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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Fischli & Weiss – performative heroes albeit absent ones

The below essay was based on a research project regarding the sourcing of an innovative collaborative group who made a significant contribution to their time. It has since been edited down for a more blog-friendly article.

Fischli & Weiss
Swiss artists, Peter Fischli (born 1952) and David Weiss (1946-2012), commonly referred to as Fischli & Weiss, collaborated on photographs, sculptures, installations and the moving image together from 1979 onward. Their work has a performance quality the objects themselves entertaining or even ‘clever’. This can be seen in the strategic chain of events in ‘The Way Things Go’ (1987) film and the playful balancing of everyday objects caught in a state of ‘permanent precariousness’, in their photographic series ‘Equilibres’ (1984-87).¹ This performative quality with the absence of the artist is innovative for a period abundant in artist enacted performances such as ‘body art’ and ‘happenings’ which often involved bodily abuse. Their work has also been referred to as both incorporating the ready-made object whilst also inhabiting post-modernist ideas regarding the viewing of these objects as extensions of the body.

Installation, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Art describes it as a ‘term that came into vogue during the 1970’s for an ‘assemblage’ or ‘environment’ constructed in the gallery specifically for a particular exhibition’.² And ‘Assemblage’ as a ‘term coined in 1953 by Jean Dubuffet to describe works of art made from fragments of natural or pre-formed materials, such as household debris’.³ It goes on to describe ‘Environment’ art as a ‘type of art in which the artist creates a three-dimensional space pre-programmed or mechanically energized in order to enclose the spectator and involve him in a multiplicity of sensory stimulations – visual, auditory, kinetic, tactile, and sometimes olfactory’.⁴ Considering these terms, Fishcli and Weiss have not directly invited the spectator participation element of the 1960’s onward ‘happenings’ or ‘game’ Environment Art which is a divergence or innovation considering this period of performative works. They have instead precisely constructed an engineered environment for viewing via film or photography as documentation after the event as spectator inclusion would have offered the element of contamination of an exact, experimental and vast research based preparation. In spite of this there is a gentle interaction between the viewer and the work.

Conceptual Art is; ‘the term embracing various forms of art in which the idea for a work is considered more important than the finished product, if any’. ⁵ This idea began with Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and his ready-mades. However this is another example of the significant contributions that Fishcli and Weiss have made to their period as their works are a clear divergence from the static ready-made as they have infused the immobile object with a purpose to achieve an aura of cause and effect or chain reaction by either balancing everyday objects or orchestrating interactions between them. The objects become personified, performing astounding feats against gravity not un-like circus performers thus altering their intended functionality to that of a means to find equilibrium.

The inventive quality of their work is in embracing catastrophe through ordered chaos with the object performing and enduring the abuse in place of the human body indeed the work excludes the human body. However, the objects are arguably all ‘extending the sensorium’ a concept in keeping with post-modernist philosophies introduced by Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) and we find ourselves empathising with them. ‘Remediation, extensions of the human body and its senses’ and ‘the medium is the message’ is in keeping with a consciousness of post-modernity and a playful pursuit of its basic concepts at the very least with ideas of the ‘subject’ versus the ‘object’ and a preoccupation with comparability and opposites also evident in their work.⁶

This somewhat humble decentralisation of the artist and simultaneous elevation the object to infer cleverness is innovative and has often earned them a reputation for producing ‘post-modernist’ works. This could also be seen as reaction to the elevation of the artist to celebrity as seen in the preceding decades commencing with Abstract Expressionism with its masculine hero Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and later non-objective and experimental artist, Yves Klien (1928-62). So there is deliberateness to the absence of the artists which interestingly causes mystique and interest and great intellectual discussion, in itself a form of opposites.
One idea introduced in the period was that of the ‘clever object’ introduced by Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) in his 1983 text ‘‘fatal strategy’ in which the object is no longer passive but instead becomes clever’ and with an emphasis on ‘fate’ or chance in art making.⁷ Fischli himself stated; ‘we discovered that we could leave all formal decisions to equilibrium itself. There was apparently no way to do it better or worse, just ‘correctly’’⁸. ‘Fischli’ pointing towards objects potential cleverness seems to run counter to the current of conceptual art then, and its symbolic shift of the loci of the clever from object to subject. Rather, their creation of artworks in which objects gain independence and agency presents an artistic humility towards the cleverness of objects’.⁹ Further indication of the object as performative through questioning the necessity of the human element.

