Photography Reviews

The Bare Life – Philippe Grandrieux

Empty Gallery – one of my go-to galleries in Hong Kong which displays edgy contemporary artworks that are not exclusive to visual arts but other forms of medium or even crossing boundaries to other forms and media.

Philippe Grandrieux “The Bare Life” is currently exhibited from end of Sept til end of November. The text from the gallery describes the work really well.

“The performance in The Scream resemble an uncanny mixture of religious rituals, and choreographic workshop.  The affective intensity of these performances has only been heightened by Grandrieux’s decision to both to completely surround the spectator with images, and to introduce a slight delay of video, producing an effect no unlike the temporal blurring of which accompanies accumulated sensation. A sequence of 11 staggered projections surround the viewer within a purpose-built chamber, confronting them with a quivering multitude of naked bodies….

Bodies convulse and flail in an object choreography which oscillates between moments of surprising tenderness – the nearly automatic self-soothing activity of a body humming, rocking and whispering to itself – and moments of brutality – manifested not only by the titular scream, but also clawing, twitching, groveling of a body in distress.”

“The 3 single-channel work deals with the theme of anxiety – also explore the enigma of the human body and our relationship to our own materiality. Installed as life-size projections within the architecture of the gallery, each work present a human figure(s) enveloped by cover of darkness, moving according to an obscure logic beyond our comprehension.”

The works definitely confronts the viewers of their relationship with their sensations by being enfolded within the performer’s act. That confrontation sort of led us to awake our bodies as well and become extremely aware of how they respond to different stimuli. Visually striking and enigmatic, somehow disturbing too with the performer’s body almost felt as if she was not present, only with bones and skins moving according to the choreography. There were moments of her body postures which felt as if she was an alien, especially when the light source is not a warm but a fluorescent tone.  All in all, a mind-bending piece of work.

 

 

Snapshots of the single 3-channel projections @ Empty Gallery

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Artist Inspirations

Bill Viola (II)

Passion, is a kind of surging wave that comes up through people and comes out into the world that you have no control over. How do you represent extreme emotional states, which by their definition involve loosing control, loosing sense of self?

Bill Viola’s work uses water as the medium to talk about birth, death, and life in general. The universal themes that we all get to experience in our lives. And the language he chose to speak through is via video and moving images.

Another piece of work that was displayed in a church is called “Ocean without a shore”.

The piece is intriguingly beautiful in that, at the beginning, the person was visually presented black and white representing death. And through a thin sheet of water wall, this person walks through it and became “colourful” and alive, metaphoring the resurrection of christ. These pieces of art were displayed on the altars, where in Christianity they are places of the dead that makes connection with the living. I don’t think I described it as well as Viola in the video. This piece stunned me in that the idea, the execution of the moving images, and where the plasma screens were placed were all thoroughly thought out and in complete harmony with each other. The work feels very united and whole. It makes sense in every single level. This is the kind of work which is what I called “bringing what’s universal with a cutting edge method“. And I know deep down, I want my work to be towards this direction. I just know. It’s passion.

His other pieces “The Passing” and “Nantes Triptych” are both about birth and death, but more personal bringing videos of his mother as well. He mentioned that,

If you are going to make true art, it’s gotta be one thing. It can’t be like Mr. famous artist here and then something else over there. You can’t keep those things apart. If you want to live your life to the fullest.

 

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Artist Inspirations

Bill Viola (I)

 

Bill Viola, a renowned video artist which I’ve known for a while, but never really get to study a bit more about his pieces and how he comes to connect with these pieces. And then, his name popped up again by someone I knew and she highly recommended me to study his work, and draws inspiration from his work. So I did.

I couldn’t really find work of his on the internet, only glimpses of his work, but I’ve been watching a lot of his videos and how he talks about his different pieces of work. And then I realised that, the reason why his work are always about water came from the accident he had when he was 6 years old.

“The Dreamers” is a set of video installation work combining photography and videos together. From the youtube interview I got a chance to look at the work through that. They are images of people eye closed, seems like lying down somewhere at the bottom of the stream and breathing, indicated by the occasional bubbles popping up from their nostrils or mouth. Viola said,

“In ancient time, when people go drink water in the stream, that’s their first time to see reflections of themselves, and for the first time they acquire a sense of self for the very first time.”

So the medium of water comes to build our self-knowledge even before mirrors, which Jacques Lacan refers to as the “mirror stage”. And that water is a crucial element for humanity, not only are we 70% made up of water but also because of this reflection stage which leads us to discover ourselves for the very first time.

The work itself I have so many questions with. First of course is, how the heck did he make those moving images? I am super intrigued by the technical side of it as surely he didn’t ask participants to really lie down on the bottom of a shallow stream and video it. Then the more I look at each installed image, the more I feel meditative and calm, like the rhythm of their breathing was in sync with mine, and as Viola said, it does mimic as though we were dreaming.

Some of the words he says I agree with totally with my heart,

“Human beings need to touch the ground. There’s a reason why this is called Mother Earth. And the grounding is absolutely crucial for making connections.”

And then there was his work “Martyrs” which I like very much also. It is capturing (using moving images) to portray the 4 basic elements: earth, water, wind and fire. And this work was showcased at St Paul’s Cathedral. Again, so many questions arise from how he make those moving images, to how he comes up with ideas to represent the 4 elements and then how it can be transformed and displayed in a Cathedral which brings another level of impact with the work (because of the history and the element of religion). This work will totally be read different if it was displayed in a gallery.

 

To be continued… (since too much of his work needs to be discussed and written down)

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