Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Unseen Book 2012

The Unseen Book 2012 gives an overview of the work presented at the Unseen Photo Fair, with a focus on the photographers represented by participating galleries.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Collector's First Purchase - Monica & Geoff Dawes

Unseen has been asking first-time photography collectors about their first purchase. Here, Monica and Geoff Dawes explain how they got started.

The inaugural edition of the Amsterdam photography fair, Unseen, focuses on emerging talent and first-time buyers. From 19 to 23 September 2012 in Amsterdam's Westergasfabriek.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Alumni of the Rijksakademie - Ikebana City

Ikebana City/ New York, 2011 © Lotte Geeven & Semâ Bekirovic

 Kim Knoppers interviewed each of the participating artists in the exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie. Here, Semâ Bekirovich and Lotte Geeven talk about their project, Ikebana City.

Ikebana City started in New York. How did the project come about?

Semâ Bekirovich: Our theme was to create a visual record of the natural outgrowths of the city. Every day, we walked for dozens of miles and encountered things like plants growing against a wall covered with graffiti. They had accidentally been spattered with many colours of paint, but still continued to grow quite happily. That is Ikebana's focus: plants that find their own place in the city, in symbiosis with human beings. We gathered these plants and brought them to our atelier to create still lifes with them. Then we photographed them. After that, we made posters of the prints and hung them up in the original locations where we found the plants. By doing this, the plants once again became visible for the neighbourhood. We were interested in creating work that has more to do with street art than high art. In the end, though, our work still ended up in a museum. But we approach the museum as a workspace where we also demonstrate our working process. We want to present Ikebana City only as a performance or a process. Of course, it is always interesting to see how you do this in the context of a museum. We will see how it works.

You have done Ikebana City in New York and Lisbon and are now presenting it in Amsterdam. Do you still wander the streets without a preconceived plan?

Lotte Geeven: We let ourselves be surprised by what we see. We talk about it and then put what we find in a bag. That's how the collection grows for each neighbourhood. When we are back in the studio, we sort through what we have gathered to determine which things are interesting and which are just ordinary. During the second sorting phase, we bring out the vases and the draping cloths and compose the still lifes. The process involves a constant dialogue, and it is not completely spontaneous. There are two conditions that the project must meet. The plants must be photographed against a grey background, and then given back to the city in the form of posters. By following these simple guidelines, you create beautiful forms that also allow the residents to look at their city in a different way.

Are there differences between your individual working methods?

Semâ Bekirovich: We are polar opposites, but that actually works very  well.  Lotte is very uninhibited. I find her spontaneity to be so liberating. Being physically focused on what you are doing and losing yourself in it, and only discovering later what you have brought into being. I don't think Lotte has any fear at all.

Lotte Geeven: I am constantly moving things, doing things, and this is also a form of thinking for me. Semâ is like a cat. She can look at something for a very long time.  She quietly compiles information, and then suddenly she pounces and knows exactly what needs to be done. It is helpful to see that you can approach things calmly and from a certain distance. We think the contrasts between us are interesting, and we appreciate them in all their aspects. In our experience, these differences complement each other quite naturally. But sometimes they clash too, in a good way, which only serves to refine our work even more.

Semâ Bekirovich: We each put our own mark on the photos. Lotte has a more aesthetic perspective than I do, while I have more of an affinity for odd combinations that usually tell more of a story. In the end, only one of us pushes the button to take the photo, but we create the images together.

Can other people take part in Ikebana City?

Semâ Bekirovich: We really want to start experimenting with that now. To date, we have been the only ones who collected the plants and composed the still lifes. It would certainly be intriguing if the project could serve as a framework and allow other people to participate in the process. That is an experiment: to what extent is it going to happen, and will we actually be able to let go of the reins? Ultimately, it would be interesting to extend the project to other geographic locations and to involve more and more people, so it would involve more of a social element.

You both attended the Rijksakademie, but at different times. What role did the Rijksakademie play for you each individually?

Lotte Geeven: The budding  and most experimental ideas are nurtured at the Rijksakademie. You are given ample encouragement to properly study an idea and flesh out its possibilities. As a result, you can sometimes really exceed your own abilities. Semâ Bekirovich: The Rijksakademie is truly a catalyst. Suddenly, you are an artist, and you have been given the stamp of approval. You have to break free of this pressure, because, in the end, creating art is about daring to fail. That's why Ikebana City is so interesting, because it is so different from how we normally work.

Kim Knoppers

The exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie - RE-Search, is on  from 31 August - 14 October 2012.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Alumni of the Rijksakademie - Paulien Oltheten

Video still, Water Circles, Krasnoyarsk © Paulien Oltheten
Curator Kim Knoppers interviewed each of the participating artists in Foam's current exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie. Here, she talks to Paulien Oltheten about her work in the show.

What is your working method?

My approach is to go somewhere without a clearly defined plan. The first few weeks are always difficult, because I have to find a point of departure, a way in. During these moments I always end up thinking that next time I should prepare a pIan in advance. I walk into that same trap every single time. In the end, I always get back with new and surprising work. When I really start to produce work, I have my camera and video camera with me. I have developed a certain system that allows me to grab them quickly whenever I’m ready, and then I go outside. The best times are in the morning in the evening. Other than that, I have to make sure that I stay curious, that I am confident. It is very important that I feel that I have time for it.

You use the camera in the way it was originally intended: to record reality. And, even more so, as a means to record your particular observations of reality. Why is photography the ideal medium for you?

For me, photography is about capturing ideas. That’s why first and foremost it is a very practical method for me. Photography fits me very well. I don’t have the patience to sit down for a long time and draw, for example. You can take a camera with you and grab it when you need it. I chose photography because it records a situation quickly, but I do take the time to find things that I want to photograph. Sometimes I start taking photos immediately. Sometimes I ask people to repeat an action so I can photograph them. And sometimes you realise afterwards: I should have taken photos, but the moment is gone and I’ve missed it.

The beauty of photography is that, of all the different media, it’s the closest to reality. If you have taken a photo, you can often see even more clearly how a particular point in time really was. You can look at a photo and analyse what was in the background. It provides the most direct representation of what colours were present, what clothes such a person was wearing, who else was present in the background.

How do you create a connection between all those ideas, all the individual photos?

I created Slideshow at the start of my career at the Rijksakademie. In this series, I make connections that together tell a story. In each Slideshow photo, something physical happens. In one photo, an object is leaning against something, and in the next photo, a person is leaning against another person. The series continues with these kinds of associations. In Watercirkels (Water Circles), I show a video along with a photo that depicts a point in time before the video was filmed. It’s about time, and about what a ‘photo moment’ is and what a video is. The video Man en hond (Man and dog) is independent of my other work. It is about an interaction between a man and a dog that circle around each other. The two are playing a game together, almost a dance. 

How did your work develop during your time at the Rijksakademie?

I saw the photos and videos that I took at that time as material that I needed to process and edit.  In exhibitions, I saw photographers presenting series. In this way these series came to a natural conclusion.  After that, they started a new project. As a result, I started looking at the amount of material I had as a huge mountain that needed to be flattened out, that needed to be resolved. In my first year at the Rijksakademie, someone told me to just look at it as if it were a lake. You toss photos in it and then you fish them out when you need them. I realised that the amount of not chronologically ordered material I had wasn’t actually an obstacle, but rather a source I could tap into as needed. In the second year, I delved into this idea to create the form that I still use.

