Posts Tagged ‘Roland Barthes

03
Apr
22

Exhibition: ‘Marion Kalter. Deep Time’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria

Exhibition dates: 26th February – 22nd May, 2022

Curators: Barbara Herzog, Kerstin Stremmel

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Arles' 1975

 


Arles
1975
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist
© Bildrecht, Vienna, 2022

 

 

The blink of an eye

To my great chagrin I have to admit that after 30 years of studying photography I had never come across the work of the the Austrian artist Marion Kalter. No longer. While it is difficult, nah impossible, to portray the lifetime’s work of an artist in so few photographs, I hope this posting gives some insight into Kalter’s portrayal of her own mortality and the absence / presence of her family … and through her portraits of notable human beings reflect on how, when looking at photographs, we “participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.” (Sontag)

Kalter is a storyteller. In one section of the exhibition Deep Time the artist extrapolates the concept – in 1788 Scottish geologist James Hutton “posited that geological features were shaped by cycles of sedimentation and erosion, a process of lifting up then grinding down rocks that required timescales much grander than those of prevailing Biblical narratives” – by plunging into the abyss of time to create photographs that transcend yet somehow affirm humanity.

While the Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Berry (1914-2009) explored the spiritual implications of the concept of Deep Time by proposing “that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is a necessary inspiration and guide for our own effective functioning as individuals and as a species,”2 Kalter applies this understanding of the macrocosm of the universe to the microcosm of her family history as a guide to her own effective functioning. As the press release states, the photographs are “an investigation of how she has tried to gain a better understanding of her origins and family history and an exploration of how she has tried to reconstruct them visually. There are historical photographs on display, as well as images of objects that she liberated from suitcases and documented after the death of her parents. These sensitively staged photographs, which capture different layers of time, bring Kalter’s complex family history to life.” The complex history of an intimate deep time.

The highlight of the exhibition are the exceptional portrait photographs. Kalter is really good at taking portraits. And I mean really really good: i.e. one of the best portrait photographers I have seen in a very long time. Unlike the scientific, experimental and lumpy portraits by Man Ray (“I don’t even think he is a very good portrait photographer”), Kalter’s portraits just sing with music and energy, with spontaneity and consequence. What do I mean by consequence? I mean that these photographic portraits are an important testament to the existence of these human beings – they serve as a sign, or evidence, of the quality of these people’s lives, their presence and their aura. Here is Kalter’s joy at “picturing” these human beings: such a sharp eye, such a responsive, intuitive blink of an eye – the shutter is essentially a blink as it opens and closes – which reveals something of the spirit of these people, made up as they are of atoms of the cosmos and linked as they are to the deep time of the universe. Atoms to atoms, dust to dust.

Heidegger states. “We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”3

Now and then, the photographer artist has entered this room: a room full of wonder and mystery, of happenstance and previsualisation – just look at the spontaneity of the photograph being taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson of Jean Paul Riopelle, not even looking through the camera, and Katler’s instantaneous response – the trained eye of the artist approaching the mystery of life with aware and unblinkered eyes.

Through a slight pause in motion (the blink of an eye), dwelling in the world in a totally different way.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. David Farrier and Aeon. “How the Concept of Deep Time Is Changing,” on The Atlantic website November 1, 2016 [Online] Cited 03/04/2022
  2. Anonymous. “Deep Time,” on the Wikipedia website Nd [Online] Cited 03/04/2022
  3. Martin Heidegger. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56

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

 

Marion Kalter’s (Salzburg, AT, 1951) photographs are always about human beings – they already captured the artist’s interest when she launched her career as a journalist. Celebrated writers including Anaïs Nin and Susan Sontag as well as visual artists like Joan Mitchell and Meret Oppenheim and the filmmaker Agnès Varda were among her sitters. The jazz poet Ted Joans also played an important role for her. They met in 1974, and it was through him that Kalter came into contact with the jazz scene and Surrealism. Kalter met photographers mostly at the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles in the mid-1970s.

Deep Time is a search for the traces of Kalter’s childhood. Exhibited here are historical photographs and images of objects that she liberated from suitcases and documented after the death of her parents. Kalter’s sensitively staged photographs allow the different chronologies of these images to bring her complex family history vividly to life. Her unconditional way of experimenting with coincidence has enabled her to create a dense fabric of images over the years. It ends here with a series from 2017: a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Hartmann Books of Stuttgart has brought out a publication in German and English to accompany this exhibition.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

At left: Arles, 1975; and at second left, Bank Pietrasanta, 1974

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

At left: private photos of my father’s life, 1933-1948; and at right, private photos of my mother’s life, 1939-1945

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

at left: Armoire; at second left bottom, self-portrait; and at centre right, self-portrait – all from the Different Trains 2019

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

At left: Andy Warhol signs the shirt of Alain Pacadis, Paris 1977; and at third left, Pol Bury at home watches television in Paris, 1975

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

 

Installation views of Marion Kalter. Deep Time at Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2022
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Foto: Rainer Iglar

 

 

The photographs of Marion Kalter (Salzburg, AT, 1951) are always about people. As a young journalist, she was already interested in human subjects, such as the authors Anaïs Nin and Susan Sontag and the artists Joan Mitchell and Meret Oppenheim. Kalter’s encounter with the artist, musician, and performer Ted Joans proved to be decisive for her life and career as a photographer – Joans was an important figure in the American Beat Generation, which was centered around Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and was a charismatic jazz poet. Kalter got to know Joans in Paris in 1974, where she was attending courses at the Académie des Beaux-Arts after having studied painting and art history in the United States. Kalter became close friends with Joans and accompanied him through Paris with her camera, going to the American Cultural Center and to galleries and readings at the bookshop Shakespeare and Company. She also went with him on trips to North Africa.

This immersion in the art, literature, and music worlds of Paris could be described as Kalter’s artistic awakening: she developed participatory observation into an intuitive artistic strategy – the art of being there and capturing the zeitgeist. Her photographs of well-known personalities in the Parisian art and culture scene testify to an open, curious photographic eye, aware of both what was “staged” and the game of chance involved in the pictorial exploration of unintentional events and situations.

It is thus no coincidence that one chapter of this exhibition, and of its accompanying publication, is entitled “Cadavre exquis.” With this title (which translates to “exquisite corpse”), Kalter refers to a famous parlour game that the Surrealists developed, in 1925, with the purpose of testing new ways of associative thinking. A sentence or drawing is created by several people on a piece of paper, which is folded so that no one sees what those before them have contributed. The resulting unpredictable combination of words, ideas, and images evokes a strangely hybrid, dreamlike visual world in which chance and collective authorship are united. Kalter refers to the law of chance as a creative concept, and assembled an impressive gallery of personalities whom she encountered at the time: Berenice Abbott, Gisèle Freund, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Agnès Varda, Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, Annette Messager, John Cage, Chantal Akerman, Claude LéviStrauss, Marguerite Duras, Meret Oppenheim, and many more.

Kalter became acquainted with other photographers, including David Hurn, Mary Ellen Mark, Marc Riboud, and Ralph Gibson at the legendary Rencontres de la photographie in Arles in the mid-1970s and, at times, also acted as their translator. She saw photography no longer as solely a medium for recording reality but as a pictorial means of expression, interpretation, enactment, and personal memory.

The exhibition Deep Time is also a search through Kalter’s childhood: an investigation of how she has tried to gain a better understanding of her origins and family history and an exploration of how she has tried to reconstruct them visually. There are historical photographs on display, as well as images of objects that she liberated from suitcases and documented after the death of her parents. These sensitively staged photographs, which capture different layers of time, bring Kalter’s complex family history to life. Her parents met and married in Salzburg after the Second World War and moved to the United States after Marion Kalter was born. The family returned to Europe a few years later, and Kalter grew up in France, which remains her primary place of residence. In the late 1970s, when she was still a budding photographer, Kalter began a series of staged self-portraits at her family home in Chabenet, in the heart of France. They are characterised by a melancholic longing to reclaim the physical place, the time that had lapsed, and the life story of her late mother, all through the medium of her deceased mother’s papers and belongings – that is, through the poetics of things. It was at this time that Kalter was given her first commissions by the magazine Le Monde de la musique. This work regularly took Kalter back to her native city and made her a sought-after chronicler of the Salzburg Festival.

Kalter’s uninhibited delight in experimenting with the coincidences of life has over the years created a dense meshwork of images. It finds a provisional final chord in the present exhibition with her documentation of a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 2017. She traveled to Beijing in the footsteps of her great-uncle Oscar Aaron, who had been compelled to make that same journey in 1940 to escape being murdered in Germany. Once again, a memory that must not be lost was what prompted Kalter’s journey – this time along the route taken by a man escaping persecution.

Press release from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' 1975

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' 1978

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chasseneuil' 1976

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' France, 1978

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' France, 1979

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' France 1978

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Armoire' Nd

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' 1983

 

 

 

My father and my mother’s father in a frame, France 1983

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'HERSTORY' 1953-2015

 


HERSTORY
1953-2015

 

 

My mother in Washington DC 1953

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Private photos of my father's life' 1933-1948

 


Private photos of my father’s life 1933-1948
Nd

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Private photos of my mother's life' 1939-1945

 

 

 

Most of these self-portraits were taken after my mother’s premature death (I was 16) in the family house in France where I grew up. It took me years to find out that both of my parents had kept their during-the-war-memories hidden, each in their own wardrobe. They had taken “different trains” during WWII. While my father had fled Germany with his mother and sister, my mother started a career as an actress first in Vienna, then in Berlin and Warsaw. She played in the “German Theater” as well as with the KdF (“Kraft durch Freude” or Strength through Joy) organisation for the entertainment of German troops.

Directly after the war, my father came back to Europe as an American and began work as an assistant at the Nürenberg “IG Farben” trial. Just like the plot of the film by Axel Corti and George Stefan Troller Welcome in Vienna, my parents met in Salzburg. The “meet-cute”: the German Jew returning to work for the American Army meets the Austrian actress entwined in post-Nazi Germany.

I have chosen to show family photographs and documents from that period along with my self-portraits.

Marion Kalter artist statement on her website 2019 [Online] Cited 12/03/2022

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Untitled (self-portrait)' Nd

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Bank Pietrasanta' 1974

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Agnès Varda' Paris, 1977

 

 

 

Agnès Varda (French, born Arlette Varda, 30 May 1928 – 29 March 2019) was a Belgian-born French film director, screenwriter, photographer, and artist. Her pioneering work was central to the development of the widely influential French New Wave film movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her films focused on achieving documentary realism, addressing women’s issues, and other social commentary, with a distinctive experimental style.

Varda’s work employed location shooting in an era when the limitations of sound technology made it easier and more common to film indoors, with constructed sets and painted backdrops of landscapes, rather than outdoors, on location. Her use of non-professional actors was also unconventional for 1950s French cinema. Varda’s feature film debut was La Pointe Courte (1955), followed by Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), one of her most notable film narrative films, Vagabond (1985), and Kung Fu Master (1988). Varda was also known for her work as a documentarian with such works as Black Panthers (1968), The Gleaners and I (2000), The Beaches of Agnès (2008), Faces Places (2017), and her final film, Varda by Agnès (2019).

Director Martin Scorsese described Varda as “one of the Gods of Cinema”. Among several other accolades, Varda received an Honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, an Academy Honorary Award, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. She was the first female director to be feted with an honorary Oscar.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Elvin Jones' Juan-les-Pins, 1975

 

 

 

Elvin Ray Jones (September 9, 1927 – May 18, 2004) was an American jazz drummer of the post-bop era.

Most famously a member of John Coltrane’s quartet, with whom he recorded from late 1960 to late 1965, Jones appeared on such widely celebrated albums as My Favorite Things, A Love Supreme, Ascension and Live at Birdland. After 1966, Jones led his own trio, and later larger groups under the name The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. His brothers Hank and Thad were also celebrated jazz musicians with whom he occasionally recorded. Elvin was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1995. In his The History of Jazz, jazz historian and critic Ted Goia calls Jones “one of the most influential drummers in the history of jazz.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Pol Bury at home watches television in Paris' 1975

 

 

 

Pol Bury (1922-2005) was a Belgian artist involved with the CoBrA group. He is primarily known for his kinetic sculptures, though he also produced collages and paintings. “I am searching for the point which exists between the moving and the non-moving,” the artist said of his practice. Born on April 26, 1922 in La Louvière, Belgium, Bury studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Mons from 1938 to 1939, where he became influenced by the work of René Magritte and Yves Tanguy. In 1952, after seeing the mobile sculptures of Alexander Calder for the first time, Bury began creating motor-propelled weathervane-like sculptures. In the late 1960s, the artist created his first public work, a fountain on the campus of the University of Iowa Museum of Art in Iowa City. Bury died on September 28, 2005 in Paris, France.

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Annette Messager at her studio in Paris 1977' Paris, 1977

 


Annette Messager at her studio in Paris 1977
Paris, 1977

 

 

Annette Messager (born 30 November 1943 in Berck, France) is a French visual artist. Messager is known mainly for her installation work which often incorporates photographs, prints and drawings, and various materials. Her work rejects traditional methods in visual arts such as painting in favour of “bricolage” works that combine media and subvert value systems, often making experimental use of methods traditionally designated to a “so-called feminine sensibility.” “I found my voice as an artist when I stepped on a dead sparrow on a street in Paris in 1971. I didn’t know why, but I was sure this sparrow was important because it was something very fragile that was near me and my life,” states Messager. The sparrow was soon joined by others and became the exhibit The Boarders, which launched her career in 1972.

In 2005, she represented France at the Venice Biennale, where she won the Golden Lion for her Pinocchio-inspired installation that transformed the French pavilion into a casino. One of her most famous pieces is her exhibition The Messengers, which showcases an installation of rooms that include a series of photographs and toy-like, hand knit animals in costumes. For example, some of the animals’ heads were replaced by heads of other stuffed animals to reflect the ways in which humans disguise themselves or transform their identities with costume.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'John Cage in the house of Dorothea Tanning' Paris 1979

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Meret Oppenheim' Paris 1977

 

 

 

Surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim (Swiss, 1913-1985) catapulted to fame in 1936 with Object, a fur-covered tea set that became her most iconic work. Alongside her contemporaries Man Ray, André Breton, Dora Maar, and Max Ernst, Oppenheim developed an expansive multidisciplinary practice that embraced the uncanny and psychosexual. Throughout her paintings, drawings, jewellery, and mixed-media work, she riffed on everyday objects and explored themes of femininity, fantasy, dreams, identity, and the erotic. Oppenheim has been the subject of retrospectives at the Kunsthalle Bern, Moderna Museet, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, among other institutions. In addition to her studio practice, Oppenheim collaborated with avant-garde Italian designer Elsa Schiaperelli on accessories and famously posed for Man Ray’s Erotique voilée (1933). Object now belongs in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Text from the Artsy website

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Karlheinz Stockhausen, Salzburg' 1995

 

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Karl Kalter, Fasching' Munich 1995

 

 

 

Karl Kalter: My father in 1995 two weeks before his death in Munich during Carneval

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Michel Leiris' Paris, 1979

 

 

 

Julien Michel Leiris (French, 20 April 1901 in Paris – 30 September 1990 in Saint-Hilaire, Essonne) was a French surrealist writer and ethnographer. Part of the Surrealist group in Paris, Leiris became a key member of the College of Sociology with Georges Bataille and head of research in ethnography at the CNRS.

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'James Baldwin, Ted Joans' Paris 1976

 

 

 

James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American writer and activist. As a writer, he garnered acclaim across various mediums, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. His first novel, Go Tell It On The Mountain, was published in 1953; decades later, Time Magazine included the novel on its list of the 100 best English-language novels released from 1923 to 2005. His first essay collection, Notes of a Native Son, was published in 1955.

Baldwin’s work fictionalises fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures. Themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and class intertwine to create intricate narratives that run parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement. Baldwin’s protagonists are often but not exclusively African American, and gay and bisexual men frequently feature prominently in his literature. These characters often face internal and external obstacles in their search for social and self-acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, which was written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.

His reputation has endured since his death and his work has been adapted for the screen to great acclaim. An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the documentary film I Am Not Your Negro (2016), which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards. One of his novels, If Beale Street Could Talk, was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film of the same name in 2018, directed and produced by Barry Jenkins.

In addition to writing, Baldwin was also a well-known, and controversial, public figure and orator, especially during the civil rights movement in the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Theodore Joans (July 4, 1928 – April 25, 2003) was an American jazz poet, surrealist, trumpeter, and painter. His work stands at the intersection of several avant-garde streams and some have seen in it a precursor to the orality of the spoken-word movement. However he criticised the competitive aspect of “slam” poetry. Joans is known for his motto: “Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Andy Warhol signs the shirt of Alain Pacadis' Paris 1977

 


Andy Warhol signs the shirt of Alain Pacadis
Paris 1977

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Berenice Abbott and Gisèle Freund' Paris, 1977

 

Berenice Abbott and Gisèle Freund
Paris, 1977

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Susan Sontag' Paris, 1979

 

 

 

I am especially moved by two portraits in this series. The first is of Susan Sontag, author of the famous essays collected in On photography (1973-1977), who was so devoted both to Paris, where she is buried, and to photography. She described herself as an “eternal photographic virgin,” but in fact she loved the camera and understood composition, as we see here and see so often in the photographs taken by her friend Annie Leibovitz, reflecting a state of both relaxed affection and that “density of abandonment” that her friend Barthes spoke of in connection with Robert Mapplethorpe’s Young Man with his Arm Extended (1975). And lastly there is Roland Barthes, standing at his window, lost in thought, expressionless – neither happy nor sad, neither present nor absent, drifting but not vague, the man who wrote such beautiful things about photography in Camera Lucida (1980). But one of his most astonishingly banal remarks is to be found in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1977). In the margin of a photo of himself as a toddler, he wrote: “Contemporaries? I was learning to walk, Proust was still alive, and finishing La Recherche (1913-1927).” Sontag sees it differently: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” To conclude: in that blink of an eye – the shutter is essentially a blink as it opens and closes – the photographer artist has entered this room; she, too, is in that bed, sitting beneath a framed picture, or covered by a white cloth, in a (fortuitous) echo of photographs by Duane Michals and Hervé Guibert, a phantom image hidden under the white sheet of the darkroom.

Extract from Renaud Machart. “The frame and the void,” on the Marion Kalter website November 2013 [Online] Cited 04/04/2022

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Roland Barthes' Paris, 1979

 


Roland Barthes
Paris, 1979

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Marguerite Duras, Yann Andréa' Paris, 1981

 

 

 

Marguerite Germaine Marie Donnadieu (French, 4 April 1914 – 3 March 1996), known as Marguerite Duras, was a French novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker. Her script for the film Hiroshima mon amour (1959) earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards.

Yann Andréa was born on December 24, 1952 in Guingamp, Brittany, France. He was an actor and writer, known for Cet amour-là (2001), I Want to Talk About Duras (2021) and L’homme atlantique (1981). He died on July 10, 2014 in Paris, France.

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Pierre Boulez rehearses a work by Luciano Berio with the Ensemble Intercontemporain' Paris, 1989

 


Pierre Boulez rehearses a work by Luciano Berio with the Ensemble Intercontemporain
Paris, 1989

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs Jean Paul Riopelle' Tanlay 1989

 


Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs Jean Paul Riopelle
Tanlay 1989

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Daido Moriyama in Paris' 2018

 

 

 

Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg, Austria
Phone: +43 662 842220

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Wednesday: 10am – 8pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

02
Nov
18

Text: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Death and the image’ 2018

November 2018

 

This text was written in 2017 for a special issue of the international magazine Text on the subject ‘Writing Trauma’. While the text was accepted, the peer-reviewers wanted heavy revisions, including reordering the piece and editing out my personal stories. At the time, I was going into hospital for an operation on my hand and such revisions were impossible to undertake.

Now, over a year later, I have reread the text… and I have amended and extended it, but otherwise I am going to leave it as I wrote it in the first place. I like the way I write and I like my personal stories. While it is a long read the writing addresses an important subject with, I hope, some interesting insights along the way.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 8,137

Download Death and the image (4.3Mb pdf)

 

 

Abstract

This text investigates how the act of photography visually writes trauma. Through an analysis of the context of images of death by artists such as Alphonse Bertillon, Robert Capa, Alexander Gardner, and Walker Evans the paper ponders how the camera captures human beings ante-mortem, at the death point, post-mortem and vita ad mortem.

It seeks to understand that line between presence and absence where life was there… and now death is in its place. Death was one step removed, now it is present. How does the act and performance of photography depict the trauma of death, this double death (for the photograph is a memento mori and/or the person in the photograph may already know that they are going to die).

“The text of eternity that the photograph proposes, imparts and imposes a paradoxical state of loss. The secret of telling truth in a photograph is that the more truthful, “the more orgasmic, the more pleasurable, the more suicidal” the pronouncement of the perfect paradox (you are dead but also alive) … then the more we are strangled while uttering it. The language of deferral in the writing of trauma in death and the image becomes the dissolve that seizes the subject in the midst of an eternal bliss. In death and the image we may actually die (be)coming.”

Keywords

Trauma, photography, death, art, memento mori, war, execution, memory, victim, representation, Alphonse Bertillon, Robert Capa, Alexander Gardner, Walker Evans, ante-mortem, point of death, death point, post-mortem, punctum, empathy, vita ad mortem, life after death.

 

 

Death and the image

 

 

.
“Photography, because it stops the flow of life, is always flirting with death…”

.
John Berger1

 

“On the most fundamental level there are transitions from continuous to discontinuous or from discontinuous to continuous. We are discontinuous beings, individuals who perish in isolation in the midst of an incomprehensible adventure, but we yearn for our lost continuity. We find the state of affairs that binds us to our random and ephemeral individuality hard to bear. Along with our tormenting desire that this evanescent thing should last, there stands our obsession with a primal continuity linking us with everything that is.”

.
Georges Bataille2

 

 

German Gen. Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution

 

“German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad in the Aversa stockade. The General was convicted and sentenced to death by an American military tribunal. Aversa, Italy.” Blomgren, December 1, 1945. 111-SC-225295. National Archives Identifier: 531326

 

 

Nazi General Anton Dostler Execution – Italy 1945 

The still photograph (above) can be seen being taken by the flash from a still camera that occurs at 1.22 secs in the YouTube film.
* An additional image of Dostler’s execution taken from a different perspective in the Addendum section of this text.

 

 

1

One of life’s recurrent themes is mortality. As Bataille notes, we are discontinuous beings: we live, we breathe, and we die. Photography’s recurrent theme is also mortality. In a ghostly evocation, the medium possesses an odour of death that sticks in the throat. So how then does photography visually write the trauma of death – over time, through space, in different contexts, with multiple narratives and different points of view?

As a first point of reference, we need to define trauma. Trauma can be an injury to living tissue; a disordered psychic or behavioural state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury; an emotional upset and an agent, force or mechanism that causes all or any of these conditions.3 Atkinson and Richardson note that the work of theorists such as Nicolas Abraham, Maria Torok, Shoshana Felman, Dori Laub, Dominick LaCapra, and Cathy Caruth in broad terms view trauma,

“… as the delayed manifestation of a psychic wound sustained during an experience that has happened too quickly to allow registration and processing of the event at the time of its occurrence. To study trauma in literary or cultural terms, then, is to be concerned with the tension between what is known and what is not known, and with the impact and dynamics of the woundedness and machinations of trauma – not only its purely physical instantiation, but in all its reverberations. This is what brings the study of trauma to the uncertainty of truth, the impossibility of bearing absolute witness to catastrophe, the multiplicity of historical narratives.”4

.
Constitutive of trauma and its affects is the “piercing of the psychic shield” which protects a fragile subjectivity leaving in its wake shattered individuals, communities and even whole nations.5 Further, Michalinos Zembylas citing Kaplan (2005) notes that “an important distinction that needs to be made here is one’s positioning and context of encountering trauma,”6 between being a primary or secondary witness. Personally, I believe that a testimony (a formal written or spoken statement that something is true) in the first instance… becomes a testament (something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact) in the second.

