Posts Tagged ‘Paul Virilio The Vision Machine

01
May
14

Exhibition: ‘What Is a Photograph?’ at the International Center of Photography, New York

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 4th May 2014

Artist in the exhibition include:

Matthew Brandt b. 1982, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles. Marco Breuer b. 1966, Landshut, Germany; lives and works in New York State. Liz Deschenes b. 1966, Boston; lives and works in New York City. Adam Fuss b. 1961, London; lives and works in New York City. Owen Kydd b. 1975, Calgary, Canada; lives and works in Los Angeles. Floris Neusüss b. 1937, Lennep, Germany; lives and works in Kassel, Germany. Marlo Pascual b. 1972, Nashville; lives and works in Brooklyn. Sigmar Polke 1941–2010; Germany. Eileen Quinlan b. 1972, Boston; lives and works in New York City. Jon Rafman b. 1981, Montreal; lives and works in Montreal. Gerhard Richter b. 1932, Dresden; lives and works in Cologne. Mariah Robertson b. 1975, Indianapolis, Indiana; lives and works in Brooklyn. Alison Rossiter b. 1953, Jackson, Mississippi; lives and works in the metro New York area. Lucas Samaras b. 1936, Macedonia, Greece; lives and works in New York City. David Benjamin Sherry b. 1981, Woodstock, New York; lives and works in Los Angeles. Travess Smalley b. 1986, Huntington, West Virginia; lives and works in New York City. Kate Steciw b. 1978, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; lives and works in Brooklyn. Artie Vierkant b. 1986, Breinerd, Minnesota; lives and works in New York City. James Welling b. 1951, Hartford, Connecticut; lives and works in Los Angeles. Christopher Williams b. 1956, Los Angeles; lives and works in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Amsterdam. Letha Wilson b. 1976, Honolulu; lives and works in Brooklyn.

 

 

James Welling. '6236' 2008

 

James Welling (American, b. 1951)
6236
2008
© James Welling, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

 

 

A Vocabulary of Photography: representation and the original, the ‘I can’ of sight

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What is a photograph? These days, it can be anything your imagination desires, any imag(in)ing that takes your fancy…

The images in this posting are a case in point. In a postmodern, post-photographic world where there is (allegedly) no centre and periphery, these art works are photography playing at the edges of photography. They examine “the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s,” reconsidering and reinventing, “the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography.”

In an earlier posting I talked about A Vocabulary of Printing and the Syntax of the Image. Here we could equally posit a Vocabulary of Photography, a compendium of techniques and imaginings, noting that technology and imagination should never delimit the creativity of the photographer/artist. In other words visions, boundaries and technologies are there to be pushed!

All well and good. To solidify meaning in such a nebulous world, there is penchant for (ambiguous) numbers – titles such as 6236; Untitled (C-1189); 154 – or definitive titles that try to fix ambiguity in a specific time, place or typology (a classification according to general type) eg Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013 or Supplement ’13 (Mixed Typologies) #3.

However, what is produced by this experimentation, this voluminous vocabulary, seldom leads to satisfying results. When you actually look at this type of work, really look at it with a clear and aware mind (as Krishnamurti would say), a large proportion of it is blather, noise for the sake of making noise, tinkering for a terrestrial world saturated in meaningless images. No wonder I get disillusioned with the “contemporary” in photography. The art work seems to mean very little and takes me nowhere I particularly want to go.

While photographs are no longer necessarily “points of view” analogous to Littré’s rigorous definition: ‘The point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance’,1 and “the image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day”2 – meaning that there is no single truth, there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described3 – for me there still needs to be a re(as)semblance towards some form of inherent truth in the image, ideally some form of human happiness.

The ‘I can’ of site (representation) / sight (vision) …

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 19
  2. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p. 85
  3. Townsend, Chris. Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking. Munich: Prestel, 1998, p. 10

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

 

 

“Vision is ordered according to a mode that may be generally called the function of images. This function is defined by a point-by-point correspondence of two unities in space. Whatever optical intermediaries may be used to establish their relation, whether their image is virtual, or real, the point-by-point correspondence is essential. That which is the mode of the image is therefore reducible to the simple schema that enables us to establish anamorphosis, that is to say, to the relation of an image, in so far as it linked to a surface, with a certain point that we shall call the ‘geometrical’ point. Anything that is determined by this method, in which the straight line plays its role of being the path of light, can be called an image.”
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Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (trans. Alan Sheridan). London: The Hogarth Press, 1977, p. 86

 

“With the industrial proliferation of visual and audiovisual protheses and unrestrained use of instantaneous-transmission equipment from earliest childhood onwards, we now routinely see the encoding of increasingly elaborate mental images together with a steady decline in retention rates and recall. In other words we are looking at the rapid collapse of mnemonic [aiding memory] consolidation.

