Sunday, 27 February 2011

German Contemporary Photographers

I've spent all day surfing the net looking at lots of German photographers, mainly because my own photography is often described as having a very 'german' aesthetic. Anyway, there are a lot of them out there, so here are a few that caught my eye:

Anechoic Chambers

An anechoic chamber is a room with special walls that absorb as much sound as possible; anechoic means "without echoes". Sometimes the entire room even rests on shock absorbers, negating any vibration from the rest of the building or the outside.

The material covering the walls of an anechoic chamber uses wedge-shaped panels to dissipate as much audio energy as possible before reflecting it away. Their special shape reflects energy into the apex of the wedge, dissipating it as vibrations in the material rather than the air. Anechoic chambers are frequently used for testing microphones, measuring the precise acoustic properties of various instruments, determining exactly how much energy is transferred in electro-acoustic devices, and performing delicate psychoacoustic experiments.

The world's first wedge-based anechoic chamber was built in 1940 on Murray Hill, at Bell Labs in New Jersey. It is encased in more than a meter of concrete to shield it from external noise. Its creators have boasted that the chamber absorbs over 99.995% of the incident acoustic energy above 200 Hz. The wedge-shaped panels are poor at absorbing lower frequencies, but these frequencies carry little energy and are inaudible to human ears. At one point, the Murray Hill chamber received the Guinness Book of World Records' award for being the world's quietest room.

John Cage, a famous experimental composer, was inspired when he entered Harvard's anechoic chamber in the 1940s and heard the sound of his own blood circulating. He ended up composing a three-minute piece that consisted of nothing but silence, to allow audiences to reflect on the reality that no person has yet been able to escape noise entirely -- except presumably the deaf.

According to Guinness World Records, 2005, Orfield Laboratory's NIST certified Eckel Industries-designed anechoic chamber is now the quietest place on earth measured at −9.4 dBA. The human ear can typically detect sounds above 0 dB, so a human in such a chamber would perceive the surroundings as devoid of sound.

The University of Salford has a number of Anechoic chambers, of which one is unofficially the quietest in the world with a measurement of −12.4 dBA.

I would really like to try one of these chambers out, but there's a rather disturbing description of someone trying one out at this bog:

Then again, maybe I could start out with something a whole lot more relaxing - a floatarium!

2nd Year Exhibition - 'Drawing Blanks'

Last week was our 2nd year exhibition. Opening night was on Monday, and it was mobbed! Everyone seemed to really enjoy the show and we've had some good feedback.

My own work

First Thoughts!

When I woke up this morning, it was pretty suddenly and out of a deep sleep. It took me a few minutes to 'tune in' to the sounds around me, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was for a Saturday morning in the city. I was very aware how loud my clocks were! So much so, that the opening lines of W H Auden's poem 'Funeral Blues' came to mind:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
A rather somber start to what was a rather nice day!!

Fazal Sheikh

Fazal Sheikh has an incredibly interesting and moving website. It tells us:
Fazal Sheikh is an artist who uses photographs to document people living in displaced and marginalized communities around the world. His principle medium is the portrait, although his work also encompasses personal narratives, found photographs, sound, and his own written texts. He works from the conviction that a portrait is, as far as possible, an act of mutual engagement, and only through a long-term commitment to a place and to a community can a meaningful series of photographs be made. His overall aim is to contribute to a wider understanding of these groups, to respect them as individuals and to counter the ignorance and prejudice that often attaches to them.
Each of his projects is collected and published and is exhibited internationally in galleries and museums. He also works closely with human rights organizations and believes in disseminating his work in forms that can be distributed as widely as possible and can be of use to the communities themselves.
Over the past decade, Fazal Sheikh has made all his projects widely available over the Internet. This website is, therefore, a record of his work to date and constitutes an online exhibition, a publishing resource, and an archive.

The portraits are intense and beautiful, but it's the texts accompanying them that tell some of the saddest and most difficult stories. Moksha and Ladli - the stories of widows in India - are heartbreaking to read.

But interesting as they are, it's these two images that I really wanted to post; both are haunting and speak to me of silence.
Both are taken at Vrindavan in India, where many of the widows, thrown out of their homes by their own families, seek refuge in the service of Krishna.

Winter Trees - Guido Frizzoni

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Fire

T has been blogging a lot about fire, after someone set fire to the garage at the bottom of our building. It seems to have affected her much more then me and given her a lot of inspiration for her work. I can't say it has affected me in the same way, but it has made me think about a couple of things.

Firstly, about T's post on FAPNing last year asking: "What would you take in a fire?" It created quite a response at the time; lots of lists of things that were precious to people and that they would take them if their house was burning down. My list was kind of medium and, with only one or two exceptions, pretty obvious - photos, hard drive, laptop, camera, cat etc. T's list was quite long and quite specific!

The reality was very different. There was so much smoke, people shouting and sirens blaring, that when it came to it I only grabbed the cat and my iphone. I panicked a bit because I couldn't get the basket out of the cupboard, so the whole thing was very scary. But it did show me what is important in my life; I took my lovely little cat, the telephone numbers of everyone I know and I knocked on the door of my friends (T & C). Everything else just didn't seem important. I didn't even put on a coat, and was still wearing my slippers!!

