Art in the Age of Social Distancing

This was the final speaker series for the 2020 Capture Photography Festival and I think it closed on a high note. The presenter was Cliff Lauson, Senior Curator of The Hayward Gallery in London. Although the talk was about Art in the Age of Social Distancing, Lauson stressed that the thinking behind the talk definitely predated the pandemic. The main thrust of the talk was aimed at the place of art in social media and the experience economy, the focus being on lens based images. It looks at the triangulation between lens based art, the economy and social media.

He mentioned influencer events – receptions with mood lighting where influences and Instagramers were all in the exhibition, posing for each other, a separate event from the main press view, more an event of people showing the show, but also showing themselves seeing. Many of these people come to the exhibition with the specific purpose of taking photos so they actually pack various changes of clothes in which to photograph themselves in, take one set of photos, change in the washrooms and come out and continue taking photos. Strange phenomenon! Part of that phenomenon would be places like the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco. Lauson describes it as the most eye-popping rooms, brightly coloured and themed, instantly Instagramable kind of rooms and experiences one could have.  The purpose is to go have fun, take loads of photos and these type of venues demonstrate some kind of aspirations of having fun, because they are basically empty sets until they become populated by people. Lauson did an opinion piece about this experience economy in the Globe and Mail last year, which I wanted to read, but the newspaper requires a subscription. Some of these experience museums he mentioned are Color Factory, Eye Candy, Museum of Illusion, The Egg HouseThe Dream Machine to mention just a few. Something that I had never really thought about was that these places charge quite exorbitant entry fees – some up to $40 – which is far more than any art museum charges and it is this that drives this “experience economy”.  The performance of the self becomes the base for this new economy, based on an aspirational lifestyle. The Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience is  a hybrid between educational experience and a form of entertainment because it is an exhibition that has no art work in it, but replica of different scales, and Lauson regards it as a visual hyperbole as the installations are larger than life and contributes to the sense of visual bombardment that we have today.

Art is about how we relate to each other and if social media is a way in which we interact with each other, then art and culture is a part of that, but social media is not the defining feature of it at this point in time.

Screen grab from presentation: Nam June Paik – Three Camera Participation/Participation TV 1969/2001

Nam June Paik was really interested in how to engage the viewer in the artwork. Other artists mentioned were Lee Friedlander and his self-portraits, also from the 1960s. Friedlander always came across as very self-conscious, self referential. His self-portraits have a realist style to them and his way of making the pictures is honest, yet awkward, not idealised and contain an element of chance. They are the opposite of selfies that one sees on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok and they invite a slowness in looking.

Stephen Shore also uses Instagram, taking photos with his phone, but then curates them for the gallery afterwards. He does maintain certain boundaries in that he won’t put up any food pictures.

Lauson mentioned a book by Jonathan Crary 24/7, published by Verso Books in 2014. The book is a backlash to the dominance of online visual culture and is basically a criticism of the lack of sleep that everyone seems to be experience when obsessed with their phones. Crary regards this as injurious to the fabric of society, comparing it to militarization tactics of sleep deprivation. He may have a valid point there.

Other points Lauson covered were the circulation of imagery – the speed and the sense of missing out and feeling the need to put something online, and this paradox of time, in theory now of having more time to fill up with all that visuality. Many galleries have now become content providers, putting exhibitions online.

Some of the artwork referenced was Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Nexus Architecture, made in 2001, but could have been specifically made to depict the idea of social distancing in this pandemic today. An-My Lê’s Night Operations body of work represents a simulacrum. It was made during the time of the Gulf War, but was actually made on a training ground in California. It shows what a conflict looks like and appeared  hyperreal on TV. Cameras on the ends of smart bombs also provide a visual demonstration of what has become part of our visual language. Following on from this is drone-based policing, which we are seeing so much of on the news lately. Lauson talks of the eye being displaced – we are now being watched by robots – a culture of surveillance, the Panopticon. Surely the drone would representing the all seeing eye. I wonder what Foucault would have made of it? Candida Höfer’s work of empty theatres, temples and churches are also particularly relevant in this Covid-era as those empty public spaces relate to our empty cities. The spectacle now demonstrating an element of “nowness”.

