In Newcastle to protest against the dividing of the world by nationalisms, racial origins, religious views by Donald Trump. The placards and posters raised above heads, fully reversible in many cases, danced to slogan chants and microphone rants. Reassuring that a good number surrounded the monument in The city centre, including some students who recognised me from a previous school, holding up a cardboard sign which had been made in their art room earlier. Art departments foster active democracy…….but worrying that the future for young creatives is one of dead barriers, borders and prejudices rehabilitated.
Australian photographer, Tracey Moffatt makes varied work, where technique and style vary to fit and expound her themes. The first photo work of her series Something More embodies the ideas and narrative of the series which uses the style and approach of a B movie to tell the story of despair of an outback girl leaving her rural home in Northern Australia to search for a better life and ending in racist violence. The backgrounds and styling may be fabricated and somewhat cliche but the desperation and loneliness creep through the powerfully composed works.
Moffat’s up in sky series from 1997 is set in the archetypical Australian Outback and depicts unsettling scenes with a strong hint of actual or impending violence which actualise the racial tensions and divisions that lie within her vision of this landscape.
Moffatt’s work is only part autobiographical, as an aboriginal woman brought up by adoptive white parents, identity is obviously key. In her series scarred for life (1994), Moffat re-enacted events and stories from childhood told to her by her friends. The scenes depicted are domestic, at first trivial, suburban, but the large images and bold titles (controlled by Moffat at the bottom of the image) soon draw out the humiliation of childhood and the racism implied.
The following 3 from the Laudanum series by Tracey Moffatt, which is an elaborate recreation of a faux erotic thriller through a series of images that appear to depict the humiliation and gothic erotic torture of an apparently Asian maid by a Victorian lady. This is heavily styled, using all the qualities of original photographic processes, lighting and early horror film make up in the style of Nosferatu the 1921 film, to create on one level, a critique of colonial enslavement, on another an erotic lesbian fantasy.
Blair, F (2009) Twelve Australian Photo Artists, Sydney: Piper Press.
Introduced the new school Instagram account yesterday. There are multiple issues with Instagram as an educational device, but equally lots of possibilities.
Firstly, I posted a work from last year, created by a highly talented student from last year (now on foundation course). On it’s own, with banal tagging (#firstpost) it generated, at time of writing, 10 likes and 10 followers. This, of course is the joy of Instagram, work that had been destined to always be in a sketchbook is presented and appreciated by a host of passers by.
Yet, the doubts creep in – who are these people who trail past and leave their trace? Will our students gain or lose from exploring these trails.
Students also started to use their own ‘school’ instagram accounts – with serious induction about safety and appropriate use. One student did question wether wether she wanted the digital attention and the openness that was implied, (This of course will be her decision) others jumped into the system with delight as their first works were put under social media scrutiny, presented as creative work rather than purely personal of their own streams.
The analysis of the benefits (or indeed distractions) over the next few months will be interesting.
As the words of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech echo thinly on the radio repeating the refrains of his election campaign and inspiring only American believers, one word rises above all others: NATION. A word that was repeated by Marie Le Pen and others at a far right meeting in Koblenz, the status of the ‘Nation’ and ‘National interest’ were repeated, with defence of these interests and defence of the boundaries and borders of these interests, the threat of immigration as the attack on these borders being at the fore.
Now there is a process: ‘New-Old’ borders and boundaries, seen and unseen are being recreated. The US Mexican border is one, with a porous history now about to be refashioned, hardened and enforced, the ‘Israeli peace wall’ and act of invasive brutality or self defence, depending on what side you live is another. In the Uk, the Irish border may be remade in the broken pieces of brevet, possibly with a risk of calling back all its tragic history. Meanwhile the cliffs of Dover or the Calais ferry port become a symbol for taking back control or denying freedom. My most local – the English Scottish Border – almost transparently thin after peaceful centuries of unified free movement, may yet be summoned back to being in Scottish independence.
The threat of borders can be seen as a denial of space. If landscape is freedom, borders are jail bars.
Borrando la Barda: Erasing the Border – PERFORMANCE DOCUMENTATION AT TIJUANA/SAN DIEGO BORDER) by Ana Teresa Fernandez
Stephan Falke’s project Borderlands documents the US Mexico border by recording the artists who live close by across the 2000 miles.
