I recently reviewed portfolios of photographic educators at the SPE National Conference in San Francisco. This week I am featuring some of the terrific work I got a chance to see….
I first got to know Kirsten Hoving as the owner/director of the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont. I have been a big supporter of her gallery and their exhibition opportunities for emerging photographers, and several times had the great pleasure of serving as a juror for their exhibitions. It took me awhile to realize that Kirsten is also a photographer, and a good one at that. In addition, she’s a Professor of Art History at Middlebury College. It was great to finally meet her in San Francisco and spend time with her work and person. Her new series, Night Wanderers, was a powerful collection frozen assemblages, that have an ethereal beauty.
Night Wanderers is a series of photographs envisioning the cosmos. I photograph objects and nineteenth-century photographs frozen in or placed under disks of ice to create the feeling of galactic swirls of stars, galaxies and spiral nebulae.
For this series, I have been influenced not by the work of other photographers, but by the collage and assemblage art of the American artist Joseph Cornell. In the course of writing an art historical book on the artist, Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars (Princeton University Press, 2009), I became aware of the artist’s deep and abiding interest in astronomy. I also came to understand his creative process, which involved juxtaposing objects in often unexpected ways. His working method encouraged me to take risks, to experiment, and to be willing to destroy one object to create another. He also taught me to appreciate the stars.
Using ice as a still life object is always a challenging process. I partially thaw the ice to create transparent and translucent areas, then work quickly to photograph it. While I choose objects and photographs that recall earlier times, such as an outdated globe or old cartes-de-visite, to help remind us that star light is old light, the ice that encases them underscores the elegance and fragility of our place in the universe.
American artist James Casebere has been photographing dioramic constructions of human civilization since 1975. His tableaus—scenes from places both fictional and real—respond to current events and are the subject of a new book called Works 1975-2010, which chronicles highlights from his 35-year career.
Over the years, Casebere’s images have expanded and redefined to show his exploration of aesthetic technical challenges. “Photography resonates with me because it manipulates our perception of the world around us,” he says. “I am interested in photography as a means of persuasion, of propaganda and constructing histories. I am interested in how photography creates and reconstructs reality.”
Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1953, Casebere grew up during the era of television’s rise to becoming America’s prominent medium for creating images and manifesting visual culture. Referencing the sets of sitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s, Casebere’s early career focused on disseminating and questioning the domestic household and addressing the growing dysfunctions of the ideal American home. Though the scenes that he constructs and then photographs are often similar to the environment of his native Lansing, the images are not anecdotal. This absence of a personal narrative is a strategy Casebere still continues in his work today.
Among Casebere’s most well-known work are his images of the interiors of detainment cells and prisons, such as Prison Cell With Skylight, 1993. “I was thinking a lot about the Enlightenment era and the way that different cultural institutions were created in the late 18th and early 19th century. One of the developments was the prison,” he says. “I wanted to investigate innovations of the whole system…I was trying to critically look at the whole process of incarceration as cultural-historical phenomena.”
Color became more focal and the construction of sets more filled with detail in the work that follows the prison images. Casabere began capturing interior rooms beginning in the mid-90s, with images like Converging Hallways from Left, 1997. ”When I was working on prisons, I was really dealing with a subject that involved deprivation and denial,” he says. “When I moved to the interior spaces, they were less obviously models—they were more convincing. The images are printed quite large, and when viewing them in a gallery, they really become something one can walk into. There was confusion about what is real and what isn’t…There came a moment when I decided to break down the wall, visually— to do things with color, light and texture— literally, to break down the walls, the construction of the models.”
At times, Casebere’s work seems to be indicative of future events. Images that Casebere created from 2006 through 2007, seemed to almost foreshadow this year’s Arab Spring, addressing issues that were boiling in the Middle East for a long time. The images depict the Middle East from a place of brewing conflict, but also a place where people lead normal lives. “I was really trying to create a different impression entirely. Tripoli, 2007, the image that I photographed is actually a recreation of Tripoli in Lebanon,” he says. “Shortly after I made that image, there was a battle at a refugee camp, where the Lebanese army surrounded the village and drove them out.”
