“Walk over the Waterloo Bridge, past Somerset House – where Photo London is in May – then turn left and walk a few hundred meters on the Riverside Walkway and you’ll come to Bargehouse, OXO Tower Wharf:
The building itself is a piece of art; here a few impressions of the interior.
Cafeteria on top 4th floor
Wall with walking man
Floor with light coming through window
And when you hang art photos in such an milieu something happens that can not possibly happen in the posh and often sterile gallery.
Or why it is increasingly difficult to take the world elite’s luxury art industry serious. And why there are better deals at places no one has heard of…
Take a close look at these three images:
The basic idea behind them is pretty similar. It’s a landscape shot in rainy weather through a window filled with raindrops. It’s a gray day; dark mood. The camera has been set to focus primarily on the raindrops and thereby make the landscape further away bleary.
It’s a – fascinating – phenomenon in and of itself: what our eye do not see sharply at once demands more extra attention and reflection. German artist Gerhard Richter has used this challenge too in numerous of his works in which you think you see a blurred photograph while in fact it’s an oil painting. # 1 is the relatively sharpest image.
Then there are some obvious differences between the three. Continue reading
Year by year the “third” Venice Biennale venues outside Giardini and Arsenale – i.e. all over the rest of the city in apartments, palazzos and old factories – grow relatively more interesting and diverse.
It is fun to be forced to find one’s way to the most hidden places, through a little door in a wall, through a garden, or whatever. And those searching walks give you a break from looking at art all the time – something Giardini and Arsenale doesn’t permit you to do. And one never gets bored by exploring the millions of small alleys through Venice.
The Biennale is now so huge that you can anyhow only see a fraction – and so you have to choose. Together with quite a few other exhibitons in town, I chose Iran’s because of my interest in Iranian contemporary art and my peacebuilding-related work in Iran.
Most far away from everything else and close to the Jewish ghetto area Cannaregio, Iran has found its’ place in an old ship-building factory. Continue reading
Amazing, warm, enigmatic, beautiful and full of symbolism – the boats and the thousands of keys hanging in millions of red threads. There you go: Shiharo Shiota ‘”Key In The Hand” at the Japanese pavilion – one of the best pieces at the 2015 Venezia Biennale!
I’ve been to all the Biennales since 2007. My admittedly very subjective view – and what else could it be? – is that this year’s is far from the best. It’s overarching title is “All The World’s Futures” and it has three filters – 1) Garden of Disorder; 2) Liveness: On Epic Duration and 3) Reading Capital.” It is curated by Okwui Enwezor, Nigeria.
It takes place at three places in Venice – the Giardini space (29 pavilions), the Arsenale space (31 national pavilions plus lots of single artists) and all over town in the so-called Collateral Events accepted by the curator.
This year it has a record 89 participating countries and over 150 artists. Many see the bi-annual Venice Art Biennale – now in its 56th year as the world art event.
And of course it is fascinating. Its diversity is completely impossible to convey to anyone who has not been there. It’s been going on from May 9-November 22, 2015 – and I am here in Venice the last 7 days – to explore and learn as much as I possibly can and with pleasantly few visitors in Venice.
I write this first of two articles midways, Continue reading
I’m an art “consumer” and love to go seeing exhibitions, fairs, studios and museums. I don’t know when it began but I suddenly got the idea that all of what is going on in these spaces is interesting – not just the art works on show.
I began to explore whether it would be possible to see them as interiors, or stages, where a lot of interaction and “acting” was taking place – with me as an observer but also still a participant.
Exhibitions – big international fairs in particular – are shows in shows: people dress up, play the roles (sometimes) as elite connoisseurs – or are there to show off, be seen and interact with each other. They take pictures of the works with their smart phones – indeed, it seems now to be the dominating way to perceive art – and I take pictures of them doing just that.
Gallery booths can be seen as theatrical stages. Installations sometimes cry for people to participate, walk around in the set, explore what is behind a curtain or door. Bodies move around and provide constantly changing “installations” – sculptural settings or narratives.
We live in a time when art people seemingly are looking more for getting an experience like in a theme park than, perhaps, sitting down in silence and contemplate what is the meaning of the art piece or art as such and what it tells us about our society and our times.
