'Actress and Dancer Lucy Kieselhausen' c. 1925

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990)
Actress and Dancer Lucy Kieselhausen
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Trude Fleischmann (22 December 1895 – 21 January 1990) was an Austrian-born American photographer. After becoming a notable society photographer in Vienna in the 1920s, she re-established her business in New York in 1940. …

In 1920, at the age of 25, Fleischmann opened her own studio close to Vienna’s city hall. Her glass plates benefitted from her careful use of diffuse artificial light. Photographing music and theatre celebrities, her work was published in journals such as Die Bühne, Moderne Welt, ‘Welt und Mode and Uhu. She was represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal). In addition to portraits of Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos, in 1925 she took a nude series of the dancer Claire Bauroff which the police confiscated when the images were displayed at a Berlin theatre, bringing her international fame. Fleischmann also did much to encourage other women to become professional photographers.

With the Anschluss in 1938, Fleischmann was forced to leave the country. She moved first to Paris, then to London and finally, together with her former student and companion Helen Post, in April 1939 to New York. In 1940, she opened a studio on West 56th Street next to Carnegie Hall which she ran with Frank Elmer who had also emigrated from Vienna. In addition to scenes of New York City, she photographed celebrities and notable immigrants including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oskar Kokoschka, Lotte Lehmann, Otto von Habsburg, Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi and Arturo Toscanini. She also worked as a fashion photographer, contributing to magazines such as Vogue. She established a close friendship with the photographer Lisette Model.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lucy Kieselhausen was born in 1897 in Vienna, Austria. She was an actress, known for Tausend und eine Frau. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Junggesellen (1918), Erdgeist (1923) and Die siebente Großmacht (1919). She was a student of Grete Wiesenthal and was celebrated as a successful dancer at the beginning of the 20th century who had great successes on German stages. Besides her dancing activity she also wrote the dance drama “Salambo”, which was set to music by Heinz Tiessen. She died in December 1926 in Berlin, Germany.

“Around 1915 another Viennese, Lucy Kieselhausen (1897-1927), began specializing in performing waltzes. She, too, had evolved out of ballet culture, but her embodiment of the waltz was virtually opposite that of Wiesenthal. She favoured luxuriously decorative hothouse costumes and the utmost refinement of movement. For her the waltz was not a lyrical expansion of space into the freedom of nature but an almost perfumed distillation of the stirrings within an opulent boudoir, with its scenography of exquisite privileges and voluptuous secrets. An adroit sense of irony shaded her movements with a abruptly “bizarre and jerky” rhythms; “her joyfully flashing temperament did not hover on a smooth surface but over a shadowy abyss from which issued her fool’s dance with its slumbering, half-animal rapture.” Her curious appropriation of the waltz ended suddenly when she died in a benzine explosion.”

Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 161-162.

 

Hugo Erfurth. 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (German, 1874-1948)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna – permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science

 

 

Hugo Erfurth (14 October 1874 – 14 February 1948) was a German photographer known for his portraits of celebrities and cultural figures of the early twentieth century. …

During the next ten years [after 1896] he ran the Schröder studio, then established his own studio, art gallery, and home in the Palais Lüttichau. He became a member of the German Werkbund and was appointed an honorary member of the London’s Royal Photographic Society and of Munich’s Süddeutsche Photographen-Verein. He married Helene Reuther in 1898 and fathered three children over the next 6 years. He photographed for the Royal Playhouse in Dresden from 1913-1919.

During this time, Dresden was home to a cultural elite that included Otto Dix, Erich Heckel, Paul Klee, and Oskar Kokoschka. These artists and writers, who considered Erfurth their creative equal, frequented his studio to have their portraits taken. He also photographed opera and dance performers, did work in industrial photography, and experimented with photograms and photomontage.

In 1922, Erfurth opened a gallery under the name “Graphisches Kabinett Hugo Erfurth” with an exhibition of works by Oskar Kokoschka. In 1925, works by Emil Nolde were shown and the exhibition “7 Bauhaus Masters” was organised, with works by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, among others. The gallery also supported young Dresden artists such as Hans Grundig, Wilhelm Lachnit, and Kurt Schütze.

By the late 1920s, Erfurth had established himself as one of Germany’s leading portraitists and was known for a broad range of work around photography…

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship…

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and. with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff”. Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Martin Imboden. 'The Dancer Gertrud Kraus' c. 1929

 

Martin Imboden (Swiss, 1893-1935)
The Dancer Gertrud Kraus
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Martin Imboden (born November 10, 1893 in Stans, Nidwalden; died August 19, 1935 in Zurich ) was a Swiss photographer. …

Born into a Swiss working-class family, Imboden first trained as a cabinetmaker 1909-1912 and worked as a carpenter in Switzerland and in France 1913-1917 then in Basel and Zurich 1918-1929. It was only in 1923 that he began to take photographs.

In 1929 Imboden moved to Vienna, where he began to work as a freelance architectural photographer, at the same time undertaking courses at the Urania (opened in 1910 by Franz Joseph I of Austria as an educational facility with a public observatory and named after the Muse Urania who represents Astronomy) and at the Photosezession which had inspired Steiglitz’s 1902 American version.

Imboden had arrived in the city during the peak of Red Vienna (1918 to 1934) when the Socialist Workers’ Party of German Austria repeatedly won absolute majorities in the elections to parliament and local council. The Socialists undertook extensive multi-storey social housing projects on the back of a fiscal policy that brought bold reforms in the social, health and education policies. He photographed many of these municipal buildings.

At this time he encountered Gertrud Kraus and her New School of Arts which she had opened in 1927 in Vienna. It was a private school for rhythmic gymnastics and artistic dance. In this rare group of images he documents Kraus’s own energetic and expressionist performances.

Interest in modern, or ‘free’, dance was not uncommon, especially in the German area, but also worldwide, in the first half of the 20th century given the popularity of physical culture Körperkultur, the hygiene and care of one’s own body.

Kraus devised training particularly to improve the physical health of women. Through her program many young women, including Jula Isenburger and Mia Slavenska, ventured into and found success in a career in dance and movement. Imboden’s photography pays tribute to their strength of personality and physical presence through this series of portraits.

His approach is clearly experimental, though it is Photo-Secessionist rather than Modernist in spirit. The lighting is appropriately theatrical, intensifying the performative nature of these portraits in which the self-contained concentration of each young woman is paramount. He used bromoil and carbon printing, favourite printing techniques of the Pictorialist photographers, which enable adjustment of lights and intensification of darks through the application of a brush during development, with a painterly quality and warmth, often on hand-laid papers. There is no sense that these women are posing for a male gaze (the gaze of only one meets the lens) and in fact it is hard to find full-length photographs of these individuals by Imboden…

James McArdle. “November 10: Dance,” on the On This Date In Photography website 10/11/2016 [Online] Cited 19/12/2021

 

Gertrud Kraus (Hebrew: גרטרוד קראוס‎; 5 May 1901 – 13 November 1977) was an Israeli pioneer of modern dance in Israel. …

In the 1920s, Gertrud Kraus’s style was known as expressionistic dance, or German dance. In 1929 Gertrud Kraus, together with Gisa Geert, was chief assistant to Rudolf von Laban, director of a trade union parade during the “Vienna Festival” in Vienna.

In 1930, an impresario invited her to perform in Mandate Palestine. Her tour was a great success and she was invited back the following season. In 1933, her company performed her work Die Stadt wartet (“The City Waits”), presenting the modern metropolis as a fascinating but dangerous place. It was based on a short story by Maxim Gorki. On the night that Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany, Kraus’s company performed this piece on the open-air stage in the Burg-garden next to the Hofburg.

