Aug 2016

Araki and The Velvet Underground

Sunday Morning, the Musée Guimet opens and it’s in to the Araki exhibition. Bonus, it’s free because I’m an art student (I had my NUS card with me). The exhibition starts with what I can only believe is a small selection of his photo books, he’s prolific when it comes to producing them, his Wikipedia entry claims there were over 350 by 2005, there’s been more since then!

After that, large scale photographs of flowers. Large scale sensual photographs of flowers, some starting to decompose. Beautiful, strangely unsettling. This was followed by frames from his first book, and its sequel. “I-novels” were what he became known for (that and nudity and bondage), Sentimental Journey recounts Araki’s wedding and early life with Yoko, Winter Journey told of her death. Araki photographed - it’s what he does - pleasure and pain. Black and white images from their early life seem to show a young woman tired of being constantly photographed, rarely smiling, perhaps this is just a reserved Japanese thing though? As she neared death, there is more apparent joy and laughter, or at least smiles. Maybe this is also a spiritual Japanese thing - I’ve no idea if she was this way inclined though. There is also the emergence of the cat, and the dinosaurs. They keep on showing up in his work, in the weirdest ways. Something that really struck home with the Winter Journey was the inclusion of the date stamp on the images, burned on the negatives by the camera’s data back. Is this a serious “art” thing? Should he not have elected to turn the information off? I know it would have frustrated me back in those days. But no, this accentuates the diaristic impact of the images. It’s a clear reminder of when events happened, of chronology in a time when he may not have been thinking in such ways. It’s an important part of this document. It has to be there.

The next room was all ropes and women, bound by Araki himself I believe. These are again large scale images, shown this way to elevate them from pornography a cynic might argue. Whilst it might be expected to be shocked by these images, I didn’t find them to be such. Perhaps that’s the result of coming straight from the raw emotion that could be experienced from the prior images. I tend to think it’s because there were quirks about them. A woman tied and bound, elevated from the floor with a completely deadpan expression, with a plastic dinosaur on the floor below. It’s surreal, not shocking.

After this, seemingly hundreds of smaller images (although some of the numbers are an optical illusion from using mirrors). They’re random. A stream from the obsessive compulsive mind of a manic photographer. Yes, it would be easy to be shocked again, there are more nudes, sexual images, some might say pornography. But next to that is a cat. A photograph of Nan Goldin (it looked like her anyway...). Another dinosaur. A city street. A beer. Another nude. Strange juxtapositions. Everything falls subject to his camera.

Another room and you’re confronted by a wall of transparencies. This was, for my mind, a masterpiece for the purpose of surreptitious looking. The transparencies are, by their very nature, small. Behind them was not a blank wall, or better a light box, but the end of the exhibition with people and other background information. The images were not easy to see, so you move in closer. You get right next to the images and look at them intently, and then you realise what it is you are so close to - a cat, next to a nude, next to... the same random juxtapositions of subject matter. Knowing that the nudes are there, and they’re not “classy” or “artistic” nudes, you have a pang of guilt - am I a dirty old man like Araki? It was brilliant!

Another wall featured a selection of images of sky. Every day since his wife died, he has photographed the sky. Such a compulsive display of passion, I was quite moved by his dedication. And following this, his own series for his mausoleum, He knows he is approaching death (and with growing blindness), but he knows he will be a photographer in the afterlife too. I wanted to come back the day after too, but it was a bank holiday and everywhere was closed...

The Velvet Underground exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris, a very different proposition, but equally enjoyable. Linked in to other exhibitions over the weekend - Ginsberg talked about drugs, Nan Goldin had photographs there. There were a couple of standouts there, the overwhelming stream of video and sound that confront you at the entrance and lying on the floor, watching video projected on the ceiling whilst listening to tracks from the “banana” album (The Velvet Underground and Nico)... Lots of other photos, info and music too...

Greatly influential in certain circles, and very enjoyable - and it will form a part of my next project.


Tate Britain project uses AI to pair contemporary photos with paintings | Art and design | The Guardian

IK prize-winning system matches images from the 24/7 news cycle with centuries-old artworks and presents them online.

Seated against a deep red backdrop, gazing intently at hand-held mirrors, two eunuchs in sparkling saris inspect their appearance before Raksha Bandhan celebrations in the red light district of Mumbai.

The photograph from the Reuters news agency is an arresting contemporary scene, but a new Tate Britain project is aiming to inspire deeper reflections with images from its own collection of paintings.

Eunuchs apply makeup before Raksha Bandhan festival celebrations in Mumbai. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Detail from Sir Peter Lely’s Two Ladies of the Lake Family (1660), paired with the Mumbai scene by the Recognition software. Photograph: Tate

Source: Tate Britain project uses AI to pair contemporary photos with paintings | Art and design | The Guardian

Paris, August 2016

As already mentioned, a weekend in Paris has spawned a new project (still need to curate and coalesce...), but it was also an opportunity to see a few different exhibitions.

Centre Pompidou was first, primarily for the exhibition on the Beat Generation, but also for a couple of others and a general wander through the permanent display too. Now, a problem that I have with many French exhibitions is their approach. I believe they assume you already know quite a bit about the subject before going in, rather than just going there to see what you know, or to fill a few gaps with experience. They don’t feed you information so that you can learn and understand. This was certainly the case with Beat Generation. Maybe if I could truly take the time, read, translate and digest everything, then perhaps yes, I would have walked away knowing. Perhaps even understanding. I knew a little, I recognised the long script from On the Road without having to read the label, I was pretty stoked to see some Robert Frank images from The Americans and was happy to discover Bernard Plossu... I still left feeling disappointed though.

untitled (147 of 434)-552

When I say disappointed, that is in terms of true knowledge gained. Bernard Plossu’s work is something I don’t believe I’d seen before, and it’s lovely! Apparently, he’s on show in Arles this year too, which means there has been in uplift in interest... Is it purely coincident that these things happen like they do? Plossu in Arles, in Paris. Beat Generation featuring Ginsberg, who also cropped up at the Velvet Underground exhibition a few days later, which featured an image or two by Nan Goldin. There was a photograph of Nan with Araki at his exhibition... Anyway, I digress.

Plossu, early colour film. Very grainy, Very nice. I nearly bought his book from the exhibition shop (always exit through the gift shop...), but figured it might be better to buy the English version for the essays... It’s now on my list of things to do - should’ve bought it there (but still not got my book case made properly - long story). Some of his work reminded me of Hido, I say it that way around as I’d seen Hido’s work first. Clearly the influences run the other way...

Robert Frank. Hmmm... I was thrilled to see this work on display, but also slightly bemused by it. Speaking to Dewald and Stephanie, their opinions were very positive. Mine however, I felt somewhat constrained by my experience looking through the book (a recent reprint I might add). For me, the images lacked the “road trip” vibe I can get from the book. I know, I know, there weren’t that many on display (a dozen or so?), but they were cherry picked. They didn’t have the stream of consciousness outpouring... something I would have thought should’ve been curated into such an exhibition, not out of it. They were also much larger, and this didn’t feel right to me. Size isn’t everything, or rather it is. It just doesn’t need to be big. Intimacy of experience is maybe more important to me. No, I shouldn’t have said “maybe”...

Also in Pompidou was Louis Stettner. Some really nice pics, but the blurb was maybe a bit pretentious in places. “I am interested in the quality of the air, of the snow, of the rain...” or “ I always felt I had to see and digest what was in front of me. The subject wasn’t the issue... It had to be real.” Ha, no. I’m probably just reading with a cynic’s eye, in the 21st century. The truth is though that these images are from a bygone age, and we’re still recycling the same old lines, same old clichés, perhaps now with even more of a dose of twaddle from a French PoMo philosopher thrown in. Maybe I’ve just grown disillusioned recently?

What else? Oh yeah, a Picasso here, a Koons there... Perhaps it all became a bit blasé? Seriously though, they have a good collection!

Another day, another gallery or two... The Maison Europeenne de la Photographie (MEP) was showing some stuff from Brazil - a shameless Olympics tie in? I like some of Vik Muniz’ work. There were quite a few on show, some really made me smile, theres less so (as might be expected). Not so keen on the Medusa in spag bog, preferred the Van Gogh stuff... There was also some Marcel Gautherot, Celso Brandao and Joaquim Paiva. Some of the s felt like it was travel photography by the book - a modernists approach. Again, of its time, same old clichés. In terms of quality, sure, they were beautiful objects. I do tire of this sort of thing very quickly though.


