Posts tagged ‘Exhibition’

September 7, 2013

Venice Biennale 2013

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I got married at the end of August and to my delight the Venice Biennale was still on during our honeymoon. Before we went I caught the culture show’s coverage of it – which is uploaded to youtube here & here in two parts.

We were only there for a few days so we didn’t make it all the way over to the Giardini delle Biennale near Arsenale but, as my new husband is a street photographer, we did walk pretty much everywhere else. We caught many of the periphery pavilions and exhibitions. Unlike here, except for a few places, mostly they allowed photos to be taken so here is my rundown…

We were staying near Campo S. Stefano so we’ll start with the Azerbaijan pavilion.
Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan. The national pavilion presented Ornamentation, an exhibition commissioned by a foundation headed by Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva and curated by Herve Mikaeloff. I saw the installation in Palazzo Lezze, Campo S. Stefano, which is adorned with traditional, decorative patterns across the walls, lamps, tvs, furniture etc.

Azerbaijan

Ukrainian national pavilion featured the The Monument to a Monument show by artists of the younger generation, Mykola Ridnyj, Hamlet Zinkovskyi and Zhanna Kadyrova. I thought it was somewhere near Campo S. Stefano too but this site reckons this was at Palazzo Loredan.

The Ukrainians displayed sculptures and drawings (a wall full of match boxes with tiny portraits sketched inside them which Mike is regarding in the photo below), installations (a video camera with a beam of light made of concrete), and videos filling rooms with glimpses of Ukraine’s turbulent recent years, with the destruction of the utopia of the past and history manipulation as some of the motifs. The drawings and tiny matchbox portraits stole this one for me.

The Monument to a Monument

The next one we saw was Richard Mosse‘s The Enclave at the Irish-via-the-Congo pavilion. His exhibition features photos & videos of rebel-filled forests made using military surveillance film that turns the world psychedelic colours. The first room of giant scale photographs were a beautiful counterpoint to the traumatising videos in the next room. I picked up a leaflet for this one, in my paper note book for reference, with the curators statement – here is a quote:

Death is plainly observed by the ca,era, which pans over twisted bodies lying on the side of the road, already bootless, looted by passersby.

Not really honeymoon material but powerful nonetheless.

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Here is a video;

Some of the Collateral Exhibitions were, as far as I could work out, unaffiliated with a national pavilion. Culture Mind Becoming is one such, although filled with Chinese artists. It was spread over two locations, we managed to visit both, Palazzo Marcello, San MArco and Palazzo Mora, Cannaregio. The first, featured work from Fang Lijun – A Cautionary Tale.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Some I really liked such as the one pictured above but I wasn’t so keen on the gruesome disease series pictured below and the ones with all the many many babies in them.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

I really liked seeing these exhibitions in such unusual settings, usually art gallery spaces are very modern and austere but throughout these exhibitions the backdrop of these old Palazzos was rather refreshing. Quite often they had the patio doors & windows open so we could lean out for some sneaky photos of views venice while we were there. I’ll be blogging my main photos over on my personal blog at some point.

Culture Mind Becoming

Palazzo Marcello

The second part of Culture Mind Becoming, featured many artists. Click on this image to be able to read the introduction text from the Curator for section 1:
Culture Mind Becoming - click for larger

Culture Mind Becoming - Xu Bing

Xu Bing – Phoenix: The Interior of Urbanization. Made from 3D printed animation.

Culture Mind Becoming - Xu Bing

Culture Mind Becoming

Ye Yongqing: Painting a Bird, above. See the detail shot below.

Culture Mind Becoming

Hua Qing: Destiny – The 12 Zodiac Animals. 12 silkscreen prints.

Culture Mind Becoming

Zhou Chunya: Peach Blossoms Series – Flower Blooms, Flower Fades, Year after Year.

Culture Mind Becoming

Down the centre of the exhibition was this huge model pagoda on its side. When you walked past it sections from within would glow different colours.

