Sunday 21 August – Tate Modern to see Mona Hatoum
Excellent Mona Hatoum show @Tate Modern – oppressive atmosphere, multi medium with craft, concept & aesthetic. Big scale installations down to fine detail sketch book plans & Saturday night before final day, so v quiet & a great evening.
And a quick peek @Ruscha
And saw a great short film about Agnes Martin – with an anecdote about Agnes having observed that people find it completely normal to understand & accept music as an emotional expression. But that with art, there is a requirement for explanation…
I don’t think screen grabs of her work do any justice at all to their subtlety & feeling – for me, of calm – more info @Agnes Martin
Saturday 20 August – Linguine con vongole e pomodori, Londonlist.com, Cathie Curran…
Meanwhile, cooking news – architect @CathieCurran reckons I ought to post the recipe I sent to her this morning for pasta with clams…..please see below.
“To be technical – they weren’t vongole. Similar – unfort don’t know what. We picked them because they were still in chilled water – they had loads of different types of clammy type shells on the stall – but only the one type stored proper cold.
Cooking time….um, probably 90 mins?
3 biggish saucepans – 1 with a proper fitting lid & pref two short handles on opposite sides – like a creuset, but they are heavy to shake & you need to shake. A dry oven cloth.
No idea on weight of ‘clams’ – probably heaped into two hands cupped together worth per person?
About 10 ripe tomatoes – decent size, say 60 / 70mm
Nice garlic – the big purple ones
Thyme? Sage? Just a little, or coriander or curly parsley – lots
Chorizo, pref spicy
Cup of Stock – ideally fishy (simmer bones from dinner day before for 5 mins, no heads), but really doesn’t matter if not – mild chicken just as good. In fact perhaps better. gentler – less fishy. which I guess stand to reason.
Splash white wine
Pepper, pref white for cooking, ground for serving – maybe salt, but only at the very very very end if it needs it (clams salty)
Sugar – might need a sprinkle
Lemons / juice
Everything except the clams & the pasta can be cooked ages before. (& You could blanche the pasta ahead too – undercook by 2 mins, submerge / rinse in running cold water, drain, lightly coat with oil, fridge – boil again for 2 mins when you want it.) Clams need proper thorough rinsing / resting in cold water. Drain & discard those that don’t close after a few mins. Refrigerate.
Step 0 – find a nice cold bottle of white wine – open, pour a little in a glass.
1. Sharpest knife: Halve the tomatoes horizontally – across their ‘equator’. Then cut out a little cone hole removing a chunk of the pith core – (left handers turn the tomato clockwise a little as you move the knife anti clockwise, right handers the opposite). Line up in a baking tray. Turn grill on high.
2. Peel / crush (flat side of a large knife with full shoulder weight against chopping board) & chop a whole (fat satsuma sized) garlic bulb. Peel & chop as much chorizo as you fancy into little crescents, or cubes.
2. Fill the holes in the tomatoes with the chopped garlic – not so much as the garlic protrudes (it’ll burn), just a bit. Top up the hole with oil & then more oil all over, so they don’t burn. Sprinkle pepper. Put the tray under the grill – second shelf. Cook slowly – probably 25+ mins. You want the heat & shelf at the level where they cook all the way through & nearly burn, but don’t burn – caramelised, starting to shrivel, pinch.
3. Heat a saucepan med high heat big enough for serving the pasta. Add oil, enough to cook the capers & garlic – squeeze the brine out of a small handful of capers, cook them, sizzling, then add & lightly cook the remainder of the chopped garlic not used in the tomatoes – don’t let it get any colour. About 6 cloves. Then add the cooked tomatoes, juice, oil, scrapings everything from the tomato tray. Put the chorizo into the empty tray & under the grill until the fat cooks out, remove to a dish on the side. When the sauce is bubbling, gently stir – or bash it to pieces – whichever your texture preference. Gently cook & reduce. The viscosity to aim for is really hard to define. Thick gloopy? There’ll be more liquid later from the clams, so you want it reduced. The more you reduce it, the more clam liquid will be needed & the more clammy the sauce will be. Don’t worry if it’s a bit thick – the clam stock, chicken stock or a squeeze of lemon juice are your insurance policy. Lemon juice might need a balance of sugar. It all depends on how caramelised / sweet the tomatoes go. The balance to play with is tomato liquid / clam liquid / lemon juice. Unfort that’s trial & error, not a recipe thing. The clam juice will be salty.
