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IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

24 Dec

PROBABLY

On the 23rd December 2014 I received the following image via the e-flux mailing list, that persistent inbox botherer nonetheless much loved by me for reliably delivering sheer gibberish art reviews and spambot-grade gallery press releases for me to make fun of. I have e-flux to thank for much of the nonsense to be featured in the forthcoming third series of Artbollocks Theatre.

Eflux

On the 24th September 2014, this image was uploaded to my blog. It originally featured in an episode of Artbollocks Theatre, in mockery of an artist who supposedly created “surprisingly deceptive planes.”

DeceptivePlane

Image: Alistair Gentry, 2014.

Wow, not only plagiarism but inferior plagiarism. Shia LaBeouf-tastic, my e-flux “comrades”! Nice to know you’re such fans of my blog and of Artbollocks Theatre, though. But maybe for her visual gag– such as it is– to work Ms. Lewis could have spent another thirty seconds in Photoshop to make sure the angle, lighting and orientation of the plane’s livery matched the geometry of the original (Creative Commons) photograph? Or to make it really blatantly a crude, unrealistic collage? You know, maybe commit properly to being one thing or the other? Or is it not cool to pay attention to details like this?

I think I just try too hard to do things well, that’s why I’m not as successful as some of the lazy hacks out there.

HE’S A CELEBRITY, GET HIM OUT OF HERE II

3 Feb

The Photographers’ Gallery in London is concurrently showing three collections of photographs by David Lynch, William Burroughs and Andy Warhol. I’m such a huge fan of David Lynch that I’m even prepared to forgive him his ridiculous adverts for Calvin Klein and for letting Twin Peaks degenerate into an aimless soap opera clusterfuck for most of its second season. Burroughs is probably not the kind of writer anybody in their right mind would be a fan of, but I like his work and he was undeniably a powerful stylist and one of the most influential and subversive authors of 1950s and 1960s. I’m totally indifferent to the majority of Andy Warhol’s screen prints, and to most other Pop Art for that matter. His work being worth millions of dollars is totally absurd.

Bearing all this in mind, it’s surprising that my opinion of these three mini exhibitions in completely inverse to my liking for their respective makers. There’s very little inherently interesting or revealing about the photographs by Lynch. We already know he really digs old factories. The same probably goes double for Burroughs since a good proportion of the pictures so reverently displayed are mere snapshots, and probably never intended to be anything more. His collage work is less interesting in its actuality than it is in its concept and the influence it had upon others. In other words, nobody would give any of Lynch’s or Burroughs’ photographs a second glance if we didn’t already know they were by the famous film director David Lynch or by William Burroughs the famous writer, junkie and guy you probably shouldn’t play the William Tell Game with. It’s part of a disturbing trend in supposedly contemporary galleries towards the moribund and the just plain necrophiliac; two of the three artists aren’t even alive anymore, and every celebrity who has a show like this is literally preventing a deserving, living, working, non-famous artist from having an exhibition instead. Do we really need to see the contents of William Burroughs’ photo shoebox?

DavidHermanFuturama2011AWConversely– and to me surprisingly– Warhol’s photography actually does have some independent merit. There’s proof in them, if proof were needed, of an artistic sensibility that saw the potential for art everywhere and in everything, a sly sense of humour, and a distinct tendency towards a kind of mundane surrealism. The walls are also painted a nice duck egg colour, which is the kind of thing I always appreciate. White walls are boring.

The whole thing continues until the 30th March 2014. Even if you’re local and this is the kind of thing that blows your skirt up, I still strongly suggest you go for free on a Monday, or on a Thursday evening, rather than pay to see it.

You should also check out Alan Warburton’s animation in the foyer, which I enjoyed because it looks like the result of somebody trying their best to master 3D software while under the influence of horse tranquilisers. This is not a negative criticism, by the way. It’s a good thing. I think we could do without the curator telling us it’s made of 750 trillion pixels or whatever, though. Nobody cares. If you haven’t got anything informative or enlightening to say, curators, please say nothing at all.

DEUTSCHE BÖRSE PHOTOGRAPHY PRIZE

16 May

THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ GALLERY, LONDON, 18TH APRIL-30TH JUNE 2013

The first thing I noticed, and the reason I went back to The Photographers’ Gallery after boycotting it in disgust last year, is that they seem to have quietly reverted to not charging entry fees for their exhibitions. Victory is mine. When they’re publicly funded and sponsored for exhibitions by the Deutsche Börse and The Telegraph, then it bloody well should be free. They knew I was right, obviously. It’s good to be the king. I wonder what Mr and Mrs Telegraph (retired) think of Mishka Henner scouring Google Street View for itinerant rural prostitutes, though? I suspect they would take a dim view of the whole venture, even if the prostitutes are primly referred to as “sex workers” at the gallery, and described in an even more absurdly PC and “let’s not judge, mmkay?” manner on the web site as “isolated women occupying the margins of southern European environments.” Or maybe Mr Telegraph would be well into it and he might even like to get URLs and grid refs so the dirty Tory pig can check out some of the “isolated women” first hand.

It’s not nice to think that women have to sit in plastic garden chairs by a motorway so some nasty scumbag can come along and buy blow jobs, but get real… it isn’t in any way inaccurate or out of line to call them prostitutes.

Mishka-Henner

Mishka Henner, SS98, Cerignola Foggia, Italy, 2012.

I’d seen Henner’s work before, and I really like the eerie, desolate, and profoundly un-erotic world he’s created with this series of pictures. It reminded me somewhat of David Lynch’s mild obsession with uncanny hookers in odd places, as seen in Twin Peaks, Blue VelvetLost Highway and Inland Empire, etc.

