Anthropscenes (Part 4: Peter Bialobrzeski)

Peter Bialobrzeski’s images look like they may have come straight out of some vision of Orwell or Huxley. They are epically surreal.
This collection includes images of 28 cities across 14 countries. An exploration of mega-cities such as Dubai, New York, Kuala Lampur, New Delhi and others…
Neither utopian or dystopian…

They are everyday reality… simply seen here in an extraordinary light.

Just like ruins, these cities seem to assert a curious competing nature of their own.

Logorama!

Still from Logorama
If you get the chance check out this brilliant Academy award nominated short film. All the characters, backgrounds, everything really, is corporate logo art, all of which is used without permission.

VIVA DOOM METAL!

The best torrential riffing and free form psychedelic jams. Dorset UK’s Ramesses.

Ramesses Baptism of the Walking Dead


Khali Mist from the forthcoming Take the Curse

Master your Demons from We Will Lead you to Glorious Timess

Ramesses live in Antwerpen

Ramesses live in gothenburg 2009

Legacy of betrayal

Just finished reading Stephen Kinzer’s All the Shah’s Men about the CIA led coup that overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran in 1953.
It isn’t unreasonable to say that If we hadn’t interfered then, Iran would likely have had a mature democracy today. The fact that it does not is not only a tragedy for the Iranian people, but for the rest of the world.

I found it to be a moving account, and an enlightening glimpse into one the grandest mistakes of post WWII American foreign policy.

For anyone interested in foreign policy issues, or for a better understanding of Iran’s hostility toward the United States this book is a must read.

It’s a riveting and complex story… It’s important to note that the US didn’t act alone… it was the British- and the greed of what would become British Petroleum that plotted relentlessly to remove Mosaddegh after he nationalized the nations oil industry. To convince President Eisenhower the plotters framed the concern around a fear that Iran may fall to the communists. And sadly many Iranians also worked unwittingly against their own best interests to help overthrow Mosadegh. In the wake of this BP got their hands back on the oil and the Shah consolidated his power and became a cruel dictator. And, well, you know the rest…

The CIA was a fledgling organization at the time and the success of “Operation Ajax” as the coup was called lead to many other covert coups from Guatemala to Cuba to Chile to the depth of our involvement in Vietnam and later Nicaragua … all disasters for those nations, with thousands of lives lost and decades of civil war, and decades of blowback. It’s no wonder so much of the world has come to hate the US.

More on the coup visit wikipedia and for more on Mohammad Mosaddegh visit the Mosaddegh project.

On of the saddest things about this whole episode is that Iran had looked to the US to support it’s budding democracy, and instead we betrayed them.

Anthroposcenes (Part 2: Edward Burtynsky)

Edward Burtynsky: Exploring the Residual Landscape
From his website:
“Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. “
“Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.”
“These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success.”

“Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.”

One reviewer said Burtynsky’s film Manufactured Landscapes:“Taken as a whole, Manufactured Landscapes is a mesmerizing work of visual oncology, a witness to a cancer that’s visible only at a distance but entwined with the DNA of everything we buy and everywhere we shop.”

“…in a way when you look at a work of art there isn’t a narrative, you are left to your own devices you are left of your own baggage to complete the meaning of that image…”

“This is a new form of epic history painting. Turning his camera lens to a fever dream, Burtynsky forges a new mythology for the 21st century from the lexicon of realism. With stunning detail, from improbable perches, in strange and beautiful colors, these pictures show their subjects with clinical accuracy, and with definitive force. But they also tell a parallel and more inchoate tale: a critique of civilization, and a foretelling of human ends.”—Paul Roth

Hidden treasures

I need a break.
It’s important to have time to wander
time to think and absorb ideas, time to not be doing something.
I roamed the interwebs for awhile to simply graze. Amazing what you can find. Here are just a few recent curiosities…
Heirloom tomatoes at shutterstock
I like to take afternoon tea and read when I can. These days I often don’t have the attention to read one thing, instead graze through several books or articles or images online…
I hate it when I can’t figure out where something came from… especially someone’s artwork. Sometimes I can extrapolate or search my way to it, but often some images remain mysteries…
 