4.Heat a large pan of water for the pasta, add a little salt. When the water is on the way to boiling heat the 3rd pan so it’s proper hot & with the lid on that is proper fitting & pan big enough for the clams to rattle around.
You can have the pasta going while the sauce is reducing to save time. But – if you do this there’ll be a point where you are checking pasta, checking sauce, shouting at people to sit down & cooking clams altogether. I finish the sauce first, then do the pasta & clams.
So – the sauce is ready, reduce heat, occasional bubbling hot temp. Warm the serving bowls. Ask underling to wash, de stalk, dry, chop herbs.
5. Cook the pasta. Shout at people to sit down.
Cooking the clams is about quantities involved – with 4 people you could probably add the clams to the tomato sauce to cook them, by stirring in gently & away you go. But controlling the viscosity is hard – because if you need to boil the sauce down to reduce it (after the clams have released their water content) the clams will overcook & go rubbery. Dilemma.
And…mixing the clam filled sauce with the cooked pasta is hard without either pulling the clam shells apart, or ending up with all of the clams at the bottom of the pan under the pasta.
And…I prefer separation between tomato, clams, garlic, lemon, sweet, chorizo, washed (especially parsley / coriander) then chopped herbs – not a muddle of the whole lot – even though that’s what it actually is. (Like risotto – I make a basic chicken stock risotto & then dump stuff on top, or stir it in just at the end – so the rice doesn’t taste of the mushroom, or meat or whatever.) So I would cook the clams separately – then add them at the end, or even leave them in their cooking saucepan & serve two dishes – pasta with tomato sauce & clams on the side. Your call.
5. Pasta is now cooking. If it’s a posh brand, don’t bother messing around testing it. See what it says on the packet & follow that exactly with a clock. Meanwhile, add some stock (fishy / chicken oxo – doesn’t really matter) into the now very hot empty clam pan which will spit & bubble because the pan is seriously hot and add a spoon of the tomato sauce, & a splash of wine from the glass you have been drinking from Keith Floyd style since step 0. Probably a centimetre deep of liquid. The clams are cooked by steam – not boiling. (“How long did you boil the stew for Alicia??”) Sorry, flashback. Get the whole thing fiercely …boiling away & throw the clams in. Which is why you want people already sitting down so they can see the money shot & they’ll want the food more. Really, it works. Bang the lid on quick smart & leave for a minute. Wrap the dry oven cloth over the top & around the handles, because you need to tightly hold the lid onto the pan, then pick it up & gently shake the whole pan so the clams rotate inside. Back on the heat & repeat 2 or three times. The clams will take probably 3 mins (for 4 people) – take the lid off & test – as soon as they’re proper hot, they’re cooked. As little as you can cook them whilst making sure they’re proper hot the better. Stirring loses steam & wrecks the shells – so when checking they’re cooked, fold, not stir. Keep warm, lid ajar.
6. Ideally, pasta is now cooked at the same time. Drain, return to the empty pan, low /medium heat. Use a spoon & fork to fold & separate, fold & separate, fold & separate, fold & separate – get the steam out of it – until it starts to stick together. The stickier you can get it, without it clumping together in a lump the better, because it will suck up the sauce like a sponge. In other words, do not add oil. None. Nada. No.
Tip the pasta into the tomato sauce – which will be sticking to the pan. Or the other way round but that’s harder washing up. Add a good squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, chorizo & herbs. Fold everything together, gently, methodically, consistently, with a spoon and fork – get the corners of the saucepan. Don’t scrimp on the folding everything together, gently, methodically, consistently, with a spoon and fork – getting the corners of the saucepan. Again, if you can do that at the table, so much the better – people eat with their eyes.
Then either serve the two saucepans side by side – clams in one, tomato pasta in the other. Or, drain the juice out of the clam pan & pour the clams onto the pasta & fold in just a little, gently, adding clam juice to suit taste / sauce thickness requirements. Get rid of unopened clams. But I guess you know that. Sprinkle some herbs on top. Or you could make some gremalata to sprinkle – lemon zest, parsley, garlic – chopped to suit texture preference. Pain to do (zesting) & loads of less everywhere without skins, but grade AAA zinger taste / smell hit & fancy pants authenticity scores – about a heaped teaspoon per serving.