Off to Jeu de Paume... Guan Xiao had an intriguing three screen work Weather Forecast. This had me glued for the duration, and if I’d have been on my own would have watched it again (nothing to do with being sat down in a cooler place, I can assure you). Sensory overload of a type also experienced later at the Velvet Underground exhibition...

Guan Xiao - Weather Forecast (preview) from antennaspace on Vimeo.

In some ways, this is like the Internet. Advertising. Home video. News archives... 80s music. Trance. (Art of Noise??) Rock. Jazz (?) Do I also remember some classical music? I can’t remember now. I can’t remember many of the images either, apart from a snake being drawn with a brush... I remember the overload though, the strange compunction to watch. The difficulty in doing so in a way that lets you interpret what you’re seeing... Let it wash over, be forgotten. At least in the terms of specifics. I want to see this again.

Not so the other installation she had, How to disappear could be taken as a bit of a... not so much a cliché. Perhaps a cop out? Not sure. Words scroll along the wall (French and English) describing how the artist was going to make herself disappear. It all goes black. And then “there, I did it.” Hmmm.

Also in the JdP was Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joriege. A number of works, the first of which left me confused. Something to do with hoax e-mails and sculpture. I think I understood where the lines drawn on the walls were coming from, but not really. I thought the stuff they did about the Middle East was far more interesting though. The Lebanese Rocket Society... I very much liked the presentation here, numerous copies of a full length photo of a rocket, folded in such a way that the pieces come together to form a photo of a rocket. Sounds daft, but it makes sense when you see it. Photographs of people faded in the sun, details being drawn back into them, photographs of undeveloped film canisters with descriptions of what’s on them (I liked this one - a sort of Schrodinger’s cat thing - you can believe that there’s something on there, but the only way to prove it is to develop the film. If you do that you will prove the fact but destroy the myth, the fabricated version of the images that I’ve constructed in my mind... Love it on so many levels). Postcards from Beirut...

Josef Sudek was in there too. Very dark images, some taken during the war in the curfew - he developed a very pictorialist style of vision. Dated, yes, but some of the images were so dreamy and provocative. Not something I would want to spend a lot of time with, but well worth seeing.

Shifting Boundaries at the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian... my least favourite of the exhibitions, worth seeing though if only to ask questions about some the framing choices. No, that’s unfair. There was more to it than that, but it was the end of a long and hot day (being a Lancashire lad, 25C is hot, and it was much hotter than that in Paris), I had blisters forming on my little toe that still haven’t healed and I needed a sit down and have a drink... Oh, and they were closing soon.

Sunday morning was Araki. I’m a HUGE fan of Japanese photography, and whilst Araki isn’t my stand out favourite, this was a highlight in terms of the weekend’s exhibitions. I’ll write something about this and the ~Velvet Underground exhibition in the coming days...

Unforgettable Portraits from an American Road Trip in the 1980s - Feature Shoot

In the 1980s, Massachusetts photographer Sage Sohier hit the road. She was 20-something years old, recently graduated from Harvard University, and enamored with the street. She approached strangers, toting around a clunky medium-format camera with a flash in search of serendipity.

Source: Unforgettable Portraits from an American Road Trip in the 1980s - Feature Shoot

Venus in Furs (the beginning)

I’ve been insanely busy recently, to the point that I’ve not produced any work for some time. A weekend in Paris with a couple of photographer friends was an ideal opportunity to remedy this. So, I went with an idea to shoot using my iPhone, in a vertical format (95% of my other work will be horizontal) and to let the weekend dictate where it ends up. I did just this, in-between going to a number of galleries and such like, and now have a pile of images that I need to do something with, a couple of them are below:




Over the coming weeks (months?) I will be working these images, pairing them up into something that works. I’m also planning to intersperse short descriptive events within the images, things that I didn’t (or sometimes couldn’t) photograph. I found the website some time ago, and think that something like this might be interesting...

Time will tell if it works.