Sunday, November 15, 2009

Janet Cardiff and George Miller

'Making art for us is quite often an intuitive playful state starting from reflections of our subconscious and the world around us. We let the work make itself and follow it through its passage of changes.time plays with our subconscious and our dreams. We try to make works that reflect this magical state,' Janet Cardiff.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are internationally renowned for their immersive installations, involving film, objects and sound. Their elaborate environments draw the viewer into captivating fictional worlds.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Candida Hofer

I photograph in public and semi-public spaces that date from various epochs. These are spaces available to everyone. They are places where you can meet and communicate, where you can share or receive knowledge, where you can relax and recover.

— Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer’s photographs reveal her interest in documenting collections of like things. Over the past twenty years, Höfer has created a systematic visual study of details within public spaces such as zoos, the interiors of office buildings, theaters, museums, and library reading rooms. Höfer’s straightforward and detached style at first seems clinical and purely documentary. Since the early 1980s people have been noticeably absent from Hofer’s photographs. Instead, she uses her camera to note repeated forms within public spaces such as furniture, lighting fixtures, ceiling or floor tiles, chairs, and tables, creating patterns and a sense of orderliness. Höfer also often emphasizes the ironic by drawing the viewer’s attention to things out of place. In Deutsche Bucherei Leipzig IX, the presence of people is strongly implied by the empty desks and lights, as well as by the books at the end of the room, evoking a sense of their purpose as vehicles of collected human history and knowledge.


The large format that characterizes Höfer's photographs of public places, the absence of people, and the angle from which she composes them, invite the viewer "to enter" the rooms and observe. Photography is a silent medium and in Höfer's libraries this is magnified, creating that feeling of "temple of learning" with which libraries have often been identified. On the other hand, the meticulous attention to detail, hand-painted porcelain markers, ornately carved bookcases, murals, stained glass windows, gilt moldings, and precious tomes are an eloquent representation of libraries as palaces of learning for the privileged. In spite of that, and ever since libraries became public spaces, anyone, in theory, has access to books and the concept of gain or monetary value rarely enters the user's mind.

She specialises in large-format photographs of empty interiors and social spaces that capture the "psychology of social architecture".

Candida Höfer photographs rooms in public places that are centers of cultural life, such as libraries, museums, theaters, cafés, universities, as well as historic houses and palaces. Each meticulously composed space is marked with the richness of human activity, yet largely devoid of human presence. Whether it be a photograph of a national library or a hotel lobby, Höfer's images ask us to conduct a distanced, disengaged examination through the window she has created. Not purely architectural photographs, her rhythmically patterned images present a universe of interiors constructed by human intention, unearthing patterns of order, logic, and disruption imposed on these spaces by absent creators and inhabitants. Her photos of ornate, baroque interiors achieve images with extreme clarity and legibility while the camera maintains an observant distance, never getting too close to its subject.
Artforum art critic Hans Rudolf Reus writes of her work, "Only when observed can the elements of the photographically frozen moment in the building finally begin to play. At the same time, memories of familiar rooms and the odor of the unlimited archive of libraries, museums, and theater foyers mix themselves into even the occasional image of a contemporary building." The New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman writes, "Ms. Höfer is a straight photographer whose humanity and improvisatory spirit come across if we are patient enough to appreciate the serendipity of her light, the subtlety of her color and the quiet, melancholy pleasure she seems to take in finding, as if almost by chance, poetry in institutional form."

Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand, born in 1964, will present an extensive solo show at the Neue Nationalgalerie from September 2009. While he has had major exhibitions dedicated to his work in such cities as London, New York and Zurich, the show in Berlin will be his largest presentation in Germany to date. Entitled Nationalgalerie (National Gallery), the exhibition is not, however, a general retrospective of his work up to now, rather it is purposefully dedicated to one theme in particular – perhaps the most important in all of Demand’s richly diverse body of work: Germany. Correspondingly, the exhibition coincides with the anniversaries of two pivotal historical events in German history: the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany 60 years ago and the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.

The approximately 35 works on display, which include new, previously unshown pieces, deal with social and historical events since 1945 and their immediate background. However, Demand’s pictures do not merely bear reference to exceptional moments in history. Alongside momentous political and societal events and instantly recognizable scenes, the exhibition includes works which depict the private and incidental, but which represent equally a kaleidoscopic part of a particular time and society.

