Tag Archives: Grids

Grids and cluster presentations of photography at Paris Photo

Amidst the endless sea of photographs hanging on partitioned walls at the Paris Photo fair this week, presentations of clusters and grids of photos seemed to multiply the attraction to some works of art.

Stopping people in their tracks, this approach forces one’s gaze to bounce around the grids, and then to hone in on one image then another, eyes concentrating with intensity, then moving on again and back. squido lense . carrera de fotografia .

Three such grids include a series of self-portraits by Lee Friedlander; jam-packed Japanese commuters in Michael Wolf’s series Tokyo Compression; and a collection of anonymous cheesecake photos selected by Alec Soth and framed in wooden boxes that echo the feeling of the cheap wood paneling one would find in the motel bedrooms where many of these images seem to have been made during furtive affairs.

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Elizabeth Siegfried

I can’t imagine how rewarding it must have been for Elizabeth Siegfried when she stumbled upon a forgotten box of 16mm film at her family’s  summer home. She immediately knew she had unearthed something truly special. The discovery allowed her a window into her own past and family history, witnessing relatives in summer pursuits, animated and moving.  Elizabeth has created a project about those films, Termina, where in the last grid, she includes herself, bringing the family tree full circle.  Elizabeth rececently opened an exhibition of Termina at The Art Space Gallery in Huntsville, Ontario that runs through July 29th. I am also featuring work from her Off-Season project.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth lives and works in Toronto, Ontario. Known for her work in self portraiture and photographic narrative,
Elizabeth has worked with the historical process of platinum for
twenty-five years and has exhibited her images in Canada, the US, Italy,
Germany, Japan and Mexico. In recent years, she has expanded her mode
of presentation to include iris and other archival digital prints.  Her work has been published widely and is held in many significant collections.

Termina consists of four grids devoted to the leading women of each generation in Siegfried’s family. The first three grids of historical imagery present her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother. The fourth grid consists of the artist taken between 1987 and 1992 and includes three recent self-portraits.

Still from Termina
The films shot by her family between 1922 and 1945 were in remarkably sound condition. She transferred them to digital video, downloaded them to her computer and created Termina, a photographic installation that tells the story of her diminishing family tree and contemplates the ending of one branch of Siegfried’s family lineage: her own.


Still from Termina

Termina addresses a reality that resonates with many people today. It asks questions and provokes dialogue about the choice to bear and raise children, the future of family in both personal and universal contexts and the emotional implications of these realities.

Stills from Termina
Off Season explores
usually active locations during times of dormancy. 
In these technology
driven, overcrowded, chaotic times, the images offer us quiet spaces to
breathe, observe and contemplate—to bring us back to ourselves. 

Each image suggests that
ambiguous state of mind in which one is not certain whether something has ended
or something is about to begin. In that captured moment there is no certainty,
only the timeless hovering of possibility that reflects on the past while at
the same time suggesting the future.

Images from Off Season

Shanghai duo Birdhead fly into Paradise Row for first solo show in London

Click to view slideshow.
All Photo Stroll iPhone photos, © Miranda Gavin. Photos of work © Birdhead.

If you want to get a taste of contemporary Shaghai in the 21st century, then head down to Paradise Row gallery where the debut London solo show of Shanghai-based photographic duo Birdhead – set up in 2004 by friends Ji Weiyu and Song Tao  – is on for the next two weeks.

Daily life in China is captured through a series of black and white images, Welcome to Birdhead World Again, using a snapshot aesthetic and arranged for the show as a series of grids and sets of multiple images. The images are specifically arranged and organised, much in the same way collectors categorise objects, while the grid arrangement allows the work to be read and experienced in multiple ways; left to right, right to left, up and down and vice versa, as well as diagonally. this arrangement could also been seen as echoing the block-like structure of buildings and the layout of many modern cities, making the reading of the work as dynamic as the city itself.

The classical Song dynasty poem, Youth Does Not Know How Sorrow Tastes, by Xin Qiji and translated by John Scott and Graham Martin, is  re-presented in the gallery space and provides inspiration for the images . “Each word of the poem is extracted photographically from neon signs and billboards around the city”, writes Katie Hill in the catalogue;  fragments from the past appropriated from contemporary culture.  One gallery visitor commented that the translation was, perhaps, too flowery. Welcome to Birdhead World Again runs until 4 April and is highly recommended.

