Mental Models – Source Images / Photographs / Flickr and an Atlas

:UPDATE:

Interesting thoughts about photography over here at prison photography, et al… (particularly that the image must now in these times of visual record overload be accompanied with an appropriate caption…)  Perhaps, if the idea of sharing the image is to convey a particular circumstance in a particular situation…  but I wonder, has it been any other way?  Caption as filter that is ?

Original post: Aug 8th, 2007:  After seeing all the responses to Alec Soth’s recent post questioning “where are the great pictures on Flickr?”... I found myself serendipitously picking up my copy of Gehard Richter’s “Atlas” and leafing through the various images that are collected and reproduced in a chronological fashion as his Atlas. It’s interesting and probably just a coincidental circumstance to consider. But I’ve been thinking about the “mental model” lately and what influence that has on the kinds of images one might try to make.

I’m not saying that Flickr is – or even equates to – what Richter’s Atlas is to his paintings… The difference is all about a careful and conscious awareness of intentionality on behalf of the collector / artist… It’s just that there is something profound that I can’t quite fully articulate just yet that has some similarity. Maybe it just a human condition trying to make some sense of the world. Flickr is a wonderful example of both conscientious and unconscious image making.

I think for me, it has to do with the collecting of the images of our lives around us. Whether we make them ourselves through our cameras or find them through some other means of appropriation, these images are important enough to make and then collect. In the collection, they become representative projections of our lives, interests and the times happening all around us in which we attempt to arrange, present and tag for sorting and recollection – to what purpose (understanding?) I’m not entirely sure – but it’s clear the urge to collect and present is passionately pursued. Why else would something like Flickr be so passionately embraced?

Richter’s Atlas (previous post of mine here) is presented as a collection of Photographs, Collages and Sketches from 1962 – 2006 – which I read about in the forward to the images as a collection of “image models” or “sketches” for the body of works that sometimes result in final artistic works. The Atlas is presented as a sort of narrative story of intentionally collected series of images – which we are to consider as a “foil” against the final works. It is about an artist and his collection of models of inspiration.

As a place holder for something deserving of more thought personally…about an artistic creative process… I think it best to simply make note and to quote an entry in the beginning pages which is actually I believe a statement from the artist writings and footnoted as such in the Atlas forward coming from “Notes, 1964”, in : Gerhard Richter, Text-Shriften und Interviews, ed. by Hans-Ulrich Obrist – 1993 p 17.

“I see countless landscapes, photograph scarcely one in 100,000, painting hardly
one in 100 photographed landscapes – I am therefore looking for something quite
specific; from this I can conclude that I know what I want” – from Richter’s
diary dated 12 October 1986.”

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Longitude and Latitude

Today, a glimpse out the office window alternates between rainfall and sunshine,  a black hearse drives slowly by and somewhere the ocean changes color…

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena) 1969

CY TWOMBLY
Untitled (Bolsena), 1969
House paint, oil, crayon and pencil on canvas
78 x 98-1/2 inches (198.1 x 250.2 cm)

Some notes on coordinate systems as a way towards a description:

“We might say that there are two sections through the substance of the world: the longitudinal section of painting and the cross-section of certain pieces of graphic art. The longitudinal section seems representational; it somehow contains the objects. The cross-section seems symbolic; it contains signs. Or is it only when we read that we place the page horizontally before us? And is there such a thing as an original vertical position for writing – say, for engraving in stone? ” Walter Benjamin (c. 1920) p. 8 – notes from Marus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (eds.) Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 1, 1913-1926, Harvard, MA, 1996.

I’ve been looking closely at some of Cy Twombly’s works in the book “Cycles and Seasons”. The passage quoted above resonated with me as I was looking at the reproductions of the Bolsena Paintings by Cy Twombly and reading the accompanying essay by Nicholas Cullinan. One of a series painted in 1969, the Bolsena series it is said records the events of 1969 that may have been on Twombly’s mind – the event of the decade perhaps as NASA’s Apollo 11 space mission unfolded before a collective world audience.  It’s an interesting consideration and connection of current events of that time influencing perhaps and recorded in Twombly’s own cryptic cypher of graphic marks and painterly splots.  What a hopeful time and sense of exploration!


