Artists Inspirations

Joseph Cornell

Heard from another artist about Joseph Cornell, and his famous work of shadow boxes somehow resonate with me. Maybe it’s the idea and theme of voyage and wanderlust. And the idea of collecting and using found objects to make art.

“He was a kind of magician, turning everyday objects into mysterious treasures. By collecting and carefully juxtaposing found objects in small, glass-front boxes, Cornell created visual poems in which surface, form, texture, and light play together. Using things we can see, Cornell made boxes about things we cannot see: ideas, memories, fantasies, and dreams.”

Throughout Cornell’s life, he has never left America but his wanderings around streets of Americas brought him objects and ephemera that allows him to travel within his own imaginations, through the centuries of history, the continents of the globe and even the celestial realm. His work is filled with a yearning for distant places and times.

Source @ Royal Academy of Arts

Podcast about Cornell and Surrealism: https://audioboom.com/posts/3550962-joseph-cornell-surrealism-and-time

References: https://www.josephcornellbox.com/

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Photography

Simon Wan

「由其是攝影媒介,因為是關於影像,一開始更加要放底影像,尋找你想做的事/你想說的事。」

「攝影只是一個工具用來表達你想做的或你想說的,最重要的是你想說什麼。」

「如果你只想著影相,你只會是一個相機佬。相機佬和攝影師是有分別的。攝影師運用相片來表達他想說的事。」

“Especially within the photography medium, because it is about images, we must first forget about images, and think deeply about what you want to do and what you want to say.”

“Photography is just a tool for expressing what you want to say, the main thing lies with – what you want to say.”

“There is a difference between being a cameraman and being a photographer. A cameraman thinks about images alone, whereas a photographer uses images to express what they want to say.”

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Photography

Photography as narratives, and how social media is shaping it?

Recently I’ve read some articles that I felt somehow are linked together – one was talking about photography as a narrative medium, what position exactly does it stand? One was about photographs getting censored in IG, and how the platform works is now questionable as technology and the line of ethics blurs, the final one is about how social media shapes our identity.

Why I think they are closely linked because since the development of social media e.g. FB and IG, the use and function of photography has widen and is constantly tied in with our everyday life. Anyone who knows how to use a phone can easily snap a photo to represent something about him/her and post it on social media. Narrating our own stories is easier than ever. It is cheap, fast and skill-less. While this is happening, yes – artists and crafters can easily share works to the world wide public, and art doesn’t have to be something prestige anymore, but some worries about the code of ethics and whether e.g. nude photographs is same as porn. Plus the recent news about images of a murdered victim has been posted on social media, how are we using photography and social media? Should there be some sort of policy? But if one company uses its powers to decree which art can be shown and which art can’t, then art isn’t free. What solutions can there be?

Especially now with teens who are born in the Internet era, they are the cyborgs of constantly documenting their life experiences with images. How are they using photography and social media? How is this culture shaping their identity?

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Photography

Slant – Aaron Schuman

 

Aaron Schuman is an American artists based in the UK. I came across his work because I love books from MACK and his new book “Slant” caught my eye. Only then when I started studying about his work that his previous work “Folk” was listed as one of the best photobooks in 2016 by Alec Soth, and that he has also been a curator and educator for years. Well his “Folk” work I will need to spend another morning looking into and studying, but what “Slant” interested me is that it features the little police reports from a small town in Amherst, Massachusetts and they are just hilariously ridiculous. These succinct and “extraordinarily anticlimactic” accounts of crimes, suspicious activities, events and non-events newspaper cutting from 2014-2018 are cleverly diptych with photographs made around the same town. The photographs are poetically matched with the text showing a “slanted” way fo rhyme, drawing this inspiration from Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all truth but tell it slant”.

