Category Archives: exhibition

PhotoIreland Festival 2012

While taking the first steps to recovery, the one thing I really can’t bear at the moment is looking at other people’s work. Well, every photograph is “other people’s work”, really, but I just can’t bring myself to go and have a look at what is on offer at PhotoIreland. And that is a fluffing shame, really. Because when it comes to photography, I actually think that Dublin is quite spoilt for choice and activities. And never more than in the month of July. 
For a couple of years now the summer month has seen PhotoIreland  -a festival of national and international photography, this year centering on the theme of “migrations”. The festival is set in numerous galleries and venues all over Dublin and other major towns in Ireland and showcases artists, groups etc. Alongside, there are events for emerging artists who can have their portfolios critiqued and study the work of established photographers. For a lot of people, of course, it is also a networking event, where you can hob-knob with the eminent figures of the local photography scene.
Our own collective was a little bit too late in getting into gear for this year’s event. Migrations is a suitably vague theme, I suppose, I am sure we could’ve rustled something up if we hadn’t been in the middle of our final semester in college. 
Well, here is my interpretation of “migrations”: The great big Barbarian Invasions aka Migration of the Peoples:


What a strange, funny word, invigilating. It sounds slightly aggressive, like “violating”. Or maybe it reminds me of the word “vigorous”. In any case, it somehow has rather unpleasant connotations for me. Memories of past exams with the invigilating dragons walking through the narrow aisles, breathing down our necks and the principal invigilator announcing sternly over the loudspeakers “NO talking!” 
And invigilating yourself is not much better than being invigilated. While Relentless Melt is being hosted in Farmleigh’s Motorhouse, the participating photographers are taking turns to watch the exhibition at the weekends. It was my turn on Sunday. And while I was undecided between blending into the background in order to let the visitors have the freedom to enjoy the photography and on the other hand exuding strict authority to make sure everyone behaves properly while in the space, it gave me the opportunity to make some social observations.
It is quite interesting how some people behave in public spaces where art is shown. While the youngest visitors obviously do not feel any restraint, some grown-ups seem to perceive it as a “Temple of Art” in which you may not raise your voice and where you can only whisper. Some people walked into the door with obvious curiosity – only to turn directly back. Is our photography not good enough for you??? 
Others, again, feel no barrier between themselves and the artwork at all – which manifests itself in plenty of greasy fingerprints on frames and prints. Big no-no, people! And the perpetrators are not necessarily the children. Even some adults do not seem to feel any boundary – or at least a sense of respectful distance that might keep you from touching everything that you see.
Oh *sigh*, I come across a bit high-brow here. I am all for art coming to the masses. But please respect that there may be other people interested in seeing an exhibition after you and hence would appreciate looking at the exhibits in acceptable condition…
Sermon over. Sorry.

Installation Check

Welcome to Relentless Melt!
The door is open, please come in. Well, tomorrow that is. When we open the exhibition at
    6.30 pm in the Motorhouse, Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin
Wine and photographers on hand. Opening speech by Dave Monahan. Lots of interesting images to see – and buy, if you so fancy.
Before we got there, the whole hanging process had to be survived. Three hours of measuring, drilling, hammering and adjusting. But then we finally got it. The pictures are on the wall and the room is ready to welcome you all in. 
I give you the official Relentless Melt-poster, too, which will give you a glimpse of one of the projects on show. But besides intimate family portraits, there are also landscapes, visions of the future of food engineering and large-format-originated architectural shots.
Would love to see you there!

Stargazing in Dublin

A fruitful Sunday afternoon which I spent updating my Visual Diary – and then treating myself cum daughter to a nice little exhibition. Seeing that we were shopping in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre anyway, I decided to head up to the top floor and check out that exhibition that the JDIFF is putting on in there at the moment. “Stargazing in Dublin” is a small exhibition of press photographs taken over the years in Dublin on the occasion of the annual Dublin International Film Festival.

My daughter was not exactly thrilled when I announced we were looking at a photo exhibition. “Oh no!”, she sighed. Photo exhibitions for her usually mean that mummy dearest is engrossed in images, spends minutes poring over one shot, pondering aperture and shutter speed and possibly then discussing particulars with other photography fanatics. Yes, she has learnt that the hard way over the past 30 months… And yet – there was no way out, up we went to the exhibition. “Who will be in the photos?”, she asked, in the vain hope that maybe there was someone in there she might recognise. “Ah, famous filmstars, I guess”, I answered. “Hm. You mean, like, Colin Firth?” I nodded. Like mother, like daughter – the poor kid already has been brainwashed and is familiar with mama’s favourite eyecandy. “OK”, she said, “but we are not staying long.” – And who should flash his bright smile from the third photo on the wall at us but Mr Firth himself? Now, that exhibition had already redeemed itself 30 seconds in…

Oooops, just an iPhone image, sorry.
Seriously, though, now. The exhibition is nothing that will shake the world of photography or the world of exhibitions, but I was interested in it also from the point of view of portrait photography: While a great many shots were simply red carpet-press call affairs, there were some really nice images that would go through as portraits. For instance a nice picture of Gabriel Byrne, B/W, bringing out the surly character of Mr Byrne, it seems. Angry young man, dark brooding Irishman. The figure in the background suggests that this really was just a shot taken on the street. And yet, with Byrne making contact with the lens, he strikes a pose and the image feels more like a portrait than a snap.
This being a quality-time-with-daughter-day, I had to keep the exhibition experience short and sweet. But the quick walk around was enough – after all these are images that were taken for the media, not for posterity, because we all know that today’s paper is tomorrow’s bin-liner. A quick look is all they want and need. There are plenty of well-known names in it – and the recognisability of the faces is something that delights anyone. Don’t expect masterpieces, though – it is just a bit of fun.
Stargazing in Dublin
Top Floor St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre,
Feb 3rd to Feb 26th

The Opera

The Gallery of Photography is a wonderful resource to have in my adopted home town of Dublin. The purpose-built gallery is slap-bang in the middle of the city, has a great bookshop and is – best of all – free in. And never have I been so glad about the latter than at my last visit to the Gallery.
The Opera by Varvara Shavrova is a project about the Peking Opera. That misleading name describes the traditional Chinese stage entertainment that is characterised by stylised performance, heavy make-up and elaborate costumes. The latter two alone make for compelling photography. Or so I thought when I went in to view the exhibition that is running until the 26th of February.
The project The Opera focuses on the transformation of man into woman and woman into man as the bulk of the shots are documenting the making up of a male actor into a female character and the taking off of the make up of an actress who plays a male character. Shavrova basically took time-lapse images of the whole process and displays them in different formats – there is a series of photographs of the male actor being made up, displayed in simple white frames hung closely together. 
Projected against the wall in the small gallery space on the first floor of the gallery is a time lapse clip of the female actor having her make-up removed. This is actually quite interesting, but the artist has overlaid the images with some kind of antiquing filter, and the artificial (?) spots, smudges and scratches on the images interfere with the contents. The question is simply: why? Why is that very informative and interesting sequence of images being obscured with spots and scratches that are meant to make the pictures look antique? It seemed unnecessary and gimmicky.
Then there is a video sequence of the male actor that in detail shows the process of being dressed and made up as a female character. The video is accompanied by a piece of music that was especially commissioned for the clip. Considering that music appeals to the emotions of the audience so much, the choice of soundtrack/music is quite important – and in this case does not work at all. Composer Benoit Granier combines traditional Chinese elements with electronic music. That is all very well – but somehow the music evokes an eerie feel. It is more suited to a subtle horror film than a fairly neutral documentary project. The effect, however, is, that the cross-dressing issue of The Opera suddenly gets an underlying feeling of sinister strangeness. Surely, that can’t be what the artist(s) had in mind?
Chinese Streetkitchen – by me, not by Shavrova
Lastly, there is a group of three images that are displayed on lightboxes and with accompanying sound. This for me could have been the most successful part of the exhibition – except I could not see the connection between The Opera and a Chinese soup kitchen (accompanied by soundtrack of cackling hens). If this was Shavrova’s attempt at giving her project context, then for me that was not enough. And why does she not show the actual context of the Peking Opera – the colourful costumes, the masks, the (spare) stage set-ups, the audience, the actors? Is she over-familiar with that? Her audience probably is not and would benefit from some input –  apart from the fact that some context shots would have added some more colour to this otherwise strangely colourless body of work.
What stood out for me really was that it used a number of different display options that were interesting. But the quality of the shots made me wonder whether these had actually been taken as stills or were they screenshots from video footage. With rather unflexible and conventional tastes in photography, I would have preferred less video and more stills – which in my opinion would suit the gallery of PHOTOgraphy (not VIDEOgraphy) better, too. But who minds, if a gallery is free in…
Varvara Shavrova – The Opera
until February 26, 2012

