For leisurely holiday reading next week I would suggest picking up a copy of Sigrid Calon’s new book “Within the Grid and Beyond the Pattern: 120 Compositions in Form & Colour,” stencil printed on RISO. While not a photobook, the process used to make and print this books is a “photo” copy technology. The copy in hand is edition number 189 of 420. On the dust jacket turn-in around the back board the author includes the following description:
“This work arose out of my fascination for a grid. An embroidery grid, to be precise, with a minimal basic grating of 3 x 3 dots. With these dots, 8 different (embroidery) stitches can be made: one horizontal, one vertical, one 45 degrees to the right, one 45 degrees to the left, one 26.5 degrees to the right, one 26.5 degrees to the left, one 63.5 degrees to the right, and one 63.5 degrees to the left.” Following a discussion about lines as they are translated by a computer, there is a discussion of the unique qualities of the Risograph copier (the effect of screen printing with the ease of photocopying). She continues, “I have chosen to work with 8 colours: fluorescent pink, blue, orange, brown, yellow, green, black and red. … The colour combinations have been teh starting point for the book. 8 colours generate 28 two-colour combinations and 56 three-clolur combinations. Four-colour combinations make 72 options appear. Out of these I have made a selection of 28 so as to have a good basic combination of 4 compositions per A3. Each colour combination in this book appears only once.” There is a brief note about gradations and layers.
Sigrid’s book is a great introduction to color and color processes is a perfect segue to my second title for holiday reading or browsing: “Color: American Photography Transformed,” by John Rohrbach with an essay by Sylvie Penichon. Published by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the University of Texas, Austin, and The William & Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere.
The table of contents include: Forward by Andrew J. Walker, Introduction, One: inventing color photography, Two: defining color (1936-1970), Three: Using color (1970-1990), Four: interrogating color (1990-2010), from potatoes to pixels: a short technical history of color photography, list of plates, bibliography, acknowledgments, Index. Color reproductions throughout are all very high quality, and the book itself is over sized, allowing for enjoyment of large images. An excellent book.
For those of you who are less interested in an artist book, or in a large coffee table book, you might aim for something a little more cerebral: “Minor Photography: Connecting Deleuze and Guattari to Photography Theory,” edited by Mieke Bleyen, published by Leuven University Press, 2012. The book is broken up into three parts.
Part 1: Towards a Theory of the Minor
“From Stuttering and Stammering to the Diagram: Towards a Minor Art Practice?”
“Tichy as a Maverick: Singular figure of a Minor Photraphy?”
“Always in the Middle: the Photographic work of Marcel Marien. A Minor Approach”
Part 2: Major Artists – Minor Practice?
“Fear of Reflections: the photoworks of Paul McCarthy”
“Considering the Minor in the Literary and Photographic works of Rodney Graham and Tacita Dean”
Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes
“Entertaining Conceptual Art: Dan Graham on Dean Martin”
Eric C.H. de Bruyn
Part 3: Surrealism in Variation
“Towards a Minor Surrealism: Paul Nouge and the Subversion of Images”
“Conceptual Art and Surrealism: an Exceptional, Belgian Liaison”
“Systematic confusion and the total discredit of the world of reality: Surrealism and photography in Japan in the 1930s”
Cheers! And have a great holiday week!
Recently, I was checking in with the great online blog Ignant, and I ran across a series called “Bingo” by photographer and artist Andrew Miksys. The bingo halls and eccentric cast of characters in Miksys’s images struck a familiar chord with me having spent time every summer as a kid in the bingo halls of Jupiter, FL with my Grandma Macel. I caught up with Andrew to ask him about the project and what he’s working on now.
SM: First off, I just recently came across your “Bingo” series and felt an instant connection both to the subject matter and your style of shooting. My grammy takes no prisoners when it comes to bingo or poker, and it was a big part of her social life when she lived in Florida. What first brought you to the bingo table and when did you decide to start this project?
AM: I started the project in Seattle. For 25 years my father had a bingo newspaper there (Bingo Today). When I was in high school, I delivered the newspaper to all the bingo halls in Western Washington. Later I came back and began photographing in the same halls.
SM: To be a bit of a tech nerd for a minute, what camera did you shoot this series with and what lighting did you use?
AM: Making pickles and drinking vodka.
Photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
Born 1986 Tel Aviv, Israel
Nir Arieli’s photographs are beautiful. Picturing male dancers in glowing natural light Arieli steals the physical beauty of his subjects, elegantly transferring it into still images. A frenetic unrest scratches at the surface throughout his series, presenting signs of a struggle beneath the placid picture plane. Tension exists between perfection and imperfection. Tension exists in the very muscles of his sitters. Tension even extends to the viewer in the act of looking at men in this way. Movement is suggested or even depicted explicitly, but the final images are very still. Arieli’s photos preserve moments of balance and grace, leading to the polished contrapposto that gives his pictures gravity.