In 1933, while she was in Prague performing for the Zionist Congress, leaders of a Czech communist cell contacted her and tried to recruit her for their purposes. The next day, she went to the Palestine Office in Prague, and applied for immigration. Kraus moved to Tel Aviv in 1935, first living with friends and then renting a basement that became her studio. She formed a modern dance company affiliated with the Tel Aviv Folk Opera, which was probably the only one of its kind in the world. In 1949, she won a scholarship to travel to the United States to learn the newest trends in modern dance.

In 1950-1951, she founded the Israel Ballet Theatre, and became its artistic director. The company folded after a year due to financial difficulties. Until her death in 1977, Kraus devoted herself to teaching dance, as well as painting and sculpture.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

The work of Jan Coplans left and centre

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures at right

Installation view of the exhibition 'Acting for the Camera' at the Albertina, Vienna, March - June 2017

 

Installation views of the exhibition Acting for the Camera at the Albertina, Vienna, March – June 2017

 

 

With circa 120 works from the Albertina’s Photographic Collection, the exhibition Acting for the Camera examines the diverse ways in which models are staged or stage themselves before the camera. The featured photographic works, created between the 1850s and the present, represent a cross-section of photographic history as well as the diversity of the Albertina’s own holdings. The present selection is divided between six thematic emphases: motion studies, models for artists, dance, picture stories, portraits of actresses and actors, and Viennese Actionist stagings of the body.

All of these photographs arose from diverse and multi-layered forms of collaboration between the model before and the photographer behind the camera lens. Some of the models are staged according to their photographers’ instructions, while other shots originated via a creative process in which model and photographer collaborated on an equal footing. And in some cases, the pictures were even taken according to highly specific instructions given by the model.

 

Beginnings

It was photographic studies done in the interest of scientific research that made it possible for the first time to visually analyse the processes of human locomotion in high detail. Anonymous models, such as in the photographs taken by Ottomar Anschütz beginning around 1890, made themselves available in order to render understandable processes such as spear-throwing. The individuals seen in such works act according to the exact instructions of the photographer. Series of this type were used to compare the motion patterns of “healthy” and “unhealthy” bodies as well as undergird medical theories with visual evidence.

While such motion studies occasionally doubled as working studies for artworks by other artists, there was also a category of works created specifically for this purpose such as Johann Victor Krämer’s staged studio photographs as well as Otto Schmidt’s nudes, and some of these were also sold “under the table” as pornography.

 

Expressive Gestures

A strong and likewise mutually influential relationship arose between photography and dance. At the beginning of the 20th century, modern expressionist dance was an avant-garde art form, and dancers would work together closely with photographers in order to document and disseminate their performances. Such partnerships made possible expressive stagings that helped define the styles of that era. The expressive gestures often seen therein were also taken up by Anton Josef Trčka, who had Egon Schiele pose with a hand position reminiscent of something one might see in dance.

Portraits of well-known actors such as a laughing Romy Schneider, along with role-portraits for film productions, were created in Viennese studios by photographers such as Trude Fleischmann and Madame d’Ora, and these iconic pictures represent yet another emphasis in this presentation.

 

Bodies as Photographic Material

Much like the way in which classic portraits convey the personalities of those being portrayed, photography can also stage the body in the opposite way, as something purely material. Helmar Lerski, for example, treated the human face as a landscape that could be modelled by light and shadow. John Coplans, on the other hand, explored his own naked body centimetre by centimetre, portraying himself without his head and thus questioning stagings of masculinity and social norms.

In Viennese Actionism, the artists likewise placed themselves front and centre as pictorial subjects. Rudolf Schwarzkogler, who wrapped himself like a mummy in muslin bandages during the late 1960s, as well as his Actionist colleague Günter Brus, staged performances specifically for the photographic camera. And the newest works in Acting for the Camera are as recent as Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures, for which the artist had models assume ridiculous poses with everyday objects.

Following Black & White (2015) and Landscapes & People (2016), this is the third large-scale presentation of the Albertina’s Photographic Collection. The Albertina, as a treasure trove of visual knowledge, began collecting photographs all the way back in the mid-19th century – but it was only upon the establishment of the Photographic Collection in 1999 that these fascinating works were rediscovered.

Press release from the Albertina

 

Helmar Lerski. 'Metamorphosis 601' (Metamorphose 601) 1936

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis through Light #601 (Metamorphose 601)
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Helmar Lerski. 'Metamorphosis through Light #587' 1935-36

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis through Light #587
1935-36
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Helmar Lerski: Metamorphosis

… In 1915 Lerski returned to Europe and started a career in cinematography. For over ten years, he worked as a cameraman, lighting technician and expert on special effects for numerous expressionistic silent films in Berlin, among others Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1925/26). At the end of the 1920s, he turned his attention once again to portrait photography and took part in the avant-garde movement that was trying to effect radical changes in the language of the photographic image. At the legendary Werkbund exhibition “Film und Foto” (1929), at which the New Photography made its greatest appearance at first in Stuttgart and subsequently in Zurich, Lerski – who had in the meantime become the best-known portrait photographer of his time – was well represented with 15 photographs.

But Lerski’s pictures were only partly in line with the maxims of the New Photography, and they questioned the validity of pure objectivity. The distinguishing characteristics of his portraits included a theatrical-expressionistic, sometimes dramatic use of lighting inspired by the silent film. Although his close-up photographs captured the essential features of a face – eyes, nose and mouth –, his primary concern was not individual appearance or superficial likeness but the deeper inner potential: he emphasised the changeability, the different faces of an individual. Lerski, who sympathised with the political left wing, thereby infiltrated the photography of types that was practised (and not infrequently misused for racist purposes) by many of Lerski’s contemporaries.

In his book “Köpfe des Alltags” (1931), a milestone in the history of photographic books, Lerski clearly expressed his convictions: he showed portraits of anonymous people from the underclass of the Berlin society, presenting them as theatrical figures so that professional titles such as “chamber maid”, “beggar” or “textile worker” appeared as arbitrarily applied roles. Thus his photographs may be interpreted as an important opposite standpoint to the work of August Sander, who was at the same time working on his project “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts” – that large-scale attempt at a social localisation of various representatives of the Weimar society.

But Helmar Lerski’s attitude was at its most radical in his work entitled “Metamorphosis”. This was completed within a few months at the beginning of 1936 in Palestine, to where Lerski and his second wife Anneliese had immigrated in 1932. In “Verwandlungen durch Licht” (this is the second title for this work), Lerski carried his theatrical talent to extremes. With the help of up to 16 mirrors and filters, he directed the natural light of the sun in constant new variations and refractions onto his model, the Bernese-born, at the time out-of-work structural draughtsman and light athlete Leo Uschatz. Thus he achieved, in a series of over 140 close-ups “hundreds of different faces, including that of a hero, a prophet, a peasant, a dying soldier, an old woman and a monk from one single original face” (Siegfried Kracauer). According to Lerski, these pictures were intended to provide proof “that the lens does not have to be objective, that the photographer can, with the help of light, work freely, characterise freely, according to his inner face.” Contrary to the conventional idea of the portrait as an expression of human identity, Lerski used the human face as a projection surface for the figures of his imagination. We are only just becoming aware of the modernity of this provocative series of photographs.

Peter Pfrunder. “Helmar Lerski: Metamorphosis,” on the Fotostiftung Schweiz 2005 [Online] Cited 17/12/2021

 

Wall texts

Motion Studies

Photographs taken in the context of scientific experimental arrangements visualise the different phases of human and animal locomotion sequences. Several cameras are mounted one after another, their shutters release at short intervals while the model is moving. Shortly after Eadweard Muybridge, who makes a name for himself with motion studies of racehorses in 1877, achieves his first successes, the physician Étienne-Jules Marey and the photographers Ottomar Anschütz and Albert Londe also dedicate themselves to capturing movement sequences photographically. Londe works with Jean-Martin Charcot, a neurologist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière psychiatric hospital in Paris. Anonymous models have to perform certain movements defined by the scientists. The photographs are used to compare the movement patterns of “healthy” and”unhealthy” people and to provide visual evidence for medical theories. Artists interested in the anatomically correct representation of movements use the photographs as models.