When looking death in the face, we can state that death is a trauma not only for the physical body and the psyche of the person involved (the direct trauma victim), but also for the witness of the event, be they a primary witness – one who actually witnesses the traumatic event – or a secondary witness, a person “who has no personal connection to the victim but may encounter trauma through other sources such as the media and oral or written accounts of a catastrophe.”7

These secondary encounters can never be the actual experience of trauma but, acting through language (be it oral, written or visual), they may embody sensations that stimulate feelings and thoughts in the secondary observer. A social construction of a testament may produce an empathetic engagement in viewers as “secondary witnesses.”8 Through an understanding of spectatorship, experience, aesthetic effects, narrative strategies and temporal shifts in the polyvocal nature of language we can begin to understand how the affect of secondary traumatisation – on memory, history and the body – can break down the subject-object dichotomy, can break down the realist norms of representation to produce “a mode of cognition involving sensuous, somatic and tactile forms of perception.”9 Here language (the photograph in this case, reinforced by the title of the photograph) stands in for that which is absent, but it is not in opposition to an intensity of feeling. The language of the photograph can intensify the affect of the image, especially if the photograph becomes transcendent, embodied, in the vitality and “aliveness” of the viewer.10

This mimetic experience “promotes a critical and self-reflexive empathy” and knowledge in the secondary witness that LaCapra observes is a “virtual, not vicarious, experience … in which emotional response comes with respect for the other and the realisation that the experience of the other is not one’s own.”11 Essentially, this is a social concept, a social construction of reality, a matrix-like view of the world that draws on relational and contextual dimensions for understanding trauma. This concept requires careful consideration of issues related to history, culture, race, gender, ideology, beliefs, agency and power.

“From a social constructionist and narrative perspective, people reconstruct their selves through the stories they tell about their past and the meaning they ascribe to the present in anticipation of the future. They shape their stories through active and creative interpretation of their lives and are in turn shaped by these stories. However, the self is not only a product of narratives. People are purposeful and moral beings, having the power and agency to change scripts, discourses and ideologies…”12

.
Here we can ask, what are the machinations of the image in the affective dynamics of photographs of trauma and how are they situated in a certain relation to trauma? What do photographs actually do that give rise to a way of thinking and feeling about trauma?

Although no representation can fully describe the first hand experience of trauma because of the partial nature of language – its gaps, elisions and impossibilities of speech13 – it is because of these very gaps that new spaces of interpretation can open up. Rather than just representing the perceived reality of trauma (this happened, at this time, in this location – an ordering of reality), images have the unique ability to transcend their indexical relationship to the real, pointing and touching (as if with the index finger) to the relationality of trauma as it touches human emotion. With its ability to police and regulate it subject, the implicit violence of photography is a predatory means of taking possession of both its victim (the subject) and its viewer.

Anna Gibbs has stated that we live, “in a more or less continuous state of mediatised emergency and traumatic aftermath, desensitised by the onslaught of images … to the affect we ought to feel.”14 I strongly disagree. I would argue that the traumatic numbing15 and supposed “death of experience”16 allegedly present in the world of image circulation, translation, and accumulation only occurs if the witness lets it be so.

Personally, I believe that something in the image is transferred to the witness pre-cognition – intuitively, imaginatively – which can then be interpreted cognitively and relationally with regard to history and memory, art and culture, politics and experience through an orthogonal movement through time and space. As viewers and interpreters, we are not fixed at a particular point in time and space, nor do we observe from one particular point of view. Our existential engagement provides a space to close the gap between affect and enunciation.

“Facts can vibrate; they can give of colors, sounds, smells, images. To talk of these facts with no recognition of this is to lack any awareness of the act of enunciation, of the gaps between language and experience and the unpredictable ways that sparks can break out of language, leap across the gap and ignite the tinderbox of traumatic memory.”17

 

2

Surfing Pinterest (a photo sharing website) recently, I absentmindedly clicked on an abstract image of three hanging black shapes from the pantheon of image tiles that presented itself to me. Up popped this horrific image of three Afro-Americans who had been lynched in the Southern United States in the 1920s. I was shocked and dismayed. I had such a strong emotional reaction to the image. But more than that, my feelings and memories of the bigotry that I had faced as a young gay man growing up in the 1970s swelled in my consciousness. This story is a example of how exposure to an image can bring to the surface unresolved aspects of being ‘Other’, of being different, and being persecuted for that difference. I thought about the lives of these people that had led them to that point, their families, their histories and the terror that they must have experienced on that day. You cannot begin to understand that, but you can have empathy and anger against the systems of racism and bigotry that exist in the world.

Then the cognitive part of my brain linked the image to a report I had only just seen a few days before on lynching, which told of the thousands of Afro-Americans who had been killed between 1882 and 1968.18 Mentally, I then linked this to a Facebook posting which put forward the analogy that the current killing of Afro-Americans by police in the United States was akin to a contemporary and publicly endorsed and enforced form of lynching. Finally, in my head I heard Billie Holiday singing that famous song Strange Fruit, “a dark and profound song about the lynching of African Americans in the Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era, “strange fruit,” as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind, and becoming food for crows upon being burned.”19 I watched the video of Billie Holiday singing this song on YouTube.20 Every time I think of this image I have these associations of animate thought intrinsic to the original experience,21 where the micro and macro conditions of production work to “embody and register trauma,”22 a communicable language of sensation and affect, time and time again.

 

 

Billie Holiday – Strange fruit

 

 

These chains of affect, the nexus between affect / feeling / emotion / cognition, are a form of synaesthesia where facts, emotions, feelings, memories, sounds and images vibrate against each other as an active and continuous engagement of the self with the world in which one lives. In a human being who is un/consciously aware, these real and mediated experiences may encourage a sensory intensification that elicits thought and empathic vision in the materiality of embodied experience, something (the punctum?) that takes us out of our selves into a higher register of being.

As part of this system of impressions, of an instantaneous, affective response triggered by an image,23 photographs force us to engage visually and involuntarily. “Impressions that force us to look, encounters which force us to interpret, expressions which force us to think.”24 Encounters which force us to comprehend. The conjunction of affect and critical awareness “constitute the basis of an empathy grounded … on a feeling for another that entails an encounter with something irreducible and different, often inaccessible.”25 This combination of affective and intellectual operations – about forcing oneself to look (and that process of looking/surrendering) but never forgetting your ‘point of view’, your memory, history and identity, is when empathy becomes that process of surrender, “but also the catch that transforms your perception.”26 How is this “catch” enunciated in photographs? I now want to look at a few images that explicate these phenomena.

 

Ante-mortem: present but absent

3

With the invention of photography in the late 1830s, the photograph as memento mori allows the spectator to observe death not at first hand, but through the representation of the image “taken from life.” Photographs provide a verification of reality through their apparent verisimilitude, while being woven into narratives – oral, textual, intertextual, spatial and temporal – that frame the event in multiple ways.

“Photographs … have come to stand in for reality … despite the fact that it is relatively easy to manipulate their meaning. As a result of their ability to project reality, images, and particularly those that depict death and destruction, are seen as potentially powerful pieces of documentary evidence…”27

.
Photographs are embedded in “a context of the cultural circumstances at the time, and therefore exist rarely in isolation or without meaning”28 and can be seen as having a denotative level (what they physically represent) and a connotative level (the meanings attached to that representation).29 Photography quickly changed how death was displayed because it introduced a “reality” and immediacy of representation that was democratic, personal and everyday.30

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Lewis Paine
26th April 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

An example of the personal, everyday and documentary nature of photography can be seen in the photograph taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865. This portrait is of Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine) who was one of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which occurred the same month. The photograph has a background of dark metal, and was taken on one of the ironclads U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus, where the conspirators were for a time confined. The reality is Paine was executed in July 1865 just eight short weeks after this photograph was taken, so in effect (and in the affect on us of this knowledge), he is (already) a dead man walking. This is a double death – that death buried in the very act of taking any photograph, La petite mort or “the little death,” an idiom and euphemism for the orgasm of the photographic time freeze; and the fact that we know that he was going to die, those short weeks later.

The photograph forms the central panel of a three-panel Renaissance-like altarpiece, the form in which the three photographs are usually displayed. The left and right hand photographs were taken within minutes of each other, with the camera in the same position, whereas in the centre photograph the camera has been lowered to show more of the body, and the image has been cropped at the top. In the central plate the figure of Paine has been raised up in the frame – almost prematurely brought back to life by his placement. The centre image is the only one where Paine stares directly at the camera. He surveys the viewer with a gaze I find enigmatic.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Three photographs of Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver prints from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

This is a very modern face, a very contemporary face. His hair is similar to Justin Beiber’s. Who brushed his hair across for this picture, and would it normally be this long, or has it just been ignored because of his fate? He still has good muscle tone – has he been exercising in his ironclad cell? And finally, his clothing – are they navy issue, as his top appears to have been given to him, perhaps the coarse, navy blue wool of the Northern states. If we were to place this image within the metaphysical school of photography which peaked with Paul Caponigro and Minor White we could say: Hovering above his head, has his spirit already begun to leave his body?

One reading of his gaze is that he is interested in what the photographer is doing – almost the gaze of an apprentice wanting to apply these skills in the future. Given his fate is he insane because of his interest? Another reading could be that he is looking out to the future in the hope of finding that he will be judged in another way. And another is the immediacy of his gaze – it is a gaze that is happening now!

The other thing that I find mysterious is the distance of the photographer from the subject. Was it fear or the presence of the guards that stopped Gardner getting any closer, or are there deck fittings we cannot see that prevented his approach. Imagine being Paine, having a photographer point a damn great view camera at you, documenting your countenance for prosperity. What was going on in Paine’s mind – what is his perspective on this performance by the photographer? And what brought Paine to this place?

Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques by which human beings constitute themselves, “technologies of the self.” Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of immortality.”31 As we look into his eyes he knows that we know he is going to die, has already died but the intensity of that knowledge is brought into present time. In this instant, what Paine emanates is a form of i-mortality.

Roland Barthes in his seminal work Camera Lucida observes in Section 39:

“He is dead and he is going to die… The photograph is handsome, as is the boy: that is the studium. But the punctum is: he is going to die. I read at the same time: this will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the absolute past of the pose, the photograph tells me death in the future. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence.”32

.
This is Barthes anterior future, a moment where truth is interpreted in the mind of the photographer, not out there but in here (your head and your heart), where past, present and future coalesce into a single point in time: his death and our death connected through his gaze, and the knowledge of our joint discontinuity. In this moment in time, what we are doing is making a list about the human condition when we talk about something that is remarkable. Language can never fully describe the human condition, much as it may try… and this is why this photograph is remarkable, because it is ineffable, unknowable. The photograph inhabits you; it haunts you like few others, because it is a memoriam to a young man and his present death. Here he is present but absent at one and the same time.

As such, this is an image as triple death – the death of the photograph (past time / memento mori / remembrance of death), the death of the person in the photograph and also a third death, the knowledge that Paine is going to die. Death, like life, can be cyclical. This is the catch that transforms your perception, in Barthes terms the punctum of the image, in which the wounding, personally touching detail (past pose, future death) establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it.

“The punctum (a Latin word derived from the Greek word for trauma [my emphasis]) … inspires an intensely private meaning, one that is suddenly, unexpectedly recognized and consequently remembered (it “shoots out of [the photograph] like an arrow and pierces me”); it ‘escapes’ language (like Lacan’s real); it is not easily communicable through/with language. The punctum is ‘historical’ as an experience of the irrefutable indexicality of the photograph (its contingency upon a referent). The punctum is a detail or “partial object” that attracts and holds the viewer’s (the Spectator’s) gaze; it pricks or wounds the observer.”33

.
This trauma, prick or wound that lifts the viewer out of themselves, out of their everyday existence, “points to those features of a photograph that seem to produce or convey a meaning without invoking any recognisable symbolic system. This kind of meaning is unique to the response of the individual viewer of the image.”34 This punctum also accounts for the importance of emotion and subjectivity in interacting with photographs; memory of that photograph displaces it from its moment of origin.35 Photography enacts the trauma of death even while being enacted upon.

Now we can read Eduardo Cadava’s comments on Walter Benjamin’s analysis of the photograph:

“As Benjamin suggests … the photograph, like the souvenir, is the corpse of an experience. A photograph therefore speaks as death, as the trace of what passes into history. I, the photograph, the spaced out limit between life and death, I, the photograph, am death. Yet, speaking as death, the photograph can be neither death nor itself. At once dead and alive, it opens the possibility of our being in time.”36

 

4

Photography then, can be seen as death taken away from itself.

Through the oscillation between studium (historical, social or cultural meanings extracted via semiotic analysis) and punctum (those features of a photograph that seem to produce or convey a meaning without invoking any recognisable symbolic system) the traumatic photograph of death, death’s afterimage, transcends the initial shock inducing signifier leading to a more extended form of engagement that addresses the duration of trauma in memory – through the images elisions, slippages, and conceptual, political and historical complexities. Our negotiation with imaging and imagining, therefore, takes place within ever-expanding contexts of meaning – some relating to the past and some to the present – which impact future interpretations.

I believe that these negotiations are, firstly, linked to what Deleuze calls the encountered sign, a “sign that is felt, rather than recognised, or perceived through cognition.”37 A feeling that is a catalyst for critical enquiry or deep thought. “For Deleuze, affect or emotion is a more effective trigger for profound thought because of the way in which it grasps us, forcing us to engage involuntarily…”38 Secondly, I believe that these negotiations are linked to what Barthes calls the images “third meaning.”

“In Barthes’ view, the image’s third meaning compels viewers after they encounter and deplete both its literal / informational side and its symbolic dimensions. Barthes argued that the third meaning is difficult to locate, because it is not situated structurally or in a certain place of the image. It is similarly difficult to describe, because it involves what he called the image’s obtuseness, its accent or anaphoric side.”39

.
Again, we have this idea of the catch, accent, or punctum that grasps us and takes us out of ourselves, that modulates the images “voice” (which is how the image takes on an already provided meaning upon its initial appearance), a voice which then also “helps us to understand both the image’s third meaning and the role of contingency in visual memory.”40

 

Death point

5

 

.
“Ah, wretched as I am … to dwell not among the living, not among the dead.”

.
Sophocles, ‘Antigone’41

 

 

Commentators such as Barbie Zelizer observe that images, especially about-to-die images, easily “reduce complex issues and circumstances to memorable but simplistic visual frames.”42 The image,

“… depicts for its onlookers a moment in an event’s unfolding to which they attend while knowing where that unfolding leads. This means that visual work often involves catching the sequencing of events or issues midstream, strategically freezing it at its potentially strongest moment of meaningful representation.”43

.
Other writers such as Susan Sontag note that these images have the potential to stir public emotions, simply because they freeze a moment in time and can be looked at again and again… but at the same time the repeated viewing of images of atrocity can have a numbing effect.44 The pain and fear evidenced in the photograph as seen in the victim’s eyes (for example in the photograph of the shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy), expands the literal / informational side and its symbolic dimensions (chivalry, love, devotion, hope – Camelot!) into a Barthes’ third space. While Kennedy is a victim twice over (the victim of the assassin and the camera) in a guttural interpretation of the image he is to remain a victim for eternity in the contingency of the future, as long as we continue to look at this photograph.

For me, this is sad and painful photograph. I remember the day it happened. I was ten years old at the time. It’s one of those events that you will remember for the rest of your life – where you were, who you were with – like the moon landings or 9/11. I was in a car outside a small newsagent when the news came on the radio. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot: first aural, then visual on the black and white TV that night, then textual in the newspapers and then visual again with this photograph, then associative. The pain of the loss of those heady days of hope lessens not.

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938) 'LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING' June 5, 1968

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938)
LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Lies Gravely Wounded on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after midnight today, moments after he was shot during a celebration of his victory in yesterday’s California primary election
June 5, 1968
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 21.1cm (6 3/4 x 8 5/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010

 

While photographs of the actual moment of death are rare I have been able to find around ten images that capture this vital moment, a freezing of reality at the point of death, the death point: that line between presence and absence where life was there… and now death is in its place. Death was one step removed, now it is present.

However, I would argue that in the contextual language of the photograph, there is no singular death point. I would propose the idea of an extended period of time and space embedded in the spatio-temporal matrix of the image, so that there is no single point, no singular resolution to the traumatic moment of death – either for the person involved, nor the witness or viewer.

Setting aside the concept that the image could have been staged, in Robert Capa’s famous photograph Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936 (below), there is something about this image where space or some basic element is being democratised at the moment of death – or maybe in the choice to struggle with death. In an ontological sense of becoming, perhaps it is this that becomes the pure representation of time. In contrapunto, there is an anonymous image of a German soldier at the point of death on the steppes of Russia that is totally unknown. Why has one become famous and the other not?

Has it to do with the fame of the photographer, the pose of the person, or the agency of photography itself, where one photograph regarding the pain of others is too damning a legacy and of too plain a purpose to bare contemplating, while the other – with its masked face, outflung arm and falling, quasi-religious nature – has become possibly the most famous of war photographs through its proliferation in newspapers and magazines.

Whatever the merits of each image, these death point photographs are noteworthy for what is not said: the violence that is being perpetrated on the victim every time a person looks, and looks again, at the photograph. The writing of trauma by photography never ends, is always and forever infinite.

 

Robert Capa (1913-1954) 'Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936' 1936

 

Robert Capa (American, 1913-1954)
Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936
1936
Gelatin silver print
Photograph by Robert Capa © Cornell Capa / Magnum

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Falling German Soldier, Eastern Front' c. 1942

 

Anonymous photographer
Falling German Soldier, Eastern Front
c. 1942
akg-images / Interfoto AKG138118

 

 

Caption: A German soldier pays the ultimate price of war. German casualties were less than those of the Red Army, but the steady attrition suffered by the Wehrmacht began to undermine its effectiveness.46

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942' 1942

Anonymous photographer. 'Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942' 1942

 

Anonymous photographer
Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942
1942
Rare Historical Photos website 2013

 

 

Caption: A Soviet spy laughs at his executioner in a picture taken in Rukajärvi, in East Karelia, in November 1942. It has been thought within the Finnish Defence Forces that the decision to withhold pictures of the fate of Russian POWs and spies may also have been prompted by concerns that pro-Soviet elements in Finnish society could have used the images for propaganda purposes. This picture was declassified by the Ministry of Defense of Finland in 2006, with the description: Unknown Soviet intelligence officer before being shot, Finland, 1942.

It’s a pretty amazing picture. To capture the last few moments of life. He knows he will die in a few seconds, in a forest in the snow. And there he will bleed out and be forgotten. His life, his experience, has come to an end. What else could he do but smile? That smile was his final defiance. Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.47

 

 

6

Here we might ask, is it possible, through the use of encountered signs, “voice”, punctum, catch or accent, to extend the unreal time of death?

Personally, I believe it is and I would argue for a sense of a Buddhist “no-time”. A transcendent time embedded into the fabric of the image. In Walker Evans’ terms an “unconscious phenomenon” that culminates in amazing accidents of composition, where things constantly rub up against each other “in the desire to create a type of friction that tests the boundaries of representation.”48 An example of this spatio-temporal dimensionality, third meaning or Thirdspace, can be seen in the interplay between the still image and film footage of the execution of German General Anton Dostler by a firing squad in the Aversa stockade December 1, 1945. By examining the film we see a flash of light at 5.16 secs, which is the still photograph at the top of this text being taken by the flash of a camera. The photographer can then be seen walking off. Later in the film another angle of the execution is shown, again with the flash of the absent camera recorded, starting at 7.10 secs. The displacement of time and space, between one point of view and another, with the absence of the still camera in both instances (in the image and in the film), is uncanny.

The fluidity of Barthes’ third meaning, where the image’s obtuseness compels viewers, has obvious links to Edward Soja’s conceptualisation of “Thirdspace”, which emerged from the spatial trialectics established by Henri Lefebvre in The Production of Space and Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia. Soja defines Thirdspace as, “an-Other way of understanding and acting to change the spatiality of human life, a distinct mode of critical spatial awareness that is appropriate to the new scope and significance being brought about in the rebalanced trialectics of spatiality-historicality-sociality.”49 In this amorphous space, “everything comes together… subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdisciplinary, everyday life and unending history.”50

A further example of the presence of a third meaning in a still photograph can be seen in the image by an unknown photographer Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans (1944, below). Caught like a rabbit in headlights, the flash illuminates the collaborator kneeling, bound, and masked but it is not quick enough to freeze the explosion of wood, the dynamic breaking of the rope or the slight movement of the hands. The body seems to float on a bed of leaves. The cheap, dirty shoes and striped trousers leading up to the material that covers the victim’s face. Is that his hair, or a hat or another hood over his head? Although we know the what, why, and where of the photograph – an encounter with both its literal/informational side and its symbolic dimensions – the placing of the image, its accent and obtuseness is much more difficult to understand. The photograph and its protagonist seem to exist beyond time and space, the anonymous man surrounded by a death bed of leaves, bursting the bonds that wrapped him and held him tight. Like the mystery of Man Ray’s L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse (1920), the photograph has disturbed the trialectics of spatiality-historicality-sociality, destroying the imploring label, “Do not disturb.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans. This execution took place in Rennes, France. 21 November 1944'

 

Unknown photographer
Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans. This execution took place in Rennes, France. 21 November 1944
1944
Silver gelatin photograph
U.S. Army Signal Corps
National Archives Identifier (NAID)

 

 

Post-mortem: absent but present

7

 

Letherolfsvile Oct 29 AD 1859

This is the likeness of Catherine Christ

When I am dead and in my grave

And when my bones are rotten

Remember me

When this you see

Or I shall be forgotten

The grass is green The rose is red

here is my name when I am dead 51

 

 

This short poem written on a piece of paper hidden underneath an image in a daguerreotype case implores us to remember the person – a plea to the future to remember them – through a composite narrative of portrait and text. Through the creative addition of text, the language of photographs can be supplemented which adds to the functionality of the photograph as an effective memory object.52 But what if the scene of the text (the photograph) contains an absence, no depiction of the person who has died? What happens to the writing of trauma in images of the dead then?

If we acknowledge that a photograph of a person always prefigures its subjects passing then what we are doing “in reality” is deferring the death of an/other onto the foreseen death of ourselves. In this process, we must remember that every photograph is a construct, a performative act by the photographer. What the photographer chooses to record is an act of will, whether ethical or not. Photographers have the presence of mind to attend to a certain manufacture of history. When viewing this instant narrative the viewer must acknowledge a loss of a sense of time:

“This lost sense could manifest as reliving a traumatic episode as if it is taking place in the present … In the context of trauma… a loss of sense of time deprives one of the ability of remembering and telling one’s narrative in a chronological order.”53

 

Emmet Gowin (b. 1941) 'Avebury Stone and Rennie Booher, England and Danville, Virginia' 1972

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941)
Avebury Stone and Rennie Booher, England and Danville, Virginia
1972
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Emmet and Edith Gowin
© Edith and Emmet Gowin and courtesy of Pace MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

One way that artist’s upset this chronological order is by playing with the fragmentary nature of time, space and memory – of present absence/absent presence. In Emmet Gowin’s accidentally double-exposed negative, Avebury Stone and Rennie Booher, England and Danville, Virginia, 1972 (above), the photograph combines “a funerary image of his wife’s grandmother, Rennie Booher, with the surface of a Neolithic monumental stone he had photographed in England a few days earlier.” Floating through eternity, encased in ancient rock that nourishes her spirit, Gowin’s photograph acts as a kind of testament of absent but present, neither here not there. This loss of sense of space and time can be deeply disturbing (like trauma) as it questions one’s physical presence in the world, but it can also have a transcendental dimension as both time and space are inextricably bound to the very specific conditions of the material world. Photographs like the one of Booher have the potential to draw together what would otherwise seem to be incompatible. To form what Jacob Bronowsi calls a “hidden likeness”, one that transcends time and space, one that is reactivated with every looking.