Lauson finished off the talk by mentioning the movie Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker, which is a dystopian sci-fi about how technology, taken to its end leads to  undesirable consequences. The title comes from when you turn your device off all you have is a black mirror that contains a reflection of yourself. A reversal in a way – when the device is turned off, then you have a mirror of yourself as a kind of selfie. Art is an empathetic discipline, art works ask for us to relate to them, but at the same time when they are presented through screens, they have to obey the medium. So your relationship with art has to be negotiated and defined by the specificities whatever app or software you are using. On top of that we are asked to be hyper-conscious of space, yourself, your body, your 2 metres from other bodies, but also then to be hyper-conscious of the performance of self and the illusion of space. All of which are quite difficult for art to achieve. What is also challenging for art is its capacity to disrupt as it is very hard to disrupt the medium from within the medium.

Some of the questions asked at the end:

Q: Should artists be adapting for screens?

A: That is up to each artist and the way things are transmitted, also depends on how much visibility is to be maintained.

Q: How are commercial galleries transitioning, and who is leading the way?

A: Commercial galleries obviously have the funding to get up and running virtually. There is some online engagement by museums. One can’t place a value on one or the other.

There was a tremendous amount of information to take in with this lecture and very thought provoking. Being very much an observer of the selfie-generation (I don’t have a mobile phone), many aspects of the talk were quite enlightening for me. Definitely need to read through my notes again for this and research more of the works mentioned.

 

Bibliography

Capture Photography Festival (2020) Art in the Age of Social Distancing. At: https://capturephotofest.com/events/art-in-the-age-of-social-distancing/ (Accessed  30/04/2020).

Color Factory (s.d.) At: https://www.colorfactory.co/ (Accessed  04/05/2020).

Davis, B. (2018) What Happens When an Art Critic Reviews an Instagram Trap? Turns Out, That’s a Trick Question. At: https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/dream-machine-review-1313972 (Accessed  04/05/2020).

Museum of Ice Cream | San Francisco (s.d.) At: https://www.museumoficecream.com/san-francisco (Accessed  04/05/2020).

Museum of Illusions (s.d.) Museum of Illusions. At: https://museumofillusions.ca/exhibits/ (Accessed  04/05/2020).

Stone, C. (2018) This Egg-Themed Pop-Up Is So Crazy It Might Work. At: https://www.bonappetit.com/story/the-egg-house-pop-up (Accessed  04/05/2020).

Studio Orta (2001) Nexus Architecture x 50 Intervention. At: https://www.studio-orta.com/en/artwork/103/Nexus-Architecture-x-50-Intervention-Koeln (Accessed  04/05/2020).

The Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience – Official Trailer (2017) Directed by Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=TJMCwmjQgG0&feature=emb_logo (Accessed  04/05/2020).

This Is Eye Candy.com (s.d.) At: https://www.thisiseyecandy.com/explore-eye-candy-toronto/ (Accessed  04/05/2020).

Gohar Dashti – Dissonance

This exhibition was supposed to be part of this month’s Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver, but obviously due to the Covid-19 pandemic all these events have now been cancelled. Fortunately the West Vancouver Art Museum has put this exhibition online. I must say that I think they have done an excellent job with the online curation. The gallery is very small consisting of two rooms and an alcove, but I’ve always enjoyed visiting it as it has a very intimate feel about it. All the images are presented singularly online, then followed by the in situ photographs.

Dashti’s work will resonate with anyone who has been through an emigration/immigration process. An immigrant’s mental state of finding a new home, learning to fit in, what to take with you, how to get there and the obvious and unexpected hardships that accompany this whole process, whether as refugee or legal immigrant is a theme that runs through her work.