 

Models for Artists

Photographs are used as a workaround in the fine arts quite early on; special collections are compiled. Photographs of models in motion, for example, come to replace preparatory drawings after nature. The expanding demand for photographic material creates a new market for professional studios. The Viennese photographer and publisher Otto Schmidt produces body and facial expression studies as well as nudes (so-called academies). Since these photographs, thanks to their erotic pictorial repertoire, enjoy great popularity not only with artists, Schmidt’s circle of customers keeps growing.

The reduction in price and the easier handling of the photographic material increases the number of artists that take up a camera themselves. The painter Johann Victor Krämer has his models pose in front of half-finished paintings to check or complete their posture and gestures. Grids drawn on the photographs sometimes help to transfer subjects to the canvas.

 

Dance

Germany’s and Austria’s cultural scenes of the early twentieth century see the triumphant progress of modern expressionist dance. Many dancers develop choreographies and movement vocabularies of their own. They visit photographic studios, commissioning presentation and promotion materials. The artists present themselves in the costumes of the performances they currently star in on the stage.

Photographers resort to various possibilities for their dance studies. Hugo Erfurth relies on sequences to convey the flow of movements. The emphasis is on the dancer’s pose in these photographs from the early days of modern dance. Shadows are eliminated by massive retouches, since the pictures were to be reproduced in the book Der Künstlerische Tanz unserer Zeit (The Artistic Dance of Our Time, 1928), published by Langewiesche. Martin Imboden, on the other hand, focuses on the expression of the artistic performance in his static suggestive photographs.

 

Picture Stories

Restaging paintings and other works of art is a favourite pastime of the upper middle classes and the aristocracy in the nineteenth century. Costumed amateur actors adopting rigid poses for a few moments present the “living pictures” at certain events. The emergence of photography makes it possible to reenact these fleeting performances in the studio and to preserve them for the long term. The theatrical group photos are sold as editions on the art market or used as models to emulate.

Henry Peach Robinson is one of those who devote themselves to staging photographs in a way that lean on the tradition of tableaux vivants. Brassaï’s and Bill Brandt’s photo reportages, which seem to document nocturnal scenes the photographers chanced upon, are actually staged for the occasion. Brandt, for example, has members of his family embody precisely conceived parts in his mysteriously toned series A Night in London. The American O. Winston Link, who shows a penchant for steam engines, plans his pictures in every detail. Relying on an elaborate flash technique and the use of spotlights, his photographs, taken in the open and by night, exhibit a filmic aesthetic.

 

Portraits of Actresses and Actors

In Vienna, Madame d’Ora, Franz Xaver Setzer, and Trude Fleischmann specialise in portraits of performing artists from the 1910s to the 1930s. They not only catered to the public’s great demand; focusing on the cultural scene’s clientele also ties in with the personal interest of the studios’ owners. The models collaborate with the photographers to realise the desired notions regarding their appearance and the interpretation of their look. Stars from the theatre world choose the costume, make-up, and pose they prefer for their photographic portraits. Some of the character portraits and scenic representations show sweepingly theatrical gestures. Film actresses and actors are only rarely captured in traditional character portraits in the early days of the medium. Setzer’s portrait of Conrad Veidt, who stars in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1919, is an exception. The lighting and styling as well as his facial expression and the expressive gesture of his hand mirror the film’s Expressionism.

 

Actionist Stagings of the Body

The Actionist art gaining momentum from the 1960s on shows itself inseparably bound up with photography. Next to film, photography is the only way to provide live documentations of performances. Some actions are specifically staged for the photo camera. From about the mid-1960s on, the Viennese Actionist artists Günter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler realise constellations of bodies and objects for photographs that are intended as visual works of art.

Arnulf Rainer, whose grimaces, like the Vienna Actionists’s works, are aimed at criticising the socially standardised body, also poses for a photographer. The photographer was not supposed to pursue an artistic approach of his own but to neutrally capture the given representations of the body. After the pictures were taken, Rainer defines the final image area and overpaints the photos by relying on gestural techniques that emphasise physical and emotional moments of expression.

John Coplans combines observations on the representation of the body with reflections on the nature of media. Using a straightforward and precise exposure technique and keen on obtaining sharp pictures, he confronts the viewer with defamiliarised views of his body transforming it into sculptural fragments. The humorous and absurd poses in which models present themselves for Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures with the help of everyday objects are often based on drawn studies and are captured in factual photographs lending the ephemeral performances durability.

 

Will McBride. 'Romy Schneider in Paris' 1964, printed 2001

 

Will McBride (American, 1931-2015)
Romy Schneider in Paris
1964, printed 2001
Gelatin Silver Print
Albertina, Vienna
© Will McBride Estate/Berlin

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler. '2nd Action' 1965

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler (Austrian, 1940-1969)
2nd Action
1965
Gelatin Silver Print

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler. '3rd Action' 1965

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler (Austrian, 1940-1969)
3rd Action
1965
Gelatin Silver Print

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler. '4th Action' 1965

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler (Austrian, 1940-1969)
4th Action
1965
Gelatin Silver Print

 

 

Rudolf Schwarzkogler (13 November 1940, Vienna – 20 June 1969, Vienna) was an Austrian performance artist closely associated with the Viennese Actionism group that included artists Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, and Hermann Nitsch.

He is best known today for photographs depicting his series of closely controlled “Aktionen” featuring such iconography as a dead fish, a dead chicken, bare light bulbs, coloured liquids, bound objects, and a man wrapped in gauze. The enduring themes of Schwarzkogler’s works involved experience of pain and mutilation, often in an incongruous clinical context, such as 3rd Aktion (1965) in which a patient’s head swathed in bandages is being pierced by what appears to be a corkscrew, producing a bloodstain under the bandages. They reflect a message of despair at the disappointments and hurtfulness of the world.

Schwarzkogler devoted himself entirely to free art from 1965 and quit his job. He started out with horse betting and was interested in winning systems. In 1968 he took part in film projects. In 1969, he died after falling from the window of his apartment. He was buried at the Vienna Central Cemetery.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Seiichi Furuya. 'Christine Furuya Gössler' 1983; printed 1988

 

Seiichi Furuya (Japanese, b. 1950)
Christine Furuya Gössler
1983; printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Seiichi Furuya (古屋 誠一, Furuya Seiichi, born 1950) in Izu, Shizuoka is a Japanese photographer.

As a student Furuya studied architecture and then spent two years at Tokyo College of Photography. In 1973 he left his studies and his native Japan and traveled, ending up, according to Arthur Ollman in his book, The Model Wife, “a man in exile. He wears alienation like an obligation.” In Austria where he lived since 1982 he met and married Christine Gössler. From 1984 to 1987 he lived in East Berlin and worked as translator. Christine was to become the primary subject of his photography until her suicide in 1985. His last pictures of her are of her shoes, neatly placed by the window she had just jumped out of, and her body, shot from the same window, on the ground, nine stories below.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

“The other person is absent as a point of reference but present as an addressee. This strangely warped situation causes an unbearable presence: You are gone (which I lament); you are here (because I am turning to you).” ~ Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

“If you consider the taking of photographs to be in a sense a matter of fixing time and space, then this work – the documenting of the life of one human being – is exceptionally thrilling… in facing her, in photographing her, and looking at her in photographs, I also see and discover “myself.”” ~ Seiichi Furuya, 1979

.
Seiichi Furuya and Christine Gössler would soon marry, and they would later have a child, Komyo. Throughout their seven years together, Christine would plunge in and out of depressions and psychiatric institutions. And one Sunday in October of 1985, she would jump to her death from the 9th floor of their apartment building in East Berlin. Furuya photographed her throughout, to the very end. And this faithful and macabre portrait making would become his artistic and philosophical project.

Stacey Platt. “The Art of Losing Love, pt.2: Seiichi Furuya and Christine Gössler,” on the space in between website October 28, 2004 [Online] Cited 17/12/2021

 

Erwin Wurm. 'One Minute Sculpture' 1997

 

Erwin Wurm (Austrian, b. 1954)
One Minute Sculpture
1997
Silver dye bleach print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Erwin Wurm (born 1954) is an Austrian artist born in Bruck an der Mur, Styria, Austria. He lives and works in Vienna and Limberg, Austria. …

Since the late 1980s, he has developed an ongoing series of One Minute Sculptures, in which he poses himself or his models in unexpected relationships with everyday objects close at hand, prompting the viewer to question the very definition of sculpture. He seeks to use the “shortest path” in creating a sculpture – a clear and fast, sometimes humorous, form of expression. As the sculptures are fleeting and meant to be spontaneous and temporary, the images are only captured in photos or on film.

To make a One Minute Sculpture, the viewer has to part with his habits. Wurm’s instructions for his audience are written by hand in a cartoon-like style. Either Wurm himself or a volunteer follow the instructions for the sculpture, which is meant to put the body in an absurd and ridiculous-looking relationship with everyday objects. Whoever chooses to do one of Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures holds the pose for a minute, or the time it takes to capture the scene photographically. These positions are often difficult to hold; although a minute is very short, a minute for a One Minute Sculpture can feel like an eternity.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Erwin Wurm. 'One Minute Sculpture' 1997

 

Erwin Wurm (Austrian, b. 1954)
One Minute Sculpture
1997
Silver dye bleach print
Albertina, Vienna

 

 

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31
Jan
16

Exhibition: ‘Art Nouveau. The Great Utopia’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2015 – 7th February 2016

Among the artists exhibited are: Emile Bernard, Edward Burne-Jones, Peter Behrens, Carlo Bugatti, Mariano For-tuny, Loïe Fuller, Emile Gallé, Paul Gauguin, Karl Gräser, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, Fernand Khnopff, René Lalique, Elena Luksch-Makowsky, Charles R. Mackintosh, Madame D’Ora, Louis Majorelle, Paula Modersohn-Becker,  William Morris, Alfons Mucha, Richard Riemerschmid, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Louis C. Tiffany, Henry van de Velde.

 

 

Sports at the beach in Wyk on the island of Föhr c. 1912

 

Anonymous photographer
Sports at the beach in Wyk on the island of Föhr
Sanatorium Carl Gmelin, c. 1912
Collection The Ingwersen Family
© Fotoarchiv Ingwersen Wyk

 

 

What a memorable exhibition!

The presentation of the work is excellent, just what one would hope for, and the works themselves are magnificent – objects that you would hope existed, but didn’t know for sure that they did.

Particularly interesting are the use of large historical photographs of the objects in use in situ, behind the actual object itself; the presence of large three-dimensional structures (such as the Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice, 1894-1900) built in the gallery; and the welcome lack of “wallpaper noise” (as I call it) that has dogged recent exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria (eg. the ongoing Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei exhibition). It is so nice to be able to contemplate these objects without the additional and unnecessary “noise” of competing wallpaper behind each object.

The work itself reflects the time from which it emanates – visual, disruptive, psychological, technical, natural, beautiful and sensual – locating “Art Nouveau in its historical context of ideas as a reform movement with all its manifold facets and extremes. Adopting a particular focus on the relationship between nature and technology, [the exhibition] illuminates the most varied disciplines, ranging far beyond the movement of arts and crafts and reaching as far as the history of medicine and the technology of film-making… The ideal of superior craft in contrast to industrial articles collides with the commercial idea of competition and the marketing strategies at that time. Therefore the exhibition project manoeuvres at the intersection of utopia and capitalism.”

One of the most vital periods of creativity in all fields in recent history.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) 'Manao Tupapau (The Ghost of the Dead awakens)' 1894

 

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903)
Manao Tupapau (The Ghost of the Dead awakens)
Manao Tupapau (Der Geist der Toten wacht) | Manao Tupapau (The Spirit Watches Over Her)

1894
Lithograph on zinc sheet
Sheet: 30.6 x 46cm
© Kunsthalle Bremen – Der Kunstverein in Bremen

 

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) 'Lying Female Nude' Vienna, 1914-15

 

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918)
Lying Female Nude
Vienna, 1914-15
Pencil
37.6 x  57.1cm
© Wien Museum

 

Anne Brigman (1869–1950) 'The Wondrous Globe' 1912

 

Anne Brigman (American, 1869-1950)
The Wondrous Globe
1912
Photogravure (from Camera Work)
21.1 x 19.9cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

George Méliès (1861-1938) (Regie) 'Voyage to the Moon' 1902

 

George Méliès (French, 1861-1938) (Regie)
Le Voyage dans la Lune | Die Reise zum Mond | Voyage to the Moon
France, 1902
16 Min.
© BFI National Archive

 

 

 

A Trip to the Moon – the 1902 Science Fiction Film by Georges Méliès

A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la Lune) is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. It’s considered one of the first science fiction film.

A Trip to the Moon ( Le Voyage dans la Lune) is a 1902 French adventure film directed by Georges Méliès. Inspired by a wide variety of sources, including Jules Verne’s novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, the film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon’s surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return to Earth with a captive Selenite. It features an ensemble cast of French theatrical performers, led by Méliès himself in the main role of Professor Barbenfouillis, and is filmed in the overtly theatrical style for which Méliès became famous.A Trip to the Moon was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranked 84th. The film remains the best-known of the hundreds of films made by Méliès, and the moment in which the capsule lands in the Moon’s eye remains one of the most iconic and frequently referenced images in the history of cinema. It is widely regarded as the earliest example of the science fiction film genre and, more generally, as one of the most influential films in cinema history.

 

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) 'Mask' c. 1897

 

Fernand Khnopff (Belgian, 1858-1921)
Mask
c. 1897
Gypsum, mounted
18.5 x 28 x 6.5cm
© bpk, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Elke Walford

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Damon & Colin (Maison Krieger). Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice, 1894-1900

Damon & Colin (Maison Krieger). Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice, 1894-1900 (detail)

 

Damon & Colin (Maison Krieger)
Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice
1894-1900
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Peter Behrens (1868-1940) 'Salon grand from house Behrens' c. 1901

 

Peter Behrens (German, 1868-1940)
Salonflügel aus dem Haus Behrens | Salon grand from house Behrens, Darmstadt
c. 1901
Execution: J. P. Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik, Stuttgart; Intarsienwerkstatt G. Wölfel & Kiessling
Palisander, mahagony, maple, cherry and walnut, burl birch, partly coloured red, lapis lazuli and mother of peral inlay
H. 99cm x B. 150cm x 192cm
Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Köln
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

 

 

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) would like to dare a quite new approach to the epoch of the Art Nouveau in its exhibition project Art Nouveau. The Great Utopia. In contrast to the period about a century ago, when Art Nouveau was le dernier cri, it can be seen today not just as a mere historical stylistic era, but can open up parallels to complex phenomena familiar to visitors from their own experience: scarcity of resources and issues of what materials to use, precarious working conditions and consumer behaviour, the trade-off between ecological and aesthetic considerations in manufacturing processes or the desire for stylishly elegant, prestigious interior furnishings. These are just a few of the aspects which emerge as central motives common to both the reform movement of the years around 1900 and for the decisions facing today’s consumers. The exhibition has therefore been chosen in order to bring out as clearly as possible in this new setting the roots of the ideas and motives which informed Art Nouveau. The new presentation still revolves, for instance, around the World Exhibition of 1900 as an international platform of modern design. Furthermore the flight away from European industrialisation and the march of technology to imagined places of yearning such as the Middle Ages or nature is highlighted.