Each of the image pairing was carefully made with many layers and meaning, providing a third space for the viewer to imagine and create possibilities. Quoting from what Aaron says at an interview from photocaptionist, he explained thoroughly how 2 images have been carefully thought out with different added layers:

“in the case of the fig tattoo photograph that you mention, there are many layers. Firstly, I should explain that I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts – eight miles from Amherst – which is the home of Smith College… … it’s Program for the Study of Women and Gender continues to be one of the most important and prominent within academia, and attracts feminist scholars from around the world. Furthermore, Northampton is often referred to as ‘the lesbian capital of America’, as its population includes the most lesbian couples per capita of any city in the United States… …. it is considered one of the most liberal, left-leaning, ‘open-minded’, ‘alternative’ or ‘countercultural’ communities in America.

What I find fascinating about that particular ‘Police Report’ – ‘A man reported that he was uncomfortable with a protester standing at the intersection of Amity and South Pleasant streets with a sign stating “kill feminism”.’ – is the protest itself, and the fact that today, within Trump’s America, such an ultra-conservative sentiment has become a part of public landscape, even within the most progressive of places. But I’m also interested in the fact that the police were contacted because the protest was deemed threatening; that within this extremely liberal environment, someone’s public expression and protest via ‘free speech’, albeit of their very conservative beliefs, was deemed aggressive and provocative to warrant police attention, and met with such a conservative response. Also, the fact that it was a man who reported that he was ‘uncomfortable’ with this particular act of ‘protest’ is rather intriguing. And furthermore, there’s the irony of the street names – ‘Amity’ and ‘Pleasant’ – which imply certain, very American aspirations on the part of the original town planners, but which are somewhat undercut by the activities described as occurring on those streets today. So the text is already incredibly loaded in so many ways.

Then, there’s the story behind the photograph… … I knew that the fig had all kinds of symbolic meanings, Biblical and otherwise – the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves during The Fall, the fruits own sensual and sexual suggestiveness, and so on – so after the tour was over, I went over and asked her if I could photograph her arm. She guardedly said yes, and afterwards I asked her, “Why a fig?” – “Its kind of embarrassing”, she said, “It a reference to The Bell Jar. You know, Sylvia Plath?”

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet”. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, 1963

…the photograph of the giant foot … … In the collection, I actually have multiple Reports from over the last three years in which the police were contacted because someone asked to photograph the ‘victim’s’ feet (as you say, it could be a prolific local foot-fetishist, or more likely several undergraduate art students trying to fulfil some brief given to them by one of the surrounding colleges) … … I passed this bizarre foot sculpture on the outskirts of Amherst – it was in the parking lot of a local ‘winery’ (something to do with squashing grapes with bare feet, I guess, as the area is certainly not known for its wine production) – and it was just too good to be true.

The whole spin of the work “initially, in 2014, I simply found these newspaper ‘Police Reports’ quaint and hilarious. But today, in 2017, I actually find them both unexpectedly poignant and painfully disturbing; they seem to reveal certain worrying undercurrents in America, psychological or otherwise, that point to a particular loss, at least in terms of being in touch with reality.”

The work itself is layered, complexed and highly informative with different insights coming together after each read. Attractive and simple at first, but hidden with deep meanings with metaphors relating to politics, media and psychology. I personally find this book is a jewel.

Reference:

https://photocaptionist.com/ism/slant-interview-aaron-schuman/

https://www.aaronschuman.com/slantpages/slant01.html

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Photography

La Vertigine – Federico Clavarino

Italian photographer Federico takes poetic and free-form images for his work La Vertigine, which means Vertigo in English. Vertigo means – a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness.

The poetic photographs connects one and other, somehow spinning your head from here to there, in a soothing and free way. There’s this sensation of freedom and openness, leading the viewer to imagine what’s not there. The tightly cropped images allow a lot of free associations when combined together in a book. It creates a tension between what is shown in the image, and what could be outside. Clavarino is drawn to shadows, hands, and the spaces in between things, he said “There is a very active frame in all of the pictures. It’s more about that than the actual things I photographed.”

References:

http://federicoclavarino.com

https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/12/la-vertigine-by-federico-clavarino/

http://federicoclavarino.com/assets/la_vertigine/La%20Vertigine%20PDF%20150.pdf

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Photography

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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