(amazing tattoo work!)
Technology was supposed to give us more time for leisure…
but it feels like we are more and more like modern slaves…
Interesting comment from an article on corporate abuses… lost the link:
We the people have to do two things:

— disengage from corporate America, no more Walmart, no Chinese goods, no big banks, no Wall Street 401k investments. Buy things from your neighbors, trade, barter, reuse, re-purpose anything that can be made to work again. Find the community banks and credit unions and start moving your business there. Buy local food, no imports.

— vote out all incumbents in all offices from the local to state to national level. They have ceased to work for the taxpayer, they are owned and operated by business interests. Getting elected has become an industry that has perverted the process of running for office. Vote ’em out, even if you have to write in a candidate in single candidate races.

We the people have to go on strike. Keep working, yes — but stop feeding the machine that grinds us down. It is a major lifestyle change. Stopping smoking, drinking, drugs, overeating are easy compared to the task that faces us. If we do not rise up and walk away, we will be diminished serfs in a modern version of feudalism.
-R Matthew Songer
Atlanta, Georgia

Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist.
—Franz Liszt

A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum—of both books and money! But especially books, for books represent infinitely more than money. A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold. —Henry Miller

 

There is a story that as God and Satan were walking down the street one day, the Lord bent down and picked something up. He gazed at it glowing radiantly in His hand. Satan, curious, asked “What’s that?”  “This” answered the Lord, “is Truth.” “Here,” replied Satan as he reached for it, “let me have it –I’ll organize it for you.”—Ram Dass

somewhere in Italy
 
 
Got something to say?
 
Entropic destinies
The heat death is a possible final thermodynamic state of the universe, in which it has “run down” to a state of no thermodynamic free energy to sustain motion or life. In physical terms, it has reached maximum entropy.

The idea of heat death stems from the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy tends to increase in an isolated system. If the universe lasts for a sufficient time, it will asymptotically approach a state where all energy is evenly distributed. In other words, in nature there is a tendency to the dissipation (energy loss) of mechanical energy (motion); hence, by extrapolation, there exists the view that the mechanical movement of the universe will run down in time due to the second law.

make time

 

Every man bears the whole stamp of the human condition.
—Michel de Montaigne

 

“Written over the gate here are the words ‘Leave every hope behind, ye who enter.’ Only think what a relief that is! For what is hope? A form of moral responsibility. Here there is no hope, and consequently no duty, no work, nothing to be gained by praying, nothing to be lost by doing what you like. Hell, in short, is a place where you have nothing to do but amuse yourself.”
—George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, 1903
 
“When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities” —David Hume quote
 
“What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out” —Alfred Hitchcock
The key to joy is disobedience —Anonymous

Forage

The new Forage restaurant on Sunset in Silver Lake.
I love the idea of this new place!
The LA Times explains:

“Central to the restaurant’s concept is its “foraging program,” through which Bacon and Kim, along with the help of a friend named Eugene Ahn, encourage diners to bring in fresh fruits and vegetables from their gardens. Then, Kim and Bacon will create a dish, pastry or drink around those ingredients.

“We ask people to come in and we’ll do a tasting in the kitchen, then we can figure out how to use it that day — maybe in an agua fresca — or maybe we give it to our pastry chef and it becomes a pie tomorrow,” says Bacon. “Or it’s super fresh and we throw it in a salad right there. Then we work out a little barter and trade system with the forager.”

Mmmmmm… I’m gonna plant plenty of extra heirloom tomatoes and chili’s this year!

Visit them on Facebook too.

Don’t wait til it’s too late

Maybe you have been reading about the gridlock in Congress, about how a single Republican senator is holding up all of Obama’s nominations until he gets his pet projects funded. Or how in a effort to compromise, democrats have allowed Health care reform devolve into a pathetic joke, or how The entire republican Party is committed to obstructing all business unless they are running it- THEIR WAY.
Maybe you saw the rousing conversation President Obama had with GOP representatives recently. Did it make any difference? Chances are slim to none.
It doesn’t matter that a Republican President and Congress nearly destroyed the country with their tax cuts to the rich, twenty years of deregulating everything (Clinton did this too), selling off public interests to corrupt and evil corporations under the lie “small government is best” or that that both parties gave the banks the entire country while sentencing the rest of us to be wage slaves in debt for the rest of our lives… people still vote Republican.
If you earn less than a half a million a year and you vote Republican you are voting against your interests. PERIOD.
Republicans have proven again and again they only people they care about are (besides themselves) are corporations that will bankroll them, and the very wealthy who run those corporations that will help keep them in power. Almost everything else is a lie or some backhanded tactic that does little (like vouchers) while STILL providing a fat profit for some lucky company or rich person. (there are always exceptions, but too few)
Now, I’ve lost all faith in the Democrats ability to make hash of such obvious greed and incompetence, so this is not to say that they are the answer… both parties are corrupt and do many of the same stupid things that cost real people lost jobs and income, but the democrats will usually make compromises to GET THINGS DONE. The Republicans just say NO to everything, and get away with it.
The country is becoming ungovernable with this kind of gridlock. California is already on the brink. Mismanagement at the state level has bankrupted the state and turned one of the worlds largest economies into a case study in failure.

What can we do? you ask.
Make your voice heard.
Write your representatives at every level. Demand an end to this abuse. Demand they start working with one another and remember whey they are in elected office in the first place!

Too general? press them on specific issues. Be sure to educate yourself first. Do research, get multiple opinions and check facts- get your own opinion on solid ground.
Democracy means participation. We must Participate!

Mass engagement would send a signal to our representative that we care, that we are getting involved- that we won’t put up with obstructionist grandstanding any longer.

******
other resources

Alternet explores actions needed to end corporate dominance.

Votesmart– keep track of how your representatives are voting.

Anthroposcenes (Part 1)

Its funny what we “see” and what we don’t when we are looking at art or anything in front of us. I started thinking about landscapes when I was growing up in Hopewell VA. I watched as the town essentially disintegrated into urban blight and suburban sprawl, consuming the land as it went, leaving ugly swathes of debris, vast empty parking lots, and more than a few shuttered shopping malls in it’s wake. The center of town was flattened. Only a few buildings remain of the original “downtown.” I was simultaneously repulsed and attracted to these ruins. Repulsed by the thoughtlessness of it, and attracted to them for the purpose of deciphering what really happened.

Only later when I encountered works by Laura McPhee, Stephen Shore, Sally Mann, Richard Misrach and David Maisel did something click. A bigger picture began to emerge.

What do you see?

David Maisel

David Maisel

Richard Misrach

Richard Misrach

Sally Mann

Sally Mann

Laura McPhee

Laura McPhee

My first impressions were simply renderings of the epic defiling of nature by civilization, but it has since broadened to be something much more. More subtle, and strange.

So many artists doing incredible work…(future posts will focus on some of these)

I know there is much discussion of this topic, classes devoted to it, and plenty of media attention, but I have yet to see a major museum mount a curated exhibit of the most intriguing work in this area. If you are aware of one, please let me know the details.

In the mean time I’ve decided to curate something myself.

I am exploring different bodies of work for a dry run on this blog, and if that is successful, then perhaps a more formal presentation and text in the upcoming issue (5) of my art journal Fluxion.

David Maisel

David Maisel

In Geological history we are in the middle of the Holocene Epoch, a division of the Quaternary period.

Recently, the term “Anthropocene” was debated by some scientists to describe the most recent period in the Earth’s history—and the notion that civilization is now reshaping the earth more than nature itself.

