This months biennial Liverpool International Photography Festival LOOK/15: Exchange, coincides with the 175 year anniversary of Cunard where the city welcomes the three grand dames of the ocean, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria cruise ships to its port in celebration of the first transatlantic crossing in 1840. LOOK/15 uses this history in part for its theme: Exchange – Women, Migration and Memory with 34 photography exhibitions and more than 50 events dotted around the city over a two week period.
In 2013 the festival attracted more than 325,000 visitors and although internationally known and respected, it still struggles to attract attention from a London audience and media. The festival’s Executive Director, Emma Smith, wants to put that right and has put together an impressive line up of events and exhibitions which feeds on the city’s local and international creative and cultural status and delivers a real festival of photography.
Ginger Liu: What is LOOK/15?
Emma Smith: LOOK began in 2006, when a collection of photographers decided they wanted to raise a festival supporting photography in the north. The first incarnation was held across venues in Liverpool and Manchester. Instigators included Document Scotland’s Colin McPherson and Redeye’s Paul Herrmann. Today the festival supports 34 exhibitions and 50+ events across a two week festival period, drawing together a critical mass of photography artists, speakers, thought leaders and audiences from across the arts, social sciences and beyond. We are linked with educators and networks, cultural organizations and independents and hope to support the local area by providing a platform for both local artists and international concerns. These connections are epitomized this year, with exhibitions such as Exchange at WarpLiverpool, which combines the work of American artist Jona Frank, with a curated selection of work from the Texas Photographic Society and undergraduate work from the photographic students at Hugh Baird, in a purpose built gallery designed and developed in partnership with Tristan Brady-Jacobs and WarpLiverpool.
GL: How long have you been connected to the festival and what is your background?
ES: I began working with LOOK in April 2014, following on from my role as Head of Creative Enterprise at the Bluecoat (Liverpool). In this role, I managed the creative community there and therefore a portfolio of artists and spaces with varying needs and at various stages of their career. Taking this and applying it to a festival model seemed like a logical next step. Speaking from my own experience of handling artists and their work, maintaining gallery connections, fundraising, event programming, marketing and PR, website building, social media streaming, public speaking and writing articles, you need to be able to approach all facets of the create and commercial process in order to create the perfect platform for others.
GL: How has the festival progressed over the years?
ES: LOOK has matured, but its principles of supporting artists and creating a critical mass of energy around photography, in all its forms, remains at the heart of all we do. Like photographers have had to, we have tried to professionalize and have moved from operating as a pop-up to being a regular cultural fixture of the city’s calendar. We are building our reach, increasing the depth of our relationships and reaching to new supporters for their assistance and ideas. Consequently, we have more exhibitions and events; work with more artists and venues; have a higher local and national impact and generate more press attention than even before. Writing from inside the festival experience, I hope that we have demonstrated an egalitarian approach to our program, by having some incredibly high-end shows (John Davies’s Out of the Archive, Open Eye Gallery’s Open 1, NML’s Only in England, the Bluecoat’s Nitrate, etc) as well as offering opportunities to emerging talent (Held at the Domino Gallery, Madonna and Child, Speke, 2005 at St Luke’s, Exchange at WarpLiverpool). We now offer talks and sessions where people can engage in the process of idea generation, enjoy peer to peer learning, hear from leaders in the field and enjoy practical sessions, or if someone prefers a lower level of engagement, they can see art work in the street, enter online competitions or pick up our brochure to read an essay. Our festival is not solely about exhibitions anymore, but about the breadth of photography and all areas of its discourse.
GL: Photography is back with a vengeance and experiencing a renaissance. Have you noticed even since the last LOOK how interest in the form and your festival has grown?
ES: Absolutely. We need to think much more broadly about where photography is witnessed and how people engage with it. As a result we have commissioned essays, developed new commissions in both printed form and engagement practices, encouraged photographic blogs, platformed people’s experiences with ethics in photography as well as practice, set up practical dark room sessions and pop-up studios and taken opportunities to put work in public places. Funnily enough, the ubiquity of photography (selfies, social media, web growth and newspaper feeds) has led to a backlash in the quality of photography. Photography isn’t pointing a smart phone and clicking to produce an image. Photography is about carefully panning a project to deliver a message about a matter you feel is important to the world. This could be about the death of your local corner shop, the plight of refugees around the world or the fact that we are all living longer, but it is always about something that has a longer term impact than that quick shot taken of a pretty evening sky. Portfolios are not full of disjointed images, they are filled with serious research projects or stories, they have depth and gravity and like all good art forms really try to get to the heart of a subject that has resonance with a larger audience than your immediate circle. Film, development processes and authenticity of practice are all back up for discussion. It’s an exciting time for photography.
GL: Can you explain the festival’s connection with Cunard’s 175 years anniversary in Liverpool and which exhibits exemplify this history?