In the first room, Gohar Dashti’s series Home is displayed. The photographs are of derelict or abandoned houses that have been overrun with vegetation. The outside has invaded the inside. Is this the new norm in the absence of people? In the second room (Stateless) there is a subverted juxtaposition of people living in strange landscapes – hostile evidenced by a couple crouching behind a barrier of sandbags on which a birthday cake balances with its burning sparkler. Brightly coloured streamers decorate their foreground and are strung between trees in the background, but on the ground in front of them are mortar shells and a discarded hand grenade. This image connotes the statelessness of these people by placing them behind a barrier, between boundaries, hinting at the danger in front of them (their future perhaps?), but leave their past (the background) in a rather ambiguous state.

Today’s Life and War, 2008 by Gohar Dashti

The alcove contained prints of plants that have been uprooted and photographed in a botanical fashion in a studio. This series is called Uprooted.

Taken together, the works in this exhibition subvert the distinction between indoor and outdoor environments. Dashti’s transposition of home and wilderness into unexpected and uncertain places evokes the fragility of daily norms during wartime and migration. The walls and ceiling may crumble without warning, or home must be abandoned at a moment’s notice; and yet, life must go on.

West Vancouver Art Museum, 2020

Bibliography

Dashti, G. (2020) Dissonance | West Vancouver Art Museum. At: https://westvancouverartmuseum.ca/exhibitions/gohar-dashti-dissonance (Accessed  01/04/2020).

Vikky Alexander: Extreme Beauty

I have seen bits and pieces of Vikky Alexander’s work over the past years, but only as very small exhibitions (5-6pieces) so it was quite refreshing to see this first retrospective of her work from the last three decades. Alexander is a Canadian artist and the major themes that have occupied her career are the appropriated image, investigations into consumer culture, how nature is represented and how we are estranged from it, and the seduction of space. The exhibition was laid out over almost the entire second floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the pieces were well spaced with good viewing distances.

Alexander began photographing and recontextualising fashion images from glossy magazines such as Vogue. By enlarging and juxtapositioning her prints she made it evident that her prints were obtained from existing mass media productions. She frequently used fashion images in order to focus on the way seduction is manifested visually, and the way that the female form and its erotic potential is used create consumer desire. She very often would arrange her images in new forms, e.g. a cross or triptych to suggest the spiritual nature of a shopping spree, or coloured plexiglass to re-colour the image and further decontextualise it.

During the  mid 1980s Alexander stopped rephotographing images, and started using materials such as wallpaper, wood laminate, mirrors and other mass produced materials in her exploration of how nature is cultivated and used within architectural spaces. ‘These surfaces function as both the subject of Alexander’s photographs and her actual materials, which beam viewers back at themselves’ (Laurence, 2019). I was quite taken with her Lake in the Woods installation which was placed in one of the corridors. Three huge floor to ceiling prints of the same scene with a varying focal point in each are situated opposite cheap mirror tiles atop wood panelling. The prints are reflected back in the mirrors offering second- and even third-hand views of the world. Alexander likens this installation to a pop version of the Claude glass where viewers had to turn their backs on the landscape to view the landscape scenery.

Her installation Vaux-le-Vicomte Panorama, is composed of eight mirrored columns set in V-formation in front of a large screen projection of the 17th century French garden. As one comes around the corner to enter the room, one is not immediately aware of the projection. You just see some reflections in the mirrored pillars. Only as you fully enter the dark room and make your way past all the pillars do you encounter the full image. With both these installations I was more interested in the reflections than the actual photographs themselves. Perhaps the mirrored tiles in Lake in the Woods allowed me to see more of the landscape at one time, which was almost impossible to do with the close distance of the large prints. I know I was bobbing this way and that trying to change my viewpoints with both installations.

Alexander photographs shopping malls, and other venues of consumer consumption, e.g. Las Vegas, Disneyland, ornamental French gardens, etc., and sometimes displays her photos in lightboxes, which mimic the store front/window shopping experience. Like Hannah Starkey, she makes a lot of use of mirrors in her images.