“The poem or the discovery exists in two moments of vision: the moment of appreciation as much as that of creation; for the appreciator must see the movement, wake to the echo which was started in the creation of the work. In the moment of appreciation we live again the moment when the creator saw and held the hidden likeness. When a simile takes us aback and persuades us together, when we find a juxtaposition in a picture both odd and intriguing, when a theory is at once fresh and convincing, we do not merely nod over someone else’s work. We re-enact the creative act, and we ourselves make the discovery again…”54

.
An important fact about the nature of trauma is the compulsion of the human psyche to repeat traumatic events over and over again. The reproducibility of photographs and the ability to look at them again and again – their machine-like repeatability, their citationality or iterability to use Derrida’s signature term – feeds into this repetitive “death instinct” (Thanatos). However, Bronowsi’s “hidden likeness” (also the name of one of Emmet Gowin’s exhibitions and a form of punctum) is perhaps a liminal moment, one that may upset the death instinct. These liminal moments may occupy a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. By disrupting the threshold – between life and death, between past, present and future time – they are requisite of the ghost (the soul) in the machine (the camera).

As Derrida observes, building on the work of Barthes,

“It belongs to it without belonging to it and is unlocatable in it; it never inscribes itself in the homogenous objectivity of the framed space but instead inhabits, or rather haunts it: “it is the addition [supplement]: it is what I add to the photograph and what is none the less already there.” … Neither life nor death, it is the haunting of the one by the other … Ghosts: the concept of the other in the same, the punctum in the studium, the dead other alive in me.”57

 

8

In this scenario, perhaps the act of writing trauma through death in the image becomes the true act of learning, and the interpretation of that act becomes an act of creation rather than one of rote memorialisation. These are images that require contemplation, time, analysis, and sensation, where the subject of the photograph is transformed “from somebody merely seen to someone really felt,” which is, as Batchen says, “an emotional exchange transacted in the heart.”58

This emotional exchange can take many forms. It can be triggered when the dead body is only metaphorically represented in the image, when the physicality of death has been transmuted. For example, photographs such as Walker Evan’s Child’s grave, Hale County, Alabama (1936, below), or the documentary image Place where the corpse was found (1901-1908, below) by the French photographer Alphonse Bertillon, propose a re-imaging and re-imagining of the life of the person. They do so through an un/ambiguous photographic context, that is, through the marking of place in the photograph. In the latter case, this marking of a life is represented by two pieces of wood lying on the ground and two pieces of wood propped at 45 degrees against the wall. As though this is all that is left of the existence of Mademoiselle Mercier in a street (Rue de l’Yvette) that still exists in Paris to this day. A photograph of pieces of wood and an empty space.

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Child's grave, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Child’s grave, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Silver gelatin print
7 3/8 x 9 7/16″ (18.7 x 23.9cm)
© 2016 Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853-1914) 'Place where the corpse was found' 1st November 1902

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853-1914)
Place where the corpse was found
1st November 1902
From Album of Paris Crime Scenes
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 24.3 x 31cm (9 9/16 x 12 3/16 in.)
Page: 23 x 29cm (9 1/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

 

Other photographs picture the place of death nearly a century later in order to commemorate the traumatic death of “deserters” at the hands of a firing squad during the First World War. These are some of the most traumatic photographs of death I have seen, for they require me to imagine the mise en scène that was enacted at dawn almost 100 years ago, in the very place where these photographs were later “shot” at dawn.

The artist, Chloe Dewe Mathews, realised that “I was placing my tripod around the same spot where the firing squad had stood and looking directly at the place where the victim was placed.” It was, she says, “a solitary and sombre undertaking,” an undertaking (with that name’s etymological link to the word undertaker) which the viewer is invited to partake of, a re-imaging of those traumatic events that requires an active imagining, and thinking, in the neo-spectator. It is this duration of trauma in cultural memory which calls for an active negotiation in ways of seeing, a re-negotiation which can produce an empathic vision that “changes the terms of our engagement” with the image.

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews (British, b. 1982)
Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
2013
Eleven British soldiers were executed here between 1915-1918
From the series Shot at Dawn
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

 

Vita ad mortem: life after death

9

 

.
“… the life of spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself.”

.
George Wilhelm Frederich Hegel61

 

 

The absence/presence contained within all photographs speaks to the ultimate affect: that of la petite mort – the “little death” – the sensation of orgasm as likened to death, a short period of melancholy or transcendence as a result of the expenditure of the “life force.” While Barthes metaphorically used the concept to describe the feeling one should get when experiencing any great literature, it can also be used when some undesired thing has happened to a person and has affected them so much that “a part of them dies inside.”

A photograph can also contain this melancholy transcendence, a catastrophe that has already occurred.

“Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe… This punctum, more or less blurred beneath the abundance and the disparity of contemporary photographs, is vividly legible in historical photographs: there is always a defeat of Time in them: that is dead and that is going to die… At the limit, there is no need to represent a body [in photographs] in order for me to experience this vertigo of time defeated.”63

.
Barthes’ concept of an extended punctum may be useful here, when he states, “I now know that there exists another punctum (another ‘stigmatum’) than the ‘detail’. This new punctum, which is no longer of form but of intensity, is Time, the lacerating emphasis of the noeme (‘that-has-been’), its pure representation.”64

Here Barthes is proposing a punctum of intensity; a punctum as lacerating “detail”; and/or “the vertigo of time defeated.” This “temporal hallucination” embedded and embodied in the photograph – the temporality of the “will-have-been”, they are dead (today), they are already dead (yesterday), Barthes’ anterior future – represents a symbolically mediated subject bound up in three extases of time (past, present, and future).65

The subject becomes lost in the language of the photograph, the intersection of Lacan’s the Imaginary (in which the human subject creates fantasy images of both himself and his ideal object of desire), the Symbolic (the social world of linguistic communication and inter-subjective relations), and the Real (defined as what escapes the Symbolic, the Real can be neither spoken nor written, it is impossible, but is ceaselessly writing itself). These concepts serve to situate subjectivity within a system of perception and a dialogue with the external world.

According to Lori Wike, the experience of punctum and the structure of iterability can be aligned to Lacan’s concept of the death drive (or death instinct) present in the Symbolic order, in which the signifier “materializes the agency of death.”66 This may account for the role of the photographic punctum as trauma, in which the punctum opens up “a kind of subtle beyond” where “a blind field is created (is divined)…”67 As Barthes notes, “Photography is a kind of primitive theater, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead.”68 Further, we can say that, “unlike the symbolic, which is constituted in terms of oppositions such as “presence” and “absence”, there is no absence in the real,” for the real is undifferentiated, “it is without fissure.”

“The symbolic introduces “a cut in the real,” in the process of signification: “it is the world of words that creates the world of things.” Thus the real emerges as that which is outside language: “it is that which resists symbolization absolutely.” The real is impossible because it is impossible to imagine, impossible to integrate into the symbolic order. This character of impossibility and resistance to symbolization lends the real its traumatic quality.”69

.
The “mark” of photography is eviscerated in the intensity of the real, a traumatic loss of time that confronts us with our own mortality and the knowledge that we will not be remembered. This is where images of death can take us once the initial affective connection is established – to a noumenal space where in the play of representation, the point of origin becomes ungraspable (Lacan’s différance).70

“In French, différance simultaneously contains within its neo-graphism the activities of differing and deferring, a distancing acted out temporally as well as spatially.”71 Where the moment (the time freeze of the shutter) turns in, on and around its own fulcrum, where there is always difference at the point of origin. For all of its instantaneous nature, in photography there is always a perverse moment of displacement and deferral. In its history, “a perverse complicity of continuity and resemblance with its supposed opposite, discontinuity and difference”72 … the latter only existing in a reciprocal relationship to the former.

The circle is closing and we return to where we started.

 

10

Human beings in their longing for lost continuity are mirrored by their photographs which transition from continuous to discontinuous and back again. While we yearn for our lost continuity, we must acknowledge that death is an unedited event, one that we cannot look back on. There is no following event to blank out that moment… and the dead are always dying. But what images of death in photography do is this: they allow us to approach the noumenal, that state of being of which we can have knowledge of, but can never know. We can approach, touch, feel, analyse, and have empathy for traumatic events in the representation of an unknowable reality. The photograph has the ability to go beyond the symbolic, to approach the impossible, the real.

The photograph may proffer a ‘releasement toward things’,73 a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which sustains the mystery of the object confusing the distinction between real time and sensual time, between inside and outside, input and output becoming neither here nor there. As Martin Jolly notes, citing John Thompson, “… images of death can be seen a form of “mediated, non-reciprocal intimacy, stretched across time and space” in which we are increasingly unconstrained by our location or our time.”74 Further, John Thompson observes, “While lived experience remains fundamental, it is increasingly supplemented by, and in some respects displaced by, mediated experience, which assumes a greater and greater role in the project of self-formation.”75

In the sense that the photograph becomes la petite mort, the little death, it embodies our desire for the soul to become eternal in the form of this mediated experience… the displacement of the soul via the ghost in the machine, the soul remembered throughout time in the traumatic trace of the photograph. Death in the language of photography is always postponed and deferred: into the physicality of the photograph; into cultural memory; into the gaze (of the photographer, the camera and the viewer); and into the body of the observer. Here, a relationship exists between an impossible reality (an encounter with an “outside” which is unknowable) and a floating referent in an image that is both formative and transformative. And in that relationship, as Donna Haraway observes, “Relationship is multiform, at stake, unfinished, consequential.”76

The text of eternity that the photograph proposes, imparts and imposes a paradoxical state of loss. The secret of telling truth in a photograph is that the more truthful, “the more orgasmic, the more pleasurable, the more suicidal”77 the pronouncement of the perfect paradox78 (you are dead but also alive) … then the more we are strangled while uttering it. The language of deferral in the writing of trauma in death and the image becomes the dissolve that seizes the subject in the midst of an eternal bliss. In death and the image we may actually die (be)coming.

© Dr Marcus Bunyan 2018

Word count: 8,137

 

 

Addendum

“Empirically acknowledged as tragic, the photographic print was really just that when, at the turn of the century, it became the instrument of the three great authorities over life and death (the law, the army, medicine). This is when it demonstrated its power to reveal the unfolding of a destiny from the word go. As deus ex machina [god from the machine or, providential intervention], it was to become just as ruthless for the criminal, the soldier or the invalid, the conjunction between the immediate and the fatal only becoming more solid, inevitably, with the progress of representation.”

Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 43.

 

“Written with her trademark flair and force, Sontag’s book [On Photography] inaugurated a wave of criticism, much of it influenced by Foucaultian theory, that underscored the instrumentality and implicit violence of photography, its ability to police and regulate it subjects, especially those lacking social and political power: the poor, presumed “deviants” or “criminals,” and workers. As Sontag herself acknowledged, however, photography is not only a predatory means of taking possession, but also a mode of conferring value; it can potentially be put to counter-hegemonic uses, used to see and frame in ways that affirm and legitimate, rather than strictly contain and control, the presence of culturally disenfranchised persons.”

Entin, Joseph. “Milton Rogovin’s Approach: Photography, Class, and the Aesthetics of Making Space (2008),” on the ASX website July 12, 2010 [Online] Cited 27/10/2018

 

“The submissions attest to our insatiable hunger for images of suffering. “Sight can be turned off; we have lids on our eyes,” says Sontag5. But sometimes we  just can’t resist taking a look. Since its inception photojournalism has traded in images of human suffering. If one of its motivations for representing tragedy has been to change the world then it has been unsuccessful. Instead the profession has turned us into voyeurs, passively consuming these images, sharing in the moment without feeling implicated or responsible for what we are seeing. Roland Barthes summed up the analgesic effect of looking at images of horror when he wrote “someone has shuddered for us; reflected for us, judged for us; the photographer has left us nothing – except a simple right of intellectual acquiescence.”6 Put another way, we look at events in photographs and feel relieved that they’re not happening anywhere near us. …

In the final analysis we were choosing between a French landscape, a dead guerrilla, an HIV positive mother and an American soldier. A strange task. Rather predictably the majority vote went to Tim Hetherington’s soldier. Yet comparing so many diverse images and ultimately declaring one of them a winner feels meaningless. Do we even need to be producing these images any more? Do we need to be looking at them? We have enough of an image archive within our heads to be able to conjure up a representation of any manner of pleasure or horror. Does the photographic image even have a role to play any more? Video footage, downloaded from the internet, conveys the sounds and textures of war like photographs never could. High Definition video cameras create high-resolution images twenty-four photographs a second, eliminating the need to click the shutter. But since we do still demand illustrations to our news then there is a chance to make images that challenge our preconceptions, rather than regurgitate old clichés.”

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. “Unconcerned but not indifferent,” on the FOTO8 website 04 Mar 2008 [Online] Cited 20/11/2018

 

5. Susan Sontag, Regarding The Pain of Others (Penguin, London, 2003) p. 105

6. Roland Barthes, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (New York, Hill and Wang, 1979) p. 71. quoted in John Taylor, Body Horror: photojournalism, catastrophe and war (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988) p. 17

 

Adrien Constant de Rebecque (Swiss, Lausanne 1806-1876 Lausanne) '[Man in Chainmail Tunic Posing as a Dying Soldier]' c. 1863

 

Adrien Constant de Rebecque (Swiss, Lausanne 1806-1876 Lausanne)
(Man in Chainmail Tunic Posing as a Dying Soldier)
c. 1863
Albumen print from collodion glass negative
17.9 x 24.2cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)' 1934

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)
1934
Silver gelatin print

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)' 1939, printed c. 1970s

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)
1939, printed c. 1970s
Silver gelatin print

 

 

One of my early heroes in photography was Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Many Mexican photographs tell such stories based on the mythology of the country: there are elements of the absurd, surrealism, macabre, revolution, political and socio-economic issues, also of death, violence, beauty, youth, sexuality and religion to name but a few – a search for national identity that is balanced in the photographs of Bravo by a sense of inner peace and redemption. This potent mix of issues and emotions is what makes Mexican photography so powerful and substantive. In the “presence” (or present, the awareness of the here and now) of Mexican photography there is a definite calligraphy of the body in space in most of the work. This handwriting is idiosyncratic and emotive; it draws the viewer into an intimate narrative embrace. Two famous photographs by Bravo illustrate some of these themes (Apollonian / Dionysian; utopian / dystopian). When placed together they seem to have a strange attraction one to the other.

 

Anne Frank, photograph inscribed with her wish to go to Hollywood, October 10, 1942

 

Anne Frank, photograph inscribed with her wish to go to Hollywood, October 10, 1942

 

Unknown photographer - U.S. Signal Corps Photo. 'General Anton Dostler' 1945

Unknown photographer - U.S. Signal Corps Photo. 'General Anton Dostler' 1945

 

Unknown photographer – U.S. Signal Corps Photo
General Anton Dostler
1945
Silver gelatin photograph
From International News Photos

 

 

References

Atkinson, Meera and Michael Richardson 2013. ‘Introduction: At the Nexus’, in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds). Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 1-21

Atkinson, Meera and Michael Richardson (eds) 2013. Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Barthes, Roland 1981. Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang

Bataille, Georges 1962. Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo. New York: Walker and Company

Batchen, Geoffrey 2004. Forget Me Not: Photography & Remembrance. New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Batchen, Geoffrey 1997. Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography paperback 1999. Massachusetts: MIT Press

Bennett, Jill 2005. Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press

Berger, John 1985. The Sense of Sight. New York: Vintage International

Brett, Donna West 2016. ‘Damaged: Ruin and Decay in Walker Evans’ Photographs’ at Walker Evans Symposium. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography

Bronowski, Jacob 1958. Science and Human Values. New York: Harper and Row

Brown, Andrew (ed. and trans,) 1987. Sophocles: Antigone. Wiltshire: Aris and Phillips Ltd.

Cadava, Eduardo 1992. ‘Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History’ Diacritics 22 no. 3-4 (Fall-Winter), 84-114

Chaouat, Bruno 2005. ‘Image malgré tout’ (review) in L’Esprit Créateur vol. 45 no. 1, pp. 110-111

Deleuze, Gilles 1964. Proust and Signs. New York: George Braziller, 1972 in English

Edwards, Janis L. 2012. ‘Visual Literacy and Visual Politics: Photojournalism and the 2004 Presidential Debates’ in Communication Quarterly vol. 60 issue 5, pp. 681-197

Foucault, Michel 1988. ‘Technologies of the self’ in L H Martin and H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds). Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, pp. 16-49

Gibbs, Anna 2013. ‘Apparently Unrelated: Affective Resonance, Concatenation and Traumatic Circuitry in the Terrain of the Everyday’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds). Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 129-147

Gibbs, Anna 2007. ‘Horrified: Embodied Vision, Media Affect and the Images from Abu Ghraib’ in D Staines (ed). Interrogating the War on Terror. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 125-142

Hanusch, Folker 2010. Representing death in the news: Journalism, Media and Mortality. London: Palgrave Macmillan

Haraway, Donna and Cary Wolfe 2016. Manifestly Haraway. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Hegel, George Wilhelm Frederich 1807. Phenomenology of Spirit Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Heidegger, Martin 1966. Discourse on Thinking New York: Harper & Row

Houlihan, Kasia 2004. ‘Annotation on Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography’ New York: Hill and Wang 1981 in Theories of Media, Winter

Jolly, Martyn 2015. ‘An Australian Spiritualist’s Personal Cartes-de-Visite Album’, in A Maxwell and J Croci (eds). Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, pp. 71-87

Kopelson, Kevin 1990. ‘Wilde, Barthes, and the Orgasmics of Truth’ in GENDERS no. 7 Spring, pp. 22-31

Lacan, Jacques and Jeffrey Mehlman 1972. ‘The Seminar on the ‘Purloined Letter” in Yale French Studies no. 48 French Freud: Structural Studies in Psychoanalysis Yale University Press, pp. 39-72

Martin, Luther H and H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds) 1988. Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press

Maxwell, Anne and Josephine Croci (eds) 2015. Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing

O’Hagan, Sean 2014. ‘Chloe Dewe Mathews’s Shot at Dawn: a moving photographic memorial’ on The Guardian website Sun 29 Jun 2014

Papastergiadis, Nikos and Mary Zournazi 2002. ‘Faith without certitudes’ in M Zournazi Hope: New Philosophies for Change Annandale. NSW: Pluto Press Australia, pp. 78-97

Randell, Karen and Sean Redmond (eds) 2008. The war body on screen. New York: Continuum

Rastas, David and Maria Schlachter 2016. Art as a Sanctuary for the Mad: Six characteristics of mystical experience and their visual accompaniment in contemporary art

Rogobete, Ileana Carmen 2011. Reconstructing Trauma and Recovery: Life Narratives of Survivors of Political Violence during Apartheid. PhD thesis Cape Town: University of Cape Town

Rutherford, Anne 2013. ‘Film, Trauma and the Enunciative Present’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 80-103

Sontag, Susan 1977. On Photography New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Staines, Deborah (ed) 2007. Interrogating the War on Terror Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Strawberry 2013. ‘Roland Barthes: studium and punctum’ on the Museum of Education website March 12, 2013

Thompson, John 1995. The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of Media. Cambridge: Polity Press

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

Walsh, Stephen 2000. Stalingrad: The Infernal Cauldron, 1942-43. London: Simon and Schuster

Wike, Lori 2000 ‘Photographs and Signatures: Absence, Presence, and Temporality in Barthes and Derrida’ in InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Studies issue 3, pp. 1-28

Zelizer, Barbie 2002. The Voice of the Visual in Memory. Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Zembylas, Michalinos 2008. The Politics of Trauma in Education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Berger, John 1985. The Sense of Sight. New York: Vintage International, p. 122

[2] Bataille, Georges 1962. Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo. New York: Walker and Company, p. 15

[3] Anonymous 2016 Definition of Trauma by Mirriam-Webster, at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trauma (accessed 8 November 2016)

[4] Atkinson, Meera and Michael Richardson 2013. ‘Introduction: At the Nexus’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds). Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, p. 5

[5] Rutherford, Anne 2013. ‘Film, Trauma and the Enunciative Present’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds). Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, p. 82

[6] Michalinos Zembylas 2008. The Politics of Trauma in Education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan p. 4

[7] Ibid., p. 4

[8] Rutherford Op. cit., p. 87

[9] Rutherford Op. cit., Footnote 49, 93

[10] Rutherford Op. cit., p. 94

[11] Bennett, Jill 2005. Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, p. 9

[12] Rogobete, Ileana Carmen 2011. Reconstructing Trauma and Recovery: Life Narratives of Survivors of Political Violence during Apartheid. PhD thesis Cape Town: University of Cape Town, at https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/10884 (accessed 8 November 2016)

[13] Rutherford Op. cit., 85

[14] Gibbs, Anna 2013. ‘Apparently Unrelated: Affective Resonance, Concatenation and Traumatic Circuitry in the Terrain of the Everyday’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds). Traumatic Affect. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 130

[15] “Perhaps rather than numbness, what we actually feel is our own helplessness or impotence, and the shame of helplessness, which robs us of agency. Helplessness is what Tomkins calls an affect complex, and within it distress is the dominant affect, although there may be admixtures in it of fear, anger and shame… Helplessness immobilises, and this is what induces the shame which, as a reduction of interest, makes us lower our gaze and look away.”

Gibbs, Anna 2007. ‘Horrified: Embodied Vision, Media Affect and the Images from Abu Ghraib’ in D Staines (ed). Interrogating the War on Terror. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 139-140

[16] “To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more – and more. Images transfix. Images anaesthetize…”

Sontag, Susan 1977. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, p. 20

“Are we making too much of images? Are we lured by our own voyeurism and iconophilia, numbed as we are by the democracy of the spectacle? Or, on the contrary, do images open the eyes of our conscience? In other words do images merely entertain and anaesthetize us or do they shame us and awake our conscience?”

