Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Eva Stenram’s ‘Drape’ and Performing the Fetish

Drape I © Eva Stenram

Eva Stenram’s new series ‘Drape’ is collection of vintage pin-up photographs manipulated and re-printed by the artist. The original photographs depict women situated within a domestic setting, standing or sitting in front of a window. The photographs appear aged: they are black and white, in square format, while the dated interior design situate the photographs in the 1950s and 60s. Using these photographs as source material, Stenram partially disguised the subjects in the images by extending the curtains in such a way that they appear to overlap the women’s bodies. The title of the series ‘Drape’ effectively alludes to a double entendre in which the drape stands for a curtain as a household item but it also stands for the artist metaphorically draping the bodies of the female subjects with the material of the curtain.

Drape IV © Eva Stenram

The curtain is associated with drawing a physical yet also psychological line between the public and the private. The photographers of the original pin-ups appear keenly aware of this connotation as they asked the subjects to stand or sit in front of the curtain, venturing to the very edge of private space almost as a matter of provocation. Here, the curtain also functions as an improvised studio backdrop, highlighting the presence of the sitter posing for the camera – separating her from the background and thus making her more visible. By visually placing the women behind the curtain, Stenram’s effectively subverts the source material in two important ways: she inverses the private with the public and she makes the women not more but less visible. In other words, the purpose of the curtain is completely inversed in Stenram’s manipulation.

As the curtain has strong connotations of the theatre, Stenram’s project alludes to a type of performance by the subjects in the images. In ‘Drape IV’ in particular, the manipulated image appears as if the subject hides behind the curtain, teasing the viewer’s gaze, as if she is fully aware of an audience looking at her. Although it is only the subjects’ legs and feet that are visible in most of the images, the position of the bodies clearly signify that they pose for the camera. In other words, rather than performing for an anonymous audience, the subjects’ appear to perform for the photographer. The poses invoke the impression that the subjects are familiar with the photographer and that their performances are a well-rehearsed ritual.

Drape VII © Eva Stenram

As bare feet, legs, stockings and shoes appear to be a reoccurring theme in the photographs, ‘Drape’ has strong connotations of the fetish. In his classic essay Fetishism, Sigmund Freud argued that the foot fetish is the displacement of sexual desire onto alternative objects or body parts, caused by the subject's confrontation with the castration complex. From the original source material it is evident that the photographers had a strong (sexual) interest in women’s feet, legs, stockings and shoes. Yet Stenram further highlights this visual association with the fetish by fragmenting the body of the subjects in such a way that it is often only the feet or legs that are visible. In ‘Drape’ the subjects are exchangeable and literally faceless women who are photographed not for their beauty or personality, but for specific physical attributes and body parts that have a fetishistic value.

Any body part or indeed object can have a fetishistic value ascribed to it. The film theorist Christian Metz argued that the photograph, too, shares ‘many properties of the fetish (as object), if not directly of fetishism (as activity).’ The photograph is a fetish object because, in a more literal sense, it stands in for the missing object that it seeks to represent. In other words, a train spotter will perhaps enjoy looking at a photograph of a train because it stands in for the missing object (the train) represented in the photograph. A photograph as material object itself can have a fetishistic value as it is collected, cherished, valued, sold and exchanged. Yet, I believe, Stenram project alludes to something all together more complex: that apart from referring to a fetish of the body, and apart from referring to the fetishistic value of photographs, it also refers to a fetish of the body specifically ‘performed’ in the act of being photographed. As such, while Stenram’s work references vintage pin-up photography, it equally references an image conscious society constantly performing itself by inversing the private with the public.

Marco Bohr  is a photographer, writer and founder of visualcultureblog.com

Monday, 30 July 2012

Light Drawer

Light Drawer, Mariana Fernandes © Alberto Ferretto

Fabrica and &Foam: Still Lights series

Light Drawer, drawer (Mariana Fernandes, Portugal)

We all know what the purpose of a drawer is. To put stuff away, right? Underpants, socks, cutlery, tape measure, bags for your pedal bin, bits, bobs. Pretty much anything that you would rather not have scattered around in your home finds a place in a drawer. That's why the default position for your common or garden drawer is closed. Out of the way, out of sight.