Kim Knoppers

The exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie - RE-Search, is on  from 31 August - 14 October 2012.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Shelf

The Shelf © Alberto Ferretto

Fabrica and &Foam: Still Lights series
The Shelf, mirror and shelf (Sam Baron, France)

This final piece of the seven on display in the Still Lights collection at &Foam is by French designer San Baron. The Shelf makes use of a classic cantilever device to interpret the interconnection of subject, light and frame. A translucent glass vase set to the left of the shelf's fulcrum provides a delicate counterbalance to keep the solid oak shelf in a horizontal position. Set into the wood in the same place is a single LED spotlight (provided by project partner Philips) that sends its beam up through the vase. And the mirror serves to frame the arrangement. In this way, the light plays on the three surfaces with their varying reflective qualities.

The Shelf © Alberto Ferretto

But frankly, I'm not sure I could trust myself with such a fragile work. All it would take would be a tube of toothpaste or book carelessly flipped onto the shelf and the whole caboodle would go flying. Perhaps that's why Baron has built in a sneaky locking system. The fulcrum underneath does contain a device which, when engaged, secures the shelf to prevent such accidents. Maybe it does kind of defeat the core idea, but since only 5 vases in total have been produced (which you can buy separately in &Foam, by the way), it's probably for the best.

The Shelf © Alberto Ferretto
Jonathan Crawford

You can see The Shelf and the other products in the series Still Lights at &Foam until 21 October 2012.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Stolen Moments Stories 03

Yasmine Chatila is back to share another diary extract from her surveillance project.

Stolem Moments © Yasmine Chatila

9:45 Greenwich village, September 10, 2012

Tonight I need to make order. I sit before a million different windows lit with life. They all have a powerful draw and I need to create a filter. A different way to slice the information, a different cross section of reality, to see if a new facet is revealed. I decided that I will only observe women for the rest of the evening.

The first window my lens fall upon is of a woman sewing while wearing a gray silk negligee, she is concentrating so much that her entire body seems to be at the service of her string and needle. The light is framing her from above. If I had hired her and staged her she could not be more perfect or better lit. It's pretty ironic that in a city where we, as women, are in competition with men for control and power still end up sewing in our silk negligees. Maybe that is why she is so determined about her needle, she will sew better than any one has sewn before, better than her grandmother or her great grandmother before that. That is how we are.

A giant Harvard poster hangs on the wall, it takes up half the space on a pretty brunette's bedroom wall. She is efficiently folding laundry and I get a feeling she is enjoying it.

A few floors down and two windows over is a woman lying in a twin bed with hospital blue sheets. She has a stuffed white polar bear next to her, her blanket carefully tucked on each of his sides. She has something small in her hands, I can't see what it is but she is staring at it very intently. There is a crucifix above her bed, it is ruby in color and it matches her equally ruby hair. A painting of a rural landscape hangs above her bedside lamp.

In another building near by there is a woman carefully drying her face, she is blotting not rubbing, I admire her discipline. Blue bottles shimmer in the electric light. Such an artificial color and yet it reminds me of the Caribbean sea that is so far from our muddy city waters. She opens a jar of moisturizer, and begins to vigorously moisturize her face. She looks like she is praying, rubbing away her sins, asking for redemption.

A blond with red rimmed glasses stares at herself in the mirror. Her apartment is full of plants and a dart board hangs proudly in the center of her living room.

A woman sits in a rocking chair. The yellow lamp illuminates the back of her neck and chair. I know this place, the smell, it is all incredibly familiar, yet I've never met her . She must be 75 or 80 years old. She rocks her chair next to the window as she would if she lived in a country house or next to the sea and was listening to the sounds of crickets at night. She is listening to sirens, chatter and the endless stream of cars. I wonder what she is really hearing?

A woman sits on her bed, she is staring at the wall across from her. I sit with her in silence as she stares.

A very thin brunette with beautiful skin is cradling a man, he's got his hands all over her, she is in control.

A blond middle aged woman stares at her tv set. She looks as though she is dressed for the opera. The room glows with red light as her face turns green and turquoise from the tv, there is something regal in her posture.

