Posts Tagged ‘Vienna

21
Feb
17

Exhibition: ‘Film Stills: Photography between Advertising, Art and the Cinema’ at Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 4th November 2016 – 26th February 2017

 

I seem to have a bit of a thing for film and photography at the moment!

More delicious film fascination, this time for the still camera. German Expressionism, film noir, science-fiction, horror, murder and mayhem – photographers using all manner of artistic techniques to get their message across. Now often found in fine art auction houses.

I love the heading “Intermediality and Self-Reflexivity” … “intermediate images” that unite aspects of both media (film and photography) and self-reflexive images that take on a life of their own, developing “a filmic work further in an independent manner, thereby allowing it to be regarded from new perspectives. Such stills often contain self-reflexive commentary on the work’s specifically “filmic” aspects.”

Sensitive, sensual, snapshot; stars and auteurism; murder and mayhem; avant-garde, beauty and sex – it has it all. Great stuff.

Marcus

PS. Look at the amazing colours in Horst von Harbou’s stills for Metropolis (1927) which were produced as transparent foils and elaborately coloured by hand. Never heard of such a thing before, coloured transparent foils.

.
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.

 

 

Anonymous. 'La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc' 1927

 

Anonymous
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc
1927
Karl Theodor Dreyer (director)

 

 

Carl Theodor Dreyer (3 February 1889 – 20 March 1968), commonly known as Carl Th. Dreyer, was a Danish film director. He is regarded by many critics and filmmakers as one of the greatest directors in cinema. His best known films include The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Vampyr (1932), Day of Wrath (1943), Ordet (1955), and Gertrud (1964) …

As a young man, Dreyer worked as a journalist, but he eventually joined the film industry as a writer of title cards for silent films and subsequently of screenplays. He was initially hired by Nordisk Film in 1913.

His first attempts at film direction had limited success, and he left Denmark to work in the French film industry. While living in France he met Jean Cocteau, Jean Hugo and other members of the French artistic scene and in 1928 he made his first classic film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Working from the transcripts of Joan’s trial, he created a masterpiece of emotion that drew equally on realism and expressionism.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

 

 

Who doesn’t know them: that picture from The Seven-Year Itch of a smiling Marilyn Monroe with her white dress blown upward by the air from a subway grate, or the photo of a conspiratorial James Stewart in Rear Window? Regardless of whether one has seen the actual movies, such images are familiar. It’s film stills like these that have burnt themselves into the collective memory and had a major impact on how their films are perceived.

Film stills embody visual traces of films as well as independent photographic images. Taken on set during production, they are based on an elaborate process in which film photographers re-stage film scenes for the still camera.

In the first-ever major exhibition devoted to this hybrid genre, the Albertina is showing 130 film stills taken between 1902 and 1975 in cooperation with the Austrian Film Museum. That was the period during which black-and-white film stills reached their highest level of technical and aesthetic quality, simultaneously covering a sweeping cross-section of various artistic movements from photographic and cinematic history such as Pictorialism and Expressionism. Employing pictures by Deborah Imogen Beer, Horst von Harbou, Pierluigi Praturlon, Karl Struss, and others, three aspects of this genre’s intermedial relationships are highlighted: the functions performed by film stills, the interfaces between photography and film with their breaks and couplings, and the additional artistic value of still photographs as such.

 

For the Media and the Press

The purpose of film stills is clearly defined: as material for the press and various types of advertising, they help to market films. And alongside their use in trailers, film journalism, and other marketing tools such as posters, film stills also represent a key ingredient of audience expectations pertaining to a film upon its release. Even so, it is the production of visually appealing images – rather than authentic reproduction of the film itself – that is important, here. In display windows and the media, still images visualise different aspects of a production ranging from key scenes to the actual filming work. This motivic variety corresponds to various film still categories: portrait photos of the actors and actresses taken by in-house studio photographers, as well as scene photos and making-of photos, are used in these contexts. And fed into numerous distribution processes, such photos also serve as models for posters, lobby cards, photo books, and press materials.

 

Intermediality and Self-Reflexivity

Film stills unite functional requirements with photographic and filmic intentions. And in fact, still photography is the only way in which to show visual traces of a production outside of the filmic event – the screening – itself. The challenges that photographers face in taking such shots lie in the difference between the media of moving (projected) film images and static (material) photography. In a complex and laborious process, they work on set to restage film scenes specifically for the still camera, thus transforming the film from a moving to a static medium.

The employment of various photographic strategies makes possible film stills’ “filmic” reception, with momentary photos that evoke a film’s dynamics being just as exemplary here as panoramic shots that require a longer look. Still photos thus repeat a film’s constituent elements, inscribing them onto a photographic medium in various ways and thus functioning as “intermediate images” that unite aspects of both media. They can be read not only as static views of a filmic reality, but also as independent types of photographic image. This quality is reinforced by the fact that stills frequently develop a filmic work further in an independent manner, thereby allowing it to be regarded from new perspectives. Such stills often contain self-reflexive commentary on the work’s specifically “filmic” aspects.

 

Film Stills at the Interface to Fine Art

Being situated between film and photography, many film stills also possess artistic qualities that are clearly photographic in nature. Here, composition plays a major role as it bears witness to a pictorial conception that differs from that of a filmic image. For while moving images are designed as horizontal arrangements, with the pictorial elements sequenced one after the other to effect their visual continuation, still photographers stage still photos according to the (static) central perspective governed by the camera’s vanishing point. This positions observers at that place which has been assigned them since the Renaissance – that is, looking straight down the picture’s central axis. Correspondingly, many stills exhibit reminiscences of the proscenium stage from traditional live theatre, favouring views that render scenes more immediate and thus more easily legible.

Photographers, in composing their images, often borrow iconographic and stylistic elements from various artistic movements: Expressionism, Art Nouveau, and Pictorialism are examples of these.

And in this way, still photographers depart from the original filmic work and realise their own pictorial ideas. Their photos thus refrain from “authentic” reproduction of a film’s various aspects, instead using these aspects to realise subjective artistic practices, thereby implying a reversal of the classic hierarchy between photography and film.

Press release from the Albertina

 

Paul Ronald. Edra Gale in 'Otto e mezzo' (Edra Gale in '8½') 1963

 

Paul Ronald
Edra Gale in Otto e mezzo (Edra Gale in)
1963
Director: Federico Fellini, 1963
Ekatchrome
© Archivio Storico del Cinema / AFE

 

 

(Italian title: Otto e mezzo) is a 1963 comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini. Co-scripted by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi, it stars Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director. Shot in black-and-white by cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, the film features a soundtrack by Nino Rota with costume and set designs by Piero Gherardi.

 

Horst von Harbou. Georg John in 'M - A City searches for a Murderer' 1931

 

Horst von Harbou
Georg John in M – A City searches for a Murderer
1931
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum
© Horst von Harbou – Deutsche Kinemathek

 

 

M (German: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder – “M – A city looks for a murderer”) is a 1931 German drama-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. It was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was the director’s first sound film. It concerns the manhunt for a serial killer of children, conducted by both the police and the criminal underworld. Now considered a classic, the film was deemed by Fritz Lang as his finest work.

Little Elsie Beckmann leaves school, bouncing a ball on her way home. She is approached by Hans Beckert, who is whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg. He offers to buy her a balloon from a blind street-vendor [above] and walks and talks with her. Elsie’s place at the dinner table remains empty, her ball is shown rolling away across a patch of grass and her balloon is lost in the telephone lines overhead.

 

Unknown artist. 'Poster for "M"' 1931

 

Unknown artist
Poster for “M”
1931
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

 

Wall texts

Advertising pictures

Aimed at inviting the public to buy a ticket, film stills were used as advertising photographs in cinema lobbies and as press material for the media. Directors and production companies depended on them for promoting their movies, because the film as a projected moving image is immaterial and does not exist beyond the screen. Stills comprise various types of pictures that show different aspects of a movie’s production: scenes, portraits of its actresses and actors, as well as production photographs capturing its shooting.

The production of stills was based on a division of labor. In major production companies like those of Hollywood, still photographers were assigned to the companies’ advertising or publicity departments. Sometimes involving the director, these departments selected the photographs intended for publication. The promotion photographs for the movie palaces’ lobbies were published in sets of twenty to forty pictures each, which visualised characteristic aspects of the film. A wider selection of stills was used for the press. Picture editors adapted the photographs according to their purposes. We find instructions for the material’s reproduction and cropping marks indicating new image areas; retouches deleted undesired elements and changed the motif in line with the planned layout.

 

Anonymous. Still from 'Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror' 1922

 

Anonymous
Still from Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror
1922
Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Gelatin silver print
© Deutsche Kinemathek

 

Anonymous. Still from 'The Night of the Hunter' 1954

 

Anonymous
Still from The Night of the Hunter
1954
Silver gelatin print

 

Anonymous. Robert Mitchum in 'The Night of the Hunter' 1955

 

Anonymous
Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter
1955
Director: Charles Laughton
Gelatin silver print
© The John Kobal Collection

 

 

The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 American film noir directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. The screenplay by James Agee was based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb. The plot focuses on a corrupt reverend-turned-serial killer who attempts to charm an unsuspecting widow and steal $10,000 hidden by her executed husband.

The novel and film draw on the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murder of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The film’s lyrical and expressionistic style with its leaning on the silent era sets it apart from other Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s, and it has influenced later directors such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, and the Coen brothers.

In 1992, The Night of the Hunter was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma selected The Night of the Hunter in 2008 as the second-best film of all time, behind Citizen Kane.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

The Night of the Hunter film poster 1955

 

The Night of the Hunter film poster 1955

 

Anonymous. Still from the film 'Vertigo, Judy behind Madeleine' 1957/58

 

Anonymous
Still from the film Vertigo, Judy behind Madeleine
1957/58
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Silver gelatin print

 

Vertigo film poster 1957/58

 

Vertigo film poster 1957/58

 

Bud Fraker (attributed to) Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and John Gavin in 'Psycho' 1960

 

Bud Fraker (attributed to)
Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and John Gavin in Psycho
1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Gelatin silver print
© Berlin, Deutsche Kinemathek – Paramount Pictures

 

 

Star portraits

Regarded as the supreme discipline of still photography, the portraiture of stars was an integral part of the film industry’s elaborate promotion campaigns. Productions could be effectively marketed by using actresses and actors to project their image. With the emergence of the studio system, Hollywood perfected this business strategy from the 1920s on by employing specialised portrait photographers. These photographers worked in company-owned studios and – unlike set photographers who mostly remained anonymous – were known by name. Relying on sophisticated lighting and drastic retouching, they created the aesthetic of the glamour portrait. Don English perfectly translated the lighting as it had been exactly planned by Josef von Sternberg, the director, for his film in his portrait of Marlene Dietrich for Shanghai Express (1932). Generally, domestic production companies could not afford to run their own portrait studios and were thus unable to exercise any influence on photographic products from outside. This offered both the stars and the studios a certain degree of freedom when it came to the representation and interpretation of a certain look. The photograph taken of Hedy Kiesler (later Lamarr) in her role in Gustav Machatý’s Ecstasy (1933) by the renowned studio Manassé in Vienna is one of the rare portrait stills taken on the set at that time.

 

Karl Struss. Gloria Swanson in 'Male and Female' 1919

 

Karl Struss
Gloria Swanson in Male and Female
1919
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Gelatin silver print
© The John Kobal Foundation

 

 

Don English. Marlene Dietrich in 'Shanghai Express' 1932

 

Don English
Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express
1932
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Silver gelatin print

 

Raymond Cauchetier (French, born 1920) 'Jean Paul Belmondo & Jean Seberg, Paris, 1959' 1959

 

Raymond Cauchetier (French, born 1920)
Jean Paul Belmondo & Jean Seberg, Paris, 1959
1959
Still from the film Breathless
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Gelatin silver print

 

Breathless film poster 1960

 

Breathless film poster 1960

 

Anonymous. Still from the film 'Breathless' 1959

 

Anonymous
Still from the film Breathless
1959
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Gelatin silver print

 

Georges Pierre. Delphine Seyrig in 'Last Year in Marienbad' 1961

 

Georges Pierre
Delphine Seyrig in Last Year in Marienbad
1961
Director: Alain Resnais
Astor Pictures Corporation / Photofest
© Astor Pictures Corporation

 

 

Delphine Claire Beltiane Seyrig (10 April 1932 – 15 October 1990) was a Lebanese-born French stage and film actress, a film director and a feminist.