Casebere’s latest series of images, each work titled a numerical variation of Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY), reveals his return to focusing on the domestic, a move influenced in part by the advent of the mortgage crisis. But this time around, the artist brought color and dramatic lighting into the work. “I was really working with the lights, recreating morning light, afternoon light, evening light, twilight, moonlight, all kinds of light to exhaust the possibilities and color,” he says. The latest image in the series, however, depicts the idyllic suburban houses with a catastrophic, albeit humorously cartoonish, fire burning in the background. “The fire is metaphoric of the sense of crisis of living in the home, the loss of the American dream,” Casebere says. “I emphasize and criticize [the fact] that we’re caught in a cyclical lifestyle that is destructive and self-destructive.”
I guess it’s appropriate when your first name is Bear, that you would make photographs about our relationship to the natural world. And if your name is Bear Kirkpatrick, you also bring a life well lived to that work. “Although in the years since he has published short stories, had a screenplay produced into a full-length feature, has made custom furniture for Bono and Adam Clayton, has exhibited furniture, jewellery, photography and sculpture throughout the United States, including the Society for Arts and Crafts in Boston, and the Rogin Gallery in New York, photography continues to be the primary focus of his artistic pursuit. Presently, he lives in Portsmouth, NH and works work with the American artist Robert Wilson as the chief installer of his video portraits in private residences, museums, and galleries around the world.” Bear’s work was recently featured in Eyemazing Magazine and has work for sale through the Eyemazing Editions collection.
The focus of Bear’s work is to create a framework that explores mankind’s relationship to himself and to his animalness by developing narratives that attempt to create an image of man that is simultaneously primal and fully modern. Through this juxtaposition he posits that the basic tenets of the human condition have not disappeared beneath the flash of our contrivances or been abolished by any contemporary idea of progress.
By viewing mankind with the same lens through which he or she examines the natural world, and by swapping the object for the subject, he reveals the eternal struggle to define for ourselves an understanding of our place within a contemporary social relationship to the sacred and the profane.
GOLDIECHIARI & KATE GILMORE
Interview by Kristen Lorello
. . .
goldiechiari, controcorrente (against the tide), video , 2005
I spent much of last year in Rome, studying the city’s contemporary art scene and focusing on how the city’s landscape, replete with historic monuments, might provide a meaningful backdrop for critical intervention, particularly on feminist and environmental issues. Both Italian duo goldiechiari (Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari) and the temporarily Rome-based American artist Kate Gilmore create works that challenge the values implicit in a variety of social situations, each using the city’s landscape as a source of both content and materials for their art. During their ten-year collaboration, Rome-based duo goldiechiari have often used Rome’s historic center and outskirts as the setting for photographs treating issues related to sexual politics and the consequences of industrialization and capitalism. Recipient of the 2007-08 Rome Prize, Gilmore creates videos in which she interacts with constructed sculptural sets, often confronting physically challenging situations that must be endured or overcome, including taking an axe to a sculpted wooden heart, throwing domestic furniture from the second to first story of a building, and clawing her way up an incline on roller skates to take a cake. Destroying the intended function of common objects or revealing the ridiculous extents to which women go to achieve role that society prescribes, Gilmore places the values of the roles and objects in flux. Drawn to the common threads in their work, I interviewed these three artists this spring.
goldiechiari, pic nic, 2002, c-print
(courtesy of elaine levy project)
Kristin Lorello: For your most recent work, Dump Queen, you have created a musical in which performer Lotta Melin sings Carmen Miranda’s Ã¢Chica, Chica, Boom, ChicÃ¢ among piles of trash in the Guidonia garbage dump outside of Rome. Why did you choose this performer and this setting?