This collapse seems only natural, if one remembers a contrario that seeing, and its spatio-temporal organisation, precede gesture and speech and their co-ordination in knowing, recognising, making known (as images of our thoughts), our thoughts themselves and cognitive functions, which are never passive… (Romains, Jules. La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique. Paris: Gallimard, 1964).

Everything I see is in principle within my reach, at least within reach of my sight, marked on the map of the ‘I can’. In this important formulation, Merleau-Ponty pinpoints precisely what will eventually find itself ruined by the banalisation of a certain teletopology. The bulk of what I see is, in fact and in principle, no longer with in my reach. And even if it lies within reach of my sight, it is no longer necessarily inscribed on the map of the ‘I can’. The logistics of perception in fact destroy what earlier modes of representation preserved of the original, ideally human happiness, the ‘I can’ of sight… ”

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Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 7 (my bold)

 

 

Matthew Brandt. 'Grays Lake, ID 7' 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, b. 1982)
Grays Lake, ID 7
2013
© Matthew Brandt, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Alison Rossiter. 'Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed in 2013 (#1)' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, b. 1953)
Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed in 2013 (#1)
2013
© Alison Rossiter, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Eileen Quinlan. 'The Drink' 2011

 

Eileen Quinlan (American, b. 1972)
The Drink
2011
© Eileen Quinlan, courtesy Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

 

Gerhard Richter. '18.2.08' 2008

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
18.2.08
2008
© Gerhard Richter, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

 

Kate Steciw. 'Armchair, Background, Basic, Beauty, Bed, Bedside, Bread, Breakfast, Bright, Cereal, Closeup, Cloth, Color, Contemporary, Couch, Crust, Day, Decor, Fox, Frame, Grain, Ingredient, Interior, Invitation, Irregular, Juice, Life, Living, Loaf, Luxury, Macro, Sofa, Speed, Style, Sweet, Texture' 2013

 

Kate Steciw (American, b. 1978)
Armchair, Background, Basic, Beauty, Bed, Bedside, Bread, Breakfast, Bright, Cereal, Closeup, Cloth, Color, Contemporary, Couch, Crust, Day, Decor, Fox, Frame, Grain, Ingredient, Interior, Invitation, Irregular, Juice, Life, Living, Loaf, Luxury, Macro, Sofa, Speed, Style, Sweet, Texture
2013
1 and 2 of infinite
© Kate Steciw

 

 

On view at the International Center of Photography from January 31 through May 4, 2014, What Is a Photograph? explores the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s.

This major exhibition brings together 21 emerging and established artists who have reconsidered and reinvented the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography. In the process, they have also confronted an unexpected revolution in the medium with the rise of digital technology, which has resulted in imaginative reexaminations of the art of analog photography, the new world of digital images, and the hybrid creations of both systems as they come together.

“Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades,” said ICP Curator Carol Squiers, who organised the exhibit. “Although digital photography seems to have made analog obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques.”

Among those included in the exhibition is Lucas Samaras, who adopted the newly developed Polaroid camera in the late 1960s and early 1970s and immediately began altering its instant prints, creating fantastical nude self-portraits. Another artist who turned to photography in the 1970s was Sigmar Polke. Although better known as a painter, Polke explored nontraditional ways of photographing and printing, manipulating both his film and prints in the darkroom and often drawing and painting on his images.

More recently, Liz Deschenes has used camera-less photography in a subtle investigation of nonrepresentational forms of expression and the outmoded technologies of photography. And, James Welling has created a heterogeneous body of work that explores optics, human perception, and a range of photographic genres both abstract and representational.