A young woman peeks at me from behind her curtain, she could not know I can see her. Clearly she is playing with the idea that someone out there could be watching her. She is naked, and not a day over 15. She is trying on different outfits and posing in front of the mirror. She turns around again, facing me directly, I wonder if she can feel someone watching her. I feel guilty and turn away as the night gets denser and more irreversible, and the windows fade to black one by one.

Yasmine Chatila (Foam Magazine #22/Peeping)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Walk-in Wunderkammer

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
When I was little, I was obsessed with wonder boxes. I created little landscapes with paper maché, green blotting paper, sand and little animals and tiny people. The magical feeling you get when you manoeuver your eyes in front of the cut out hole and see the miniature world created inside, still makes me really happy. It feels like you're the only witness to a well-kept secret, a treasure kept especially for you. I got the same feeling when I walked into Doina Kraal's In de Rarekiek, a life-size wonder box of nine meters long, four meters wide and two and a half meters high. An extraordinary place that looks like you just walked into a real life fairytale. There is something amazing happening in every corner, on each of the shelves and there is an exciting vista in every wall. I don't know where to begin describing the feeling you get when entering Kraal's 'Wunderkammer'.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
'Wunderkammer' is the word Kraal chose to describe what she created in her project space at the Voormalige Stadstimmertuin. Wunderkammers were produced in Europe during the Renaissance.  It was a portable room full of curiosities where objects and strange articles were collected and classified. The word fits perfectly because 'wonder' is all you can do in Kraal's version. Small objects are exhibited in glass cases and on shelves, lasered flowers lit by a photographic projection, a hologram of a boy singing arias, see-through landscapes, a cloud caught under a glass bowl and stained glass windows. There is a lot to discover. Kraal wants visitors to experience it all by themselves. The exhibition booklet gives background information about her inspiration, but the individual stories of each particular object are there to discover and create your own story around. Just the way she did.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
When I visited In de Rarekiek I had the privilege of a personal introduction to Kraal's work. She explained how she started this two year project creating her perfect micro cosmos. Taking the cloud, a notable work in the installation, as an example of her working method, Kraal wanted to create a vertical cloud and started researching this phenomenon. She found volcanic eruptions, cumulonimbus and stars. Kraals wants things to become more than they first appear. To attach multiple interpretations to an image or object. This way existing categories fade and meaning becomes subjective. This is why Kraal does not prescribe her vision to the viewer. You are free to make you own perfect universe inside Kraal's wonder box.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
Writing this blog I realized how difficult it is to find words to describe Doina Kraal's installation. I think the best way is to invite you to experience it for yourself. And if your own version is not enough, you can also visit In de Rarekiek on a Friday afternoon. Then Kraal will be there in person to let you in on her well-kept secret.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
Eva Bremer

In de Rarekiek by Doina Kraal can be seen from 14 September to 21 October 2012 at the Voormalige Stadstimmertuin 4 - 6 in Amsterdam. Open from Thursday- Sunday 12 am - 6 pm.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Hardcopy Context

This fall I have to move my studio to another building and so the occasion arises to clean up and get rid of a lot of clutter that I gathered over the past 16 years in this building. So all my overdue films are now donated to the HKU, waiting for eager students.

Another idea came into my mind a while ago, when another department on the academy did the same: creating a small, specialized library, just for the department itself. I was immediately fond of the idea and started to collect books and magazines out of my own collection that I was willing to part from and a befriended bookshop antiquarian even found the complete collection of 'Perspectief' magazine, still my favourite magazine from the past.

After a while I started to doubt the whole idea. Is an old-fashioned library with books and magazines still needed in education these days? Why bother with building bookracks and dragging heavy books around when the students can literally find all the images they want on the computer? Why is the idea of a quiet place, with a couch, where students can take a book, sit down and just enjoy the work of great photographers so appealing to me? Oh wait, I think I answered my own question there. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that a place like that should be part of any education. Where the work of the photographer is shown in a way that he wants it to be seen.