Culture Mind Becoming

Click on this image to be able to read the introduction text from the Curator for section 2:
Culture Mind Becoming - click for larger

I liked this: Still Life No. 1, Huang Hsin-Chien, 5 pieces made from Lucite with eroded stainless steel embodiments. Each piece was so delicate.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Fan Angel: Secret Garden – No.2.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Zhang Kai: The beauty in my heart. According to this site this painting was sold in 2012 by Triumph Art Space for RMB 200,000 (approx. USD 31,900).

Next up is New Zealand – with Bill Culbert’s Front Door Out Back. This was one of my favourites that we visited, see my paper notebook for the map of the installation.

Bebop 2013:
Front Door Out Back - Bebop

Walk Reflection 2001/2013 – this one one of a pair of light skewered wardrobes, the other being called Walk blue:
Front Door Out Back - Walk Reflection

Daylight Flotsam Venice 2013:
Front Door Out Back - Daylight Flotsam Venice

Front Door Out Back - Daylight Flotsam Venice

Level 2013: This is a clever piece positioned to reflect whatever passes the doorway on the canal
Front Door Out Back - Level

Front Door Out Back - Level

HUT, Made in Christchurch 2012:
Front Door Out Back - HUT

Where are the other two? 2013
Front Door Out Back - Where are the other two?

Here are a couple of youtube videos about the exhibition:

Rhapsody in Green

In an adjacent exhibition, Rhapsody in Green, we saw the most meticulously painted green fields I’ve ever seen.

Rhapsody in Green

Huang Ming – Chang: Paddy in Autumn.

Rhapsody in Green

Huang Ming – Chang: Paddies in the Wind 2.

Rhapsody in Green

Not just paintings though, This is made from painted iron & steel wool.
Kao Tsan – Hsing: Mid-Summer Night.

Rhapsody in Green

Disposition

One that both my Husband and I really enjoyed seeing was Ai Weiwei’s Disposition. On April 3, 2011, Ai was secretly detained by the police for 81 days at the Beijing Capital International Airport while on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was released on bail on June 22, 2011 upon fabricated tax charges. Although the bail was lifted after a year, the authorities have not returned his passport and he remains prohibited from travelling outside China.

Installed inside a church (Salizada S. Antonin), Disposition is a set of 6 dioramas set inside large metal containers from Ai Weiwei’s 81 days in prison. There are viewing windows in the top and from the sides so you can see in. Its claustrophobic and disturbing and this is entirely the point. Here is the blurb that was printed at the entrance:

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

Disposition

The top viewing windows were jammed open with a little plastic cover – these mush have been added afterwards because I remember in the culture show (above), them commenting on the nice prison clang they made when opening and closing the hatch. In one way this plastic cover took away from the experience of interacting with the show because a) you couldn’t hear that clang, and b) the plastic made it hard to see through the reflections caused by a bright church. In another way though, it enhanced it, the reflections were reflecting the church onto the scene – and there was a reason why he put this into a church in the first place.

Disposition

You can watch an interview with Ai Weiwei here:

Another one nearby our hotel, just off Campo S. Stefano is Ink Brush Heart: Xi Shuang Ban Na. Artists Simon Ma & Julian Lennon show off a range of sculpture & paintings.

Ink Brush Heart

In the foyer we are met by a paint-splattered winged fibreglass horse-creature by Simon Ma entitled Lighterning.

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

The rest of the large sculpture pieces are outside in a cool sort of crumbing courtyard.
Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

Courtyard

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

At the end of the courtyard is an enclosed bit with inflated plastic versions of the teardrop shape with different colour liquids in the bottom. There was one guy polishing them and another guy getting ready to inflate some more. Could it be that they need to inflate and fill these every day?

