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Five Years



This song has accompanied me over many journeys, many miles in my car, many hours in my bedroom, almost a lifetime in my head.

A great song from a musical legend.
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Magnús Sigurðarson : Process & Pretense

Last month, when I was in Iceland, I went to see Magnús Sigurðarson’s Process & Pretense at the Reykjavik Art Museum (Hafnarhús). The exhibition consisted of several parts: some large scale drawings of mountains made up from huge numbers of rectangles, impressive in the amount of work required and something I found appealing to the engineer in me (I used to do technical drawings). It was the video piece I found really captivating though.

Four large screens, tilted from the viewer, showed four different views of the same action sequence. Filmed in the Hallgrímskirkja church, home to a 25-ton pipe organ, the organ features in the piece, with one video stream being of the organist playing. Another two streams show a body-painted Sigurðarson rotating on a turntable located in the centre of the church, largely static and “harmonising”. The final stream is of a drone, flying around the church, one of Iceland’s tallest buildings.

The statement on the Hafnarhús website states:

Magnús Sigurðarson has made the analysis of the obvious the subject of his art. On this occasion he focuses on a number of fixed points in reality which are found both in nature and in culture. Various creations and works of art have acquired significance in the human quest for the sublime. They bring together apparently contrasting qualities: on the one hand they are spectacular, overwhelming, and affect us by their sheer scale; on the other hand they are modest and symmetrical and appeal to us by their simplicity. Magnús sets out to break these assumptions down into their component atoms, in a quest to find some kind of nucleus – while at the same time asking himself, and us, questions about the internal and external reality of the individual, and his/her attitude to a Higher Power.



Did I get this? Some of it from the symmetry and simplicity of the drawings, yes. From the video? No, I didn’t. The attitude to the “Higher Power” can be taken from the filming location within the church, of course there are religious connotations that can be drawn from that, together with the harmonising (sort of “monk-like” I imagine). And yes, there are different “components” (video streams), but do I get it? No. I don’t. I did really enjoy it though, away from the context of his artist statement it was captivating, and I watched it several times, looking through the different perspectives and video streams. Is the context where the “Pretense” of the title comes in?

Magnús Sigu∂arson
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Sean O'Hagan's top 10 photography shows of 2015 | Art and design | The Guardian

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 18.11.27

There was Julia Margaret Cameron’s mystical iconoclasm, Maxine Walker’s questions about Black British life and a disturbingly compelling show of forensic evidence – but Alex Soth’s haunted landscapes and eccentric outsiders were what really lingered...



Source: Sean O'Hagan's top 10 photography shows of 2015 | Art and design | The Guardian
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A diversion in Iceland...

There will be more to follow with some thoughts on a visit to an art gallery and photography museum, but here are a few photographs from the trip... The light started off amazing, but viewed through a coach (and plane) window, then it quickly got dark. More travelling by coach with a few stops at touristic places (Geysir and Gullfoss, etc.) and then more travelling. Lots of snow, and low light with a compact camera (I was travelling with hand luggage only), so not necessarily the greatest images in terms of pixel quality, but there’s something about them for me.

Here they are:
Reykjavik2Iceland1Iceland3Iceland4Logberg

They’re all colour photographs, although might not necessarily appear to be at first glance.

There are the “through window” photographs I need to consider further, I might make a little mini-series out of them.
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Performance Artist To Have Sex With A Different Man Every Day For A Year

Performance Artist To Have Sex With A Different Man Every Day For A YearThe Huffington Post | By Priscilla Frank

Mischa Badasyan is a 26-year-old gay man who sometimes feels lonely and unfulfilled from the sexual interactions initiated by hookup apps like Grindr and sites like GayRomeo.

Badasyan is also a Russian-born, Berlin-based performance artist who, beginning in September, will have sex with a different man every day for an entire year. The controversial piece, titled "Save the Date," will explore the feeling of emptiness so pervasive in today's hookup culture, especially for gay men.

Source: Performance Artist To Have Sex With A Different Man Every Day For A Year

He goes on to say...

"Generally, I’m not going to tell my dates about this project," the artist told Vocativ. "What if I tell you I just had sex with you for an art project? People won’t like that. It’s horrible, actually."



So, is it art or is it cruising...? I'm really not sure what to think of it. Do I need to think anything?
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Censorship

Is it more important to be utterly non-offensive, or to be able to say what you think without fear of having your voice removed? (I’m not meaning in order to incite violence or hate here)

If art of any kind must be made in a safe and sterile void, does it have any meaning other than being (at best) pretty vacuous?