Every now and then a student shows me work that they think is great, but when I ask who made it, they start to blush and stammer: 'Oh, uhm, I don't know, I just like the images.' When that happens, I give them my 'completely-baffled-desperate-in-physical-pain look', and strongly ask them to take note next time. But how can they do that? The internet is full of images without context, splattered all over the place. Of course it's key to teach the students how to find meaningful digital sources and how you can search the internet in a contextual way, but the photo book hype is there for a reason: people want to see hardcopy context! And books are expensive too, so why not share?!

Suddenly it was very clear to me and all the doubt was gone: we should have our own library. It's going to be one great experiment, since I'm not going to keep an administration and the student themselves are responsible for the wellbeing of the books. Let's see where this ends! So if you have any books or magazines concerning photography to spare and want to donate, please let me know.
What do you think, is it going to work or not?

Robert Philip is a photographer and course leader at the Utrecht School of the Arts.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Alumni of the Rijksakademie - Gert Jan Kocken

Battle of Berlin / БИТВЫ ЗА БЕРЛИН 1945, 2011, 280 x 380 cm (Detail) © Gert Jan Kocken. Composite of 23 Soviet maps and graphs of the Battle of Berlin

Curator Kim Knoppers interviewed each of the participating artists in Foam's current exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie. Here, she talks to Gert Jan Kocken about his work in the show.

Do Depictions of Berlin and Battle of Berlin, two of your recent works included in this exhibition, originate from your previous work?

Years ago, I started a series about historical turning points because it is at those times that images or representations are under pressure. A good example of this was during the Reformation, when a discussion arose based on the second commandment about the idea of 'images'. But there are also other times when images, in the form of paintings or sculptures, come under fire because they serve as representations of symbols of ideas or power. For me, it's about rethinking things in a broader whole, in a new context with different relationships.

Your gaze in this is leading. Your working method allows things to come together in a way that could not be accomplished by someone else. How important are these combinations?

I think it is interesting to place two works next to one another with space between them for contemplation. An explanation of the pieces is provided, but I also leave a lot open to the viewers' own interpretation. It's also possible that nothing will happen for the viewer, and I accept that too. But the texts usually prompt viewers to think about the events in their own way. I photographed a watercolour (Alt Wien, 1908, (Washington 2005)) and the text states that Hitler had applied to the art academy in Vienna but was rejected. People then immediately think: "But what if he had …". The text doesn't state this, but people think of it themselves, even though the idea is pretty much implicit.

The works are a part of a series of composite maps that you are working on. How did this series come about?

At a certain point, I stumbled upon a map depicting the city of Ypres. This map had hung in a British army office for four years, and was used during this time to mark where battles were being fought. Ypres was totally destroyed during these four years, and it was also totally obliterated on the map. Time became visible in a single image. I was then asked to work on a project, Warzone Amsterdam, about a possible war in Amsterdam in 2030. I wanted to show the meaning of this for the city and its residents by showing what had happened in Amsterdam during the Second World War. By layering all the maps used by the different parties during that time on top of one another, the entire war and all the information are condensed into a single image.

And then Berlin?

The specific meaning of the Second World War for Amsterdam becomes very clear when you compare it to another city. So I made a map of Rotterdam first. In Amsterdam, the persecution of the Jews is the main thing that is remembered, but in Rotterdam, it was how the city was bombed. But then I thought, I need to do Berlin as well, because that's where the Second World War ended for the West. I initially thought that it would be interesting to layer maps from the Russians, Americans, British, French and Germans, all the parties involved. But it turns out that all the notes on the maps in different languages make the whole thing unreadable. At that point, I decided to make two separate pieces.

Depictions of Berlin is a composite map of the German and American offensives. In this map, there are actually four subjects that are very important: the megalomanic building plans for Germania, the consequences for the Jewish population (Judenreine Gebiete), the division of Berlin into sectors during the Yalta conference (creating American, British and Russian sectors, which would later be separated by the Berlin wall), and also the consequences for the residents of Berlin. I used maps showing the destruction of the buildings caused by the Allied bombing and the Russian invasion. The other map Battle of Berlin is composed only of Russian maps. It shows the Russian invasion in the final weeks of the war. I am currently working on a version for Rome. Italy was Germany's ally during the Second World War and is the birthplace of Fascism.