In my view many of these photographers are giving us glimpses of this new reality.

wikipedia explains:

It has no precise start date, but may be considered to start in the late 18th century when the activities of humans first began to have a significant global impact on the Earth’s climate and ecosystems. This date coincides with the 1775 commercialization of the Watt steam engine.Other commentators link it to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture.
The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological era. Use of this concept as an official geological concept gained support in early 2008, with publication of two new papers supporting this idea.
Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky

Toshio Shibata

Toshio Shibata

David Maisel

David Maisel 

Peter Bialobrzeski

Peter Bialobrzeski

Joshua Lutz

Joshua Lutz

Posted in Art

The iPad Cometh…

Apple’s iPad
I’ve been looking forward to a device that may capture the imagination of the public in a way that the kindle or the nook or the Sony reader hasn’t.
This may be the device.
I still think it will take a few years and at least two updates to the device (no flash? no video conferencing, no GPS?) but you gotta start somewhere.
The multi-touch technology is impressive as is the apparent speed. I can’t wait to try one to see what it can do.
Could this user in a whole culture of new hand gesture symbology? This demo made me wonder. I can only image what app developers may come up with…
and how long before flexible technology is integrated?
While I’m in no rush to lose physical books, I do look forward to when I can read books that I have no interest in owning a physical copy of… text book, topical books, etc.

Re-Framing Landscape Photography

Landscape photography has come a long way.

I could appreciate the arc of landscape photography as it evolved through the 20th Century from the early plates of Matthew Brady and Timothy O’Sullivan to the majestic perfection of Ansel Adams to the experiments of Steiglitz, Minor White, and Aaron Siskind of nature as an allegorical path to spiritual rejuvenation.

Yosemite by Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams
to more playful explorations by John Pfahl, Jerry Uelsmann, and Andy Goldsworthy.
John Pfahl
Jerry Uelsmann
Andy Goldsworthy

To the somber aerial surveys by Emmet Gowin. Gowin’s book Changing the Earth was the first I had seen to serious look at the ways mankind was altering the landscape from an artists eye. The images are haunting duo-tone abstracts.

Emmet Gowin

 

Emmet Gowin
Emmet Gowin

It wasn’t long until I started to see similar work by other artists like Robert Polidori and Edward Burtynsky.

Edward Burtynsky, cover image to his collection
Manufactured Landscapes which is also an amazing documentary.
Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky
Robert Polidori images focuses on the spaces and impacts of civilization.
Polidori from After the Flood
from the Havana series
Polidori from Zones of Exclusion, photographed in the Chernobyl zone.

These images highlighted the perverse majesty of the destruction of the landscape by civilization.

by comparison, the spiritual experiments of Alfred Steiglitz, Minor White, and Aaron Siskind
also seem quaint.

One of Steiglitz’s Equivalent, which almost
echos the paintings of his wife Georgia O’keefe
Stieglitz emphasized pure abstraction, based on modern ideas of equivalence, that abstract forms, and color could represent inner emotional states and ideas.
One of Steiglitz’s pictorialist landscapes
Minor White
Minor White did his own series of Equivalents (inspired by Stieglitz)
White went on to found the Aperture Foundation.
Aaron Siskind focused on details in surfaces
Aaron Siskind
It was a short distance from these experiments to those Photographers in the New Topographics Exhibit in 1975, which essentially redefined the scope of the visual discussion of “landscape.”
from Wikipedia:
“The shift from craft or self-teaching to academia had somewhat been started by photographers such as Ansel Adams and Minor White, but the new generation was drastically turning away from the photographic tradition they stood for…
…The New Topographics chose as well as their commitment to casting a somewhat ironical or critical eye on what American society had become. They all depicted urban or suburban realities under changes in an allegedly detached approach.”

