Sunday, June 25, 2017

FOUND - photographs from the 1940's that tell an uncomfortable wartime story


When recently in the delightful Tuscan town of Sansepolcro I came across two small photographs tucked away in a envelope and offered at a local flee market stall. I've always been on the lookout for found pictures, they become a souvenir of a visit as well as having a charm all of their own. These particular photos, so small they fit in the palm of a hand and printed on paper with a decal edge, spoke of something strange and uneasy. Probably made in the 1940's, the images depict a group of Italian men (and a boy) ripping into the Chianti. Not an unusual occurrence except here there are German soldiers sharing the fun. Bizarre. Here are the pictures, see for yourself.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Michel Houellebecq - writes and photographs, beauty and brutality

Michel Houellebecq - France #014, 2016

In a June 16 piece in Artsy, my favorite online art resource, writer Michael Robbins talks about the photographs of controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

There’s a description in the French writer Michel Houellebecq’s best novel, The Map and the Territory, that recurs to me often. Jed Martin, a painter and photographer who gets entangled with the famous novelist Michel Houellebecq, is walking down a Parisian boulevard:
"A Casino hypermarket and a Shell service station were the only perceptible centers of energy, the only social propositions likely to provoke desire, happiness, or joy. Jed already knew these lively places: he had been a regular customer of the Casino hypermarket for years, before switching to the Franprix in the boulevard de l’Hôpital. As for the Shell station, he also knew it well: on many a Sunday, he had appreciated being able to go there for Pringles and bottles of Hépar."
I have never been to Paris, but I too already know these lively places. So do you. Fungible temples of the commodity “as a force aspiring to the complete colonization of social life,” to quote Guy Debord. For most of us, such spaces are dead zones, not worth noticing, pit stops and way stations. (I never noticed the chintzy chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the deli I frequent almost daily until, thinking about Houellebecq’s work, I took a good look at the place.) Houellebecq’s protagonist sees these spaces as the only throbbing hearts in a diseased social body. Of course this means that contemporary society—French, but the idea extrapolates—is idiotic and brutal. Jed finds an oddly comforting beauty in it nevertheless.

Houellebecq’s camera discovers a depopulated—almost no people appear in any of the shots, even those of huge public housing blocks—and often depressing world. But like his novels, his photographs reveal the wit and allure of total disenchantment, the quirky loveliness of what Debord called “an insufficiently meaningful world.” Giant concrete letters spell out “EUROPE” in front of a desolate, monochromatic car park. A hotel corridor—darkened glass doors in the middle distance, blue lights spaced evenly along wood-paneled walls—is drenched in an eerie greenish-red glow. It can take the viewer a second to realize the corridor isn’t quite empty: Ghosts of guests flicker in the frame, leaving an impression of the universal tourist costume of jeans, sandals, book bag. It’s a simple but effective trick of exposure. In this pleasant field of corporate light and angles, people are an afterthought.

Occasionally I come across photographs I wish I had made. These stunning images made by Houellebecq most certainly are in that category...

You can read the full article HERE. And while you are at it, why not sign up for Artsy's regular mailings. You will not be disappointed.

Michel Houellebecq - France #002, 2017

Michel Houellebecq - Tourisme #014. 2016

Monday, June 19, 2017

Auckland - Back!!

Back in Auckland after five weeks in Europe - London, Paris, Rome. First outing a group show at Auckland City's public artspace - North Art. I'm showing my 2011 work, Auckland Apple. Shown here in conversation with Billy Apple in a photograph made by William Dart.