While it was good to see a broader selection of her work this time, I can’t say I was overwhelmed or terribly inspired. I think my take away points from this exhibition had more to do with the different strategies that were used to present work than anything else.

I started watching Vikky Alexander’s Artist Talk that she gave at the Vancouver Art Gallery about the retrospective, but it was so slow with a lot of dreaded dead air space – pauses with no commentary and she always seemed to be discussing a photograph that wasn’t on the accompanying screen (yet). It was akin to watching molasses flow down hill. So I fast forwarded to the Q&A section hoping to glean a bit more insight into her work, but was quite disappointed with the answers she gave the curator and the audience. Maybe she is incredibly shy, but I found she has great difficulty explaining her vision. She states she is not “an issue driven artist” and that the work comes first and then she’ll see if it addresses anything or not afterwards. Her answer to an audience member of whether anyone had ever gone after her for copyright violation was “No, but they could”. She then explained that a lot of the work from the 1980s was not shown in commercial galleries and that she “was under the radar” as she had not made a lot of money from the work and that her editions were very limited, and that the Vancouver Art Gallery had an excellent lawyer! Not quite a statement I would have expected a photographer to make.

So after uploading this post I came across another video of Vikky Alexander which was just made two weeks ago. She is far more eloquent in this video and gives a better rationale of her work.

Bibliography

Artist Talk: Vikky Alexander (2019) Directed by Vancouver Art Gallery. At: https://vimeo.com/349137568 (Accessed  06/11/2019).

Laurence, R. (2019) Vikky Alexander queries Extreme Beauty at the Vancouver Art Gallery | Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly. At: https://www.straight.com/arts/1262086/vikky-alexander-queries-extreme-beauty-vancouver-art-gallery (Accessed  03/12/2019).

Studio Visit: Vikky Alexander (2019) Directed by Vancouver Art Gallery. At: https://vimeo.com/374226734 (Accessed  03/12/2019).

Cindy Sherman

This is the first retrospective of Cindy Sherman’s work in Canada for 20 years and spans work from her student days in the 1970s right up to 2019 and I was so fortunate that it came to the Vancouver Art Gallery. The exhibition was on at the National Portrait Gallery in London earlier this year, but according to senior curator Magda Keaney at the NPG (CBC Listen radio broadcast), there is one new extra photograph that is in the Vancouver exhibition (Sicilian Boy). When I stepped through the doors to the gallery I was immediately stopped in my tracks by the sheer size of her work. Cindy Sherman three times life size is quite an awesome sight to behold!

This retrospective covered an amazing selection of the work Sherman has done over five decades. Apart from the photography, it also featured her studio space, bookshelves, props cupboards, mood board, sketchbooks with ideas, student work, and even an album she must have made when she was a teenager, which contained photos of herself from babyhood to teenager. Even then her interest in identity was apparent.

 

There were over 200 prints in the exhibition. Truly mind boggling and so much to take in. Her earlier work which was done in analogue is quite small compared to her later work once she went down the digital route. The detail that one can see in her digital prints is quite spectacular – every pore and blemish stands out and the sheer size of them rather reminded me of the work of the old masters in the Renaissance period.

Although every piece of work in the exhibition is a portrait of Sherman, they are not  self-portraits. Making use of props, prosthetics, costumes, hair/wigs and makeup, she totally transforms her appearance. She explores cultural archetypes, history, age and social status, parodies fashion and questions the illusion in images, all the while inviting the viewer to project onto the images rather like a tabula rasa. As Sherman states (Wetzler, 2019):

I’m trying to erase myself more than identify myself or reveal myself. That’s a big, confusing thing that people have with my work: they think I’m trying to reveal these secret fantasies or something. It’s really about obliterating myself within these characters.’

The images are very powerful and reminiscent of the culture we live in today and her work has remained relevant throughout all these decades. The irony of her work rests on the historical aspect of the lack of control women had over their lives and the fact that with these images she has taken back that control. The exhibition was well laid out and there was plenty of viewing space. The rooms holding the very large portraits were hung in such a way so as not to overwhelm the viewer – usually about two portraits to a wall. But the room where her earlier work, e.g. Film Stills series were hung, were much larger and conversely the photos were much smaller and hung closer together so one had to get right up close to the work. I do have one complaint though. As a retrospective I would have liked to view her work in order that she did it so that I could see the progression, but the exhibition has two entrances at the front and instead I landed up viewing it in reverse order and only realised this when I was about three quarters of the way through. If I had had the time I would have gone through the exhibition again in the correct order, but unfortunately I didn’t.

I have to confess that until prior to this exhibition I was not a great Cindy Sherman fan, but after seeing this exhibition I came away totally gobsmacked and have done a full 180 degree turnaround. The exhibition ends in March 2020 and if I make it to Vancouver before then I am definitely going to go back for a second, more leisurely visit.

 

Bibliography

Burnett, C. (2019) When a Self-Portrait is So Much More. At: https://montecristomagazine.com/magazine/volume-12/cindy-sherman (Accessed  06/11/2019).

Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery (s.d.) Directed by The Art Channel. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9Vh28sqXmQ (Accessed  06/11/2019).

Cindy Sherman exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery takes self-image to another level | CBC News (2019) At: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/cindy-sherman-vancouver-art-gallery-1.5338437 (Accessed  06/11/2019).

Curator Magda Keaney on the new Cindy Sherman exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery | On The Coast with guest host Jason D’Souza | Live Radio (2019) In: CBC Listen. Directed by Macarenko, G. 25/10/2019. 6 minutes 26 seconds. At: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-46-on-the-coast/clip/15743676-curator-magda-keaney-on-the-new-cindy-sherman-exhibit-at-the-vancouver-art-gallery (Accessed  06/11/2019).

Wetzler, R. (2019) An interview with Cindy Sherman | Apollo Magazine. At: https://www.apollo-magazine.com/cindy-sherman-interview/ (Accessed  06/11/2019).

Black Forest (Village) – Diana Thorneycroft

I seem to be discovering new Canadian photographers lately. I was checking out the nearby towns’ local art gallery exhibitions this week and saw that the Vernon Public Art Gallery was highlight a photography exhibition by Diana Thorneycroft as one of its main exhibitions. Thorneycroft hails from Winnipeg, Canada and has exhibited across Canada, USA, Europe as well as in Moscow, Tokyo and Sydney. The only information accompanying one tiny photo on the VPAG’s website about the exhibition was: “Her work is anything but conventional, as she finds herself “merging beauty with the grotesque.” Her exhibition Black Forest (dark waters) is a series of photographs and a large diorama that tell a dark tale about mutant creatures, their herdsmen and the town they live in. In these works, Thorneycroft continues to embrace the grotesque” (Vernon Public Art Gallery). So of course I was intrigued!

I quickly located her personal website (https://dianathorneycroft.com/) and started to look at her work online. Her work prior to the Black Forest series is mischievous and sometimes imbued with slightly dark humour. I was immediately reminded of David Levinthal’s work as both Thorneycroft and Levinthal use dolls/toys to create dioramas of the scenes that they are shooting. I first came across Levinthal’s work when researching for my essay during the Landscape module.  Although both photographers create dioramas for their work, their shooting techniques and subject matter are very different. Levinthal makes use of a lot of blur in his work which creates ambiguity from the viewer’s perspective – one really has to examine his work to discover that he is using dolls and this in turn tends towards surrealism. Some of his images in his Hitler Moves East series have quite a distinctive Robert Capa-like effect to them. His subject matter ranges from Hitler to Barbie to porn to the Wild West to Space. Some of his series are also humourous, while others are more thought-provoking and serious.