SARA GOLDSCHMIED: In previous works, we have always appeared as the performers. But in reality, neither of us knows how to dance the samba! This was a fundamental problem. So, we decided to collaborate with the Swedish performer Lotta Melin. She generally doesn’t do this type of work, but she is a friend, understood the project, and took the role on. Working with Lotta was stimulating because she hit on what we had in mind. We researched MirandaÃ¢s films, her dances, her expressions, and Lotta was very good at reproducing the character. We have always worked with people to help us produce works, with artisans or professionals from other industries, so cooperation is often part of the work. With regards to the chosen setting, the garbage dump, weÃ¢re interested in refuse as the consequence of a certain lifestyle in a particular environment and as a material that has consequences for the future. WeÃ¢re interested in the notion that refuse is something removed from its original context. Objects of consumption that once had a very strong aura of interest completely lose their captivating aspect and become trash that we don’t want to regard as part of our life. This is interesting to us as a metaphor. The way that we choose to live in the West is hypocritical, and we want to spotlight those places that people do not acknowledge. There is a parallel reality that we do not know about. The garbage dump is fascinating and has its own way of functioning and a totally different economy. In the morning, the sparrows go there to eat, at lunchtime the seagulls, in the evening the crows. And there are people who work among the accumulation of the city.
ELENORA CHIARI: Doing this behind-the-scenes research on the garbage dumps, we realized that they are everywhere around us, but they are never pointed out. They are always in gated and hidden places but just around the corner.
Lorello: Have you been interested in refuse in past works?
CHIARI: You can see this interest in our earlier series, Ã¢BucolicheÃ¢ (Ã¢BucolicsÃ¢), in which we upset the bucolic aspect of nature with a view that is totally artificial, making panoramas from what we have in front of our eyes each day in Trastevere, Rome. We made images of nympheas from our plastic bags or those of the garbage dump of Malagrotta near Rome. The idea was to allow the viewer to recognize an iconic image from French Impressionist painting, Claude MonetÃ¢s water lilies, in the trash and then to create a paradox from it. The images from Impressionism are recognizable to a large audience, and using this framework, we create a way for the viewer to access the work. Then, within the work, there are many avenues for meaning. We often work with immediately recognizable symbols or images. ThereÃ¢s this emphasis on that which is hidden from view in everyday life. Here, it becomes reevaluated, put in the foreground, and inserted into a language of an institutionalized form of art.
goldiechiari, dump queen, 2008, video still triptych
Lorello: How did the two of you meet, and how did you arrive at making work along these lines?
GOLDSCHMIED: We met in 1997 at the University of Sociology of Rome in the group Orma Nomade that began as a political group and a study group of Donna Haraway’s essay, Ã¢A Cyborg Manifesto.Ã¢ After some time, we began to try out a visual arts project together that aspired to the texts that we were reading. The work was tied to an imagination of the corporal, performance, and a series of themes tied to the intimacy of the body.
Lorello: The purpose was to experiment together, not to create a project tied to a contemporary art exhibition. Afterwards we began to produce works, but the experimentation lasted a couple of years as we developed our language.
GOLDSCHMIED: Initially, the influence of feminism was strong, both from the point of view of textsÃ¢critical theory by authors like Judith Butler, Teresa de Lauretis, and Rosi BraidottiÃ¢and from the point of view of theoretical experimentation. The texts led us to contemplate notions of subjectivity and boundaries between feminine and masculine, natural and artificial. recycled glass jars . Regarding the concept of institutional critique, we’re interested in underlining paradoxes or creating short circuits through irony so that the spectator has the possibility of putting both that which is taken at face value and the system of art itself into question.
Lorello: How does the choice to live in Rome influence your work?
CHIARI: In Rome, thereÃ¢s antiquity, this eternity. But antiquity is also one of the reasons that has not allowed the contemporary to develop as it has in other countries, even though there are artists, critics, curators, and museum directors here who work at a very high level. The problem is that so much money from the state goes to the restoration and maintenance of ancient artworks, and we very much live from tourism. There is little sensitivity on the part of the institutions for the contemporary. They don’t realize how we are stuck and how we cannot remain that way.
