The stage is set. A drum kit and speaker stack, constructed from wire, await their band at the Museum of St. Albans. This is work from Thomas Raschke, who along with photographer Tobias Hofsäss, are exhibiting as part of the University of Hertfordshire’s exhibition Great IDEA, the second leg of its tour from Galerie der Stadt Backnang in late 2014. The two German artists now both live in Sweden and both are interested in the notion of transparency, both in their work and also in their living arrangements. Sweden is known for its transparency, as the artists discussed at their private view, and rather uniquely one can have access to the most detailed of private information about their neighbour; where they work, what they earn, who they are married to. This of course, does not mean it is any easier to integrate with Swedish society as it would be for an individual moving to any new culture and the exhibition is also about a sense of dislocation and, in some way, an outsider trying to understand and acclimatise.

Tobias Hofsäss, Edsviken, 2012 Panoramic Negative, Aluminium Dibond, 120x49cm

Tobias Hofsäss, Edsviken, 2012 Panoramic Negative, Aluminium Dibond, 120x49cm

Hofsäss focusses on daily Swedish life and leisure activities in his negative prints. A woman shopping, tea dances attended by the elderly, a man ice-fishing or someone sitting on a bench outside an urban cultural centre. The images appear as X-Rays of the environment, the figures ghostly and the buildings rendered as unreal dreamscapes or memories. Several of Hofsäss and Raschke’s works are directly in conversation with each other, a Hofsäss image of ice-hockey accompanied by Raschke’s wire boots for example, a girl playing by a lake and the flower garland traditionally worn by children at this time or the juxtaposition of Hofsäss’ tea-dance shot paired with the drum kit and sound system mentioned previously.  

Raschke has also chosen to render some classic IKEA designs in wire, a lamp, a jug and other household and clothing items. These designs are apparently taken from ikeahackers.net which, pleasingly, when I tried to visit turned up a 508 Error told me their ‘resource limit is reached’. I could see all the works, both Hofsäss and Raschke’s, for sale in IKEA, endlessly replicable furniture and décor for the office and home.  And this is an issue.

Binoculars, 2011, Thomas Raschke, Soldered Iron Wire 12x29x24cm

Binoculars, 2011, Thomas Raschke, Soldered Iron Wire 12x29x24cm

This exhibition is not one of my favourites from the Hertfordshire institution.  Although both bodies of work shown here are certainly accomplished, they seem a little sterile and lack a certain depth.  Casual or accidental museum visitors will, however, find the subject matter unchallenging yet technically impressive and students have a variety of techniques to be experimenting with. I almost wish I had seen this show as a much younger artist, perhaps at A-Level or Foundation, Raschke’s armatures would have definitely had me running for the gardening wire. I am longing though for some more energy and a splash of colour, green cactus’ and blue mushrooms (head to Rashke’s website), in what is a very black and white exhibition.  

Tobias Hofsäss, Kulturhuset(House of Culture),2013 Panoramic Negative, Aluminium Dibond 120x49cm

Tobias Hofsäss, Kulturhuset(House of Culture),2013 Panoramic Negative, Aluminium Dibond 120x49cm

Great IDEA runs at The University of Hertfordshire Galleries until March 22. 

You can watch a video of the artists installing their exhibition here

www.herts.ac.uk/about-us/events/2015/january/great-idea-tobias-hofsass-and-thomas-raschke

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron

I had a conversation with somebody last year about moving to Miami. “Oh” she said “but you wouldn't move there would you? It will all be under water before too long”. What? Really? It was the first I had heard of it. With climate change and rising sea levels I was, of course, aware that the world might look radically different during the course of my lifetime. Coastal erosion, islands rapidly disappearing, excessive flooding - this is in the news all the time. There are frequent articles in the UK press of houses about to fall off the edges of cliffs, once inland villages that were now right on the coast and of roads that now led nowhere. Miami though? It seems like such a proper permanent place. Apparently not, some sources say that low-lying Miami will have to be abandoned as soon as 2060 as sea levels are apparently rising along the east coast of the US three times faster than the global average. As the city of Miami should be thinking of their relocation plans, construction continues and new condos continue to be built along the shore-line. Before these new developments are even washed away, even a slighter rise in sea level and increased tidal surges will inundate the sewage system and decimate fresh water supplies. Crazy times, it seems, are ahead.