If authenticity is your thing, no cheese. But if you’re in the ‘more is more’ school, use Pecorino – because people will expect Parmesan & start waffling on about cheese not really being authentic with seafood pasta & then the Pecorinio will put them off their stride, because it’s whiter & less buttery. I like lobster Thermidor & make tuna bake & fish pie with tomatoes & cheddar – so I can’t see the thing about cheese & shellfish.
Chill / Save the clam juice for ‘Calmato’ Bloody Mary’s – seriously – mix Cambell’s V8 veggie juice, the clam juice, nip of sherry, celery salt refrigerate till properly cold, add cold vodka, mix, stick celery. Sounds dubious – acquired taste, but fantastic aperitif on a hot day in a gazpacho kinda’ way.
You could do the tomato free version – just miss out the tray of tomatoes & do everything else the same, perhaps no capers – but if so, the pressure will be high to get the clams & pasta cooked absolutely spot on – together & served piping hot. Because there’ll be no sauce to hide behind if the cooking isn’t right & or your timing’s off. Or both. Oh dear. Bit like Art. Or Architecture. The simpler it is, the easier it is to mess it up. Nest-ce pas?
Ps. I know it’s a long recipe – but the tv chefs deliberately leave out the um, abstract (?) steps from their recipes – to shorten the reading time & ….to keep the secret of the dish. It’s a conspiracy. Really.
Friday 19 August – Duchamp, Robert Montgomery, Auroracoin
I have no idea if Duchamp doing ‘Fountain’ was a piss take – I hope so.
Does anyone remember these in Old St? Robert Montgomery billboards – fabulous. I remember seeing them & standing transfixed in the middle of the pavement, reading: the truth, the light…
And many thanks to Liz at Glenart for telling me about Auroracoin –
Wednesday 17 August
I’m struck by the short essay below – The Unreasonable Apple by Paul Graham. I feel the same way. …Dancing with life itself…
So it feels natural to add this picture from Robert Frank (1955) – which says more about what I want to do with a camera – than any words that I try to write ever will.
I’m still thinking about what content to fill the blog page with. ‘How political?’ is an ongoing and unresolved problem. Because politics is divisive. I think this results from the awkward silences that seem to go hand in hand with the idea of a sensible dialog or discussion – where in, the differences between an ‘opinion’ and a ‘justified belief’ are revealed.
Slavoj Zizek destroys half baked ideas. Brain like a light sabre – if a little harder to follow…
I usually keep clear of anti Trump pieces. Not because I’m pro Trump. I think he’s an idiot. But what I think & what the rest of the commentariat say too – is irrelevant. (Do you think that the average Trump voter reads – The Economist, or The New York Times?? – No, I don’t either.)
That said, if you like demolitions about the Republican Party – try clicking this link:
And very pleased to see that Soap and Rocket images are starting to appear in the first page of a Google image search for: “fine art analog photography”. Please (please) feel free share the www.soapandrocket.com URL on your social network pages – ideally mentioning the “fine art analog photography” descriptions 🙂 Thank You
Thursday 11 August 2016
Monday 8 August 2016
New stuff – from July ’16 – Gabriel & Roxanne to start, followed by various still untitled
Artforum – from 13 years ago, lovely article about hyperrealism
Will Self in Saturday’s Guardian – also a Borges disciple.
Image by Wictor Forss.
Will Self – Saturday 6 August 2016 10.00 BST
My wife and I are like many other middle-aged bourgeois couples; we no longer inhabit the media culture of our youth, with its monolithic broadcasting and newsprint providers, yet nor are we enthusiastic adopters of the image-and-text smorgasbord lain out on the web and downloaded via cable or wireless broadband. Instead, we have a tendency to watch made-for-television drama series with an adult content; mostly these are from the HBO network in the US, but we also vegetate in front of Scandinavian detective tales and French policiers. A while back we were watching Engrenages (titled Spiral for BBC4 viewers), which – should you be unfamiliar – is a gritty cop show set against a backdrop formed by Paris’s meaner and remoter streets, when something bizarre happened.
The tough yet vulnerable Chief Inspector Laure Berthaud (played by Caroline Proust), was in conversation with her wittily paternalistic sidekick, Gilou (Thierry Godard), when the surface of first Proust’s and then Godard’s face began to heave and ripple, a small massif of cubes rose proud of their skin, each one manifestly three-dimensional, yet with each surface seemingly covered with their flesh. Then the cubes started to disintegrate, mingling both with each other and with the other planes of the actors’ bodies; the only term that really expresses this movement – at once fluid and somehow mechanical – was that it was as if the two bodies were geared into each other by a series of invisible cogs, but given the meaning of the series’ French title (“engrenages” translates as “gears”) this made strange sense. Midway through the movement the image froze: Proust’s head was only attached to her body by an iridescent smear of interference; Godard’s face was folded in on itself, making of him an extreme Elephant Man parody. There was a hiss, the image staggered, and normal service resumed.