Light Drawer, Mariana Fernandes © Alberto Ferretto

When we need any of the items inside we slide it open, exposing a chaos of clutter (unless you're one of those obsessives that orders the contents with geometrical precision and a protractor). We take what we need and then slide it shut again.

Light Drawer, Mariana Fernandes © Alberto Ferretto

Mariana's piece, whilst being a drawer, is actually more about describing the purpose of a drawer. In line with the Still Lights concept, Light Drawer is an interaction between subject, light and frame, all basic elements of photography. The frame is an oak wood desk with surface proportions that reflect the standard 10x15 inch format of a photographic print. The light is a Philips-supplied UV strip bulb which comes on only when the drawer is opened. And the subject, inside the drawer, is a sheet of protective paper printed with illustrations of various still life subjects in UV ink.

Light Drawer, Mariana Fernandes © Alberto Ferretto

So a drawer it certainly is. But it's also more than that. It's the idea of a drawer. It's about the function, the mechanism.  We pay more attention to opening the drawer because it switches on a light. And we pay more attention to the contents of the drawer because it is the UV light that illuminates it.

This is all very lofty stuff for a mundane, essentially invisible piece of furniture, one whose sole purpose in every other way is to hide itself and all that it contains. But they are the storage saviours of small apartments and I should know, I've got one. So it's about time someone put a good word in. There's plenty of space next to the superglue and the scissors.

Jonathan Crawford

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Breaking The Format

Role Model © Evan Baden

I have been working with a 4x5 camera for the past 6 years or so. It has been my chosen method of image making. But lately, it has begun to bore me. I think this is mostly due to how often I see the 4:5 ratio in images. Just like 2:3 and 6:7, I see it everywhere. It used to be something that I really loved.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Time Stands Still

Fabrica and &Foam: Still Lights series
Time Stands Still, clock (Giorgia Zanellato, Italy)

Time Stands Still © Alberto Ferretto
This simple oak wood clock seems based on, but is entirely in contrast with, the more traditional old-world grandfather clock. You know the ones. You find them in period dramas, looming ominously in the hallway of some Victorian town house, their heavy ticking pendulum the only sound in a stifling atmosphere of embroidery, big moustaches and sexual repression.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Fabrica at &Foam

Installation, Still Lights at &Foam © Alberto Ferretto
If you’re one of those people who know their Starck from their Sagmeister, their Hetherwick from their Hadid, you’ll probably already be aware of Fabrica, the creative studio and laboratory owned by the Benetton Group.

Their complex in Treviso, Italy was restored and enlarged by Tadao Ando (who else?) and is home to product designers, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, digital developers and more, all bending their brains over various design problems.

So we thought it would be interesting to see what they came up with if we briefed them to design some products based around photography.

A group of their students (although I wouldn’t call them that) have come from a variety of disciplines to create Still Lights, a collection of seven one-off pieces that reference three basic elements in photography: the subject, the frame and light. And, as in photography, each piece relies on all three elements to function.

The results are fantastic and they are now being installed in &Foam as part of our concept store’s design theme, which runs until 21 October.

Mariana Fernandes (Italy): Light Drawer, desk/drawer
David Penuela (Spain): Ongoing Table, dining table
David Raffoul (Lebanon): Nail Meets Bookshelf, bookshelf 
Dean Brown (Scotland): Plate Life, light and bowl
Sam Baron : The Shelf, mirror and shelf
Giorgia Zanellato (Italy): Time Stands Still, clock 
Kirsty Minns (UK): On Display, plate cabinet

Over the next few days I will profile each piece specifically, but for now I’ll leave you with some shots of the installation.