While Thorneycroft’s work is also quite surreal, she tends to have everything in sharp focus. She concentrates on issues of Canadian identity, tourism, Canadian culture and industry, using Canadian posters or calendars of famous Canadian landscapes, icons, hockey players and wildlife as backdrops to her dioramas. Her series that I really preferred was Group of Seven Awkward Moments in which she used paintings made by members of the Group of Seven (a group of Canadian landscape painters formed in 1920 – Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley) as her backdrops. I think this is probably her most tongue-in-cheek work as if one looks carefully, many items of Canadiana are revealed in her little dioramas and one can clearly see that she is having some fun at her fellow countrymen/women’s expense. Her Canadians and Americans body of work is also filled with humour as she investigates the relationship between the two countries.

But the Black Forest exhibition that I saw was entirely different in character. Some of the dioramas that Thorneycroft used were exhibited as an installation in the centre of the room and I found these more intriguing than the actual photos and it was an interesting exercise to match the diorama to the specific photograph. The Black Forest exhibition consists of a mythical narrative that runs through the entire body of work. Grotesque faun-like creatures seem to reign in this little kingdom, performing strange acts, dark acts. There is an element of paganism that seems to dominate in this series – goats heads, three-headed dogs, snakes, offerings and deities. Some of the scenes depicted were rather chilling in fact. There was no accompanying text in the viewing room, or on her website, but I think this is done on purpose as the viewer really does have to author his/her own narrative with this particular body of work. The prints were about 21 x 30 inches in size so presented as a good viewing size to examine the details in the photos.

Black Forest (Village) Installation – Diana Thorneycroft

I came away in awe at the amount of work that must go into each scene before a photograph can be made. The details on the diorama structures were astounding! The actual subject matter of the exhibition is not exactly my cup of tea, but I did appreciate her other works which I examined in detail on her website.

Bibliography

Thorneycroft, D. (s.d.) Black Forest. At: https://dianathorneycroft.com/collections/12066/ (Accessed  02/11/2019).

Vernon Public Art Gallery (2019) Black Forest (village). At: http://www.vernonpublicartgallery.com/project/diana-thorneycroft-black-forest-village/ (Accessed  02/11/2019).

Primary Colour – Equinox Gallery

Part of the Capture Photography Festival this year was this group exhibition, Primary Colour, featuring early colour street photography work from 1950 to 1979 by Fred Herzog, Vivian Maier, Gordon Parks, Helen Levitt, Harry Callahan, Ernst Haas, Saul Leiter and Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston. Each photograph selected reflects the ethos of the flâneur as a wandering observer of city life.

I always love going to the Equinox Gallery, even though it is quite small, consisting of two rather large rooms. The rooms are spacious allowing for room to stand back, if necessary, without bumping into other folks. After viewing A Handful of Dust in the morning, this exhibition was very welcomingly light-hearted in content and extremely colourful. This was the first time I had seen Vivian Maier’s work in the flesh and I was pleased that there was a good selection of her work for this little exhibition. This was a veritable who’s who in street photography and walking down the long walls looking at the photos was almost a simulation of the flâneur’s stroll in the city. The excitement and vibe of the streets exuded from all the images. I could see similarities in Vivian Maier’s work to that of Fred Herzog – perhaps it was the way they both seem to distill their photographs down to the essence of what is taking place from of them without all the accompanying noise that . They both definitely had an eye for the surreal.

A Handful of Dust – David Campany

I saw this exhibition during 2019 Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver in the new Polygon Gallery which is dedicated to photography. The exhibition evolved from a photograph taken by Man Ray in 1920 of dust on a glass plate belonging to Marcel Duchamp. When the photograph was first published in 1922 is was entitled “View from an aeroplane”, but in 1964 it was formally titled “Dust Breeding” and signed by Man Ray and Duchamp. The photograph raises questions about the function of the photograph – is it a document or art?  During the time period between the two World Wars it appeared in various avant-garde journals in different perspectives and has since raised many debates regarding photography’s status as either index or trace.

Man Ray, in collaboration with Marcel Duchamp. Dust Breeding, 1920.

