Tuesday, 27 September 2011

'Dystopia' - Laine's Warehouse, Bordeaux, France

Travelling through France in summer was as usual a feast for the eyes. Starting with a walk  around the walled city of St.Malo, thunderous storms over the bay of La Rochelle and then on to Bordeaux, famous for wine and food.
It was there I discovered the 'Dystopia' exhibition  at Laine's Warehouse, a vast three floor building.

Dystopia is an exhibition conceived at the same time as the author and art critic Mark Von Schlegell wrote the catalogue - novel New Dystopia.The author worked closely with the exhibition curator Alexis Vaillant on the choice of works and venues set up and design.

The Greek etymology of the word 'dystopia' can mean "a place with negative connotations".
Think Alduous Huxleys 'Brave New World' 1931 or George Orwell's, '1984' written in 1949. Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit', 1953 or Andrew Stanton's Wall-e, written in 2008. These are all dystopian novels.

I have selected a work by artist Michael Stevenson.  'Landscape With The Beginning of Civilization, 2010'

Ten aquaria and terraria each containing the remains of their previous tenants go to make this installation. Arranged in ascending order of size, these aquaria retrace the shared biological evolution of their former residents.
In setting up a parallel between the hermit crab and man,who, for their development,both require access to an ever larger habitat, the artist introduces the vacancy chain notion.

This theory of vacancy is based on the vulnerability of the human being in the face of the permanence of his environment.
This work felt so relevant, particularly now during these difficult financial times. As I listened to Radio 4 this week and heard that there is no country in the world concerned with the Climate Crisis since the Credit Crisis eventuated.
The feeling of desolation within these installations was to me, a stark reminder of what could be a global dystopia.

Other works exhibited in Dystopia :

Sabastian Hammwohner

Peter Coffin

Inspired: Julia Margaret Cameron - The Isle of Wight

It has been on my mind for many years to travel to The isle of Wight and visit Dimbola Lodge.
I finally got to do this over the summer holidays.
Dimbola Lodge was home to the pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. She was born in India in 1815. From 1860 to 1875 she made Dimbola her workplace and turned her chicken hut into a darkroom and studio. Julia established the photographic portrait as an art form in its own right. She photographed everyone from the famous,local children to her own maids.
The photographic album was a Victorian household article - similar to the use of camcorders and  dvds of today.

The process for Julia was laborious and she worked with three maids (assistants) to help her prepare plates and process the images. She often worked in freezing conditions and once wrote to her old friend Edward Ryan, " It has been a real labour for in all the freezing weather I have poured nine cans of water fresh from the well over each photograph"

When in London Julia would work on her images in the South Kensington Museum ( now the V&A) which had the advantage of continous running water !
I have always admired her theatrically soft,romantic imagery  -  I like the contrast of the work ethic behind it all - she worked with tenacity even under  very trying and uncomfortable circumstances.

For me Julia Margaret Cameron and her work ethic is someone to aspire to no matter how long has passed since she was in her chicken hut and coal shed.

Julia Passed away in India. Apparently, as she lay outside in her bed at night she looked up at the stars she uttered her last word, 'Beautiful'.

I left feeling very moved and emotional, maybe I had been wanting to come here for so long, I don't know. I felt like I now know what it must be like to be religious and go to church !

Things That I Find - Left Behind

Often as I  walk around I come across objects which are at once
beautiful, poignant and at times disturbing. Other times they may be banal or it could be the texture  - I get my own sense of Wabi-Sabi about these objects. I am drawn in sometimes emotionally to these objects and situations.
discarded papers in Bordeaux- were they in a hurry or just too lazy to deliver ?
I find I cannot just 'leave'. I have tried to and then just end up going back, retracing my tracks - sometimes miles, to capture it on film.
a coat left on a bench in Bordeaux - what happened to the owner ?
 I think for me it is the drama and beauty of these objects combined with the 'story' prior to my arrival that intrigues and compels me to return and record.
remnants of a feast + struggle
a bow-perhaps a reference to love for life or love for death
 My camera is a very important part of my art making process. I feel lost without it. I record most days, either creating imagery or finding resources within the environment. Even before digital photography was so accessible, I took many rolls of film.
It is my way of drawing,looking,recording and capturing the essence of what I interact with.