Press release from the International Center of Photography website

 

Letha Wilson. 'Colorado Purple' 2012

 

Letha Wilson (American, b. 1976)
Colorado Purple
2012
Concrete, chromogenic print transfer, and wood frame
Courtesy the artist and Higher Pictures, New York
© Letha Wilson, courtesy Higher Pictures, New York

 

Adam Fuss. 'Untitled' 1988

 

Adam Fuss (American, b. 1961)
Untitled
1988
© Adam Fuss, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

Marco Breuer. 'Untitled (C-1189)' 2012

 

Marco Breuer (German, b. 1966)
Untitled (C-1189)
2012
© Marco Breuer, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

David Benjamin Sherry. 'Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, California' 2013

 

David Benjamin Sherry (American, b. 1981)
Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, California
2013
© David Benjamin Sherry, courtesy the artist and Salon 94, New York

 

Mariah Robertson. '154' [detail] 2010

 

Mariah Robertson (American, b. 1975)
154 [detail]
2010
© Mariah Robertson, courtesy American Contemporary, New York

 

Artie Vierkant. 'Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013' 2013

 

Artie Vierkant (American, b. 1986)
Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013
2013
© Artie Vierkant, courtesy Higher Pictures, New York

 

Christopher Williams. 'Supplement '13 (Mixed Typologies) #3' [detail] 2013

 

Christopher Williams (American, b. 1956)
Supplement ’13 (Mixed Typologies) #3 [detail]
2013
© Christopher Williams, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne

 

Jon Rafman. 'New Age Demanded (The heart was a place made fast)' 2013

 

Jon Rafman (American, b. 1981)
New Age Demanded (The heart was a place made fast)
2013
© Jon Rafman, courtesy the artist and Zach Feuer Galery, New York

 

Floris Neusüss. 'Tango' 1983

 

Floris Neusüss (German, 1937-2020)
Tango
1983
© Floris Neusüss, courtesy the artist and Von Lintel Gallery, New York

 

Marlo Pascual. 'Untitled' 2010

 

Marlo Pascual (American, 1972-2020)
Untitled
2010
© Marlo Pascual, courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York
Photo: Jean Vong

 

Owen Kydd. 'Pico Boulevard (Nocturne)' 2012

 

Owen Kydd
Pico Boulevard (Nocturne)
2012
Courtesy the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
© Owen Kydd

 

 

International Center of Photography
79 Essex Street New York, NY 10002
Phone: 212 857 0000

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Closed: Mondays – Wednesdays

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21
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Eva Besnyö 1910-2003: The Sensuous Image’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 23rd September 2012

 

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Self Portrait
1932
Silver gelatin photograph
Private Collection, Berlin
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

 

“Ranging from the experimental to the photojournalistic, from street scenes to portraits, and from new architecture to the aftermath of the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam, July 1940, Besnyö explored the different terrains that photography was opening up, while at the same time helping to define them. The various bodies of work make it difficult to characterise her… she seems to have no signature body of work, which is one of her abiding strengths. Just when you think you have gotten some sense of her, she slips through your fingers.”

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John Yau. “Something Special About Her, Eva Besnyö at the Jeu de Paume” on the Hyperallergic website, July 8th 2012

 

 

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Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Self Portrait
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

 

One of the purposes of this archive is to bring relatively unknown artists into the spotlight. Eva Besnyö is one such artist. Leaving the repressive atmosphere of Hungary in 1930, Besnyö joined László Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkácsi, György Kepes and Endre Friedmann (Robert Capa) in Berlin before, sensing the danger of National Socialism, she moved to the Netherlands in 1932. After the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany in 1940 Besnyö survived four long years in hiding before obtaining false papers in 1944 that allowed her to emerge into the open. She was Jewish.

Exploring elements of the New Vision and New Objectivity in her work, Besnyö explored “the different terrains that photography was opening up” through various bodies of work: “ranging from experimental to the photojournalistic, from street scenes to portraits, and from new architecture to the aftermath of the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam.” As John Yau observes in the quote at the top of the posting, “The various bodies of work make it difficult to characterise her… she seems to have no signature body of work, which is one of her abiding strengths. Just when you think you have gotten some sense of her, she slips through your fingers.”

Continuing the conversation from my recent review of the work of Pat Brassington (where I noted that 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 – and that the work produced in this style is not necessarily their best), Besnyö can be seen to be a transmogrifying artist, one that experimented and investigated the same themes through different subject matter – hence no signature body of work. One of my friends observed that this kind of art making could be mistaken for a strange form of nihilism (in which nothing in the world has a real existence). It could be argued that the artist keeps changing subject matter, just dabbling really, pleasing herself with the images that she took, without committing to a particular style. Without seeing the 120 vintage prints it is hard to make a judgement.