As a young woman, Seyrig studied acting at the Comédie de Saint-Étienne, training under Jean Dasté, and at Centre Dramatique de l’Est. She appeared briefly in small roles in the 1954 TV series Sherlock Holmes. In 1956, she returned to New York and studied at the Actors Studio. In 1958 she appeared in her first film, Pull My Daisy. In New York she met director Alain Resnais, who asked her to star in his film Last Year at Marienbad. Her performance brought her international recognition and she moved to Paris. Among her roles of this period is the older married woman in François Truffaut’s Baisers volés (1968).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Seyrig worked with directors including Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Marguerite Duras, and Fred Zinnemann, as well as Resnais. She achieved recognition for both her stage and film work, and was named best actress at the Venice Film Festival for her role in Resnais’ Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour (1963). She played many diverse roles, and because she was fluent in French, English and German, she appeared in films in all three languages, including a number of Hollywood productions.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

L’Année dernière à Marienbad (released in the US as Last Year at Marienbad and in the UK as Last Year in Marienbad) is a 1961 French-Italian film directed by Alain Resnais from a screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Last Year at Marienbad is famous for its enigmatic narrative structure, in which truth and fiction are difficult to distinguish, and the temporal and spatial relationship of the events is open to question, even if it never quite ventures into surrealism. The film’s dreamlike nature has both fascinated and baffled viewers; many have hailed the work as a masterpiece, while others consider it incomprehensible.

At a social gathering at a château or baroque hotel, a man approaches a woman. He claims they met the year before at Marienbad and is convinced that she is waiting there for him. The woman insists they have never met. A second man, who may be the woman’s husband, repeatedly asserts his dominance over the first man, including beating him several times at a mathematical game (a version of Nim). Through ambiguous flashbacks and disorienting shifts of time and location, the film explores the relationships among the characters. Conversations and events are repeated in several places in the château and grounds, and there are numerous tracking shots of the château’s corridors, with ambiguous voiceovers. The characters are unnamed in the film; in the published screenplay, the woman is referred to as “A”, the first man is “X”, and the man who may be her husband is “M”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

L'Année dernière à Marienbad Japanese film poster 1961

 

L’Année dernière à Marienbad Japanese film poster 1961

 

 

Artistic pictures

Until the 1950s still photographers used large-format plate cameras, which projected an inverted image onto the focusing screen at the back of the body. These cameras produced technically brilliant pictures, yet were complicated to handle because of their size and comparatively long exposure times. The staging of stills had to be meticulously planned and was fundamentally different from the shooting of a film. While the film camera is geared to the story in motion and its visual continuation in the pictures to follow, actresses and actors posed for the photographer in tableaux-vivants-like arrangements using additional light. The resultant static and apparently artificial compositions mirroring the performative staging process are typical of this kind of photographs. Still photographers drew inspiration from works of art for their mise-en-scène. The anonymous photographer in charge of the stills for Henrik Galeen’s The Student of Prague (1926) quotes the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich’s works in his theatrical presentation of an atmospheric landscape. Horst von Harbou, who frequently worked with the director Fritz Lang, drew on Carl Otto Czeschka’s Jugendstil [Art Noveau] illustrations from 1908 for his stills accompanying the first part of Die Nibelungen (1924). Harbou translated ornamental motifs into two-dimensional pictures, as Czeschka had done before him. Presenting their pictures in exhibitions and providing fine-art prints, still photographers positioned their works as artistically independent achievements.

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss in 'The Student of Prague' 1926

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss in The Student of Prague
1926
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss in 'The Student of Prague' 1926 (detail)

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss in The Student of Prague (detail)
1926
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

 

Intermediate pictures

The difficulty in capturing the scene of a movie in a still lies in the difference between the two media of (moving) film and (static) photograph. Still photographers employ intermedia strategies which facilitate a reading of the still in analogy to the experience of the film. Snapshots evoking the dynamics of the movie are as exemplary of this approach as are series of pictures rendering a sequence in the form of the movement’s individual phases captured at short intervals. Panorama pictures are also related to the film’s spatial and temporal dimensions, since a series of motifs resembling the chronological order of films successively “unwinds” in reading them. Informed by the interwar avant-garde, the photo montages for Walter Ruttmann’s experimental film Berlin – Symphony of a Great City (1927) show an extraordinary solution. They congenially transform the subjective modern filmic point of view by relating the motifs of the film to each other through illogical perspectives and proportions. Some of Horst von Harbou’s stills for Metropolis (1927) were produced as transparent foils and elaborately coloured by hand. Presented in backlight illumination, they established a self-reflexive reference to the cinema as films also reveal their ephemeral quality in their projection.

 

Anonymous. 'Berlin - Symphony of a Great City' 1927

 

Anonymous
Berlin – Symphony of a Great City
1927
Director: Walther Ruttmann
Gelatin silver print
© Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin

 

 

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (German: Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt) is a 1927 German film directed by Walter Ruttmann, co-written by Carl Mayer and Karl Freund.

The film is an example of the city symphony film genre. A musical score for an orchestra to accompany the silent film was written by Edmund Meisel. As a “city symphony” film, it portrays the life of a city, mainly through visual impressions in a semi-documentary style, without the narrative content of more mainstream films, though the sequencing of events can imply a kind of loose theme or impression of the city’s daily life…

The film displays the filmmaker’s knowledge of Soviet montage theory. Some socialist political sympathies, or identification with the underclass can be inferred from a few of the edits in the film, though critics have suggested that either Ruttmann avoided a strong position, or else he pursued his aesthetic interests to the extent that they diminished the potential for political content. Ruttmann’s own description of the film suggests that his motives were predominantly aesthetic: “Since I began in the cinema, I had the idea of making something out of life, of creating a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis poster

 

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis poster

 

Horst von Harbou. Brigitte Helm in 'Metropolis' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou
Brigitte Helm in Metropolis
1927
Director: Fritz Lang
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum
© Horst von Harbou – Deutsche Kinemathek

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Metropolis' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou
Metropolis
1927
Director: Fritz Lang
Coloured transparent nitrocellulose film
Austrian Theatre Museum
© Horst von Harbou – Deutsche Kinemathek

 

 

Meta-pictures

Some directors supported the production of stills that put characteristic aspects of their films into a new perspective. In his masterpiece Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman reflects the support material of film by showing the film strip crack and burn up during the projection. This self-referentiality of the medium was visualised by adding perforations to the photographs so that they resembled film frames. The perforations only served to quote the film as a medium; the motifs were actually mounted in black frames afterwards. Elaborate montages not to be seen in the film were also produced for Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. Rear Window (1954) confronts us with a photographer who watches a man whom he suspects of having committed a murder with binoculars and through a long-focus lens. By mounting pictures of the persons in the lens whom Stewart watches from his window in the film, the still photographer emphasised the issue of voyeurism as a central subject of the movie. The Austrian silent movie director Erich von Stroheim used film stills for visualising contents of his films that were regarded as problematic. Because of their length and supposedly questionable sexual passages Stroheim’s movies were regularly cut down by censorship authorities and production companies. This is why stills continuing the movie were planned in advance. The sexual allusions in a scene of Foolish Wives (1922) in which Stroheim embodies a Don Juan figure about to indecently assault a sleeping woman, for example, manifested themselves in a still in which we see him kissing the sleeping woman’s foot.

 

Anonymous. James Stewart in 'Rear Window' 1954

 

Anonymous
James Stewart in Rear Window
1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Gelatin silver print
© BFI National Archive: London

 

Anonymous. James Stewart in 'Rear Window' 1954 (detail)

 

Anonymous
James Stewart in Rear Window (detail)
1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Gelatin silver print
© BFI National Archive: London

 

Anonymous. Liv Ullman in 'Persona' (detail) 1966

 

Anonymous
Liv Ullman in Persona (detail)
1966
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Persona is a 1966 Swedish psychological drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann. Persona’s story revolves around a young nurse named Alma (Andersson) and her patient, a well-known stage actress named Elisabet Vogler (Ullmann), who has suddenly ceased to speak. The two move to a cottage, where Alma cares for and talks to Elisabet about intimate secrets, and becomes troubled distinguishing herself from her.

Bergman wrote the film with Ullmann and Andersson in mind for the lead parts, and some idea of exploring their identities, and shot the film in Stockholm and Fårö. Often categorised as a psychological horror, Persona deals with themes of duality, insanity, and personal identity…

Persona has lent itself to a variety of interpretations, with Professor Thomas Elsaesser remarking it “has been for film critics and scholars what climbing Everest is for mountaineers: the ultimate professional challenge. Besides Citizen Kane, it is probably the most written-about film in the canon.” Much of the focus has been on the resemblance of the characters, demonstrated in shots of overlapping faces, and the possibility that the two characters are one. If they are one person, there is a question if Alma is fantasising about the actress she admires, or if Elisabet is examining her psyche, or if the boy is trying to understand who his mother is. In a question of duality, Alma represents soul while Elisabet represents a stern goddess. Susan Sontag suggests that Persona is constructed as a series of variations on a theme of “doubling”. The subject of the film, Sontag proposes, is “violence of the spirit”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

'Persona' 1966 Swedish B1 Poster

 

Persona 1966 Swedish B1 Poster

 

Anonymous. Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman in 'Persona' (detail) 1966

 

Anonymous
Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman in Persona (detail)
1966
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Key pictures

Stills precede the presentation of a film, decisively informing the expectations held by the public at the time of its release. What is important for a movie’s later success (or failure) is presenting visually enticing pictures rather than conveying an authentic picture of the movie. The most famous example in this regard is Sam Shaw’s still showing a scene of Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch (1955). Shaw highlighted the moment in which Marilyn Monroe stands on a subway grating far more pointedly than Wilder in the film, which neither shows the actress’s whole figure nor the dress billowing so clearly above her waist. The production company did its best for the promotion of the scene in the media: launching an elaborate publicity campaign, it fixed a special date for reporters and journalists to capture the sequence themselves. Such key images become characteristic signatures of a film with their dissemination by the media, sometimes inscribing themselves more deeply into the collective memory than the actual film scenes because of their iconic recognition value.

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' 1919

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' 1919 (detail)

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (detail)
1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (German: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) is a 1920 German silent horror film, directed by Robert Wiene and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. Considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, it tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders. The film features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets…

The film presents themes on brutal and irrational authority; Dr. Caligari represents the German war government, and Cesare is symbolic of the common man conditioned, like soldiers, to kill. In his influential book From Caligari to Hitler, Siegfried Kracauer says the film reflects a subconscious need in German society for a tyrant, and it is an example of Germany’s obedience to authority and unwillingness to rebel against deranged authority. He says the film is a premonition of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and says the addition of the frame story turns an otherwise “revolutionary” film into a “conformist” one. Other themes of the film include the destabilised contrast between insanity and sanity, the subjective perception of reality, and the duality of human nature.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari poster (1919)

 

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari poster (1919)

 

Sam Shaw. Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in 'The Seven Year Itch' 1954

 

Sam Shaw
Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch
1954
Director: Billy Wilder
Gelatin silver print
© Sam Shaw Inc.- licensed by Shaw Family Archives, Private collection

 

Sam Shaw. Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in 'The Seven Year Itch' 1954 (detail)

 

Sam Shaw
Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch (detail)
1954
Director: Billy Wilder
Gelatin silver print
© Sam Shaw Inc.- licensed by Shaw Family Archives, Private collection

 

 

Auteur pictures

The European auteur cinema of the 1950s and 1960s produced films outside the rigid studio system that had been the rule until then. Formal means such as editing and montage were used in an experimental way, and handy cameras made the shooting process more spontaneous. The changes in the production of films went hand in hand with new conditions for still photographers. As the photographers did not belong to the staff of the companies’ promotion departments like their US colleagues, most of their names are known. Whereas Hollywood photographers relied on large-format plate cameras, small-format cameras were used in Europe during the shooting of the film or directly before or after it. This resulted in spontaneous snapshots alongside traditional tableau-like stills. In the wake of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment, the constitutive act lay in the choice of the right moment. Still photographers such as Raymond Cauchetier and Angelo Novi had already tested this approach as photojournalists in reportages and documentaries before they started working on the set.