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

Up on the first floor landing are some pictures by Julian Lennon. They are listed as Archival Giclée Print + Ink. The print is inside a plastic box and the ink is painted on the outside. They are hung in front of lights to show off the shadow caused by the dual surface.
Taken + Wind 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Taken + Wind 2013

Ink Brush Heart - Taken + Wind 2013

Blaze + Phoenix 2013:
Ink Brush Heart- Blaze + Phoenix 2013

Silver Linings + Lost Feather 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Silver Linings + Lost Feather 2013

Aurora + Duet 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Aurora + Duet 2013

Homeland + Return 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Homeland + Return 2013

The Palazzo Pisani is really a lovely building. Up one more flight of stairs for the rest of the exhibition.
Ink Brush Heart

Simon Ma:
Peacock Dance, 2013. Rice paper & Ink.
Embrace, 2013. 18k White Gold, Copper Alloy, Malachite, Emerald, Garnet, Yellow Diamond, Sapphire & Mother of Pearl
Ink Brush Heart Ink Brush Heart

Simon Ma: Harmony, 2013. 18k White Gold, Copper Alloy, Malachite, Green Abalone & Blue Chalcedony
Ink Brush Heart

Simon Ma: Black Shadow, 2013. Rice paper & Ink.
Ink Brush Heart

There was some blurb about the artists collaboration too…
Ink Brush Heart

A Remote Whisper

A Remote Whisper

Down yet another random backstreet we found Palzzo Falier which houses the Pedro Cabrita Reis exhibition A Remote Whisper. Up several flights of stairs inside I wasn’t sure what to expect but this is what I found…

A Remote Whisper

Click on the images below to open the gallery:

Here is a video interview with the Artist and Curator (watch larger on Vimeo here):

By this point in the blog post you might be getting a bit arted-out, however, I’d urge you check out these links which explain a little more about this extraordinary installation.

I ended my trip around the Biennale on a little bit of a disappointment. I just couldnt get into the work in the Scottish Pavilion. After all the amazing art I’d seen, little trays with water in them and half finished mosaics weren’t really worth the 2 or 3 flights of stairs up to see them.

Scotland+Venice

Scotland+Venice

In fact the view out of the window here held my attention for longer… sorry chaps.

One exhibition that wasn’t part of the Biennale that I really enjoyed was in a shop on San Macro square, Impossible Venice by L De Luigi. Reminded me of Dali I think, which is probably why I liked it.

Impossible Venice

Impossible Venice

Impossible Venice

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June 23, 2013

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013: Study Visit (15th June)

by Suzy Walker-Toye

As soon as I see any study visit that I can get to in London I sign up for them. They are great. They allow students to go to exhibitions they may not have gone to and bounce ideas off each other. Having said that, as this one drew near and I did the pre-reading (see links at the bottom of this post), I started to not really look forward to it. The day came and I’d convinced myself it was going to be a huge disappointment. Why? Well a couple of reasons, one, the reviews linked to from the pre-reading didn’t really sell it as very interesting and two, it was at the photographers gallery. I haven’t been to the photographers for a very long time (in fact I’d never been to it at its new location) but each time in the past I’d always come away feeling disappointed that the photography on display was poor/dull/unpleasant/uninspiring, take your pick. So I’m very pleased to report that I thoroughly enjoyed this study visit despite all the odds. Whether the photographers gallery has just got better at picking photography or I’ve become more questioning of what “interesting” photography actually is, I’ll leave to the reader to decide 😉

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is an annual prize of £30,000, which awards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which has significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2012.

The exhibition was curated over the top two floors, 4 & 5 of the photographers gallery. It didnt seem to make any difference which you saw first so I’ll introduce the nominations in the order I saw them in the exhibition, floor 4 Mishka Henner & Chris Killip, then floor 5, Broomberg & Chanarin and Cristina De Middel. I think the things that really turned around the exhibition for me were the interviews with the artists (short videos which you could listen to on headphones on the 4th floor) and chatting with the tutor Simon. He challenged us to think about what is relevant for photography today. I’ve managed to find the interviews on vimeo so I’ve included them here for reference.