A further aspect is the change in the way people experienced their bodies in the fashion of the rational dress reform movement and modern dance. The exhibition project will attempt to locate Art Nouveau in its historical context of ideas as a reform movement with all its manifold facets and extremes. Adopting a particular focus on the relationship between nature and technology, it illuminates the most varied disciplines, ranging far beyond the movement of arts and crafts and reaching as far as the history of medicine and the technology of film-making. The exhibits can be read as artistic positions that address technological innovation as well as theories from Karl Marx (1818-1883) to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). The ideal of superior craft in contrast to industrial articles collides with the commercial idea of competition and the marketing strategies at that time. Therefore the exhibition project manoeuvres at the intersection of utopia and capitalism. Visitors will be able to see paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, posters, books, tapestries, reform dresses, photo-graphs and films as well as scientific and historical medical apparatus and models.

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

 

Rudolf Dührkoop. 'Head with Halo' 1908

 

Rudolph Dührkoop (German, 1848-1918)
Kopf mit Heiligenschein | Head with Halo
1908
Platinotype
21 x 16cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Gabriel Charles Rossetti (1828-1882) 'Helen of Troy' 1863

 

Gabriel Charles Rossetti (English, 1828-1882)
Helena von Troja | Helen of Troy
1863
Oil on mahogany
32.8 x 27.7cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© bpk, Hamburger Kunsthalle
Photo: Elke Walford

 

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 'Kneeling nude girl against blue curtain, Worpswede' 1906/07

 

Paula Modersohn-Becker (German, 1876-1907)
Kniender Mädchenakt vor blauem Vorhang | Kneeling Nude Girl
Worpswede, 1906/07
Oil on canvas
72 x 60cm
© Landesmuseum Oldenburg, H. R. Wacker – ARTOTHEK

 

Naked archer, member of a nudists' community in Zurich, Switzerland 1910

 

Unknown photographer
Ein Bogenschütze “Naturmenschenkolonie” bei Zürich | Archer “Naturmenschenkolonie” near Zurich
Naked archer, member of a nudists’ community in Zurich, Switzerland
1910
From Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, Nr. 34, 1910
© Ullstein Bild

 

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) 'Childhood' c. 1894

 

Ferdinand Hodler (Swiss, 1853-1918)
Die Kindheit | Childhood
c. 1894
Oil on canvas
50 x 31cm
© Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

 

Elena Luksch-Makowsky (1878-1967) 'Adolescentia' 1903

 

Elena Luksch-Makowsky (Russian, 1878-1967)
Adolescentia
1903
Oil on canvas
172 x 79cm
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Wien
© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Wien

 

Atelier d'Ora. 'Red Hair' 1911

 

Atelier d’Ora (Dora Philippine Kallmus) (1881-1963)
Rotes Haar | Red Hair
1911
Gummidruck
38 x 28.2cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) 'Salon des Cent' Paris 1896

 

Alfons Mucha (Czech, 1860-1939)
Salon des Cent
Paris, 1896
Lithograph
63.5 x 46cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Alfons Mucha. 'Salon des Cent' Exhibition, Paris, 1897

 

Alfons Mucha (Czech, 1860-1939)
Salon des Cent
Paris, 1897
Lithograph
63.5 x 46cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Eugène Grasset. 'Exhibition poster for an exhibition at the Salon des Cent' 1894

 

Eugène Grasset (Swiss, 1845-1917)
Print: G. de Malherbe, Zinkätzung
Ausstellungsplakat für eine eigene Ausstellung im Salon des Cent | exhibition poster for his own exhibition at Salon des Cents
1894
Stencil
60 x 40cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Verm. Albert Londe (1858-1917) 'Hysterics' Nd

 

Verm. Albert Londe (French, 1858-1917)
Hysterischer Anfall (Bâillement hystérique) | Hysterics
Silver print
9 x 12cm
Bibliothèque de Toulouse
© Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse

 

 

Albert Londe (1858-1917) was an influential French photographer, medical researcher and chronophotographer. He is remembered for his work as a medical photographer at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, funded by the Parisian authorities, as well as being a pioneer in X-ray photography. During his two decades at the Salpêtrière, Albert Londe developed into arguably the most outstanding scientific photographer of his time.

In 1878 neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot hired Londe as a medical photographer at the Salpêtrière. In 1882 Londe devised a system to photograph the physical and muscular movements of patients (including individuals experiencing epileptic seizures). This he accomplished by using a camera with nine lenses that were triggered by electromagnetic energy, and with the use of a metronome he was able to sequentially time the release of the shutters, therefore taking photos onto glass plates in quick succession. A few years later Londe developed a camera with twelve lenses for photographing movement. In 1893 Londe published the first book on medical photography, titled La photographie médicale: Application aux sciences médicales et physiologiques. In 1898 he published Traité pratique de radiographie et de radioscope: technique et applications médicales.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) 'Vase with self-portrait' 1889

 

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903)
Vase mit Selbstbildnis | Vase with self-portrait
1889
Stoneware, engobe, copper and oxblood glaze
19.5 x 12cm
Designmuseum Danmark, Kopenhagen
Photo: Pernille Klemp

 

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) 'Scyphozoans' 1904

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919)
Discomedusae – Scheibenquallen | Scyphozoans
Table 8 from Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur, Leipzig und Wien
1904
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Eugène Feuillâtre (1870-1916) Vase "La Mer" c. 1900

 

Eugène Feuillâtre (French, 1870-1916)
Vase “La Mer”
c. 1900
Cloisonné enamel, gilded copper
37.5cm
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
© Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

 

 

The goldsmiths and jewellers of the second half of the nineteenth century constantly strove to perfect and develop the techniques of enamelling for artistic purposes. Eugène Feuillâtre, who headed the Lalique enamelling workshop before opening his own workshop in 1897, specialised in enamel on silver. The dilatation of the metal and its reactions with the colouring agents made this technique difficult. But it allowed Feuillâtre to obtain the blurred, milky, pearly tones that are so characteristic of his work. Feuillâtre’s use of colours illustrates his ability to choose materials to suit the effect he wanted. He is one of the craftsmen whose talent swept artistic enamelling to a veritable apotheosis about 1900.

 

Daum Frères (Manufacturer), 'vase formed like a pumpkin' Nancy, around 1909

 

Daum Frères (Hersteller | Manufacturer)
Vase in Kürbisform | Vase formed like a pumpkin
Nancy c. 1909
Cameo glass, mould blown, etched and cut
29.2 x 11.7cm
Düsseldorf, Museum Kunstpalast
© Museum Kunstpalast – Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

 

Louis C. Tiffany. 'Pont Lily-lamp' New York, 1900, execution around 1910

 

Louis C. Tiffany (American, 1848-1933)
Pond Lily-Lampe | Pont Lily-lamp
New York, 1900, execution around 1910
Favrile glass, Bronze
57cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Albert Klein (1971-1926) 'Irisvase' 1900

 

Albert Klein (German, 1871-1926)
Irisvase
1900
Execution: Königliche Porzellanmanufaktur, Berlin
Porcelain with glaze and sculptural decoration
61.5cm
Bröhan-Museum
© Bröhan-Museum
Photo: Martin Adam, Berlin

 

William Morris. decoration fabric Strawberry Thief, London, 1883

 

