Monday, 28 June 2010

"Street Art" in France

Commissioned by Pronomade(s), French graphic designers Thomas Couderc and Clément Vauchez created these images under the name HELMO using photographer François Serveau's landscape pictures, too bad if they are only used on postcards to promote the Haute-Garonne region!

More works from Helmo found here
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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Wolfgang Tillmans at the Serpentine: photography at its finest

A name as big as Wolfgang Tillmans set high expectations. A photographer, a Turner Prize winner, Tillmans redefined photography in the last decade and constantly pushes boundaries. This summer he returns to London with a big solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery and after careful planning of site specific installations, the works were hang up swiftly in two days, then the doors were officially opened to the public yesterday.

The biggest delight of his new works are the series of abstract prints in full scales that are enlarged from random dirt on the silver drum of Tillmans' s printer. They are like lively human-cell dancers jumping off the stage and in and out of focus, in beautiful and perfect forms. The beauty of photography as Tillmans illustrates here, is not only in the final image itself but also in the process and the materials. "These photographs are manifestations of different physical forces..." Tillmans said. "Everything is done with simple means- a 35mm camera and a normal lens- not a huge computer program".

Perhaps the biggest attraction of Tillmans's work is his ability to visualise everything and anything in photography, be it sheer volumes of pure colour and shade, a stack of egg cartons or the transits of planet Venus. Tillmans likes to challenge the audience of their traditional perception of photography. Here is a piece of bended yellow print of nothing, there are a group of over developed films of barely anything in red and green. Some may be disappointed but many I suspect, would find it pleasantly surprising.

Tillmans's exhibition's open until 19th of September 2010.
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Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Peek into Surveillance and Voyeurism in Photography

A recent visit to Tate Modern's new exhibition Exposed proved to be more than intellectually stimulating. Like the name suggests, it's not for children and certainly not for the faint-hearted. The show features works by professional photographers, paparazzis and artists, some well-known, such as Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and others anonymous. Some consist of instantly recognisable celebrities in cars and by the swimming pool, others focus on the familiar ordinary folks on the street. Some raise serious questions about the nature of photography, our morals and values, desires and emotions. I can't say that I enjoyed seeing those images of violence and death; hungry eyes of male spectators watching a female stripper performing on stage, or prostitutes taking clients and drugs in the toilet of a old block in down-town New York. But the whole collection firmly lifted modern photography to the same level as everything else in contemporary art, which is certainly worth applauding.

Two things struck me the most. One is a photograph taken by Simon Norfolk of the cloudy sky of a remote British colony island in the middle of South Atlantic that's covered in these insignificant and fragile looking wires almost undetectable to the naked eyes. According to Norfolk, this island is the hub of ECHELON, a global, computerised electronic surveillance system that captures all tele-communications and use computers to identify and extract messages of interest from a mass of unwanted ones, then sorting them for more detailed analysis later. Within ECHELON, data is collected by satellite interception, aerial arrays at strategic places and the direct tapping on underground and submarine cables. All our telephone conversations and everything on our computers can be heard and read by someone else. This island in the picture remains one of the few places where ECHELON can be seen and photographed.

These are hardly news to us. We all have seen Bourne Identity a million times and read the newspaper enough to know that paedophiles and terrorists are caught through this on a regular basis. What is interesting is that this photograph, in all its seemingly simplistic composition and imagery, captured the enormity of the surveillance force. I hope Norfolk didn't have to risk being arrested at the time to take this and make it public. Since then he has worked in Afghanistan and is currently studying the effects of war on us, our social surroundings and the urban landscapes through the means of photography.

The second series of work that really had the shock factor was Kohei Yoshiyuki's The Park, taken in the 1970s in Tokyo where parks at night were filled with voyeurs poaching for couples making out in the bushes and under the trees, not just to have a good look but also to 'participate' without being caught. Yoshiyuki himself joined the voyeurs to be 'considered one of them' before taking in a 35mm camera and an infrared flash bulb to record the voyeurs and lovers in action. The photographs are raw, exploitative of the sexual human subjects in the lens, sometimes female, other times male, and showed us the other side of Japan that was previously hidden. The lonely, desperate and sad love-seekers in big cities like Tokyo where plastic dolls sometimes are preferred over real women.

Undoubtedly Yoshiyuki's work is highly controversial that almost erased the line between voyeurism and photography. He commented later that "I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was no a real 'voyeur' like them. But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer."

Exposed certainly suggests that there is a voyeur in every one of us. The exhibition is open until 3rd of October 2010. 

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Monday, 14 June 2010

Spring/Summer 2010 Bands To Watch

  I pretty much lived on new records this year with a bit of old NIN in between, a bit of Refused here and there. The first half of 2010 was full of surprises (Scott-Heron, the Knife), promises (which largely fulfilled, such as Liars, Foals, 65days), and a couple of hiccups that I have steered clear of (Muse, made me pretty sick for days, and now ex-Bloc Party Kele). All in all, 2010 could possibly be one of the best noughtie's years for indie albums, and we are barely half way through it.
A few highlights from this Spring/Summer
Liars new EP came out in late May. The Overachievers, featuring two new songs that were excluded in Sisterworld: Pleasure is Boss and Only Sometimes. Both are decent tracks but it does make one feel cheated when listening to these perfect continuations of Sisterworld that could have easily been put in as [bonus tracks]. Pleasure is Boss in particular, sounds like a calmer and hungover version of Scarecrows on the Killer Slant. It's like putting a massive mark-up on dessert in a nice restaurant when you know you'd have that pudding just to wrap up the evening, and feeling annoyed with yourself afterwards for being ripped off.
Liars - Pleasure Is Boss by MuteUSA
On the other hand, Ratatat cooked big on the main course that definitely made dessert unnecessary. Their new album LP4 received mixed reviews, (or just harsh words from Pitchfork and all the rest of the world that hates P4k the massive snob think otherwise).  LP4 was forced to be brought out earlier this month due to the leak of demo on YouTube back in January. Having warmed up prior the new album launch with their previous two albums, I have mixed feelings towards LP4. The title definitely suggests the furtherance from LP3, in which many highlights such as Mirando and Dura were among my favourites and to top that, I was expecting something extravagant and outrageously dancey. LP4 delivered on these, but somehow a step too far and made Beethoven sound crazily excited playing computer games. This however, could be interpreted as a brave move considering that their past albums were more or less based on the same formula with subtle variations. LP4 dared to take it further.
Among the many names that are bringing on new albums this summer, the electronic/instrumental Pivot is the one that I most look forward to. Now known as PVT after the American Pivot threatening legal actions, the Aussie trio is bringing out Church With No Magic in July/Aug (Warp Records). New track Window video below is shot from each band member's viewpoint while playing, makes your eyes a bit unsteady but 100% worth it.
M.I.A continues to bomb the blogs with new tracks from her forthcoming album MAYA, After Born Free and XXXO, newly revealed track Stepping Up continues to impress. Apart from collaborating with old favourite Diplo and dirty pop buddy Christina Aguilera turned slightly Lady Gaga, M.I.A recently worked with an underground group Sali after completing her third album. This track Toldya bears traces of Diplo's beats with M.I.A's old political statements in Galang. Good to play this month just so to confuse people if it's an old or new track. 

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