ES: There are a number of exhibits, which contribute to the One Magnificent City celebrations, which are being held in honor of Cunard’s 175 year anniversary with the city. Women in the City is a public realm exhibition, generated by photographic audiences in response to an open call we planned with the City Council, in order to provide an exhibit for visitors to see when they step off the Three Queens, who will be visiting the city next weekend. Whilst they are here, they will also be able to see a number of shows about Liverpool, including Ab Badwi’s Life through the Lens of Another, Tricia Porter’s Liverpool Photographs 1972-74 and L8 Unseen. Celebrating all things transatlantic, we are working with a number of American artists looking at Britishness, including Sheila Rock, Jona Frank, Casey Orr and regularly, work shown as part of LOOK/15: Exchange involves travel and or migration; so just as the Three Queens cruise the Seven Seas, so does the content of our work. LOOK/15 is very much embedded in the city’s cultural program and thanks to our local City Council support and we are extremely proud to be partners in One Magnificent City.
GL: How do you balance internationally and locally themed photographic work?
ES: Working with the number of venues we do (c.30) LOOK understand that people will have varying interests, program needs and missions. What we have tried to do this year is understand those and work with them to create an overall theme. Having done so, we then worked with independent venues to bring them in to the overall agenda, suggesting artists and responding to requests for involvement. Moving forward, LOOK would like to be more pragmatic about themes, developing these earlier and working more closely with our partners to ensure they are supported and we can draw together the best stories and supporting program. This has been a crucial part of LOOK/15: Exchange and the program of events is a bespoke fit for the selection of exhibits, thus – we hope – each adds value to the next. Ensuring that we feel we present a good mix of local and international, practical and accessible, low and high engagement opportunities, etc, helps us develop a rounded program, which we hopes draws audiences from all backgrounds.
GL: Could you explain more about the three themes of Exchange – Women, Migration and Memory ?
ES: Despite a long history behind the camera, women are still the minority in industry. Though notable exceptions exist, women have long suffered the brand of the ‘domestic maintainer’ rather than ‘artistic creator’. LOOK/15 has provided a strong platform for women to shine, featuring several solo and first time shows amidst the pack.
Travel is often a cause for photography but the reason for that journey is often far more fascinating. Why did someone move their home? What and who did they leave, join or escape? These images speak – not only by documenting their environment – of much more than their subject matter dictates… LOOK/15 brings such work to the fore, offering opportunities to connect with other exhibitions about their shared/opposed experiences. The connection with the city and the Cunard celebrations offer us three, well-heeled female travellers in the form of Queens Mary II, Victoria and Elizabeth taking holiday makers, workers and goods around the world, building rich experiences for people, no matter their role, epitomising exchanges between women, migration and memory.
The key to LOOK/15: Exchange is that we encourage you to create exchanges of your own. We’d like you to enjoy the quality of the photography, visit more than one show and think about how the shows speak to one another. None of the work is here by mistake – it is provided by artists to tell you a story that has a profound interest to them and/or resonates with Liverpool. It has led them on a migratory path, delivering them to LOOK/15. We want you to take away a memory, build on it, discuss and explore the exchanges they have brought you and come back to see us for LOOK/17.
GL: How important is it to showcase Liverpool as a major player in the international photography exhibition circuit and why should people take notice?
ES: As we’ve documented, in the essay we commissioned from Paul Herrmann of Redeye, there is a real culture for photography in the north that plays out for artists just as importantly as it does anywhere in London. The quality of the imagery, the galleries that display the work and the artist’s depth of understanding, knowledge and quality of voice is exceptional and needs to be showcased. On a national level, Liverpool has never had a better footing, but in the regions we are still fighting for national attention, for people to visit us from the south and to be taken seriously for our excellence. This isn’t just attention seeking for no reason, this is to share the light and be taken as specialists in our field, as regions of great competence and futures and as thought leaders and peers. Internationally, Liverpool is recognized as a centre for sport, music culture and knowledge, why are we still fighting for this acceptance nationally? While we may not know the answer to this, we are still trying and interviews such as this and accepting the platform on which to speak about our achievements and use our connections is vital to attract regional support.
GL: What do you want people to take away and experience from this year’s festival?
ES: I want people to miss it when it’s gone; to see the value in the way a photographer build’s their project to deliver a message and show us something about ourselves. I want people to talk about what they’ve seen and tell us what we’ve missed. I’d like people to exchange views, think more positively about female creativity, consider what makes a really good photograph and how they engage with the imagery they see and most of all, I’d like them to come back and support us for LOOK/17!