From the work posted here it would seem that for Besnyö, observation and exploration of the lines of sight of life were the most critical guide to her art. In other words her shifting viewpoints create a multi-dimensional narrative that coalesces in a holistic journey that challenges our point of view in a changing world. As Victor Burgin notes in Thinking Photography, “The structure of presentation – point-of-view and frame – is intimately implicated in the reproduction of ideology (the ‘frame of mind’ of our ‘points-of-view’)” (1982, p. 146). The frame of mind of our points of view… this is what Eva’s work challenges, the reproduction of our own ideology. Her morphology (the philosophical study of forms and structures) challenges the cameras and our own point of view. As Paul Virilio observes,

“In calling his first photographs of his surroundings ‘points of view’, around 1820, their inventor, Nicéphore Nièpce came as close as possible to Littré’s rigorous definition: ‘The point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance.'” (Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 19.)

Besnyö changes the collection of objects to which the eye is directed as she also changes the distance and feeling of the objects upon which the eye rests. Notice how in most of the photographs the human subjects all have their back to the camera or are looking away from the instrument of objectification (or looking down into it). Even in the two self portraits Besnyö – formal in one with bobbed hair and skirt, wild in the other with a shock of tousled hair – she avoids the gaze of the camera. Like most of her subjects she remains hard to pin down. What Besnyö does so well (and why she isn’t just pleasing herself) is to construct a mythology of the city, a mythology of life which resonates through the ages. She creates a visual acoustics (if you like), a vibration of being that is commensurate with an understanding of the vulnerability of existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled Untitled [boy with a violoncello, Balaton, Hungary]' 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [boy with a violoncello, Balaton, Hungary]
1931
Silver gelatin photograph
29.4 x 24.3 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Gypsies' 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Gypsies
1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Der Monteur am Ladenfenster' Berlin, 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Der Monteur am Ladenfenster
Berlin, 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
20.1 x 17.7 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam.
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Starnberger Straße' Berlin, 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Starnberger Straße
Berlin, 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [Shadow play]' Hungary 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [Shadow play]
Hungary 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [dockers on the Spree]' Berlin, 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [dockers on the Spree]
Berlin, 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [Vertigo #3]' Nd

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [Vertigo #3]
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

 

Eva Besnyö (1910-2003) is one of those women who found in photography not just a profession but also a form of liberation, and of those cosmopolitan avant-garde artists who chose Europe as their playing field for both play and work. Immediately after her photographic training in the studio of József Pécsi in Budapest, Eva Besnyö left the repressive, anti-progressive environment of her native Hungary for ever. Then aged 20, she decided, like her compatriots László Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkácsi, György Kepes and Endre Friedmann (Robert Capa), to go to Berlin. As soon as she arrived in autumn 1930, she discovered there a dynamic photographic scene, open to experimentation and placed under the double sign of the New Vision and the New Objectivity, whose modern language would allow her to develop her personal style.

Of Jewish origins, Eva Besnyö, who foresaw the threat of National Socialism, moved to the Netherlands in 1932 where she met again her companion the film director John Fernhout. There she was welcomed into the circle of international artists around the painter Charley Toorop, and rapidly became known in Amsterdam, where she had her own photographic studio. A solo exhibition at the Kunstzaal van Lier in 1933 gained the attention notably of the Dutch followers of the “Neues Bauen” (New Building), whose architecture she recorded, in a highly personal manner, over a long period. The invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany in 1940 marked a dramatic turning point in Eva Besnyö’s life. If she managed to come out of hiding in 1944, thanks to an invented genealogy, the traces of this experience would remain acute throughout the postwar decades. During the 1950s and 60s, her family life led her to abandon street photography for commissions. Finally, in the twilight of her career, the photographer militated in the Dolle Mina feminist movement, whose street actions she chronicled in the 1970s.

With more than 120 vintage prints, some modern prints and numerous documents, this first French retrospective devoted to Eva Besnyö aims to show the public the different facets of her work, which is situated between New Vision, New Objectivity and social documentary, at the crossroads between poetry and political activism.