Gulf Oil Spill May 17, 2010 - via NASA satellite imagery

NASA’s Terra satellite captured a visible satellite image of the Gulf oil spill on May 17 at 16:40 UTC (12:40 p.m. EDT) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Instrument on-board. The oil slick appears as a dull gray on the water’s surface and stretches south from the Mississippi Delta with what looks like a tail. Text Credit: NASA Goddard / Rob Gutro

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of our own current events unfolding, as reports and images trickle in on the growing disaster of the oil spill in the gulf. NASA Satellite images show the extent of the slick as is disperses – but it is too soon to know the toll and we somehow still are unsure of how to stop the bleeding. How far we have come in the last 40+ years.

Noriko Furunishi – constructed texture of place

Noriko Furunishi .  “…how [the] images end up don’t really exist but, the texture and place exists [in the image]…”

The image of the human being within the landscape is of course important feedback on scale and helps the “viewer / audience” place themselves within the imagined context – a surrogate of sorts I suppose.

Noriko Furunishi Untitled (Rock), 2006 C-Print

Noriko Furunishi
Untitled (Rock), 2006
C-Print
edition of 10
40 x 30 inches  (image via: Murry Guy)

Consider how different landscapes appear though with and without human scale – an overt occupation.   We (as viewers) project a lot with regard to our own physical understanding and sense of size, scale and measure with the inclusion of the human figure within the image – almost as an aid to imagining ourselves with-in the image – a way into the picture…

What I like about Furunishi’s pictures is that odd sense of vertigo – something about comparing what I expect the landscape to look like – what if feels to be in the landscape – by this I mean feet on the ground -standing and perhaps looking out over the horizon….  and what the landscape scene looks like as imagined by Furunishi.

Link to an interview with Noriko Furunishi and a blog on past exhibitsMIA (Minneapolis Institue of Art) and the  MIA’s “New Pictures” feature….  great stuff and worth the time to browse.  Nice to see the work get more exposure and to see new work!

Previous post of mine on Furunishi work that I found interesting via Blind Spot

What’s new…? Beni Bischof

BENI BISCHOF

Kirche #1 - Beni Bischof

Above images from “BRICKED CASTLES” / Beni Bischof

New work to me…  I like how these images defy easy categorization – perhaps it is best to simply say these are very good critical pictures.

My impression is that these works float in almost pure picture form. The picture contains the elements of  a photograph, a drawing, a painting – and it is incidental upon what medium the image rests…  That is something new and exciting.

What’s so great?

These pictures are modern and potent.

Rather than admiring the laborious recreation of “what has already been”, Bishcof’s pictures (at least those in the “Bricked Castles series” ) move beyond recollection, imitation, or sorry re-creation and reference. Quite unlike for example this work posted on Conscientious by Jörg Colberg- which rests quite heavily on someone else’s shoulders.  In my opinion the referencing sort of approach / process as exampled by Hiroyuki Masuyama recreating Caspar David Friedrich leads only to diluting the potential potency of both…

Bischof‘s Bricked Castles series for me has that potent quality of allowing one to postulate multiple meanings… especially considering the current context of world affairs for example between the “eastern” and the “western” cultural (religion) views of the world…

See more about Bischof here.

Olaf Otto Becker at Blue Sky Gallery

Ilulissat Icefjord 09 07/2003 by Olaf Otto Becker

Ilulissat Icefjord 09, 07/2003 by Olaf Otto Becker

I’ve enjoyed viewing the work of Olaf Otto Becker albeit previously through online web work and so I jumped at the opportunity to visit the current (January 2010) hanging at Blue Sky Gallery here in Portland, Oregon.  As always, it is good to see the work in person and it was time well spent.  The work from his series “Broken Line,” is shot in Greenland with 8″ x 10″ camera and the results are as expected loaded with fine crisp detail and a rich pallet of colors.  The prints hanging are “modest” in size at 25″ x 30″ and with the fine detail I found myself practically nose up to the prints in an attempt to take it all in.