Tough yet vulnerable … Caroline Proust as Laure Berthaud in Spiral. Photograph: BBC/A Son et Lumiere for Canal Plus production
The entire incident had taken perhaps fractions of a second – yet I found it deeply disturbing. I’m not particularly au fait with the way digital televisions work; I have heard that unlike on the old cathode ray tube sets, the picture on digital screens is generated by a myriad of saccades – short transverse pulses that shade in the images – although, in common with the way the human eye works, the television “assumes” that a lot of the background will remain constant, and so concentrates its fine detailing on more evanescent visuals. Whether or not it is this process that renders the distortion of images so peculiarly unsettling I’ve no idea, and in truth it’s not this aspect of the phenomenon that engages me, but rather what it suggests about our contemporary relationship with verisimilitude itself.
It’s often recounted how, when people heard the first wax-cylinder phonographs they were so overwhelmed by the lifelike sounds emanating from the primitive machines that they began searching behind the drapes for concealed singers and instrumentalists. Or there is the account I read in a biography of the Hungarian film director Emeric Pressburger of him screening a short film depicting the arrival of a train to some peasants on his country estate; as the steaming engine charged towards them, the spectators were so convinced of their imminent destruction that they rose up as one, and fled. The last century has seen two related processes occur: the creation of higher and higher reproductive fidelity, both of sound and image; and the wider and deeper dissemination of these sounds and images. When, in the 1930s, Walter Benjamin wrote of how advertising and film were “pushing script into the dictatorial vertical”, he was describing an epiphenomenon: for these were merely the perpendicular labels appended to a simulacrum that, with mounting speed, was encroaching on all reality.
The Argentinian fabulist Jorge Luis Borges composed a famous fragment called “On Exactitude in Science”, that describes an empire whose guild of expert cartographers was commanded by their sovereign to devise a map which would be, point-for-point, coextensive with the empire’s entire territory. The fragment ends hauntingly: “In all the deserts of the west, still today, there are tattered ruins of that map, inhabited by animals and beggars; in all the land there is no other relic of the disciplines of geography.” Borges’s fragment signposts the direction to our own imagistic realm, one in which the map and the territory have melded completely, and those who aren’t on the map are necessarily denied any territory. When I was a teenager there were only three television stations broadcasting in England; in order to watch the films I loved – those of European auteurs such as Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman – I had to hunch over a pathetic little black-and-white receiver, manipulating its aerial by hand until the static snowstorm on its 25cm screen died away, revealing the enigmatic features of Marcello Mastroianni.
Yet I never aspired to any greater fidelity – I didn’t bemoan my lo-fi lot; it was only with each succeeding technology that my ability to suspend disbelief became weakened: cassette and the eight-track tape replaced vinyl; in time these were themselves seen off by the compact disc. Concurrently, as cameras grew less cumbersome and more efficient, so visual effects became exponentially better at portraying sights so exalted, we never imagined we might witness them in this life. The inception of fully digitised, full motion, live action film coincided with the development of computer generated imagery capable of seamless integration – meanwhile the bodysnatchers had invaded our homes, in the form of wireless broadband routers. The guild of cartographers had done their job: for what is the worldwide web if not a scale map of our entire territory? One that corresponds, point-for-point, with everything we have ever seen, heard or known; or will ever be likely to see, hear or know. True, some tech theorists now speak of the “digital wilderness”, and observe that no individual – or group – is now capable of mapping the entire virtual realm. However, I’m afraid that’s precisely the situation described by Borges’s fragment: the tattered remains of the map are themselves the rendition of desert they litter.
Back in the 60s and 70s the main problems affecting television images were the aforementioned static and a phenomenon that was termed “lack of vertical hold”. As the phrase suggests, this latter glitch consisted of the picture refusing to stay centred in the screen; instead it would spool upwards in a succession of distorted frames, the whole reminiscent of a warped strip of celluloid film. Perhaps it was this similitude that made watching these images tolerable; the suggested physicality of film anchoring the ballooning faces and distended heads to their real-life counterparts – but I don’t think so. Rather, the key factor here was that, despite our universal ability to suspend disbelief in these images (after all, we knew nothing better), they weren’t really faithful. The world as we generally perceive it is not in black and white; and this meant that – although we didn’t appreciate it at the time – distortions of the image were simply this: distortions of the image, not of the underlying reality.