 

Georges Pierre. Anna Karina in 'Pierrot le fou' 1965

 

Georges Pierre
Anna Karina in Pierrot le fou
1965
Director: Jean Luc Godard
Gelatin silver print
Private collection
© Georges Pierre

 

Poster for La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) 1959

 

Poster for La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) 1959

 

Pierluigi Praturlon. Anita Ekberg as Sylvia in 'La Dolce Vita' (The Sweet Life) 1959

 

Pierluigi Praturlon
Anita Ekberg as Sylvia in La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)
1959
Director: Federico Fellini
Gelatin silver print
Private Collection

 

 

La Dolce Vita (Italian for “the sweet life” or “the good life”) is a 1960 Italian comedy-drama film directed and co-written by Federico Fellini. The film follows Marcello Rubini, a journalist writing for gossip magazines, over seven days and nights on his journey through the “sweet life” of Rome in a fruitless search for love and happiness. La Dolce Vita won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Costumes, and remains one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time.

Based on the most common interpretation of the storyline, the film can be divided into a prologue, seven major episodes interrupted by an intermezzo, and an epilogue. If the evenings of each episode were joined with the morning of the respective preceding episode together as a day, they would form seven consecutive days, which may not necessarily be the case.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Hans Natge

Born in Berlin, Hans Natge began his career as a theatre photographer. In the 1920s, he turned to still photography. Taking pictures of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Faust (1926), he came to test a new photographic approach which he called “snapshot photography,” which was to revolutionise the tradition of static and artificial film stills. Using small-format cameras and doing without additional light, Natge photographed during the shooting of the film right next to the cameraman, which permitted him to produce spontaneous and dynamic pictures. As this form of still photography still resulted in blurred pictures and sometimes captured the actors to their disadvantage at that time, Natge also took conventional stills in the case of Faust.

 

Hans Natge Still from the film 'Faust' 1926

 

Hans Natge
Still from the film Faust
1926
Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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

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

Albertina website

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21
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘Provoke: Between Protest and Performance – Photography in Japan 1960 – 1975’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 29th January – 8th May 2016

 

I absolutely love Japanese photography from this period.

Subjective photographs with a gutsy pictorial language: rough, grainy, and blurred intimations of a postwar reality mated with “the search for a new Japanese identity.” An identity (pop!) art with a elemental, chthonic twist – containing a dark sensuality – producing images that pull no punches. Wonderful stuff.

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.

 

The Japanese photo magazine Provoke, which ran for three issues in 1968 and 1969, is viewed as a one-of-a-kind agglomeration of post-war artistic efforts. In the world’s first-ever exhibition on this topic, the Albertina examines the complex genesis of this magazine and thereby presents a representative cross-section of photographic trends present in Japan between the 1960s and 1970s.

With around 200 objects, this showing unites works by Japan’s most influential photographers including Daidō Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi, Shomei Tomatsu, and Nobuyoshi Araki. In light of the massive protest movements active in Japan during this period, their photographs arose at a historical turning point between societal collapse and the search for a new Japanese identity. These images thus represent both an expression of this political transformation and the renewal of prevalent aesthetic norms.

This exhibition is a coproduction between Albertina, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Le Bal (Paris), and Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Okada Takahiko, Yukata Takanashi, Kōji Taki. 'Provoke 3' cover, 1969

 

Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Okada Takahiko, Yukata Takanashi, Kōji Taki
Provoke 3 cover
1969
© Nakahira Gen/Moriyama Daido/Takahiko Okada/Takanashi Yukata/Taki Koji

 

 

The three numbers of Provoke were printed in small editions of only one thousand copies each. Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi, Kōji Taki, and Takahiko Okada founded the magazine; Daidō Moriyama joined the group with the magazine’s second issue. While the first two numbers were dedicated to the subjects Summer 1968 and Eros, the last issue had no focal theme.

The photographers of Provoke worked spontaneously and dynamically, often without looking through the viewfinder of their small-format cameras. This made for a rough, grainy, and blurred (“are,” “bure,” “boke”) pictorial language influenced by Ed van der Elsken and William Klein. This language broke with traditional photography defined by sophisticated compositions, perfect tonal values, and the vintage print. The tonal quality of pictures reproduced through printing differed from that of traditional photographic prints, and the pictures were regarded as independent works in their own right. Contrary to the objectives of the traditional matter-of-fact documentary photography, they mirrored their authors’ subjective experience of Japan’s postwar reality. The manifesto in the first Provoke issue defined photography as an autonomous medium independent of spoken language and aimed at “provoking” thoughts and ideas. The title of the magazine Provoke: Provocative Materials for Thought expresses this intention. (Wall text)

 

Takuma Nakahira (1938-2015) | For a Language to Come

The photographer, theorist, and critic Takuma Nakahira and Kōji Taki were responsible for the discursive orientation of Provoke. Nakahira’s works rejected the rules of photojournalism and its claim of rendering facts in a generally valid, objective way. They were also critical of the visual mass media which increasingly pervaded the everyday life of Japan’s consumerist society. According to Nakahira, the media, having lost all relation to reality through the information explosion, were only concerned with presenting a virtual reality. Nakahira did not regard the photograph as an artist photographer’s means of expression but as a mere mechanical document of his subjective perception.

It is the relationship between photography and language which is central for Nakahira’s photography. This is not only evident in Provoke but also in his book For a Language to Come published in 1970. This volume assembles a non-linear and unhierarchical sequence of snapshots evoking imaginary, post-apocalyptic sceneries which not least reveal the photographer’s skepsis about the US consumerist culture spreading throughout Japan. (Wall text)

 

Three Waves of Protest Books

The protest books can be divided into three groups. From the 1960s, mainly collective publishing projects highlighted social unrest such as mass demonstrations and strikes organized by the trade unions against the ratification of the Security Treaty. The trade union publication Rope Ladder and Iron Helmet, for example, documents the occupation of a publishing house by its employees. The second wave saw primarily individual publications by various photographers such as Kazuo Kitai’s book Resistance. It depicts the students’ activities, and its rough and grainy pictorial language became important for Provoke. The third wave of protest books, generally designed by students and published from 1967 on, focused on violent street fights in Tokyo directed against the Vietnam War. The collectively produced volume Sanrizuka – The Hokusō Plateau on Fire. Document 1966-71 deals with the protests against the construction of the airport in Sanrizuka, in which students joined forces with the local farmers. (Wall text)

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Provoke: Between Protest and Performance – Photography in Japan 1960 – 1975 at the Albertina, Vienna

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu. 'Blood and Rose, Tokyo, 1969' 1969

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu
Blood and Rose, Tokyo, 1969
1969
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna; permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science
© Shōmei Tōmatsu Estate, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

 

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu (1930-2012)

Shōmei Tōmatsu is seen as a key figure for Provoke. He photographed the sociopolitical changes in Japan from the 1950s on, depicting US military bases, the consequences of dropping a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, and the student protests in a new, symbolic documentary style. The pictures’ subjective approach revolutionized traditional documentary and reportage photography, which strove to convey a comprehensible story and a clear social message. The strategies developed by Tōmatsu are to be found in the Provoke artists’ works in a pointed form.

Tōmatsu also supported the Provoke photographers as an exhibition organizer and editor. Together with Takuma Nakahira and Kōji Taki, he prepared the first major exhibition of Japanese photography in 1968, which was to stimulate the founders of the magazine to explore the medium. Tōmatsu and Nakahira edited the photo galleries I am a King in the magazine Gendai no me (The Contemporary Eye), which for the first time assembled works by the photographers who would form the Provoke group. (Wall text)

 

Eikoh Hosoe. '"Kamaitachi" #31' 1968

 

Eikoh Hosoe
“Kamaitachi” #31
1968
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna – permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science
© Eikoh Hosoe/Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Performance

Pictures taken in the context of performances breach the boundary between photographic documentation and live action and emphasize performative aspects of the medium like the brief act of pictorial production and the materiality of the picture. For his series Kamaitachi, Eikō Hosoe portrayed the butoh and performance artist Tatsumi Hijikata from 1965 on. The performer incorporated the demon Kamaitachi in scenes specifically staged for the camera, visualizing the photographer’s memories of World War II. As Hosoe used his camera in a very dynamic way, the shooting may be seen as a happening involving two artists.

Competing with Provoke, Nobuyoshi Araki produced a number of Xerox photography books from 1970 on. Araki and his assistants xeroxed photographs and sent the copies bound between black covers to colleagues and friends. The production process resembling a happening, the use of technically inadequate means, and the preference of copies over the original defied classical photography in ways to be found in the Provoke magazines.

Also inspired by Provoke, Jirō Takamatsu turned to conceptual photography. For Photograph of Photograph he employed a photographer to take pictures of pictures from his family albums. The snapshot-like pictorial language manifesting itself in reflections and random image sections defamiliarizes the album pictures. Like in Daidō Moriyama’s series Accident, processes connected with the production of prints become a visible element of work that questions the supposed factuality of the medium. (Wall text)

 

Anonym (Bild 1) 'Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport' c. 1969

 

Anonym (Bild 1)
Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport
c. 1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago © AIC

 

 

Protest

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Japan was shaken by massive, partly violent waves of protests. The key event was the ratification of the Security Treaty between Japan and the United States in 1960. Japan’s role as a military base for the war against Vietnam, the construction of Narita Airport in Sanrizuka, and the neoliberal activities of big concerns also led to protests. The years between 1960 and 1975 saw the publication of about eighty publications on the protests and the assessment of Japan’s recent history, particularly the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, connected with it.

Published by artist photographers, student associations, trade unions, and professional photo journalists, the protest books were produced in different ways. They were aimed at spreading information and mobilizing people for further protests. The strategies of subversive self-representation were characterized by an innovative design: appeal-like combinations of texts and images, suggestive sequences, dynamic croppings, and an interplay of inferior materials and sophisticated layouts.

Though the members of Provoke, excepting Moriyama, were active politically, they held the opinion that the possibilities of protest photography had been exhausted and that it could not bring about political change. Nevertheless, Provoke followed the models developed by it. The most striking feature next to layout and printing techniques is the protest photographers’ abstract and blurry aesthetic resulting from technical shortcomings. (Wall text)

 

Anonym (Bild 2) 'Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport' c. 1969

 

Anonym (Bild 2)
Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport
c. 1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago © AIC

 

 

“The Japanese photo magazine Provoke, which ran for three issues in 1968 and 1969, is regarded as a highlight of post-war photography. The Albertina, in the world’s first-ever exhibition on this topic, is taking a close look at this publication’s creators and its long genesis. The presentation encompasses a representative cross-section of Japanese photographic trends during the 1960s and 1970s. With around 200 objects, the exhibition Provoke unites works by Japan’s most influential photographers – including Daidō Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi, Shōmei Tōmatsu, and Nobuyoshi Araki. Before the backdrop of the massive protest activities in Japan during this period, they created their images out of an awareness of being at a historical turning point between societal collapse and the search for a new Japanese identity. These works thus represent both an expression of this political transformation and a renewal of prevalent aesthetic norms.

This exhibition places Provoke in a historical context, focussing on the dialogue between the group’s photography in particular and contemporary protest photography and performance art in general.

Photography is examined as a document of – and/or a call to – protest against injustice: the period around 1960 saw numerous books published in connection with the first great wave of protests in Japan against renewal of the alliance with the USA. A few of them document the demonstrations themselves, while others deal with related themes – above all with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The years during which Provoke was published saw these protests, which were staged employing great creativity, give rise to a captivating visual world of resistance to the illegal actions of large corporations and the despotism of the neoliberal Japanese state.