Alternatively the absent artist has been suggestively read as the ‘divine creator’ by art critic, Boris Groys (b. 1947) who ‘preaches that ‘we must not forget that the greatest, the supreme power consists of giving ones creations independence and freedom’.¹⁰ The objects in ‘The Way things Go’ although unmistakably orchestrated are given independence to ‘perform’ not unlike any human choreographed display and ‘by making balance its focus, ‘Quiet Afternoon’ photographic series ‘exploits the camera’s ability to elasticate time, presenting an eternal split-second and a permanent precariousness’.¹¹ The viewer internally hears the crashing of objects almost as passive and gentle audience participation as the objects undoubtedly must succumb to gravity milliseconds after the click of the camera.

Fischli and Weiss are a significant duo in the period for which they inhabited for their remediation of ideas that came before them. Their playful works ‘The Way Things Go’ and ‘Equilibres’ inspire enquiry into the pre-existing notions of; a redefining of the necessity of the human aspect of Performance-art, Duchamp’s ‘ready-made’, the ‘post-modernist’ philosophies of McLuhan, Baudrillard’s theory of the ‘clever-object’ and Groy’s ‘divine creator’. This is all achieved with an atmosphere of the elevation of the object in spite of any artistic aesthetic choices and a resultant performative quality by the object ensues.

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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Sydney Bookbinding, Amazing Papers and Imagination Graphics – all in the one building!

These three associated businesses can be found together under the one roof!
98-100 Chapel Street
Marrickville, NSW 2044
Sydney Bookbinding: http://www.sydneybookbinding.com/
Amazing Papers: http://www.amazingpaper.com.au/
Imagination Graphics: http://www.imaginationgraphics.com.au/about-imagination-graphics.html

Sydney Bookbinding
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I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of the Lovely Rosemarie Jeffers-Palmer through UNSW in my enrollment in an Artists Books elective for first semester 2014 studies. I instantly took to her no-nonsense approach, evident business acumen and general likability. She showed us how to love paper, how to really bond with it, touch, stroke and fold, respect and listen to it. Our exercises in book design and making yielded some incredible results from these first-time bookbinding/making students who created, soft and hard covered, spine stitched, concertina and flag hand made books. We were encouraged and limited only by our own imagination with an emphasis on quality craftsmanship within our own capabilities.


Amazing Papers and Imagination Graphics

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Now here is where this story gets interesting! I was visiting Rosemarie at Sydney Bookbinding to return an item to her and check out her business place. Whilst I was looking at the papers in the adjoining room, the owner of the business (pictured above) came to say hello….This is the father of a childhood school friend and as he approached me with that …’don’t I know you??’ kind of expression upon his face, I knew instantly who he was. He took me straight over to wedding photographs of his two girls including my girlhood friend and we laughed over the coincidence. He took me on a tour of his building and answered all of my questions and here is what I will share with you now….,

If you want to print and commercially bind, hand-pick papers and or order hand bound books or boxes for your artworks and or treasured family photos, you just can’t go past this cluster of businesses. Everything you need can be found in the one place in Marrickville, which I might add is extremely close to reverse garbage.

This is of course only a small list of things they offer so I suggest getting onto their websites to take a look and enjoy!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Why photographer Jeff Wall is a great example of the post modern debate

The below piece is developed from a course I took at UNSW, it responds to a question about the terms ‘appropriation’ and ‘pastiche’ as subject matter.

Appropriation and pastiche are defining features of post modernism as these terms refer to the method by which artists across wide ranging media approached their cultural production. This discussion is focussed on the photography of Canadian artist and academic Jeff Wall (b. 1946) and using specific examples, it will outline his marrying of popular culture with the past using academic observation via a visual means, itself an innovative approach to remediation. It will establish the relationship of these works to post-modern philosophy and associated dialogue particularly by Marshal McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard.