The second thing it made me think about was how on my own I am. It's been better now that T & C have moved a couple of doors along, but if they had still been in New Mexico ... My old flat downstairs got it pretty bad, but thankfully, no-one in the building was hurt, just a little smoke inhalation. I don't usually mind the 'being on my own' thing, but just sometimes it can make me feel a little vulnerable.

Oh, and as for Ts long list, she took her phone, her camera and her laptop. Thankfully, C took some money!!!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Society of Scottish Artists - Annual Exhibition 2011

Am extremely proud of P - he was invited to take part in this year's show.

Wilfred Owen and Henry Moore

Was watching a documentary about the sculptor Henry Moore tonight, when up came this poem by Wilfred Owen (Moore had been gassed during the first world war). I had forgotten how moved I was when I studied this at school:
Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of the boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)

Another 'Ah Ha' Moment

Every term so far has provided me with an 'ah ha' moment, and first term of 2nd year was no different. This particular revelation was discovering the point, or at least one of the points, of creating sketchbooks.

I struggled with creating sketchbooks in 1st year, so was determined to try to keep one up to date as I went through 2nd year - and I did, pretty much. Towards the end of last term I was looking through my sketchbook, feeling rather chuffed with my progress, when it dawned on me that the majority of the images I'd put in it were devoid of people! Even to the point of blacking out people in ones which I liked, apart from the single figure in each of them!! This was quite a breakthrough for me and I really felt like it got rid of a barrier that had been in the way - it helped me to begin to understand why I've been taking the images I do, and to what really interests me.

Nothing!! Yep, that's it, nothing! Well, not quite nothing, something that's nothing - silence, emptiness, solitude. I'll post something more about this later - still in catch-up mode!

So, I was pleasantly surprised to really love these images of Anthony Gormley's Another Place but then they're not real people! There's just something about the solitariness of the sculptures on the beach, and in the sea (how much is seen of them depends on the tide) that makes them look sad to me, and lonely.

The work was originally meant for Germany, but is now permanently sited outside Liverpool, on Crosby beach. Hopefully I'll get there soon to see it.

Gormley's Angel of the North, is something else I really like.

Exposure, in Leystad, Netherlands is one of his most recent projects.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sam Taylor-Wood - "Brontosaurus" (1995)

During today's 'Private Passions' programme on Radio 3, the presenter and his guest started talking about the importance of the music chosen to accompany film. It made me think of the Sam Taylor-Wood piece "Brontosaurus" (1995).

I actually think of this piece often; it had such an impact on me at the time. But every time I watch it, I see something different. When I originally posted it on my blog, I wrote: "I felt like I was watching the dance of a concentration camp victim. When he opens his arms, it's almost religious, and when he dances balletically, it's almost pitiful." After the Leipzig trip, it made it seem even more so.

But now, when I see it, I look more at the shadows the man creates. Sometimes I see them like demons, other times as tortured souls! Other times I think it makes him look like he has angel's wings.

How amazing it would be to create a piece of work that can stay with someone, for so long and in so many ways!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

It's been a while!!

A very long time actually, since I put anything on this blog. So much so that I struggled to remember the password!! However, T has been nagging (in the nicest possible way) about me getting back on, so here I am, and hopefully I'll keep at it - at least for another wee while!

I think one of the things about blogging is that when you don't post anything for a period of time, you then think you should post about the things that have happened but then you always end up playing catch-up. So, I've decided not to - play catch-up that is. I'll just post things as they come to mind and if my timings are all over the place, so be it!

However, as a reminder to myself, and to anyone out there in cyber space reading this, here are some of the highlights since my last post in September:

  • 2nd year, first term - ok, but feel I didn't achieve much!
  • October - Germany. Brilliant trip on so many levels: liberating (finding my way around Berlin and Leipzig on my own), emotional (Topography of Terror just proved a bit too much for me), fun (such nice people to travel with), eye-opening (I'm not as bad as I thought I was!!!), inspirational (Leipzig Academy of the Visual Arts). And something I can't find a word for - Leipzig was like a mini London when I lived there in the 80s, complete with an area like Camden Lock - it just took me back to a previous life and a person I used to be.
  • Horrid winter - weather shocking, got snowed in, lost lots of money through cancelled work!
  • T came back from exchange in New Mexico *\o/*
  • Tax bill - aargh!!!
  • Fire - someone set fire to the garage on the bottom floor of our building - really scary. Fire brigades, police, ambulance the lot!
  • Screen printing - loving it!
  • Philosophy course - amazing!
  • Facebook - a spurt of old friends has just been lovely, and very thought provoking (some of which ties very nicely into the Philosophy course)
  • A Book of Silence - Sarah Maitland
  • 2nd year, second term - going very well (I think), really enjoying it. Yet another 'ah ah' moment! Exhibition soon.

So that's my little reminder list - I'm going to try to post some thoughts on all these things in the next few weeks. I've had so much going on in my head about them all, I hope I can remember it when the time comes.