As the 1960s wore on, the protest movements intensified, leading to a flood of photo volumes and prints. The makers of Provoke – critic Kōji Taki, author Takuma Nakahira, critic and photographer Takuma Nakahira, and photographers Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama – were of the opinion that journalistic photography had exhausted itself and that it was impossible to effect long-term change through direct political action. But even so, in their texts and their photos, they oriented themselves on the aesthetic strategies to which Japan’s protest photography had given rise: their works feature strikingly innovative graphic design that employs image sequences, pithy text/image combinations, dynamic outtakes, and the interplay of specifically chosen cheap materials (rough paper, low-resolution printing) with fold-outs and unusual formats.

The exhibition concludes by examining the Japanese photography of its chosen period as a variant of performance art and/or as documentation of live actions: Daidō Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, and Nobuyoshi Araki are among those photographers who, around 1970, developed great interest in portraying darkroom work or other processes connected to the production of photographic prints as visible and active components of photographic creativity. They were preceded in their efforts by dance performers such as Tatsumi Hijikata, who worked with filmmakers and photographers, as well as by groups like the Hi-Red Center, which blurred the distinctions between photographic documentation and live actions in which photography and other media played a role.

But such influences worked both ways: directly inspired by the activities of the photographers of Provoke, Hi-Red Center member Jiro Takamatsu and Koji Enokura turned to photographic conceptual art in the early 1970s.”

Press release from the Albertina

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu. 'Editor, Takuma Nakahira, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1964' 1964

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu
Editor, Takuma Nakahira, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1964
1964
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
© Shōmei Tōmatsu Estate – INTERFACE

 

Yutaka Takanashi. 'The Beatles' 1965

 

Yutaka Takanashi
The Beatles
1965
From the series Tokyoites
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna
© Takanashi Yutaka

 

 

Yutaka Takanashi (b. 1935) | Towards the City

From the mid-1960s, Yutaka Takanashi focused on the urban change of the metropolis. Tokyo’s massive expansion, the modernization of its infrastructure, and its ruthless industrialization were captured in spontaneous pictures often shot from a driving car. Unlike his Provoke colleagues’ works, Takanashi’s photographs are easier to read, less pessimistic, and show a stronger affinity to classical documentary photography. He composed all his pictures by looking through the viewfinder.

In close collaboration with the book designer Kōhei Sugiura, Takanashi published the artist book Toshi e (Towards the City). Embedded in a cardboard box, its two volumes comprise a number of different, partly overlapping work groups: while the smaller one, titled Tokyo-jin (Tokyoites) contains pictures of the city’s inhabitants from 1966, the larger one explores Tokyo’s new topography, documenting its outlying districts. Shot in the Provoke era, the pictures’ blurriness and apparent exposure mistakes testify to the group’s influence. (Wall text)

 

Yutaka Takanashi. 'Ohne Titel (Toshi-e)' 1969

 

Yutaka Takanashi
Ohne Titel (Toshi-e)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Takanashi Yutaka/Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Yutaka Takanashi. 'Untitled (Tatsumi Hijikata)' 1969

 

Yutaka Takanashi
Untitled (Tatsumi Hijikata)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Takanashi Yutaka / Taka Ishii Gallery
© Keio University Art Center / Courtesy of Butoh Laboratory Japan

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Untitled' from the series 'Akushidento (Accident)' 1969

 

Daidō Moriyama
Untitled, from the series Akushidento (Accident)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Daidō Moriyama / Shadai Gallery, Tokyo Polytechnic University

 

 

Daidō Moriyama (geb. 1938) | Accident

Daidō Moriyama’s series Accident interlinks sociopolitical subjects, references to Western art, and media-analytical considerations. Against the background of Japan’s strengthening consumerist culture, Moriyama, inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art pictures, relied on everyday mass media. Next to demonstrations and pop culture motifs, Moriyama, alluding to Warhol’s work Silver Car Crash of 1963, photographed police posters that campaigned for safe driving with deterrent pictures of car accidents. Reflections on the material and blurs resulting from the pictures’ enlargement emphasize the reproduction process. Moriyama questions the illusionary nature of photography and underlines their material quality. Regarding contents, the series investigates the conflict between the US consumerist culture’s attraction and the quest for a Japanese identity. (Wall text)

 

 

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

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

Albertina website

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20
May
15

Exhibition: ‘The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna’ at Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 13th March – 31st May 2015

 

Early Cindy Sherman, very good; Francesca Woodman, wow; but Ana Mendieta, you are a star!

Marcus

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

 

Featuring 34 international women artists, this wide-ranging exhibition highlights the early days of the feminist art movement. With over 150 major works drawn from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND in Vienna, it documents how female artists in the 1970s began collectively reshaping the “image of woman” – something that had never happened before in the history of art. During this period, increasing numbers of women who had been born during or just after the Second World War had the opportunity to study at an art school or academy, enabling them to emancipate themselves from the traditional role of artist’s muse or model. Dr Gabriele Schor, director of the SAMMLUNG VERBUND, coined the term “feminist avant-garde” to highlight the pioneering role played by these artists.

The female artists have turned to new media such as photography, film or video, due to the fact that these are not laden with art-historical baggage; others employ performance or action-based art as their chosen means of expression. Along with artists such as VALIE EXPORT, Cindy Sherman and Martha Rosler whose work is familiar to a wide audience, the exhibition also provides a rare opportunity to discover some equally accomplished but less well-known members of the “feminist avant-garde”.

 

 

VALIE EXPORT (*1940) 'Tapp und Tastkino' 1968

 

VALIE EXPORT (*1940)
Tapp und Tastkino
1968
Video, S/W, Ton
© VALIE EXPORT / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 / Courtesy of Galerie Charim, Wien / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003) 'Nest' 1979

 

Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003)
Nest
1979
S/W-Photographie
© Estate of Birgit Jürgenssen / Courtesy of Galerie Hubert Winter, Wien / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014/2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Ulrike Rosenbach (*1943)  'Art is a criminal action No. 4' 1969

 

Ulrike Rosenbach (*1943)
Art is a criminal action No. 4
1969
S/W-Photographie auf Barytpapier
© Ulrike Rosenbach / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) 'Untitled Rome, Italy' 1977-1978/2006

 

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)
Untitled Rome, Italy
1977-1978/2006
S/W-Photographie auf Barytpapier
© Courtesy George and Betty Woodman, New York / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

 

“Featuring 34 international women artists, this wide-ranging exhibition highlights the early days of the feminist art movement. With over 150 major works drawn from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND in Vienna, it documents how female artists in the 1970s began collectively reshaping the “image of woman” – something that had never happened before in the history of art. During this period, increasing numbers of women who had been born during or just after the Second World War had the opportunity to study at an art school or academy, enabling them to emancipate themselves from the traditional role of art­ist’s muse or model. Dr Gabriele Schor, director of the SAMMLUNG VERBUND, coined the term “femi­nist avant-garde” to highlight the pioneering role played by these artists.

They went on to create works that challenged social norms and the mechanisms of the art business, developing radical new artistic practices and breaking with a male-dominated reality. Against the back­ground of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, feminist issues emerged as a matter of public debate: the personal was now political. Within a very short period of time, women began rais­ing awareness and gaining public recognition by organising collective actions, demonstrations and in­dependent exhibitions. The artists of the “feminist avant-garde” have examined how traditional images determine the perception of women and how they construct their own personal and social identity. Their work addresses a wide range of themes, such as the relegation of women to the one-dimensional role of housewife and mother, the use of one’s own body in art, female sexuality, notions of beauty and violence against women.

The female artists undermine the stereotype roles in a subversive way. Martha Rosler, for example, us­es exaggeration and parody to criticise women’s traditionally domestic role, and Birgit Jürgenssen tied a cooker around her neck like an apron in her work Hausfrauen-Küchenschürze. By playing with the camera or employing masquerade and costumes as an effective means of self-representation, women artists have challenged conventional notions of identity or femininity and exposed these as social con­structs. Cindy Sherman, Suzy Lake, Hannah Wilke and Martha Wilson cast themselves in a variety of roles for their photographic investigations into everyday and historical clichés. In a similar way, Lynn Hershman Leeson created a fictional alter ego as “Roberta Breitmore” and enacted this character for a number of years. While accepted cultural ideals of beauty and perfection play an important role for all of the artists mentioned above, these themes are specifically and impressively addressed in the work of Rita Myers and Ewa Partum.

Numerous women artists have turned to new media such as photography, film or video, due to the fact that these are not laden with art-historical baggage; others employ performance or action-based art as their chosen means of expression. VALIE EXPORT, for example, invited passers-by on Munich’s Stachus square to visit her Tapp-und Tastkino – meaning that they could put their hands inside a box she was wearing over her naked chest. Female artists have often exploited their own bodies as art material, whereby some – such as Ana Mendieta or Gina Pane – have pushed themselves to the very limits of physical endurance. Using humour, irony, subtlety and provocation, the artists of the “feminist avantgarde” have deconstructed the traditional female iconography.

Along with artists such as VALIE EXPORT, Cindy Sherman and Martha Rosler whose work is familiar to a wide audience, the exhibition also provides a rare opportunity to discover some equally accomplished but less well-known members of the “feminist avant-garde”.

The SAMMLUNG VERBUND was founded in 2004 in Vienna by VERBUND, Austria’s leading producer of electricity from hydropower. The collection focuses on international contemporary art from 1970 to the present day, with a unique emphasis on the Feminist Avant-garde of the 1970s.

Featured artists: Helena Almeida (*1934, Portugal), Eleanor Antin (*1935, USA), Lynda Benglis (*1941, USA), Renate Bertlmann (*1943, Österreich), Teresa Burga (*1935, Peru), Lili Dujourie (*1941, Belgien), Mary Beth Edelson (*1933, USA), Renate Eisenegger (*1949, Deutschland), VALIE EXPORT (*1940, Österreich), Esther Ferrer (*1937, Spanien), Lynn Hershman-Leeson (*1941, USA), Alexis Hunter (1948-2014, Neuseeland, England), Sanja Iveković (*1949, Kroatien), Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003, Österreich), Ketty La Rocca (1938-1976, Italien), Leslie Labowitz (*1946, USA), Suzanne Lacy (*1945, USA), Suzy Lake (*1947, USA), Karin Mack (*1940, Österreich), Ana Mendieta (1948-1985, Kuba/USA), Rita Myers (*1947, USA), ORLAN (*1947, Frankreich), Gina Pane (1939-1990, Frankreich), Ewa Partum (*1945, Polen), Ulrike Rosenbach (*1943, Deutschland), Martha Rosler (*1943, USA), Carolee Schneemann (*1939, USA), Cindy Sherman (*1954, USA), Penny Slinger (*1947, England), Annegret Soltau (*1946, Deutschland), Hannah Wilke (1940-1993, USA), Martha Wilson (*1947, USA), Francesca Woodman (1958-1981, USA), Nil Yalter (*1938, Ägypten/Frankreich).”

