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Showing posts from January, 2013

Battle of The Little Bighorn - podcast

Download available here (possibly UK only)

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand.

The discussion gives some insights into how native American Indians became dispossessed in their own lands, and details the mythology of a battle that was over 'in the time it takes a hungry man to eat a meal' according to Indian folklore.

U.N. rights report on Israel

Reuters news story on yahoo!

Palestinians welcomed a U.N. Human Rights Council report on Thursday highly critical of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying it vindicated their struggle against Israel.

The U.N. investigation, which was boycotted by the Jewish state, urged Israel to halt settlement construction unconditionally and begin removing all 500,000 Israeli settlers from occupied territory immediately.

"This is incredible. We are extremely heartened by this principled and candid assessment of Israeli violations," said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

A feminine name

BBC web link

A 15-year-old Icelandic girl has won the right to use the name given her by her mother, after a court battle against the authorities.  Blaer Bjarkardottir will now be able to use her first name, which means "light breeze", officially.  Icelandic authorities had objected, saying it was not a proper feminine name.

Like Germany and Denmark, Iceland has rigid limitations about how a baby can be named. The names like Carolina and Christa, for example, are not allowed because the letter "c" is not part of Iceland's alphabet. Names cannot be unisex either.

Van in snow at night

Stephen Walt: Top Five Truths You Won't Hear Any U.S. Official Admit.

Piece by a political writer I am a huge fan of, Stephen M. Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University.  These points seem applicable to the UK, too - apart from #4, although there are plenty of men in tailored suits with manicured hands, both on the left and the right, prolonging post-empire militarism.

Stephen Walt: Top Five Truths You Won't Hear Any U.S. Official Admit:

Here's a little fantasy for you to ponder: what if one of our senior foreign policy officials accidentally swallowed some sodium pentothal (aka "truth serum") before some public hearing or press conference, and started speaking the truth about one of those issues where prevarication, political correctness, and obfuscation normally prevail? You know: what if they started saying in public all those things that they probably believe in private? What sorts of "inconvenient truths" might suddenly get revealed?

In that spirit, here's my Top Five Truths You Won…

Splitted: 5194h

In front of the camera

One of the things that trans self-portraits offer (for those of us who have not really 'come out') is some form of compensation to living life in a discrete way, out of sight.  When that alternative self remains routinely invisible then the photograph is alternative validation.  Before, like most people, I guess, I was never particularly comfortable in front of the camera, it seemed like you have to put on an act, but now I'm not bothered : )

Stephen, a friend from my photography course years ago, just sent me this studio pic he took of me back then, which made me laugh.  I recognise the appearance - hm, yep that's me - but I don't identify with the person in the picture, his concerns, what he occupied his time with... it seems like someone else.  And I have no recollection of posing for this photo.

I just ordered a book by Lee Friedlander (b. 1934) One of the unusual things about his lifetime of taking eclectic photos is the recurrance of self-portraiture; images …

Hendrik Kerstens

Henrik Kerstens' long term series of photographs of his daughter includes a set of images in the manner of (15th Century Flemish) painting.  They are stunning but I'm not sure if he is being satirical of photography's long history of being referential - and usually deferential - to the earlier art form?  I hope so.

Chris McCaw


Stitch fail

Freeware Hugin download here

I had a play with this stitching programme today and it is very impressive the way it can assemble frames so accurately, even on auto settings, without any manual input to help it.  But it is the unexpected artifacts, hardly noticeable, which are caused by alignment miscalculations that I am more excited by.

(View of inner security fence with camera held between the bars of outer security fence)

The story of high heels

 Link here

"Although Europeans were first attracted to heels because the Persian connection gave them a macho air, a craze in women's fashion for adopting elements of men's dress meant their use soon spread to women and children. "In the 1630s you had women cutting their hair, adding epaulettes to their outfits," says Semmelhack.
"They would smoke pipes, they would wear hats that were very masculine. And this is why women adopted the heel - it was in an effort to masculinise their outfits.

"... the Enlightenment brought with it a new respect for the rational and useful and an emphasis on education rather than privilege. Men's fashion shifted towards more practical clothing. In England, aristocrats began to wear simplified clothes that were linked to their work managing country estates. It was the beginning of what has been called the Great Male Renunciation, which would see men abandon the wearing of jewellery, bright colours and …

William Basinski: Disintegration Loops

'Disintegration Loop 1.1 consists of one static shot of lower Manhattan billowing smoke during the last hour of daylight on September 11th, 2001, set to the decaying pastoral tape loop Basinski had recorded in August, 2001. Shot from Basinski's roof in Williamsburg Brooklyn, this is an actual documentary of how he and his neighbors witnessed the end of that fateful day.' 

Article linkhere

Nuclear bomb dream

Perhaps it was the cold night, the home made soup or the lack of distraction in my life, some nights dreams have become super-real.