579 Oquaatsut, 07/2003 69°20’23’’ N, 51°00’15’’ W by Olaf Otto Becker

579 Oquaatsut, 07/2003
69°20’23’’ N, 51°00’15’’ W by Olaf Otto Becker

705 Nuussuag 07/2006 by Olaf Otto Becker

705 Nuussuag 07/2006 by Olaf Otto Becker

What I found most interesting in terms of viewing the pictures is with a personal question about the problem of describing “a place” through photographs. In this case what sort of impression does Becker’s characterization through pictures of “place” in Greenland leave behind?

Becker’s photographs as assembled in the show reveal a balance between what I would call “natural beauty” as pictured in the more decorative photographs of icebergs and sculpted bays with the images of resident cabins, outbuildings and associated detritus of human inhabitation.  I recall about a 2/3 to 1/3 distribution with natural beauty leading the way…

The pictures of human habitation at first seem to me to keep to a neutral presentation – meaning my assumptions are that the images are simply “what can be found”.  The pictures seperately do not seem to convey an explicit indictment but when coupled together with overtly beautiful images of a potentially devastating environmental situation to me alludes to a larger question of how we choose to live in our surroundings. The human places pictured indicate to me a pretty ugly disregard and disordered inhabitation.  Of course this is completely my own conjecture, but the pictures of local inhabitation chosen to be pictured are what I would call beautiful pictures of ugly things and by transference, I begin to recognize how the “Broken Line” may be much more revealing in general about how we inhabit places and is therefor much more than simply pretty pictures of icebergs. Of course it’s a pretty big jump and a lot of transference to allow the inhabited pictures to speak about “human disregard” of the landscape… but I think it’s there none-the-less.

Thinking about the problem of keeping a body of work together in order to convey (potentially) an intent held within a group of pictures is a problem probably best solved by the photo book – the book containing these pictures The Broken Line by Becker presumably may hold some more answers.  I have not yet had a chance to see the book – but am curious to see if my intuition and assumptions might play out in the book…

Talerua Bay, 07/2005 by Olaf Otto Becker

Talerua Bay, 07/2005 by Olaf Otto Becker

This relates to a couple of posts as well on the potential value of a photobook as a reference item for collectors and is blog and post worth visiting as it is quite nicely elaborated upon by DLK collectors offering another point of view.  The photobook posts might explain a bit more regarding Becker’s work from the same DLK collectors on the new series “Above Zero”….  All of this make me wonder more about the question of “decorative” work as a hook to bring a larger audience towards work that ultimately wants to be more than just beautiful…

Chance Juxtapositions

Edward S. Curtis: Chief Garfield – Jicarilla /Russell James, Natural Beauty.

Edward S. Curtis: Chief Garfield – Jicarilla  |  Russell James, Natural Beauty.

Copyright by respective photographers both images above

Edward Curtis “Shadow Catcher”

Russell James “Celebrity Sittings”

Two different results from essentially the (it seems) same starting point…. documentary projects of sorts of relative importance.

Ready made compositions – William Garnett

Amazing beautiful photographs below – attributed to William Garnett for a story in Fortune – “From Baton Rouge to the Gulf” – Jan 1961.

Industrial aerial photo_30

“From Baton Rouge to the Gulf” – photograph by William Garnett for Fortune – Jan 1961


aerial industrial building_33

“From Baton Rouge to the Gulf” – photograph by William Garnett for Fortune – Jan 1961

aerial sulfer plant_New Orleans
“From Baton Rouge to the Gulf” – photograph by William Garnett for Fortune – Jan 1961

And this ….
Rabbit and Cattle Tracks, Carrizo Plain, California – William Garnett
More about William Garnett on the Getty….
What is fascinating to me is the amount of “trace” information contained in these photographs – at one level the photographs reveal (record) formal patterns arising due to some form of action – movement process – in the first three images – having to do with processing chemicals at industrial scale plants – in the forth example, something of “nature”.  The photos themselves are not really “explaining” anything – but you might begin to infer something spending the time “reading” the information they contain…   Also of note is the unusual effect of the aerial view – an altogether different vantage point – allowing us to perhaps imagine the forest for the trees…