Press release from the Hamburger Kunsthalle website

 

Renate Bertlmann (*1943) 'Zärtliche Pantomime' 1976

 

Renate Bertlmann (*1943)
Zärtliche Pantomime [Tender Pantomime]
1976
S/W-Photographie (aus einer 6-teiligen Serie)
© Renate Bertlmann / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

 Renate Eisenegger (*1949)  'Hochhaus (Nr.1)' 1974

 

Renate Eisenegger (*1949)
Hochhaus (Nr.1)
1974
S/W-Photografie auf Holz kaschiert (aus einer 4-teiligen Serie)
© Renate Eisenegger / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Alexis Hunter (1948-2014) 'Approach to Fear Voyeurism' 1973

 

Alexis Hunter (1948-2014)
Approach to Fear Voyeurism
1973
Silver bromide photography, painted with colored ink (from a 12-part series)
© Alexis Hunter / Courtesy of Richard Saltoun, London / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND , Wien

 

Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003) 'Untitled (Self with pelts)' 1974/1977

 

Birgit Jürgenssen (1949-2003)
Ohne Titel (Selbst mit Fellchen) [Untitled (Self with pelts)]
1974/1977

 

Lynn Hershman-Leeson (*1941) 'Roberta Construction Chart #1' 1975

 

Lynn Hershman-Leeson (*1941)
Roberta Construction Chart #1
1975
C-Print
© Lynn Hershman Leeson / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) 'Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)' 1972/1997

 

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985)
Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)
1972/1997
C-Print (from a 6-part series)
© The Estate Ana Mendieta / Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Ulrike Rosenbach (*1943) 'Weiblicher Energieaustausch, Venus' 1975–1976

 

Ulrike Rosenbach (*1943)
Weiblicher Energieaustausch, Venus [Female Energy Exchange, Venus]
1975-1976
S/W-Photografie auf PE Papier (aus einer 3-teiligen Serie)
© Ulrike Rosenbach / Bildrecht, Wien, 2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Cindy Sherman  (*1954) 'Untitled #443 (Bus Riders II)' 1976/2005

 

Cindy Sherman (*1954)
Untitled #443 (Bus Riders II)
1976/2005
© Cindy Sherman, New York
Courtesy: Metro Pictures, New York/ SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Cindy Sherman (*1954) 'Untitled (Bus Riders I)' 1976/2000

 

Cindy Sherman (*1954)
Untitled (Bus Riders I)
1976/2005 (from a 15-part series)
© Cindy Sherman, New York
Courtesy: Metro Pictures, New York/ SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Cindy Sherman (*1954) 'Untitled (Lucy)' 1975/2001

 

Cindy Sherman (*1954)
Untitled (Lucy)
1975/2001
Silbergelantineabzug
© Cindy Sherman, New York
Courtesy: Metro Pictures, New York / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Penny Slinger (*1947) 'Wedding Invitation – 2 (Art is Just a Piece of Cake)' 1973

 

Penny Slinger (*1947)
Wedding Invitation – 2 (Art is Just a Piece of Cake)
1973
S/W-Photografie
© Penny Slinger / Courtesy of the Artist and Broadway 1602, New York / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien

 

Annegret Soltau (*1946) 'Selbst' 1975

 

Annegret Soltau (*1946)
Selbst [Myself]
1975
B/W photograph on baryta paper (from a 14-part series)
© Annegret Soltau / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Photo: Heide Kratz

 

 

Hamburger Kunsthalle
Glockengießerwall 20095 Hamburg
Tel: +49 (0)40-428 131 204

Opening hours:
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Thursdays 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

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23
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘The Metropolis Experiment: Vienna and the 1873 World Exhibition’ at Wien Museum, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 15th May – 28th September 2014

 

Many thankx to Wien Museum for allowing me to publish the art work and photographs in the posting. Please click on them for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Anonymous 'Main entrance to the World Exhibition' (detail) 1873

 

Anonymous
Main entrance to the World Exhibition (detail)
1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'The Palace of Industry under construction' 1872

 

Anonymous
The Palace of Industry under construction
1872
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Presentation of sanitary equipment' 1873

 

Anonymous
Presentation of sanitary equipment

1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Friedrich von Schmidt. 'Winning design for the new City Hall building' 1869

 

Friedrich von Schmidt
Winning design for the new City Hall building
1869
Ink drawing and watercolour
© Wien Museum

 

 

A panoramic view of the era around 1870

After “The struggle for the city”, a major exhibition on politics, art and everyday life around 1930, Wien Museum presents another panoramic view of an era. This time, the spotlight is trained on the years around 1870, a crucial transformative phase in Vienna’s development towards becoming a major modern metropolis. From 550,000 around 1850, Vienna’s population had almost doubled to about one million by the 1870s.

For Vienna, 1873 became the key year of the era. Like the construction of the new Ringstraße, the World Exhibition symbolised the city’s ambitions of attaining international standing. It was the first event of its kind not to be held in London or Paris, and an ostentatious display of superlatives: an area five times as large as the previous show in Paris, 53,000 exhibitors from 35 nations, 194 extravagantly designed pavilions, and crowning it all the Palace of Industry with its 85-metre-high Rotunda, then the world’s largest domed structure and a new Viennese landmark, and the 800-metre-long Engine Hall. The Exhibition attracted more than seven million visitors between 1 May and 2 November, yet its objectives were only partially met. 1873 was also the year of the great stock exchange crash which brought the phase of economic prosperity and optimistic hopes for the future to an abrupt end.

The Wien Museum exhibition tells the story of large-scale building projects and the movers and shakers of the Gründerzeit era, of miserable social conditions, migration and the advent of the mass political parties, of increased mobility thanks to faster transport, of the advances made in medicine and technology and of the fashions of the period, which was a golden age in the decorative arts. Most of the 1000 or so objects on display are from the Wien Museum collections, with the focus on the extensive holdings of over 1600 photos from the Vienna Photographers’ Association, many of which feature here. Also on show are a large number of original exhibits from the 1873 World Exhibition.

 

A “festival of progress”: how the World Exhibition came about

1867 marked a turning point. After a number of disastrous years the economy made a sudden recovery. A “miracle harvest” opened up opportunities for export, while the state reform that created the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy (the “Compromise” with Hungary) placed trade, customs and fiscal policy on a new basis. Iron production, mechanical engineering and the construction industry were the drivers behind the upswing. Vienna also established itself as a centre of finance, with countless sometimes dubious joint stock companies springing up in the period before 1873.

These boom years presented industrialists, tradespeople and commercial policy-makers, as well as the proponents of reform in the applied arts, with the opportunity to put into action a plan they had long held dear, namely that of staging a World Exhibition in Vienna. Since the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” held in London in 1851 there had been three further World Exhibitions (1855 and 1867 in Paris, 1862 in London). These “festivals of progress” not only acted as a forum for global exchange of expertise among engineers and manufacturers but also presented bourgeois society and the respective host country with an ideal platform for self-presentation and image boosting. The Vienna of the Gründerzeit era was “on the fast track” and intended to present itself to the world as a large modern city on its way to becoming a major metropolis.

It was not until 1870 – barely three years before the opening – that Emperor Franz Joseph enacted a sovereign resolution on the holding of the World Exhibition, in the face of resistance from the City Council, the municipal authorities and Mayor of Vienna Cajetan Felder, who cautioned against excessive costs. The influence of the local politicians was still limited at this point, though their scope for action expanded from the 1860s onwards with the end of the neo-absolutist regime. A prominent symbol of the heightened self-confidence of the civic administration vis-à-vis the imperial house was Vienna’s monumental new City Hall, on which work started in 1873.

 

The city as construction site

The municipal politicians of the liberal age laid the groundwork for a modern technical infrastructure which became a prime driver of the economic boom and radically transformed the city. One of the key projects was the regulation of the Danube, which was undertaken for flood protection purposes as well as with a view to the city’s further expansion. The cutting of a new channel to shift the Danube closer to the city was expected to entail advantages in terms of trade, commerce and transport, the aim being to make the Danube into a navigable waterway. The idea of containing the main arm of the river in a uniform, perfectly straight bed was not a new one, but it was not until now, with the aid of modern steam engines, that it became possible to implement the plan within the space of a few years, from 1869 to 1875.

The most costly of the urban infrastructure projects was the construction of Vienna’s first mountain spring water pipeline (1870-73), which tapped the Alpine springs of the Rax-Schneeberg massif to supply water to the city and its million-plus inhabitants. Repeated water shortages nevertheless ensued as a result of planning errors coupled with escalating water consumption. Besides water supply and sewage disposal the city fathers also tackled another hygienic problem: like the city as a whole, Vienna’s “communal” cemeteries were in urgent need of expansion by the middle of the century. In 1863 the City Council introduced a system of central planning, and the new Central Cemetery in Simmering was officially opened eleven years later. The “burial question” was fraught with technical, religious and cultural implications that prompted heated debate in Vienna.

Last but not least, Vienna’s transport infrastructure also underwent a radical transformation: the years around 1870 saw the construction of four of the city’s six major Gründerzeit railway termini (Südbahnhof, Nordwestbahnhof, Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof and Staatsbahnhof (later Ostbahnhof)), and within a period of six years five new bridges were built over the newly regulated Danube, among them the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Brücke (later Floridsdorfer Brücke) and the Kronprinz-Rudolf-Brücke (which became the Reichsbrücke). To coincide with the World Exhibition, the City Council also had several bridges over the Danube Canal and the River Wien renovated or rebuilt. A task not considered to be within the remit of the civic authorities was the expansion of the public transport network, which was left to private investors: by 1873 a basic tramway system consisting of the Ringstraße lines and some initial links to the suburbs was in place, still operated by horse-drawn trams. The municipal politicians were likewise little concerned with the housing market, with the result that the speculation-driven expansion of new districts on the outskirts was dominated by “American-style” gridiron streets lined with low-standard tenement blocks. Mass immigration of people looking for work and soaring living costs swiftly exacerbated the housing shortage and the squalid living conditions of the urban poor.

 

Boulevard of grandiose ambitions: the Ringstraße

Alongside the World Exhibition itself, the Ringstraße is another central theme of the exhibition. The Emperor ordered the demolition of the city walls and fortifications in 1857, and an international urban planning competition held a year later yielded the “master plan” which served as the blueprint for the key public buildings, green spaces, vistas and squares. The construction of the Ringstraße was a state-controlled, centrally managed, large-scale project. The overall supervisory role lay with the Ministry of the Interior, with the City of Vienna reduced to the status of onlooker while still being required to finance the new road and sewer network. The building of “New Vienna” became a bone of contention between the imperial court, government, military administration and civic authorities. Compromise was achieved, inter alia, through the assignment of parcels of land free of charge for the laying out of Stadtpark and Rathausplatz. The proceeds from the sale of building plots to private individuals enabled the state to finance representative public buildings like the State Opera House.

1 May 1865 saw the official opening ceremony for the Ringstraße – despite the fact that the major part of the boulevard was not yet built and still at the planning stage. Buildings, most of them inhabited, were already standing on Opernring, Kärntnerring and Schubertring, however, and the economic boom meant that intensive private-sector building activity continued right up until 1873. The clay beneath Vienna was thus transformed into “gold”, as illustrated by the meteoric career of brick manufacturer Heinrich Drasche: after founding the “Wienerberger” joint stock company in 1869, he subsequently rose to become the richest man in Vienna, commissioning the building of the “Heinrichhof”, a huge new-style luxury apartment building directly opposite the opera house. By 1873 all the main public buildings were already under construction or discussion, including the new City Hall, the Parliament and the museums. Vienna’s leading architects, notably Heinrich Ferstel, Theophil Hansen and Friedrich Schmidt, designed the first major buildings in “Viennese style“, an especially opulent variant of the neo-Renaissance style which caused an international furore.

 

A city within a city: the World Exhibition

Once the Emperor had given his approval for the World Exhibition, a planned city of gigantic proportions sprung up within a very short period of time in Vienna’s Prater area (the site occupied by today’s City Hall had also been discussed as a possible alternative), whose considerable distance from the city centre gave rise to substantial costs. The exhibition grounds not only housed the vast Palace of Industry, Engine Hall and Hall of the Arts and almost 200 national and corporate pavilions, but were also equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure including a sewer network, rail tracks and their own railway station. At the same time, a side project also saw the long-established Wurstelprater remodelled and expanded into the modern Volksprater amusement park.

The preparatory phase scheduled for the World Exhibition was incredibly brief. Thanks to the latest developments in transport and communications (telegraphy), however, it proved possible, within a very short space of time, to organise worldwide participation, overcome the logistical problems associated with the transport of vast numbers of exhibits and mobilise huge streams of visitors. World Exhibitions were conceived as popular encyclopaedias of humanity, designed to cover an enormous spectrum of different aspects – industry, technology, science, the arts, culture, and so on. At the Vienna Exhibition, the task of representing the world with attributes such as progress, productivity and speed combined with the emotional experience provided by a huge variety of commodities, luxury and exoticism. The World Exhibition not only served as an economic stimulus, but also offered the broader public a global showcase of experiences on a whole new scale: Visitors embarked on a “sightseeing tour” of the Industrial Age, gazed in wonder at the clattering steam engines, looms and sewing machines and found out about innovations in the worlds of transport and science. A society fond of consumption revelled in the assembled profusion of craftsman-made objects and devoted itself to the pursuit of “good taste”, which from the Austrian point of view primarily meant luxury goods in the internationally acclaimed “Viennese Renaissance” style. Artistic designs by sculptors and architects, executed with precise craftsmanship, were a consequence of the reform of the applied arts – and formed the basis for the latter’s success.

But the aim was not only to educate the public: it was also about entertainment and the fascination of faraway places. At the Prater exhibition grounds visitors were able to take an architectural tour of the world; foreigners in exotic costume and authentic dishes from all over the globe became the talk of the town, and cocktails were served in a North American Indian wigwam. The oriental and Asian pavilions exerted the greatest attraction: a defining characteristic of the Vienna World Exhibition, they spawned trends in fashion, lifestyle and the applied arts.

The 1873 World Exhibition is remembered by posterity chiefly for the huge financial deficit it incurred – just 4.2 million gulden in revenues against expenditures of 19 million gulden. In the speculative fever that gripped the age, the hopes of vast attendance figures, not to mention the substantial influx of capital, had led to excessively inflated expectations. Exploding costs, the stock exchange crash and fewer visitors than anticipated – not least due to the cholera epidemic – resulted in sober disillusionment after the event. Ultimately, the only parties who really profited were individual exhibitors from the successful promotion of trade and industry and visitors from the effective transfer of knowledge. This notwithstanding, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire succeeded in returning itself to centre stage in the eyes of the world for the first time since the Congress of Vienna.

Besides the themes outlined above, the Wien Museum exhibition also turns the spotlight on mass entertainments of the Gründerzeit period, innovations in home furnishings and engineering, the role played by the illustrated media, inventions such as pneumatic post and, not least, on the great arts debate of the time. As the capital city of music, Vienna around 1870 provided the stage for a musical “clash of the Titans” between the “consummator” of Viennese Classicism, Johannes Brahms, and the New German School represented by Anton Bruckner and Richard Wagner. The early 1870s also saw Austria’s first ever environmental campaign, to save the Vienna Woods from logging, as well as the expedition to the North Pole, which returned in 1874 after two years trapped in the ice. Grand hotels like the Metropol and Imperial opened their doors, while Lobmeyr unveiled the first “Arabian-style” range of glassware. The latest fashions were imported from the world’s major cities, among them ornate gowns with extravagant bustles.”

Press release from the Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Construction site on Ringstrasse with Heinrichshof building' c. 1863

 

Anonymous
Construction site on Ringstrasse with Heinrichshof building
c. 1863
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Construction of a new bridge (Reichsbrücke) across the Danube' 1873

 

Anonymous
Construction of a new bridge (Reichsbrücke) across the Danube
1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Horse-drawn tramway on the Schottenring-Dornbach line' 1868

 

Anonymous
Horse-drawn tramway on the Schottenring-Dornbach line
1868
Watercolour
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'North American wigwam at the World Exhibition' 1873

 

Anonymous
North American wigwam at the World Exhibition
1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

 

Wien Museum
1040 Vienna, Karlsplatz 8
T: +43 (0)1 505 87 47 0

Opening hours:
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10
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Blow-Up: Antonioni’s Film Classic and Photography’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 17th August 2014

 

The act of looking and the gaze through the eye of a photographer’s camera are the central motifs of Blow-Up.

“Don McCullin created the iconographic photographs that in the film are blown up by Thomas to discover something about the alleged crime. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself.” (Press release)

Then, look at Don Mcullin’s photograph British Butcher, East London (c. 1965, below). The Union Jack hat, the knife being sharpened and the contrast of the image. Savage. Not home grown but “Home killed”. Pictorial reality constructed by the medium but not just by the medium – but also by the aesthetic choices and the imagination of the photographer.

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.

 

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Anonymous. 'Promotional image for "Blow-Up"' 1966

 

Anonymous
Promotional image for “Blow-Up”
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

 

“The cult film Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966) occupies a central position in the history of film as well as that of art and photography. No other film has shown and sounded out the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated way. Shot in London, this film, which tells the story of a fashion photographer who happens to photograph a murder in a park, has become a classic. Its relevance and the unabated fascination it evokes are partially due to the remarkable range of themes it deals with. While Antonioni’s description of the social and artistic environment of his protagonist in 1960’s London can be understood as a visual document of the Swinging Sixties, the eponymous photographic blow-ups meticulously examined by the photographer to find something out about an alleged crime prompted a theoretical discourse on the representation and ambiguity of pictures from the first showing of the film. Both themes, the historical outline as well as the media reflexions, concern the main focus of the film: photography.

For the first time the exhibition in the Albertina presents in several chapters the diverse and differentiated connections between film and photography, thus allowing a trenchant profile of the photographic trends of the 1960s.

Photography in Blow-Up

The photographic range of Blow-Up is highly diversified and ranges from fashion photography and social reportage to abstract photography. Film stills are shown next to works that can actually be seen in Blow-Up, as well as pictures that illuminate the cultural and artistic frame of the film production, London in the Swinging Sixties.

The meaning of photography for the film Blow-Up is most apparent when Antonioni uses it to characterise his main character Thomas. Played by David Hemmings, the protagonist is not only a fashion photographer, but is also working on an illustrated book with photographs of social reportage. In order to depict both the main figure and its two areas of work in an authentic way, Antonioni is guided by real photographers of the time; before starting to shoot the film he meticulously researched the work as well as environment of the British fashion (photography) scene.

In the course of his preparations Antonioni sent out questionnaires to fashion photographers and visited them in their studios. Thus the main character is modelled after various photographers like David Bailey, John Cowan and Don McCullin; some of them Antonioni asked to cooperate on his film. He also integrated their works, for example Don McCullin’s reportage photographs that the protagonist browses through in the film, or fashion photographs by John Cowan that in the film can be seen in the protagonist’s studio.

In addition Don McCullin created the iconographic photographs that in the film are blown up by Thomas to discover something about the alleged crime. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself.

Antonioni used the photographs seen in the film for media-theoretical reflections and thus set stills and moving pictures in a differentiated context. This complex connection between film and photography is made very clear by the film stills that were created for Blow-Up. These still photographs are based on an elaborate process whereby the photographer has certain scenes re-enacted for the photo camera thus transforming the film from moving images into something static. The manifold references of Blow-Up are once more condensed into photographs in the film stills, as the pictures reflect the real context of fashion photography in 1960’s London through the depiction of the photographer, of well-known fashion models and the use of clothes to match.

Artistic references

The photographic references in Blow-Up are also set in relation to other art forms. This contextualisation is essential for Antonioni’s understanding of photography. Antonioni was, unlike most other film directors, committed to the applied arts which he showed already in 1964 with his film Deserto Rosso, its abstract compositions based on Mark Rothko’s paintings. In Blow-Up an artistic reference of this nature becomes apparent in the character of the protagonist’s neighbour, an abstract painter named Bill, who is modelled on British artist Ian Stephenson. Also the oil paintings in the film were created by Ian Stephenson. They show abstract motifs that in the film are compared with the stylistically related ‘blow-ups’.

The Swinging Sixties

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blow-Up at the height of the Swinging Sixties, the social and artistic trends of which are rendered in the film. The agitation of youth culture so characteristic of this time í and not least of all initiated by the Beatles í is shown as well as its trendsetting figures. Thus a concert by the British band The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page, the subsequent founder of Led Zeppelin, served as a filming location. The scene of the infamous Pot-Party in the film was shot in the apartment of the art and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs, who shaped the fashion look of the Swinging Sixties.

British art of the 1960s was also essential for Antonioni as it anticipated many of those abstract tendencies that set the tone for Blow-Up. There was, for instance, the pop art artist Richard Hamilton who created blow-ups from ordinary postcards, thus reducing motifs to dots. Or Nigel Henderson, a member of the Independent Group, who had already produced photos in the 1950s, in which he pointed out their material qualities by creasing them and using special procedures for the negatives.

As much as Antonioni’s work is rooted in the 1960s, it is nevertheless a timeless classic that is still relevant for today’s art. This becomes apparent in the exhibition by means of selectively chosen contemporary works that refer to Blow-Up. Particularly the filmic outline on the representation of images and their ambiguity serves as the artistic basis for the creations of various contemporary photographers. Blow-Up has lost none of its relevance for art since its creation in 1966.”

Press release from the Albertina website

 

Don McCullin. 'Thomas' blow-ups from the Park' 1966

 

Don McCullin
Thomas’ blow-ups from the Park
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Don McCullin. 'Thomas' blow-ups from the Park' 1966

 

Don McCullin
Thomas’ blow-ups from the Park
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Patrick Hunt. 'David Bailey on the set of G.G. Passion' 1966

 

Patrick Hunt
David Bailey on the set of G.G. Passion
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner

 

Arthur Evans. 'Veruschka von Lehndorff with David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
Veruschka von Lehndorff with David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

David Bailey. 'Brian Epstein (Box of Pin-Ups)' 1965

 

David Bailey
Brian Epstein (Box of Pin-Ups)
1965
V & A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum
© David Bailey

 

Shezad Dawood. 'Make it big (Blow-Up)' 2002/3

 

Shezad Dawood
Make it big (Blow-Up)
2002/3
Film still
Courtesy of the artist and Paradise Row, London

 

Richard Hamilton. 'Swinging London III' 1972

 

Richard Hamilton
Swinging London III
1972
Kunstmuseum Winterthur
© Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, Jean-Pierre Kuhn purchase in 1997

 

 

Exhibition texts

Shot in London in 1966, Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece Blow-Up confronts its audience with the manifold genres of photography and their different social references with a precision like no other feature film. The director involved some of the most interesting photographers of the day in the production of the film. The photojournalist Don McCullin was on set as were the fashion photographers John Cowan and David Montgomery as well as the paparazzo Tazio Secchiaroli. They served as models for Antonioni’s protagonist, took photographs for Blow-Up, and, not least, made their work available to the filmmaker.

Set against the social and artistic backdrop of London’s Swinging Sixties, Blow-Up tells us about a fashion photographer by the name of Thomas (David Hemmings) who secretly photographs two lovers in a park. He later enlarges these pictures and believes that he has coincidentally documented a murder. The blow-ups reveal a man lurking in the trees with a gun and, as Thomas supposes, a corpse. Fashion shootings and Thomas’s work on a book with reportage photographs featuring homeless people in London provide two further strands of reference in the film.

Presenting these contexts in five thematic sections, the exhibition in the Albertina offers a pointed cross-section of tendencies in the photography of the 1960s. The show not only explores the photo-historical circumstances under which Blow-Up was made but also presents èrealê works of art Antonioni integrated into his film, as well as photographs he commissioned for the story. The visual translation of the film into stills constitutes another important field thematized in the exhibition. A selection of more recent works of art highlights the timelessness of Antonioni’s film.

Making film stills

Making film stills involves a complex production process in the course of which scenes of a film are specially reenacted in front of the still photographer’s camera. The difficulties the photographer is faced with result from the difference between film and photography as media. He has to transform the contents of a medium that renders movements and sequences of events in time into a photograph that freezes them in a single static moment.

Arthur Evans’s stills for Blow-Up go far beyond the genre’s traditional function of promoting a film. Evans created series of pictures which allow us to reconstruct certain sequences of movement and depict scenes not shown in the film. Hence his stills for Blow-Up are meta-pictures that shed light on the film from another perspective.

Voyeurism

The act of looking and the gaze through the eye of a photographer’s camera are the central motifs of Blow-Up, which becomes particularly evident in the famous scene in the park. This part of the film depicts the dynamics resulting from a camera focusing on persons and capturing them in a picture. Antonioni presents his protagonist as a paparazzo and voyeur secretly photographing people in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). Hidden behind shrubs, trees, and a fence, he watches a pair of lovers. The camera serves as an instrument for peeping through the keyhole, as it were. The dialogic dimension between photographer and model is revealed when the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) spots the photographer. She defends herself against Thomas’s invasive gaze, bites his hand, and runs away. The aesthetic of Thomas’s photographs shot in the park corresponds to the situation of their taking. The pictures are imbued with the instantaneousness and spontaneity deriving from the photographerés wish to wrest a single picture from a dynamic context in a fraction of a second.