I was stunned by the timing of the remounting of the New Topographics exhibit (see previous post) which framed the beginning of the discussion and exploration of what constitutes “landscape” and our place in it. Looking at those images from the mid seventies and then at contemporary images opens up a new horizon in landscape photogrpahy…

A Single Man

A lot of people have been talking about A Single Man as an important film.
I’ve learned to be cautious in any expectations of a film, and this was no exception.While the film has gotten generally good reviews, I was quite disappointed. The film is an achievement of sorts, the same way some music videos capture a certain spirit or sensibility. But ultimately this film is all about Tom Ford and his sensibilities. Ford’s sensibilities as a fashion designer are prevalent in every aspect of the production and costume design. There is no subtly, and style and I felt that so much exacting fashion overwhelmed the film.
Make no mistake, he does these things very well and they add to the film in many ways, but excessive. The story was originally about an average middle class man, but there is nothing average in this film.The real strength of the film are it’s leads, Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, and they are both are really wonderful.

Firth is more handsome than ever and his restrained performance will likely earn him numerous awards. Personally, I felt he was being directed to be overly maudlin and it didn’t feel authentic.

Moore is a vision of 60s stylish decadence… WAY over the top, but truly stunning to witness. The two also have a nice chemistry. The sequence where they dance together is one of the visual highlights of the whole film. Extremely memorable.Every frame is a set piece, and every detail in every shot is hyper—stylized. In this regard the film really is well crafted and art directed, but the actors become part of that scenery too and that costs the film any emotional connection the audience may have.It’s all too perfect. No one had such a complete and perfect material life as is portrayed. I can appreciate the stylization to a certain extent, but it needs some imperfections to be believable, and unfortunately everything is too new, too exact… not a single thing is out of place.

I suppose you could look at it as a nostalgic love letter to the illusion we have come to believe was the quintessential everyday life of the early 60s, but it could have easily been so much more than that.
Every person in the film is achingly beautiful, perfectly groomed and dressed as if they are going to their own wedding or about to walk a runway. After a time it becomes caricature. Felliniesque even. Even when they are mussed, they are mussed just so…
To younger audience members who are not aware of how much this is over done it may appear like devotional tribute to those times. To those who know better and tire easily at overwrought nostalgia, it can appear farcical.Ford does come close however at one point to really pulling it all together and out of the cliché pit, then he does something SO ridiculous, so cheesy (in my opinion) that it sinks the whole thing.************SPOILER ALERT***********

Like the book, In the last scene with the young student, George’s will to live is restored, but Ford takes the unnecessary step of actually having George die of a heart attack rather than go through the stream-of-conscious “what-if” approach that the book takes. And of course it is a spectacle. OH THE IRONY, THE TIMING!    OH, PLEASE!

It was bad enough for him to be forlornly carting around a gun all day, but this was too much.

I thought the heart attack sequence diminished the film, reducing it to a melodramatic cliche.

Ford simply tried too hard. WAY to hard.
All the scenes where George is alone almost all the color is drained from the scene, then when there are flashbacks to his perfectly fit handsome young lover everything is saturated and bright and full of color. This happens all through the film.

Emotionally everything is behind a wall of artifice, which is a shame. The characters feel distant, everything is played too precious and overly sentimental. Too many lingering pained expressions, too many PROFOUND comments, too many ironic incidents and lots of unbelievable behavior that is supposed to be every-day routine.
Almost nothing of his daily routine feels authentic. In the book this provided the momentum… in the film these details are reduced to flourishes of self pity.

If Ford had only art directed the film and someone more well seasoned was in the directors chair it could have been a masterpiece. He made a valiant effort.

It is beautiful to look at and is composed and acted lovingly. It really just needs a little dirty realism to ground it.

A note on the marketing of the film:
both posters play up the relationship between Moore and Firth, making it look as if it could be a straight romantic drama.
Firth actually was responsible for demanding that he appear on the reissue of the book alone, which is admirable, since the story is about accepting loss.
I would suggest to anyone really interested in this to read Isherwoods original novel. It is short, rich in subtle detail and is very moving.