Chaouat, Bruno 2005. ‘Image malgré tout’ (review) in L’Esprit Créateur vol. 45 no. 1, at https://muse.jhu.edu/article/265181/pdf (accessed 8 November 2016)

[17] Rutherford Op. cit., 89

[18] Anonymous 2016. ‘Lynching in the United States’, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_in_the_United_States (accessed 11 November 2016)

[19] Anonymous 2016. ‘Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday’, at http://genius.com/Billie-holiday-strange-fruit-lyrics (accessed 11 November 2016)

[20] ‘Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit’, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnlTHvJBeP0 (accessed 11 November 2016)

[21] Rutherford Op. cit., Footnote 55, 95

[22] Bennett, Jill 2005. Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, p. 4 quoted in Rutherford, p. 95

[23] Ibid., p. 11

[24] Deleuze, Gilles 1964. Proust and Signs. New York: George Braziller (1972 in English) p. 7, in Bennett p. 161

[25] Bennett Op. cit., p. 10

[26] Papastergiadis, Nikos and Mary Zournazi 2002. ‘Faith without certitudes’ in M Zournazi. Hope: New Philosophies for Change pp. 94-95, in Bennett, p. 10

[27] Hanusch, Folker 2010. Representing death in the news: Journalism, Media and Mortality. London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 55

[28] Ibid., p. 56

[29] Ibid., p. 56

[30] Randell, Karen and Redmond, Sean (eds) 2008. The war body on screen. New York: Continuum, cited in Hanusch, p. 30

[31] Foucault, Michel 1988. ‘Technologies of the self’, in L H Martin and H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds). Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 18

[32] Barthes, Roland 1980 La Chambre Claire (Camera Lucida) (1981 in English) New York: Hill and Wang Section 39, 94

[33] Houlihan, Kasia 2004 ‘Annotation on Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography’ New York: Hill and Wang 1981 in Theories of Media, Winter at http://csmt.uchicago.edu/annotations/barthescamera.htm (accessed 12 November 2016)

[34] Strawberry 2013. ‘Roland Barthes: studium and punctum’ on the Museum of Education website 12 March, at https://educationmuseum.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/roland-barthes-studium-and-punctum/ (accessed 11 November 2016)

[35] “For memory is always in a state of ruin; to remember something is already to have ruined it, to have displaced it from its moment of origin. Memory is caught in a conundrum – the passing of time that makes memory possible and necessary is also what makes memory fade and die.”

Batchen, Geoffrey 2004. Forget Me Not: Photography & Remembrance. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p. 78

[36] Cadava, Eduardo 1992. ‘Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History’ in Diacritics 22 no. 3-4 (Fall-Winter), p. 110 in Batchen, p. 172

[37] Bennett Op. cit., p. 7

[38] Ibid., p. 7

[39] Zelizer, Barbie 2002. The Voice of the Visual in Memory, at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/folklore/center/ConferenceArchive/voiceover/voice_of_the_visual.html (accessed 13 November 2016)

[40] Ibid.,

[41] Brown, Andrew (ed. and trans,) 1987. Sophocles: Antigone, lines 850-52. Wiltshire: Aris and Phillips Ltd., p. 91

[42] Edwards, Janis L 2012. ‘Visual Literacy and Visual Politics: Photojournalism and the 2004 Presidential Debates’ on Taylor Francis Online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01463373.2012.725000 (accessed 13 November 2016)

[43] Zelizer Op. cit.,

[44] Sontag Op. cit., 18 cited in F Hanusch 2010 Representing death in the news: Journalism, Media and Mortality London: Palgrave Macmillan, 105

[45] See ‘Robert Capa: The Falling Soldier’, on The Met website, at http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/283315 (accessed 13 November 2016)

[46] Walsh, Stephen 2000. Stalingrad: The Infernal Cauldron, 1942-43. London: Simon and Schuster, p. 23

[47] Anonymous photographer 2013. ‘Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942’, on the Rare Historical Photos website 29 December, at http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/russian-spy-laughing-execution-finland-1942/ (accessed 13 November 2016)

[48] Brett, Donna West 2016. ‘Damaged: Ruin and Decay in Walker Evans’ Photographs’ at Walker Evans Symposium Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography October 7, 5 at https://www.academia.edu/29201498/Damaged_Ruin_and_Decay_in_Walker_Evans_Photographs (accessed 13 November 2016)

[49] Soja, Edward W. 1996. Thirdspace Malden (Mass.): Blackwell, p. 57

[50] Ibid., p. 57

[51] Batchen Op. cit., p. 47

[52] Ibid., p. 48

[53] Rastas, David 2016. Art as a Sanctuary for the Mad: Six characteristics of mystical experience and their visual accompaniment in contemporary art, on the David Rastas website (accessed 19 November 2016. No longer available online)

[54] Bronowski, Jacob 1958. Science and Human Values. New York: Harper and Row, p. 31

[55] Anonymous 2015. ‘Hidden Likeness: Photographer Emmet Gowin at the Morgan’, on The Morgan Library & Museum website May 22 through September 20, 2015 https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/emmet-gowin (accessed 08 May 2018)

[56] See Turner, Victor 1966. The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure. Chicago: Aldine. For a definition of liminality see Anonymous, ‘Liminality’, on the Wikipedia website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality (accessed 08 May 2018)

[57] Batchen, Geoffrey 1997. Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (paperback 1999). Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 194

[58] Batchen. Forget Me Not, p. 94

[59] O’Hagan, Sean 2014 ‘Chloe Dewe Mathews’s Shot at Dawn: a moving photographic memorial’, on The Guardian website 29 June, at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/29/chloe-dewe-mathews-shot-at-dawn-moving-photographic-memorial-first-world-war (accessed 25 November 2016)

[60] Bennett 2005. Empathic Vision, p. 69

[61] Hegel, George Wilhelm Frederich 1807. Phenomenology of Spirit Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 10

[62] Anonymous 2016. ‘La petite mort’ Wikipedia website at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_petite_mort (accessed 25 November 2016)

[63] Barthes, Op. cit., p. 96

[64] Barthes, Op. cit., p. 96

[65] See Wike, Lori 2000. ‘Photographs and Signatures: Absence, Presence, and Temporality in Barthes and Derrida’ in InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Studies issue 3, at http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/issue3/wike.htm (accessed 25 November 2016)

[66] Lacan, Jacques and Jeffrey Mehlman 1972. ‘The Seminar on the ‘Purloined Letter”, in Yale French Studies, no. 48, p. 53 quoted in Wike, 2000

[67] Barthes. Camera Lucida, pp. 57-58 quoted in Wike, 2000

[68] Barthes. Camera Lucida, pp. 31-32 quoted in Wike, 2000

[69] Anonymous 2016. ‘The Real’, Wikipedia website at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real (accessed 25 November 2016)

[70] “Derrida sees differences as elemental oppositions working in all languages, systems of distinct signs, and codes, where terms don’t have absolute meanings but instead draw meaning from reciprocal determination with other terms… Différance is the systematic play of differences, of the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other… the a of différance also recalls that spacing is temporization, the detour and postponement by means of which intuition, perception, consummation – in a word, the relationship to the present, the reference to a present reality, to a being – are always deferred.”

Anonymous 2016. ‘Différance’ at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Différance (accessed 25 November 2016

[71] Batchen. Burning with Desire p. 179. Information on photography and différance pp. 178-179.

[72] Batchen. Burning with Desire p. 186

[73] “We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”

Heidegger, Martin 1966. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, pp. 55-56

[74] Thompson, John 1995. The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of Media Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 208 quoted in M Jolly 2015. ‘An Australian Spiritualist’s Personal Cartes-de-Visite Album’, in A Maxwell and J Croci (eds). Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, p. 84

[75] Thompson, p. 233 quoted in Jolly, 2015

[76] Haraway, Donna and Cary Wolfe 2016. Manifestly Haraway. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p. 122, at https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed 26 November 2016)

[77] Kopelson, Kevin 1990. ‘Wilde, Barthes, and the Orgasmics of Truth’ in GENDERS no 7 Spring, p. 26

[78] You are dead but also alive, the dissolution of the distinction between objective and subjective realities, “the image is an interface connecting inner and outer, past and future, affect and cognition.”

Gibbs, Anna 2007. ‘Horrified: Embodied Vision, Media Affect And The Images From Abu Ghraib’, in D Staines (ed). Interrogating the War on Terror. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, p. 130

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

19
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Autophoto’ at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

Exhibition dates: 20th April – 24th September 2017

Artists: Robert Adams • Eve Arnold • Bernard Asset • Éric Aupol • Theo Baart Et Cary Markerink • Sue Barr • Valérie Belin • Martin Bogren • Nicolas Bouvier • David Bradford • Brassaï • Alain Bublex • Edward Burtynsky • Andrew Bush • Ronni Campana • Gilles Caron • Alejandro Cartagena • Kurt Caviezel • Philippe Chancel • Larry Clark • Langdon Clay • Stéphane Couturier • Bruce Davidson • Jean Depara • Raymond Depardon • John Divola • Robert Doisneau • William Eggleston • Elliott Erwitt • Walker Evans • Barry Feinstein • Pierre De Fenoÿl • Alain Fleischer • Robert Frank • Lee Friedlander • Bernhard Fuchs • Paolo Gasparini • Óscar Fernando Gómez • Jeff Guess • Andreas Gursky • Fernando Gutiérrez • Jacqueline Hassink • Anthony Hernandez • Yasuhiro Ishimoto • Peter Keetman • Seydou Keïta • Germaine Krull • Seiji Kurata • Justine Kurland • Jacques Henri Lartigue • O. Winston Link • Peter Lippmann • Marcos López • Alex Maclean • Ella Maillart • Man Ray • Mary Ellen Mark • Arwed Messmer • Ray K. Metzker • Sylvie Meunier Et Patrick Tourneboeuf • Joel Meyerowitz • Kay Michalak et Sven Völker • Óscar Monzón • Basile Mookherjee • Daido Moriyama • Patrick Nagatani • Arnold Odermatt • Catherine Opie • Trent Parke • Martin Parr • Mateo Pérez • Jean Pigozzi • Bernard Plossu • Matthew Porter • Edward Quinn • Bill Rauhauser • Rosângela Rennó • Luciano Rigolini • Miguel Rio Branco • Ed Ruscha • Sory Sanlé • Hans-christian Schink • Antoine Schnek • Stephen Shore • Malick Sidibé • Guido Sigriste • Raghubir Singh • Melle Smets Et Joost Van Onna • Jules Spinatsch • Dennis Stock • Hiroshi Sugimoto • Juergen Teller • Tendance Floue • Thierry Vernet • Weegee • Henry Wessel • Alain Willaume

 

 

 

 

Visite de l’exposition – Autophoto – 2017

Thirty years after the Hommage à Ferrari exhibition which put the spotlight on these legendary cars, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain presents, on a proposal by Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier, the Autophoto exhibition devoted to the relationship between photography and the automobile. Since its creation, the automobile has shaped the landscape, allowed the discovery of new horizons and upset our conception of time and space.

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue. 'Une Delage au Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France, circuit de Dieppe' June 26, 1912

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Une Delage au Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France, circuit de Dieppe
June 26, 1912
Gelatin silver print
30 x 40cm
Donation Jacques Henri Lartigue, Charenton-le-Pont Photographie Jacques Henri Lartigue
© Ministère de la Culture – France/AAJHL
Exhibition Autophoto from April 20 to September 24, 2017
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

 

Juergen Teller. 'OJ Simpson no. 5' Miami 2000

 

Juergen Teller (German, b. 1964)
OJ Simpson no. 5
Miami 2000
Giclee print
51 x 61cm
Collection of the artist
© Juergen Teller, 2017

 

 

I missed this exhibition when I was in Paris recently. A great pity, I would have liked to have seen it. Some rare photographs that I have never laid eyes on before. I especially love Ray K. Metzker’s Washington, DC. The photography in both Paris and London was disappointing during my month overseas. Other than a large exhibition of Gregory Crewdson’s photographs at the Photographers’ Gallery London, there was not much of interest on offer.

Marcus

PS. So many more horizontal photographs than vertical, the automobile obviously lending itself to this orientation. I love this observation: “Photography, a tool of immobility, benefited from the automobile, a mobility tool.” And this from Jean Baudrillard: “Riding is a form spectacular amnesia. Everything to discover, everything to be erased.”

.
Many thankx to Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Photographing is a profession. Craftsmanship. A job that one learns, that one makes more or less well, like all trades. The photographer is a witness. The witness of his time. The true photographer is the witness of every day, they are the reporter. ”

.
Germaine Krull

 

“I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals; I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.”

.
Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Le Seuil, Paris, 1970, p. 150

 

 

Thirty years after the exhibition Hommage à Ferrari, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain will once again focus its attention on the world of cars with the exhibition Autophoto, dedicated to photography’s relationship to the automobile. Since its invention, the automobile has reshaped our landscape, extended our geographic horizons, and radically altered our conception of space and time. The car has also influenced the approach and practice of photographers, providing them not only with a new subject but also a new way of exploring the world and a new means of expression. Based on an idea by Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier, Autophoto will present over 500 works from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. It will invite us to discover the many facets of automotive culture – aesthetic, social, environmental, and industrial – through the eyes of photographers from around the world. The exhibition will bring together over 90 photographers including both famous and lesser-known figures such as Jacques Henri Lartigue, William Eggleston, Justine Kurland and Jacqueline Hassink, who have shown a fascination for the automobile as a subject or have used it as a tool to take their pictures.

 

Relevé photographique des voies de circulation mondiales réalisé par Michelin c. 1930

 

Relevé photographique des voies de circulation mondiales réalisé par Michelin
c. 1930
Collection Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand
© Michelin

 

Studio portraits, 'China' c. 1950, collected by Thomas Sauvin

 

Studio portraits
China
c. 1950
Collected by Thomas Sauvin
Colourised gelatin silver print
7.5 x 11.5cm
Collection Beijing Silvermine/Thomas Sauvin, Paris Photo all rights reserved

 

Seydou Keïta. 'Untitled' 1952–55

 

Seydou Keïta (Malian, 1921-2001)
Untitled
1952-55
Gelatin silver print
50 × 60cm
CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva
© SKPEAC (The Seydou Keïta Photography Estate Advisor Corporation)

 

Nicolas Bouvier. 'Entre Prilep et Istanbul, Turquie' 1953

 

Nicolas Bouvier (Swiss, 1929-1998)
Entre Prilep et Istanbul, Turquie
1953
Musée de l’Élysée, Lausanne
© Fonds Nicolas Bouvier / Musée de l’Élysée, Lausanne

 

O. Winston Link. 'Hot Shot Eastbound' 1956

 

O. Winston Link (American, 1914-2001)
Hot Shot Eastbound
1956
Collection Mathé Perrin, Bruxelles
© O. Winston Link

 

Ray K. Metzker. 'Washington, DC' 1964

 

Ray K. Metzker (American, 1931-2014)
Washington, DC
1964
Gelatin silver print
20 × 25.5cm
Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris/Laurence Miller Gallery, New York
© Estate Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris/Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

 

Bernard Plossu. 'Sur la route d'Acapulco, Mexique' 1966

 

Bernard Plossu (French, b. 1945)
Sur la route d’Acapulco, Mexique
1966
From Le Voyage mexicain series
Gelatin silver print
18 × 27cm
Courtesy of the artist/Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris
© Bernard Plossu

 

Bernard Plossu. 'Chiapas, Mexique' 1966

 

Bernard Plossu (French, b. 1945)
Chiapas, Mexique
1966
From Le Voyage mexicain series
Gelatin silver print
18 × 27cm
Courtesy of the artist/Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris
© Bernard Plossu

 

 

“A panorama framed by the rectangle of the windshield. A long ribbon of asphalt, a line of flight that stretches towards the horizon. For more than a century, we can capture this image and travel the world by car, this photographic “box”. Automotive and photography, two tools to model the landscape, two mechanics of the traction and attraction, have emerged at the end of the nineteenth century, through new rhythms and new rites, the society of modern times. If the photograph allows multiple views and list them, to memorise the movement and leave a trace, the automobile makes it possible to move in space. Photography, a tool of immobility, benefited from the automobile, a mobility tool. And if the automobile like photography is constantly evolving, these two inventions have parallel paths in order to better, to master space-time. “Riding is a form spectacular amnesia. Everything to discover, everything to be erased,”1 writes Jean Baudrillard.”

From the foreword by commissioners of the exhibition Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier

  1. Jean Baudrillard, Amérique, Grasset, Paris, 1986, p. 15

 

Henry Wessel. 'Pennsylvania' 1968

 

Henry Wessel (American, 1942-2018)
Pennsylvania
1968
Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne
© Henry Wessel, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne.

 

William Eggleston. 'Los Alamos' series 1965-1968

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Los Alamos series
1965-1968
Dye-transfer print
40.5 × 50.5cm
Eggleston Artistic Trust, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London
© Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

 

William Eggleston. 'Los Alamos' series c. 1974

 

Henry Wessel (American, 1942-2018)
Los Alamos series
c. 1974
Inkjet print
56 × 73.5cm
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Memphis
© Eggleston Artistic Trust, Memphis

 

Bill Rauhauser. 'Detroit Auto Show' series c. 1975

 

Bill Rauhauser (American, b. 1918)
Detroit Auto Show series
c. 1975
Detroit Institute of Arts, don de l’artiste en mémoire de Doris Rauhauser
© 2007 Rauhauser Photographic Trust. All Rights Reserved

 

Langdon Clay. 'Zizka Cleaners car, Buick Electra' 1976

 

Langdon Clay (American, b. 1949)
Zizka Cleaners car, Buick Electra
Series Cars, New York City, 1976
Slide-show
Courtesy of the artist
© Langdon Clay

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Upstate New York' 1977

 

Joel Meyerowitz (American, b. 1938)
Upstate New York
1977
Collection Joel Meyerowitz Photography, New York
© Joel Meyerowitz, courtesy Polka Galerie, Paris

 

Bernard Asset. 'Passager d'Alain Prost (Alain Prost au volant d’une Renault RE30B, tests F1 sur le circuit Dijon-Prenois)' 1982

 

Bernard Asset (French, b. 1955)
Passager d’Alain Prost (Alain Prost au volant d’une Renault RE30B, tests F1 sur le circuit Dijon-Prenois)
1982
Collection de l’artiste
© Bernard Asset

 

David Bradford. 'Coaster Ride Stealth' 1994

 

David Bradford (American, b. 1951)
Coaster Ride Stealth
1994
From Drive-By Shootings series
C-print
28 × 35.5cm
Courtesy of the artist
© David Bradford

 

Andrew Bush. 'Woman Waiting to Proceed South at Sunset and Highland Boulevards, Los Angeles, at Approximately 11:59 a.m. One Day in February 1997' 1997

 

Andrew Bush (American, b. 1956)
Woman Waiting to Proceed South at Sunset and Highland Boulevards, Los Angeles, at Approximately 11:59 a.m. One Day in February 1997
1997
From Vector Portraits series
C-print
122 × 151cm
Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
© Andrew Bush

 

Rosângela Rennó. 'Cerimônia do Adeus' series,1997-2003

 

Rosângela Rennó (Brazilian, b. 1962)
Cerimônia do Adeus series
1997-2003
C-print face-mounted on Plexiglas
50 × 68 cm
Courtesy of the artist/Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon
© Rosângela Rennó

 

Valérie Belin. 'Untitled' 2002

 

Valérie Belin (French, b. 1964)
Untitled
2002
Gelatin silver print
61 x 71.5cm (framed)
Courtesy of the artist/Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Valérie Belin/ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Stéphane Couturier. 'MELT, Toyota No 8' 2005

 

Stéphane Couturier (French, b. 1957)
MELT, Toyota No. 8
2005
From Melting Point, Usine Toyota, Valenciennes series
C-print
92 × 137cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy La Galerie Particulière, Paris/Brussels
© Stéphane Couturier

 

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

 

Óscar Fernando Gómez (Mexican, b. 1970)
Windows series
2009
Slide show
Courtesy Martin Parr Studio, Bristol
© Óscar Fernando Gómez

 

Alain Willaume. '#5069' 2012

 

Alain Willaume (French, b. 1956)
#5069
2012
From the Échos de la poussière et de la fracturation series
Collection de l’artiste
© Alain Willaume (Tendance Floue)

 

Peter Lippmann. 'Citroën Traction 7' 2012

 

Peter Lippmann (American works Paris, b. 1956)
Citroën Traction 7
2012
From the Paradise Parking series
C-print
75 × 100cm
Collection of the artist
© Peter Lippmann

 

Justine Kurland. '280 Coup' 2012

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969)
280 Coup
2012
Inkjet Print
47 x 61cm
Courtesy of the artist/Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
© Justine Kurland

 

Melle Smets and Joost Van Onna. 'Turtle 1. Building a Car in Africa' 2016

 

Melle Smets and Joost Van Onna
Turtle 1. Building a Car in Africa
2016
Courtesy des artistes / Paradox, Edam
© Melle Smets et Joost Van Onna

 

Luciano Rigolini. 'Tribute to Giorgio de Chirico' 2017

 

Luciano Rigolini (Swiss, b. 1950)
Tribute to Giorgio de Chirico
2017
Duratrans in lightbox
124 x 154cm
Collection of the artist
© Luciano Rigolini (appropriation – unknown photographer, 1958)

 

 

First Visions: A New Subject for Photography

In the early 20th century, the automobile and its impact on the landscape had already become a subject of predilection for many photographers, influencing both the form and content of their work. The exhibition will begin by focusing on early photographers like Jacques Henri Lartigue, Germaine Krull, and Brassaï, who used the automobile to varying degrees in their work. They registered the thrill of speed, the chaos of Parisian traffic or the city’s dramatic car-illuminated nocturnal landscape to represent a society in transition at the birth of the modern age. Other photographers of the time were attracted by the promise of freedom and mobility offered by the automobile. Anticipating the modern road trip, Swiss writers and photographers Ella Maillart and Nicolas Bouvier, travelled throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1950s respectively, using their cars and cameras to record their adventures along the way.

 

Auto Portraits

The exhibition will also present a series of “auto portraits”* made by a variety of photographers from the mi-twentieth century to the present. Yashuhiro Ishimoto and Langdon Clay’s photographs, for example, are portraits in profile of cars parked on sparsely inhabited city streets, that immerse the viewer in a different eras and atmospheres. Ishimoto’s black and white photographs, taken in Chicago in the 1950s, emphasise their polished, curved silhouettes in a distanced and serial manner, while Langdon Clay’s colour pictures taken in New York in the 1970s, show their decaying and dented chassis in an eerie nocturnal light. Other works in this section, such as the found photographs of Sylvie Meunier and Patrick Tourneboeuf’s American Dream series, or the flamboyant portraits of African photographers Seydou Keïta and Sory Sanlé, focus on the role of the automobile as a emblem of social mobility showing proud owners posing with their cars.

*A play on words in French: auto portrait meaning self-portrait.

 

The Car as a Medium: New Perspectives on the Landscape

Many photographers have exploited the technical and aesthetic possibilities offered by the automobile, using it like a camera to capture the surrounding landscape through car windows or the reflections in rear-view mirrors.

Cars have determined the framing and composition as well as the serial nature of the photographs of Joel Meyerowitz, Daido Moriyama, John Divola and David Bradford who have all worked from moving cars. From behind their windshields, these photographers capture an amusing store sign, a white car behind a wire fence, a dog running along a dusty road, a highway stretching out into the horizon. Other photographers, including Sue Barr, Robert Adams, Ed Ruscha, and Alex MacLean scrutinize our car-altered environment. Their landscape is no longer one of magnificent mountains, wondrous waterfalls or awe-inspiring canyons, but of a world transformed by the automobile with its suburban housing complexes, parking lots, and highway infrastructure.

 

Our Car Culture: Industry, History and New Ways of Life

Many photographers have explored other aspects of our car culture, from the car industry and its impact on the environment to its role in history and society. Both Robert Doisneau and Robert Frank registered life in the factory, from the machines and productions lines to the activities of the workers lives, the first at the Renault plant in the 1930s and the second at Ford River Rouge in the 1950s. Their photographs, unique in their attention to individual assembly line workers, contrast with the work of contemporary photographer Stéphane Couturier whose deliberately distanced, impersonal pictures taken at a Toyota factory reflect the increasingly dehumanised nature of contemporary industry. Working in Ghana, far from the automated factory photographed by Stéphane Couturier, Dutch artist Melle Smets, and sociologist Joost Van Onna, put industrial waste from the car industry to good use. Collaborating with local craftsman in a region called Suame Magazine, where cars are disassembled and their parts traded, they created a car specifically for the African market called Turtle 1, using parts from different brands that happened to be available. Their installation, which includes photographs, drawings, and videos, documents the entire fabrication process of this car.