How important is photography for you?

I am interested in images, but maybe it's better to say I am interested in how something is depicted. However, I don't think that necessarily needs to be accomplished by means of photography. What is important for me is the relationship between the image and the subject, a two-dimensional representation that can be viewed in a new context and in combination with other images.

When you attended the Rijksakademie, you were already quite accomplished as an artist, and you had developed a very personal working method. Why did you want to go to the Rijksakademie?

I wanted to study how I could combine text with my images, the relationship between the two. At the Rijksakademie, I made a piece that incorporated text in glass, and a piece that revolves around notes: text as a part of the work. For me, art is about continually searching for new ideas and new combinations.

The workspaces at the Rijksakademie are very professional. The academy has specialised people who focus only on questions from artists: people who are used to helping artists look at all the practical possibilities of an idea. Having someone who works with you to figure out how to do something differently means that you can take huge steps forward. It is fantastic to see the work that has been conceptualised and executed in recent years.

Kim Knoppers

The exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie - RE-Search, is on  from 31 August - 14 October 2012.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Working on Commission

Working on Commission © Evan Baden

I wanted to give an update on a project I have been involved with over the past several months.
One thing that I battle with as a practicing artist, as I think most practicing artists do, is money. Depending on how you work, making work can be expensive. In my case, I shoot with 4x5 film and print large scale. Printing, mounting and framing large pieces gets extremely expensive. And if you have to ship those pieces, it gets even worse.

So, the battle comes between making work, and making money. Free time is needed to make work, but at the same time up I have to have money in order to make work.
Working on Commission © Evan Baden

What I was graced with this summer was a corporate commission. They don't come around very often, but when they do, they are fantastic. This particular one involved creating a book that included photographs of their employees from around the world.

These commissions are fantastic for two reasons. First, they usually pay quite well, which helps when you are involved in making your own, personal work. Second, they involve your art. You are essentially getting paid to make your own work.

Working on Commission © Evan Baden

I was lucky and asked to work on this commission for a company that wanted to do something different. They asked me to explore the people working at their company, pretty much without restriction. That is unusual, and it was something I was excited about. Many times when working with a corporation, they want to have complete control over their image. I was shocked when I had shot half the project and had not been asked to show images to anyone. And while there was some input added later in the process, I am still surprised at how restrained they have been with the whole process.

During the project I traveled through Europe, the US, and Vietnam. It was a fantastic experience and is almost finished. I will be back in Italy for the book release as well as an exhibition this fall. I am hoping this will be something that I can use in the future, possibly as a promotional tool for either more work like this or editorial work (another way to get by while devoting time for your own work).
For now I am just grateful for the experience this summer, and the continued ability to devote so much time to my own work.

Evan Baden (Foam Magazine #22/Peeping)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A Collector's First Purchase - James Wilkins

Unseen has been asking first-time photography collectors about their first purchase. Here, James Wilkins shows us what got him started.

The inaugural edition of the Amsterdam photography fair, Unseen, focuses on emerging talent and first-time buyers. From 19 to 23 September 2012 in Amsterdam's Westergasfabriek.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Plate Life

Plate Life © Alberto Ferretto

Fabrica and &Foam: Still Lights series
Plate Life, light and bowl (Dean Brown, Scotland)

Plate Life is perhaps the most conceptual of all the Fabrica objects on display in &Foam. Perhaps because, on the face of it, you're not really sure what it is or what it does. But that is precisely the point. Plate Life is  part light, part display, part...well, itself. If you needed to locate it somewhere in order to understand the idea, you'd have to look to your kitchen washboard. Because Dean Brown, a product designer from Scotland, has taken the humble domestic dish rack as his starting point.
Whereas most of us would not look twice at this functional piece of kitchen 'furniture', Brown has spied something more poetic. As he explained to me, he felt the dish rack, when filled with crockery, could be viewed as a kind of still life arrangement. Okay, but it's still quite a step from there to Plate Life, isn't it?