GOLDSCHMIED: The choice to live in Rome is very important. We have a lot of material that we are working on that is tied to the political contradictions that characterize Italy, the fact that Rome is a center of power because it is the political capital of Italy and at the same time is a historical city also tied to the power of the Vatican.
goldiechiari, pic nic, 2002, ninfee, panoramiche #15, lambda print
(courtesy of elaine levy project)
Lorello: You have shot many works on the outskirts of the city. What interests you in these places?
CHIARI: Rome is quite large, and there are a number of different parts of the city. Walking around, you realize that you can be transported to any other place in the world and you’re no longer in Rome. This recognition, however, is more behind the scenes. It’s fun to discover places, and it’s also a kind of metaphor that there is always a behind the scenes. In some way, weÃ¢re searching for this.
GOLDSCHMIED: It’s also the fact that the periphery renders many cities similar to one another. The work can then be applicable to other contexts and not just Rome. This idea can even be seen in works shot in the historic center of Rome. For example, both Controcorrente and Nympheas were shot at the Tiber River, and yet, there is no way of establishing this. We eliminated every reference to history, every architectural reference that could portray Rome in its more classical image. This is because the classical imagery would have distracted attention from other elements. We were more interested in the idea of the Tiber as a polluted river that could be in Rome just as it could be in any other place in the world at this moment.
. . .
kate gilmore, cake walk, 2005, video
Lorello: Can you discuss what you are currently working on in Rome?
KATE GILMORE: IÃ¢m working on pile pieces that are based on destruction and construction. I’m looking at the architecture of the city, how it’s built on top of itself, and how contemporary society exists within the realm of this ancient place. IÃ¢m working with that history in these piles, thinking about breaking and making. Take the Roman Forum, for example. It was a thriving place, was destroyed, and now exists in a whole other realm and has created something that has a totally new definition. I am working in new materials as well. In New York, I work with a lot of wood because it is a plentiful material, especially near my studio in Long Island City. In Rome, wood is very expensive, so I have had to adjust the way that I make my sets and use materials that are cheap and plentiful in Rome. Here, I have been using plaster construction blocks, so the piles appear to be made from marble or stone. I try to use the place where IÃ¢m working as inspiration. It doesnÃ¢t make sense for me to replicate my exact New York studio practice in Rome. The challenge is to try to figure out what is here in Rome and do something new and interesting with that information.
kate gilmore, heart breaker, 2004, video still
Lorello: How did you arrive at making videos in which you interact with constructed sets?
GILMORE: When I was in school, I had professors come by my studio to look at my sculptures, but they were more interested in my personality, the way that I worked, my process, and the things that were left over from the sculptures than the actual objects. I started thinking about why the sculptures weren’t working and how I could combine all of these elements to make something more successful, and I started to put myself into the actual objects and then photograph them. I made pieces that focused on the idea of displacement. Used Cars Denver . I would build installations in which a female character would interact with an environment that was completely foreign to the environment that one would expect her to be in. For example, I would build a mud hut and dress up as Hillary Clinton or play a prom queen building Ted Kaczynski’s shack. I then started thinking about the process of moving through time as opposed to the end result being an object. This eventually led me to video.
kate gilmore, higher horse, 2008, video still
Lorello: In your performances, you often reshape constructed environments, renegotiating your own relationship to the sets, dismantling the original values implicit in them. As a female artist, do you feel a responsibility to do so?
GILMORE: Inevitably my work is about being a woman because I am in my work, and I am often doing these physical tasks. My outfits are usually quite female, with heels or dresses, so inevitably that’s part of it. As for whether female artists have a responsibility to address these issues, I don’t think itÃ¢s necessarily an obligation, but I’m interested in it. I looked at people like Marina AbramoviÃ, Valie Export, Hannah Wilke, Carolee Schneemann, Louise Bourgeois, and Kiki Smith when I was growing up. Those are the people who probably made me an artist. I’m interested in taking those ideas and making them applicable to what’s going on right now. There are many artists now who unfortunately don’t want to have anything to do with feminist art. For me, that’s almost offensive since so many women artists and women in general did these things so that we don’t have to worry as muchÃ¢even though we do have to worry in a different way.