Pieter Hugo documented the border town of Messina/Musina (South Africa/
‘In his photographs of individuals, families, interiors, landscapes and incidental details, Hugo reflects on the wounds and scars of race, class and nationality that persist here, on the border of Zimbabwe, a country in the process of self-destructing. The circumstances of Musina can be also be seen as broadly reflective of any community that is confronted by transition.’ (From the cover description of the exhibition catalogue)
Excellent Talk and exposition of work by visiting Spanish artist Juan delGado, artist in residence at Isis Arts for the next week. delGado is now based in London but has worked internationally with some hauntingly beautiful landscape work based on the Isle of Grain and the margin lands at the Thames delta, including the video Le reve de Newton.
delgad0 described his journey from narratives created from ‘recreated scenarios’ such as the disturbing series called ‘The Wounded Image’which remade crime scenes that suggest great trauma in the people depicted, dead and injured and his arrival at a new way of working where he tried to ‘unfold the narrative’ from images and video captured on extended journeys in Europe. The focus of this most recent work is the marks in the landscape made by refugees in his Altered Landscape, a personal response to the Syrian Crisis.
Juan deGardo talked about the importance of sound in his work, not using it at all in some work – a desire not to ‘take common sound for granted’. In more recent work, the short text of the earlier pieces has been replaced by longer spoken word, which felt like recorded or written testimony. delGado also emphasised the importance of landscape; ‘Landscape is a witness’…..’it is a landscape of borders’……’the camera follows mobility in the landscape’.
The seawater pool at Tynemouth is a heroic ruin, built and opened in May 1925 at the end of long sands, opening just a year after the one at Fairy Bower on the other side of the world. There is a campaign to rescue and refurbish the pool by community subscription.
The tidal pool was filled in during the 1990’s and just a haunting pond with exposed rocks is left to reflect the sky.
The trip to Australia has led to some thinking and research into Australian photography, followed up on return to the UK, was the work of Anne Zahalka, a leading contemporary photographer and how her work in the 1980’s sought to challenge a mythology of Australian identity. This could be defined by the location of Australian history in the landscape of the Pioneer and the outdoor life of the beach. Zahalka recreated a number of classic Australian landscape pictures from the Heidelberg School, including through collage and later through recreation to undermine the accepted largely mono-cultural, Anglo Saxon male and patriarchal history. She reinterpreted works about the cultural space of the beach, feminising and representing a famous beach scene, Australian Beach Pattern a painting by Charles Meeres, with a new population, first with people of mixed European origin and then a scene full of Australians of different Asian and other ethnic backgrounds, most importantly including an aboriginal child appearing to claim possession of a towel with the Southern cross of stars – an emblem from the Australian Flag. Zahalka’s reinterpretation of Max Dupain’s iconic black and white image of the male surfer recumbent in the sun, as a flame haired androgynous figure also changes the narrative of the Australian Male Icon.
Frederick McCubbin paintings ‘The Pioneer’
Anne Zahalka The Immigrants (second version), 1985 type C photograph
Australian beach pattern 1940 – Charles Meere (Art Gallery of New South Wales)
The Bathers, 1989, Anne Zahalka Type C photograph on flex Manly Art Gallery & Museum Collection
The Bathers, 2013, Anne Zahalka
The Sunbather No.2, 1989, Anne Zahalka, Type C print 74.5cm x 74.5cm Edition of 20
Sunbaker – 1937 , Max Dupain
Blair, F (2009) Twelve Australian Photo Artists, Sydney: Piper Press.
An emotional geography of swimming in this work by Todd McMillan, Australian artist, seen in Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Part of a show called: New matter: recent forms of photography is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The exhibition featured work that was strong on materiality – the sense of photographs as objects to be observed rather than looked through. McMillan’s piece is a watery view of an endurance performance, but also a connection to one of the earliest ‘fictional’ photographs.
In both cases this is a created, fictional event.
Bayard wrote on the back of the photograph:
‘The corpse which you see here is that of M. Bayard, inventor of the process that has just been shown to you. As far as I know this indefatigable experimenter has been occupied for about three years with his discovery. The Government which has been only too generous to Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and the poor wretch has drowned himself. Oh the vagaries of human life….! … He has been at the morgue for several days, and no-one has recognized or claimed him. Ladies and gentlemen, you’d better pass along for fear of offending your sense of smell, for as you can observe, the face and hands of the gentleman are beginning to decay.’