The exhibition features many photos showing the aftermath of disasters (bombs, collapsed houses, explosions, broken up concrete and so on). I found this exhibition quite hard work and I would have liked to spend more time there, but I was constrained for time. The first room was painted dark green so made the viewing process quite difficult. I think this was probably intentionally done as I’ve seen photos of the exhibition when it was on in London and the walls were painted in the same hue. This room, however, featured the historical photos, some of which were quite small so one really had to get up close in order to read them. The other two rooms were painted white which allowed for better viewing. Campany explains in his lecture at the Polygon Gallery (below) that, because a proposition is suggested that connections exist between photographs, the layout of the exhibition has to be very carefully worked out; the sight lines of what is next to an image, or further down a wall and what you can’t see that is behind you creates an exhibition which is more than its parts.

À cause de l’élevage de poussière 1991-2007 by Sophie Ristelhueber

The above photograph by Sophie Ristelhueber was directly influenced by the Man Ray/Duchamp image. In the show Ristelhueber’s image serves as the book end to ‘Dust Breeding’ and Campany states that everything in between these two photographs is just speculation. He did not want to have a narrative about the show, but rather wanted it to be open ended.

Statue (‘Double Check’ by Seward Johnson), New York, 11 September 2001 by Jeff Mermestein

Campany also gives some wonderful insight into how the accompany book was conceived and put together and the importance of the photobook these days. A quick flip through the book accompanying this show can be seen below:

Campany’s lecture at the Polygon Gallery below:

Bibliography

a Handful of Dust: Lecture with David Campany. (2019) Directed by The Polygon Gallery. North Vancouver. At: https://vimeo.com/320625163 (Accessed on 30 September 2019)

A Handful of Dust by David Campany. (2018) Directed by unobtainium photobooks At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OMlSpYBAac (Accessed on 6 June 2019)

A Seat at the Table

I quickly popped into the local art gallery for the first time this past week to have a look at the ‘A Seat at the Table’ exhibition currently on display. The gallery is quite small and unfortunately I was not allowed to take any photos of the exhibits.

The work on display was of mixed media and featured ten different artists. The exhibition was about food issues being at the ‘front of mind in this era of overpopulation, declining resources and industrial-style management of organic systems’ (Salmon Arm Observer, 2019).  2D artists Sara Wiens, David Wilson and Sarah Hope featured work about agriculture and biodiversity. Maria Thomas presented work about de-colonizing the diet. Anne Long and Ava Wutke presented work about forgotten knowledge about the role of food plants. Basket-makers Patricia Purdaby, Delores Purdaby and Gerry Thomas exhibited First Nations baskets made from birch bark that are traditionally used for berry-picking and other food harvesting. Kristall Burgess, a photographer had a display of photos depicting a harvest.

I found the display of birch baskets quite fascinating. It is quite remarkable to think that such an object can be fashioned from tree bark. From what I remember from the gallery notes, only the outer layer of the bark is removed, ensuring that the tree is not damaged.

Dene birch-bark basket: maker unknown. Photo courtesy UBC Museum of Anthropology.

There was a rather large display of cards or sheets of paper which had been drawn on in the centre of the gallery but no accompanying text. I only realised when trying to find a review on this exhibition, which I haven’t been able to find, that this was work done by some youths.

I was rather disappointed with this exhibition. Most of the artists, except those who made the baskets, and the photographer, only had one piece of work in the exhibition and it felt a little scattered to me. Granted the gallery space is extremely small, its previous life being that of a post office. Some of the work was too abstract for me to even connect it to food issues. I saw a connection between the basketry and the photography as they were both concerned with a harvest theme. Sadly I cannot find websites for any of the mentioned artists to further explore their work and methods.