The roller coaster from the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey partially submerged in the ocean after Hurricane Sandy. © Stephen Wilkes courtesy of Peter Fetterman Gallery.

The roller coaster from the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey partially submerged in the ocean after Hurricane Sandy. © Stephen Wilkes courtesy of Peter Fetterman Gallery.

Ganvie, Benin. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. Photo: Iwan Baan

Ganvie, Benin. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. Photo: Iwan Baan

The exhibition Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change, currently on show at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles and curated by architecture writer and radio Host and Executive Producer of KCRW’s DnA: Design and Architecture, Frances Anderton, explores these issues through the work of eight photographers from around the world. The images not only show the reality of sea change but also the story of human resilience, adaptation and infrastructure planning. The exhibition presents a broad range of work from architectural, fine art and news photographers, showing the implications and responses of people and governments in both the richest and poorest coastal communities on earth.  Posing questions on the problems of climate change and the role of contemporary design in navigating the future, Sink or Swim documents a changing landscape and communities of people that are, sometimes, woefully unprepared, for the future.

Features newly commissioned and archival works by photographers Iwan Baan, Stephen Wilkes, Paula Bronstein, and Jonas Bendiksen, Mark Holtzman, Kip Evans and Monica Nouwens, this is also the first exhibition at Annenberg Space for Photography to feature newly commissioned works.  

Global Green’s Holy Cross community project, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana.Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. © Stephen Wilkes.

Global Green’s Holy Cross community project, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana.Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. © Stephen Wilkes.

One of these new commissions comes from Stephen Wilkes who is widely recognised for his fine art and editorial photography. This new aerial image shows the Global Green’s Holy Cross community project in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. The housing development design from Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/apd in New York, was the winner out of 125 entries received after a competition call-out. The brief was to design a zero energy affordable housing development in the area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In Wilkes' image we see the first complete phase of the development, single family homes topped with solar panels. The homes are also equipped with a Building Dashboard(R) energy and resource monitoring systems and each home is estimated use at least 75% less energy than equivalent dwellings.

Watervilla de Omval, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Photo: Iwan Baan

Watervilla de Omval, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Photo: Iwan Baan

Stilt houses, Ganvie, Benin. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. Photo: Iwan Baan

Stilt houses, Ganvie, Benin. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. Photo: Iwan Baan

Iwan Baan was recently shown as part of the Barbican’s major photography and architecture exhibition Constructing Worlds (You can read about it on the blog here) with his series of images focusing on the Torre de David. For Sink or Swim, Baan has turned his attention to the Stilt houses in  Ganvie, Benin. This village, built right in the centre of Lake Nokoué comprises living accommodation, shops and restaurants and is home to some 20,000 people who navigate the stilt village on boats. It’s thought the original reason the stilt village was created was to protect its inhabitants from infiltration by slavers, today, however, this method is much discussed as an option for future floating communities all over the world. 

TV in the sand post Hurricane Katrina, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. © Stephen Wilkes courtesy of Peter Fetterman Gallery.

TV in the sand post Hurricane Katrina, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. © Stephen Wilkes courtesy of Peter Fetterman Gallery.

A woman makes her way down the seawall along the Kitakama and Ainokama coastline inSendai, Japan. After the tsunami in 2011, the Japanese government has spent billions of yen on the reconstruction of a 31.8 km seawall along the Sendai coastline. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. ©Paula Bronstein.

A woman makes her way down the seawall along the Kitakama and Ainokama coastline inSendai, Japan. After the tsunami in 2011, the Japanese government has spent billions of yen on the reconstruction of a 31.8 km seawall along the Sendai coastline. Commissioned photograph for the exhibition. ©Paula Bronstein.

Sink or Swim runs until May 3rd at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles.

www.annenbergphotospace.org/exhibits/sink-or-swim

 

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron

 

This week, continuing the animal theme, we are focusing on the photography of New York-based artist Elliot Ross. Ross has been working on a body of animal portraiture for several years now. When his pet cat died, his wife put up a framed portrait of the animal and this led Ross to thinking about the animals expression, what had the cat been trying to say or express at it looked into the lens and, indeed, can we ever know about an animal’s emotions, thoughts and feelings. This started a photographic trajectory which has endured. In 2010, his publication Animal presented intimate portraits of subjects such as frogs, birds, monkeys and fish and a new collection of Ross’ photography, Other Animals, was published by Schilt in late 2014. 