It is no coincidence that the photographer Tazio Secchiaroli was present on set in the very hours this scene was shot. Secchiaroli was an Italian paparazzo who had been after the suspects in a still unresolved murder case, the Montesi scandal, with his camera. Made against the background of this political scandal, Federico Fellini’s film La dolce vita (1960) features pushy photo reporters modelled after Secchiaroli.

Blow-Ups

The blow-ups of Thomas’s photographs shot in the park are the most famous pictures featured in Antonioni’s film. The filmmaker entrusted the renowned photojournalist Don McCullin with taking them. Following Antonioni’s instructions, McCullin had to position himself in the same places as Thomas in the film to reproduce his perspectives. He also used the same Nikon F camera the protagonist works with in Blow-Up. In order to ensure that the process of taking the pictures we see in the film corresponds with the photographer’s results, McCullin advised the actor David Hemmings on how to proceed. The actor learned how to handle the 35-mm camera correctly and was instructed about the body language connected with using it.

Fashion photography

The metropolis of London was the center of a new kind of fashion photography in the 1960s – a renown inseparably bound up with three names to this day: David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Brian Duffy, also known as Black Trinity. Relying on 35-mm cameras, which had hitherto mainly been used for reportage photographs and ensured a supposedly spontaneous and dynamic pictorial language, these three photographers staged their models in unusual places outside their studios.

In preparing his film, Antonioni had meticulously researched the photographer’s living and working conditions by means of a several-page questionnaire in which he even inquired into their love relationships and eating habits. It was David Bailey who served as a model for the protagonist of Blow-Up. For his dynamic body language in the fashion shootings, for instance, Thomas took the cue from him. The style of clothes Thomas wears is indebted to that of the British fashion photographer John Cowan. Cowan made his studio available to Antonioni for the studio shots and acted as the filmmaker’s adviser. The photographs seen on the studio wall in Blow-Up are fashion photographs by Cowan which Antonioni chose for the film.

David Montgomery

David Montgomery is a US-American fashion photographer living in London. Before shooting his film, Antonioni visited him in his studio to watch him working with Veruschka, Jill Kennington, and Peggy Moffitt – the models he would subsequently cast for Blow-Up. David Montgomery has a cameo appearance in the beginning of the film: we see him taking pictures of the model Donyale Luna on Hoxton Market in London’s East End. When this scene was shot, he actually made the fashion photographs featuring Luna which he pretends to take in the film. Since Montgomery was no actor by his own account, he had to really take pictures in order to be able to play the scene in a convincing manner.

Arthur Evan’s fashion photographs

Arthur Evans, the still photographer, depicted the models appearing in Blow-Up in groups and in individual portraits. These pictures taken on set are very unusual for a still photographer, because they do not show scenes of the film, but are independently staged fashion photographs. The models’ costumes were designed by Jocelyn Rickards, the hats were made by James Wedge. Evans translated the linear patterns characteristic of both designers into graphic compositions in his photos.

Social reportage

Michelangelo Antonioni characterizes his film’s protagonist also as a social reportage photographer who, for a book project on London he is working on, secretly takes pictures in a homeless shelter. A scene of the film has Thomas showing his publisher a dummy of the volume. The portraits in it were made by the photojournalist Don McCullin; their originals are presented in the exhibition for the very first time.

The pictures were taken in London’s East End in the early 1960s, when the area was notorious for its residents’ poverty, miserable housing conditions, and racial unrest. The photographer provides a cross-section of its inhabitants whom he mainly characterizes through their occupation. The two-fold orientation of the film’s protagonist as fashion and reportage photographer is based on fact, as illustrated by both David Bailey and David Montgomery. The stylistic boundaries between the two genres blur in their works. The strategy of picturing models in urban surroundings with a 35-mm camera, for example, is clearly rooted in reportage photography.

Swinging London: Art and Life

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blow-Up in the heyday of London’s Swinging Sixties whose social and artistic trends are depicted in the film. He captured the youth culture and its agitation so characteristic of these years – which was not least triggered by the Beatles – as well as the protagonists of the scene. One location he chose was a concert of the Yardbirds, a British band counting Jimmy Page, who would found Led Zeppelin, among its players. The famous pot-party in Blow-Up was shot in the art and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs’ flat, who determined the fashion look of the Swinging Sixties to a remarkable degree.

The British art of the 1960s was also very important to Antonioni, as it already anticipated many of the abstract tendencies informing Blow-Up. The Pop artist Richard Hamilton, for example, used to enlarge everyday picture postcards, reducing their motifs to an abstract dot matrix. Nigel Henderson, a member of the Independent Group, had already emphasized the material qualities of his photos in the 1950s by folding his prints and employing negative techniques. Antonioni integrated works by British artists: for example a picture by Peter Sedgley, a representative of Op art, and oil paintings by Ian Stephenson into his film.

Ian Stephenson

Antonioni’s understanding of photography was informed by painting í an influence that becomes manifest in the character of the protagonist’s neighbor, in Blow-Up a painter named Bill. Antonioni compares the neighbor’s abstract paintings with the photographer’s blow-ups. When Thomas and his neighbor talk about the paintings, Bill maintains that he does not see much in them while painting them and only finds meaning in them later on. This form of reception tallies with Thomas’s attempt to determine the meaning of his similarly abstract enlargements.

The character of the painter is based on the British artist Ian Stephenson. Antonioni visited the artist in his studio before he started shooting Blow-Up. He watched the painter at work and selected the paintings he wanted to use in the film.

Blow-Up

The photographs central to Antonioniés film are the blow-ups of the pictures which the protagonist has taken in the park and which he examines meticulously. The enlargements reveal a man with a pistol lurking in the trees and a mass in the grass, which Thomas interprets as a lifeless body. To make the presumed corpse more visible Thomas enlarges the photograph again and again until it shows nothing but its grain and materiality, despite the photographs inherent relation to reality.

Antonioni uses the blow-ups to question the representation of reality by media and their specific modes of perception. He interlinks these considerations with the film. The final scene of Blow-Up shows Thomas coming upon a group of mimes playing an imaginary game of tennis. When the (invisible) ball lands behind the fence, Thomas joins in the mimes’ game, picks up the ball from the lawn and throws it back to the players. A camera pan traces the trajectory of the invisible ball. In evoking the ball without showing it, Antonioni confronts us with the most radical abstraction: the motif is not rendered as an abstract or blurry form like in the enlargements, but is altogether absent. The media-theoretical implications of Blow-Up are still the subject of conceptual photographs today. Like Antonioni, the Italian Ugo Mulas and the American Allan McCollum, for example, question photography’s relation to reality in their blow-ups.

Le montagne incantate

The nucleus for the blow-ups in the film is to be found in a series of artworks titled Le montagne incantate (The Enchanted Mountains), which Antonioni started working on in the mid-1950s. The filmmaker photographically enlarged his small-format abstract watercolors, making the material qualities of the paper and the application of the paint visible. Consequentially, Antonioni recommended the use of a magnifying glass – as used by the protagonist in Blow-Up – as the ideal instrument for viewing these pictures.

Text from the Albertina website

 

Brian Duffy. 'Jane Birkin' 1960s

 

Brian Duffy
Jane Birkin
1960s
© Brian Duffy Archive

 

Eric Swayne. 'Grace and Telma, Italian Vogue, 1966' 1966

 

Eric Swayne
Grace and Telma, Italian Vogue, 1966
1966
Courtesy Tom Swayne
© Eric Swayne

 

Terence Donovan. 'The Secrets of an Agent' 1961

 

Terence Donovan
The Secrets of an Agent
1961
© Terence Donovan Archive

 

Ian Stephenson. 'Still Life Abstraction D1' 1957

 

Ian Stephenson
Still Life Abstraction D1
1957
© Kate Stephenson, widow of Ian Stephenson

 

Jill Kennington. "Blow-Up" 1966

 

Jill Kennington
“Blow-Up”
1966
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Don McCullin. 'Down-and-out begging for help, Aldgate, 1963' 1963

 

Don McCullin
Down-and-out begging for help, Aldgate, 1963
1963
© Don McCullin, courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London

 

Don McCullin. 'British Butcher, East London' c. 1965

 

Don McCullin
British Butcher, East London
c. 1965
© Don McCullin Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London

 

Terry O'Neill. 'David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan' 1965

 

Terry O’Neill
David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan
1965
© Terry O’Neill – Courtesy Philippe Garner

 

Tazio Secchiaroli. 'David Hemmings and Veruschka von Lehndorff in "Blow-Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Tazio Secchiaroli
David Hemmings and Veruschka von Lehndorff in “Blow-Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Filmstill
Source: BFI stills
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

David Montgomery. 'Donyale Luna on the set of "Blow-Up"' 1966

 

David Montgomery
Donyale Luna on the set of “Blow-Up”
1966
© David Montgomery

 

 

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

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

Albertina website

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08
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Edith Tudor Hart – In the Shadow of Tyranny’ at the Wien Museum, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 26th September 2013 – 12th January 2014

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More images from this wonderful photographer who was a low-level Soviet agent while exiled in Britain after the Second World War and who destroyed most of her photos as well as many negatives out of fear of prosecution in 1951. Thanks to contemporary research we can begin to see the vision of this artist. In her photo essays, an impassioned record, she imaged social injustice and showed it to the world… creating her own inimitable style and a “comprehensive and freestanding body of work.”

“Her photos are impressive for the quality of the dialogue with those portrayed and the social context is always visible and tangible. “The women, children and workers photographed by her seem less objectified and, to some extent at least, are placed in a better position to represent themselves,” writes Duncan Forbes, curator of the exhibition.” (press release)

The quality of the dialogue with those portrayed. You can feel that in these images, that the photographer has a care and respect for the people that she is photographing, probably more so than the photographs of Bill Brandt from the same period. She seems to have more connection and concern for her subject matter. I love their grittiness, poignancy and above all their humanity. Look at the arrangement of figures in Family, Stepney, London (about 1932, below) as the viewers eye is led by the two staggered boys on the bed up to the eldest daughter, looking away off camera, while the mother steadfastly gazes directly into the camera clutching her youngest daughter tightly. The smile on the little girls face is a joy.

“No Home, No Dole” was the reality of life in London back then, with the Great Depression taking hold. I remember growing up in the 1960s and things weren’t much better in my grandmothers house, even the old farmhouse I grew up in. No hot running water, my mother bathing us kids in a tin tub on the kitchen floor with water heated up in the kettle on the stove. It was subsistence living for we were the poorest of the poor. That Edith Tudor Hart had the courage of her convictions and recorded these environments shows a human being of great moral character. That the images still survive we are grateful.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Wien Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. View the exhibition online catalogue.

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“If curator Duncan Forbes and photographers Owen Logan and Joanna Kane have resurrected an amazing archive, Tudor-Hart’s own life is curiously out of focus. Her struggles and sorrows are mute beneath the weight of her images. Her late life feels only half-lived: she struggled under the scrutiny of the security services until her death in 1973; she destroyed much documentation, including her list of negatives. As a woman photographer with left-wing associations, work became scarce. As a communist and a suspected traitor she was blacklisted and in the 1950s she gave up photography altogether.

What’s left, or rather what has been patiently reconstructed, is an impassioned record of the terrible long shadow of ­tyranny in Europe, and of a ­divided Britain that makes you both deeply ashamed and ­occasionally proud.”

Moria Jeffrey review of the exhibition 04/07/2013

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Edith_Tudor_Moving-and-Growing-WEB

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Edith Tudor-Hart
From the series Moving and Growing
1951
© Wien Museum

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Edith Tudor-Hart. 'Unemployed Workers' Demonstration, Trealaw, South Wales' 1935

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Edith Tudor-Hart
Unemployed Workers’ Demonstration, Trealaw, South Wales
1935
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Archive presented by Wolfgang Suschitzky 2004

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Edith Tudor-Hart. 'Prater Ferris Wheel, Vienna' 1931

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Edith Tudor-Hart
Prater Ferris Wheel, Vienna
1931
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Archive presented by Wolfgang Suschitzky 2004

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“The rediscovery of a great Austrian-British photographer Edith Tudor-Hart (1908-1973), who is known in Austrian history of photography as Edith Suschitzky, belonged to the group of those politically engaged photographers who faced political developments in the inter-war years with socially critical force.