The significance of a Wall photograph can be understood only after learning of its construction, exhibition, geography and the context of the time from which it was produced. For example, Wall observed Eugene Delacroix’ 19th century French Romantic painting, The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) with its extravagant composition, eroticism and drama which he re-contextualised to portray a present day prostitutes ravaged bedroom, The Destroyed Room (1978). He built this and other images akin to the nature of building layers of paint, though photographically moreover his ‘transparencies of the early 1980’s reconstruct, or even re-present, some well-known paintings, made on the cusp of Modernism, and some of his later transparencies appropriate ideas that arose within photography during the early twentieth century’.¹ Wall’s work fits in the context of contemporary photographic production as ‘the emergence of the new photographic form occurred in concert with a resurgence of large scale painting’ in response to the ‘deskilled snapshots’ or even ‘anti aesthetic’ use of photography prevalent in the former minimalist and Pop art period (mid 1960’s to late 1970’s).² Jencks argues, ‘there is a kind of return to painting in postmodernism, although it is a return that does not simply replicate the modernist search for form. There is a return to content’. There is a sense that ‘we are playing with the images of the past, without the narrative of the past’.³ Although Wall himself stated that the work ‘attempts to criticize the pleasure which has become ideologically attached to (the imagery of erotic violence) by making explicit allusions to its acceptable manifestations in fashion magazine illustrations, shop window displays, advertising and art cinema’.⁴ The Destroyed Room’s initial installation in the display window of The Nova Gallery, Vancouver (1978) clearly references consumerism and the spectator through both concept and the postmodern application of pastiche and appropriation. The geographical context of photography within postmodern art is described as beginning in ‘the late 1970’s’, particularly ‘in West Germany and North America,’ and were often large scale colour photographs.⁵ Wall is referred to as a New Figuration painter, within this geographical context, though the camera is his medium. New Figuration is described as a ‘revival of figurative painting in the 1960’s following a period of Abstract Expressionism’⁶.

Conceptual Art is born of appropriation and pastiche however the photograph has primarily been used as documentation resulting in a factual image. Alternatively, Wall cleverly construct’s his images by ‘carefully composing a scene that appears to be real,’ he ‘asserts control over reality that was before counter-intuitive within the medium of photography’. This results in a collision of the ‘staged or composed photograph’ with ‘the indexical “truth” of photography’ and highlights ‘a history of “belief” in the image’.⁷ This relates to Alan Kirby’s definition of postmodern philosophy as emphasising ‘the elusiveness of meaning and knowledge which is often expressed in postmodern art as a concern with representation and an ‘ironic self-awareness’ and ‘It is this sense of total recognition, but partial knowledge, that Wall has traded on for 25 years’.⁸ It is hard to ignore Wall’s applicability to accepted notions of Conceptual Art such as the concept is more important than the finished product or to introduce a new term ‘concept equals art’. However, Wall does not think of himself as a conceptual artist or as he prefers to term it ‘conceptual reduction of the depictive arts’ with ‘reduction’ the ‘central term at the origins of conceptual art’.⁹ He infers an ‘affection for the Old Masters in a context of “post-conceptual pluralism” rife with shallow pastiches of premodern painting’.¹⁰ The Oxford Dictionary of Art further describes the term relating to photographs which ‘have been used as communication media,’ whereby the artist ‘deliberately renders their production uninteresting, commonplace or trivial from a visual point of view in order to divert attention to the ‘idea’ they express’. His photographs present fairly trivial, mundane scenes and do seem visually commonplace however when infused with the knowledge of their point of origin this diverts attention back to the idea and the resultant irony, thus he appears the genius. They demonstrate a keen historical analytical knowledge of painting whilst implying or giving an impression (through technical savvy), of a snap shot captured moment, though this is far from the reality of a Jeff Wall photograph.

Wall’s intellectual engagement with consumer related concerns such as, the commercial spectacle and new technology fed into his visual works with an evident consciousness. So, here we find Wall who had an ‘overwhelming desire to incorporate narrative, the pictorial tradition, and the cinema into his work; and who was committed, through his reading of French Poet and Critic Charles Baudelaire (1821-67)¹¹, ‘to finding a way of picturing modern life’.¹² Wall’s self-consciousness of the market and in particular the consumer can be seen in his exploitation of the intrinsically linked mediums of painting, photography and even philosophy. This blending of mediums invokes Marshall McLuhan’s, ‘Remediation – the content of any medium is always another medium’ simultaneously with J.R. Eyerman’s, Time Magazine (1952) photograph, Movie Viewers. In the case of Wall’s back-lit large format transparencies, inspiration was drawn from a ‘back-lit bus stop advertisement’ and the inherent reference to popular culture proved too tempting to ignore. This was clearly not photography, cinema, painting or propaganda ‘but had strong associations with them all’ and as Wall partially divorces it from its marketing use it is a remediation of its former function.¹³ Wall’s Movie Audience (1979) depicts ‘the consumer audience of the commercial spectacle. Identical in attitude, expression, the angle at which they look outward, and at which they are themselves viewed’.¹⁴ This work is essential when connecting Wall to Baudrilliard and McLuhan before him concerning the spectacle of the contemporary age. ‘Both McLuhan and Baudrillard provide provocative theses on the role of the media and new technology in constituting the contemporary world.’¹⁶