Thomas Demand is not a photographer in the classical sense, but rather someone who documents our various media worlds and is both a reproducer and an illusionist. Photography is the medium in which his works are preserved and exhibited. The artist often finds his subjects in the mass media using them as the starting point to recreate a particular spatial situation as paper sculptures, which are then made into a two-dimensional image with the use of a large format camera and meticulous attention to detail. In a conceptual sense, Thomas Demand is a sculptor as much as he is a photographer. Specific traces of the reproduced incident are systematically erased from the three-dimensional, life-size reconstructions; and so too are the people present in the original photographs. What remains are phantom images of ‘crime scenes’ of missing events which often appear just as familiar to us as they are impalpable.

In this way, Thomas Demand’s works test our reception of visual media and explore their influence on the structures of our memory. In a truly empirical manner, Thomas Demand conducts experiments in visual culture which centre around the questions of whether and to what extent a society’s appearance is condensed and concentrated in individual key images as well as being retained in people’s minds and remembered through such key images. Demand’s reconstructive handling of images that carry significance or appear to carry significance, focuses on the conscious or unconscious self-portrayal of a society and its changes. There could hardly be a more fitting place for an exhibition which offers us a panorama of a nation’s history than the great glass hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie of Mies van der Rohe. The building is not only an incunabulum of post-war architecture, but also equally historically significant as a symbol of the way the Federal Republic of Germany viewed itself at the former inner-city border. The magnificent exhibition design by the London-based architects Caruso St John, forms an ideal connection between Demand’s works and the light hall of Mies van der Rohe.

Each of Thomas Demand’s photographs is one or more steps removed from reality, creating tension between the fabricated and the real. He begins with a pre-existing photograph of an actual location culled from the mass media. While his large-scale photographs resemble these mass-media images, they actually show three-dimensional, life-sized models made from cardboard and paper that Demand builds in his studio solely for the purpose of being photographed. Demand knowingly uses the traditional role of photography as a faithful transcriber of the world to throw his subject’s artificiality into doubt. This confounding of references is such that the very idea of an original recedes completely.

Thomas Demand began as a sculptor and took up photography to record his ephemeral paper constructions. In 1993 he began making constructions for the sole purpose of photographing them. Demand begins with a preexisting image culled from the media, usually of a political event, which he translates into a life-size model made of colored paper and cardboard.

His handcrafted facsimiles of architectural spaces and natural environments are built in the image of other images. Once they have been photographed, the models are destroyed.

At first sight, the subjects represented in Demand’s photographs seem commonplace and familiar, but often they relate to scenes of cultural or political relevance, which have come to our attention through the mass media. They range from the archives of German filmmaker and National Socialist propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, Saddam Hussein’s attempt to purchase a concentrated form of uranium called ‘yellowcake’ from Africa and the kitchen in Saddam Hussein’s hideaway in Tikrit, Iraq.

Art curators and critics interpret Demand's work as reconsidering the traditional notion of photography as a faithful record of reality, highlighting the evasiveness of the medium in a world that is saturated with manipulated or mediated images.

For German artist Thomas Demand, this manifold popular impression of a singularly famous site—grounded at times in fact, but also, increasingly, in fiction—epitomizes the paradox of mediated truth and constructed cultural memory. At least that’s the sense you get from a suite of five new large-scale photo works by Demand, currently on view at Sprüth Magers in London, depicting various views of the Oval Office. It’s familiar conceptual territory for Demand, whose critically acclaimed work has carefully focused on the arbitrary nature of mass media imagery and what he calls “the spectator’s perception of reality.”

Ideas for Practical/Thesis Work -Olafur Eliasson

As I mentioned before I am interested in the re-creation of environments (natural and unnatural, fictional, real....) and producing atmospheric 'sets' as such; the creation of "other worlds" - the 'total' installation.

Can installation provide representations of reality and what does it mean to do so?

In my thesis I'm posing the question, can immersive installations provide real experiences? If these environments are fabricated and constructed, though we physically and psychologically experience them does it constitute the experience as being authentic?

I havn't even begun to write my thesis as of yet, but I'm hoping to look into arguing/answering that question by looking into various methods of vision and perception; theoretically through Jonathon Crary's writings and the Installation work of Olafur Eliasson.

Perception/vision can be controlled, standardised, automated and impoverished by a mediating world....What can installation bring to a viewer and why is this necessary to understand the world in which we live?

