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Graham Harman is an interesting character. He’s a leading figure in contemporary philosophy and holds a professorship at the American University in Cairo, yet earlier in life had a stint working as a sports writer in Chicago. It seems an unlikely trajectory, but for Harman it makes perfect sense, as his work insists on grappling with the real stuff of the world rather than retreating entirely into the mysteries of abstract thought. This might sound slightly dull but in fact it is anything but. Harman manages to mystify this real stuff, so much so that after spending some time reading him, I can’t look at my toaster in quite the same way anymore. Based on my somewhat cursory exposure to his work, I’m going to try and quickly sketch out some of his basic ideas. I can’t possibly do them justice but I’m going to try anyway because I think they lead to an interesting new way of thinking about these photographs I am doing. Apologies in advance to any students of philosophy reading this. It might be best if you stop here. Continue Reading »

Fushitsusha


Sometime back in the early 90’s I was part of an email music discussion group called chugchanga. This was before way before blogs were around and also a good bit before discussion boards took off. Lots of well-informed and well-connected types used this list (for example Steve Albini would often pitch in) and it was a great way of finding out about new music that wasn’t necessarily being covered anywhere else. There was an Irish guy, who lived in Holland at the time (I’ve forgotten his name), who regularly contributed lengthy analyses of obscure and fascinating-sounding bands he had unearthed. One of these was Fushitsusha: a Japanese psych-rock trio who were led by an enigmatic character called Keiji Haino. They sounded like an incredible proposition. Not really a rock band in any conventional sense, they mixed together free improvisation with scorchingly heavy guitar noise to create something else, something that was, allegedly at least, beyond rock music. Continue Reading »

Pinocchio

I’ve recently been reading Terry Eagleton’s book On Evil which, for something that is concerned with the awful atrocities humans are capable of inflicting upon each other, is surprisingly funny in parts. The basic gist of it is that there are two dominant ways of thinking about why people do bad stuff to other people. The first one is the traditional conservative viewpoint, which holds that some people are just bad, there’s not much point trying to reason about why they do the things they do, and there’s nothing to be gained by trying to rehabilitate them. Incarceration and punishment are the only legitimate responses, and in some cases, the ultimate punishment of death is warranted. This is a way of thinking that finds its most extreme form of contemporary expression in the use of the death penalty in the US, but it’s also what fuels those calls for longer and harsher prison sentences that we are all used to hearing. Eagleton cites the case of the police officer who arrested one of the killers of Jamie Bulger. The policeman remarked afterwards that when he looked into the boy’s eyes he knew immediately that he was evil. In other words, hang ’em high, but if you’re not allowed do that, then lock ’em up and throw away the key. Continue Reading »

Constellations

This is Constellations, by Paperdolls, which is currently running at D-Light studios as part of Absolut Fringe 2012. I’ll attempt to describe what it is, but that won’t be easy as I really don’t know what it is; it slips outside most of the normal categories that you might use to describe something like this. It’s a dance piece that takes place mostly in the air. It’s an acrobatic display that eschews all the cheesy narcissistic showing off which that normally entails. It’s a piece of performance art that revolves around the use of Japanese rope bondage. It’s a gig with a full band (Wolfbait) in the corner who blast out terrifyingly loud and intense noise rock. It’s eerie and unsettling and totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

The photograph above is an exposure of 6 minutes and 17 seconds, and was taken during the first section of the show. I shot it during a dress rehearsal so for that reason you can’t see the audience in the shot. They would normally be sitting around on mats. Most of the cast are sitting still in the centre of the room for this part, while one of them has her arms tied behind her back.  She then performs various acrobatic exercises with a partner, while her arms are still bound in this way. There is a real tension during this section as you can’t help thinking that if she slips, she can’t even use her hands to stop her face hitting the ground. There’s a huge level of trust involved between the participants, and watching it is like being privy to some sort of intimate, normally private, ritual. Soon after this, the whole thing goes completely nuts, but the enjoyment of this thing is all about not knowing what is going to happen next, so I’m not going to spoil it. It runs until this coming Saturday and you can book tickets here. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Karolina at Blow Magazine and Emily and Fionnuala at Paperdolls for facilitating this. This photograph has just been published in number 4 of Blow Mag’s Absolut Fringe 2012 special editions. You can check them all out here.

The Last Supper

I took this photo at the dress rehearsal for Elevator, which is running at the Absolut Fringe 2012 festival. Doing these shots at theatre productions has turned out to be a little bit trickier than I initially thought. The concept is that the length of the exposure corresponds to the length of a scene, so each shot is therefore a photograph of a scene. The problem though is that many productions don’t have such rigid divisions into scenes, and even if they do, the transitions between them may not be at all obvious. I managed to nail the one above though I think.