Photographers such as Philippe Chancel, Éric Aupol and Edward Burtynsky are concerned with the car industry’s damage to the environment. Philippe Chancel’s work focuses on the city of Flint and its dismantled General Motors factory, while Éric Aupol’s and Ed Burtynsky’s photographs reveal the sculptural yet apocalyptic beauty of industrial waste sites.

Other photographers reveal how the car plays an important role in historical events, in society and in daily life. Arwed Messmer’s Reenactement series brings together photographs from the archives of the Stasi showing how people used cars in unusual ways to escape from East Germany, and Fernando Gutiérrez work, Secuelas, explores the role of the Ford Falcon, a symbol of Argentina’s military dictatorship, in the collective imaginary of the Argentinean people. Jacqueline Hassink’s immersive projection Car Girls investigates the role and status of women who work in car shows around the world. Martin Parr’s series From A to B chronicles the thoughts dreams and anxieties of British motorists. Still other series by photographers such as Rosângela Rennó, Óscar Monzón, Kurt Caviezel and Bruce Davidson show how the car has become an extension of the home, used for weddings and picnics, living and sleeping, arguments and making love.

The Fondation Cartier has also invited artist Alain Bublex to create for the exhibition a series of 10 model cars that cast a fresh eye on the history of automobile design. His installation combines photographs, drawings and models to explore how the car design has evolved over time incorporating new techniques, forms, and practices.

Despite energy crises, ecology movements, and industrial mismanagement, the car remains essential to our daily lives. At a time when we are questioning the role and the future of the automobile in our society, the Autophoto exhibition reexamines, with nostalgia, humour, and a critical eye, this 20th century symbol of freedom and independence.

 

The Catalogue

Bringing together over 600 images, the catalogue of the Autophoto exhibition reveals how photography, a tool privileging immobility, benefited from the automobile, a tool privileging mobility. The catalogue features iconic images by both historic and contemporary photographers who have captured the automobile, and transformed this popular accessible object through their passionate and creative vision. Quotes by the artists, and a chronology of automobile design, as well as interviews and texts by specialists provide a deeper understanding of this vast topic through a variety of aesthetic, sociological, and historical perspectives.

Press release from The Fondation Cartier

 

Peter Keetman. 'Hintere Kotflügel' 1953

 

Peter Keetman (German, 1916-2005)
Hintere Kotflügel (Rear fenders)
1953
From Eine Woche im Volkswagenwerk (A week at the Volkswagenwerk) series
Gelatin silver print
27 × 24.5cm
Nachlass Peter Keetman/Stiftung F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg
© Nachlass Peter Keetman/Stiftung F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg

 

Ed Ruscha. '7133 Kester, Van Nuys' 1967

 

Ed Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
7133 Kester, Van Nuys
1967
Thirtyfour Parking Lots series
Chipmunk Collection
© Ed Ruscha, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Malick Sidibé. 'Taximan avec voiture' 1970

 

Malick Sidibé (Malian, 1935-2016)
Taximan avec voiture
1970
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30cm
Courtesy Galerie Magnin-A, Paris
© Malick Sidibé

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Montana
2008
From the America by Car series
Gelatin silver print
37.5 × 37.5cm
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'California' 2008

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
California
2008
From the America by Car series
Gelatin silver print
37.5 × 37.5cm
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Alejandro Cartagena. 'The Carpoolers' series 2011–12

 

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. 1977)
The Carpoolers series
2011-12
Installation of 15 inkjet prints
55.5 × 35.5cm (each)
Courtesy Patricia Conde Galería, Mexico City
© Alejandro Cartagena

 

Ronni Campana. 'Badly Repaired Cars' series 2016

 

Ronni Campana (Italian, b. 1987)
Badly Repaired Cars series
2016
Inkjet print
60 × 40cm
Collection of the artist
© Ronni Campana

 

 

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
261 Boulevard Raspail, Paris

Opening hours: Every day except Mondays, 11am – 8pm
Opening Tuesday evenings until 10pm

Fondation Cartier website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

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

.
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

 

 

Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm
Wednesday 10am – 9pm

Albertina website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

11
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Cy Twombly’ at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2016 – 24th April 2017

 

Cy Twombly 'Untitled (Lexington)' 1951

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled (Lexington)
1951
Oil-based house paint on canvas
101.6 x 121.9cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

 

This posting is for a friend who is a great Twombly fan.

Of the installation photograph of the series Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963, below) he observes:

“Quite an amazing installation… who would have thought #6 being placed there.
The text(?) which replaces the position of the “main” elements in #4, #5 sets the position of #6 – what a choice!
And it all had to be on one wall apparently – it looks tight, yet it is a success.”

It would take years to understand the intricacies of Twombly’s work, but the main archetypes that we can all interpret are there: themes such as love, war, death and night.

“Roland Barthes famously wrote of Twombly: ‘His work is based not upon concept (the trace) but rather upon an activity (tracing)’. In Twombly’s graphic art, the trace is the record of a gesture. Barthes again: ‘line is action become visible’. Like Olson, Twombly connects heart to line via the body.”

This is a visceral art of smudges, smears, and inscriptions. It is art that tells a story, an art that emotes? evokes deep inward feelings while challenging the intellect.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Centre Pompidou for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“To explore Twombly’s work with the eyes and the lips is therefore to continuously dash the expectations inspired by ‘what it looks like’.”

.
Roland Barthes in Yvon Lambert, ed., Cy Twombly: Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres sur papier (Multhipla Edizioni, Milan, 1979) Éditions du Seuil, 1995

 

“My line is childlike but not childish. It is very difficult to fake… to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child’s line. It has to be felt.”

.
Cy Twombly

 

“Each line now is the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realisation. The imagery is one of the private or separate indulgences rather than an abstract totality of visual perception.”

.
Cy Twombly, L’Esperienza moderna, no. 2 (1957)

 

 

Cy Twombly. 'Volublis' 1953

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Volubilis
1953
White lead pencil, oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas
139.7 x 193cm
Cy Twombly Foundation, on deposit at the Menil Collection, Houston
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy The Menil Collection

 

 

“The Centre Pompidou is presenting a major retrospective of the work of American artist Cy Twombly. A key event of the fall 2016, this exceptionally vast exhibition will only be shown in Paris, and will feature remarkable loans from private and public collections from all over the world.

Organized around three major cycles – Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978) and Coronation of Sesostris (2000) – this retrospective covers the artist’s entire career in a chronological circuit of some 140 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs, providing a clear picture of an extraordinarily rich body of work which is both intellectual and sensual. The selection includes many of Twombly’s iconic works, several of them never previously exhibited in France.

Born in 1928 in Lexington, Virginia, Cy Twombly died in 2011 at the age of 83 in Rome, where he spent a large part of his life. Unanimously acclaimed as one of the greatest painters of the second half of the 20th century, Twombly, who began dividing his life between Italy and America in the late Fifties, merged the legacy of American abstract expressionism with the origins of Mediterranean culture. From his first works in the early Fifties (marked by the so-called primitive arts, graffiti and writing) to his last paintings with their exuberant colour schemes, by way of the highly carnal compositions of the early Sixties and his response to minimalist and conceptual art during the Seventies, this retrospective emphasises the importance of cycles and series for Twombly, in which he reinvented great history painting. The exhibition is also the occasion to highlight the artist’s close relationship with Paris. The Centre Pompidou had devoted a first substantial retrospective to him as early as 1988.”

Press release from the Centre Pompidou

 

“The exhibition is deployed around three Cycles: Nine Discourses on Commodus, 1963, Fifty Days at Iliam, 1978, and Coronation of Sesostris, 2000. Each of them reinterprets an antique tradition by addressing themes such as love, war, death and night. Next to these exceptional series are exhibited magnificent works in which the artist confronts abstraction and figuration while exploring psychoanalysis, primitivism, writing and painting. The works incorporate names of gods, lyric heroes of Homer and Virgil and confirms his fascination for Classical authors, cosmogony, Greece, Rome and Egypt. Mysterious, obscene, crude, this exhibition confirms that Twombly was one the most original and unexpected of artists of the twentieth century.”

Mercedes Lambarri
Cataloguer, Contemporary art

 

Cy Twombly. 'Still Life, Black Mountain College I' 1951

Cy Twombly. 'Still Life, Black Mountain College II' 1951

Cy Twombly. 'Still Life, Black Mountain College III' 1951

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Still Life, Black Mountain College
1951
Dry print on cardboard
43,1 x 27.9cm
Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio collection
© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) III' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) IV' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) V' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) VI' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) VII' 1957

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled (Grottaferrata) (No’s 3-7)
1957
Wax crayon and lead pencil on squared paper
7 drawings: 21.6 x 29.9cm (each)
Private Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, St.

 

 

“Resisting the term ‘graffiti’ (‘naughty or aggressive’ protest) that is often applied to his work, Twombly says that, ‘it’s more lyrical … in the totality of the painting, feeling and content are more complicated, or more elaborate than say just graffiti.’ Barthes suggests that Twombly’s impossible calligraphy invokes ‘what one might call writing’s field of allusions’ – a cultural field as well as feeling and content; a long way from a fine hand. His writing is also epigraphic, in the double sense of alluding to the object or surface on which it is written, and requiring to be deciphered like an ancient inscription. Twombly’s illegible scrawls and polyglot, non-standardised capitals, his interweaving of phrases from high modernist European poets and names from the Graeco-Roman tradition, evoke the longue durée of a commemorative culture that reaches back to Egypt and beyond: cult as well as culture.”

Mary Jacobus. “Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile,” in Tate Papers no. 10 [Online] Cited 09/12/2021

 

Cy Twombly. 'Sperlonga Collage' 1959

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Sperlonga Collage
1959
Pieces of semi-transparent cristal paper, oil-based house paint on paper
85 x 62cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

 

ROOM 1

The 1950s saw Twombly evidence a precocious maturity. After leaving Black Mountain College – the experimental liberal arts college in North Carolina where he encountered the crème de la crème of the US avant-garde – the 24-year-old painter from Lexington, Virginia, set off on a trip to Europe and North Africa in the company of Robert Rauschenberg. On returning to New York in late spring 1953, he produced his first major works, the sounds of their titles recalling villages and archaeological sites of Morocco. These were followed by white canvases covered in script – Twombly disliked the term “graffiti” employed by many of the critics – and its suggestion of triviality. The masterpiece of the decade is undoubtedly the series of white paintings done at Lexington in 1959, which Leo Castelli however refused to show. The austerity of their pictorial language makes outstanding works, economy of means being pushed to an extreme in the combination of white house paint and pencil.

 

ROOM 2

In the summer of 1957, Cy Twombly returned to Italy to visit his friend Betty Stokes, who was married to Venetian aristocrat Alvise Di Robilant and had just given birth to their first child. The Robilants were then living at Grottaferrata, where Twombly took several photographs of Betty. During his stay, he also made a series of eight wax crayons drawings, which he presented to her. One of these has since been separated from the group, leaving only seven, outstanding in their vigorous hand and lively colour.

 

Cy Twombly. 'School of Athens' 1961

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
School of Athens
1961
Oil, oil-based house paint, coloured pencil and lead pencil on canvas
190.3 x 200.5cm
Private Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus' 1962

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus
1962
259 x 302cm
Oil, lead pencil on canvas
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

 

Describing space in Twombly’s work, Barthes uses the term ‘rare’ (Latin, rarus): ‘that which has gaps or interstices, sparse, porous, scattered’.

 

Cy Twombly. 'The Vengeance of Achilles' 1962

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
The Vengeance of Achilles
1962
Oil, lead pencil on canvas
300 x 175cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich

 

 

Roland Barthes famously wrote of Twombly: ‘His work is based not upon concept (the trace) but rather upon an activity (tracing)’. In Twombly’s graphic art, the trace is the record of a gesture. Barthes again: ‘line is action become visible’. Like Olson, Twombly connects heart to line via the body.

 

Cy Twombly. View of the series 'Nine Discourses on Commodus' 1963

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
View of the series Nine Discourses on Commodus
1963
Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, Bilbao
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

 

ROOM 4

After Twombly’s marriage to Italian aristocrat Luisa Tatiana Franchetti, celebrated in New York on 20 April 1959, the couple settled in Rome, living in a palazzo on the Via di Monserrato, in a quarter known for its intellectual life. Twombly had just given up using his fluid and viscous house paint for oil paint in tubes with precisely the opposite properties. Between 1960 and 1962 he produced some of his most sexual paintings, Empire of Flora being an evocative example. Partial glimpses of body parts, male and female, are scattered over canvases that seem to preserve the sensual memory of hot Roman nights.

 

ROOM 5

In late 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Cy Twombly devoted a cycle of nine paintings to the Roman emperor Commodus (161-192), son of Marcus Aurelius and remembered as a cruel and bloodthirsty ruler. In these he conveys the climate of violence that prevailed during his reign, marked by executions and terror. Shown at Leo Castelli’s in New York in the spring of 1964, the paintings were roundly condemned by the critics. Won to the newly emergent Minimalism, the New York public was unable to grasp Twombly’s painterly gifts and his ability to render on canvas the complex psychological phases informing the life and death of the emperor. At the close of the exhibition, Twombly recovered the paintings, which would be sold to an Italian industrialist before being acquired in 2007 by the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

 

ROOM6

Having painted a series under the sign of Eros in the very early part of the decade, in 1962 Twombly turned to Thanatos, death, a theme that finds paroxysmal expression in his first two meditations on the Trojan War, Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus and Vengeance of Achilles. In these two paintings, brought together for this exhibition, Twombly gives form to Achilles’ sorrow and fury on the death of his friend. The Ilium triptych, for its part, was broken up at an unknown date, the first panel joining the Eli and Edythe Broad collection in Los Angeles. In the early 2000s, Twombly painted a new version of that panel to recreate the triptych, then owned by collector François Pinault.

 

Cy Twombly. 'Alessandro Twombly' 1965

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Alessandro Twombly
1965
Dry print on cardboard
43.2 x 28cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Night Watch' 1966

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Night Watch
1966
Oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas
190 x 200cm
Private Collection
Courtesy Jeffrey Hoffeld Fine Arts, Inc.
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Cheim & Read

 

Cy Twombly. 'Pan' 1975

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Pan
1975
Oil pastel and collage on paper
148 x 100cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives
Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Apollo' 1975

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Apollo
1975
Oil pastel and lead pencil on paper
150 x 134cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy
Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Venus' 1975

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Venus
1975
Oil Pastel, lead pencil and collage on paper
150 x 137cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola
Del Roscio

 

 

Walter Benjamin’s 1917 essay, ‘Painting, or Signs and Marks’, argues that, ‘The graphic line is defined by its contrast to area’ as opposed to the mark (‘Mal’) and painting (‘Malerei’): ‘the realm of the mark is a medium.’ His distinction between line and mark, drawing and painting, is especially hard to maintain in relation to Cy Twombly: the scribbled pencilling, the smudges and smears, are the marks of an affective body used as a writing instrument. Where Benjamin speaks proleptically to Twombly is in the decisive role he gives to writing, inscription, and naming, along with the spatial marks on monuments and gravestones. ‘[T]he linguistic word’, he writes, ‘lodges in the medium of the language of painting.’ With its collage of quotations, inscriptions, and names, Twombly’s entire oeuvre could be read as a retrospective commentary on this early Benjamin essay.

Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol.1, 19131926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 84-85 quoted in Mary Jacobus. “Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile,” in Tate Papers no. 10 [Online] Cited 09/12/2021

 

Cy Twombly. 'Fifty Days at Iliam Shield of Achilles (Part 1)' 1978

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Fifty Days at Iliam Shield of Achilles (Part I)
1978
Oil, oil stick, lead pencil on canvas
191.8 x 170.2cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, gift (by exchange) of Samuel S.White 3rd and Vera White 1989-90-1
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphie

 

Cy Twombly. 'Fifty Days at Iliam Shades of Achilles, Patroclus and Hector (Part VI)' 1978

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Fifty Days at Iliam Shades of Achilles, Patroclus and Hector (Part VI)
1978
Oil, Oil Pencil, lead pencil on canvas
299.7 x 491.5cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphie, gift (by exchange) of Samuel S.White 3rd and Vera White, 1989-90-6
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphie

 

 

ROOM 9

Reacting to the Minimalism and Conceptualism that emerged in the United States in the 1960s, in 1966 Twombly, then living in Rome, embarked on a new series of remarkably austere paintings, with backgrounds of grey or black inscribed with simple forms or script-like loops in white wax crayon. He showed these at the Galleria Notizie, Turin, in early 1967. In the autumn, Leo Castelli in New York exhibited a second series, painted in January in a Canal Street loft made available to the painter by curator and collector David Whitney. Among the works shown was Untitled (New York City) (1967, cat. No. 75), which Twombly would later exchange with Andy Warhol for one of his Tuna Fish Disasters.

 

ROOM 11

Twombly’s sculptures might be described as “assemblages” or “hybridisations”, in that they consist of disparate elements. These combinations of found materials (pieces of wood, electrical plugs, cardboard boxes, scraps of metal, dried or artificial flowers) are unified by a thin coat of plaster. The white in which they are roughly painted catches the light, bringing out subtle nuances in the surface and giving them a spectral appearance. As Twombly explained in an interview with art critic David Sylvester, “White paint is my marble”. Sometimes later cast in bronze, these sculptures suggest myths, symbolic objects, archaeological finds, as in Winter’s Passage Luxor (Porto Ercole) (1985). “Cy Twombly’s sculpture,” wrote Edmund de Waal, “seems more archaic than archaizing, as if the impulse behind its creation were ancient itself.”

 

ROOM 12

In 1975, Cy Twombly bought a 16th-century house at Bassano in Teverina, north of Rome, and after basic renovations he established his summer studio there. Inspired by Homer’s Iliad, read in Alexander Pope’s 18th-century English translation, he embarked in 1977 on the major cycle “Fifty Days at Iliam,” whose ten paintings were completed over two successive summers. In the word “Ilium”, one of the ancient names for Troy, Twombly replaced the U with an A, preferring the sound. For him, the letter A evoked Achilles, the Greek hero to whom he had devoted two paintings in 1962. After being shown in 1978 at the Lone Star Foundation (now Dia Art Foundation) in New York, the work remained boxed up for 10 years, to be seen again only upon its purchase in 1989 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it is on permanent exhibition in a room devoted to Cy Twombly. This exhibition marks the first time it has been shown in Europe.

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Formia)' 1981

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled (Formia)
1981
Wood, iron wire, nails, string, white paint
152 x 88.5 x 33.5cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Foundazione
Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Lexington)' 2004

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled (Lexington)
2004
Wood , screw, rope, scakcloth, plaster, synthetic resin paint
206.5 x 44.5 x 45cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Sammlung Udo and Anette Brandhorst

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Bassano in Teverina)' 1985

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled (Bassano in Teverina)
1985
Oil, acrylic on wooden panel
181.7 x 181.7cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Wilder Shores of Love' 1985

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Wilder Shores of Love
1985
Oil-based house paint , oil (oil paint stick), coloured pencil, lead pencil on wooden panel
140 x 120cm
Private Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Summer Madness' 1990

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Summer Madness
1990
Acrylic, oil, coloured pencil, lead
Pencil on paper mounted on wooden panels
150 x 126cm
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Quattro Stagioni: Primavera' 1993-1995

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Quattro Stagioni: Primavera
1993-1995
Acrylic, oil, coloured pencil and et lead pencil on canvas
313.2 x 189.5cm
Tate, London
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Tate, London 2016

 

 

ROOM 15

“Coronation of Sesostris” is one of the major painting cycles that punctuate Cy Twombly’s career, differing from the purely abstract series in their incorporation of narrative elements. Inspired by the example of the god Râ, whose sun-boat traverses the heavens from dawn to dusk to the end of night, Twombly opens the series with luminous canvasses dominated by sunny yellow and red to close it in black and white with an evocation of Eros from a poem of Sappho’s: “Eros weaver of Myth / Eros, sweet and bitter / Eros, bringer of pain.” Twombly combines fragmentary references to Sesostris I, to ancient Greek poets Sappho and Alcman, and to the contemporary poet Patricia Waters. Begun at Twombly’s house in Bassano, this cycle was completed after the canvases were shipped to Lexington. Sally Mann’s photographs show canvases of different sizes tacked to the walls of the little studio, showing that they were stretched only when finished.

 

ROOM 17

For the Bacchus series, painted at Twombly’s Gaeta studio in early 2005, in the midst of the Iraq War, the artist remembered again Homer’s Iliad and returned to the very characteristic writing he had explored in the “Black Paintings” of the late 1960s. Here, however, he replaced the white wax crayon with red paint evocative of both blood and wine, allowed to run freely across the vast beige canvases. The first series consisted of eight monumental paintings that were shown in late 2005 at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. Between 2006 and 2008, Twombly produced another series on the theme of Bacchus, some of these paintings being even larger in format. The two works here are from the first series.

Twombly took up photography at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and never afterwards gave it up. Studying under American photographer Hazel-Frieda Larsen, in 1951 he produced a series of still lifes with bottles and other glass vessels that recall the memory of the work of the Italian painter Giorgio  Morandi. In Morocco in 1953, on his first trans-Atlantic travels, he attentively studied the chairs and draped tablecloths of a Tetouan restaurant. But it was only later, on discovering the square format of the Polaroid, that he discovered his own photographic identity. Reflecting his taste for the blurred, for colours sometimes pastel and sometimes stridently saturated, the dry-printed enlargements evoke a world of contemplation. The photographs evoke the places he lived and his interest in sculpture, flowers and plants. When a friend brought him citrons, Buddha’s hands and other citrus fruits, he captured their sculptural and sensual aspect in a series of Polaroids. Distant from the photographic conventions of the time, Twombly’s images are “succinct and discreet poems.”

 

Cy Twombly 'Lemons (VI)' (Gaète) (detail) 1998

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Lemons (VI) (Gaète) (detail)
1998
Dry print on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9cm
Fondazione Nicola del Roscio collection
© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Coronation of Sesostris (Part III)' 2000

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Coronation of Sesostris (Part III)
2000
Acrylic, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas
206.1 x 136.5cm
Pinault Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection

 

 

Cy Twombly’s remark that ‘lines have a great effect on painting’ resonates not only with his graphic practice but with his relation to poetry. The importance of the modern German poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Twombly includes the figure of the Orphic poet and their shared interest in the ancient River Nile. Twombly’s Egyptian series, Coronation of Sesostris, 2000, represents a late flowering of his remarkable graphic inventiveness…

Twombly’s ten-part Coronation of Sesostris, 2000, is the culminating synthesis of his ship ideographs and whirling expeditionary chariots: a blazing, triumphal departure that burns itself out on the far side of the Nile. Begun in Gaeta and completed in Virginia, it combines deceptive simplicity with painterly sophistication and poetic adaptation. Twombly calls this multi-media series (drawn, written, painted) one of his favourite sets and ‘very personal’. It incorporates a poem of 1996 by the Southern poet Patricia Waters, not a translation this time, although its title (‘Now is the Drinking’) translates Nunc est bibendum. With a few strokes and deletions, Twombly ‘interprets’ the poem to create his own reticent version:

.
When they leave,
Do you think they hesitate,
Turn and make a farewell sign,
Some gesture of regret?

When they leave,
the music is loudest,
the sun high,

and you, dizzy with wine
befuddled with well-being,
sink into your body
as though it were real,
as if yours to keep.

