Monday, 25 October 2010

walid raad at the whitechapel gallery

Whitechapel gallery is currently exhibiting the artwork of Lebanese artist Walid Raad, who mainly works with photographs and videos, in contexts relating to narratives and archiving, history and hysteria...

I attended his interview at the gallery, a pleasant talk, where he discussed the photographic images and what they record and issues like image portraying a truth or resembling a reality? he says that he likes how camera acted as a permission to go to places (sometimes at risk), and to closed meetings to describe his beginnings and involvement with the political scene in Lebanon and the Middle East, he then speaks about the shift of the resistance from leftist (communist specifically) to Islamist, then back to photography and objects in photos that function as optical unconscious, for instance an unregistered ashtray in the background of an image was not meant to be there, and that later on serves the psychic comfort. A chapter of the interview is then dedicated to how Art and Culture are affected by the 'Surpassing Disaster'theory, to know more about the theory one should read Jalal Toufic's book (should do that myself), and finally one last part is a critique of the Art scene in the Arab world, 'what we are doing in the Arab world is just countering Orientalism', to defy the museums opening in Abu Dhabi for instance, Raad imagines a shrinking artwork, what happens if the artwork, on its way to the museum, shrinks? what will happen with the museum? will shrink as well? how will the museum deal with a photograph that just lost all its colors? I had questions in regard to this specific matter, whether the artist was talking about an actual physical shrinking or whether it's a compressed digital file or just an image size reduction. In the gallery's website, this is what I found:
"Upon their arrival in Lebanon all the works scheduled for a major retrospective are found to have miraculously shrunk to one hundredth of their original size.
These are just some of the stories that accompany the photographic and video works produced by Raad in his various art projects: as founder and member of The Atlas Group, as both instigator and executor of a series of self-posed photo assignments, and as a contemporary artist who claims via telepathic powers to communicate with artists from the future."

The show is entitled 'Miraculous Beginnings' and features a lot of his work over the past 20 years.

Walid Raad

kx culture: stories/images/sounds

Central Saint Martins is moving to King's Cross next year; the university throws a celebration in Lethaby Gallery on Southampton Row, telling stories of the industrial aspect of that area, showing videos and photographs of present time kings' cross and how it is being redeveloped and footage of this area in the time.
In their official website, the university states that "for more than 150 years, King’s Cross has been a source of inspiration for visual artists. From Wyndham Lewis and Victor Pasmore and more recently Mike Leigh to Cornelia Parker, the area has been the counterpoint for a rich and diverse plateau of work, often reflecting moments of transition in an artist’s life." Personally, I never had the chance to really explore the area for every time I am there, I will be carrying hand luggage and preparing to either take the train to France or go back home.
Many participant artists were showing the work, among them:
Marc Atkins, Phil Baines, D-Fuse, Graham Hudson, Isaac Julien, and many more...
I really enjoyed Pathways: Kings Cross by D-fuse, which is usually shown in a 3D environment, only the modest venue this time could only afford to play the video as a regular projection.
Oral history recordings, shots from old films, new shots re-enacting old scenes in present time, all is brought together in a docu-fiction that even explains the process of screening the film at some points.

Friday, 15 October 2010

museum of london: LDN24 by the light surgeons

Visiting the Museum of London during this trip became like a ritual, an essential aspect of the journey, a pilgrimage almost. Situated between the Barbican and St Paul, this part of London is one of the most challenging, an area where every head move makes your sight stumble into another element that would lead you to understand a new layer about the history of London.

In the middle of the Museum of London, surrounded by infinite objects with stories about the x lord or the y queen, major events that scarred the history of Britain and created the modern London that we know. Right in the center, in the modest café of the museum, the Light Surgeons display their screens showing London, nowadays, shot from dusk till dawn. Screen is surrounded by a display of LED lights creating an O to embrace the screen, displaying information from digital data. I was more intrigued by the video itself. Having watched it over and over again, every time I would go I would pass by to check it out, I felt like every other time, the edits' pace stop becoming a series of sequences and starts following my rhythm as a viewer.

The idea behind the work is quite simple, London by day and by night, yet selecting what to show, the cinematography, and the sequencing of the clips is what mattered. A well deserved name! I thought in one of the visits, the light surgeons know how to scrutinize the landscape, and another time, after being stuck in the tube due to a passenger standing on the track, I reach the museum, look at the video again, and see that the crispness of the material is way to clean for the London landscape, maybe 'trashy' aspect of London doesn't show well?

The Museum of London is doing a great job I think (not that they're waiting for my applause), just in the room behind the café is another exhibit by illustrators Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, their work depicts London in the shadow of the climate change (I will keep the details to another post). So time-lapse, again, is the core of this piece, done with perfection. I am posting below bits of how the museum introduces the work, it is beautifully written.

"LDN24 by the Light Surgeons"

"... The cinematography of LDN24 takes its inspiration from the still frames, tone poems and landscapes of filmmakers and photographers such as Patrick Keiller, Andreas Gursky, Koyaanisqati and Edward Burtynsky. But the Light Surgeons craft a dynamic exchange with the living city by marrying high-definition filmwork with a kaleidoscopic LED display which perpetually rewrites the London scene and prompts the audio soundtrack whose pulse is dictated by the currents of digital data.

LDN24, The Light Surgeons, 2009, © the artist

LDN24 follows a 24-hour day in the life of London with hundreds of filmed sequences from across the capital - framing the city waking, working and winding down on a giant plasma screen.

An enveloping stream of 35 real-time information flows around the LED ellipse producing an ever-changing map of the city. From tidal patterns to temperatures, flight arrivals to FTSE fluctuations, RSS feeds and live links to Google searches, partner news channels and Twitter keep an ear turned to the rhythms that compose the city. Software specially developed by the design studio FIELD choreographs the rituals and movements of London and Londoners into a compelling statistical dance."

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

NURBS Theory - Lev Manovich

In this essay, Manovich asks the question that 'why If we are currently fascinated with the ideas of flow, evolution, complexity, heterogeneity, and cultural hybridity, why our presentations of cultural data do not reflect these ideas?'.
I was checking out the archive of a local newspaper to check the main events that happened in Beirut starting with the civil war to the Israeli invasion of Beirut, the Taif agreement (aka the National reconciliation accord) in 1989, the fall of Beirut under the Syrian authority, and similar events that took place ever since I was born. I was thinking hard of how to include similar information in my project, and one idea came to my mind, that of including animated charts that explain these events within a specific time frame. My hesitation disappeared and reading the whole Manovich article empowered this methodology.

Otherwise a nice brief would be the conclusion of the essay:
'Humanities disciplines, critics, museums, and other cultural institutions usually present culture in terms of self-contained cultural periods. Similarly, the most Influential modern theories of history by Kahn (“scientific paradigms”) and Foucault (“epistemes”) also focus on stable periods - rather than transitions between them. In fact, very little intellectual energy has been spent in the modern period on thinking about how cultural change happens. Perhaps this was appropriate given that until recently the cultural changes of all kinds very usually slow.However, since the beginnings of globalization in the 1990s, not only have these changes accelerated worldwide, but the emphasis on change rather than stability became the key to global business and institutional thinking (expressed in the popularity of terms such as “innovation” and “disruptive change.”) Our work on visualizing cultural changes across sets of cultural artifacts, as well as the temporal dynamics of a singular cultural experience (such as a gameplay session) is inspired by commercial software such as Google’s Web Analytics, Trends, and Flu Trends and Nelson’s BlogPulse, as well as projects by artists and designers such as seminal History Flow by Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, and Lee Byron’s Listening History and The Ebb and Flow of Movies. Until now, most visualizations of cultural processes used either discrete media (i.e. texts) or the metadata about the media. Thus, History Flow uses histories of Wikipedia pages’ edits; Lee Byron’s Listening History uses the data about his use of; and The Ebb and Flow of Movies uses box office receipts data. In contrast, our method allows for the analysis and visualization of patterns as manifested in changing structures of images, films, video and other types of visual media. We are currently expanding our work to processing of much larger sets of data.'