Lorello: Is the work Star Bright, Star Might an example of this interest?
GILMORE: Star Bright, Star Might was very much about the art world. It was made specifically for the Armory Show, and that piece is about the idea that artists are supposed to fit into a specific star mold. This can also be interpreted more generally as well. How do you negotiate an environment or situation that is basically rejecting you? There are several solutions. You can back off, you can mold yourself so you can fit, or there’s the solution that I usually take, which is to say: Ã¢No, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to break it.Ã¢
kate gilmore, star bright, star might, 2007, video still
Lorello: In many of your works, there is a physical obstacle that you set to overcome. Do you feel a sense of relief when you achieve a goal?
GILMORE: In Cake Walk, yes. That was physically the hardest piece I have ever done, and it was the only piece that I almost gave up on because it was so difficult. Ductless Air Conditioner . I knew that I could get out of Main Squeeze because I built it around my body, and it was a question of putting my body in the exact position. After I do a video, there is always a sense of relief. At the same time, the situation never turns out the way that I expect. I’m constantly spontaneously reacting to an environment. I’m not an actor. I’m just dealing with this life situation on camera. There are also several instances in which I don’t achieve, and the performance goes on. For instance, in Cake Walk, I finally get the cake and I throw it away, so the cake is a form of motivation, but it doesn’t matter if I get it or not. Cake Walk still could have ended even if I didn’t get it. It’s nice to have that moment, but the piece still would have worked if I hadnÃ¢t gotten it. You wouldn’t have gotten that same sense of relief as a viewer, so I’m actually being nicer to the viewer by achieving. That’s why I think a lot of people react strongly to My Love is an Anchor, in which I’m stuck in a bucket and will be for the rest of the life of the video. Now I’m working a little more with loop-based videos, thinking about the idea of continual struggle.
Lorello: Why do you subject yourself to discomfort in your work?
GILMORE: I think that the misconception about my videos is that they’re masochistic, and they’re not. They’re about pushing my body to a limit and trying to achieve something, using the physical to express an inner conflict. My physical relationship to objects is the most important thing to me, and making it through these challenges is what makes the Ã¢discomfortÃ¢ worth it.
Lorello: Have you ever imagined working with other performers in your works?
GILMORE: I’ve been thinking about it more and more now, even though it’s never worked before. I’m working on a couple of pieces that actually have men in them, and the works deal with the idea of hyper-masculinity. I’ve been thinking more about machismo in Rome. You can’t turn your head without seeing a large male sculpture that’s dominating something. You go to the Capitoline Museum, and it’s all about male power in there. It’s also interesting to notice how these male figures even define being a woman.
. . .
Broadcast from his home in New York, American artist Philip-Lorca DiCorcia confesses how he hunted the subjects of his series Heads currently on display at Tate Modern in Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera at Tate Modern until 3 October 2010. ‘I never Talk to them… Very Cheap Car Insurance . digital frame . I don’t ask their permission. recycle glasses . I don’t pay them… And eventually…I got into trouble’ – Philip-Lorca DiCorcia Part of a series of Exposed interviews available for free on your mobile phone at Tate Modern:bit.ly
The launch of The Grange Prize 2010 is just around the corner, and we’re celebrating by continuing to post new content to the blog to make sure that you’re informed and ready to cast your vote! Voting opens the Wednesday, September 22, the same day that The Grange Prize Exhibition 2010 opens at the AGO and all four artists appear at a free talk at the Gallery at 7pm! Be there!
In this video, American artist Leslie Hewitt discusses how considerations of history and time influence her practice, and breaks down her Riffs in Real Time series. glass pitcher . Foundation Repair . Take a look!
DonÃ¢t forget! Vote, see the show, hear the artists, all on September 22. atlanta appliance repair . And the best part (well, a really good part) is that it is all free Ã¢ the AGO is Free on Wednesday Nights after 6:00 pm!