Wall is a bridge between extending the limits of analogue photography to achieve with great artistry what is more easily achieved with the post-analogue medium of digital photography and associated software. Consider this with McLuhan’s ‘extending the sensorium’ then the camera lens and Wall’s transparencies both become an extension of the eye and explore the capabilities of analogue photography. Reflect also upon the notion of light as perceived through the eye and without which a photographic negative cannot be processed simultaneously with Wall’s application of light as remediated via the appropriation of the commercial light box. Finally, McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ or ‘anti-content’ and Wall has ‘repeatedly been called a “painter of modern life” where indeed ‘staged action takes place of real action and gestures function as ‘emblems’, as Wall calls them’. This can be viewed or re-contextualised concerning McLuhan’s, ‘anti-content’, just as Neo-Classical painting was labelled as lifeless and impersonal, a Wall photograph has been referred to as having its ‘authenticity eradicated as his subjects act out his constructions’¹⁶ with a resultant ‘deathliness of all staged photography’ and is further evidence of appropriation. Alternatively, Michel Fried suggests that Wall’s ‘use of the medium is a fetishization of the art object, despite his attempted critical appropriation of the commercial light boxes’.¹⁷ In either argument, notions of remediation, fetishized object, and the ‘anti-content’ of staged photography are being actively discussed, all of which are popular post-modern ideas.

Appropriation and pastiche manifest in the provided examples of Wall’s photographic works with the seemingly irrational, ambiguous and ironic nature of Wall’s two works, The Destroyed Room and Picture for Women, together with the evident relationship to postmodern philosophy in Movie Audience and are all significant works for postmodern discussions. This is largely due to their relationship to notions of pastiche and appropriation through technique, their backlit transparency presentation and overall concept relating back to narratives of the past with the consumerism of the present. Wall uses the medium of photography academically and the resultant contrast of aesthetic with philosophy is extremely sophisticated.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Short Essay_’Kickstarter’ is the essence of our contemporary world

The below piece is developed from a course I took at UNSW, it responds to a question about the term ‘contemporary’ as subject matter.

Crowd-funding platform Kickstarter has always fascinated me. I began research on it with a girlfriend in 2012 but was ill-content to leave it there….It became clear very quickly that this kind of campaign would fast become a full time job so I put it on the shelf….then took it down less than a year later to produce this paper for UNSW in 2013;

ESSAY
The term ‘contemporary’ refers to the ‘current’ in terms of living comparable persons that belong to the same time or period, an object or an occurrence. Kirby acknowledges its place ‘under the pressure of new technologies and contemporary social forces’ with the association and questioning of terms such as ‘modern’, ‘post-modern’ and ‘pseudo-modernism’. ¹ Also included in this discussion are recent philosophies surrounding globalisation. American internet based crowd funding resource, ‘Kickstarter’ (launched 2009), embodies the essence of the contemporary which is revealed by its engagement with and reliance upon social media, technology and economics.

Social networking services such as Crowd Funding, Face Book and Spotify (music sharing) offer the user a degree of interaction. It’s the means by which the user is engaging with these ephemeral services which act as a point of departure from their humble beginnings as a fund raising raffle, tangible book of faces shared by a group, and the mix tape.
In a regular person to person exchange of a tangible product, the sales person places an object directly into the hands of the consumer, thus compelling the customer to acquaint themselves with the item. Alternatively Kickstarter enables the pledger to achieve an ephemeral equivalent attachment to the campaign. This introduces the other relevant concept regarding pseudo modernism; as the successor of post-modernism, ‘pseudo-modernism’, which ‘makes the individual’s action the necessary condition of the cultural product’. Essentially ‘it forms the twenty-first century’s social-historical-cultural hegemony’. Moreover, the activity of pseudo-modernism has its own specificity; it is electronic, and textual, but ephemeral’. ²

Crowd funding platform Kickstarter is the incarnation of the contemporary as ‘the inventors, users, and economic backers of a new medium present it as able to represent the world in more realistic and authentic ways than previous media forms and in the process what is real and authentic is redefined’. It is now more realistic to entertain the concept of fund raising using this method in place of out-dated alternatives. This idea owes something to McLuhan, for whom ‘the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium’. ³ It is the campaigner who provides Kickstarter with their product.