It’s also very interesting that half the nominees (Henner and Christina De Middel) are showing work that’s completely outside the tiny comfort zone of anybody who still worries that photography is not quite art. Henner’s obviously working with a database of found material in a way that definitely stands on its own feet as art, and De Middel’s work is from a self-published book. It’s a huge step forward to see self-publishing and digital practice acknowledged in this way, even though I also love veteran old school photographer Chris Killip’s monochrome, classically photographer-y, authoritative and didactic pictures of decaying communities in the north of England in the 70s and 80s, as Thatcherism set about destroying what was left of them.

Although– or possibly because– they’re beautifully staged, shot and finished, I have some reservations about De Middel’s work. I doubt she’s being deliberately colonial, but her African astronauts (or “Afronauts“: see what she did there?) look a bit too much like they could be some kind of wilfully quirky and borderline racist fashion shoot for a stupid magazine like Wallpaper*. Quirky and racist. “Quiracist”. To get a bit pompous and sociologist-like in the mode that I mocked in the first paragraph, there’s something a bit othering and hegemonic about the way this body of work seems to be suggesting that the idea of Africans in space is inherently odd, funny or inconceivable, even if The Afronauts is partially based on Zambia’s real and fairly inept attempts at space flight.

In the real world I passed on quickly from Broomberg and Chanarin’s War Primer 2, and I’ll do the same here. Brecht, war is hell, pasting over somebody else’s work, incredibly ugly artist’s book, Google, something, something. Basic art school stuff: very dated, very dull (or “dullted”). What’s it doing here?

ONE OF THESE IS ART: CHRIS MARKER / REDDIT CREEPSHOTS

19 Oct

CHRIS MARKER, SELECTED WORKS 1957-2011, LOUISE BLOUIN FOUNDATION, 9 OCTOBER–3 NOVEMBER 2012

Dozens of furtive, objectifying, fetishistic pictures taken of women in public places without their knowledge or consent apparently constitutes an art exhibition to some people. Except when they’re on Reddit in the currently super-controversial Creepshots (i.e. the place where men post furtive, objectifying, fetishistic pictures taken of women in public places without their knowledge or consent) in which case they’re just weird fapping material for a few, but exceedingly problematic and distasteful to nearly everybody else. I will again state my belief that not everything an artist does is necessarily art, even if they themselves claim it as such. I will also recommend not looking at the parts of Reddit where things like Creepshots– and far, far worse– are nurtured and validated.

This exhibition at Artinfo/Modern Painters oligarch Louise Blouin’s art space in west London– in the contemporary silo gallery style, and therefore consisting mostly of white paint, cavernous wasted space and the flinty eyes of sullen gallery maids peeping out above oppressively high white cuboids– was presumably in the pipeline long before Marker snuffed it earlier this year. But one can’t help thinking that Passengers (AKA Creepshots) being flagged as his last work possibly indicates that if he’d lived he might have had the sense to think again about showing work that could literally be printouts from Reddit, both in terms of subject matter and the (very low) quality of the images themselves. There’s also some truly horrible Photoshop work to be seen on the prints of images he took in North Korea in the 50s; pretty clearly, he didn’t ‘shop them during the Korean War, so again somebody seems to have been making bad decisions on behalf of an artist who’s obviously no longer in a position to police how his work gets shown.

I’m actually a huge, nerdily knowledgeable fan of Marker’s films and installations. Static pictures on walls seem almost irrelevant to any survey of his work. La Jetée, his most famous work, drives this point home. It’s made of still images, but it’s the montage and the journey through time diegetically and structurally that makes these still images work. As contextless still individual images, most of them have little relevance , interest or meaning. Obviously the mainstream art business is still for the most part about having things to hang on walls, even if the artist is primarily a film maker or a performer, and so film makers and performers who want to get on make token things to go on walls, and so other artists have to do the same, and so it goes on. This exhibition is absolutely dominated by still images, a perverse state of affairs for an artist who expressed himself most and best through moving ones. An installation plonked almost as an afterthought near the doorway gives a glimpse of the real Marker with intensely edited and exquisitely structured fragments from silent movies and old stock footage, but Blouin is apparently of the orthodox view that we don’t deserve seating or any other form of comfort to experience long-form video art.

Seriously, people, the room must be at least 20m x 20m. You have space for a few damn chairs.

YOU ONLY PAY TWICE

13 Oct

The Photographers’ Gallery in London has suddenly decided to start charging £5 to enter their formerly free exhibitions. To help us all decide whether we think charging £5 for a very small exhibition in a state funded art gallery is fair and justified– although the size is not really the principle at stake– here is some information taken verbatim from their most recent brochure:

“The Photographers’ Gallery acknowledges the generous support of Arts Council England, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Lloyd Family Trusts, The Wolfson Foundation, The Eranda Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, individual donors, corporate partners, other foundations and those who wish to remain anonymous, whose contributions have made the new building for The Photographers’ Gallery possible.

Arts Council England Lottery Funded. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Shoot! Existential Photography co-produced by Les Recontres Arles Photographie and Museum für Photographie Braunschweig.”

NOTE 1: If it’s the Photographers’ Gallery, shouldn’t photographers get in free?

NOTE 2: The public exhibition in the foyer is of cat pictures from the internet. Although anybody can see it for free, TPG is still a publicly funded organisation exploiting a free resource in a paid venue with no remuneration to the makers, instead of– oh, just picking a random example– paying an actual working photographer to show their work to the public. “The Wall is sponsored by Esmée Fairburn Foundation, Lavazza, Sharp.”

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