I was on a silver, propeller driven American plane carrying a nuclear bomb, like Enola Gay but more modern, belonging more to the present day. The sun was shining, the sky was intensely blue, the bomb was black with a dark gray locking mechanism.  It was about fifteen feet high, suspended, ready to be lowered over the bomb bay to be dropped and to detonate while still thousands of feet above the ground.  I once saw some pygmy hippos at a zoo and instead of them being cute and funny or even interesting I nearly threw up looking at them.  In the dream I felt the same way in the presence of this nuclear bomb.

I found a safe seat higher in the areoplane but just as it was announced that the bomb was moving into position to be dropped (due to a sub-plot of being worried for someone on the plane) I went to a sort of chute directly above the bomb bay and started…

Thinking about 'La Difference'

Any understanding, beyond the biological, of the part played by construct in regard to the idea of a (so called) opposite sex, involves addressing the role of cultural signifiers in prescribing 'gender' (in terms of different clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, etc.) which come to encapsulate la difference.

Which leads to the possibility that desire for closeness with the 'other' may include a subconscious need for emotional connection with that part of one's own self that has been denied.

The transgender impulse is perhaps a stronger reaction to the imposition of such a narrow, artificial construct of masculine or feminine as an all-encompassing foundation for definition of self.

For it is in appropriating the appearance of the other gender the fashioned-longing that was created by separation is satisfied to a much greater extent, the mystery de-mystified, and a level of reconciliation experienced.

Thomas Barrow

Interview here

“Cancellations (Brown) – Dome,” toned gelatin silver print, 1974

Exhibition through a window

I had this print made a few months ago but only framed it today.  I  get overly nervous framing, thinking I'm going to muck it up by trimmng too much off the wrong edge or something and it gets ruined. 

It went OK and then I was wondering where to put it.  First I tried my bedroom (as in this pic) but then moved it downstairs in the front room, which I rarely if ever go into.  But I (and anyone else passing by) will see it every now and then, as it's fairly visible through the window when coming or going to and from the house.

Snow snail

I knew if I climbed in to the building site near me after dark one night this weekend I'd leave a trail, looping back to where I got in, like some snail wandering about, with a tripod.  So, I tried to mark out some false routes and did a bit of walking around backwards etc - but even so I'm hoping for fresh snowfall before Monday to help cover all traces.  If they notice and decide to replace the bit of fencing where I can get over with something even just a little higher, or put barbed wire on top, my sneaking in days (and moonlit nights) photo sessions will be over.

So called chaos

Disorder at 420 nm

Truth is a rubber band. Photographs of chaos are self-portraits. The snow turns colour to ashes.

Nikon mercury vapour white balance stains it violet, the lowest visible wavelength.

"In western culture, violet is the color most commonly associated with the extravagant, the individualist, ambiguity, the unconventional, and the artificial."
- Eva Heller (2000), Psychologie de la couleur: effets et symboliques (pp. 160–176)

Nan Goldin: Self portrait in my room (1983 and 1994)

One of the contrasts in contemporary art photography is cost of production.  On the one hand there is a lot of big bucks, high value production image making - involving complex use of locations, props, lights, actors, a large format camera, followed by professional post-production work and subsequent huge, smartly framed prints - while on the other just having a camera seems to be enough.

Nan Goldin is an easy fit into the latter way of working, she's been intimately documenting people's lives, including her own, since she was 15.  Gay and transexual communities were the subject of her first solo show five years later, and she has maintained an affinity for them ever since.  While candid the empathy evident in her pictures is absent in the trans/gay images made by the late Diane Arbus in the 60s and 70s and, in the last few years, by Katy Grannan.  In terms of image drama I prefer the photos of those ruthless bitches Arbus and Grannan, but in terms of people it's Nan Gold…

Guido der Werve: Bg7+ (D/61/La/09)

Link here

I don't know if it was some intense dreaming a couple of nights ago shaking up bunches of neurones that had been packed up and left in the attic for four-fifths of my life-time but I'm experiencing a lot of memory churn at the moment.  It's interesting.  Lost little fragments catch the light, reappearing from nowhere, un-thunked about for decades, now as bright and full of clarity as neon sculpture wall art saying this! or that! her! or him! in vibrant  shades of electrically hyper colour.  All new again.  What were they doing all this time?

So,  coming across these 2009 der Werve new topographic style landscape photographs combined with chess games is wonderfully unexpected and funny. He uses a style of photography that was an epiphany to me when I was about 21  - and adds chess - something I was excitedly learning from a library book when I was about 12.  The book's pages were full of position diagrams like these, starting with the simple movements of th…

Martin Hannett (1948-1991)

Wiki profile here

Christer Strömholm: Kissmie

The Place Blanche, Paris transgender series, link here

Christer Strömholm: Hiroshima

Christer Strömholm (1918-2002) link here

Jill Peters: Burnesha

Link here
project in Albania, about biological females who take on the social identity of a man for life:

‘... women are considered to be the property of their husbands. The freedom to vote, drive, conduct business, earn money, drink, smoke, swear, own a gun or wear pants was traditionally the exclusive province of men.
'As an alternative, becoming a  Sworn Virgin, or ‘burnesha’, elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population. In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name. Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature.'
Jill Peters


I was aware of a soft vorticism type effect with the crossed lighting.