Being touted as China’s hottest duo, Birdhead showed work at the recent 54th Venice Biennale. See over for more about the work.

All photos above © Birdhead, courtesy of the gallery.

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Birdhead “use photography to capture, mediate and occupy their contemporary experience of daily life in Shanghai, China’s greatest metropolis whose ever increasing scale and vitality is more than itself – being read the world over as a gauge of the flow of power from West to East.

“Their tactical use of the snapshot aesthetic and the high volume of images they deploy make manifest a visual stream of consciousness. We see the artists going about their lives; being with friends, laughing, talking, eating, working, partying, sleeping etc. all this against the backdrop of the urban landscape of Shanghai. Tall towers, skyscrapers, telecoms masts and vast flyovers punctuate the images of human activity, of youth and consumer culture, illustrating the strange symbiosis between inanimate infrastructure and the life that it shelters and facilitates.

“Alongside their images, Birdhead present, Youth Does Not Know How Sorrow Tastes by Xin Qiji, a classic poem from the Song dynasty era. A melancholy masterpiece, the poem reflects upon the arc of experience that forms each life, the Romantic naiveté of youth and the price paid for wisdom. In common with Birdhead’s sensibility, the poem is imbued with the pathos of the individual set against the sweep of historical time.’ From the press release.

Filed under: Photographers, Photography Shows, Visual Artists Tagged: Birdhead, contemporary photography, Ji Weiyu, Katie Hill, Paradise Row, Shanghai, Song Tao, Youth Does Not Know How Sorrow Tastes

The Wonder of it All

As a blogger I get sent several press releases a day for upcoming exhibitions, from the weird to the wonderful and everything in between. Although 95% of it doesn’t hold my interest, once in a while something stands out. The press release for the upcoming exhibition at Gallery 138 in New York of photographs and videos by Clark Winter entitled The Wonder of it All stopped me dead in my tracks.

I knew nothing about Clark Winter, but discovered that he is a global investment advisor, a TV pundit, an art world mover and shaker (he serves on the Committee on Photography at the Museum of Modern Art), as well as a photographer and an “artist”. The release tells us that “in his photographs and videos (…) patterns appear, information is collected, everything is experienced; nothing is explained (…) Something’s coming, and you don’t know what it is.” It would seem that Winter leaves the explaining to his day job and let’s the invisible hand of chance govern his artistic endeavours. From the visuals I got my hands on, his photographs seem to be as random as the above press statement: snapshots taken in hotel lobbies, airports and assorted ‘exotic’ locations. Winter travels a lot and rubs shoulders with the powerful and famous, but is also capable of photographing the totally banal… a toaster, some flowers, a field. All of this is then thrown together in 3×3 grids where the mundane rubs shoulders with the “extraordinary things he has seen while travelling as a global financial advisor” and where the former comes out comfortably on top. In one self-portrait, Winter appears with electrodes attached to his head, suggesting his deep connection to these many complex layers of our planet, or perhaps simply to suggest the powerful brain that lies within it.

Of course I haven’t seen and won’t be able to see The Wonder of it All and this may simply be a case of overblown PR, but to me this feels incredibly misguided. Could there be a worse time to put together an exhibition that reveals “the private world of high finance” by giving us “access to things that are unavailable to ordinary travlers (sic)”? The idea that a man who certainly has a deeper understanding than most of global economics, finance and the powers that be and is clearly very successful in his field, could somehow translate this into a visual form with a series of off-the-cuff photographs, strikes me as a little overambitious, if not downright pretentious.

Clinton and Ali at Davos

The exhibition is part of a series exploring the relationship between art and finance, something that is extremely pertinent at this moment in time. There is a lot that is wrong with both worlds and an exploration of how they influence and affect each other could make an interesting exhibition. But surely this is something that requires more than the contents of a powerful man’s iPhone camera roll. I don’t write blogposts that frequently and writing a critique of this exhibition may have been unnecessary, a waste of your and my time. However, I can’t help feeling that in a way this exhibition is insulting to people who are actually devoting themselves to making art. The idea that it is this easy suggests that the relationship between art and finance is a lot more twisted than I thought.

If anyone does actually manage to see The Wonder of it All I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts. However, I am concerned that for someone who cites Picasso and Piero della Francesca as influences, it may be difficult to live up to such lofty expectations.

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