Arieli only photographs men. Choosing subjects primarily from The Julliard School’s dance program, Arieli slowly sculpts the photograph through communication. “We worked in front of a white wall and he told me certain things he wanted within the composition including muscular tension and contortion with a relaxed focus in the eyes,” says Austin Goodwin, an undergraduate dancer at Julliard and repeated subject of Arieli’s photographs. “He asked me to move extremely slowly through different positions with my upper body. Throughout this he would stop me and we would explore whatever was working best. Occasionally I would try something different to see if it was cohesive with his idea and from there the collaboration continued between me inserting movement suggestions and Nir giving direction as to focal specifics and body angles. It was a very organic process.”
Arieli’s video work is made the way a photographer should make video, the camera at a fixed point, the frame unwavering. The only thing moving in the picture is the subject himself, performing for the viewer. “Dancers are performers, the process of creating a still image gives them a similar satisfaction to the one they get when the lights come up on stage,” says Arieli to MATTE, “The camera functions as the audience. They are eager to actively contribute to the success of the work. I’m often working with them in a very abstract way of directing, and they are able to translate my words into physical states.”
Beginning his career as a military photographer for the Israeli magazine Bamachane, Arieli now focuses with reticence on beauty. “Beauty is an essential part of every body of work I make. I’m in love with it but I also know I can’t be married to it in the most traditional sense,” says Arieli. His new series entitled “Inframen” looks beneath the skin of his subjects. Exposing flaws in the sitter’s physicality through an infrared process, Arieli freezes these artists at what he considers to be a pivotal time in their lives. “I’d like the viewer to disconnect from the glorious immortal dancer’s image they know from the stage, and notice the fragility of these people, the contrast of their gentle souls against their strong bodies. The ridiculous situation in which the dancer’s whole existence is dependent on his body, and that youth is gone in such a young age. In that sense this project is a lullaby for this beautiful stage in a dancer’s life, when they’re at their best physical shape,” says Arieli. “From now on the body will betray them slowly.” -MATTE Magazine for CCNY
The Corinthians – A Kodachrome Slideshow, edited by Ed Jones & Timothy Prus, published by The Archive of Modern Conflict, is a collection of anonymous Kodachrome slides, dated 1947-1974.
I became aware of the press through another book edited by Jones & Prus, Nein, Onkel, which is also of anonymous material, in this instance, snapshots of Nazi soldiers – material which is a bit more difficult, historically, especially in lieu of its innocuous banality and rich un-self-consciousness (the soldiers being innocuously ordinary, cute, without any distinction). As far as I know, Nein, Onkel is available in the US only through Dashwood Books, & I have never seen a copy of The Corinthians available except through the internet.
While The Corinthians does reference a specific historical conflict like Nein, Onkel, the title is taken from the book of Corinthians in the bible, a series of letters from St Paul which address a decadent society: thus the images hover between being a relic & being an ambiguous indictment. Kodachrome itself is of recent obsolescence, & like much analog film material, now represents its own historical passage in the past tense.
In terms of using the specific materiality of Kodachrome (color transparency, vivid hues with a palette akin to Technicolor)and its anonymous usage, there is Guy Stricherz’s book Americans in Kodachrome 1945-1965, which is a much gentler, nostalgic collection. & this is not to diminish the Stricherz collection, either, which has its own fascinations. The title of the Stricherz book also reveals what is often unstated about nostalgia: that nostalgia has national borders, that nostalgia can be used as a technological fantasy of a shared & cohesive history, a Family of Man in lower-case letters. My guess is the images in The Corinthians are primarily from the US, & the sometimes gaudy hues & occasions to photograph are representative of a post-WWII glee, a kind of ascendancy of an ability to observe one’s daily life, which over time detaches itself from any context & becomes cryptic. But the shared “American-ness” of the Stricherz book is not apparent in The Corinthians, where instead the images clash, they do not relate to one another, whether by year, region, practice, or taste. What is revealed can seem simultaneously obvious & opaque. What separates the collections of Stricherz and the Archive of Modern Conflict is in the choice of images & their editing. One of the remarkable things about the images in The Corinthians is that they are often uglier than beautiful. The interiors & family scenes can be claustrophobic if not downright unpleasant. This is so against the grain of the fading twilight of nostalgia, in which a partial forgetfulness is often equated w/ sweetness or tenderness, a slight regret along with a letting go – instead the images are jarring, & whether through accident or intent (the difference between we will never know), there is a crudeness, an awkward possessiveness which resonate w/ more craven aspects of the photographic process: the images force the participants into a pantomime of an image-self, as an illusion of what they would be, which is realized w/ an almost violent lack of skills. In this sense The Corinthians reminds me of the vertigo of the images in Wisconsin Death Trip. Vanitas vanitatum.
If one thinks of the billions of snapshots which exist, in utter randomness, the collection of whatever becomes the ad hoc solution to extract any sort of meaning what is otherwise accident & chance. Both The Corinthians & Nein, Onkel posit the amateur photo collection as a kind of black mirror to the past, in a Barthesian sense of lost time, & also in the excesses of detail which add strangeness & confusion to memory.
I would also recommend The Corinthians for it’s unusual binding, which reproduces the cardboard mount of a Kodachrome slide, with a window cut in both front & back. This is anterior to the content of the book, but still references the original physical form of the slides. It shows a great deal of concentration to the enterprise, & its tally of vanishing forms.