Edith Suschitzky studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau and worked as a photographer in Vienna around 1930 – while simultaneously a Soviet agent. In 1933 she married an Englishman who likewise had close connections to the Communist Party, and fled with him to Great Britain. There she created brilliant social reportage in the slums of London or in the coal mining areas of Wales, today some of the key examples of British workers’ photography. The exhibition is the first monographic presentation of Edith Tudor-Hart’s work. As well as the period in England, a selection from the early Viennese works are on show. Her unpretentious, documentary-influenced photographs on social themes come mainly from the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland

Following Barbara Pflaum, Elfriede Mejchar and Trude Fleischmann, the Wien Museum is once again putting on a solo exhibition dedicated to a great Austrian photographer: Edith Tudor-Hart (1908-1973), also known in the annals of photographic history by her maiden name Edith Suschitzky. She belonged to the group of politically engaged male and female photographers who, from the 1920s onwards, responded to political developments from a socially critical standpoint – both in Austria and in exile in England, where she became an important figure in the Worker Photography Movement. The exhibition, which was previously on show in Edinburgh, is the first ever overview of the work of this in equal measure fascinating and significant artist. It arose out of a cooperation between the National Galleries of Scotland and the Wien Museum and has been curated by Duncan Forbes, the long-standing Senior Curator of Photography at the National Galleries of Scotland and the new Director of the Fotomuseum Winterthur.

Edith Tudor-Hart was born in Vienna in 1908 as Edith Suschitzky and grew up in a social-democratic household; her father ran a workers’ bookshop in the Favoriten district of Vienna and a revolutionary publishing house. She had contact with the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) and the Communist International already from a young age and both charged her with tasks – with legal party work as well as with intelligence activities. Early on, Tudor-Hart become interested in pedagogy; she completed training in the Montessori method and moved in circles that promoted radical, anti-authoritarian school and education reforms. It was likely the period of study at the Bauhaus in Dessau (1928-1930) that first brought her to photography, even though Tudor-Hart is listed in the archives only as a participant on the famous preparatory course and not as a student in the photography department. Her first pictures were taken in about 1930 and “show a technically accomplished photographer, who explored subjects such as the deprivation of the working class and the reform-oriented culture of Austrian Social Democracy as well as the threat posed by military and fascist forces” (as the historian of photography Anton Holzer has written). At the same time she embarked on a career as a photo journalist for illustrated publications.

It was the period in which, thanks to technological advances, photography in the mass media had gained immensely in importance. From the beginning, Tudor-Hart viewed the camera as a political weapon that could be used to document social injustices; she had little time for the formal experiments of the avant-garde. Photography had ceased to be “an instrument for recording events and became instead the means to bring events about and to influence them. It became a living art form that involved the people” (Edith Tudor-Hart). Her first photo series, published in the magazines Der Kuckuck, Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung and Die Bühne, include a reportage on the deprived East End of London and a series on everyday life in the Vienna Prater. That she was a Communist and yet was working for a social-democratic publication such as Der Kuckuck was down to the fact that the KPÖ played a minimal role in the media (and political) landscape of Austria – in this respect the young photographer had to adapt to the commercial realities of her profession. However, she was also active for the Soviet news agency TASS and, in addition, she continued with her intelligence activities. She was described by a fellow agent as “modest, competent and brave”, ready “to give her all for the Soviet cause”. This eventually became Edith Tudor-Hart’s undoing: when the Austrian government moved against Nazis and Communists, she was arrested without further ado. In the same year she married the English doctor Alexander Tudor-Hart, which allowed her to escape to Great Britain in 1934. “When one views Suschitzky’s photographic work from her Vienna years, it becomes clear that already in her early period, she created a comprehensive and freestanding body of work,” writes Anton Holzer.

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Among the miners in Wales

In exile, Edith Tudor-Hart’s photographs took on a sharper socially critical edge. She went with her husband to South Wales, where he practised as a doctor in the coal mining region. The economic crisis had hit heavy industry and mining in northern England particularly hard and in many small towns and villages, nine out of ten men were unemployed. The photos from the mining and shipbuilding region of Tyneside also tell of crippling economic hardship and social decline. With her pictures, Tudor-Hart clearly stood out from the mainstream of British photography, characterised at that time by a bourgeois, somewhat sweet and sentimental aesthetic. Her photos are impressive for the quality of the dialogue with those portrayed and the social context is always visible and tangible. “The women, children and workers photographed by her seem less objectified and, to some extent at least, are placed in a better position to represent themselves,” writes Duncan Forbes, curator of the exhibition. During the slight economic recovery of the mid-1930s, Tudor-Hart was able to build up a photo studio in London: “Edith Tudor-Hart – Modern Photography” it said on her headed paper. She specialised in portraiture and was also able to obtain some advertising work, for example for the toy manufacturer Abbatt Toys. In addition, she supplied photos to new British illustrated publications, including the magazine Lilliput and the popular paper Picture Post, as well as to government departments such as the British Ministry of Education. For her, working for the traditional papers of Fleet Street was, however, not an option. Alongside the equally consistent and nuanced workers’ photography, Tudor-Hart concentrated on work with children, especially after the Second World War, and in this she could call on a wide network of contacts. These included the Austrian paediatrician and curative educator Karl König as well as Anna Freud and Donald Winnicott, two of the leading protagonists of child psychoanalysis. She was concerned with issues of child welfare, heath and education and received commissions from agencies such as the British Medical Association, Mencap and the National Baby Welfare Council. In contrast to the static, studio-based portrait photography customary at the time, Tudor-Hart showed families and especially children as natural and lively.

After the Second World War and with the onset of the Cold War, Tudor-Hart’s personal situation worsened as she was still active as a low-level Soviet agent. In 1951, shortly after the Soviet spy Kim Philby was interrogated for the first time, she destroyed most of her photos as well as many negatives out of fear of prosecution. “Her life as a partisan for the Soviet cause ended with her a defeated and demoralised woman,” writes Duncan Forbes. She stopped publishing photos at the end of the 1950s, presumably at the request of the British secret services. Despite being questioned numerous times she was never arrested. Edith Tudor-Hart lived out her final years until her death in 1973 as an antiques dealer in Brighton.

That her photographic work was rediscovered is thanks to her brother, the photographer and cameraman Wolfgang Suschitzky. He saved a number of negatives from destruction and, in 2004, presented his sister’s photographic archive to the Scottish National Galleries. This exhibition and catalogue make Edith Tudor-Hart’s exceptional work accessible to a wider public for the first time. The exhibition was on show at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh in spring 2013 and, after its run at the Wien Museum, will also be on display in Berlin. For the first time, it offers an overview of Tudor-Hart’s work from her years in both Vienna and England; many of the photos have never been seen before. Furthermore, the first comprehensive work on this great Austrian artist is being published on the occasion of this exhibition.”

Press release from the Wien Museum website

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Edith Tudor-Hart. 'Family, Stepney, London' about 1932

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Edith Tudor-Hart
Family, Stepney, London
about 1932
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Archive presented by Wolfgang Suschitzky 2004

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Edith Tudor-Hart. 'Gee Street, Finsbury, London' about 1936

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Edith Tudor-Hart
Gee Street, Finsbury, London
about 1936
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Archive presented by Wolfgang Suschitzky 2004

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Edith Tudor-Hart. 'Unemployed Family, Vienna' 1930

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Edith Tudor-Hart
Unemployed Family, Vienna
1930
© Wien Museum

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Edith Tudor-Hart. '"No Home, No Dole" London' about 1931

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Edith Tudor-Hart
“No Home, No Dole” London
about 1931
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Archive presented by Wolfgang Suschitzky 2004

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Edith Tudor-Hart. 'Self-portrait, London' about 1936

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Edith Tudor-Hart
Self-portrait, London
about 1936
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Archive presented by Wolfgang Suschitzky 2004

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Wien Museum
1040 Vienna, Karlsplatz 8
T: +43 (0)1 505 87 47 0

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday and public holidays 10 am – 6 pm

Wien Museum website

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22
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Alexander Rodchenko: 
Revolution in Photography’ at WestLicht Gallery, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 11th June – 25th August 2013

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“The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.”

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“Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view
 […]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.”

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“We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

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“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting. Foreshortenings with a strong distortion of the objects, with a crude handling of matter. Moments altogether new, never seen before… compositions whose boldness outstrips the imagination of painters… Then the creation of those instants which do not exist, contrived by means of photomontage. The negative transmits altogether new stimuli to the sentient mind and eye.”

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Alexander Rodchenko

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What an impression (on the sentient mind) this artist makes!

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

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club' 1932

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Alexander Rodchenko
Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club
1932
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Levels' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Levels
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sportsmen on Red Square' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Sportsmen on Red Square
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Horse racing' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Horse racing
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sports parade. Girl with towels' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Sports parade. Girl with towels
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Radio listeners' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Radio listeners
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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“Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a driving force in the Russian avant-garde and is considered one of the great innovators of photography in the first half of the 20th century. In 1924, already well-known as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist, he conquered traditional photography with the slogan “Our duty is to experiment!” Dynamic compositions, stark contrasts, unconventional angles and the use of photomontage are the defining characteristics of his photographic language.

Rodchenko’s visual compositions and constructivist manifestos have been highly influential in the development of modern photography. With more than 200 photographs on display, the exhibition explores Rodchenko’s dynamic vision and the extraordinary range of his work. Alongside renowned, iconic images like Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1924), Steps (1929) or Girl with a Leica (1934) WestLicht presents many rare vintage prints, which are complemented by a selection of Rodchenko’s posters, publications and typographic works.

As a prominent figure of constructivism, Rodchenko significantly shaped the development of Russian art in the early years of the Revolution. He was also a catalyst of a photography movement, similar to the New Objectivity pioneered by Albert Renger-Patzsch in Germany and the Group f/64 in the USA. “New, unexpected foreshortenings, unusual perspectives, bold light and shadow combinations reproduce fragments of the social reality that are as sharp and clear as possible” (Catalogue for Film and Photo Exhibition, Stuttgart, 1929).

The development of this new reality involved a radical departure from traditional perspectives. As Rodchenko pointed out in an essay on Ways of Contemporary Photography, in 1928: “The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories […], all this […] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.” Central to Rodenchko’s argumentation was the belief that the camera could act as an active eye of contemporaries, destroying the primacy of the normal view – the navel perspective – established by painting. For Rodchenko the camera lens was “the pupil of the educated person in socialist society.”

Just as the revolution created the new socialist man and swept away the old order, photography should overcome the outdated perception and allow a modern outlook. “Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view […]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.” According to Rodchenko’s significant and much-quoted claim: “We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

Curated by Olga Sviblova, Director of the Moscow House of Photography Museum.”

Press release from the WestLicht Gallery website

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934

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Alexander Rodchenko
Girl with Leica
1934
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Balconies. Corner of the house' 1925

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Alexander Rodchenko
Balconies. Corner of the house
1925
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Guard at the Shukhov Tower' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Guard at the Shukhov Tower
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pines. Puschkino' 1927

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pines. Puschkino
1927
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Fire escape' 1925

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Alexander Rodchenko
Fire escape
1925
Deduction on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Trumpeting pioneer' 1930

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Alexander Rodchenko
Trumpeting pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'They gathered for the demonstration' 1928

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Alexander Rodchenko
They gathered for the demonstration
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Varvara Stepanova on a balcony' 1928

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Alexander Rodchenko
Varvara Stepanova on a balcony
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother' 1924

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Alexander Rodchenko
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pioneer' 1930

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky's poem "Pro eto" (Darüber)' 1923

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Alexander Rodchenko
Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poem “Pro eto” (Darüber)
1923
Reprint
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster "Knigi"' 1924

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Alexander Rodchenko
Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster “Knigi”
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper, cut out and glued on pink paper.
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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WestLicht Gallery
Westbahnstraße 40,
1070 Vienna
T: +43 (0)1 522 66 36 -60

Opening hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri 2 – 7 pm
Thu 2 – 9 pm
Sat, Sun and public holidays 11 am – 7 pm

WestLicht Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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