Elevator is about a bunch of rich kids who have gathered together for a party when one of their number goes missing. All the action takes place in one room. There’s a lot of talking, flirting, arguing, partying, drug-taking, and recounting of debauched episodes from the past; and all of this is interspersed with musical numbers. The centre of the set has a huge couch that the actors sit on, lie on, dance on, and get off with each other on. Because the couch is a bright white colour, nothing in front of it comes out in the long exposure photograph, so it looks to me more like a dinner table than a couch. There are about seven actors in this photograph and they were all moving around quite a lot, so it’s pretty surprising that there is such clarity in it, and that at various points in the image, they can be made out very clearly.

This thing definitely has legs.

Thanks to Karolina at blow photo magazine, Louise at thisispopbaby and Ste Murray for facilitating this. You can see a whole bunch of great work that other photographers are doing at this year Fringe in blow magazine’s Absolut Fringe special editions.

Orchestra Of Spheres

I haven’t posted any new pictures up here in some time. Summer is a pretty slack time for interesting gigs anyway so I decided to take a bit of a break from it for a while. I did go down to Cork last week though to take down the exhibition I had running in Plugd, and while I was there I took the opportunity to photograph Orchestra Of Spheres who were playing at the Half Moon theatre. It’s a pretty cool venue for a number of reasons beyond the fact that it has a big stage, nice layout and good sound. Firstly, it has giant gargoyles sitting on top of the speaker stacks. Every venue should have this. Secondly, and of far more significance, it was the place that Guided By Voices played their one and only Cork gig back in 2002. I wish I hadn’t been told this, because even as I was sitting on the balcony thoroughly enjoying the completely intoxicating psychedelic tribal party music of Orchestra Of Spheres, I kept imagining that it was Robert Pollard down there singing Motor Away. Great gig though all the same, and thanks to Albert for this and many other things besides.

Close To Closure

Some of my work is going to be in an exhibition next week entitled Close To Closure that it happening in the Back Loft on Augustine Street in Dublin 8. It’s a group of eight photographers (Monika Fabijanczyk, Rebecca McGetrick, Artur Sikora, Sharon Murphy, Jeanette Lowe, Calin Ploscar, and Fiona O’Donnell are the others) and there’s some really interesting stuff there. I have been slowly starting on a new angle to my project, which is to apply the long exposure photography idea to theatre productions. I’ve done a few at this stage and the work I am going to show next week is from one of these. The shot above is one of those photographs and is from a play called When Irish Hearts Are Praying which was on last year as part of the Fringe festival. There’s an opening reception taking place next Wednesday (4th July) at 6pm and the artist Sean Hillen has kindly agreed to officially open the exhibition. It will then run until the 10th of July and it’s part of the OPEN programme for the PhotoIreland 2012 festival. Come along and say hello, there will be wine.

The Gloaming

This is Thomas Bartlett, Iarla Ó Lionaird, Martin Hayes, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dennis Cahill, otherwise known as The Gloaming, playing in Vicar Street a few weeks ago. An amazing gig and an amazing experience to be watching it all while photographing from the side of the stage. It was set up for me by Paul O’Connor at The Journal Of Music, who published the photo and also a short article I wrote to accompany it.  Big thanks to Paul, and also to Leagues O’Toole, Dennis Herlihy, Gary Sheehan and Iarla Ó Lionaird for helping make this happen.

The photograph above is also one of the prints that are in my current exhibition which is on view in Plugd at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork. I went down last Thursday to set it all up and thanks are also due to Albert and Jim of Plugd for being so incredibly helpful and supportive. It’s going to be on until the beginning of July so do pop in and have a look if you find yourself in Cork city centre over the next few weeks.

After having exhibited a load of these photographs last year in Dublin, I am delighted to say that the show finally hits the road with an exhibition in Cork that opens at the end of this week. It’s happening in Plugd records which is housed within the Triskel Arts Centre on Tobin Street. The Triskel is a wonderful multi-purpose facility that includes a music venue, the Black Mariah art gallery, a cinema, a cafe, a theatre space and more. Plugd records is easily the best record shop in the country at the moment so I’m really excited about having my work on show in that space.

The music venue at Triskel is also fantastic and the photograph above is of The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock playing there a month or two back. It is one of a whole bunch of new photographs that are going to be in the exhibition. My original intention was to largely reuse work from my Dublin exhibitions last year but when it came down to it, there was too much new stuff that I liked so much that I couldn’t leave out. So, there are shots of The Gloaming, Jello Biafra, Dan Deacon, The Ex and Si Schroeder in there too. The exhibition will be in place on Friday and will run until the start of July. More information here.

Beyond The Bookshelf 2

Here’s another shot from the Beyond The Bookshelf festival in Connolly Books last month. This is The Former Soviet Republic aka Ian Wright playing in the bookshop. I had the camera rammed between Ian and the door with most of the audience wondering what the hell that weird contraption behind Ian was.

This seems as good a time as any to announce that I will be having an exhibition of these photographs down in Cork next month. It takes place in Plugd records which is located in the Triskel Arts Centre. It opens on Friday 7th of June and then runs until the 6th of July. Looking forward to hanging these things up on a wall once more. . More details will be forthcoming soon. Sure have a listen to The Former Soviet Republic in the meantime.