Oh Vienna

Just back from a wonderful short break in Vienna. What a magnificent city, definitely a city of emperors and kings. Despite having been there 25 years ago – yes, literally, I was only 2 years old at the time (ahem…) – I was majorly impressed by the scale of Vienna’s architecture. Such high houses, palatial, baroque, grand, I had forgotten it was so big. Dear dirty Dublin is a mere village… “second city of the Empire” my arse… So you can expect to be inundated with impressions of Vienna in the next while. Cos while there, I took plenty of pictures – and visited three fabulous photo exhibitions which I intend to review on the blog, too.
“Booty” – three exhibitions in Vienna
This is how things go nowadays. I go on holidays or short breaks somewhere, and instead of looking at the sights I go and see photography exhibitions. I used to be very pushed about properly “doing” all the sights and getting an in-depth feel of the place I was visiting. No holiday was worth-while if there wasn’t a museum-a-day on the programme. Photography has changed that. Well, or maybe it is only old age – I am quite happy to forgo museum and castle visits, even ignore the history section in the guidebook and instead just wander around with the camera and explore the place through the lens.
I still like to look at exhibitions, however, and my first port of call when organising a holiday programme is Google for an overview over what is on. On this occasion I was in big, big luck. Vienna was hosting a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition entitled “The Compass in the Eye”, featuring images from Cartier-Bresson’s travels in the US, Russia and India. This had top priority for me. – Then there was an equally interesting exhibition on fashion photography called “Vanity” with exhibits from fashion photographer C.F. Gundlach’s private collection. Checked. And finally, accompanying “Vanity” was another photo exhibition in the same venue entitled “No fashion please” with photographs from newcomers.
Needless to say I got my priorities not only right but also done – I saw all three exhibitions and was thrilled with myself. Ahem. And I managed to take some lovely images of Vienna as well, as there was a good bit of walking done while there. All that remains is to post-produce them. *yawn*

Growth. Sustainability. Globalisation. *YAWN*

The Prix Pictet has only been around for three years – and yet has managed to become one of the most well known photography prizes in the world. That – no doubt – probably on the back of a generous prize money of 100.000 Swiss Francs (€ 82.000) and its contextualisation with one of the buzzwords of the 21st century: “sustainability”. Yes, my eyes kind of glaze over, when I happen upon one of those yawn-inducing vogue words/vague words. And what exactly is the connection of sustainability and photography? Sure,  100.000 Swiss Francs are probably well capable of sustaining a photographer for a while… But otherwise?
Eco jargon taken aside, the current Prix Pictet exhibition “Growth” is touring the world, and since December 2011 it has been on show in Dublin’s Gallery of Photography. Stifling the yawn, I went in to take the opportunity of seeing some big names of international art photography exhibiting in our own town, Christian Als, Vera Lutter, Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo, Thomas Struth and more.
The exhibited artists were all shortlisted for the 2011 Prix Pictet. The winning entry is Mitch Epstein’s body of work “American Power”. An impressive visual documentation of the effects of consumerism on his native America, Epstein found vistas which contrasted the presence of monumental industrial plants beside evidence of nature, sustainable living *yawn* and renewable energy *zzzz*. – What? Where? Who? Sorry, must have fallen asleep there. And that’s a bit mean, because Epstein’s images are far from boring. They are well composed and brilliantly evocative. It’s just… haven’t we seen all this before?
I was certainly much more excited by some of the other projects on show. Take Vera Lutter’s “Body of work” for instance. Yes, the title of her body of work is body of work. And that is not a printer’s mistake, but appropriate when you look at the images: Lutter went around photographing industrial growth, i.e. she photographs industrial scenes, industrial plants, factories. Her technical concept is interesting, though – her images are captured by pinhole photography. What an amazing contrast: the simplest and most basic form of photography that anyone could replicate with a box, a piece of film and a bit of tape. And this juxtaposed with the accomplishments of 21st century industry. The resulting images are negatives, of course, and she displays them as such. Particularly her inside view of a zeppelin plant had me transfixed: Wonderful detail and clarity – and a zeppelin vanishing in thin air… (Presumably the airship must have been moved while she was exposing via pinhole, hence the incomplete image.)
Own pinhole experiment, 2009
Yeondoo Jung’s project “Evergreen Tower” had me transfixed. Possibly because the accompanying slide show was hypnotical with its slow transits from image to image. Jung took family portraits in a residential tower block in Seoul. The flats inside the tower are identical. The people and their lives are not. And maybe just because he is placing the camera always in the same spot, facing the balcony windows, taking a straight-on shot of the boxy living rooms, the differences between the flats and the people are highlighted. It is amazing how much you can deduce from one glimpse at a family’s apartment – and one split second of their lives. At least that they all favour a certain make of sideboard…
“Architecture of Density” by Michael Wolf had me in goosepimples and in thrall in equal measure. Wonderfully abstract and graphic, the images by Wolf depict a monotony of concrete towerblocks, multi-storey, all regular lines, all angles, all lifeless. Or really? Taken in Hong Kong, Wolf shows the most densely populated area of the world. The high-rise buildings appear uninhabited. Only upon closer inspection there are signs of life: washing lines in front of the windows, curtains, air conditioning. I was actually delighted to even spot a human being in the photograph entitled aod #43. And even more so when I realised that it depicts a man looking through binoculars. How wonderful is that – the process of spying being captured on film while spying. Beautiful and thought-provoking.
There are more noteworthy projects in the exhibition – but instead of boring everyone to tears here, I suggest you head down to the gallery yourselves. You must hurry up – it is on until January 15th, only!
Prix Pictet – “Growth”
Gallery of Photography
’til Jan 15th, 2012.