Jonathan Crawford

Installation, Still Lights at &Foam © Alberto Ferretto

Installation, Still Lights at &Foam © Alberto Ferretto

Installation, Still Lights at &Foam © Alberto Ferretto

Installation, Still Lights at &Foam © Alberto Ferretto

Installation, Still Lights at &Foam © Alberto Ferretto

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Marga Weimans at Fashion Week

Marga Weimans show, AIFW 2012 © Eva Bremer
Last week the Amsterdam International Fashion Week (AIFW) was in town. Centred around the Westergas area, tout fashionable Amsterdam got in their heels and finest outfits to see what's new in Dutch fahion land. I went to see the opening show of Marga Weimans who was showing for the first time on AIFW. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

On Places, Photographs, and Memory

Recently I visited a place that I knew intimately in childhood, a waterfall with cliffs on both sides and a pool of cold water below. We used to jump from those cliffs despite our parents' concerns and a posted sign that read, "Warning: accidents may result in serious injury or death."

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Camera Around Your Neck

Dutch Landscapes © Mishka Henner
I have just arrived back from doing different talks around Europe where it was interesting to notice that people were asking me more questions and creating discussions about Appropriation and Self published books than before. Although I don't consider this as my territory, I thought it would be interesting do a short interview about this current topic with Mishka Henner for the FOAM blog. He is a fascinating and innovative artist. A real honest guy, with fresh and passionate views and has a lot of experience in this controversial field. We often meet up in Manchester (the city that we love) to drink some beers and talk endlessly about photography.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A little shining diamond makes a difference

Gestrand in zijn gedachtes © Yorinde, 17 jaar

Walking from the tram stop to the project location of Foam in Amsterdam Nieuw-West, I already see billboards with portraits of local citizens in an open space that is meant to be full of new houses but will be empty in the coming years because of the economic recession. They all have a positive story to tell that contradicts the stereotypical expectations. Just before entering the Confucius square where I'm going to visit a new exhibition, my eyes are pulled towards another series of huge photographs of people from the neighborhood hanging in the windows. It is obvious that there is something exciting is happening.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Curtain © Ina Jang

While steaming hot summer days continue here in New York, it feels like the perfect time for me to catch up with some cartoons neglected for the past few months. Ever since I moved here, I have never owned a TV. But during the past couple of years, thanks to generous streaming services, I was able to find a way to revisit cartoons from childhood such as The Rose of Versailles, The Jetsons, and Tom and Jerry.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Petra Noordkamp interview - part 03

Film Stills, La Madre © Petra Noordkamp

Petra Noordkamp spoke to Foam about her project La Madre in a series of interviews. In this final part, Petra talks about the influences behind the shape of the church, La Madre Chiesa, and returning to Gibellina.

Petra Noordkamp interview - part 03

Monday, 9 July 2012

Like Father, like Son

South Dakota & New York © Michael Christopher Brown

Some boys in the Skagit Valley of Washington State learned practical things from their fathers, like how to farm, build houses or repair cars. I learned how to take pictures, just as useful though not as obvious. Though I worked the fields a bit growing up, picking berries and spinach and driving a combine at night, neither I nor my father, Gary, understood the effort required to tend the mustard in front of our home but we could appreciate the light falling upon it. Light bound us together as the land does a farmer and son.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Petra Noordkamp interview - part 02

Film Stills, La Madre © Petra Noordkamp

Petra Noordkamp spoke to Foam about her project La Madre in a series of interviews. In this second part, Petra talks about the show in Foam and her meeting with architect Luisa Anversa.

Petra Noordkamp interview - part 02

Monday, 2 July 2012

The Look of Love: On Sharing Intimacies and the Limits of Intention

Maurice Schles © Ken Schles

About six weeks ago both my aged parents died. They had a dual funeral. Their coffins were lowered side by side, simultaneously into their grave. After hearing of this, more than one person has asked me if they were in an accident. There had been no accident. They died independently of each other, in separate facilities about 30 hours apart. Mom died two days short of her 87th birthday. Dad followed suit. He was 94. Because he had been in hospice for three weeks, his death was imminent and expected. And in fact, I got a call that he was dying four hours before I got the call telling me my mother had become unresponsive.