Mishka Henner – No Man’s Land (Exhibition)

Mishka Henner is nominated for his exhibition No Man’s Land at Fotografia Festival Internazionale di Roma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome (20 September – 28 October 2012). No Man’s Land presents google streetview images of prostitutes from all over europe to a soundtrack of birdsong from the various regions.

See this on vimeo here.

Mishka Henner, Carretera de Fortuna, Murcia, Spain, 2012 Mishka Henner, SS98, Cerignola Foggia, Italy, 2012

Mishka Henner, Contrada Vallecupa, Colonnella, Abruzzi, Italy, 2011 Mishka Henner, Carretera de Gandria, Oliva, Valencia, Spain, 2011

Despite Simon playing devils advocate and challenging our attitudes, I think most of the students agreed that this was the worst nominee, although the most controversial and therefore the most debated in the context of the study visit. Many of us were confused by the message in this one, and I think when you see the video above, this is because the artist isn’t coherent on what the message really is. Some students thought that he’d done this simply because he could get away with it, the “emperors new clothes” of photography. Some students didnt like it because it isn’t photography. It’s technically appropriation and curation of googles images and some amateur birdsong recordings. Many of the conversations were around the copyright implications of this one too. There were some students who were fine with the use of the google images, in fact one student mentioned going to Yosemite:

“Do we really need another photo of Yosemite? This guy using public domain images to express his vision instead.”

Whether he took the photos or not isn’t the problem I have with this work. My issue with it is that it isn’t an original idea to use google street view so if you are going to do it you should have a good foundation, a solid concept. It just seems like he’s jumping on the band wagon. The write up on the wall suggested that the work highlighted issues of surveillance and voyeurism, all well and good and so the work does, but is that something the curators of the photographers gallery felt compelled to write up there to give the work a bit of gravitas? Why doesn’t he express that in the video interview?

In the video, he was mostly talking about the process of the how he did the work he presents and not the why. He goes into more detail than you would think about the google process of image capture. He says that he uses forums where they talk about sexworkers but “he’s not really bothered about what their motivation is”, he just gets the coordinates of the girls to plug into google. He even says “there is no narrative underpinning to this work”. He’s interested in the sequence of images, how they happen every 5m etc and the possibility that they’d go on for ever. He tacks on the parallel that this hints at the oldest profession in the world but it seems like an afterthought. Some tiny way of explaining why he choose prostitues rather than just for the controversy that this might elicit. However, the tutor brought our attention to an interesting last comment in the video talking about the volume of an issue, is he hinting at the broader issue of surveillance and voyeurism? For me it didn’t hang together nicely, too many unresolved questions, fuzzy explanations and something smelt fishy about his motivations.

Chris Killip – What Happened: Great Britain 1970 –1990 (Exhibition)

Chris Killip is nominated for his exhibition What Happened – Great Britain 1970 –1990 at LE BAL, Paris (12 May – 19 August 2012). What Happened – Great Britain 1970 –1990 presents a series of black & white street photography images of working people in the north of England.

See this on vimeo here.

Chris Killip, Youth on Wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, 1976 Chris Killip, Boo and his rabbit, Lynemouth, 1983

Chris Killip, Helen and her hoola-hoop, Lynemouth, Northumberland, 1984 Chris Killip, Rocker and Rosie going home, Lynemouth, 1984

For me this was the least interesting to talk about in terms of the prize. Beautiful street photography, but I was left wondering why this had been nominated now? These images are 20-30 years old and have probably been in many exhibitions that would have been eligible over the years. The only conclusion I could come to was that there context had come back into public focus with the death of Maggie Thatcher. When I mentioned this to the tutors they seem to think this was likely and didn’t offer any competing explanation.