You neither see their going,
nor hear their silence.

.
Either side of this ambiguous celebration of bodily oblivion, Twombly’s sequence tracks the energetic course of the Pharaonic conquerer, Sesostris II.

Mary Jacobus. “Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile,” in Tate Papers no. 10 [Online] Cited 09/12/2021

 

Cy Twombly. 'Coronation of Sesostris (Part V)' 2000

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Coronation of Sesostris (Part V)
2000
Acrylic, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas
206.1 x 156.5cm
Pinault Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection

 

Cy Twombly. 'Coronation of Sesostris (Part VI)' 2000

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Coronation of Sesostris (Part VI)
2000
Acrylic, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas
203.7 x 155.6cm
Pinault Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection

 

 

Jonas Storsve: Curator’s point of view

Rich and complex, the work of Cy Twombly, who passed away in 2011, spans a period of some sixty years without ever losing any of its force, even in the very last years of the artist’s life. One of the most productive in recent history, Twombly’s career links the culture of post-war America, dominated artistically by Abstract Expressionism, and the Classical Mediterranean culture that he discovered as a young man and made his own. The artist would remain very close to the world of his birth, that of the Southern United States, better known in Europe for its literature, with William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote and more.

From his childhood and youth in Lexington, Virginia, where he grew up under the attentive eye of his African-American nanny, Lula Bell Watts, he retained the characteristic and sometimes difficult-to-understand accent of the South. The boy’s family environment seems to have stimulated his intellectual curiosity, cultivated his sensibility and encouraged an interest in painting. When in 1952, at the age of 24, he applied for a grant to travel to Europe, he said he wanted “to study the prehistoric cave drawings of Lascaux.” He also planned to view French, Italian and Dutch museums, Gothic and Baroque architecture, and Roman ruins. He also declared himself to be “drawn to the primitive, the ritual and fetishistic elements, to the symmetrical visual order.” Once he had his grant, he invited the artist Robert Rauschenberg, whom he met in New York two years earlier, to accompany him. They took a ship for Naples on 20 August 1952. The rich and original culture that he acquired would nourish his work. His readings were also voyages – Goethe, Homer, Horace, Herodotus, Keats, Mallarmé, Ovid, Rilke, Sappho, Virgil – on which he would draw for his creation. He found inspiration too in less well-known authors, among them Lesley Blanch, Robert Burton, George Gissing and 13th-century Persian poet and mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. This uncommonly refined sensibility found an expressive outlet in his painting.

Yet while Twombly was indeed a highly cultivated and well-read painter, this was only one aspect of his complex personality. The sophistication of his work is accompanied by a constant attention to vernacular realities, visible to varying degrees but always present. Endowed with a rare wit and humour, Twombly could be deliciously irreverent and even dirty-minded when he wanted. In front of his painting Apollo (1963), he remarked laconically to Paul Winkler, who used to be director of the Menil Collection in Houston: “Rachel and I used to love to go dancing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem”. And in a whole series of drawings from 1981-1982, he wrote the phrase “Private Ejaculations”, in the knowledge that in the 17th century it referred to short, intense prayer at regular intervals.

We know today, too, that photography played an important role in Twombly’s work and life. A private, even secretive man, he nonetheless regularly allowed himself to be photographed. Some of the most famous pictures of the artist were taken by Horst P. Horst for Vogue magazine, illustrating an article by Valentine Lawford entitled “Roman Classic Surprise” published in the November 1966 issue. Taken in Twombly’s apartment in the Via Monserrato in Rome, the photographs reveal a dandy living in palatial accommodations. This appearance in Vogue did little to improve his relationship with the United States, at a low ebb since the controversy of the Nine Discourses on Commodus shown at Leo Castelli’s in New York. It was considered too smart and sophisticated: too distant, in brief, from the American idea of an American artist.

Twelve years later, in 1978, Heiner Bastian published the first monograph on Twombly’s painting, for which the artist took care to present himself differently. The cover picture shows him dressed in jeans and pull-over, boots on his feet, sitting on the ground beneath a tree, with sheep close by – an image intended to communicate an idea of an artist close to the earth, living a healthy and simple life. Twombly indeed was probably both, dandy and Roman shepherd.

Sally Mann, a friend from Lexington, often photographed Twombly and his studio toward the end of his life. Thanks to her we have photos that document the development of the Coronation of Sesostris series, which he finished in the city of his birth. Among the most beautiful of the images are those of the studio, empty of work, with just traces of paint on the walls. From some of these ghostly images of a whole phase of Twombly’s work, of his place of work and creation, Mann assembled an album, recently published as Remembered Light.

The Centre Pompidou is staging the first comprehensive retrospective of Cy Twombly’s work in Europe. Unprecedented in scope, bringing together works from public and private collections the whole world over, the exhibition will be shown only in Paris. Organised around three great series – Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978) and Coronation of Sesostris (2000) – it offers a chronological survey of the whole of the artist’s career, the 140 paintings, drawings and photographs affording an insight into the complexity of his work as a whole, simultaneously scholarly and sensual. Among the works shown are some of his best-known ones, many never exhibited in France before. Polyphonic in conception, the accompanying catalogue proposes a multiplicity of approaches, with essays on different aspects and periods of Twombly’s career. It also includes reflections and personal impressions by other artists, and accounts of the formation of the two great collections of Twombly’s work – the Brandhorsts’ and Yvon Lambert’s – as well as recollections by his son Alessandro Twombly. The catalogue closes on a lively and joyful portrait of Twombly from the pen of Nicola Del Roscio. Through this varied testimony, readers will discover not only the artist, but also the man, seemingly returned to life before our eyes.”

Jonas Storsve in Code Couleur, no. 26, September – December 2016, pp. 18-23.

 

Cy Twombly. 'Blooming' 2001-2008

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Blooming
2001-2008
Acrylic, wax crayon on 10 wooden panels
250 x 500cm
Private collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled, (A Gathering of Time)' 2003

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled, (A Gathering of Time)
2003
Acrylic on canvas
215.9 x 267.3cm
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Bacchus)' 2005

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Untitled (Bacchus)
2005
Acrylic on canvas
317.5 x 417.8cm
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Sans titre' (Gaète) 2007

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Sans titre (Gaète)
2007
Acrylic, wax crayon on wooden panel
252 x 552cm
Museum Brandhorst, Munich
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Camino Real (V)' 2010

 

Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011)
Camino Real (V),
2010
Acrylic on wood panel
252.4 x 185.1cm
Louis Vuitton Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

Centre Pompidou 
75191 Paris cedex 04
Phone: 00 33 (0)1 44 78 12 33

Opening hours:
Exhibition open every day from 11am – 9pm except on Tuesday
Closed on May 1st

Centre Pompidou website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

20
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Art AIDS America’ at Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2015 – 10th January 2016

 

Did You Know?

 

 

This is the biggest exhibition on art relating to HIV/AIDS since the seminal exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1995, which I was a part of.

I was lucky to survive the initial wave of HIV/AIDS infections. The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981… and I had my first HIV test in London in 1983. In those days, as the wall text from the exhibition spells out above, you had to wait 16 days to get the result of a blood test. I vividly remember sitting outside a doctor’s office knowing that when I went in, if he said yes you have it, it was a death sentence. In those early days, there was no treatment. You were going to die. I only survived by luck. Many of my friends and lovers didn’t.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says exhibition co-curator Rock Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

This deep understanding can be supplemented by this posting. I spent many hours securing more images than were sent to me in the press pack, because I think it is really important to have as great a cross-section as possible of work online from this exhibition, as a record of this time and space in the ongoing HIV/AIDS story. At present, there is no website for the 1995 exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS but I am hoping to correct this in the near future, with installation images, art work, interviews and videos.

In terms of the art, I find the earlier narratives are much more powerful and focused than the contemporary work. One of the most moving of these, and one that I have never seen before, is Keith Haring’s Altar Piece (1990, cast 1996, below). Can you imagine being an artist, being Haring, working on the wax mould in hospital being treated for AIDS-related illness, thinking that this could possibly be the last art work that you would ever complete. That you would never see it produced. And then to make something that is so compassionate, so beautiful that it is almost beyond belief… my heart is full of admiration and, like the crowd in the triptych, I am washed with tears.

By comparison, some of the contemporary works seem to have become mere graphic symbolism (leaves, milk and flowers) rather than engaging activism. For example, Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers (2010, below) – while referencing his Mexican heritage through skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead – is not about loss with presence but loss without presence: a febrile graphic activity that is pure decoration. Other works such as Derek Jackson’s Perfect Kiss (2007, below) or LADZ’s Eden #31 (2012, below) enact only the most tenuous link to HIV/AIDS and only when it is spelled out in text. Again, while not denying the pain of the death of her mother, her persecution when growing up or the problems with living with HIV, Kia Labeija’s 24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room) (2014, below) propositions us with a women photographed in deadpan photography style as glamorous mother with vivid pink lipstick or a Beyonce music star in sequin dress and 6 inch heels. Only in the last photograph is there any hint of vulnerability and, funnily enough, it is the only photograph that I care about and engage with.

In all of these works the key word is enact, for these works are performances of gender and sexuality conceptualised for the viewer, where living with HIV/AIDS is shown to us at a distance. Instead of ACTing up, unleashing the power of the oppressed, artists are now acting out in this (supposed) post-death HIV/AIDS climate. Look at me, I can be whoever I want to be (and still have HIV). Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and you would be completely right… if only the art commenting on this post-death resurrection of the author, was memorable.

While 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection in the USA and an estimated 47, 352 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, people are still dying by the thousands in America (an estimated 13,712 people died in 2012 of an AIDS related disease – source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website). This is not pretty pink lipstick and sequin dresses, this is 13 thousand people a year still DYING from this disease.

Just think about that for a while.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Tacoma Art Museum, Mark I. Chester and Steven Miller for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987–1995), Let the Record Show… 1987/recreated 2015.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show…
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

In 1987, the New Museum’s curator William Olander invited ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to create a work about AIDS. ACT UP, a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots organisation, responded with Let the Record Show… providing information about the crisis.

At the time, the only visual presence of AIDS activism was the Silence=Death stickers. Let the Record Show… recreated here in full for the first time, included an LED reader board with statistics about the unfolding medical and political crisis, the neon pink triangle with “Silence=Death,” a photomural from the Nuremberg trials, and photographs of contemporary public figures with their statements about AIDS.

Using the 1986 graphics from the Silence=Death Project, ACT UP appropriated the pink triangle from the badges assigned to gay prisoners in Nazi Germany during World War II. The artists combined this historic symbol of powerlessness along with the photomural of the Nuremberg courtroom to make an explicit comparison between the severity of the AIDS crisis and government inaction and the Holocaust. The complicated installation asked whether simple silence in a crisis is as culpable as actively encouraging one. The anonymous collective Gran Fury formed as a committee of ACT UP, as a result of Olander’s invitation. Gran Fury continued to make provocative and important works about the AIDS crisis.

For the installation of Let the Record Show… at the New Museum, quotes were cast in concrete under the photograph of the irresponsible speaker:

 

“The logical outcome of testing is a quarantine of those infected.”

Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator

“It is patriotic to have the AIDS test and be negative.”

Cory Servass, Presidential AIDS Commission

“We used to hate faggots on an emotional basis. Now we have a good reason.”

Anonymous Surgeon

“AIDS is God’s judgment of a society that does not live by His rules.”

Jerry Falwell, Televangelist

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to protect common needle users, and on the buttocks to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

William F. Buckley, Columnist

” …”

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995) 'Let the Record Show…' (detail) 1987/recreated 2015

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show… (detail)
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957) 'Steal This Book #2' 1991

 

Carrie Yamaoka (American, born Glen Cove, New York, 1957)
Steal This Book #2
1991
Unique chemically altered gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Carrie Yamaoka takes inspiration from Abbie Hoffman’s iconic Steal This Book, a counterculture manual for social revolution. By photographing a page spread and then obliterating all of the words except “slaughter” and “history,” Yamaoka rejects any passive understanding of history. As an activist and artist, Yamaoka will use any means necessary to affect change. Steal This Book #2 may be considered as referring to Yamaoka’s experience as an AIDS activist and her desire to reshape our understanding of our relations with HIV.

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995) 'Bozo Fucks Death' 1988

 

Jerome Caja (American, 1958-1995)
Bozo Fucks Death
1988
Nail polish on plastic tray
Collection of Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye

 

 

One of Jerome Caja’s alter egos was the clown Bozo. Here Caja aggressively turns the tables on death and seeks to gain some control and power over the inevitable, even if only a transgressive, psychological fantasy.

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002) 'AIDS, you can't catch it holding hands' 1987

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (French-American, 1930-2002)
AIDS, you can’t catch it holding hands
1987
Book, 52 pages 8 × 10 inches
The Lapis Press, San Francisco
© 2015 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved / ARS, NY / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Working with collaborator Professor Silvio Barandun, Niki de Saint Phalle wrote and illustrated AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands for young adults. Using her characteristically colourful and joyous style, de Saint Phalle offers unusually straightforward information about the transmission of HIV from unprotected sex and unclean needles in intravenous drug use. She also uses the same frank approach to assuring her readers that casual contact from flowers, doorknobs, and toilet seats does not transmit AIDS, notions that were not widely understood in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (American, born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (American, born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

 

Art AIDS America aims to abolish the silence about the pervasive presence of HIV/AIDS in American art and open meaningful and respectful dialogues about our experiences with the ongoing epidemic. For too long, we have considered art about AIDS as a tragic, closed chapter in the history of American art. This exhibition demonstrates the deep and continued impact of the AIDS crisis on American art from the early 1980s and continuing to today.

For more than thirty years, artists have actively responded with exquisite sensitivity to HIV/AIDS. They have adopted a broad spectrum of styles and messages from politically activist to quietly mournful art that nonetheless thrums with political content. Through poignant portraits, some artists brought much needed attention to personal suffering and loss from the AIDS crisis. Others employed abstraction and coded imagery to reveal the social and political factors that exacerbated the spread of HIV/AIDS. Artists also widely appropriated various art historical traditions to speak about the devastating impact of the epidemic. Art AIDS America offers an overview of how these various approaches redirected the course of American art from postmodern “art for art’s sake” formulas to art practice that highlights the personal experience and expertise of the artist.

Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful. HIV and AIDS are not just past-tense problems. As we persist in the struggle with HIV/AIDS, these artworks remind us of humanity’s resilience, responsibility, and history. The legacy of the AIDS crisis and our new relationships with the virus continue to inform contemporary art and American culture.

Text from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse I' 1988

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Apocalypse I
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

In their first collaboration, Keith Haring illustrated William S. Burroughs’ dystopic poem Apocalypse by mixing references to advertising, art history, and Catholic theology. Haring included his “devil sperm,” the black, horned symbol he created to give shape to HIV and its reign of death and terror.

Burroughs introduced the chaos unfolding:

“The final Apocalypse is when every man sees what he sees, feels what he feels, and hears what he hears. The creatures of all your dreams and nightmares are right here, right now, solid as they ever were or ever will be, electric vitality of careening subways faster faster faster stations flash by in a blur.”

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse III' 1988

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Apocalypse III
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

Grassroots Activism

Artists provided the early warnings of the AIDS crisis with their artworks deployed at the street level. Posters, stickers, T-shirts and other projects made it impossible to ignore messages about AIDS. These activist artists were informed by earlier precedents of feminist art and artists working on issues of identity politics. Communities coalesced around the calls to action.

The most prominent group to address the AIDS crisis was the anonymous artist collective Gran Fury in New York, a committee of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The collective used techniques and ideas from advertising, marketing, and the art world to raise awareness and affect political change. Their bold graphic style and refined text continues to influence politically-themed art.

Gran Fury and other activists changed how Americans thought about AIDS. The political and social pressure instigated by their actions and artworks played important roles in changing the approval process for AIDS drugs and treatment protocols. Women’s health issues were brought to the forefront. As a result, American society positively changed their opinions about HIV/AIDS when they had correct information.

 

Memento Mori

The AIDS crisis compelled contemporary American artists to address death with urgency. Artists witnessed a plague sweep through their communities and wipe out their friends, colleagues, and lovers. They used art to express their rage and terror when AIDS had no effective treatment. Their artwork provided a vitally important way to mourn their losses and share their sorrow.

Artists looked back to European and American artistic traditions of memento mori, Latin for “Remember that you must die,” to share their experiences, feelings, and stories. They adapted symbols like skulls and flowers to depict the fragility and fleeting nature of life.

Artists in this section shifted the intent of memento mori away from concepts of death and the afterlife. They refocused on the preciousness and precariousness of life, without forgetting the political and social realities behind the massive wave of death. Nayland Blake’s clock marks the passing of so many individuals with a call to action. David Wojnarowicz rages against the senseless death of Peter Hujar. Bill Jacobson and Karen Finley give form to the fragility of memory. Latino folk traditions connect the living and the dead in the paintings of Tino Rodriguez and Thomas Woodruff.

 

Poetic Postmodernism

In the early 1980s, American art was dominated by a new, postmodern theory. It held that meaning belongs not to the artist who made the work but to their audiences who interpret the works. Called “the death of the author,” the theory was named after a 1967 essay by the French postmodernist thinker Roland Barthes.

As AIDS actually caused the death of thousands of authors and artists by the late 1980s, this metaphor became a terrifying reality. At the same time, a powerful Christian conservative movement aggressively politicised AIDS. Using homophobia and fear of the disease, these politicians passed Federal laws that made it illegal to “promote, encourage, or condone homosexual sexual activities or the intravenous use of illegal drugs” in an AIDS awareness and education bill.

The ramifications for artists and art exhibitions were equally prohibitive. Federal laws were passed that made it impossible for museums to receive government support if an exhibition included obscene content, which was understood to mean gay themes among others, including AIDS-specific art. In this climate, artists knew that overt political content would result in censorship. So they developed a new way to smuggle political meaning into art.

In his research for Art AIDS America, Jonathan David Katz named this new approach “poetic postmodernism.” Artists used the postmodern theory “death of the author” to camouflage their own personal, expressive meanings. Many of the works in this exhibition have the same title format, the word “untitled” followed by a more specific description in parentheses such as in “Untitled” (Water), Untitled (Hujar Dead), or Untitled (Corrupt HIV Activism). The first term, “untitled,” signals the prevailing postmodernist idea that all meanings come from the audience. But the phrase inside the parentheses reveals clues to the artist’s associations and intentions. Because recognition of AIDS content was a product of the viewer’s thought and not the artist’s explicit claim, such works could be shown in museums without fear of being censored under the new laws.

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950) 'Milk/Blood' 1989, printed 2015

 

Andres Serrano (American, born New York, New York, 1950)
Milk/Blood
1989, printed 2015
Chromogenic colour print
Exhibition print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Milk/Blood recall the pure, flat colour of hard edged abstract painters such as Ellsworth Kelly. But the simple saturated color fields in Serrano’s photograph bear the evocative title Milk/Blood, the two main body fluids that transmit HIV. Serrano appropriates the formal language of modernism for political purposes, a means of potentially slipping AIDS consciousness into a museum context without fear of exclusion or censure. As with HIV infection itself, the photograph underscores how our key sense, vision, is unreliable in the face of AIDS.

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950) 'Blood and Semen III' 1990

 

Andres Serrano (American, born New York, New York, 1950)
Blood and Semen III
1990
Chromogenic colour print, edition 1 of 4
40 × 60 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Like his Milk/Blood in this exhibition, Blood and Semen III also appears to be a rigorously formal composition, this time evoking the gestural appearance of an abstract expressionist painting. Again, the title references two body fluids that transmit HIV. As examples of poetic postmodernism, Serrano activates meaning in Blood and Semen III and Milk/Blood using formal arrangements and references to earlier artistic styles to inform his photographs with personal and potentially political content.

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' 1998

 

Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' (detail) 1998

 

Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.) (detail)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

After an extensive period working in Europe memorialising the Holocaust, Shimon Attie returned to San Francisco in 1996 and began his series Untitled Memory. Attie projected old photographs of his friends and lovers onto places with special meaning to him, including this room of a former apartment. His photographs of these projections became personal studies of loss and melancholy.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled (Hujar Dead)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled (Hujar Dead)
1988-89
Black and white photograph, acrylic, text and collage on Massonite
Collect of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol
Courtesy Second Ward Foundation

 

 

Wojnarowicz was briefly lovers with and then became a close friend of the famous photographer Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1987. Untitled (Hujar Dead) incorporates still images from a film by Wojnarowicz of Hujar’s lifeless body on his hospital bed. Wojnarowicz then overprinted the text of one of his famous “rants.” In these politically-charged performances and texts, he laid blame for the AIDS crisis squarely on the conservative right-wing demagogues who politicised the disease and continually spewed homophobic rhetoric which only exacerbated the crisis.

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010

 

Tino Rodriguez (Mexican-American, born Guadalajara, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010 (detail)

 

Tino Rodriguez (Mexican-American, born Guadalajara, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers (detail)
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

 

Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers incorporates aspects of his Mexican heritage, and especially the tradition of skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This family-oriented celebration of ancestors brings the living and dead into affectionate proximity. Rodriguez here exuberantly conflates familiar American oppositions such as death and life, growth and decay, and even good and evil. Inherently androgynous, the gender of the skulls remains unknown as does their cause of death. But as in the Dia de los Muertos celebration itself, Rodriguez’s image supplants horror with humour and loss with presence, offering the triumph of love and memory over death in the age of AIDS.

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992) 'Untitled (Buffalo)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled (Buffalo)
1988-89
Vintage gelatin silver print, signed on verso
Collection of Michael Sodomick

 

 

For Untitled (Buffalo), David Wojnarowicz simply photographed a diorama in a museum in Washington, DC. This image of buffalo being herded off a cliff served as a chilling metaphor of the politics of AIDS in the US in the late 1980s. Rather than an illustration of traditional Native American hunting techniques, Wojnarowicz eloquently expressed his rage, desperation, and helplessness through the great symbol of American identity. His shifting and layering of meaning onto this symbol is a classic example of poetic postmodernism.

One example of how artists hid their message is David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Buffalo). It’s a diorama of a buffalo fall, a traditional method of harvesting large numbers of buffalo by chasing herds off cliffs. The buffalo are made from plastic. Wojnarowicz photographed the diorama and cropped it. “This is appropriation,” Hushka said. “He used it as this extraordinarily eloquent cry about the state of American politics at the time.” Katz added, “It’s telling that even an artist of Wojnarowicz’s activist fervour engaged in a metaphor that only cohered in the mind’s eye. You needed to be attentive to what it might be saying to read it. There’s nothing specifically AIDS about it.”

 

Spiritual Forces

Because of the overwhelming number of deaths, the unspeakable losses, and the constant presence of disease, it should not be surprising that artists also turned to issues of spirituality. Yet, the art history of AIDS often neglects this important aspect. Across the United States, faith communities tended to the spiritual needs of people with AIDS and provided critical services for them. These communities continue to support people living with HIV.

The AIDS crisis exposed deep division within many spiritual traditions. Artists such as Jerome Caja, Robert Gober, and Barbara Kruger expressed discomfort and displeasure in how some religious ideologies oppressed gays and lesbians and worsened the AIDS crisis. Others made inspiring works within long-established traditions like Keith Haring’s altar piece. In other artworks, artists created symbols for the dignity of people suffering from AIDS, ranging from Christian saints and Biblical texts to imagery inspired by Buddhism and healing traditions from India.