 

With other eyes

In 1929, during her second year of apprenticeship to József Pécsi, portrait and advertising photographer in Budapest, Eva Besnyö received the book of photographs Die Welt ist schön (The World is Beautiful), published a few months earlier in Munich. Its author, Albert Renger-Patzsch, is the precursor of New Objectivity in photography. While pictorialism reigned in Hungary, Eva Besnyö discovered the world with other eyes: from up close and under unexpected angles. With these new models in mind and her Rolleiflex in hand, she strode along the banks of the Danube in search of subjects and daring viewpoints, showing concern for a precise, close-up description of the most diverse objects, as well as a taste for fragmentation and for the repetition of the motif in the frame.

As soon as she finished her studies, Eva Besnyö went to Berlin on the advice of the painter and photographer György Kepes – and against the wishes of her father who would have preferred that she chose Paris. The Berlin years, between 1930 and 1932, were for her those of a political and aesthetic awakening. Besides the influence of the revolutionary aesthetic of Russian cinema, she came under that of the New Vision, which took off with László Moholy-Nagy and his book Painting Photography Film (1925), using a whole stylistic grammar, advocating downward perspectives or low-angle shots, a taste for the isolated object and its repetition, as well as optical manipulations revealing an unknown, but very real, world. The activity of the town or the empty crossroads of Starnberger Straße, portraits and images of summer on the banks of Lake Wannsee count among Besnyö’s most successful compositions.

 

Worker and social photography

At the Marxist Workers’ School in Berlin, Eva Besnyö schooled her social and political conscience. In her circle of friends gathered around fellow Hungarian György Kepes, she discussed passionately the role of the workers’ movements. In Berlin, as earlier in Budapest, Eva Besnyö took her camera to the principal sites of trade and business, where she photographed labourers hard at work: dockers on the Spree, coalmen in the street, fitters perched on ladders; in the city centre, she followed the workers at Alexanderplatz, in around 1930 the largest construction site in Europe. In Hungary, where she returned from time to time from Berlin, she carried out an extraordinary documentary project on the people of Kiserdö, in the suburbs of Budapest. Blessed with a heightened political awareness, she had already understood by 1932 that, as a Jew, her future was not in this country, and left Berlin for Amsterdam.

 

New Vision and New Building

In 1933, the solo show devoted by the Kunstzaal van Lier to Eva Besnyö just one year after her arrival in Amsterdam aroused the enthusiasm of numerous architects – her principal clients in the years to come. Mostly members of the group de 8 in Amsterdam and the radical abstract collective Opbouw in Rotterdam, they discerned in her images, which emphasised the functional side of objects, their structure and their texture, a suitable approach for explaining their buildings.

Equipped with a Linhof 9 x 12 cm plate camera acquired especially for the purpose, Eva Besnyö went to building sites and photographed public and private buildings, notably the studios of the Dutch radio station AVRO at Hilversum, the Cineac cinema in Amsterdam and a summer house in Groet, in the north of the country. Become, in the 1930s, the preferred photographer of Dutch New Building, Eva Besnyö made most of her income at the time from architectural photography.

 

Bergen and Westkapelle

From Amsterdam, where from 1935 to 1939 she shared a studio at Keizersgracht 522 with the photographer Carel Blazer and the architect Alexander Bodon, Eva Besnyö went regularly to Bergen and Westkapelle, two villages where many artists gathered. In Bergen, north of Amsterdam, Charley Toorop, Expressionist painter and mother of the film director John Fernhout, whom Eva had married in 1933, held an artistic salon in the De Vlerken studio. It was at Westkapelle, a centuries-old village built on a polder in Zealand, that the family often spent their holidays. In this landscape shaped by the natural elements, Eva Besnyö returned to a free photographic practice, with views of vast beaches of white sand, of black silhouettes against a background of old windmills and cut-out shadows.

 

Rotterdam

In July 1940, Eva Besnyö photographed the old town of Rotterdam destroyed by German airforce bombing. Far from classic photo-journalism, these images of ruins and traces of devastation – from which, in retrospect, she distanced herself – are today silent, bare statements of the wounds and scars of history.

 

Dolle Mina

The Dolle Mina feminist movement gathered both men and women, mainly from the student protest movement. In the 1970s, Eva Besnyö militated actively within it, alongside sympathisers of all ages. In a second phase, she focused on photographic documentation of the movement’s actions and activities, taking responsibility for sending out images daily, like a press agency.