Image by Wictor Forss.
Let me take you back to Engrenages. My chronicle of the momentary disintegration of the image of these actors’ bodies was far from exhaustive. When I described the “small massif” of skin-covered cubes, and the “iridescent smear” of interference I was struggling to devise a typology for a completely novel phenomenon; the underlying technology productive of these images is completely different from the television broadcasting of the 60s and 70s; and it seems to me that when they prove friable and fall apart, what we glimpse is precisely that underlying technology: we actually see the ulterior realm of the digital, wherein our entire reality is composed from the zeroes and ones of software machine code. To me it really does appear that way – but why? It’s because of our faith, I think – not faith in an immaterial being, or a transcendent reality, but faith in the very ability of digitisation to produce the highest imaginable degree of verisimilitude. There is no real comparison between an isolated piece of equipment from which sound emanates and a world-girdling network of bi-directional digital mediatisation that pullulates with sound, images and signs.
Marshall McLuhan presciently wrote in Understanding Media (1964) that no new technology leaves human perception unaltered – and the web/internet represents the most powerful auto-altering of our perception that we’ve yet devised. Our willingness to upload our social existence to the web, to rely on it for our orientation, and to depend on it for our memory, means that when the silvery interface between us and it becomes perturbed, we seem to be witnessing the very lineaments of the thing in itself, stripped of its fleshly and humanising coat. It’s a strange notion, this: digitisation has become so comprehensive and penetrating it is now able to express the fundamental categories within which we perceive reality itself – but of course this is merely an image, like any other.
Joseph Brodsky once wrote, “should the truth about the world exist, it’s bound to be non-human”. Now we have the temerity to believe we can somehow perceive that non-human reality, although to do so would be a contradiction in terms. Over the next few years a new generation of television receivers will be rolled out. (We might call them “visual display units” since the formal distinction between computers and televisions is on the point of dissolving.) These machines are capable of displaying imagery at ultra-high definition; so-called “8K UHDTV” composes pictures employing 16 times the number of pixels of current high definition TV, which presents us – if we could only see it – with the bizarre spectacle of an image that exists in a higher resolution than our own eyes are capable of perceiving. Will this natural limitation on our capacity to technologically reproduce the world’s appearance lead our scientists and technologists to desist? I doubt it: the philosopher John Gray observes that: “In evolutionary prehistory, consciousness emerged as a side-effect of language. Today it is a byproduct of the media.”
This, surely, is the “hyperreality” defined by Jean Baudrillard: a feedback loop of constantly updated imagery that now has a value – as objective knowledge – that transcends the old categories of “reality” and “appearance”. When I was a child I was always struck by the confusion of reality implicit in advertisements for televisions being shown on … television: particularly when the feature of the television that was emphasised was its superior picture quality. I would sit there, thinking to myself: but how can we see that it’s a better picture, given that the picture on our television is inferior? In the ultra high-definition future children will no longer be subjected to this paradox, because they will have confidence that the imagery they perceive is no longer representational at all, but rather constitutive of reality itself.
Image by Wictor Forss.
Philosophical arguments, if presented with elegance and elan, should strike their readers as being tightly geared – as a good mechanism is. Yet such conceptual devices can only ever be representative of the world; they are, therefore, just as much figurations as any visual imagery, with the downside that they aren’t as entertaining, informative or communicative as what McLuhan termed “the unified electrical field”. I believe that my sense of being precipitated into the inhuman – yet humanly originated – substratum of reality each time the image of Caroline Proust’s head disintegrates into its component pixels is the shape of things to come. And this isn’t a fresh intimation on my part – writing about the internet in the late 1990s, I was already hypothesising that in a world in which humanity’s perception had fully integrated with bi-directional digital media, a large scale loss in internet connectivity could precipitate an outbreak of mass hysteria, as web users lost any grasp on reality that they had.