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990) 'Altar Piece' 1990 (cast 1996)

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Altar Piece
1990 (cast 1996)
Bronze with white gold leaf patina, edition 2 of 9
60 × 81 x 2 inches
Denver Art Museum, Gift of Yoko Ono, 1996.204A-C.
© Keith Haring Foundation
Photo © Denver Art Museum

 

 

This altar piece by Keith Haring is the last work the artist completed. He worked on the wax mould while he was hospitalised for AIDS-related illnesses. The triptych format echoes traditional Roman Catholic altar pieces. The image of the crying mother holding an infant speaks to the inconsolable losses from AIDS. The mother’s tears fall on the crowds, seeking solace and mercy from the AIDS epidemic.

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945) 'Untitled (It's our pleasure to disgust you)' 1991

 

Barbara Kruger (American, born Newark, New Jersey, 1945)
Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you)
1991
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Eric and Nannette Brill

 

 

Despite provocative imagery and text, Barbara Kruger intends no specific meaning to her artworks. Rather, Kruger wants to demonstrate how the reader generates meaning each time the text is read. She activates ambiguity and political charge with the phrase “It’s our pleasure to disgust you.” Kruger underscores the gulf between and image and its possible meanings, an issue brought into high relief in the culture wars promoted by religious conservatives, during the period when this work was made.

The work may be interpreted as evidence that artists like Kruger were deliberately insensitive to cultural norms. Alternatively, it could be read as proof that artworks were deliberately manipulated for political purpose by others. Because AIDS was framed in political terms from its earliest moment, Kruger’s Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you) reflects the complexity and deliberate uses of language about AIDS.

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954) 'Drains' 1990

 

Robert Gober (American, born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954)
Drains
1990
Cast pewter Edition of 8, with 2 artist’s proofs, artist’s proof 1 of 2
Collection of the artist

 

 

Robert Gober’s Drains is meticulously handcrafted to resemble a mass-produced consumer good. Because we think about drains primarily as a tool to remove waste often associated with personal hygiene and cleaning, connections to HIV/AIDS are obvious. By placing the sculpture in an unexpected position on a gallery wall, Gober seeks to generate unanswerable, metaphorical questions about the functions of a drain and the unknown space behind it. The cruciform shape at the back of the drain recalls his childhood and his complicated relationship with Catholicism.

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955) 'Unveiling of a Modern Chastity' 1981

 

Izhar Patkin (American born Israel, b. 1955)
Unveiling of a Modern Chastity
1981
Rubber paste, latex theatrical wounds, and
printing ink on a stretched linen canvas
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Izhar Patkin painted Unveiling of a Modern Chastity one year before there was any public announcement about a new disease striking formerly healthy young men. This is the earliest work in the exhibition, and, in retrospect, one of the earliest AIDS paintings ever. Troubled by the sight of a group of such young men with similar dark purple skin lesions waiting in his dermatologist’s office, he presciently titled the work to reflect what he felt might be a forthcoming change in sexual culture. The painting’s skin-like surface erupts in what looks like Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.

Patkin’s heavily textured surface and use of artificial wounds was his effort to destroy minimalism and other traditions of pure abstraction. He wanted to expose the inability of modernist art to contain pressing social and contextual significance.

DID YOU KNOW? The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981.

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014) 'Akedah' 1995

 

Albert J. Winn (American, 1947-2014)
Akedah
1995
Gelatin silver print
171/2 × 21 ¾ inches
Courtesy of Scott R. Portnoff
Photo courtesy of the Estate of Albert J. Winn

 

 

In the artist’s own words: “Every month, because of my illness, I need to undergo a blood test. During the process, a tourniquet is bound tightly about my upper arm. At times when I’ve been on a study protocol for an experimental medicine, I’ve had my blood drawn every day. Having my blood drawn has become a ritual in what sometimes seems is a new religious practice, an AIDS ritual.

“Over time, I’ve transformed this ritual in relation to my Judaism. I wonder if like Isaac, I am being sacrificed. This time to science. I pray that an angel will intercede and spare my life. When my arm is bound with a tourniquet and the veins bulge, I am reminded that I am bound to my illness. I look at the rubber strap and see tefillin. Sometimes the impression of the leather straps from the tefillin are still visible on my skin by the time the tourniquet is wrapped around my arm. The binding of the tefillin is a reminder of being bound to my heritage. The straps also make my veins bulge. Except for the needle stick the binding feels the same.”

 

 

Art AIDS America at the Tacoma Art Museum

Politics, sex, religion, loss, and beauty – all of the topics that you can’t talk about over dinner but can at a museum – are open for discussion in Art AIDS America, an exhibition that reveals for the first time how the AIDS crisis forever changed American art. Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful.

Art AIDS America is a story of resilience and beauty revealed through art, and the community that gathered to bring hope and change. While recognising and honouring loss and grief, it refutes the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art, exploring how artists’ responses to the crisis and its legacy continue to inform contemporary American art. These artworks offer a vibrant representation of community, caring, creativity and activism. And, Art AIDS America will serve as a vivid reminder that the crisis is not over; HIV infections are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

A decade in the making, this exhibition is co-curated by TAM’s Chief Curator, Rock Hushka, and Jonathan D. Katz, PhD, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program, University at Buffalo.

“AIDS fundamentally changed American art, remaking its communicative strategies, its market, its emotional pitch and – not least – its political possibilities. But we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in the making of contemporary American culture, as we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in every other aspect of our lives. This exhibition underscores how powerfully a plague that is still with us has changed us,” says Katz. “Art AIDS America creates spaces for mourning and loss, yes, but also for anger and for joy, for political resistance and for humor, for horror, and for eroticism.”

The exhibition assembles 125 significant works in a wide range of media. The artists are diverse, including the internationally acclaimed such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Martin Wong, and those not yet as widely celebrated such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Chloe Dzubilo, Derek Jackson, Kia Labeija, and Joey Terrill. The works date from 1981 to today, and some, like Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 1986 AIDS/ARC vigil in San Francisco, will be on public view for the first time.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

Works in the exhibition will generally fall into two categories: art with a clear tie to AIDS, and art that requires the viewer to look beyond the surface to understand its connection to HIV/AIDS. Some artists addressed the AIDS crisis through activist works, community projects, graphics, and direct political statements. For example, the collective ACT UP NY/Gran Fury’s installation Let the Record Show… sears the words of public officials whose actions inflamed the crisis, including the silence of President Ronald Reagan, who would not speak publicly about AIDS until 1987. Other artists use camouflage, coding, misdirection, symbols, or other covert strategies to address the social, political, and physical impacts of HIV. An example is Robert Sherer’s beautifully rendered Sweet Williams, a basket of cut flowers, painted in HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood, about the untimely deaths of so many young men. The exhibition will be organised roughly by works created pre- and post-cocktail (in this case, ‘cocktail’ refers to the combination of drugs and therapies used to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS).

“Tacoma Art Museum is a safe space where people are able to address important and challenging issues. We are proud to present Art AIDS America. It is fitting that the exhibition debuts in Tacoma, the city that established the nation’s first government-sanctioned needle exchange program in a proactive approach toward controlling the spread of AIDS,” said Stephanie Stebich, TAM’s Executive Director. “TAM also has the scholarship to support this exhibition through our chief curator Rock Hushka and the exhibition’s co-curator Dr. Jonathan D. Katz, who also co-curated the award-winning Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which we brought to TAM in 2012.”

The Art AIDS America catalogue is a significant component of the exhibition, with 15 contributors, nearly 300 pages, and more than 200 illustrations. It is published in association with the University of Washington Press of Seattle and London and designed by Marquand Books, Seattle. Art AIDS America is organised by TAM in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts and will tour nationally. See it first at TAM, on view October 3, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition will then travel to Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA; and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY.

Press release from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955) 'Interim Portrait #373' 1992

 

Bill Jacobson (American, b. 1955)
Interim Portrait #373
1992
Chromogenic colour print
24 × 20 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947) 'Ken Meeks, PWA' 1985

 

Alon Reininger (American born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947)
Ken Meeks, PWA
1985
Archival pigment print
Courtesy of Contact Press Images, New York

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950) 'Robert Chesley - ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6' 1989, printed 2015

 

Mark I. Chester (American, born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950)
Robert Chesley – ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1-#6
from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal
1989, printed 2015
Pigment print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Mark I. Chester gives us the first portrait of a sexually active person with AIDS. Robert Chesley (1943-1990) was a playwright, theatre critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and music composer. Perhaps his most celebrated play was Jerker, or The Helping Hand: A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty. At a time when many gay men had come to associate their own sexuality with death, the artist showed Chesley as a vibrant, active person with AIDS, intended as a rebuke to the routine AIDS portraits of mortally ill people. With this series, Chester rewrote the late-1980s codes for representing gay male sexuality from sexlessness and death towards a renewed embrace of life and its pleasure.

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968) 'Robert' from the series 'Milky' 2004

 

Steven Miller (American, born Tucson, Arizona, 1968)
Robert from the series Milky
2004
Inkjet print
Edition 2 of 10
Tacoma Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from Curtis Man

 

 

For his series Milky, photographer Steven Miller asked his friends if he could photograph them as he poured milk over their heads. These portraits capture the different reactions to the sensation and convey a sense of discomfort from being drenched by fluids like milk. Miller likens these two aspects to a symbolic infection of HIV. For many gay artists of his generation, HIV looms as a constant presence, and body fluids remain deeply ingrained as transmitters of the virus.

 

 

Portraiture

Artists used portraits to directly convey the devastating effects of the crisis on individuals. Even if we do not know the subject, portraits remind us that someone we know was likely affected by AIDS. Because the science about the retrovirus was new and extremely complicated and frightening, such portraits humanised the disease so it could be understood through personal stories.

Early portraits brought attention to the physical symptoms of AIDS such as the deep purple lesions of the skin cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma and the devastating weakness caused by AIDS-related wasting syndrome. Artists soon refocused on portraits of defiant individuals living with HIV. Refusing to show people as victims of an incurable disease, these portraits depicted fighters and survivors.

From pure abstract representations to straightforward photographic likenesses, portraits continue to illuminate how individuals respond to and overcome even the most complex aspects of HIV/AIDS such as stigma, racism, sexism, and poverty.

 

The Legacy of the AIDS Crisis

HIV is no longer an immediate life-or-death issue facing American artists, but one that quietly and continually persists in intriguing ways. The legacy of the AIDS crisis can be traced either through the motifs and influences of earlier artists or by understanding the psychological trauma and challenges that result from living in a world with HIV.

Artworks made after antiretroviral medicines became available in the mid-1990s beg the questions: If HIV is undetectable in a body and all but invisible in society, why should visibility in art be any different? How do you identify HIV if an artist is unwilling to speak about it but doesn’t live a moment of his or her intimate life without being aware of its near-certain presence?

Artists such as John Arsenault, Kalup Linzy, Patte Loper, and Donald Moffett bring their personal histories as activists and care givers into their artwork. They also use their art to express the discomfort and complexities of living in a world with the constant presence of HIV.

Works of art should be read with empathy and compassion to understand the fullness and richness of the artist’s experience. We need to remind ourselves of the stresses, anxieties, fears, and realities caused by the burden of HIV. To honor these artists’ experiences, we must insist that HIV inform at least part of the meaning of their work. This will ensure an understanding of their art as part of an art history of deep social engagement and connection.

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964) 'THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey's Self-Obliteration #1' 2008

 

Julie Tolentino (American, born San Francisco, California, 1964)
THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1
2008
Chromogenic color print
Edition 1 of 5
Documentation courtesy of Leon Mostovoy
Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles

 

 

These three photographs capture moments in the archival performance of THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1.

Section 1 (left): The work begins with Athey’s solo performance of Self-Obliteration #1 while Tolentino, from a nearby platform, aims to capture his performance movements and affect (a reading of tones, gestures, and movements) as an archival action.

This work involves a long blond wig pierced onto the scalp with hidden needles. The needles are removed, causing blood to stream and pool onto two panes of glass. Ultimately, these glass pieces are positioned to encase the individual body.

Section 2 (center and right): Tolentino and Athey “repeat” his performance, a true impossibility in the live form – displaying a disrupted mirroring of the other.

Like a low current running throughout the work, THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME‘s tension opens to the spectator’s subjectivity. A range of issues are activated: Athey’s openly HIV positive status; the actions performed on a differently-gendered person of colour; and the intimate act of bleeding. This becomes entangled with Tolentino’s practice, history of activism and advocacy, caregiving and artist-to-artist relations as a living archive.

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961) 'Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)' 2000

 

Catherine Opie (American, born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961)
Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)
2000
Polaroid
Private collection

 

 

This work by Catherine Opie, taken with the world’s largest polaroid camera, was made in collaboration with the performance artist Ron Athey. Athey achieved both fame and censure as an HIV positive performance artist whose work involved physical and psychic trials, along with, on occasion, blood.

Clearly a response to AIDS, the pose of Ron Athey/The Sick Man recalls the traditional iconography of the Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary supports the body of the dead Christ. Athey is held by his performance partner Darryl Carlton (a.k.a. Divinity Fudge), two heavily tattooed men in place of the holy family. The implications of self-sacrifice and transcendence through pain and suffering animate both the original scene and this more contemporary incarnation. Opie situated the figures in a beautiful, richly saturated black space. She offers a contemporary allegory of the excluded sufferer whose exile and death can be laid at the feet of those who consider themselves pious.

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961) 'Life Altering Spencer from Leaves' 2013

 

Eric Rhein (American, born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961)
Life Altering Spencer from Leaves
2013
Wire and paper
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Purchased as the gift of Louis Wiley, Jr. (PA 1963) in Memory of Paul Monette (PA 1963) and his partner Roger Horwitz

 

 

Eric Rhein began The Leaf Project in 1996 to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and chose to memorialise his friends who had died of AIDS-related causes. He selected the leaf motif to honour the individuality of each person, while also evoking the countless leaves shed by trees in autumn. Life Altering Spencer honours AIDS activist Spencer Cox (1968-2012), a member of ACT UP, Treatment Action Group, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Anti-Viral Advisory Committee. In this capacity, Cox and others became experts on drug trials and approval, successfully lobbying to hasten the approval time for new HIV medications. Cox and his group thus changed the course of medicine in America – the first non-physicians to do so – and, not coincidentally, these new treatments saved the life of artist Eric Rhein.

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991) 'For the Record' 2013

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991)
For the Record
2013
Two offset prints on newsprint, two panels, installed: 22⅝ x 70 inches
Courtesy of the artists
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

The collaborative group fierce pussy created this work for the organisation Visual AIDS in New York City. Playing off Gran Fury’s 1987 Let the Record Show… and evoking postmodern text based art, fierce pussy asks that we remember the thousands of people who died of HIV-related causes before antiretroviral drugs became available to control the virus. They insist that we continue the work to end HIV/AIDS despite these new drugs.

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002

 

Thomas Haukaas (American, b. 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honour of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002 (detail)

 

Thomas Haukaas (American, b. 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected (detail)
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honour of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

 

The horse with no rider at the centre of the composition represents individuals on the reservation who have died of AIDS-related causes. Using the 19th-century tradition of ledger drawing, with a riderless horse as symbolic of a warrior who fell in battle, Haukaas weaves together the complicated issues of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the Native American experience with the disease.

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957) 'Sweet Williams' 2013

 

Robert Sherer (American, born Jasper, Alabama, 1957)
Sweet Williams
2013
HIV- and HIV+ blood on paper
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The title Sweet Williams comes from Robert Sherer’s childhood. His grandmother, an avid gardener, often asked him to help gather flowers from her garden and instructed, “Now, honey, cut down the most beautiful ones first.” Upon reflection, Sherer realised that AIDS was deeply correlated to beauty and sexual attraction. He remembers his many handsome friends and acquaintances who died too early – the Williams, the Billys, the Wills, the Willies – memorialising them in an image drawn in HIV negative and positive blood. Of all his colleague friends, two of whom were named William, only Sherer is still alive.

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955) 'Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week's Dose of Truvada' 2012

 

Joey Terrill (American, born Los Angeles, California, 1955)
Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week’s Dose of Truvada
2012
Mixed media on canvas
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Foundation purchase

 

 

Long-time Latino queer rights and AIDS activist Joey Terrill makes paintings that resemble the work of such well-known pop artists as Tom Wesselmann. Departing from Wesselmann’s 1960s pop still-life paintings, Terrill subverts the genre through his many queer references, not least the regular inclusion of the HIV medication Truvada. In these his appropriations of the American dream, Terrill shows himself to be a political activist – a role he has inhabited since the 1970s.

Terrill’s addition of the forget-me-nots at the centre of the composition pays homage to his artistic hero David Wojnarowicz. He also alludes to the daily routine of the antiviral medicine Truvada and pointedly questions why changes in the social and political realms have allowed this to be a normal part of so many people’s lives.

 

Derek Jackson (Born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972) 'Perfect Kiss' 2007

 

Derek Jackson (American, born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972)
Perfect Kiss
2007
Slideshow with found music and original still imagery
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Derek Jackson enacts a series of “hookups” in which his sexual activity should necessarily raise issues of HIV. Although not explicitly mentioned, HIV is evoked by the lyrics of his soundtrack. Jackson relies on New Order’s 1987 hit Perfect Kiss to equate unsafe sex with a suicide. The lyrics of the chorus plead with a suicidal friend, “I know, you know, you believe in a land of love.” Jackson’s hookups demonstrate how self-esteem, mutual respect, and communication are necessary to avoid becoming HIV positive.

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland) John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971 Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980 'Eden #31' 2012

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland)
John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971
Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980
Eden #31
2012
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy of the artists

 

 

LADZ coined their name after a humorous autocorrect of “ladies” while texting on their smart phones. The artist group finds virtually abandoned industrial spaces where they enact elaborate scenarios reflecting the complexities of life in Los Angeles. The heightened sexual tension combined with the boxing gloves provides a glimpse into the daily navigation of sexual activity and HIV.

 

Kalup Linzy (Born Stuckey, Florida, 1977) 'Lollypop' 2006

 

Kalup Linzy (American, born Stuckey, Florida, 1977)
Lollypop
2006
Single-channel video
3 minutes, 24 seconds
Collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky

 

 

Kalup Linzy and his friend, artist Shaun Leonardo, lip sync the 1933 Hunter & Jenkins tune. Laden with the sexual innuendo of the song’s lyrics, Linzy attempts to coax treats from Leonardo. The artist playfully raises issues of gender and performance.

Given the high rates of HIV infection of men of colour who have sex with men particularly in urban centres, a viewer should keep in mind that individuals like Linzy continually navigate HIV in all their sexual encounters. Unlike a generation ago, young men and women have come to have a different relationship with HIV and no longer fear the virus as a death sentence. Empathy toward their experiences is key to understanding how they cope and survive.

 

Deborah Kass (born 1952) 'Still Here' 2007

 

Deborah Kass (American, b. 1952)
Still Here
2007
Oil and acrylic on canvas
45 × 63 inches
Private collection
© 2015 Deborah Kass / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

 

 

Deborah Kass painted Still Here as part of a group of paintings called Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times, beginning in 2006. A response to the ongoing foreign wars and domestic political issues after the second election of George W. Bush, Kass underscored the gulf between the literal and metaphorical significance of the phrases she painted. Still Here comes from the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies in which a faded film star recalls how she persevered. The song opens “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all, and, my dear, I’m still here.”

The sentiment of the song speaks to the resilience of the many people who lived through the AIDS crisis and those who continue the struggle against the virus and social injustice. Kass’s title may also recall Still/Here, a dance about perseverance, dying, and HIV by the HIV positive choreographer Bill T. Jones.

 

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

 

Kia Labeija (American, born New York, New York, 1990)
24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room)
2014
Inkjet prints
13 × 19 inches
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Artist and performer Kia Labeija was born HIV positive. She struggled with HIV throughout her childhood, including the side effects of the medications, the stigma associated with the disease, and the death of her mother. In her three photographs titled 24, she celebrates coming to terms with the disease and her new-found role as advocate and spokesperson for AIDS awareness. The title also commemorates her 24th birthday and her home on the 24th floor of a Manhattan apartment building.

 

 

Tacoma Art Museum
1701 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98402

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday  10am – 5pm

Tacoma Art Museum website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

04
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Francesca Woodman. On Being an Angel’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates: 5th September 2015 – 6th December 2015

Curator: Anna Tellgren

 

 

Francesca Woodman. 'On Being an Angel', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
On Being an Angel, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) achieved more in five years of artistic creativity than many artists achieve in a lifetime.

As a viewer you can read whatever you want into her photographs: feminism, surrealism, psychoanalytical theory, avant-garde, sexuality, gender, identity, sadness, happiness, joy. One of Francesca Woodman’s teachers was Aaron Siskind but you can also feel echoes of Diane Arbus, the conceptual, narrative mystery of Duane Michals, the postmodern generation of Cindy Sherman (1977 onwards) and, someone who nobody mentions as an influence, the darkness of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (family members enacting symbolic dramas in masks, often set in abandoned places). Woodman also places masks on or off of her face. Further, “There are similarities in style to surrealistic photography, such as Woodman’s frequent use of mirrors, doubles, shadows, gloves, hands, swans, fish, eels, masks, and sexual symbols. Photographers such as Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, and Man Ray spring to mind.”1

Here, I see the influence of Carl Jung in her work, specifically in Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” of the self (traces and silhouettes) which may refer to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. This shadow aspect may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”2 This shadow aspect can be see in the photograph Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976 (below).

Another element embedded in the work is that of the Mirror stage, which is a concept in the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan. “The mirror stage is based on the belief that infants recognise themselves in a mirror (literal) or other symbolic contraption which induces apperception (the turning of oneself into an object that can be viewed by the child from outside themselves) from the age of about 15 to 18 months… Lacan believed that the mirror stage represented a permanent structure of subjectivity, or as the paradigm of “Imaginary order”.”3 The basis of the Imaginary order is the formation of the ego in the “mirror stage”. “Since the ego is formed by identifying with the counterpart or specular image, “identification” is an important aspect of the imaginary. The relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification is a locus of “alienation”, which is another feature of the imaginary, and is fundamentally narcissistic.”4 This imaginary order can be seen in photographs such as Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978 (below), where the image and even the title alludes to a form of self-alienation.

Riffing on the “highly influential writings of French philosophers and cultural critics such as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Julia Kristeva that were just beginning to be made available in translation. Among these thinkers’ central ideas was that identity was not organic and innate, but manufactured and learned through highly refined social constructions of gender, race, sexuality, and citizenship”5, Woodman’s work can also be seen to embody and ennoble these subjective and surrealist constructions (of self).

The artist is a CHIMERICAL CREATURE. Woodman’s transformations, her interior elements, become part of the wall or the house. She vanishes “from the room, out of the picture, at an given second.” A preoccupation with the body / her own body, and the dichotomy of subject-object, also adds multiple meanings and complexity to Woodman’s work. Her many angel images (and also images of umbrellas – Mary Poppins was released in 1964 when Woodman was growing up) suggest movement and the ability to fly, a fascination that found its ultimate expression when she jumped off a building in lower Manhattan at the age of 22.

We can read of all these things into the image/inary of Francesca Woodman if we want to. But they are not necessary to admire or appreciate her work. All we have to do is look at the photographs themselves; just return to the work. Here was a young artist, a young human being, expressing themselves through photography. She was just going for it and, as Corey Keller (a curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) has noted, her youth was the source of her potency.