Things have been happening in the background that make me wonder.
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Reading: A Start and a Return

I had hoped to visit Tanya and her exhibition Reading: A Start and a Return on the opening weekend, dropping in via a roundabout route on my way back from France. Events conspired against me and it didn't happen. I did manage to get there for the final day though - a warm Saturday in August, after a long journey with the heating on in the already stuffy train carriage rather than the air con, and a lot of rowdy football fans that prevented me from getting down to finally read some of Ossian Ward's Ways of Looking.

I did get there though, and it was worth the long day and everything that went with it. It was good to catch up, face-to-face again for a change. It was good to see the exhibition, and the things I took from away it. I even managed a couple of iPhone images for the postcard series; although not printed in time for the exhibition itself, perhaps they will make their way into the archive...

Reading1
©Rob™

Reading2
©Rob™

That was something of an aside though, the main reason in attending was to see the show, the premise of which was 5 photography students from just over the river at Berkshire College of Art coming back together 30 years later. Five "products" from the same the institution, the same course, the same tutors. And oh, how they are now different. All showing some work they produced then, with some produced now.

Tanya
Tanya at the Turbine House

Excepting the postcard work that meets you as you walk into the Turbine House, the first "proper" body of work was that of Peter Cole, what I suppose you might call a social documentary/travel/street photographer. All work in black and white, all of people or their surroundings and all fairly "classic" in style. Moving clockwise around the room it was then Tanya's Syncretize work that I saw some of during the course, old photographs married with Skype captures to represent the changing face of social interactions. Darran Gough's work was something of a surprise, but a pleasant one. I think I'll come back to that later. There was more from Tanya with Gone. Now? Displayed in the expanding folder that housed it for the MA assessment, it was good to see the physical prints - dark images are difficult to get right on paper, but these managed it (for my eyes at least). Dave Willis is a music and fashion photographer and his wall included images of Michael Jackson and the likes. An impressive selection of famous people have been captured here. Richard Pinches' work seemed to have evolved from being a teenage staple of cars and beer into, well, cars and beers! Granted, a more sophisticated take on them, but still the same subject. I guess there's something to be said with that...

Two of the group are no longer professionally involved in the photography scene; Darran is a fireman and Peter is involved with cycling. That said, you can tell there has been some form of training in the way they work, Darran has juxtapositions within his images, things the completely untrained eye would have missed, reflections seen in the visor to give context to what might otherwise be a "flat" composition. What's more, his images were printed on plain copy paper. Nothing pretentious, nothing precious, but for me it was perfect. It said it all. I actually hate it when people get overly precious about the images. Most of the time, they're just little prints, easy to reproduce, easy to replace. Granted, not always, in which case they do become more "special", but on the whole... I also dislike it when things are large for the sake of being large, even when it's not truly appropriate (not the case here, not at all and not with any of the exhibits). Peter's work has that well produced and considered feel to it - if he hadn't moved over to his love of cycling to earn his crust, it would be easy to see him working the travel scene.

Richard and Dave are both professional photographers - their work reflects this. Hard to pick fault, but not really the sort of thing that excites me, even if I have tried my own hand at music photography some years ago (a passing fad - too old to get into the game at the point I tried). No, to be fair, the concert photography side of things does interest me, but the music side of my brain, rather than the photography. Commercial (product) photography is something I admire when done well, but is it art? Clearly not - it's not the intention. That's not to say it's not visually attractive though - that's the very point of it, to instigate some level of desire for the subject within the viewer. There's plenty to be said on this in the world of visual culture, Althusser, Barthes, Peirce, Saussure and Levi-Strauss, etc.

Tanya is the only one to have gone down an "art" route, the only one to have added a context to the photographs, beyond the obvious "we need pictures from then and now" - she has created a set of images that explores "then" and "now", even adding something of a punctum with the missing image. These are the images that make you think, rather than just admire the technique or appreciate the subject matter. Yes, I'm sure some will have missed this fact, dismissing the "poor quality" of the Skype images without even wondering why they are like they are, what they represent. That the technology that brings us all together is simultaneously pushing us all apart. Are these real relationships or a simulacrum of a relationship? Of course, they're based on the real, but now they exist (most of the time at least) within the realm of the Matrix. So what does that mean? It depends on what you want it to mean, but does the "spoon" reflect the relationship; we think it's real, we want (need?) to believe it's real but...

That's one possible interpretation of the images, perhaps not what Tanya intended, but then, that's the nature of the beast. Anyway, on the whole I believe it all worked. I got something from it at least.

Reading 3
Reading: A Start and a Return

It was also good to see Keith there - one of the [( 6 )] who exhibited at Bank Street last year...

Keith
Keith

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