Vorticism - Dorothy Shakespear

Link here

Vorticism was described as "The 'masculine' machine aesthetic was to 'blast away' the decadent 'feminine' culture of Edwardian England in favour of a purifying hardness."

(c. 1914)

Photograph in the style of Velasquez

I think it's usually a mistake when photographers concentrate on emulating painters.  There a long tradition of it, a sustained hundred year long vain attempt to enter the inner sanctum of 'the arts', from which 'regular photographs' were excluded for so long.  The logic seemed to be if you could make your pictures look like respected old master paintings then maybe they would be considered real art.  It still goes on today, even though the 'old guard' curators who abhorred photography as having no merit have largely, though not entirely, faded away,  like some old album of sepia photographs.  I have to admit it is the case that some of the painting-referential, conceptial photographers of the 80's, such as Jeff Wall, admittedly did help open that heavy, prestigious door marked 'Culture' just enough and the rest is (art) history. 

A copy of a Jitka Hanzlová's book was waiting for me when I got home from work today.  It's still shrink-wr…

Ugo Rondinone

Link here

Burkhard von Harder

Frames from discarded film, cold war era Ukraine
Link here

Julian Röder

Nick, with several convictions for assualts on foreigners in his home country Germany, now lives in Africa with his girlfriend, Auntie.  Link here

Lesley Dill and Farhad Ahrarnia

Links here and here

Kunié Sugiura: After 'Electric Dress'

Link here

Ryoko Suzuki

Ryoko Suzuki. Masturbation, 1999. Description:
My works use myself as a subject. The reason I used myself as a subject is that I felt that since the face is the most expressive part, it could perhaps serve as the portal to communication between myself and society.This is not communication that begins with words, but a vague sensation-like element called feeling or impression that you have when you first meet someone else, and which becomes the first step toward judging the other. Regarding my face, which serves as the portal, I photographed memory, pain, restoration, and time, all overlapped. In addition, the figure made by own hand to disclose to someone else made me feel a self-torturing pleasure. I added something to the vague expression of the face, transformed myself, and literally eliminated some points that could be used to recognize me, because I wanted to have the sensation of what was left.

For me, silicone was a second skin. On the surface of th…

Ryoko Suzuki: BIND

Link here and check this terrific blog at nihilsentimntalgia

Empty stage

Falling mist
the day when Mount Fuji is unseen most fascinating!
- Basho 

Aneta Grzeszykowska and Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled Film Stills'

These 2006 colour recreations of the entire 69 original Untitled Film Stills are more visually lovely.  Sherman deliberately 'over-cooked' some of her black and white negatives in hot developer but here the next generation's slick production values reflect both a sense of very real hommage and astute awareness of a more developed photography art market.  They are stunning.

All 69 can be seen here

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #3, 1977


Observer and observed

untitled film still #14

text from The Photograph as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton:
Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled Film Stills' is 'a demonstration of the argument advanced by feminist theory that femininity is a construction of cultural codes and not a quality that is naturally inherent or essential to women.  Both the photographer and the model in the pictures is Sherman herself... (which is) a condensation of postmodernist photographic practice: she is both observer and observed. And since she is the only model to appear, the series also shows that femininity can be literally put on and performed, changed and mimicked by one actor. The conflation of roles, with Sherman as both subject and creator, is a way of visulalizing femininity that confronts some of the issues raised by images of women, such as who is being represented, and by whom is this projection of the feminine being constructed and for whom.'

comment by Cindy Sherman (click on link above):

For Katy Grannan #2

Waiting for balance

I want to try and do a better version of the shadow picture I took last weekend.  But having just a few low wattage halogen lights a quick test this morning showed them incapable of throwing more than a whisper of a shadow onto a wall as the sun was unexpectedly bright today, shining into the spare room, even with all the blinds down.  Usually I'm aware of having only a few hours of winter-time daylight in that room to let me take pictures, so it's oddly the reverse today, waiting for the sun to dip and fade sufficiently to permit a sort of balance between natural and artificial.

Talk: Brian O’Doherty 'Zeitgeist'

to listen visit here

Christmas Day

This is exactly how I looked on Christmas Day : )
Thank you, MM.

Carmen Herrera

British artist David Batchelor talks to Cuban-American painter Carmen Herrera about her 80 years of making art

Frieze Magazine Interview

Jitka Hanzlová

Someone at work was telling me about a Jitka Hanzlová photography exhibition they saw recently at the NPG in Edinburgh.  They said afterwards they were wanting for the first time in their life to take photos, like hers, always a good recommendation, I think. They were referring to her 'Forest' series, but I like this portrait one; despite, or because?, it looks like a bad fashion photo but a little info on the photographer's life makes it more interesting.

"In 1982 Jitka Hanzlová defected from the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and settled in Essen in West Germany. Since then she has sought to explore her experiences through photography, producing a body of work at once poetic and truthful. Hanzlová’s photography is in constant pursuit of the relationship between the individual and the context in which he or she lives. It scrutinizes the ways in which home and surroundings indelibly shape identity. Drawing on her own …