Liverpool International Photography Festival – LOOK/15: Exchange
15 May – 31 May at multiple venues.
Ginger Liu is a photographer, writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and London. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. She holds a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Media Practice from the University of Westminster in London. @gingerliu http://www.photo.gingerliu.com
In its 9th year, the London Burlesque Festival dares to be the biggest burlesque festival on the planet with a staggering seventeen days of neo-burlesque shows and more than 100 performers from around the globe. From it’s opening night at Dingwalls on May 15, the two week festival packs in show themes and genres such as Hollywood Revue, Nerd-Lesque, Twisted Cabaret, Boylesk Revue and Sexy Circus Sideshow. There’s also the first exhibition of the British Burlesque Museum which showcases the UK’s 200 year burlesque history. Also included in the festival are 40 vendors, workshops, fashion shows and other social events for the burlesque aficionado.
I caught up with festival founder Chaz Royal and asked him how the festival got so big.
Ginger Liu: Tell me about your background and how and why you founded the festival.
Chaz Royal: I’ve been producing events of all types since 1994. In 2002 after a few
years of seeing burlesque as a mere interest, I took it on the road with a tour across North America. In 2007 I launched LBF after 500 shows behind me and two full UK tours in 2004-2005. The timing was right. The industry exploded big time after LBF launched.
GL: When and how did your love affair with burlesque begin?
CR: I would say that it stems from my interest in Bettie Page from 1992. I knew of her through bootleg t-shirts and a skateboard video that used her image on the sleeve. By 1998, while living in Toronto, I started renting old VHS tapes of burlesque stag reels and from that kept a keen eye on anything burlesque related I saw. A new resurgence was bubbling up and by 2002 I created Chaz Royal as a division of my music events company. I was already touring bands and started touring a burlesque show. That lasted until 2006, and by the end of the year I announced LBF was launching in May 2007. I had also produced a few burlesque festivals in Toronto & Vancouver under the name ‘Burlesk Goes North’ in 2004 and 2006, Amsterdam Burlesque Festival 2009-2010, Australian Burlesque Festival in 2010 and have been at the Edinburgh Fringe annually since 2012.
GL: How has the festival evolved over the years?
CR: Initially we ran five events in four nights and by the next year doubled in size. The event has grown every year, eventually to a week long and then to ten days, eleven days and now seventeen days for the 2015 run. We’ve been able to program a diverse and rich festival with dedicated theme shows, showcasing a vast array of styles and genres within burlesque. There’s no other event like it on the planet!
GL: What differentiates burlesque and the festival in London to other cities around the world?
CR: LBF has become a prestigious event and we only use the best artists. We see upwards of 500+ submissions annually and from that curate the event at a high standard. A lot of upstart festivals in Europe try to rival the success and popularity of the event, but they are mere vanity projects. LBF pushes the entire industry forward. It’s influential, whether rivals want to admit it.
GL: Why do you think neo-burlesque in all its forms attracts so many talented artists and such a devoted following?
CR: People want to feel like they are apart of a scene and that they themselves have the power to change perceptions of modern entertainment. The industry moves forward each year, some people drop off but the majority keep supporting what we do. Even though the industry can be quite competitive, many artists and patrons stay neutral and benefit from the amount of shows appearing all over the world.
GL: Why has the festival grown so much since its inception?
CR: LBF has quantity and quality, and the numbers to back it up. We are expecting over 6000 attendees for the 2015 run of shows.
GL: Does it scare the hell out of you that you are quite literally putting on the biggest burlesque show on earth?
CR: I’ve been producing events for 22 years now and I surround myself with a great team of people that help reassure me that the event and the customers are well looked after while at LBF. When problems occur we deal with them to the best of our ability and that’s all we can really do.
GL: The festival incorporates a variety of neo-burlesque genres, what’s your favorite?
CR: I’m not a snob when it comes to genres, as long as the act is good I will find a place for it at LBF.
GL: What are some amazing stand out moments from past festivals?
CR: Seeing complete newcomers come to LBF and launch careers from it. Some have won titles and now headline stages all over the world.
GL: What is different about this year’s festival?
CR: We’ve got a few new shows, The Tattooed Revue, Nerd-Lesque, a new exhibition showcasing the history of Burlesque in Britain. From the 100 performers appearing we’ve selected many new performers to the festival, some of whom are award winners and quite famous in their respective markets. We tend to bring the best in burlesque to London, acts that are game changers.
The 9th Annual International London Burlesque Festival 2015
May 15-31, 2015 at selected London venues
Ginger Liu is a photographer, writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and London. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. www.photo.gingerliu.com @gingerliu
In it’s third year, Paris Photo Los Angeles has hosted scores of international galleries and exhibited world renowned photographers and moving image makers. The LA photo fair is held in Hollywood’s Paramount Pictures Studio from May 1-3 and an integral part of this three-day exhibition is the Sound and Vision program, which brings together in Conversation, renowned photographers, artists and filmmakers to discuss influence and practice.
I spoke to Sound and Vision curators Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath about their program and photography in the city of Angels. In their words, these Conversations inevitably blur the boundaries of still and moving image in a city where to ignore Hollywood’s influence on photography and other forms of visual art, would be a mistake.
Ginger Liu: Could you explain the raison d’etre behind the Sound and Vision program at Paris Photo LA and how it has evolved since it’s inception in 2013?
Douglas Fogle + Hanneke Skerath: As opposed to the fantastic platform during Paris Photo at the Grand Palais every November that is composed of panels and conversations, we wanted to make a program that made sense for Los Angeles. LA is an artist town and we felt that putting together a series of conversations between artists in which they could really engage each other as creators and thinkers was going to be the most interesting approach for our community. The moving image piece of the puzzle was an obvious choice as Julien was discussing photography in an “expanded field” and the project was going to take place at Paramount Studios, one of the most legendary Hollywood back lots in Los Angeles. In the end, we all wanted to open up Paris Photo to the idea of the image writ large, whether still or moving, in particular given the break down of the boundaries between the media in the last forty years. That’s why we came up with the title Sound and Vision for the program of artist conversations.
GL: How did you become involved with Paris Photo LA? DF: I met the founding director of PPLA, Julien Frydman, in the back of a taxi at the Basel Art Fair. When Julien decided to open PP in Los Angeles he and my colleague Jean-Christophe Harel visited Los Angeles and asked to meet with us about the project (I knew Jean-Christophe from the French Consulate in LA when I was Chief Curator of the Hammer Museum). Julien knew my exhibition and book The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography that dealt with the history of the use of the expanded uses of photography within conceptual artistic practices and asked if I would be interested in doing a program for the LA version of Paris Photo. We were happy to collaborate on the project with Julien.
GL: The Sound and Vision program has naturally gravitated towards Hollywood and moving image. Do you think this dilutes the purpose of a photography fair which are few and far between?
DF + HS: We think that it might be a little confusing as PPLA is held at Paramount Studios, but if you look at the program of speakers we usually have only one or two speakers out of twelve every year who might have something to do with the film industry. That said, it is completely true that the Sound and Vision series purpose was to investigate the relationship between the still and the moving image given the latter’s increasing presence in contemporary art production. The first year we had a number of fantastic talks including one between Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and contemporary photographic based artist Gregory Crewdson. It was an amazing conversation about the creative process. We also had talks by contemporary artists who work with moving images such as Phil Collins, Sharon Lockhart, and Doug Aitken. This year we are delighted to have artists such as Amie Siegel, Pierre Bismuth, Tacita Dean, and Paul McCarthy on board for the conversations. All of these artists are heavily involved with the moving image in their work. On the other side of the coin we will also have Alex McDowell in the series this year who is a visionary production designer in Hollywood and runs a worlds designing institute at USC. What one forgets given the level of capital flowing through Hollywood is that the film industry is full of amazingly creative artists who work at every level of production. So we would say that to live in Los Angeles and ignore that segment both of our artists and our audience would be a big mistake. We are all about blurring the boundaries and making critical intellectual dialogue happen across the purported gulfs between the disciplines.
GL: With the Hollywood film and television industry taking center stage in Los Angeles do you think photography can compete?
DF + HS: Los Angeles has amazing academically inclined art institutions such as MoCA, The Getty, LACMA, and the Hammer Museum each of which have contributed major scholarly exhibitions to the field of photography in recent years. The Hammer recently had on view a MoMA traveling exhibition of the work of Robert Heinecken (who himself taught at UCLA) that brought important attention to one of the most innovative practitioners of conceptual photography in the last four decades. All of these museums also annually make major acquisitions of important photographic works for their permanent collections. So I would say that Los Angeles has a fine institutional academic commitment to photography (we of course also have some of the most influential contemporary photographers in the world teaching in our MFA programs including artists such as Catherine Opie and James Welling at UCLA).
GL: How important is it to showcase Californian photography and photographers?
DF + HS: Los Angeles is a global city that happens to be in California. Because the art scene and artist community in Los Angeles is as vibrant as any in the world the Sound and Vision Artist Conversations always include some artists who live and work in Los Angeles. Of course we are always lucky to have the Getty Research Institute in town as they often bring in amazing artists such as Thomas Demand (a speaker in our first year) and Tacita Dean (who is speaking this year). Los Angeles has a rich history and living legacy with the world of photography and contemporary art. It would be criminal to ignore it but we like to think of putting Los Angeles artists into the global context.
GL: Who were your scoop conversationalists from the last two programs? All of the conversations have been fabulous in different ways and we have had artists of all different artistic persuasions and generations in the series. We think that one of the most free-wheeling and exciting conversations that we’ve had was between Madmen creator Matthew Weiner and New York-based artist Gregory Crewdson. Both of them were so generous intellectually and really embodied our original attention for the program which was to encourage open-ended discussions about creative process across the disciplines. It was also incredibly entertaining.