Ross’ animals are photographed, typically, in their normal contexts (whether that be natural habitat, domestic home or in captivity) and then digitally manipulated to create highly dramatic images ‘drawings’ of the animals with details meticulously added, layered or removed during the editing process. Bumphead parrotfish and starfish appear to emerge from a murky black deep; flamingo, gorilla and pigs appear coiffed and good looking, posing for their portrait before accepting the BAFTA, all stylish texture and natural costume.

Ross has not shown so much in the UK, his work was featured as part of the Belfast Photo Festival in 2011 but that has been his last outing this way since. An exhibition is long overdue...

Point102 caught up with Ross over email this month to ask him some questions about his working methods, influences and what he is working on right now...

Animal (250), 2013. (c) Elliot Ross

Animal (250), 2013. (c) Elliot Ross

Point102: What was the starting point for making this type of portraiture?

Elliot Ross: I began the project after our household cat died. I had never lived with an animal of another species before, and was surprised at how close I came to feel to her emotionally. Her loss set off a train of thought that began with this question: How can two beings that are so different share this quality we call animal life?

Point102: And how do you choose your subjects - is this just opportune or do you have animals in mind, ones that may photograph better or have a better personality?

ER: I set out to photograph as many different species as possible. It doesn't matter to me where I find them. What matters is that I am satisfied with what emerges at the end of the process of making the piece.

P102: What is the studio process like, the set up? Can you tell me technically how the images are made?

ER: I don't think it's important that my process be known beyond the fact that I begin with a photograph and end with digital imaging. I will say that digital imaging allows me to work with the photograph in ways that I only dreamed of doing with dark room techniques, ways that are more like drawing, sometimes requiring hours or even weeks of painstaking, pixel by pixel work.

P102: What prompted you to make a follow up of the original Animal’s series - how are they different?

EM: It's not really a follow up but a continuation of the same investigation. There are approximately two million known species alive on earth today; and I felt I had only begun to look at a tiny fraction of them.

As far as the work changing over time, I began to approach the animals that appear in the second book "Other Animals" closer than those in the first book "Animal", and, without going into detail, the range of my digital imaging technique broadened.

P102: What other projects are you working on at the moment?

ER: I am still working with animal species. My latest piece is of an elephant skull. This subject was, without doubt, not alive when I photographed it.

P102: What other photographers work is on your radar at the moment, who are you looking to or back to for influence?

ER: I don't know if I ever would have done pigment prints if I hadn't first seen the beauty of ink on paper in the work of Germán Herrera of San Francisco. But it is to painters that keep returning time and again: Rembrandt, Manet, Sargent, Whistler, Beckmann, Dix, Meidner, and others. Recently I discovered a trove of over 700 works by John Singer Sargent on line and am eager to see the actual landscape paintings I hadn't previously been aware of. It's important to note that I "internalize" the work of other artists. That is, I look intensely at their work, but never try to base my work on theirs.

Animal (222). 2012. Copyright Elliot Ross. All rights reserved

Animal (222). 2012. Copyright Elliot Ross. All rights reserved

P102: What kind of equipment are you using?

ER: I use a Sony DSLR because of its excellent internal stabilization system.

P102: We usually view portraiture of humans knowing something about the subjects, or if not, projecting history, personality traits etc. - were you ever tempted to go into the story of the animals - their history etc. to provide some kind of context or is it always about the body, the physicality?

ER: I try not to conceptualize my work. Conceptualization leads to the phenomenon that psychologists call “verbal overshadowing" in which the left hemisphere of the brain, which thinks in words, displaces the product of the right hemisphere, which thinks in pictures. So if someone looks at an image I've made of a monkey and believes it looks like a movie idol, that idea was certainly not my intention.

I am constantly reading natural history, biology, and philosophy, and have worked to attain a general knowledge of what humans know (or think they know) and don't know about other animals, as well as what we may never know about them. This factual and theoretical knowledge probably serves to nourish, so to speak, my unconscious mind and perhaps feeds in some ways into my work.

 

You can see more of Elliot Ross’ work at www.elliotross.com

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron