Opening tomorrow, September 27, is Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition @Large in the former San Francisco Bay prison, Alcatraz Island. The sculpture, sound, and mixed media installations are staged in four locations throughout the space: the New Industries Building; a group of cells in A Block; the Hospital; and the Dining Hall. Ai’s work inside creates a dialogue about how we define liberty, justice, and individual rights.
In 2011, Ai was secretly detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days, and is still not permitted to travel outside of the country. He was unable to visit Alcatraz during the planning of the show and was developed in his studio with the help of the FOR-SITE Foundation.
There are a variety of pieces in @Large, including Trace, which is 176 portraits of political prisoners and exiles made from LEGO blocks. The impressive works began at Ai’s studio in Beijing and were completed in San Francisco by a team of 90 volunteers. Cheryl Haines, the exhibition’s curator told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m overwhelmed by how remarkable it looks. This is the face of the individual in the fight for freedom, but it’s also a collective statement and to see the density and quantity of people that are incorporated in this work, I find deeply moving.”
In addition to Trace, there are six other themes: With Wind, a giant traditional Chinese dragon kite; Refraction, stunning metal wings; Stay Tuned, sound installation that occupies 12 cells; Illumination, the sounds of Tibetan Buddhist and Native American chants; Blossom, fragile floral bouquets; and Yours Truly, where visitors can write postcards to prisoners. (Via FOR-SITE and Artnet)
Tianmiao Lin‘s artwork combines household objects and human figures with a technique called “thread winding”: wrapping thread — or hair or silk — around an object until it is completely covered. The result is oddly tactile and organic, looking like something spun by a spider caught in a fevered dream. The use of string, Lin reveals in an interview with The Culture Trip, is partly for that very reason. They are organic and natural, and contain an element of mysterious strength. “The materials take on a life of their own,” Lin says.
When Chinese artists are discussed, it’s hard to ignore politics; Lin is no exception. As an artist — particularly a female artist — from a country that went through a rather recent revolution, her creations are rife with subtext whether intended or not. It’s difficult if not impossible to draw on the themes and symbols of family and femininity without also summoning the specter of their cultural context.
In a collection called “Mothers!!!,” pearls and webs of string become tangled cancerous masses on the backs of women, weighing them down. The pearls are beautiful but also destructive. In another installation called “Chatting,” several figures stand in a circle, heads bowed, seeking connection perhaps but resigned to the impossibility of it.
To be fair, Lin has rejected feminist and political readings of her work. As an artist, she most likely wants to defy labels and have her work speak for itself. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little glimmer of dissent and rebellion in her art — arising organically, woven into the very DNA of it, strand by strand.
Swedish photographer Pieter ten Hoopen has worked within all aspects of photography, from journalism to commercial. At this point in his career he is a well known and distinguished photographer: he has received many prestigious awards, amongst them the Photographer of the Year in Sweden, and the World Press Award; he has published books of photography on Tokyo and Stockholm, and is currently working on a film project about Hungry Horse, Montana, through MediaStorm.
Ten Hoopen shoots mainly on a Nikon but also uses Yashica box cameras and a Widelux. He has worked all over the world, and travels out of known safety to deliver raw and emotionally jarring footage from places far away, many in turmoil. In the past, he has worked in Pakistan, composing images from the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake, an intimate glimpse into the pain and hardship as families continued digging through rubble in search of buried survivors. He shot the small village Vladimirskoe, Russia, which, lying next to the mythically invisible town of Kitezh, occupies a strange grey area of being juxtaposed next to a national attraction while being invisible and struggling itself; problems with alcohol and unemployment make life difficult for most of its inhabitants. In Japan, ten Hoopen visited a forest that lies below Mount Fuji, known informally as the “suicide forest,” where, yearly, nearly a hundred people travel there to commit suicide. The forest is dense with vegetation and stands on the remains of a volcanic eruption, making compasses completely useless and getting lost in the woods very easy. People tie ropes to trees to prevent themselves from getting lost, and many go in there with the intention of never coming out.
There is a stillness in his images, the composition forms its own poetry, and the emotional charge of the situations he encounters stand squarely in the frame. Within the same vein of documentary photography as Sebastião Salgado, ten Hoopen brings an unprovoked sense of art to the frame; providing a visual means with which we can connect to these feelings as viewers, even halfway across the globe, even never having stepped out of our own country. That is the most powerful aspect of this kind of a photographer, he gives voice to what he witnesses, and brings forth the unexplainable beauty and devastation that words cannot do justice to.
Following on from the trend of “Ruin Porn” or “Ruin Photography“, Japanese artist Satoshi Araki intricately creates miniature dioramas of bombed out cities or urban landscapes. He is attracted to anything that is in a state of decay. He is especially adept at reconstructing tiny details he finds through using Google Image Search. For example he searches for particular phrases (“Iraq war” or “Iraq ruins”) and meticulously recreates what he finds.
Obviously Araki has a sharp eye for details. Using knives and blades to scrape off paint and to add rust, he achieves realistic imperfections, turning a normal miniature scooter into a thing of amazement. He even adds cans with miniscule Arabic writing on them, tucked inside a box in one of his destroyed scenes of Baghdad. He makes sure to carefully smash the tiny windshield of a car, denting it in all the right places, and even adding a bent license plate all to create a believable environment. For such scenes full of violence and horror, he surely makes them a thing of beauty and wonder.
There is a strong sense of poetry in Araki’s work. He focuses on the destruction of man made buildings and objects – mainly being overtaken by nature. Trees grow over old rusted cars; grass forces it’s way through rotting rubber tires. And this is the fascination that other Ruin Porn artists have as well. They all capture the beauty of the world we have created around us crumbling to the ground. And just like Araki, they find joy in that chaos. They celebrate the beauty of the piles of rubble we live in.
Mrs. Sinou: “I refuse to do it to my children. This will stay on my face only.”
Mr. Boudo: “It is not easy to hit on girls with that. Especially, the Ivorians. I think it is not very attractive.”
Mr. Konabé: “Our parents did this not to get lost in life. When you went somewhere, you could not get lost.”
In the large Ivory Coast city of Abidjan it was once common to see Hââbré, the ancient custom of scarification. Today only the older people wear scarifications and when Joana Choumali decided to photograph them for her series “Haabre, The Last Generation 2013-2014″ she had a hard time finding people to pose for her.
“Scarification is the practice of performing a superficial incision in the human skin. This practice is disappearing due to the pressure of religious and state authorities, urban practices and the introduction of clothing in tribes.”
Choumali photographed the participants against a neutral backdrop in the attempt to remove any stigma or judgment from the images. On her website she pairs two images for each portrait—one from behind and one from the front or side, showing the scars. This is an interesting choice which seems to reinforce the idea that the scarification serves as an identity card of sorts. Where people are interchangeable from the back, they are marked and classified and unmistakable from the front. The images are also accompanied by quotes.
“Opinions (sometimes conflicting) of our witnesses illustrate the complexity of African identity today in a contemporary Africa torn between its past and its future. This “last generation” of people bearing the imprint of the past on their faces, went from being the norm and having a high social value to being somewhat ‘excluded.’”
It’s intriguing to note that while Hââbré is becoming extinct in Africa, it is gaining popularity as “body modification” in other areas of the world. According to National Geographic “over the last seven or eight years scarification has become remarkably widespread in the U.S. and Australia and across Europe, from London to Prague.” Is it cultural appropriation or appreciation? Will these scars start as emblems of individuality and end up, as in Africa, visual reminders of regret? (via feature shoot)
Long before the magic of Photoshop and its ability to manipulate came the work of Herbert List, a surrealist photographer working from the mid-1930’s through the 1960’s. His black and white images feature fake scientific models with their skin cut away and their guts partially exposed. This isn’t a particularly unusual sight- they are things you’d see in a classroom or museum – and show historical ways of practicing medicine. But, it’s how he frames the images that gives them an unnerving feel. Compositions are tightly cropped and provide us little context for what’s around them; it creates an air of mystery.
List was influenced by the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, which is evident as we see these statues that seem to exist in a void. They’re moody and strange, and List’s documentary-style photographs show how strange things are when presented a deliberate way. (Via Boing Boing and My Amp Goes to 11)
Graziano Locatelli creates mixed-media artwork out of humble materials: tiles, cement, glue, and metal plates. All of his pieces have some element of carefully controlled tumult, something brewing beneath the surface. Often Locatelli breaks his tiles in a precise but organic way, creating fault lines that ripple through the entire piece and create movement and a sense of tension. In one such piece, the fingers of a sculpted hand can be seen gripping the side of the jagged crack, as though peeling it back for a better look at the real world. Other works are more subtle: An impression of a human figure, outlined by hairline fractures.
According to Cross Connect Mag, Locatelli explains: “My early works are sharp and are often torn apart by heads and figures that try and break the wall and is still the subject of the breakage that bewitches me.”
Locatelli’s recurring motifs of breakage and emergency are complemented by his sculptures of materials re-made, formed into eggs or other objects. What’s interesting about his choice of tiles is that they are found so often in people’s houses, especially in places of comfort and privacy; in other words, places that have intimate knowledge of our lives. Perhaps that’s why the pieces are so unsettling, as they blend the familiar with the surreal along with elements of a Poe-esque horror.
“I wonder what meanings and feelings these (once) familiar places arouse in those who lived there,” Locatelli says. “I see them as restless dreams, spaces in ruins inhabited by ghosts that still retain an embryonic life.”
Spanish graphic designer Txaber has come up with an ingenious idea. Now we can see what is on the inside – on the outside. He has teamed up the colors of different beer with various shades of Pantone. At this stage this snappy idea is only a design concept – Txaber has said no companies are interested in producing, “but hopefully they will see the light.” The simplicity of this packaging has struck a chord with many people, and is an expansion of a similar idea launched last year.
Called Beertone, two Swiss designers Alexander Michelbach and Daniel Eugster created a color wheel also based on Pantone guides. They envisioned a beer lover to assemble this color wheel and choose their preferred brew from it. Every type of beer has it’s own swatch with all relevant information: brewery name, alcohol content, an image of the bottle and numerical values for its color in CMYK, RGB, and HTML. With over 202 colors (and separate beer types) Michelbach and Eugster no doubt would have been kept busy taste testing.
Whether it is a color wheel or a yet-to-be-realized design concept, the idea of marketing brewed beer based on slick packaging seems to a popular one. Txaber’s approach is an elegant, simple, understated one and shows the best side of the world’s third most popular drink. Ranging from Pale Ale to Imperial Stout, these designers have got the range covered. “Because beer comes in more colors than yellow or blurry.”(Via Lost At E Minor)