About DOUGLAS FOGLE Douglas Fogle is an independent curator and writer based in Los Angeles. He is co-founder with Hanneke Skerath of the curatorial office STUDIO LBV. From 2009-2012 he served as Deputy Director, Exhibition and Programs, and Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles where he organized a variety of exhibitions including Ed Ruscha: On the Road (2011) and Luisa Lambri: Being there (2010). Previously, he served as curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh from 2005-2009 where he organized Life on Mars, the 55th Carnegie International in 2008. Prior to that, Fogle was a curator in the Visual Arts Department of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from 1994-2005 where he organized a wide array of exhibitions such as Painting at the Edge of the World (2001), The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography 1960-1982 (2003), Andy Warhol/Supernova: Stars, Deaths, and Disasters 1962-1964 (2005), and Catherine Opie: Skyways and Icehouses (2002). Also a writer, he has published widely in exhibition catalogues and journals such as frieze, Artforum, Flash Art and Parkett.
About HANNEKE SKERATH Hanneke Skerath is an independent curator based in Los Angeles. She is co-founder with Douglas Fogle of the curatorial office STUDIO LBV.
About the interviewer: Ginger Liu is a photographer, writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and London. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. www.photo.gingerliu.com You can read more about her in “About Us.” Paris Photo Los Angeles is the US edition of the world’s most celebrated art fair for works created in the photographic medium. The Fair is held annually each spring at Paramount Pictures Studios, the ideal setting to explore how artists have been and are using photography and moving image in their work in the 20th and 21st centuries. Paris Photo Los Angeles 2015 will take place at Paramount Pictures Studios from May 1-3rd and will host 80 leading galleries and art book dealers from 17 countries world-wide. Sound & Vision: The Conversations will offer visitors a wide array of intellectual perspectives on the use of images from some of the leading international artists and curators working today. Taking place in Sherry Lansing Theatre, participants will include artists and curators: Pierre Bismuth, Kerry Brougher (Academy Museum, Los Angeles), Tacita Dean, D.V. de Vincentis, Alex McDowell, RDI, Agustin Perez Rubio (MALBA, Buenos Aires), Hirsch Perlman, Stephen Prina, Allen Ruppersberg, Amie Siegel, Pauline J. Yao (M+, Hong Kong) among others to be announced.
Paris Photo Los Angeles Paramount Pictures Studios 5555 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90038 May 1 – 3, 2015 Friday May 1 & Saturday May 2: noon – 7pm Sunday May 3: noon – 6pm Tickets: http://www.parisphoto.com/losangeles/program/2015
Collage artist Hormazd Narielwalla kickstarts a new Saatchi Art solo show series with a collection of work that utilizes his signature discarded and spent bespoke Savile Row tailoring patterns which he transforms into creative collages of Hormazd imaginations.
The London exhibition opens from 4 March to 21 March at the Georgian atelier of bespoke tailor Timothy Everest. Saatchi Art aims to showcase emerging talented artists from around the world in the series. Hormazd won the Saatchi Art Showdown prize for The Body Electic in 2013 but his first solo show was in 2009 and was sponsored and exhibited by Sir Paul Smith. His eclectic and thought-provoking work includes Dead Man’s Patterns of bespoke suit patterns of deceased customers of Savile Row tailors Dege & Skinner.
Harmazd is an artist, author and philosopher and holds a PhD from the University of Arts in London. Our interview captures his thoughts and work process as well as his drive to be a great artist in a competitive landscape. Meet the gentleman artist Harmazd.
Ginger Liu: Your art is unique in its fusion. For those not familiar with your work, can you describe your art practice and how it has evolved from its early inception to today?
Hormazd Narielwalla: My work proposes a new interpretation of tailoring patterns as interesting abstracted drawings of the human form which have an inherent aesthetic quality that can be used innovatively to develop a contemporary art practice. Freed from function they are drawings ahead of their time, anthropomorphic in origin and beautifully abstract in isolation.
Tailoring patterns are a means to an end. These technical mathematical drafts have been developed since the late 1500s, drawn on various kinds of paper, and used to create structured clothing. They carry with them the outline of the garment, and also a representation of the body. Every artwork or series begins with a response to the patterns as the fundamental focus bringing to light their qualities as shapes in themselves. Tailors construct them in order to understand the interface between 3D (the body) and flat drawings (the pattern) before returning to 3D forms (the garment).
The role of the ‘body’ has played a recurring theme in artworks since Dead Man’s Patterns (2008) an artist’s book inspired by the bespoke suit patterns of a deceased customer, cut by the eminent Savile Row tailors Dege & Skinner. The tailors would ceremoniously shred the patterns of former clients, since there is no value in the parchment without the body. The photographic sequence depicting the making of the garment is charged and ghost-like within the context of the title Dead Man’s Patterns; where the patterns make the absent figure tangible’. Each section of the book suggests different physical states of the ‘man’ with a sense of formal preparation for burial. The physical man is never there; the book’s pages gesture towards intimacy even though they are merely paper.
Subsequently I responded to lingerie tailoring patterns sourced from a London designer (c.1970), by making the series Love Gardens by layering them with coloured paper to create abstract representations of female anatomy referencing the work of Georgia O’Keefe. To complement this series I used Savile Row shirt collar tailoring patterns and newspaper clippings, with spray paint mounted on inkjet prints to create phallic collages. Suits are the predominant international uniform of men in positions of power. Does Sir dress left or right? This charming tailoring euphemism has a fascinating equivalent in radiology. The John Thomas sign refers to the orientation of a penis in an anteroposterior x-ray. I take the discarded Savile Row menswear tailoring patterns and make their masculinity shockingly explicit. Does the viewer see them as proud or ridiculous? Perhaps, like the x-ray, John Thomas exposes the vulnerability a suit conceals
GL: Tell us about the upcoming Saatchi Art solo show at Timothy Everest?
HN: The artworks I will exhibit at my solo show with Saatchi Art hosted at Timothy Everest bespoke atelier will be from my large cubist inspired works. In this series the female form is shattered into precise overlapping facets, flattened not as multiple views of a subject but as the object itself made from single pattern sheets. These compositions recall the Cubists, who strove to paint pictures that compressed the sensation of all faces of an object simultaneously into one image. Art historian Arnason in History of Modern Art (1988) explains that ‘the cubists like Picasso and Braque broke ancient system’s fixed, unitary, hierarchical focus into democratically multiple perspectives, they created a mixed or composite image, presented as if viewed from many different angles at once’. In this context it is significant to position patterns as relevant 2D flat representations of 3D bodies. Like the Cubists, tailors analyse bodies and produce drafted mathematical patterns that can be viewed as the entirety of the body. Tailoring patterns are artefacts in themselves: they present every facet of a garment, and inevitably the body along with it, on a single sheet of paper. These patterns seduce me, not to cut and detach, but to leave intact and explore the multiple aspects and angles of the body by filling in the planes. In the process this becomes a realization of the Cubist philosophy. The history of these radical original pattern abstractions from fashion magazines (1897–1983) and the history of pattern cutting (1580 onwards) predates the Cubist movement.
GL: What does it mean to you to be featured in the Saatchi Art emerging artist series?
HN: It’s a great opportunity to be picked by the curators at Saatchi Art to present a physical solo show in London. Saatchi Art help promote and build careers of emerging artists by selling their work. They estimate over 45,000 profiles, which makes me incredibly privileged and honoured to be selected.
GL: Who and what inspires you in your work?
HN: My main source material – the patterns inspire me most. They tell me what to do. I love the graphic qualities, the history and craft they possess. I can communicate stories revolving around the body by utilising the patterns. Their appropriation is a vital thread in my work.
GL: Out of all your creative accomplishments so far, which stands out as a turning point in your work as well as a great personal achievement?
HN: In 2013 I was commissioned by Crafts Council, England to exhibit five sculptures at the Saatchi Gallery for Collect. The works were intimate, fragile structures created from quarter-scale military patterns of uniforms from the British Raj (1850-1947). The works epitomized a romantic memory of falling in love with a fictional character – a handsome English officer from the TV mini-series The Far Pavilions (1984). Inspired by the construction of Anthony Caro’s work, the structures were created from the negative space around the patterns to narrate the absent body. The body and its story is no more but my memory and patterns live on.
GL: Did you ever expect to receive the success you have to date?
HN: I work hard and pursued my practice to the best of my abilities. For me it’s important to have my work shown. I trained to be a designer, but didn’t think that I would be a practicing artist, so no I didn’t know what to expect when I first started out. I did expect that I would have a consequence either positive or negative one way or the other, as I haven’t stopped working and pushing themes in my practice. Luckily for me it has been a positive journey so far.
GL: What is your favorite piece and why?
HN: It’s hard to pick a piece, but I guess the first project I ever worked on Dead Man’s Patterns, an artist’s book I made when I came into contact with the tailors at Dege & Skinner on Savile Row. I learnt that the tailors would shred the patterns of customers who were sadly deceased. I convinced them to give me the patterns and I started viewing them as object in themselves, which inspired me to make this body of work. My practice began in this moment. That conversation was a seminal moment for me, which is why it makes Dead Man’s Patterns very dear to me.
GL: Have you ever been disappointed or pleasantly surprised by critics and the public response to your work? Can you shrug of criticism or does it make you rage?
HN: I’m quite an emotional person. I will initially be in rage but then I think about it and take on board the criticism put forth my way. It’s an important part of the process to question the work you do. I invite other artists regularly to my studio to see new work and listen to their ideas and responses. However, I don’t tolerate Internet trolls.
GL: Are you able to share with us your next project or/and future ambitions, whether they be literary, collage or a new art form?
HN: I’m working on an artist’s book titled Anansi Tales, which I plan to present and launch this year. I have had a long fascination with the legendary African trickster and master of disguise Anansi. The series A Study on Anansi was first spotted by Sir Paul Smith and exhibited in his Albermarle Street Gallery in 2009. Now in Anansi Tales I celebrate the human body and combines the arts of tailoring and storytelling. Anansi knew that stories were missing from the world, and travelled to the sun to find them. I offer a new slant on this traditional African tale. In a series of bold and colourful images, I use patterns to rewrite the history of Western tailoring, taking the suit back to its component parts, and honouring its original form: the robe.
Ginger Liu is a writer, photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and London. www.photo.gingerliu.com
Saatchi Art solo show with Hormazd Narielwalla
March 4 – 21, 2015
Opening hours: 9am-6pm Monday through Friday and by appointment Saturday.
Timothy Everest Bespoke Atelier
32 Elder Street
London E1 6BT
After its defeat by the allies in 1945 in the bloodiest of wars, Japan pulled itself up from the ruins and underwent one of the most political, economical and social transformations in world history. In the twenty years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, democratic freedom led to an explosion in artistic freedom and in photography in particular. Curated by Marc Feustel and Tsuguo Tada, Metamorphosis represents eleven Japanese photographers who worked through these two defining decades in Japan’s post-war history and each of whom photographed Japan and its people in all its metamorphosis from defeat to global economic power.
I spoke to curator and author Mark Feustel – an expert in Japanese photography – about how the exhibit was conceived.
Ginger Liu. How did the exhibit come about?
Mark Feustel. The exhibition came about through the book that I edited in 2004 entitled “Japan: a self-portrait: photographs 1945-1964.” (published by Flammarion in English and French editions in 2004 and by Iwanami Shoten in Japan). The idea for the book was to present a photographic history of Japan after the war through the eyes of the leading photographers at the time. It is both a historical and photographic project in that it covers both the historical aspects of the period but also how photography was evolving at the time. I was also interested in exploring the period before the Provoke period of the late 1960s which has come to be the most visible period of Japanese photography for the West. I was interested in exploring where photographers like Daido Moriyama came from and who their influences were from prior generations.
Through the process of researching the book, we started to investigate possibilities for turning the project into an exhibition and the exhibition opened in 2008 at the Setagaya Museum in Tokyo. It then travelled in Japan before being selected by the Japan Foundation to travel around the world.
GL. You have chosen eleven leading photographers and 100 black and white images. How did you make this choice? Was it a collaboration with the photographers and their estates as to which images to use or was the final 100 down to your aesthetics? How difficult was it to put together?
MF. The selection of the photographers was done by myself with the guidance of Tsuguo Tada who has over 30 years of experience in publishing photography and fine art books in Japan. In terms of the images that were chosen we went through photographers’ archives and publications in order to make a selection of images that would be representative of the different photographic trends of the time, but also would contribute on telling a visual story of the development of Japan during these years. This required several research trips to Japan, hundreds of photobooks, thousands of images and thousands of photocopies in order to arrive at a final selection of images. As a Westerner my idea was not to try and select those images that are the most well known to an audience familiar with the Japanese photography of this period, but rather to choose those images that struck me as relevant to the themes explored and which seemed to illustrate the major photographic trends of the time.
GL. The exhibit is split into three sections. Can you name some images which perfectly illustrate the subject matter, style and POV from postwar to section 2 and to section 3?
MF. The exhibition is broken up into three parts, based around three distinct periods of Japan’s development in the postwar years, but also based on three distinct periods in terms of the evolution of photography in Japan. As such they are not strictly chronological and there is some overlap between them.
The following text provides an overview of each period.
The aftermath of war
With the end of the war magazines and newspapers flourished as years of censorship gave way to an editorial boom. Publications that had been banned during the war resurfaced just as new ones went to press for the first time. Improvements in printing techniques also allowed the mass production and distribution of publications containing photographic reproductions. Photographs played a central role in this information boom, as people sought objectivity in the place of the military propaganda that they had been subjected to for several years. People turned to photography to find the ‘truth’ that they sought.
This photographic explosion brought about a profound reflection on the nature of the medium and on its role in society. The public’s demand for objectivity led to the emergence of a powerful social realism movement in the immediate post-war years. The atrocities of the war and the massive physical destruction of the country led photographers to adopt a direct approach and to focus on bearing witness and documenting what they saw around them. Photographers abandoned pictorialism and the propaganda techniques of the wartime years to immerse themselves in reality.
Of those photographers who had already been active in the pre-war years including Domon Ken, Hamaya Hiroshi, Kimura Ihee and Hayashi Tadahiko, Domon became the leading proponent of the photo-realism movement. He advocated “the pure snapshot, absolutely unstaged” and urged photographers to “pay attention to the screaming voice of the subject and simply operate the camera exactly according to its indications”. As a regular contributor to Camera magazine, he became very active in the world of amateur photography and encouraged camera club members to follow this realist path.