The age of those cyber-generated panics is now upon us. Conventional moralists oppose civilisation with barbarism, but really the opposition is between order and entropy – ethics are only a side effect. Germany was among the most civilised – in the sense of ordered – societies on Earth when Hitler triggered the mass hysteria that led to the Holocaust. Such pogroms against the Jews had taken place since time out of mind, but the inception of modern technologies – the train, the telephone, the gas oven – meant the Nazis could escalate the phenomenon to the level of genocide. Who can even guess at the ultra-definition of holocausts that may be precipitated by the very latest technologies? After all, when the image of a human and a human herself have become effectively indistinguishable, the only surcease from the toil of existence will come when she’s been switched off.
Not long after I had my epiphany watching Engrenages, I was introduced to the art of Wictor Forss. Forss takes his photographs of digital TV pictures using a digital camera. Somewhere in the infinitesimal calibrations of camera shutter and screen-pulse the juicy images of sports fixtures and presenters, public buildings and marathon runners, get caught up in the gearing and squished into cubist pulp. I love the idea of Forss sitting in his studio, camera in hand and aimed at the television screen, waiting to capture the very moment at which reality itself disintegrates – it makes the bravery of even the most battle-hardened cameramen seem picayune in comparison. Forss shoots all sorts of TV images in this way, capturing forever their mysterious evanescence – but he concentrates on sporting events of one kind or another. Why? I don’t know the answer for certain, but I suspect the interrelation of the bodies in physical games suggests to him, as it does to me, the very essence of unthinking yet feeling human communion. To see the underlying digital structure of a single human face may be disturbing enough, but to witness the disintegration of these playful groups is to bear witness, somehow, to chaos and anomie ever pullulating beneath our well-tended pitches.
Picture above from the inside cover of the same Artforum magazine as the ‘Hyperrealisms’ piece – which links nicely to the Economist review of an Arbus show at the Met in NYC.
A new show at the Met traces the short, hard life of a visual master
WHEN Diane Arbus (she pronounced it Deeyan) died in 1971, she joined a pantheon of distraught, creative women, including Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Frida Kahlo and Kay Sage, who all died prematurely. Like Mark Rothko a year before, she slit her wrists and overdosed on pills. Arbus’s suicide increased public awareness of her work, but it masked her delight at trying to capture quite what it means to be human.
Arbus started in 1946 as a stylist, working in close partnership with her husband Allan, photographing fashion advertisements for Russek’s, her father’s Fifth Avenue department store. Later the Arbuses branched out into editorial photography for fashion magazines. Their work, mostly done in their studio with large-format cameras, was competent, but lacked both the clarity and the compositional fireworks of a Richard Avedon or an Irving Penn.
A useful approach is to note how the photographer’s technique, approach and subject matter developed. The earlier pictures were taken with hand-held cameras with 35mm film and available light. The camera was held at eye level, and promoted direct eye-to-eye contact.
In late 1956 and over the next two years, Arbus took classes with Lisette Model, known for her close-up, biting street caricatures. She pushed Arbus towards a more crisp, close-in and confrontational approach. By 1962, eschewing her earlier grainy style and looking for more definition, Arbus began using a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera with a larger square film format. It was held at waist-level, looking up to her subjects. Her images, sometimes made using a tripod and flash, became sharper and more tightly composed.
Early on, Arbus staked out places with a lot of people. Her initial pictures were simple, passing encounters. Often her subject would be confused about why she wanted to photograph them. Their querulous, hostile or annoyed faces recur in her work from the late 1950s. Arbus had a taste for whimsy—a night view of a drive-in screen showing a projected image of a bright sun shining through the clouds, or quirky film props, such as rocks on wheels, stored in a back lot at Disneyland.
Arbus was 38 before she saw herself as a professional. She moved from depicting random incidents with strangers to seeking out visually interesting human tribes—twins and triplets, midgets, circus performers, nudists, the blind, transvestites, freaks and the mentally ill—by entering their worlds. Jack Dracula, a legendary tattoo man (pictured), was a favourite subject. She used her considerable intelligence, charm and an intense interest in others to get the poses she wanted. Her pictures, taken in bedrooms and backstage dressing rooms, are evidence of her ability to gain trust and acceptance from those whom society might find repellent, and who in turn distrusted society themselves.
While risqué at the time, her choice of subjects was not without precedent. Nearly a century before, Edgar Degas had painted inhabitants of his own demimonde: prostitutes, ballet dancers, jockeys, chanteuses. As with the early Impressionists Arbus’s work was met initially with disapproval; at her first show spit had to be wiped every day off the pictures. In this age of ever-present selfies, the novelty of street photography has faded, as has the shock value of tattoos, piercings, cross-dressing and gender reassignment. Viewers today are more open to Arbus’s images—and far less likely to spit.