Text by Marion Beckers and Elisabeth Moortgat, curators of the exhibition

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled' 1934

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled
1934
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [Summer house in Groet, North Holland. Architects Merkelbach & Karsten]' 1934

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [Summer house in Groet, North Holland. Architects Merkelbach & Karsten]
1934
18.2 x 24.2cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Stadion, Berlin, 1931' 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Stadion, Berlin, 1931
1931
16.8 x 23.9cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [Lieshout, The Netherlands]' 1954

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [Lieshout, The Netherlands]
1954
Silver gelatin photograph
25.3 x 17.7 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

 

In 1930, when Eva Besnyö arrived in Berlin at the age of only twenty, a certificate of successful apprenticeship from a recognised Budapest photographic studio in her bag, she had made two momentous decisions already: to turn photography into her profession and to put fascist Hungary behind her forever.

Like her Hungarian colleagues Moholy-Nagy, Kepes and Munkacsi and – a little later – Capa, Besnyö experienced Berlin as a metropolis of deeply satisfying artistic experimentation and democratic ways of life. She had found work with the press photographer Dr. Peter Weller and roamed the city with her camera during the day, searching for motifs on construction sites, by Lake Wannsee, at the zoo or in the sports stadiums, and her photographs were published – albeit, as was customary at the time, under the name of the studio. Besnyö’s best-known photo originates from those years: the gypsy boy with a cello on his back – an image of the homeless tramp that has become familiar all over the world.

Eva Besnyö had a keen political sense, evidenced by the fact that she fled in good time from anti-Semitic, National Socialist persecution, leaving Berlin for Amsterdam in autumn 1932. Supported by the circle surrounding woman painter Charley Toorop, filmmaker Joris Ivens and designer Gerrit Rietveld, Besnyö – meanwhile married to cameraman John Fernhout – soon enjoyed public recognition as a photographer. An individual exhibition in the internationally respected Van Lier art gallery in 1933 made her reputation in the Netherlands practically overnight. Besnyö experienced a further breakthrough with her architectural photography only a few years later: translating the idea of functionalist “New Building” into a “New Seeing.” In the second half of the 30s, Besnyö demonstrated an intense commitment to cultural politics, eg. at the anti-Olympiad exhibition “D-O-O-D” (De Olympiade onder Diktatuur) in 1936; in the following year, 1937, she was curator of the international exhibition “foto ’37” in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The invasion of German troops in May 1940 meant that as a Jew, Eva Besnyö was compelled to go into hiding underground. She was attracted to a world view shaped by humanism in the post-war years, and her photographs became stylistically decisive for neo-Realism and immensely suitable for the moralising exhibition, the “Family of Man” (1955). The mother of two children, she had experienced the classic female conflict between bringing up children and a profession career as a crucial and very personal test. Consequentially, Besnyö became an activist in the Dutch women’s movement “Dolle Mina” during the 70s, making a public commitment to equal rights and documenting demonstrations and street protests on camera.

This first retrospective exhibition, showing approximately 120 vintage prints, aims to introduce the public to the life and work of this emigrant and “Berliner by choice”, a convinced cosmopolitan and the “Grande Dame” of Dutch photography. “Like many other talents, that of Eva Besnyö was lost to Germany and its creative art as a direct consequence of the National Socialists’ racial mania.” (Karl Steinorth, DGPh, 1999)

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Narda, Amsterdam' 1937

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Narda, Amsterdam
1937
Private collection, Berlin
40 x 50cm
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [The shadow of John Fernhout, Westkapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands]' 1933

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [The shadow of John Fernhout, Westkapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands]
1933
25.3 x 20.4cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled' Berlin, 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled
Berlin, 1931
17.4 x 17.4cm
Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [John Fernout with Rolleiflex at the Baltic seaside]' 1932

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [John Fernout with Rolleiflex at the Baltic seaside]
1932
44.2 x 39.5 cm
Private collection, Berlin
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

Eva Besnyö. 'Untitled [Magda, Balaton, Hungary]' 1932

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch-Hungarian, 1910-2003)
Untitled [Magda, Balaton, Hungary]
1932
40.5 x 30.6 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

 

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Phone: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday 11am – 9pm
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 7pm
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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07
Mar
09

Opening 3: Review: ‘Show Court 3’ and ‘Mood Bomb’ by Louise Paramor at Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 28th March 2009

Opening: Thursday 5th March 2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3 (II)' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (II)
2009

 

 

Boarding a train at Flinders Street we emerge at South Yarra station to stroll down to River Street for our third opening of the night at Nellie Castan Gallery. We are greeted by the ever gracious Nellie Castan who has just returned from an overseas trip to Europe where she was soaking up the wonders of Rome amongst other places. For the latest exhibition in the gallery Louise Paramor is presenting two bodies of work: Show Court 3 and Mood Bomb (both 2009). Lets look at Show Court 3 first as this work has older origins.