William Morris (British, 1834-1896)
Decoration fabric Strawberry Thief
London, 1883
Execution: Morris & Co., Merton Abbey/Surrey, 1883
Cotton, indigo discharge print, block print, 3-coloured
518 x 98cm, Rapport 51 x 45cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

William Morris. decoration fabric Strawberry Thief, London, 1883 (detail)

 

William Morris (British, 1834-1896)
Decoration fabric Strawberry Thief (detail)
London, 1883
Execution: Morris & Co., Merton Abbey/Surrey, 1883
Cotton, indigo discharge print, block print, 3-coloured
518 x 98cm, Rapport 51 x 45cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

René Lalique (1860-1945) 'Hair comb' 1898-1899

 

René Lalique (French, 1860-1945)
Haarkamm | Hair comb
1898-1899
Horn, gold, enamel
15.5cm
Designmuseum Danmark, Kopenhagen
Photo: Pernille Klemp

 

Day dress of a suffragette sympathizer, England, 1905-09

 

Unknown maker
Tageskleid einer Suffragetten-Sympathisantin | Day dress of a sufragette sympathiser
England, 1905-09
Studio work or self-made, cotton, canvas lining, machine-made lace
L. 143cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. Lady's dress Delphos, Venice, 1911–13

 

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (designer) (Spanish, 1871-1949)
Damenkleid Delphos | Lady’s dress Delphos
Venice, 1911-13
Label: Mariano Fortuny Venise
Pleated silk satin, silk cord, Murano glass beads
L. 148cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940) 'Chair' Milan 1902

 

Carlo Bugatti (Italian, 1856-1940)
Stuhl | Chair
Milan, 1902
Oak, parchment, brass
98 x 48 x 48cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Karl Gräser (1849-1899) 'Chair in the style of his room furnishings on Monte Verita' Museum Casa Anatta, Monte Verita, Ascona, 1910

 

Karl Gräser (Austro-Hungarian, 1849-1899)
Sessel im Stil seiner Zimmereinrichtung auf dem Monte Verità | Chair in the style of his room furnishings on Monte Verità
Museum Casa Anatta, Monte Verità, Ascona, um Verità 1910
Unhandeled braches, wooden panel
84 x 66 x 60cm
Photo: Elena Mastrandrea
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

In the nineteenth century, Europe is shaken by the arrival of industrialisation which upsets the social organisation. This crisis is particularly felt in Germany where signs of rejection of the industrial world appear as early as 1870. Thus, in response to the urbanisation generated by a new organisation of work, Naturism appears. Attempting to flee the pollution of the cities, to create communities and “garden city” to live in harmony with nature. Those who share this view soon gather around the movement of Reform of the life (Lebensreform, 1892). The movement attracts followers of vegetarianism, naturism, spiritism, natural medicines, the Hygienism, the Theosophical Society, as well as artists.

In 1889, Franz Hartmann, German astrologer and Alfredo Pioda, a local man into progressive politics, both loving theosophical theories under strong Hindu influence, launched the idea of ​​a “secular monastery” bringing together individuals “regardless of race, creed, sex, caste or colour. ” But nothing came of it. Eleven years later, he resurfaced with seven young men from good families, born in Germany, Holland, Slovenia and Montenegro, who landed in Ascona (Switzerland), attracted by the beauty of the place, its climate and possible telluric forces which the place would wear. The clan consists of Henri Oedenkoven (son of wealthy industrialists Antwerp), Karl Gräser (former officer of the Imperial Army, founder of the peace group Ohne Zwang, Unconstrained), his brother, the painter Gustav Gräser, Ida Hoffman (a feminist intellectual) Jeny and her sister, Lotte Hattemer (a beautiful young girl with anarchist ideas, breaking with a father who nonetheless supports herself needs) and Ferdinand Brune.

Spiritualist sects, pharmacists, nudists, philosophical circles, feminist movements, pacifists, socialists, libertarians, gurus, Theosophists, come together to form a nebula of more or less related interest, a band that will unite in a place that combines lifestyle and utopian effervescence. The hill is named Monte Verità, the Mountain of the truth. The group advocated free love, equality between men and women, they gardening scantily clad (or bare), alcohol was banned, meals consist of raw vegetables and fruits. As often, the ideal was overtaken by reality: after several months of reciprocity disagreement appears, especially between Henry Oedenkoven, who plans to open a place of cure, and the brothers Gräser. They who dedicate themselves to self-sufficiency and barter reject this conversion to money. Monte Verita knowns immediately two trends: the bourgeois dream paradise enjoying the modern comfort (water, electricity) and potentially profitable; and aspiration of returning to a liberated state of nature.

“Karl Gräser,” text translated from the La Maud La Maud website January 23, 2014 [Online] Cited 30/01/2016

 

Unknown photographer. 'Monte Verita' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Monte Verita
c. 1900

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 'Chair for the Argyle Tea Room' Glasgow 1897

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Scottish, 1868-1928)
Stuhl für den Argyle Tea Room | Chair for the Argyle Tea Room
Glasgow, 1897
Oak, stained
81 cm x 60 cm x 45cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
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Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
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16
Sep
12

Review: ‘Pat Brassington: À Rebours’ at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th August – 23rd September 2012

 

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Installation photographs of Pat Brassington: À Rebours at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Pat Brassington: Á Rebours, interview at ACCA 2012

Pat Brassington Speaks about her practice, Beauty, her use of source material and colour, and her show Á Rebours at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

 

 

This is a disappointing exhibition of Pat Brassington’s photographic work at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Despite two outstanding catalogue essays by Juliana Engberg and Edward Colless (whose textual and conceptual pyrotechnics morphs À Rebours – against the grain / against nature – into a “rebus,” an iconographic puzzle, a cryptic device usually of a name made by putting together letters and words; who notes that the work has strong links to the idea of perversion (of nature) and that the artist corrupts the normal taxonomic ordering of the photogenic so that the work becomes alien ‘other’, “an army of invaders from ‘the other side’ of the print, who give away their identities with the flick of reptilian tongue or a vulval opening on the back of the neck”) – despite all of this, the smallish images fail to live in the large gallery spaces of ACCA and fall rather flat, their effect as pail and wane as the limited colour palette of the work itself (which is why, I perceive, some of the gallery walls have been painted a sky blue colour, to add some life to the work).

Unlike most, I have never been convinced of the perceived importance of Brassington’s mature style. The work might have seemed fresh when it was originally produced but it now seems rather dated, the pieces too contrived for the viewer to attain any emotional sustenance from the work. The vulvic openings, the blind steps on a path to nowhere, the libidinal tongues, fallen bodies, slits, effusions, effluxions and fleshy openings (where internal becomes external, where memories, dreams and alienness toward Self become self-evident) are too basic in their use of surrealist, psycho-sexual tropes, too singular in their mono-narrative statements to allow the viewer answers to the questions which the artist poses. In other words the viewer is left hanging; the work does not take you anywhere that is useful or particularly interesting. While it is instructive to see the work collectively because it builds the narrative through a collection of themes of disembodiment the claim (in the video) that sight lines are important in this regard does not stand scrutiny because the work is too small for the viewer to discern at a distance the correlation between different works. Look at the slideshow at the top of the posting and notice how the gallery hang makes the work and the space feel dead: too few pieces hung at too large a distance apart only adds to the isolation, both physically and conceptually, of the work.

For me, the revelation of the exhibition was the earlier work. As can be seen from the photographs posted here, the groupings of analogue silver gelatin prints within the gallery spaces have real presence and narrative power because the viewer can construct their own meanings which are not didactic but open ended. These pieces really are amazing. They remind me of the best work of one of my favourite artists David Wojnarowicz and that is a compliment indeed. In the video Brassington rails against the serendipity of working with analogue photography whilst acknowledging that this was one of its strengths because you sometimes never knew what you would get – while working in Photoshop the artist has ultimate control. Perhaps some of that serendipity needs to be injected into the mature work! I get the feeling from the analogue work that something really matters, but you are unsure what whereas the digital work has me fixed like a rabbit in the headlights and leaves no lasting impression or imprint on my memory.