 

Bibliography

Hope, S. (s.d.) Sarah Hope @sarahhope_art’s Instagram Post | PicoMico. At: https://www.picomico.com/p/2061613275569148828_55048078 (Accessed on 30 June 2019)

Museum of Anthropology at UBC (2013) Researching birch-bark basketry. At: https://moa.ubc.ca/2013/05/birch-bark-basketry/ (Accessed on 30 June 2019)

Salmon Arm Observer (2019) Exhibit digs into food security, sovereignty and sustainability – Salmon Arm Observer. At: https://www.saobserver.net/entertainment/exhibit-digs-into-food-security-sovereignty-and-sustainability/ (Accessed on 30 June 2019)

Taehoon Kim – Finding My Father at Yongpyong

Taehoon Kim is a Vancouver-based photographer specialising in documentary and journalism and has earned recognition from Diversify Photo, Photo District News (PDN) and News Photographers Association of Canada (NPAC). As part of the Capture Photography Festival, this exhibition was displayed in the Lynn Valley District Library.

Finding My Father at Yongpyong is a personal journey for Kim. His father was the chief architect of the Yongpyong Ski Resort between 1974 and 1993 and this resort became one of the host sites for the 2018 Winter Olympics. When Yongpyong opened, it became the first ski resort where South Koreans could afford to pursue leisure activities. When Pyeongchang was name host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics Kim returned to South Korea to see the resort his father had helped create.

Finding My Father at Yongpyong by Taehoon Kim

There is a nostalgic thread running through this body of work and one is acutely aware of the feeling that something is missing. I feel Kim is trying to reconnect with his father through photographing places that his father designed and helped create.

Finding My Father at Yongpyong by Taehoon Kim

As Kim states in his artist’s statement he and his father grew apart when they immigrated to Canada and it is this lack of connection that I feel is evident in Kim’s work. It is extremely sad when children drift apart from their parents only to realise too late that those precious times together can never be recovered.

Finding My Father at Yongpyong by Taehoon Kim

Kim states further than he hopes through these photographs to capture his father’s spirit, presence and legacy. However, I found that by looking at supplementary work that Kim has displayed on the Globe and Mail’s website that there is an element of warmth and connectivity coming through his work. So perhaps something was lost in the edit for this exhibition. In the Globe and Mail article and video I was more aware of his father’s presence. A video with more images and Kim’s story about his trip can be seen at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/video-a-photographers-journey-to-explore-his-late-fathers-connection-to/.

Bibliography

A photographer’s journey to explore his late father’s connection to Yongpyong and the Winter Olympics (2018) At: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/video-a-photographers-journey-to-explore-his-late-fathers-connection-to/ (Accessed on 19 April 2019)

Finding my father at Yongpyong: a Winter Olympics journey decades in the making (s.d.) At: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/yongpyong-ski-resort-winter-olympics-pyeongchang-interactive/article37897155/#29 (Accessed on 19 April 2019)

Barrie Jones – Berlin Project II 1945-2018

I have discovered another little warehouse gallery during the Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver. Situated among other warehouses on the banks of the Fraser River it’s little wonder I haven’t come across it before. The gallery space was in a tiny room at the back of the warehouse but it had a certain charm to it. I’m so pleased I went to this exhibition as it was on my “maybe” list. Although the space was limited, the exhibition was well presented and flowed well.

Berlin Project II 1945-2018 at Lights Out Space

Barrie Jones is a Canadian photographer and teaches photography at the University of British Columbia. His body of work consists of small and medium sized photographs, sometimes arranged in grid format, of the facades of buildings and structures in contemporary Berlin. All the photographs document the damage done during World War II showing bullet and mortar damage, some of which have been filled in and repaired, some left as a souvenir to the past.

The photographs reflect the changing economies of a post-war period and function as a record of an extremely violet time in history. Yet at the same time they are abstract photographs as well as formalist and architectural in nature. There is a strange, compelling beauty to the images. One immediately becomes aware of the violent nature that put these marks on the buildings, wondering how on earth the buildings managed to remain standing after such onslaughts. But as soon as one takes note of the colour pallette – the greys and beige tones, the textures and the beauty of the aesthetic one is sharply pulled back to the reality of the situation that caused those holes. It is this constant vacillation between the known conflict and the erasure thereof that makes this series quite compelling and very political.