Originally exhibited in 2006 at Nellie Castan under the title Jam Session the sculptures from this exhibition and many more beside (75 in all) were then installed in 2007 on show court 3 at Melbourne & Olympic Parks, hence the title of the installation. In the smaller gallery in 2009 we have six Lambda photographic prints that are records of this installation plus a video of the installation and de-installation of the work.

While interesting as documentary evidence of the installation these photographs are thrice removed from the actual sculptures – the sculptures themselves, the installation of the sculptures on court and then the photographs of the installation of the sculptures. The photographs lose something in this process – the presence or link back to the referentiality of the object itself. There is no tactile suggestiveness here, no fresh visual connections to be made with the materials, no human interaction. The intertextual nature of the objects, the jamming together of found pieces of bright plastic to make seductive anthropomorphic creatures that ‘play’ off of each other has been lost.

What has been reinforced in the photographs is a phenomena that was observed in the actual installation.

“The sculptures created a jarring visual disruption when placed in a location normally associated with play and movement. The stadium seating surrounding the tennis court incited an expectation of entertainment; a number of viewers sat looking at the sculptures, as though waiting for them to spin and jump around. But mostly, the exhibition reversed the usual role of visitors to place where one sits and watches others move; here the objects on the tennis court were static and the spectators moved around.” (2007)1

In the photographs of these objects and in the installation itself what occurs is an inversion of perception, a concept noted by the urbanist Paul Virilio.2 Here the objects perceive us instead of us perceiving the object: they stare back with an oculocentric ‘suggestiveness’ which is advertising’s raison d’être (note the eye sculpture above). In particular this is what the photographs suggest – a high gloss surface, an advertising image that grabs our attention and forces us to look but is no longer a powerful image.

In the main gallery was the most interesting work of the whole night – experiments of abstraction in colour “inspired by the very substance of paint itself.” Made by pouring paint onto glass and then exhibiting the smooth reverse side, these paintings are not so much about the texture of the surface (as is Dale Frank’s work below) but a more ephemeral thing: the dreamscapes of the mind that they promote in the viewer, the imaginative connections that ask the viewer to make. Simpler and perhaps more refined than Frank’s work (because of the smooth surface, the lack of the physicality of the layering technique? because of the pooling of amoebic shapes produced, not the varnish that accumulates and recedes?) paint oozes, bleeds, swirls, drips upwards and blooms with a sensuality of intense love. They are dream states that allow the viewer to create their own narrative with the title of the works offering gentle guides along the way: Girl with Flowers, Lovers, Mood Bomb, Emerald God, Mama, and Animal Dreaming to name just a few. To me they also had connotations of melted plastic, almost as if the sculptures of Show Court 3 had dissolved into the glassy surface of a transparent tennis court.

These are wonderfully evocative paintings. I really enjoyed spending time with them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

  1. O’Neill, Jane. Louise Paramor: Show Court 3. Melbourne: Nellie Castan Gallery, 2009
  2. Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine. (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, pp. 62-63

 

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3 (VI)' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (VI)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. Opening night crowd in front of 'Sky Pilot' (left) and 'Mama' (right) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Opening night crowd in front of Sky Pilot (left) and Mama (right)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. Opening night crowd in front of 'Green Eyed Monster' (right) and 'Sky Pilot' (right) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Opening night crowd in front of Green Eyed Monster (right) and Sky Pilot (right)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. Opening night crowd in front of 'Pineapple Express' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Opening night crowd in front of Pineapple Express
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'A Dog and His Master' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
A Dog and His Master (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Lovers' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Lovers
2009

 

Dale Frank. 2005

 

Dale Frank
2. One conversation gambit you hear these days: ‘Do you rotate?’ An interesting change of tack? No suck luck. ‘Do you rotate?’ simply fishes for information about the extent of your collection. Do you have enough paintings to hang a different one in your dining room every month?
2005

 

Louise Paramor. 'Mood Bomb' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Mood Bomb
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Slippery Slope' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Slippery Slope (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor 'Green Eyed Monster' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Green Eyed Monster (detail)
2009

 

 

Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

This gallery closed in December 2013

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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