Wednesday 3 August 2016
Lacey Contemporary Summer Prize – Chris Daly shortlisted as finalist
Group Show News – Soap and Rocket showing @:
Hundred Years Gallery – http://www.hundredyearsgallery.com/ends/
Exhibition: ‘ENDS’, preview on Thursday 7 July 2016
“[Bringing] together a collection of works concerned with the nature of contemporary image production and the exploration of the human body both from medical and artistic perspectives.”
I’m showing 2 pictures & a video, all from the ‘Fake Phoney Reality’ series – as featured in the first ‘Soap and Rocket’ photo’zine.
Writing to accompany the pictures / video is a short piece titled ‘Editing and authenticity’ – which is a first effort at articulating what ‘Fake Phoney Reality’ involves. Readers familiar with the likes of Barthes, Bourriaud, Boorstin, McLuhan, Postman, Ranciere, Debord, Baudrillard & Prince will likely find my struggle with their fine collective legacy entertaining. And possibly impenetrable. Fortune favours the brave I guess…
Editing and authenticity.
by © Chris Daly
“When we change the way we communicate, we change society.” Clay Shirky, 2008.
Visual expression has become polarised into wildly contradictory memes. And like any other communicable characteristic of our time, it has exponentially splintered into billions of alternative ‘self similar’ realities. Each is true in its own context, while “the whole has the same shape as one or more of [these] parts”. And if everyone has their own ‘truth’, their own ‘currency’ or legitimacy of perception and expression, then authenticity or authority become functions of crowd dynamics – commodities with no fixed universal definition or value, but instead, a mercurial metaphorical ‘price’ according to the flow of information and its influence in the loop.
It’s just a question of which currency is strongest at any one time?
At one end of the spectrum there is: ‘Networked Fungible Identity’ i.e. the Selfie. An endless stream of mutually interchangeable ‘me’. An excess of exoteric identity. All of us – instant satellite celebrities – somehow living in the same place,
where concentration and distraction have become the same thing. And where the expectations of the viewer and the ambiguity of the photographed collide – mediated by a holy trifecta of telephony, the Internet and the screen – hypnoticallyglowing like a novelty sunset. A ‘seashell kaleidascope’ if you will, showing infinite pictures enough for a Borges like exactitude: a map of humanity so complete, but temporal – it feels like it’s all made up. A Fake Phoney Reality.
And authenticity, previously ontologically excommunicated is to be found. Albeit in absentia, but alive and kicking, and shapeshifting into every day normalcy, banality or holiday snaps, trillions of times. By the taking of photographs. Especially by being in the photographs that you take.
The quantity [of imagery] has become a metric that cannot be ignored. The philosophical equation that once weighed the difference between presence and representation has evolved – into something that feels intuitively unbalanced, with an unimaginable scale & mass on one side. But which side?
“There’s no point in making any more images”, says artist and writer Victor Burgin. “There are already enough photographs in the world… What we need to do is re-read the images we already have.” But to what end? “ We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” (Baudrillard.) Repetition and comparison have replaced tone or saturation. Social editing has replaced photographic editing, abstracting the purpose of the original photograph into something different: dislocated, but controlled. Identikit compositions show what we want to see, to know. Cautious uncertainty, nascent unease about our judgmental gaze is ok, innocence is a standard operational defence. So we displace the exponential reality that a composite of image, social aesthetic and memory create; and store it elsewhere – relinquishing our memory and its memories to a nondescript server warehouse somewhere, anywhere. There’s ‘No neo, no post’ – just ‘free!’ upgrades and representation represented as the real thing. In fact, as being even better than the real thing.
While at the other end of the scale – some distance removed, there is contemporary ‘Fine’ Art – esoteric, aloof, anti aesthetic & save for the diehards, all in the mind. But, never the less, reassuring in its incremental sameness. “Everything changes except the avant garde,” said Paul Valéry.
So visual authority feels old. But that’s normal – right? Because we are more likely to trust in something that resists time and becomes ‘part of the furniture’. Contemporary works are difficult to measure because they are to close to us. But I know this. And about Kodachrome and the enormity of the machine.
We Are Consumed.
By a sequencing and accumulation of events, not the events themselves. We have lost control. Plus ca change.
Empathy is derived from editing.
Stills from ‘We ought to record this conversation’ video
Saturday 25 June – Click here
Last days at Balfron Tower