“Art students are drawn to the conviction she brought to her work and, in contrast to the cool slickness of the digital, it embraces tactility and decay in a very sensual and seductive way.” Keller sees Woodman’s youth not as a liability, but as the source of her potency, though she admits the issue of her self-portraits continues to be fraught. “They are certainly an expression of selfhood. She’s not interested in images of women in general, for example, and even when the subject of the photograph is not herself physically, one always has the sense it is about her psychically.””6

While she may not have fully understood the layered nuances of French philosophy and Jungian psychology she INTUITIVELY knew what she was doing and what she wanted to achieve and capture in her work. There are lots of other photographers around the world that work in this same idiom, at art school and as mature artists, but none have that special something that Woodman has, something that one cannot quite put your finger on.

It is … a gap we can see across but cannot map.

Woodman is one of the greats. In her few short years as an artist, she achieved immortality through her images.
Her narrative – one of youth and vitality, of self exploration and transformation – is no myth. For she is legend.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Tellgren, Anna. Francesca Woodman: On Being an Angel (50kb pdf). 2015, pp. 13-14
  2. Shadow (psychology) on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 04/12/2015
  3. Mirror stage on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 04/12/2015
  4. The Imaginary (psychoanalysis) on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 04/12/2015
  5. Eklund, Douglas. “The Pictures Generation,” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History on The Metropolitan Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 04/12/2015
  6. Corey Keller quoted in Cooke, Rachel. “Searching for the real Francesca Woodman,” on The Guardian website, Sunday 31 August 2014 [Online] Cited 04/12/2015

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

 

The American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) created a body of fascinating photographic works in a few intense years before her premature death. Her oeuvre has been the object of numerous in-depth studies and major exhibitions in recent years, and her photographs have inspired artists all over the world. Francesca Woodman began photographing in her teens and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1975 to 1978. Her output is usually divided into periods, from her early works, her years as a student in Providence, Italy (1977-1978), the Mac Dowell Colony, and, lastly, New York from 1979 until she died. The collection she left behind consists of a few hundred gelatin silver prints, but she also tried other techniques, such as large-format diazotypes, colour photography and video.

Woodman’s photographs explore gender, representation, sexuality and body. Her production includes several self-portraits, using herself and her friends as models. The figures are often placed behind furniture and other interior elements; occasionally, the images are blurred in such a way that their identity is hidden from the viewer. The intimate nature of the subject matter is enhanced by the small formats. Woodman worked in unusual settings such as derelict buildings, using mirrors and glass to evoke surrealist and occasionally claustrophobic moods.

Moderna Museet will present some hundred photographs by Francesca Woodman, with a selection from the series and themes she explored. The exhibition is produced by Moderna Museet in association with Betty and George Woodman and the Estate of Francesca Woodman. Alongside this exhibition, Moderna Museet will present a compilation of photography from the same period from its collection, to show Francesca Woodman in context and expand the perspective on her oeuvre to the public.

 

 

Francesca Woodman. 'On Being an Angel #1', Providence, Rhode Island, 1977

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
On Being an Angel #1, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. From 'Angel' series, Rome, Italy, 1977

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
From Angel series, Rome, Italy, 1977
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. From 'Angel' series, Rome, Italy, 1977-1978

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
From Angel series, Rome, Italy, 1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Charlie the Model # 5', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976-77

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Charlie the Model #5, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976-77
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman From 'Eel' series, Venice, Italy, 1978

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
From Eel series, Venice, Italy, 1978
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'House #4', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
House #4, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. From the 'three kinds of melon in four kinds of light' series, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
From the three kinds of melon in four kinds of light series, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

 

The American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) created a body of fascinating photographic works in a few intense years before her premature death. Her oeuvre has been shown in number of major exhibitions in recent years, and her photographs have inspired artists all over the world.

Woodman’s photographs explore gender, representation, sexuality and body. The intimate nature of the subject matter is enhanced by the small formats. Her production includes several portraits, using herself and her friends as models. The figures are often placed behind furniture and other interior elements; occasionally, the images are blurred and the models hidden from the viewer. Woodman worked in settings such as derelict buildings, using mirrors and glass, evoking surrealist and at times even claustrophobic moods.

Francesca Woodman began photographing in her teens and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1975 to 1978. Her output is usually divided into periods: the early works, her years as a student in Providence, Italy (1977-78), the Mac Dowell Colony, and, lastly, New York from 1979 until she died. The collection she left behind consists of several hundred gelatin silver prints, but she also tried other techniques, such as large-format diazotypes and video.

Francesca Woodman. On being an angel presents 102 photographs and one video, representing most of the artist’s series and themes. The exhibition is produced by Moderna Museet in association with the Estate of Francesca Woodman. Alongside this exhibition, Moderna Museet presents a compilation of photography from the same period from its collection, to show Francesca Woodman in context and expand the perspective on her oeuvre to the public.

 

Biography

Francesca Woodman was born into a family of artists in Denver, Colorado, on April 3, 1958. Her mother, Betty, was a sculptor, her father, George, a painter and photographer, and her brother, Charlie, was a video artist.

 

Italy

The family often traveled to Italy and lived in Florence for a year between 1965 and 1966. Then they returned home to Boulder, Colorado, and Francesca continued her schooling. In 1968 her parents bought a farmhouse outside of Florence in Antella, and there they would spend their summers. Italy and its language, culture, and art history were frequent sources of inspiration for Francesca Woodman.

 

Providence

Woodman started taking pictures as a teenager and had attended a few art courses before she moved to Providence to study at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1975. The college is among the oldest art schools in the United States, and the well-known photographer Aaron Siskind was one of her teachers. While at college, she lived in her studio in an industrial area where many of her pictures from that time were created. Between 1977 and 1978 Francesca Woodman spent a year in Rome as part of the school’s honours program. In the fall of 1978, she earned her BFA and exhibited the series Swan Song (1978) at the graduate show in RISD’s Woods-Gerry Gallery.

 

New York

Months later, in January 1979, Woodman moved to New York, where she lived at various addresses while looking for work. She spent the summer together with her boyfriend, Benjamin Moore, in Stanwood, Washington. Over the course of the next year, she exhibited her work at a number of smaller galleries and experimented with new techniques such as large format diazotypes, and colour images. She was a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1980. There, she worked on a series of images exploring the relationship between nature and her body, among other projects. In early 1981, her artist’s book Some Disordered Interior Geometries was published by Synapse Press in Philadelphia. This was one of seven notebooks (including photographs that were glued in) that she worked with from 1976 onwards. Francesca Woodman took her own life on January 19, 1981.

 

Previous exhibitions

The first major retrospective of Francesca Woodman’s work was produced in 1986 by Ann Gabhart in collaboration with Rosalind Krauss for the Wellesley College Museum. It then toured a number of museums at American universities. Her first European exhibition was held in 1992 by Shedhalle in Zurich and the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster and was shown in the spring of 1993 at The Finnish Museum of Photography, in the Cable Factory in Helsinki. On its way there, it stopped for two months at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. The critic Lars O Ericsson wrote in Dagens Nyheter that the exhibition may have been the most important one to see in the capital at the time. To date, at least fifty separate exhibitions of Woodman’s photography have been held in Europe and the United States.

 

Photography from the Moderna Museet Collection

In connection to the exhibition with Francesca Woodman, Moderna Museet presents a selection of photographs from the same period from its collection, to show her in context. In Francesca Woodman’s active years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, photography was in a period of transition. Many photographers who had worked with classic black and white photography were experimenting with other forms and were pushing the documentary tradition towards more subjective and surrealist projects.

The United States paved the way in this development, and when many started working more professionally with photography, it was institutionalized. This shift in the field eventually spread to Europe. Major photographic exhibitions were held at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, featuring artists such as Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Lee Friedlander, all of whom were influential to many younger photographers.

One of Francesca Woodman’s teachers was Aaron Siskind. His photography is often compared to that of Harry Callahan, since both were active for many years as teachers at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and later at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Another figure in American post-war photography is Minor White, who also had influence as a teacher. White wrote about and taught methods for understanding and interpreting photographs. New Topographics. Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (1975) was a significant exhibition. It was held at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester and one of the featured artists was Lewis Baltz. Other notable photographers in the new American wave were personalities as diverse as Robert Mapplethorpe, Melissa Shook, and Jerry Uelsmann.

But it was also then, from 1977 forward, that Cindy Sherman started working on her break-out series Untitled Film Stills. Sherman is an artist of the postmodern generation, and it is not known if Woodman had been aware of the so-called Pictures Generation. Duane Michals stood for a more conceptual approach. He was one of the photographers who we know interested Woodman.

 

Diazotype

In the spring of 1980 Francesca Woodman started working on Blueprint for a Temple, where she was recreating the facade of a Greek temple using models draped in tunics similar to caryatids. The series began with a collection of details from bathrooms in New York, reminiscent of classical motifs. From having worked on a smaller scale, she had now moved on to truly large formats, some several meters in size.

These pictures are often categorised as blueprints, referring to a method of reproduction most frequently used for architectural plans. This is a contact print process on photosensitive paper; white lines on a blue background distinguish the finished product. (Other types of paper produced different background colours.)

The technique Woodman used was diazotype: a dry photographic process on paper coated with diazonium compounds, which are sensitive to blue and UV light and developed by ammonia vapour. Woodman experimented with this technique. She created the largest of these images by hanging a long sheet of photosensitive diazo paper on the wall of a darkroom. A photographic slide was projected onto the paper from a slide projector, often for hours. The paper was then developed in a diazo processor at a company that made commercial reproductions of architectural plans. The result was a set of magnificent works in blue, purple, and sepia tones.

Text from the Moderna Museet, Stockholm website

 

Francesca Woodman. 'About Being My Model', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
About Being My Model, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Spring in Providence # 2', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Spring in Providence #2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Self-deceit #1', Rome, Italy, 1978

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-78

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-78
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', Rome, Italy, 1977-78

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, Rome, Italy, 1977-78
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', New York, 1979-80

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, New York, 1979-80
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', New York, 1979-80

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, New York, 1979-80
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Moderna Museet’s first exhibition this autumn features the American photographer Francesca Woodman, whose oeuvre has been the subject of numerous in-depth studies and major exhibitions in recent years. Her photography has inspired generations of artists and photographers around the world. Woodman has been called a prodigy, and those who met her testify to her as a young woman who was always working and looking for themes and material for her photographs. Examining Francesca Woodman’s aesthetic oeuvre is a challenge and an adventure.

Francesca Woodman’s (1958-1981) photographs explore gender, representation and body. Her aesthetic world reveals surrealist influences, with frequent use of mirrors, doubles, shadows, masks, and sexual symbols, bringing to mind the works of photographers such as Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun and Man Ray. Woodman’s output includes several portraits using herself and her friends as models. The intimate nature of the subject matter is enhanced by the small formats. Transformation emerges as a theme in many of Woodman’s images, for example in one of her strongest and eeriest series, House from 1976, in which she gradually merges with the walls, the torn wallpaper and the open fireplace.

“Francesca Woodman created a body of fascinating photographic works in a few intense years before her premature death. Her images reference history and the history of photography, but they also reflect their time, while unlocking new interpretations. She is deeply personal, and so her themes become universal. All of this is what On Being an Angel is about,” says curator Anna Tellgren.

Francesca Woodman began photographing in her teens and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1975 to 1978. Her output is usually divided into periods, from her early works, her years as a student in Providence, in Italy (1977-78), at the MacDowell Colony, and, lastly, in New York from 1979 until she died. Analyses of her work are often linked to her biography and chronology. During her active years, Woodman produced thousands of images and she also tried other techniques such as large-format diazotypes, colour photography and video. Some eight hundred photographs have been preserved. The words, short sentences, or quotations she scrawled on many of her prints have since given those pieces their titles.

The exhibition Francesca Woodman. On Being an Angel is comprised of 102 photographs and one video by Francesca Woodman, and selections from most of her thematic groups and series are represented, including Polka Dots (1976), the From Angel series (1977), Swan Song (1978), Charlie the Model (1976-77) and her large Caryatid (Study for a Temple Project) (1980). In Woodman’s active years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, photography was in a period of transition. Many photographers who had worked with classic black and white photography were experimenting with other forms, pushing the documentary tradition towards more subjective and surrealist projects. Alongside the exhibition, Moderna Museet will present a selection of photography from the same period from its collection, to show Francesca Woodman in context.

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Space2', Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975- 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'From Space2', Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
From Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-78

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1976
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', New York, 1979-80

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, New York, 1979-80
Gelatin silver print
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', New York, 1979

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, New York, 1979
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled', New York, 1979

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, New York, 1979
© George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. '(Study for Temple Project)', New York, 1980

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
(Study for Temple Project), New York, 1980
© George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

11
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘Janina Green: Ikea’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th November 28 – 15th December 2012

 

Installation photograph of 'Ikea' by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of Ikea by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

“It is necessary to revisit what Walter Benjamin said of the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproducibility. What is lost in the work that is serially reproduced, is its aura, its singular quality of the here and now, its aesthetic form (it had already lost its ritual form, in its aesthetic quality), and, according to Benjamin, it takes on, in its ineluctable destiny of reproduction, a political form. What is lost is the original, which only a history itself nostalgic and retrospective can reconstitute as “authentic.” The most advanced, the most modern form of this development, which Benjamin described in cinema, photography, and contemporary mass media, is one in which the original no longer even exists, since things are conceived from the beginning as a function of their unlimited reproduction.”

.
Jean Baudrillard. ‘Simulacra and Simulation’. 1981 (English translation 1994)

 

“To apprehend myself as seen is, in fact, to apprehend myself as seen in the world and from the standpoint of the world. The look does not carve me out in the universe; it comes to search for me at the heart of my situation and grasps me only in irresolvable relations with instruments. If I am seen as seated, I must be seen as “seated-on-a-chair,” … But suddenly the alienation of myself, which is the act of being-looked-at, involves the alienation of the world which I organise. I am seated on this chair with the result that I do not see it at all, that it is impossible for me to see it …”

.
Jean-Paul Satre. ‘Being and Nothingness’ (trans. Hazel Barnes). London: Methuen, 1966, p. 263.

 

“It must be possible to concede and affirm an array of “materialities” that pertain to the body, that which is signified by the domains of biology, anatomy, physiology, hormonal and chemical composition, illness, age, weight, metabolism, life and death. None of this can be denied. But the undeniability of these “materialities” in no way implies what it means to affirm them, indeed, what interpretive matrices condition, enable and limit that necessary affirmation. That each of those categories [BODY AND MATERIALITY] have a history and a historicity, that each of them is constituted through the boundary lines that distinguish them and, hence, by what they exclude, that relations of discourse and power produce hierarchies and overlappings among them and challenge those boundaries, implies that these are both persistent and contested regions.”

.
Judith Butler. ‘Bodies That Matter’. New York: Routledge, 1993, pp. 66-67.

 

 

Fable = invent (an incident, person, or story)

Simulacrum = pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original

Performativity = power of discourse, politicisation of abjection, ritual of being

Body / identity / desire = imperfection, fluidity, domesticity, transgression, transcendence

 

Intimate, conceptually robust and aesthetically sensitive.
The association of the images was emotionally overwhelming.
An absolute gem. One of the highlights of the year.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Janina Green. 'Waterfall' 1990

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Waterfall
1990
Silver gelatin print on Kentmere Parchment paper, tinted with coffee and photo dyes
58 x 48cm
Vintage print

 

Janina Green. 'Pink vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Pink vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with pink photo dye
85 x 70cm

 

Janina Green. 'Blue vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Blue vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with blue photo dye
85 x 70cm

 

Janina Green. 'Nude' 1986

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Nude
1986
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with blue photo dye
60 x 45cm
Vintage print

 

 

My photographs are always about the past.

The Barthesian slogan, “this has been,” is for me, “I was there.” This series of images of a vase from Ikea consists of silver gelatin prints tinted in different coloured photographic dyes; photographs of a simple mass produced vase – its form the familiar vessel which so dominates Art History. “Ikea” for me is symbolic of the useful homely object and of the ideal home. The vase from Ikea no longer exists. The picture of that vase stands in for the vase that once existed. The photograph can be seen now – at this moment. It will continue to exist in the future. Its representation crosses time barriers.

My photographs are always documentations of a private performance.

Every photograph records what is in front of the camera, but my interest is in the occasion and the complex conditions of the making of the photograph – first the negative then the print. Each photograph ends up being a documentation of my state of mind during this intensely private moment as well as something for other people to look at. Because of changing conditions, every one of these prints from that same negative is different. For me each analogue print is an unsteady thing. They are now relics from another era, as is the vase.

As a counterpoint to the repetition of the vase prints, I have selected four vintage works from my archive.

Artists statement by Janina Green

Janina is represented by M.33

 

Janina Green. 'Orange vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Orange vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with orange photo dye
85 x 70cm

 

Janina Green. 'Green vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Green vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with green photo dye
85 x 70cm

 

Janina Green. 'Interior' 1992

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Interior
1992
C Type print
38 x 30cm
Vintage print / edition of 5

 

Janina Green. 'Telephone' 1986 reprinted 2010

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Telephone
1986 reprinted 2010
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, tinted with coffee
58 x 48cm

 

Janina Green. 'Yellow vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

 

Janina Green
Yellow vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with yellow photo dye
85 x 70cm

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery

This gallery is now closed.

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

06
Dec
12

Public talk: ‘This is not my favourite photograph’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan part of ‘What makes a great photograph?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy

Wednesday 5th December 2012

 

We were asked to choose our favourite photograph, one that we could nominate as a great photograph. I chose a slightly different take on proceedings.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to my fellow speakers for their talks and to Director of the Centre for Contemporary Photography Naomi Cass for inviting me to speak at a wonderful evening. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

This is not my favourite photograph

A minute’s silence…

 

This is not my favourite photograph
Nor may it be a great photograph…
More interestingly to me, it is a remarkable photograph – one that you are able to make remarks on.

It is also a photograph that has haunted me for years.

.
Taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865, this photograph is a portrait of Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine) who was one of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which had happened the same month. The photograph has a background of dark metal, and was taken on one of the ironclads U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus, where the conspirators were for a time confined. Paine was executed in July 1865 just eight short weeks later.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Three photographs of Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865

 

 

This is the triptych of photographs by Gardner in the form they are usually displayed, like a three-panel renaissance altar-piece. The left and right hand photographs were taken within minutes of each other, with the camera in the same position, whereas in the centre photograph the camera has been lowered to show more of the body, and the image has been cropped at the top. In the central plate the figure of Paine has been raised up in the frame – almost prematurely brought back to life by his placement.

The centre image is the only one where Paine stares directly at the camera. He surveys the viewer with a gaze I find enigmatic.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

This is a very modern face, a very contemporary face. His hair is just like Justin Beiber’s.

Who brushed his hair across for this picture, and would it normally be this long, or has it just been ignored because of his fate?

He still has good muscle tone – has he been exercising in his cell?

And finally his clothing – is it navy issue, as his top appears to have been given to him, perhaps the coarse, navy blue wool of the Northern states.

 

Hot Dead Guys: Lewis Powell

 

Noel Cordle
Hot Dead Guys: Lewis Powell
Posted on September 5th, 2010
Mere Musings blog [Online] Cited 01/12/2012 no longer available online

 

 

There’s even a web page dedicated to him on “hot dead guys” where there’s that awkward moment when one of Lincoln’s conspirators is so sexy its ridiculous…

He wasn’t all bad. Biographers of Powell describe him as a quiet, introverted boy who enjoyed fishing and caring for sick and injured animals. Apparently, Lewis was an intelligent, sensitive, soul with great potential.

 

Descriptions of Lewis from "The Life, Crime and Capture"

 

Descriptions of Lewis from “The Life, Crime and Capture”

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

.

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Lewis Paine (detail)
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

Could we say that he is left-handed given the different size of his fingers (?)

 

Roland Barthes. 'Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire)' 1980

 

Roland Barthes (French, 1915-1980)
Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire)
1980

 

 

Roland Barthes in his seminal work Camera Lucida said in Section 39: “He is dead and he is going to die…

“The photograph is handsome, as is the boy: that is the studium. But the punctum is: he is going to die. I read at the same time: this will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the absolute past of the pose, the photograph tells me death in the future. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence.”

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

If we were to place this image within the metaphysical school of photography which peaked with Paul Caponigro and Minor White we could say:

Hovering above his head, has his spirit already begun to leave his body?

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865

 

 

One reading of his gaze is that he is really interested in what the photographer is doing – almost the gaze of an apprentice wanting to apply these skills in the future.

Given his fate is he insane because of his interest?

What is really going on in his mind – what is his perspective?

Another reading could be as looking out to the future in the hope of finding that he will be judged in another way.

And another is the immediacy of his gaze – it is a gaze that is happening now!

The other thing that I find quite mysterious is the distance of the photographer from the subject.

Was it fear that stopped him getting any closer or are there deck fittings we cannot see that prevented his approach?

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

What brought Paine to this place?

Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques through which human beings constitute themselves, “Technologies of the self.” Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of immortality.”1

As we look into his eyes he knows that we know he is going to die, has already died but the intensity of that knowledge is brought into present time. What Paine emanates is a form of i-mortality.

I wonder, did Gardner ever show him the finished photographs before he died?

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

This is Barthes anterior future, a moment where truth is interpreted in the mind of the photographer, not out there but in here [points to head and heart], where past, present and future coalesce into single point in time – his death and our death are connected through his gaze, the knowledge of our discontinuity. Eons contracted into an eternal moment.

In this moment in time, what we are doing is we are making a list about the human condition when we talk about something that is remarkable. We are moving towards a language that defines the human condition…

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

 

 

But ultimately language can never fully describe the human condition, much as it may try… and this is why this photograph is remarkable, because it is ineffable, unknowable.

This photograph inhabits you, it haunts you like few others.

Early Wittgenstein described a world of facts pictured by thoughts. he said, “Don’t Think, But Look!”

I would add “Don’t think, but feel and look”

.
This photograph is a memoriam to a young man and his present death.
As such it is a REMARKABLE photograph that haunts us all.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan
December 2012

 

Postscript

George Cook. 'Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C.,' 8th September 1863

 

George Cook (American, 1819-1902)
Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C.,
8th September 1863
Photo courtesy of the Cook Collection, Valentine Richmond History

 

 

George Cook’s photograph of Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C., believed to be the world’s first combat photograph. Monitors engage Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, South Carolina. Photographed from one of the Confederate emplacements, the ships are identified as (from left to right): Weehawken, Montauk and Passaic. The monitor on the right appears to be firing its guns. Date is given as 8 September 1863, when other U.S. Navy ships were providing cover for Weehawken, which had gone aground on the previous day. She was refloated on the 8th after receiving heavy gunfire from the Confederate fortifications.

 

Kilburn Brothers. 'Four monitors laid up in the Anacostia River, off the Washington Navy Yard' c. 1866

 

Kilburn Brothers (Edward and Benjamin Kilburn, American)
Four monitors laid up in the Anacostia River, off the Washington Navy Yard
c. 1866
Ships are (from left to right): USS Mahopac, USS Saugus, USS Montauk (probably), and either USS Casco or USS Chimo
Photo mounted on a stereograph card, marked: “Photographed and published by Kilburn Brothers, Littleton, N.H.”

 

Anonymous photographer. ''Montauk' at left, and 'Lehigh' at right, laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania' c. late 1902 or early 1903

 

Anonymous photographer
‘Montauk’ at left, and ‘Lehigh’ at right, laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania
c. late 1902 or early 1903
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Saugus, in Trent's Reach on the James River, Virginia' c. early 1865

 

Anonymous photographer
Saugus, in Trent’s Reach on the James River, Virginia
c. early 1865
Note the mine sweeping “rake” attached to her bow
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Officers pose on deck of the Saugus, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia' c. early 1865

 

Anonymous photographer
Officers pose on deck of the Saugus, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia
c. early 1865
Note ship’s bell and other details o