Plate Life © Alberto Ferretto

Like all the other Fabrica students, Brown was asked to interpret the mutually dependent photographic elements of subject, light and frame. And that is exactly what he has done. Without one of these elements, Plate Life does not function. So we have a large bowl, which serves as a reflector in the same way as a studio lighting umbrella. We have a light source placed inside a smaller bowl, which projects a cold beam onto the reflector from a focused LED (supplied by project partner Philips). We have the frame, provided by the rack which holds the lighting set up. And we have the subject, which, it turns out, is the arrangement itself.

Plate Life © Alberto Ferretto

Plate Life then, is essentially a lighting set-up of a lighting set-up. Quite cerebral stuff for something from such workaday beginnings. But it's not all high art. Brown tells me the locally-sourced Bosa ceramic bowl is a perfectly usable item for the home (they are also for sale separately in &Foam). So, if you feel the need, you can subvert the whole self-referential dialogue for a while and toss yourself a healthy mixed salad.

Jonathan Crawford

You can see Plate Life and the other products in the series Still Lights at &Foam until 21 October 2012.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Alumni of the Rijksakademie - Alexandra Leykauf

Spanische Wand, installation view Sassa Trülzsch, Berlin, wood and black and white prints, 2012 © Alexandra Leykauf

Curator Kim Knoppers interviewed each of the participating artists in Foam's current exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie. Here, she talks to Alexandra Leykauf about her work in the show.

How does a series like Spots emerge?

Spots is different from a series like for example Chateau de Bagatelle in that it is actually one piece that comes in several parts. I wanted to describe an entirely dark room only by the way in which light intersects with its invisible confinements. There was only one spot - one light cone - per negative. I sandwiched the negatives in the dark room to create an image in which several rays of light cross each other. Developing the images myself in the darkroom was an obvious choice for such a motive. In the case of Spots the possible combinations of negatives are statistical. All parts together would add up to an entirely white room, which would therefore be just as invisible.

Spanische Wand is especially adapted to the exhibition space in which it is on show. Why is this important and what do we actually see when looking at Spanische Wand?

Spanische Wand confronts the process of image making with the physical experience of an architectural space. A cardboard box built to the same proportions as the exhibition space, on other words, the simplest model possible of the exhibition space, was split into two halves and opened up towards the camera. The resulting image was then printed in large format and mounted onto a wooden room divider in such a way that its perspective foreshortening contradicts the actual architecture of the wooden construction. A classic trompe-l'oeil effect that comes into being and that falls apart depending on the viewer's position. Spanische Wand constitutes a passage from a three-dimensional object to the surface of the image back to a spatial experience. I would describe this experience as one of looking at from within, as a simultaneous experience of distance and immersion. Because the cardboard box is a model of the exhibition space the viewer finds himself being part of a mise-en-scène.
In most of my works I change the scale of architecture through its own reproduction. It is this change of scale that gives me and the viewer the freedom to relate to the work in question in an imaginary as well as in a physical way.

What do you consider to be the most important themes in your work?

I am trying to find and provide a point of view towards the contradictory truths of the image. Be it the photographic image, the film image, the image created on a theatre-stage or the formal layout of a baroque garden, my work is driven by the wish to transcend the surface. The questioning of given perspectives is a recurring theme in all my works; most literally as an engagement with the architecture of the exhibition space, as a juxtaposition of the vanishing point in a Renaissance painting, the movie-projector as the vantage point of the film image, or as a contemporary condition when confronted with the evasive period of time captured on an old photograph. I try to gain a sense of orientation, not to detach myself form the image, but to disrupt reality itself.

Why are theatre and early photography so important to you? Has it got something to do with the experimental character, with something that can be developed further?