In regards to Eliasson's work there is a resistance to all-out illusionism...although his environments may seem to bring the 'outside' world into the interiors of museum buildings, the fabrication of his construction is clearly transparant...
His work consists of a "dual move, generating an emotional response while unveiling its material basis,[which is] central to the art's content, for it disables our impression not just of the work but also of the world as a naturalised, uninterrupted continuum."
He is not trying to completely disillusion the viewer into thinking these environments are real, they are man made, constructed, not so far away from the man made islands/places of the world, such as Dubai for example....
Why does he chose resist this "all-out illusionism"? What does this mean? What is he trying to convey?
...."The trigger to a sharpened speculative impulse centres on the notion of legitability, apparent in his works conspicious exposure of its own fabrication and in the literalism of its materials."...
Because the construction/fabrication is clear and unhidden, that makes our "speculative impulse".. our engagement with the work heightened.

The Weather Project

The subject of the weather has long shaped the content of everyday conversation. The eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson famously remarked ‘It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.’ In The Weather Project, the fourth in the annual Unilever Series of commissions for the Turbine Hall, Olafur Eliasson takes this ubiquitous subject as the basis for exploring ideas about experience, mediation and representation.

In this installation, The Weather Project, representations of the sun and sky dominate the expanse of the Turbine Hall. A fine mist permeates the space, as if creeping in from the environment outside. Throughout the day, the mist accumulates into faint, cloud-like formations, before dissipating across the space. A glance overhead, to see where the mist might escape, reveals that the ceiling of the Turbine Hall has disappeared, replaced by a reflection of the space below. At the far end of the hall is a giant semi-circular form made up of hundreds of mono-frequency lamps. The arc repeated in the mirror overhead produces a sphere of dazzling radiance linking the real space with the reflection. Generally used in street lighting, mono-frequency lamps emit light at such a narrow frequency that colours other than yellow and black are invisible, thus transforming the visual field around the sun into a vast duotone landscape.


Double Sunset
In Double sunset from 1999, installed in the Dutch city of Utrecht, Eliasson created a sunset of scaffolding, steel and lamps that mirrored the actual sunset. A sunset is an event with which we are all familiar but which elicits very different associations in each of us: romantic, natural or symbolic as the case may be. Any sense of the natural is punctured, however, by the fact that here viewers can walk behind the sun and see its construction. And yet, the image remains aesthetically beautiful and seductive. Eliasson challenges the notions of space and concepts that we normally take for granted, so that as viewers - and participants - we are invited to perceive what we have seen a thousand times before in a new way. And this is where Eliasson's art steps beyond institutional frameworks and opens up a fresh perception of our agency in the world.

Notion Motion
he installation consists of three consecutive situations using water and light (HMI projectors) to visualise the movement of the gallery visitors. Linked by a long, elevated wooden walkway, the situations experiment with vibrations as a phenomenon that defines and reconfigures space.
In room one an entire elevated wooden floor transforms the movement of people walking about the space into ripples in a water basin located on the opposite side of a black projection screen. The water is reflected onto the screen, its ripples varying according to the movement of the people. In the second room movement along the ramp activates water in a smaller basin; its waves are projected through a narrow, horizontal slit in a temporary wall onto a larger wall in a vibrating line. In the third room a sponge continuously falls into a large water basin and is slowly elevated again, the splash and water dripping from the sponge causing waves on the surface that are projected onto a white wall.
In his large-scale installation Eliasson explores the consequences of visitor movement within a museum space, thus drawing attention to the fact that no space is neutral or stable. Their mere presence in the rooms turns visitors into participants: they are immersed in the installation structure while influencing this very structure through their physical exploration of the space.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Venice Biennale Part One

Am just back from visiting the Venice Biennale...I saw many amazing things so I'm going to try and write up about the artists and work which really struck me....but here are a couple of pictures and videos, a bit of an overall glance if you will (more pictures to follow...I havn't got them all up on my computer yet!)

This years Biennale is entitled 'Making Worlds'.
“The title of the exhibition, Making Worlds – says Director Daniel Birnbaum – expresses my wish to emphasize the process of creation. A work of art represents a vision of the world and if taken seriously it can be seen as a way of making a world. The strength of the vision is not dependent on the kind or complexity of the tools brought into play. Hence all forms of artistic expression are present: installation art, video and film, sculpture, performance, painting and drawing, and a live parade. Taking ´worldmaking´ as a starting point, also allows the exhibition to highlight the fundamental importance of certain key artists for the creativity of successive generations, just as much as exploring new spaces for art to unfold outside the institutional context and beyond the expectations of the art market. Making Worlds is an exhibition driven by the aspiration to explore worlds around us as well as worlds ahead. It is about possible new beginnings—this is what I would like to share with the visitors of the Biennale.” Link