Another video for you, this time of artist, writer, curator and photographic buff Faith Moosang. We recently chatted with Faith about the value of historical photographs and the thrill of hunting to uncover little tidbits of hidden history.
And click here if you’d like to read some of her articles.
While I know you all must be anxious to find out the winners for this season of Chester Fields, you’ll have to wait just a little longer..
In the meantime, we’ve put together this great little video all about (WHAT ELSE!?) ARCHIVES! Or more specifically, The North Vancouver Museum and Archives.
Take a peak and let us know what you think! Did any of you have a chance to visit and speak with Daien in person? Don’t you think you should pay them a visit?
It’s quite possible that Andy Warhol was one of the most prolific, celebrated and thought-provoking artists of the mid-century period in North America. Also possible? He was a pack rat!
Sixteen Jackies, 1964, Andy Warhol
As some of you will already know, the majority of Warhol’s output came from collecting – everything from trashy tabloids, to soup can labels to old photographs – and then reproducing these works to form insightful, an often cutting, remarks on contemporary society. He worked across a wide range of media, but is most well known for his silkscreen repetitions from the 1960s. To create these works he would isolate an individual image and then repeat the image several times over to create a large scale pattern with variations in colour. While the works are often printed with bright garish colours, their subject matter (or the stories behind them) often revealed a much darker picture of America and it’s values.
Little Electric Chair, 1964-1965, Andy Warhol
“Despite the stereotype of Andy Warhol as an art-world butterfly who reveled in pop imagery, bold colors and the ubiquitous landscape of American commercial culture, he harbored deep fears and insecurities that led him to an abiding fascination with the dark, violent underbelly of modern life — car wrecks, plane crashes, drug addicts, the electric chair, suicidal movie stars and the beautiful widow of a murdered president.” David Lubin, PhD, Wake Forest University
Little Race Riot, 1963, Andy Warhol
Does “Little Race Riot” remind you of any other pieces we’ve seen in the last few weeks?
While Warhol’s output was constant and vast, his collection of “source” material has far surpassed the yield of his production. Called “Time Capsules“, the artist kept all of his clippings and ephemera in plain cardboard boxes labelled by month and year. After his death in 1987 the collection was moved to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA where it is available to researchers by appointment.
"Time Capsules", The Warhol archives at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA.
While British artist Tacita Dean is most widely known for her work in 16mm film she also persues projects using photo collage and photogravure. Her image “Fernweh” from 2009 is a 2.3 by 5 meter piece created from four 19th century photographs and postcards found at various flea markets in Europe.
Fernweh, 2009, Tacita Dean
According to Dean, the term “Fernweh” is a German term for the antonym of homesickness, “an act for a distant past”. The idea of wanting to leave home, to relocate but maybe not knowing where to go or how to get (back) there.
Tacita’s image is a composition of longing, remembering and honouring.
Study for Fernweh, 2008, Tacita Dean.
“Fernweh is an improbable landscape made of cliffs, forest and dunes. I created it from four small discoloured nineteenth century photographs that I found in flea markets some time ago. The craggy horizon is a famous outcrop, called Sächsische Schweiz – Saxony’s Switzerland, which is near Dresden. The foreground is unknown sand and scrub. Finding a path amongst the vegetation and boulders of the photographic distortions, I imagined Goethe’s voyage to Italy, particularly his parcours south of Rome on his way to Naples. ‘Fernweh’ is discontinued parlance for a longing to travel, an aching to get away. Different, I imagine, from ‘Wanderlust’, which is a more spirited desire to be in the landscape. It is the etymological opposite of the German word, ‘Heimweh’, which means homesickness. We do not have a single word in English for this more considered desire to be gone. This work should be approached through its title.”
I’ve spoken to some of you over the last few weeks of the importance of digitization and conservation of artwork. Here is a great little film from the Art Gallery of Ontario on the conservation of artist Iain Baxter&’s polaroids (And yes, the “&” is legally a part of his name..)
Sort of makes you think, will a jpg always be a jpg?
Have you ever used polaroids to create an image?
Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa uses photographs, pin and thread to create visual maps of places that existed and the (sometimes empty) structures that replace them. Focusing primarily on the changing architecture in his native Havana, Garaicoa chooses building that have fallen into disrepair, or in some cases were never completed, that have been slated for demolition and photographs them before they vanish. Once gone, her reshoots the empty spaces and uses pins inserted into the photograph to trace where the building once stood (or might have stood).
Untitled (L.A.), Carlos Garaicoa, 2004.
Part artistic project, architectural study and archeological excavation, Garaicoa uses architectural photography to contemplate the evolving landscape of his hometown. Specifically, realities and possibilities that are created within, and on, the city.
Untitled, Carlos Garaicoa, 2004.
While the photos used by the artist were not found in an archive, they become archival in nature as time passes, development continues and the sites are revisited by connecting the (non-existent) dots.
Vancouver based photographer Jennilee Marigomen has been creating an interesting project for the last few years. As she writes on her blog:
“Holding Still is a collection of found travel photographs from a woman’s collection.Nothing is known about her other than that she was a resident of Vancouver, Canada. After feeling a strong affinity to her aesthetic and photographic sensibilities, I decided to scan her photos and share her collection.”
The photographs that Jennilee has scanned offer as a little glimpse into someone else’s life and history and are made all the more intriguing because we don’t know who she is. We see small clues, where she’s travelled, the style of dress of the subjects, the changing skyline of Vancouver and in one the photographer’s shadow. But nothing more.
Sometimes an artistic project can be something as simple as revealing a hidden, forgotten collection.
Abdul Aziz holding a photograph of his brother Mula Abdul Hakim, Afghan refugee village, Khairabad, North Pakistan, Fazal Sheikh, 1997
In our last post on artist Sheng Qi, we saw how archival photos can be used as a form of memory. Today we are looking at another artist, Fazal Sheikh and his project “The Victor Weeps“. Created in 1996, Sheikh travelled to Pakistan to the birthplace of his grandfather. When he arrived at the Pakistan border to Afghanistan he found hundred of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet conflict within their homeland.
Over the next two years, the artist travelled between camps to speak with the people living there, hear their stories and take their portraits. These photographs of faces, places and families were assembled alongside their stories in a book published in 1998.
Qurban Gul holding a photograph of her son Mula Awaz, Afghan refugee village, Khairabad, North Pakistan, Fazal Sheikh, 1997
Some of the most interesting portraits in the book are those where surviving family members hold in their hands small wallet sized photographs of their deceased relatives. These images are often accompanied with text describing the dreams of the survivors, their memories and stories.
Haji Qiamuddin holding a photograph of his brother, Asamuddin, Afghan refugee village, Miran Shah, Northwestern Frontier Province, Pakistan, Fazal Sheikh, 1997.
“My brother, Asamuddin, was killed in the 1988 battle for control of Mazar-Kabul road. As I sleep, he walks in the streets of our home village with his Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, just as he did when he was alive.”
Sheng Qi’s images for “Memories” are simply composed but speak volumes, in a quiet and restrained way. In each image, the artist holds a small photograph in his left hand. We can see he has no pinky finger. He cut it off in 1989 in what can be seen as an act of solidarity for the massacred protestors in Tian’anmen Square and as an act of defiance against a totalitarian government.
Sheng Qi, Memories (Myself), 2007
He holds small wallet sized images of himself, his family and Mao.
Sheng Qi, Memories (Mother), 2007
Qi is telling us about the memory of pain, personal physical pain as well as the collective trauma of an oppressive state. He is also acting as a witness for an event which some would prefer not to remember.
Sheng Qi, Memories (Mao), 2007
Mark Iwinski, From "Terrains of Absence" 2006-2007
Throughout 2006 and 2007, artist Mark Iwinski created two collections of photographs titled “This Was Now” and “Terrains of Absence ”. Both sets employ a similar method of the artist holding an 8″ x 10″ transparency of a late 19th- early 20th-century photograph in front of it’s corresponding present day location. The archival ghost photos eerily conjure up a scene from the past while pointing to the inevitable change of the urban landscape over time.
Mark Iwinski, From "Terrains of Absence" 2006-2007
Time and space are squeezed together in Iwinski’s images and an alternate past and/or present is shown. We are simultaneously looking through the past as a way of seeing and documenting our recent past.
Mark Iwinski, From "This Was Now" 2006-2007
“Lost architecture, missing artworks, and former old growth forests leave enigmatic traces that reveal themselves to us from the past. These traces mark the intersection between history and change. Architectural fragments, parking lots, tree stumps, and old photographs reveal terrains of absence in our day-to-day cultural and natural environment while vanished artworks are often known to us only through drawings, photographs, or the enigmatic traces left on otherwise blank walls and ceilings. This project began with the desire to investigate these traces as they are found in urban, natural, and cultural settings and endeavor to make them visible.”