Tradition versus modernity
Despite its predominance in the immediate post-war years, the social realist movement was not to last. It captured a specific moment in time when the nation needed to take stock of the Pacific War and of its consequences. Photographers increasingly began to view the movement as too rigid and heavily politicised. Hamaya for instance chose to break away and adopted a new approach, both in terms of style and subject, when he began his work on the coast of the Sea of Japan, leading to the series Yukiguni (Snow country) and Ura Nihon (Japan’s Back Coast). In these series Hamaya displayed a more humanist approach than seen in social realism and chose to focus instead on a timeless aspect of Japanese rural society, rather than on the social issues linked directly to the immediate post-war.
By the mid 1950s many photographers were turning away from documenting the destruction of the war to focus on the stark contrast between ‘traditional’ Japan and the modernisation of Japanese society associated with the American occupation. The hardships of the 1940s were rapidly replaced with rapid industrialisation and economic growth as Japan was modernised. These changes had a deep impact as Japan’s complex social structures were thrown into upheaval with the country’s economic transformation. Photographers focused not only on capturing the emergence of this new economic and social paradigm in Japan’s cities, but also sought to document those areas of Japan which were less affected by modernisation and offered a window onto the country’s past.
A new Japan
In addition during the second half of the 1950s a new generation of photographers was coming of age. They had grown up during the war but were only beginning to find their photographic eye during the postwar years. From this generation, a new photographic approach referred to as ‘subjective documentary’ was born.
In 1959, the most innovative photographers of the time founded the agency Vivo which, despite its short lifespan, was to become a key contributor to the evolution of Japanese photography. With photographers such as Narahara Ikko, Tomatsu Shomei, Kawada Kikuji or Hosoe Eikoh, Vivo put forward the idea that personal experience and interpretation were essential elements in the value of a photographic image. These photographers developed a particular sensibility influenced by ‘traditional’ Japan as well as by the turbulence of post-war reconstruction and the explosion of economic growth. Their photographic eye turned both to the past, to the Japan of their childhood that they saw disappearing, and to the future and the ever-increasing modernisation that was transforming Japanese society.
Over 10 years after the atomic bombings, this new generation of photographers also began to engage with the legacy of these events and their future significance, both for Japan and for all of humanity. The series that emerged including Kawada’s Chizu (The Map), Hosoe’s Kamaitachi and Tomatsu’s Nagasaki 11:02, are amongst some of the most powerful statements in twentieth century photography.
GL. Are the eleven photographers images showcased in all three sections and within these sections how are the images grouped?
MF. Each section of the exhibition develops a particular theme. We chose to follow a thematic structure rather than separating out each photographer’s works which would have led to a more fragmented and made the exhibition less legible to the viewer.
GL. Is this the first time that these eleven photographers have been represented in one show?
MF. There have been many group exhibitions in Japan that featured some of these photographers but to my knowledge this is the only exhibition that featured this specific group of photographers.
GL. Japan is in a unique position as their post war technological advances championed SLR photography with two global brands. Is the advancement in this technology represented by the kit used for these 100 images?
MF. The period covered by this exhibition was one of great technological change in photography, which had a major impact on its practice. Many photographers switched to using Nikon and Canon cameras during these years as there production quality vastly improved. However, this exhibition did not seek to explore the technological aspects of their photographic practice but rather the changes in approach and in subject matter over the course of the period.
GL. For the surviving photographers and past photographers families this is a celebration of their work. What is their reaction to this exhibit?
MF. In order to create this exhibition we worked with those photographers that are still alive and their estates which are generally run by their family members. We received an extraordinarily warm welcome to the project and great support in enabling such a complex project involving works by so many different artists to be realized.
GL. Which photographers out of the eleven are the most influential and contemporary?
MF. These photographers have all been influential in different ways throughout their career and for very different reasons. The most visible of the photographers in the show is most probably Shomei Tomatsu who has recently had a posthumous book of his work on the American military presence in Japan published by Aperture entitled Chewing Gum and Chocolate.
Ken Domon was also extremely influential in the Japanese photo community in the immediate postwar years, but his influence waned significantly during the latter part of the 1950s.
Ginger Liu is a photographer, writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and London. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. www.photo.gingerliu.com
Open Eye Gallery
19 Mann Island
Phone: +44 (0) 151 236 6768
Gallery Opening Hours:
10.30am – 5.30pm
Tuesday to Sunday
About Open Eye Gallery:
“Founded in 1977 Open Eye Gallery is an independent not-for-profit photography gallery based in Liverpool. One of the UK’s leading photography spaces, Open Eye is the only gallery dedicated to photography and related media in the North West of England. Open Eye has consistently championed photography as an art form that is relevant to everyone. It promotes the practice, enjoyment and understanding of photography by creating challenging and entertaining opportunities to experience and appreciate distinctive, innovative photographs.”