I am attracted to theatre, because it is a magnifying glass for the politics of image making and a condensed form of reality against which many of the questions I ask myself can be pinpointed. Where am I exactly in relation to what is being enacted? Can I get a glimpse behind the scenes or am I stuck in my seat in the auditorium? How does my perspective change if I leave my seat? Any kind of staging produces an ideal viewing point and thus always engenders an »off«. This is not only an invisible area outside of the constructed reality of the respective image, but also a place with different properties. It is this »off« or »beyond« that I am searching for. The concept of a place behind the scenes or outside of the confinements of the visible is also one that touches upon the question whether there can be an element in any image that enables a direct experience, an immediate view. Believing that perception is based on recognition, I use found photographs as a bridge from what I assume to be part of a collective memory to my individual take and matter of concern. It is my concern to contrast what can be identified and placed in a certain context with a moment of orientation lost. I believe that the uncertainty such a moment evokes, is connected to a sense of presence and forms a liberation from given circumstances.

Kim Knoppers

The exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie - RE-Search, is on  from 31 August - 14 October 2012.

Monday, 3 September 2012

We Make Lists Because We Don't Want To Die


Umberto Eco says we make lists because we don't want to die, because it is what we do to bring order and comprehension to a world that touches on the infinite. Eco says he likes lists "for the same reason other people like football or pedophilia."

Akkadian cuneiform

To describe something is to make a list. Most early forms of writing-even from a diversity of unrelated cultures-are devoted to lists (see Inca rope records "Quipu," or clay tablets inscribed with Early Greek Linear B, as well as the earliest Proto-Cuneiform: they were, nearly exclusively, lists). Libraries are lists of books that reflect the mind(s) of the compiler(s). Art and culture are derived from lists and are generative of lists. The Internet is a list itself further refined through searches and "sub" lists that define things to us like Facebook 'friends' or oil spills.

Gas Tanks © Berndt and Hilla Becher

Water Towers © Berndt and Hilla Becher

Anonyme Skulpturen © Berndt and Hilla Becher

Photography certainly is a form of list making. It says I was here, here and here. It gathers ideas and delimits those things from the surrounding infinite and it makes groupings through the order of things, which point us to ideas about something specific or ineffable. Series of images reinvest the singular list by repetition, further defining aspects of the list. Artists are known for series of topologies, which are basically just lists: the Bechers and their water towers; August Sander's farmers; Blossfeldt's flowers; photographs as arranged in Gerhard Richter's Atlas -these are, perhaps, the most obvious examples. But every photographer lays claim to lists.

from the series Wundergarten der Natur © Karl Blossfeldt

from the series Wundergarten der Natur © Karl Blossfeldt

Wundergarten der Natur © Karl Blossfeldt

Photographers can be defined either by genres or obsessions-from portraiture to landscape to fixations with genitalia or the sky at night. Diane Arbus had her outsiders and Garry Winogrand had his women and his streets, Robert Frank had America and its icons. Commercial photographers get hired because they can be trusted to make images that are extensions of lists they've already made: food; cars; lingerie; celebrities; corporate CEO's; etc.-until they become defined by the lists they've made.

from the series Atlas © Gerard Richter

from the series Atlas © Gerard Richter

Atlas © Gerard Richter

We define ourselves by the kinds of images we keep or identify with. We use lists to recognize and differentiate things from an infinite number of possibilities that something is not. Until there are so many infinite possible lists and things to put on those lists that the lists themselves compete with the infinite. Until the list itself becomes so large and undifferentiated that the culture that the list originated in and depends upon drowns in it.

from the series People of the Twentieth Century © August Sander

from the series People of the Twentieth Century © August Sander
People of the Twentieth Century © August Sander

from the series Women Are Beautiful © Gary Winogrand

from the series Women Are Beautiful © Gary Winogrand

from the series Women Are Beautiful © Gary Winogrand

Ken Schles (Foam Magazine #5/Near)