A recent (2001) interpretation of globalisation by T Larsson referred to it as; ‘the process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter. It pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world’. ⁴ In 2012 alone, ‘people in 177 countries backed a’ Kickstarter ‘project, that’s 90% of the countries in the world’. ⁵
Kickstarter has profited from both social media and adaptation of technology to meet their business needs however the success of some campaigns far exceeded expectations. ‘The most funded project to date is the Pebble, an e-paper watch for iPhone. Their goal was $100,000 and they received over $10 million from 68,929 backers’ ⁶ and overall ‘more than 4.6 million people have pledged over $737 million, funding more than 46,000 creative projects’. Simply by existing, Kickstarter now has several global, contemporary, competing networks thus creating desire and consumption.

‘Kickstarter’ embodies the essence of the contemporary, as the term ‘contemporary’ is imbued with an acknowledgment of the previous and makes a contribution to the current, simultaneously.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Review: Artists and Writers on Telling Tough Stories in Pictures

Go to this link to find out more about this event:

http://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/artists-writers-on-telling-tough-stories-in-pictures/

I went to this event last night with a girlfriend and heard first hand accounts of how three very different artists convey tough stories through images. The panel consisted of cartoonist, writer and zine maker Pat Grant, Cartoonist and Illustrator Cathy Willcox and War artist, photographer, filmmaker and painter George Gittoes. The host for the evening was author, Journalist and Executive Director of the NSW Writers’ Centre, Jane McCredie.

Pat Grant acknowledged the difficulties which can be faced domestically within a family particularly a father/son relationship or the direct urban environmental and cultural implications of events experienced during his youth such as the Cronulla Riots. Grant’s accounts were refreshing and indicated the acceptance of a person’s personal battles as important even when pitched alongside a much more political referent in Willcox and the global and often dangerous anecdotes of Gittoes.

Willcox spoke of the sensitive nature of some subjects particularly when fresh and traumatic occurrences must be depicted in her cartoon’s for mass media consumption (Sydney Morning Herald). She spoke of delicacy toward peoples sensibilities when dealing with particularly tough breaking stories.

George Gittoes makes an impact when sharing his first hand accounts of dangerous experiences within social, cultural and literal war zones globally. His stories are so outrageous that that they seem unbelievable though we know them to be true…he has the footage to prove it! He is candid and entertaining and made a big impression on my girlfriend who ran up to him at the end of the session to tell him just how much she enjoyed him. Gittoes gave her a hug then encouraged her to introduce him to us and we all had a hug. I guess a man who puts himself in the line of fire time and time again…takes every opportunity to interact with people on a very real and intimate level when ever possible.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in REVIEWS

 

Selected Finalist! Winter 2014 – ‘The Edge’ Katoomba

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This work was selected for the Blue Mountains Artists Network (BMAN) Winter exhibition at The Edge (movie cinema building) Gallery, Katoomba. See the below link for details.

This work is for sale at this event for 480.00 its 39 x 72 inches and looks great just leaning against a wall or hung.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in EXHIBITIONS

 

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Lithography and Silkscreen Final Work

Printmaking: Planagraphic Systems and substrates
Assessment 2 – Germination and Imagination

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This work responds to an Assessment Task brief which encouraged other approaches to lithographic and layered image production incorporating Silkscreen printmedia. To germinate is to cause something to originate, like the simplicity of seeds developing or the complexity of bringing something into life, an idea coming into being or thought. Germination has a sense of new beginnings. The start of something new…, a new
approach…, a new thought…, a new application…, thinking laterally…, creatively, using your imagination.

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Here is the work installed at UNI for assessment today. There were two embroidery looms suspended from the ceiling in front of the two wall mounted works. The looms had the same delicate hand-made tissue stretched across their oval shape and were positioned in their horizontal orientation subversive to the recurring vertical orientation of the oval shape. I did not get an image of this installed so you will have to use your imagination…they were hanging some 50cm in front of the works