The video interview less interesting to me than the others probably because the work is self evident. There doesn’t need some grand explanation of the concept. Straight street photography from a bygone era which is pretty much what he says. A couple of interesting thoughts about these came up during our chats in the exhibition & over coffee, for example: does this style of photography still have relevance today? And it was interesting to see that Killip was immersed in local culture & known by people when he took these photographs (and, that he actually took these photographs!) This gave different side of photography than other nominees. I was also interested to note that floor four seemed to present images as fact, real historical documents (bring up photography as truth arguments) and were both based from exhibitions whereas all the next two, from floor five, play with fact & fictions and were presented as books. Clever and subtle curation on the part of the photographers gallery there to present different facets of the prize. As to the first question, yes, I think street photography will always have a place in contemporary photography because people will always want to document what other people are doing now and we love looking back on what was done then. I think the beauty of street photography only comes with time when the now passes into history and we can look back on it as then. In 30 years time, street photography taken today will be that much more exciting than those taken in 30 years (if we’re still using cameras and not some other whizzy gadget) will be to the people looking at it.

Winner: Broomberg and Chanarin – WAR PRIMER 2 (book)

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are nominated for their publication War Primer 2 (MACK, 2012). And this entry won the prize.

War Primer 2 is a limited edition book that physically inhabits the pages of Bertold Brecht’s 1955 publication War Primer. Brecht’s photo-essay comprises 85 images, photographic fragments or collected newspaper clippings, that were placed next to a four-line poem, called ‘photo-epigrams’. Broomberg and Chanarin layered Google image search results for the poems over Brecht’s originals in 100 books.

See this on vimeo here.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Plate 12, 2011 Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Plate 23, 2011

I first came across the two winners when I blogged this early last year: what is conceptual photography. I found this an interesting continuation of their ongoing quest to explore how war is imaged and what the “truth” is. Also interesting to note that while the other students were disputing Mishka Henner’s right to be nominated for the prize with google streetview images they were strangely quiet about this one, which is also essentially found images appropriated for the artists own message, as was the original book. In this case though, there is a real message which is I think the crucial difference. The original book depicted found war images and expanded and explained them with mini poems and captions. The new images, silkscreened over the top of the originals extend or play with the poems and you can see hints of the original images beneath.

This project deserved to win (despite my preferring the the Afronauts – see below), the parting quote from the video above says its all…

“There is a moment that gets photographed and it is a moment of somebody suffering, and then that moment is turned into a photograph and then that photograph becomes a piece of currency that is then distributed around the world”

You just have to look at p51 of their book for just one example and there are many others. You can download your own copy of the war primer 2 free here.

Cristina De Middel – The Afronauts (book)

Cristina De Middel is nominated for her publication The Afronauts (self-published, 2011).

In 1964, after gaining independence, Zambia started a space programme in order to send the first African astronaut to the moon, the Afronauts blends fact and fiction with beautiful photographs.

See this on vimeo here.

Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012 Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012 Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

This entry was my favourite. The tongue in cheek nature and playing with fiction and reality are what really attracts me to this. Its so creative and original. This injects some much needed fun into series of academic nominations. What is ‘real’? This is an analysis on truth in photography, and I think draws parallels with the winners who are also talking about photography as an inaccurate document which need interpreting with the ‘poems’.

“The pictures I was taking for newspapers were not true.”

My favourite image is the one that appears in the video at 02:00 of the man dreaming of the space race with his eyes closed and all the cut out stars behind him on the crumbling wall. Since this is her first book I am again wondering about how the nominations get chosen? How does a first self-published book get ‘seen’ to be nominated? It would be interesting to find out more information on how that side of the prize is worked out. Although she is entered in a number of other prizes. The photographers gallery blurb had this to say:

In addition to personal projects, De Middel has worked for publications such as Foam and Esquire, as well as various NGOs. Her work has been recognised by the National Photojournalism Prize Juan Cancelo (2009), Fnac Photographic Talent (2009) and the Humble Arts Women in Photography Project Grant (2011). She was a finalist at Open Call Guatephoto, Guatemala (2012), the winner of Photo Folio Review at Recontres de la Photographie, Arles, in 2012 and returned there as a participating artist this year. She was also a finalist at FotoPress, La Caixa, Spain this year.

The Afroanuts iPad app is available to download via www.ubicuostudio.com and I really enjoyed going through her projects and features on her website.

Previous winners of the prize are listed here.

Here are a few other write ups from the visit that I found online, I haven’t read them all yet but I look forward to going through them when I have some time:
We Are OCA
Ashley
Tad
Siegfried
Richard

ps: if anyone reading this is the lady or gentlemen who were taking photos of me while I was with headphones on listening to the interviews I’d love to see how that came out so please get in touch 🙂

July 15, 2012

“Out of focus” Saatchi Gallery Study Visit

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I went to the Saatchi Gallery group study visit yesterday to see the Out Of Focus Exhibition. Yes, thats me in the image above captured by Mike when we went back in after the study group had left – click the image to go to his website. As the first study visit I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a large group of 23 students & 3 tutors. We each got OCA badges so we’d be able to recognise other members of the group as we toured the gallery which worked well and we all chatted about the photos on the way around. It might have been nice to have name badges as well though because I have actually no idea of who anyone was because hardly anyone said their names.

As we went in I picked up an exhibition guide because the information on the wall by the photos was almost non existent, pretty much photographer name, print type and title. It gave some nice context when the work wasn’t self evident. As I went through I’d look at the work. Then read the guide and re-view the work. This way I got my first gut reaction, then my informed reaction before I formulated an opinion. For each one I then marked in the guide what I thought. I have put this guide in my paper logbook for reference.

The following were the highlights in my opinion:

Gallery 1 was Katy Grannan’s photos of random people in San Francisco and it was a good set of work with which to start of the exhibition as theres a lot to consider about it. In fact we had a rather lengthy dissection of it afterwards when we all had coffee (kindly paid for refreshments too). I had mixed reactions to the work, some I thought were amazing portraits but for some I thought she was not portraying the subjects at their best (and that’s putting it kindly). For each though, their personalities shone though for better or worse (for them). Also although they were all against a white wall they weren’t all against the same white wall. There were subtle differences in the wall to bring out different aspects of the photos, for example one was all chipped & broken with an angry looking punky woman, one had subtle graffiti and a big hairy, burly looking man who’d look at home on a Harley, some had the light hitting it from a different angle for more texture. One in particular, the woman’s hair was over her face (so she really was ‘anonymous’ – the title of them all) but all the textures were emphasised, the swishy material of her skirt, the fluffyness of her fur stole and the harsh light bringing out the texture in the wall.

Gallery 3 – don’t miss the amazing black & white collaged maps of Paris, Toyko and New York by Sohei Nishino. I could have spent hours looking at those. And the faces in the rocks of Matthew Day Jackson’s work. I couldn’t discern all of them. One of them especially looked like a UK electric plug more than a face.

Gallery 6 – look out for the first two by Ryan McGinley – tiny naked figures in incredible landscapes.

Gallery 10 was dominated by a triptych of mosaics (by Mat Collishaw) of horrible things happening (which is best viewed from the viewing platform above so you can see all three), however them gem for me in this gallery were the two photos by Noemie Goudal. Look closely at what you are seeing.

Gallery 12 – if I was going to be a street photographer I’d like to do something like the work of Hannah Starkey. I love her bold choice of backgrounds where the figure if incidental but integral to the photograph.

second floor lobby: Berndnaut Smilde – Nimbus II and underwater still from a commercial shoot by Phoebe Rudomino.

Also of interest the google photography prize on the top floor and the amazing oil installation by Richard Wilson on the lower ground floor – unfortunately they’ve closed the access to the viewing area which gives you a little vertigo trip when you stand right at the end (I suspect too many people were getting oil on themselves), but you can still get a good view of the work.

I only got around to seeing up to half of gallery 12 before we all trooped off for coffee but I went back in afterwards with my boyfriend to see the rest of the exhibition and the google prize. I really enjoyed my study visit and I urge anyone who isn’t sure to take the plunge and go on one! I’m also very glad that not many people took a camera, there only seemed to be one guy constant taking photos of everyone, hopefully he’ll edit them savagely and only show the super flattering ones (if any)!

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