Visitors consume – sometimes in very fast, scanning ways – so much so that you wonder whether they ever really see the art work in front of them, not to speak of try to understand it in a deeper way.
One gets the feeling that the seeing experience is turned into a movie-like zooming in and out. Fast! Faster! And on to the next!
Like you can be fascinated by street photography – which is also a bit voyeuristic – or landscapes, I think one can get indeed very curious about what is really going on when people meet art works of various kinds and in diverse milieus.
That is why I have taken a lot of pictures over the years at exhibtions and perceived them as theatre-like stages – rather than of the art works being exhibited.
I call these sketchy attempts Pictures At An Exhibition – yes, the title is stolen from Mussorgski’s fine piece of music. I have uploaded them, not on my photo homepage – at least not yet – but at my platforms at Pinterest and Instagram. I am curious to see how people there react to this exploration.
And if you have been a visitors or gallery owner at, say, Art Basel or the Biennale in Venice, you may find yourself there!
Can pictures of such art-ificial settings become art beyond documentation?
The idea of depicting people who watch art in various settings is nothing new, I haven’t invented a thing.
But I think the exploration is socially and culturally intriguing. And I believe images of those settings can become art pieces in and of themselves too. At least sometimes.
Five more reasons why I am spending quite some energy on this:
- The element of chance, of bodies moving in an out of my composition or angle (and not knowing they do).
- Object-subject: It’s quite bewildering when you are in the midst of a crowded show and you are both a part of the visitor group and try to understand it as an object outside your own presence.
- It tells us about our time – how the smart phones are changing everything – including how we see the world.
- The essential character of these milieus as temporary, as arranged, as being intensive for the duration of the exhibit and then dissolving, disappearing, never ever to be seen again. In short, by taking pictures there you preserve some bits of exhibition history.
- Documentation – like any other photo, if you looked at these picture 30 years from now (say 2050), you’d have some interesting views of what was on show there back in 2015, how we dressed, (inter)acted on the art stage and which kinds of art, artists and galleries were in focus.
There is, thus, an element of documentation in all this – at the same time as it is an ongoing on-the-spot exploration which I don’t intend to be documentary.
I exploit the opportunities and sometimes want to make it very clear that it’s not predominantly about documenting an exhibition and its visitors. I interpret these spaces as any other object, say street photography.
That’s why I allow myself to sometimes play with these raw shots and turn them into something else – like in these three examples:
I was there – were you?
This year I basically “write” about the Basel Art week through my pictures. You’ll find some in this blog post, some on Pinterest at a board called “Picture At An Exhibition” (oh no, no ref to Mussorgsky who just happened to entitle his piano suite similarly) and some on Instagram and some inside my newsletter, “Shoot” (which you may subscribe to by sending your mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org).
I’m out a little late in relation to Art Basel that took place about a month ago but I am not a reporter and I take pride in processing and/or playing with raw images and make personal presentations rather than upload endless fast snapshot photographs on the spot.
Some readers belonging to the gallery world may recognise their own booth/gallery with art pieces and visitors on the mentioned links above – which, btw., are not only taken at Art Basel.
Not an art review – what matters is what we like and therefore share
That said, this is no review of Art Basel, the world’s largest art fair. That would be impossible at least for me. I go there for inspiration, not for comparative studies or judgement. And neither am I an art critic. I just take pictures.
One reason I go to Basel every year is that I love to see my favourites ‘live’ – Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Hockney, Richter, Scully, Johns, Motherwell and many others – too many to mention. Another is that I want to get a sense, just a tiny one, of everything exciting that happens in the so-called art world. And, third, to tell you the truth, I go to even steal an idea or two or, as I said above, to get inspired.
With almost 300 galleries there – mainly Western but also quite a few from around the world – it is simply too big and too overwhelming to get hold of. I calculated that I must have seen a good 6.000 works during 4 days or 30+ hours.
So when you read in all those expert magazines that there are ten “must-sees” or that they know what is the best or most amazing, it’s a choice – perhaps a result of “group think” among a small elite. It can certainly not be based on a thorough review of everything exhibited. Continue reading