Thursday, April 24, 2008

More FotoFreo...

Apologies in advance for the length of the following. I have been a 'bit' busy of late so only got to some of the shows today...!

First stop was Polixeni Papapetrou at Johnston... I've seen a lot of her work in recent years and have been a bit up and down with it. I was never sure about the child's play images - Mary Ellen Mark and Sally Mann are preferable - but I do like the newer work. It has the play aspect still strongly at it's core but it is much more emotive.

Revisited Burtynsky and Pellegrin at WAMM (how could we not?) and almost baulked at the $5 to go see the show... seems silly in hindsight (security staff have to be paid, etc, etc) but in a town that's notoriously apathetic towards artwork (let alone that which is socially conscious) it felt like a unnecessary wall to work that SHOULD be seen.

Have to admit the the Burtynsky left me a bit cold on the third visit. Maybe I got past the spectacle aspect. There is a problem with the work that is a bit hard to overcome. He has previously commented (in ML or at TED - not sure which) on his apolitical approach to 'documentation' of what he has seen.

It is arguable if that is possible, given the choice to image and show that scene. I need to think it through MUCH more especially when you add in issue of the impossibility of an objective history. It can too easily fall into pure aesthetics and spectacle.

Went to Artsource to see the Hijacked show and have to admit that I liked it being in the hallways. Whilst not optimal for viewing, there was a distinct feeling of a journey. Shen Wei and Amy Stein lived up to their hype - SUPER stars. Have seen a lot of the work before but really enjoyed revisited Graham Miller's work.

Then to FAC and first up, Chen Nong. I have mixed feelings about the work. The concept involves the illustration of one of the most dramatic human endeavours in modern history. The social, cultural, ecological and technological aspects/parameters of the Three Gorges project are truly mind boggling. Ironically enough, Burtynsky has also done work on site and the scale is literally terrifying.

I don't know that much about the artwork itself but had read somewhere that all the clothes that the protagonists are wearing were handmade (!) by Chen - almost a parallel to that which is happening in the background. Given the obvious labour and energy invested into the work I expected 'more' from the resulting images.... I instead found them quite cold and they felt like a really amazing idea half done. That is not to say that don't work - which they do - they just felt less than they might have been.

Marian Drew on the other hand lived up to and exceeded her hype. The crow and the lemon is one of the few images I've seen in recent years where I might open my (very) anorexic wallet. There are all these interesting ideas in there. The still lifes they emulate were often illustrations of bounty and wealth (think Pheasant, Hare, Cornucopia) yet that which is imaged is often 'second' class (crow, bat, pelican) or even a 'pest'. They are (I read this somewhere too) roadkill that she has collected, cleaned and paid tribute to in their personal vistas. One image that was unfortunately not included contained a small kangaroo/wallaby which illustrates this perfectly. Her book was nowhere to be found which is a must buy for those interested in the work.

Not sure about Christophe Bourguedieu's work. I had (again?) expectations and was a bit let down. This might be image fatigue but they 'felt' like a lot of other work I have seen... that is, with a few exceptions. There seems to be some mask that you can lie over an image (maybe an idea for a Photoshop action?) that says 'this light', 'that expression', 'this amount and type of clothing' and 'this composition'. The only variance seems to be the 'freakishness' of what is imaged. Some of this is very evident when you go through Hijacked as well.

We all suffer from a dependence on subject/object but it is ultimately a quagmire that can end badly.

Last call was Hayden Fowler upstairs at FAC. I really enjoyed this show. There are interesting ideas of resurrection, branding (the location of the 'performance') and identity - collective and personal. I was born in New Zealand and can relate to the Huia - particularly it's feathers - as a symbol. There is an interesting dynamic in New Zealand when it comes to 'ownership' and 'rights' to use certain motifs. One classic example of this are bone/pounamu carvings - a very personal object that is gifted and not something you buy for yourself.

An artist called Dick Frizzell has played with these ideas extensively and this short piece makes for interesting reading.

See also:
Roger Ballen @ AGWA
FotoFreo Part 01
Jodi Bieber @ Moores

No comments: