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Posts Tagged ‘art’

Wall1This is a text I wrote for the Pact Of Disengagement event that took place at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios back in May, which Teresa Gillespie and Ben Woodard kindly invited me to be part of. The idea was to explore the question of the nature of the relationship between art and philosophy, or as Teresa and Ben put it, their ‘mutual abuses’. I was one of a panel of speakers (Paul Ennis, Francis Halsall, Matthew Slack, Edia Connole, Jonathan Mayhew, Micheal O’Rourke, Rob Murphy, Lily Cahill and Tina Kinsella), each of whom had five minutes to articulate some thoughts on the subject. This text was written to be ‘read out’, rather than ‘read’, so you could always read it aloud to get the full effect

I am going to talk about this idea of abuse – the notion that more often than not art and philosophy are engaged in a form of mutual abuse that is not particularly constructive. Abuse of philosophy by artists. Abuse of art by philosophers. I’m going to suggest though that maybe abuse isn’t always bad and that we might take, not an uncritical view of it, but at least a view that is open to the possibilities that such abuse might present. I’m going to largely confine myself to artists abusing philosophy rather than the other way around. (more…)

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I’ve spent a large proportion of my life listening to bands, going to see bands, playing in bands, so this project of mine is a natural way of extending that interest (obsession?) into photography. However, I was adamant when starting it that it should not be just about the music I like. This is about exploring how performances manifest themselves visually through extended time exposure photographs and so it should not matter at all what sort of music is being performed, whether it is any good or not, or whether I like it or hate it. (more…)

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Most gigs I go to have one, if not two, support bands. I wondered early on whether to try and shoot both acts, or just concentrate on the main attraction. The problem is that two different bands, on the same night, will share a lot of equipment, so there are similarities between the resultant pictures. The one above is of the excellent Subplots, who opened up for Retribution Gospel Choir (see previous post). Looking at both shots is like playing spot the difference – or maybe more accurately spot-the-similarity. If you look at them both you’ll see that they are sharing the same drum kit, and bits of the RGC back-line are visible behind Subplots. (more…)

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This post is something of a departure from the usual business on this blog. It is an essay I wrote on Paul Seawright, focusing in particular on his Invisible Cities work. This work comprises of photographs taken over a three-year period in sub-Saharan African cities. In many senses the work goes against the grain of common photographic representations of Africa. I describe the work and deal with a number of issues that arise from it. The essay is quite long, so I’ll split it into two parts. This is part one.

Photographic representations of Africa tend to be dominated by certain well- worn themes. We have the photo-journalistic images of war, disease and famine – portraying a continent riven by seemingly intractable problems and a living hell for its inhabitants. We have the ma jestic grandeur of the landscape and the animals – suggesting a timeless, Edenic paradise. We have the National Geographic style portrayals of indigenous tribespeople, often accompanied by well-meaning articles describing how their “way of life” is under threat. A pertinent illustration of this can be had by typing “Africa”‘ as a keyword into Google’s image search facility. The majority of results returned are maps of Africa, but if we exclude these, almost all of the rest fit into the categories mentioned above. Those that don’t form minor categories of themselves: smiling schoolchildren; white aid workers or volunteers interacting with Africans; and most interestingly, images illustrating the growing influence of China in sub-Saharan Africa. None of these do much to expand the outsiders knowledge of, or insight into, the continent.

Paul Seawright’s Invisible Cities comprises of photographs taken in the sub-Saharan cities of Lagos, Addis Adaba, Lusaka and Johannesburg, and goes very much against the grain of these common representations. Seawright is, of course, not the only photographer working in this manner. A close parallel would be the work of Guy Tillim who has carried out similar projects on urban Africa. In fact, there is a growing body of contemporary African photography that challenges the common representations – for example, the Snap Judgements exhibition held in New York in 2006. I do suggest however, that such work is the exception rather than the rule. (more…)

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In this essay, written in 1995, Lev Manovich explores the ramifications of digital technology and photography. He asks if such a thing as digital photography really exists, and to what extent this really differs from traditional photographic practice.

Manovich starts by referring to a range of digital innovations that have transformed the practice of image production and manipulation, innovations that would lead most people to the conclusion that the fundamental nature of the photograph has radically changed.  The aim of his essay is to question whether this is really the case, and to expose a number of paradoxes at the heart of digital photography that become apparent when we attempt such questioning. His position is that it does not – that, in fact, digital photography does not exist.

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This essay appears in Solomon-Godeau’s Photography At The Dock collection. It deals with a number of post-modern photographic artists, explaining their work, and situating it in opposition to the established canon of modernist art photography. It is deeply critical of many of the fundamental assumptions of modernist photography that would have been elaborated in the work of critics such as John Szarkowski.

Solomon-Godeau begins by noting the extent to which the use of pastiche, in the sense of the appropriation of previously existing styles and work, has become dominant in both the art world and in popular mass media. In tandem with this, much criticism has been leveled at previously sacrosanct notions of the value of originality and authorial autonomy, and many artists are using pastiche as a means of questioning and probing these issues. At the time of writing, not much of this had reached the art photography world though, where most work was still reliant on traditional modernist notions: a key one being that an art photograph functions as an expression of the photographer’s interior, a vehicle for his/her thoughts, feelings and so on. The reason for this can be thought of as an insecurity at the heart of art photography. It had only recently received full status as an art form, and having done so on the back of precisely those modernist notions that post-modern artists are currently questioning. It is therefore reluctant to abandon, or even question, those notions that were integral to the elevation to its current lofty status.

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John Szarkowski’s book The Photographers Eye was based on an exhibition of the same name held at the Musuem Of Modern Art in New Work in 1964. It featured the work of Friedlander, Evans, Strand and many others, and attempted to give an overview of the fundamental challenges and opportunities of the photographic medium. In the introduction to the book, he offers a brief historical overview of photography in terms of how it has evolved and how he sees it as a unique artistic medium.

Szarkowski begins by stating a core tenet of his outlook on photography which is that it is fundamentally different from other picture-making processes in that it is based on selection rather than synthesis – the photographer takes elements of the real world for his picture, whereas the painter makes the elements of his picture from scratch. This immediately posed a new creative dilemma – how can this process be used to create meaningful pictures and valid art? This question would not be answered by means of recourse to existing theories of visual art, but instead tackled by a rag-bag consortium of commercial photographers, amateur enthusiasts and casual snap-shooters, who may not have been consciously trying to answer it at all, but nevertheless have managed to evolve an aesthetic practice that defines what photography is. (more…)

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