It amazes me in these days of post-photography, post postmodernism where there is no one meta-narrative … how curators and collectors alike try to pigeon hole artists into one particular style, mainly so that they can compartmentalise and order the work that they produce: such and such produces this kind of work. Of course the other reason is that when a person walks into a room and there is a Henson, Arkeley or Brassington on the wall, the kudos and social standing of the person becomes obvious. Oh, you have a Bill Henson, how wonderful! It’s like a signature dish at a restaurant and everybody expects it to be the same, every time you go there. In art this is because the curators have liked the work and the collectors have bought the work so the artist thinks, right, I’ll have some of that and they make more of the same. Does this make this artist’s “style” the best thing that they have done. Sadly no, and many artists get trapped in the honey pot and the work never progresses and changes. Such is the case in this exhibition. Of course some artists have been more successful at evading this trap than others such as the master Picasso (who constantly reinvented himself in his style but not his themes) and in photography, Robert Mapplethorpe, who went from personal narrative to S & M photographs, to black men, to flowers and portraits as subject matter. What all of these transmogrifying artists do in all their bodies of work, however disparate they may be, is address the same thematic development of the work, ask the same questions of the audience in different forms. It is about time curators and collectors became more aware of this trend in contemporary art making.

In conclusion I would say to the artist – thank you for the work, especially the powerful analogue photographs, but it’s time to move on. Let’s see whether the journey has stalled or there is life and imagination yet on the path to alienation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Installation and individual photographs from Cumulus Analysis
1986-87
18 silver gelatin photographs
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

As part of its Influential Australian Artist series, ACCA will present a survey of works by leading Australian photo-based artist Pat Brassington from August 11. Pat Brassington was one of the first artists to recognise the potential of the digital format, and has used it to create an enormous body of work – images that are hauntingly beautiful, deeply psychological, and sometimes disturbing.

Her works reference the tradition of surrealist photography. Recurring motifs usually include interior and domestic spaces and strange bodily mutations that take place within the human, predominantly female, form. The manipulation of the image is restrained, but the effect often uncanny and dramatic. À Rebours brings together works from Brassington’s exceptional 30 year career, presented over a series of small rooms aimed to emphasise the unsettling domesticity and claustrophobic atmosphere in her images. The exhibition title is inspired by the banned 1884 French novel of the same name, which in English translates as ‘against nature’ or ‘against the grain’.

Brassington was born in 1942 in Tasmania, and studied printmaking and photography at the Tasmanian School of Art in the early eighties She has exhibited in a number of group exhibitions including Feminism never happened, IMA, Brisbane (2010), On Reason and Emotion, Biennale of Sydney (2004) and in solo exhibitions at Art One Gallery, Melbourne, Monash University Museum of Art and Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne. ACCA’s Influential Australian Artist series celebrates the works of artists who have made a significant contribution to the history of Australian art practice, and the exhibition will be accompanied by a substantial catalogue documenting the artists’ career.”

Press release from ACCA

 

Installation view of Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Installation and individual photographs from Untitled (triptych)
1989
3 silver gelatin photographs
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Secret: The Photo Worlds of Pat Brassington

Juliana Engberg

.
The photo-based works of Pat Brassington gained significant attention in the mid to late 1980s. Black and white images, sourced from reproductions, were arranged in grid and cluster formations to establish their status as a visual language which signified meaning beyond the apparent information they delivered. Adopting a modus operandi inherited from the montage, frisson-based tactics of surrealism, Brassington’s works seduced the viewer into a psycho-linguistic game of puns, Freudian jokes and visual metaphors by careful juxtaposition of images. Exploiting the license permitted by appropriation, and registering a knowledge of the use of signs and signifiers as part of an engagement with psychoanalysis and visual theory, Brassington’s works can be seen in the historical context of surrealist artists such as Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Brassai, Luis Buñuel and Raoul Ubac, as well as contemporary, post-modern artists, such as Barbara Kruger, Martha Rosler, John Baldessari and Silvia Kolbowski, who used image/linguistic associations and provocations to create meta-narratives.

Brassington’s early works, like The Gift, 1986, with its set of images showing details of the paintings of Christ as the ‘Man of Sorrows’ exposing the slit of wounded flesh, crops of cacti, hyper details of vampire movie stills in which blood gushes from a girl’s eyes, and the face of a man with eyes wide open and mouth agape, develop a disquieting set of associations – wounds, pricks, mouths, blood. These are the stuff of B-Grade horror movies, as well as evangelical ecstasy, and perhaps hint at more sinister rites. Similarly, Cumulus Analysis, 1987/8 with its play of clouds, shattered glass, fish, female body in the throws of a spasm, tensed hands, brail, hat crowns upturned to the sky, praying bodies, and angel statuettes, are a lexicon of signs that signify the female genitalia combined with violations and evangelical obsessions. Right of the grid, a solitary female face is seen, and with this simple exclusion from the ‘system’, Brassington turns the tables on the male gaze and replaces the ‘peephole image’ with a feminine look. Nevertheless in this ensemble, gathering analysis, the use of the female voyeur is an uncomfortable reversal. Instead of being witnesses to an oedipal drama, we are perhaps collusive on-lookers on an unspeakable trauma, along with a maternal watcher.

These earlier works of Brassington play out like story-boards for an inconclusive matrix of events. Like the early surrealists who looked outside ‘art’ towards forensic and medical images for their content, Brassington also borrows images from photographs depicting the research into hysteria conducted by Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpetriere hospital, Paris: an infamous 19th century asylum for (so-called) insane and incurable women; and from medical photographs of biological abnormalities. As well as their links to surrealism, Brassington’s borrowings from medical archives also acknowledge the feminist revisioning that took place during the 1980s, which saw in these images of women patients used as ‘hysterical’ evidence for the photographic and medical gaze, a female oppression by the patriarchal system. With this evident historical distancing and their clear links to popular culture through the borrowing of images from films, media and art, these mid-1980s works adopt an almost academic detachment from the personal: the open ended narratives become more general and part of a semiotic universality to some extent. For this reason many commentators, then and since, have been comfortable in describing these mid ’80s works as being within the theoretical, psychological-based feminisms of the 1980s.

Before these elegant, crisp and delineated works of the mid 1980s, however, Brassington made a series of small black and white images that carried a heavier, subjective and domestic load. Untitled VI, 1980, shows a young girl bound in rope and in Untitled IV, 1980, a little girl carries a decapitated doll. These small black and white photographs, altered in the development and printing process through over-exposure and intentional fuzziness, seem to burn like afterimages from some other time. Through visual manipulation, innocuous play obtains a macabre, torturous character. These photographs court unsettling ambiguity and suggestiveness. Unlike the more academic photo grids, these works also seem closer to home.

In the series 1+1=3, 1984 a male figure haunts the domestic space, his blurry outline, highlighted from behind to accentuate hirsuteness, seems ominous and domineering, his body is oversized to the frame of the image. In accompanying images from the same series, child like legs protruding from under a table, the skirt and dressed legs of a woman viewed from above, and a dog lying under a cover, all photographed with a kind of forensic clarity, suggest some ‘incident’ and portray hiding, and partial truths. These small, early works establish a precedent in Brassington’s future images in which very often legs are oddly organised, hoisted and disjointed from bodies, peculiar points of view are shown and bodies in partial concealment are all activated to produce mystery and unease.

