Friday, July 23, 2010

New Topographics Photographs on Google Maps

This map geographically locates the locations of many of the photographs from the New Topographics exhibition. So if you ever wondered where that Robert Adams tract house was in Westminster, Colorado, now you can find out.

Robert Adams, Tract House, Westminster, Colorado (1974).
Gelatin silver print 15.2 x 19.6 cm. George Eastman House Collection.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

Wrecked piers, empty swimming pools, drought, gangs of street kids, it's all here.

'Curiously, the house we moved to had a drained swimming pool in its garden. It must have been the first drained pool I had seen, and it struck me as strangely significant in a way I have never fully grasped. My parents decided not to fill the pool, and it lay in the garden like a mysterious empty presence. I would walk through the unmown grass and stare down at its canted floor.'

--J.G. Ballard, Miracles of Life (2008).

Clearly what Ballard needed was a board.

Friday, July 16, 2010

White Line Fever (1975)

Not really in the same league as Road Movie but part of the oil crisis/70s recession-era obsession with instigating the automobile's integral accident -- this time with trucks. The big year for trucker movies was 1978, with Peckinpah's Convoy and Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way But Loose exploiting the exploitation movies. But White Line Fever, with Jan-Michael Vincent and Slim Pickens, is more pissed off and therefore gets my vote.

Road Movie (1974)

Forget Moonfire, for real existential truck action Joseph Strick's Road Movie is the only real choice. Strick did some great work on The Savage Eye (1959) but spent years making films that attempted to adapt the unadaptable -- Joyce, Genet, Henry Miller. Road Movie is much better: raw, awkward and alienating.

Moonfire (1973)

The most authentic trucking movie ever made? Who would know?
The whole film is available on Youtube here.

Helen Levitt

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jesus College Air Raid Shelter

The Easter 2010 issue of the Cambridge Alumni Magazine CAM has an article
on a WWII air raid shelter beneath Jesus College gardens. Full issue PDF.
The short piece by Diya Gupta is on pp. 18-19. Photos by Steve Bond.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Dry Porridge

Jean Arp, quoted in Rudolf Arnheim, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Order and Disorder (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), p. 54:

About 1930 the pictures torn by hand from paper came into being. Human work now seemed to me even less than piece-work. It seemed to me removed from life. Everything is approximate, less than approximate, for when more closely and sharply examined, the most perfect picture is a warty, threadbare approximation, a dry porridge, a dismal moon-crater landscape. What arrogance is concealed in perfection. Why struggle for precision, purity, when they Jean Arp can never be attained. The decay that begins immediately on completion of the work was now welcome to me. Dirty man with his dirty fingers points and daubs at a nuance in the picture. This spot is henceforth marked by sweat and grease. He breaks into wild enthusiasm and sprays the picture with spittle. A delicate paper collage of watercolor is lost. Dust and insects are also efficient in destruction. The light fades the colors. Sun and heat make blisters, disintegrate the paper, crack the paint, disintegrate the paint. The dampness creates mould. The work falls apart, dies. The dying of a picture no longer brought me to despair. I had made my pact with its passing, with its death, and now it was part of the picture for me. But death grew and ate up the picture and life. This dissolution must have been followed by the negation of au action. Form had become Unform, the Finite the Infinite, the Individual the Whole.

Dark Places

Exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, 24/11/2009 – 23/01/2010. More information on the exhibition available at Arts Catalyst and the Hansard Gallery site.

Dark Places from Zemedia on Vimeo.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Edgar Lissel

German artist Edgar Lissel uses microorganisms to produce images in petri dishes, utilising the light-seeking behaviour of cyanobacteria as a photographic technique.

The series Bakterium – Wasser licht(et) Geschichte uses the Kilian submarine bunker in Kiel (now demolished) to consider the relationship between architecture, power, and ruins. The partially destroyed bunker is evident in the shapes emerging from the petri dishes.

The text below is from Lissel's website:


Bacteria - water light ( s ) history ( 1999/2000),
Bacterium - self portrayal (1999/2000) , and
Bacterium - Vanitas (2000/01 ).

All works of the three series are products of a special procedure, based on the property of certain bacteria to orientate themselves towards light. Using this dependency on light , bacterial cultures that were subjected Lissel kept in petri dishes filled with transparent agar solution to pictures. As a result darken , the bacteria grew and aligned themselves to the pictures in a way Comparable to photographic processes, where those spots on photographic paper that receive light, whereas those that are little exposed remain bright.

For bacteria - water light ( s ) history , photo negative were projected onto the bacterial cultures in classical photographic fashion. The pieces of the bacterium - Vanitas series, in contrast , are Comparable to photo grams : The objects were placed between the petri dish and the source of light , which was shining from below. The resulting images were then photographed and enlarged to about 80 cm ? (31.5 in.) . They reveal themselves in an ephemeral state, a fleeting moment in the organic cycle of growth and decay . Shadowy and fragile , they recall the early days of photography. They are also, however , products of the modern laboratory, documented and presented like a scientific experiment, in uniform shapes confined by the scientist's petri dishes.

For bacteria - self- portrayal, Lissel took microscopic pictures of the structures of single bacteria and projected onto petri dishes filled them with bacterial solution. As a consequence , the bacterial cultures reproduced their own micro -images . Normally indiscernible to the human eye, a multitude of organisms here can be observed creating a " super sign " of themselves , with their livelihood being a part of their self -portraits .

The series bacterium - water light ( s ) history comments on the potential transformation of architecture in ruins. As an example, Lissel used the submarine bunker " Kilian "in Kiel (which then stood in ruins, but was detonated later). The contours of the gigantic , partially destroyed bunker are vaguely visible. Some parts seem to drown in the water like a shipwreck , while others still stand tall , even if affected by decay , with somber , cave -like windows and concrete walls that seem to be several meters thick. The decline of the building counterposes with the gaining and fading of its symbolic representation in the petri dishes.

The transitoriness of all matter is a central theme of the third series , bacteria - Vanitas . Here Lissel employed classical still life motives such as fruit or animal corpses , whose disintegration is reflected in the petri dishes. The silhouettes of the bright objects are distinctly visible, yet one can also see that the bacteria started growing even in those places that received little light , such that they will eventually " outgrow "their own image. The representation fading away, however, symbolizes the coming death of the object itself.

In this complex field testing of references and counter-references , Lissel juxtaposes three time levels: first, there is the object which once existed but has since virtually dilapidated or decayed . The second level is that of the reproductions, of images that existed for a couple of days by means of bacterial movements , set up in a laboratory. The third one is created by photography, which captures those ephemeral moments and keeps them alive for a long time.