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Drawing the Event – Hirofumi Isoya

Another Japanese Artist, Hirofumi Isoya, who was one of the finalist at The Reference Asia shared his series Drawing the Event where he re-examines the consistency in recognition and the linear temporal axis through creating works. Most of the subject matters are familiar in our daily lives and how he manages to capture and record these fragments of life moments is what intrigue me the most with this series.

© Hirofumi Isoya, from the series ‘Drawing the Event’; Source @ The Reference Asia
Coins from the great powers are pressed against a palm as intensely as it becomes congested. The five rings are naturally reminiscent of the Olympic Games. This work, however, clearly presents the more essential subject that money is more stiff and tougher.

These works mostly capture details of subjects, and reflect scenes and sensations that his body catches before he comprehend the whole circumstances. 

The colour of the images are decreased to sepia tone while one side of the frame remains a colour of the original photo. In the interview with The Reference Asia, he mentioned, “While a frame is generally considered as an additional matter to a photographic work, I rather consider my work has an image stuck on a frame which is a sculptural object. I aim to present multiple relationships including the presentness of the colored frame, the spared space between the photograph and the frame created by the process of manipulation, and the viewers’ thinking and disturbances about the outside of the frame which you pointed out.”

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2:16.22 – Kensaku Seki

Japanese artist Kensaku Seki (with a background in physical education and himself also as an athlete) recently made a work 2:16.22 which looks at five athletes who stake their lives on the act of running and the on-going fight to set records. The work looks at the other side of glory in setting the record numbers – the sweat, the pain, the endurance etc came together for an artist book as well as an exhibition that is currently showing at Reminder Strongholds.

I really enjoyed the work perhaps because I was also a former swimmer and I resonate with the hardship behind the glorification.

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A brand new start

1st October.

This day marks the brand new direction of this photoblog. I’m going to be working and writing about photography and contemporary visual arts, in hope to motivate self-learning, as well as sharing my love of visual arts with those who share similar sensibilities in art.

These topics will include:

  • The Origin of Photography – mostly about theories and philosophy of photography (back from where it all started)
  • Photo Critiques – discuss and comment on contemporary image-based works worldwide
  • Exhibition Reviews – this will mostly be exhibitions based in Hong Kong or wherever I get a chance to travel to photo festivals and exhibitions in other countries
  • Photobook Wishes – works that are made into photobooks which I feel are not just books but are totally different art objects will be discussed here
  • Artists Inspirations – interviews and inspiring words from masters of visual arts and contemporary artists
  • Photography Today – this will be about the controversy topics and issues relating to photography today and the future

I hope this new direction will aid both you and me, in sharing, discussing and exchanging the love of visual arts.

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Chosen [not] to be – Marinka Masséus

 

Chosen [not] to be is a series about Down’s syndrome. A social activism project to bring awareness and act as a catalyst for government to make changes. These 5 girls, representing the Down’s syndrome’s community question and challenge a few questions that we are now facing.

  • What is beauty? As part of the Radical Beauty Project, which is about “challenging opinions and understandings of beauty in contemporary culture… working to provide an alternative vision for beauty today”, are we embracing diversity in the art fields? Why are we still considering Down’s as “faulty”?
  • With the rapid technological developments concerning prenatal screening (NIPT), we have the ability to know and decide whether we want to keep the child. So then are Down’s getting extinct? Are we embracing diversity of human forms?

What strikes me the most is that throughout this project, the artist found out that when the results of prenatal screening confirms Down’s, the first question the physician asks is “when are we scheduling the abortion”. Instead of asking “what do you need from me to make the best decision for you and your family”, the woman is immediately steered towards ‘getting rid of it’. Which means that the woman in question will never receive the proper information to make an informed decision about her new baby and prospective addition to her family. So the question is, what is the society and culture shaping us morally and ethnically?

In terms of the visual elements and conceptual symbolism, I must say I don’t really understand. What does the rope all over her face leaving an open eye means? It feels to me that the rope represent struggles from the outer-world, and that even that is so, she is piercing through. What about the dead plant on top of her head? It feels to me that the higher ups (those with authorities) are treating Down’s as dead weight, but still her face not entirely covered may mean that they are fighting against this issue. What about the pixels covering her face? Usually in television, we cover those who are of crime, or of shame with pixels to blur out their faces, so as they say to protect them from being recognised but also shaped us to label these are people as shameful and of vulnerable and dangerous groups. Marinka has cleverly used this symbolism to represent that conflict. Are they or should they be the protected type? Are we or should we be ashamed of them? But why she used yellow pixels I’m not entirely sure. Finally, the velvet circle and lines in on of the photographs. What does that represent? The lines reminded me about geometry and that maybe it means society or the outerworld is boxing this group of community. There are still other symbolic images that I have no clue why the artist uses it that way – e.g. the green smarties around Down’s faces. Or those red dots on a black and white landscapes etc.

All in all, I believe this is an important piece of work that brought us to question some very important topics about humanity. And what I admire the most and hopefully works out is, that it really does act as a catalyst for governmental changes. That we will have to wait and see.

References:

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/marinka-masseus-chosen-not-to-be

http://www.marinkamasseus.com/chosen-not-to-be/

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Scene – Alex Majoli

 

Alex Majoli’s scene is his new work about political demonstrations, humanitarian emergencies, and quiet moments of daily life. It is no ordinary work. What attracts me most at the beginning is the visual drama of the body of work, as if the work was shot in the middle of the night illuminated by the moon or in a staged movie. The theatricality of the work plays an important role for the idea and the concept behind, “we human beings as actors playing our own roles in society, and I set out to discover the best way to photographically and aesthetically represent this.”

For Alex, his idea and concept that, we are all actors and the world is our stage. And literally, he and his assistant took strobe lights to the “scenes of reality” and actively put a stage for the people to perform. What’s most interesting is that when this was happening, people who entered the “stage” automatically felt like they need to perform. Being photographed became an expectation rather than an interruption as David Campany said. Especially since the ever presence of smartphones, surveillance cameras, and the daily deluge of images, the value of photography has changed.

“It’s all about perception,” he says. “The more I documented and lived the lives of others, the more I realised that; what really is real, what really is true. Which is the right way to view reality? And I don’t think that one way’s better than another.”

Jim Casper mentioned in the LensCulture article “But why this mood? Why this visual strategy? Is it a statement about the uncertain and tense dark political days we are living through? The lack of brightness and contrast brings a heaviness to the work, and actually makes it difficult to see and appreciate the rich abundance of details and interactions at play in each image.”

Other than the theatricality, what else do the images want to translate? I’m not sure. What’s certain is that, he has brought the theatre to our reality, our daily lives, and that when this is done so, even us, as just normal human beings, somehow psychologically turned us as into actors and actresses, to perform, to act to dramatise. And by removing the colours and dramatising the lighting in executing these images, all is left are the actions and faces of these “actors” and “actresses”, accentuating the fictionality – as like scenes in movies, playing with the philosophical question of “are we really just actors in the life we staged?”

References:

https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/alex-majoli-scene-theatricality-life/

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/alex-majoli-scene-when-photography-intervenes-in-street-theater-of-the-real

https://www.le-bal.fr/en/2019/01/alex-majoli

https://aperture.org/blog/alex-majoli-david-campany/

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Dear Chris – Katrin Koenning

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 12.56.05

“Dear Chris” is a body of older work by Katrin Koenning. I must say, I don’t used to understand this type of documentary photography. It’s like, when you learn English, and you haven’t learnt the style of poetry. My belief of photography at first was focused on single photographs. How to get the sort of “perfect” photograph. Time passed and after exposure to so much more variety of photography, especially with narrative photography, I began to understand and appreciate this type of work. And actually, it is the type of work that I want to move forward to. There’s so much more depth and layers that can build upon within a body of work.

Storytelling is very interesting. As a young kid, I’ve always loved illustrations and reading picture books. The range in storytelling with photography or visuals can be so huge. I used to think in movies, simple and direct, everything then in photographs must be literal so people can understand. Yet, the way Western artworks is told through symbolism. And visuals help audience to widen their imagination on the topic presented.

“Dear Chris” is composed of three interchangeable chapters – childhood albums, his objects and photographs of places of significance to Chris.

“As a society we don’t talk about death, let alone about suicide, so I felt a sense of responsibility,” Koenning explains. “But I was also aware of the fact that out of the family I was probably going to be the only one who could do that, because as an artist I had the right tool kit.”

Old family photographs immediately fill all of us with sentimentality, as a viewer you are not just seeing Chris’ childhood but, depending on your cultural background of course, you are seeing your own memories. On the website, I like how Katrin juxtapose these images with the clinical ways of presenting his objects. Objects are meticulously placed centre frame and the pale blue and blue background of the objects Chris’ possessed gives a feeling a “blue” but also the feeling of objectivity. That these objects are neither alive nor dead, losing its original function. The juxtaposition interchange our memories of Chris from past to present, from hope to loss, mirroring how we might feel when we loose our loved ones.

The landscapes – “places of significance” – are empty and still, using suggestive titles for viewers to extend their imaginations for what it would be like or where would Chris go when he was alive.

The title of the photograph below “Missing (2009)” made me think that this was taken while looking for Chris the first time he tried to commit suicide.  The light behind the trees suggests hope at finding Chris, it is a hint of how much happened before Chris’ death.

https://cheapevictoria.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/certificates-of-presence-dear-chris-by-katrin-koenning/

I absolutely adore her visual language and poetry. I used to be taught that the work needs to punch you in the face. Her work isn’t like that. It’s like water, lingering and longing, sip into your body here and there, gentle yet powerful. I didn’t know colour work can be so mesmerising. I used to think that deep contrasty black and white work is the way to make a punch. And a way for a statement. But slowly, being more open and receptive to ALL kind of imagery, I enjoy more and more the ordinary. The little here and there through life, which we all must go through and must encounter.

https://insidestory.org.au/a-country-big-enough-to-disappear-in/

http://katrinkoenning.com/work/Dear_Chris.html

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The Unconventional Valentine

(Note: this post can be disturbing)

After the studying of work by Chen Zhe, and those questions her work has imposed on me. I sort of did a small experiment yesterday. Early morning yesterday, I was coughing and sneezing really bad, and all the phlegm was sneezed out onto a piece of tissue. Usually people just roll it up and toss it and throw it in the bin or down the toilet. I don’t do that. I look at it and see what’s going on inside my body. So for the very first time, I took a photo of me holding this piece of tissue with phlegm. And just so happens, it was Valentine’s day yesterday.

Well then I put that photo on my Instagram story. And this is the interesting part. People have messaged me “WTF”, “Ewww”, “Disgusting” which I sort of expected. But one person, messaged me and said, isn’t it satisfying to blow out all that crap. Haha.

To be honest, my intention wasn’t even an experiment. I didn’t really care about whether it was Valentine’s day either. I just thought the picture looked beautiful. To me it doesn’t look disgusting at all. It is just documenting the fact that they are phlegm. And that – was my fascination. The fascination of what most people called disgusting. The similar sort of questions that Chen Zhe had with her series. My questions were: What happens if your fascination isn’t what the world enjoys? And how does it become something that is disliked and avoided?

And then I asked myself, does the artist publish the work because he/she wants it to resonate with others? Maybe. But definitely, I do agree: art helps us to question some very difficult things about ourselves.

Here is the photograph I posted.

Phlegm

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