In the early 1990s, the development of digital-format photography, with its capacity for image building, akin to, but even more potentially malleable then analogue forms of montage and collage, saw Brassington return to the mood of these earlier and enigmatic works with their focus on interiors and curious figures. The digital format provided Brassington with the opportunity to blend, blur, almost shake, and stain the photographic paper to unleash a new subjectivism. Works from the ’90s also see Brassington moving from black and white formats to experimenting with colour, which becomes vivid, livid and adds a kind of visceral saturation and abstraction to images with mute tonality.

In the works of the 1990s and 2000s Brassington enters into an extra-surreal phase, producing images that are cast adrift from reality or popular culture references and built from the imagination. Brassington’s own visual language is developed in these works that manipulate figures, surfaces, textures and odd attachments and visual interventions. As her expertise in image building increases Brassington’s works take on dense, viscous, and sometimes translucent qualities that tamper with natural tactility. Figures become phantasmic and morph-like, at times transparent or artificially bulky. Nostalgic colours are played off against sharper, off-registered hues. Bio-morphs appear liked strange growths attaching themselves to, or coming forth from bodies, especially mouths.

Brassington’s reoccurring symbolism is confirmed in these works in which fish are clutched, wounds appear like stigmata in necks and on dresses, tongues protrude and become uncanny matter, mouths are gagged, hold things or bring forth pearls of blood-red caviar seeds. The use of fabric, stockings and lace add a weird feminine monstrosity to the muted subject – mostly a child. This digital phase of newest works produce beautiful visual qualities in pearlescent colours and shiny surfaces, which make their clandestine, convulsive subjects all the more disconcerting to consider. Brassington lures the viewer into a game of guessing and provokes us to know – to dig deep into our collective unconscious, which innately understands these unnatural things. In these later works there is little, if any academic distancing. The images are compellingly honest and close.

During this time Brassington’s affiliation with surrealism and its deployment of artistic intuition drawn from the unconscious is strongly evident. Equally evident is the deliberation in these images, which is clear and unavoidable given the digital process which cannot provide an ‘accident’ like over-exposure, shaking, mis-framing or those usual happy ‘chance’ things that gave analogue photography its exciting edge for finding the surreal moment in a snap of reality. Brassington consciously works the unconscious. The domestic setting also reasserts itself in these later works in which odd things play out. In the series Cambridge Road, 2007 the atmosphere of reality is used in an almost bland, de-saturated way to give greater emphasis to figures which become smudges, dogs that seem electrified with alertness to some danger outside the frame, strangely framed corners of furniture, beds, and dressing tables that appear as dramatic items in some bizarre theatre of domesticity.

In Cambridge Road coated humans wear animal and portrait masks and adopt roles that are unclear: a wire clothes hanger, leaning on the wall, hung on a hook or discarded in the background takes on a nasty aspect. In these works an over exposed flash adds a spectral, apparitional aspect to the scene, causing it to seem inhabited by a haunting, or ghostly return. In another series Below Stairs, 2009, an x-ray rat and small child emerge from a trap door in the floor of a barren room. In a further work the trap door is vanished and a grown woman stands, with her back to the viewer indicating a closure against these hallucinations.  These works, which have affinities with Max Ernst’s drawing, The Master’s Bedroom, confirm Brassington’s knowing attachment to the idea of the room-box as theatre explored in surrealism by Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Joseph Cornell and female surrealists such as Dorothea Tanning, Lenora Carrington and Louise Bourgeois.

Around the same time as these picture theatres Brassington has created single figures. A scarlet dressed woman walks, retreating through an imaginary landscape in By the Way, 2010: a bag or pillow slip over her head – still hiding, or not seeing – but escaping – surviving perhaps.  A doll, dressed in a blue frock, Radar 2010, replaces the head with a light bulb stretched from the ceiling – rope like – unsettlingly similar to a noose, which demolishes cuteness. The bulb, standing in for the head, becomes a Cyclops, one-eyed thing, reminding us of the surrealist trope of the single eye ever used by Bataille, Ernst, Dali, Magritte, Man Ray, Buñuel and others, which in the surrealist visual language can so quickly become the mouth, the vagina dentate and object of possible castration. This bright spark of a doll is not all she seems.

These strange personages are like escapees from Brassington’s domestic dramas, new protagonists ready for their own story in the photo and digital world that Brassington has conjured from places we will never know, that are lived and returned in her own mind.  Among these personae Brassington creates an image of a person wrapped head to feet in a shiny eiderdown, a lone hand exposed clutches the cover closed.  The figure stands against the wall where shadow stripes stretch behind. This strangely real image reminds us of the small girl, in Untitled IV, 1980 once bound, who is now unleashed and protected, but still in hiding. In this most recent group Brassington has also delivered the compelling close-up face of a young child whose one eye turns inward towards the other. A torn blue piece of fabric covers the mouth. This image is called The Secret.

Juliana Engberg

 

Installation view of Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Installation and individual photographs from The Gift
1986
11 silver gelatin photographs
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

An interview with Pat Brassington

What sorts of things have inspired your work?

Ideas. Ideas that come from life’s experiences, from family and friends, the ideas embodied in the vast array of exhibited and published visual artworks. Literature, cinema and music, the natural world and human nature.
.

Are there any particular artists who have influenced you?

There is a moving feast of artist’s works that passes through one’s consciousness. Here are a few from the past that popped into my head as I write: Goya, Giacometti, Fuseli, Magritte, Ernst, Hoch, Hesse, Bourgeois….
.

Can you explain the processes and techniques in your work?

They vary but I often recycle a lot of material from my own photographic archive, something I continue to accumulate. As a work develops a specific requirement may arise so I will hunt around, or create the elements to produce a result I’m after. Clarification about the shape of new work emerges during the making process. It’s important to entertain possibilities and not shut them off unexplored: it can be like being in an extended state of uncertainty. But decisions are made.
.

When you began working digitally and using Photoshop and digital colour printing techniques how did this develop or change the themes in your work?

I didn’t have the opportunity to explore analogue colour photography, but I probably didn’t want to really. I liked working in black and white. My early digital work was monochromatic – the outcome of scanning black and white negatives – but I quickly realised that the potential was there to enhance the expressive qualities of an image by introducing colour.
.

How did you realise its potential?

It is part of the form of the visual world. Generally I don’t try to feel or deal separately with the components of an image.
.

People comment on the personal nature of your work – what do you think about that?

I’m assuming that you are asking whether my work is autobiographical!  I would certainly attribute or acknowledge that my life experience has influenced how I respond to, or interpret, ‘being in the world’. Some things stick, they become a part of you whether you like it or not. Art endeavours bring strange impressions back to life and create a different past, a new past with new phantoms miming actions and walking through walls.
.

Was the emergence of feminist theory and film theory guided by semiotics important to you?

Yes. And exposure to key texts was a liberating experience.
.

What kinds of literature do you enjoy reading?

Fiction mostly, including poetry on occasion. Just wish I could engage more often. The last book I read was Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and that was at least 12 months. I have bookshelves containing books I have read. A few missing links mind you but those I have managed to keep are a reminder to me of where I have been.
.

How would your work have developed if the digital process had not become available?

Well there can be an unstable relationship between content and process. Maybe the subject matter may not have been much different in much of the work, but you can find yourself projecting ideas in the mind through process or more specifically in the forms typical of a process. Possibly the demonstrated capacity of computers to store, manipulate and converge images lead the way. Without drama it happened and the chemical playground moved over and the pixel playground dominated my thinking, not about what to do but how to do it.
.

Does the digital permit a freedom from reality?

Look if you did a count digital manipulation may provide a few more options more easily, but the real struggle for freedom is in the mind.

 

 

Pat Brassington. 'Sensors' 2010

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Sensors
2010

 

Pat Brassington. ‘Radar’ 2009

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Radar
2009

 

Pat Brassington. 'By the Way' 2010

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
By the Way
2010

 

 

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
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Victoria 3006
Australia

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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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