Edited by Uta Grosenick and Thomas Seelig
London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2008
The book is well-organised, as it needs to be for such a massive survey, and has a succinct essay on each artist. However equally useful, especially to the relative newcomer to the field, is the introductory essay on the aesthetics of photography, by Paolo Bianchi, from the Hochschule der Künste in Zurich. Bianchi ranges sectionally from 'The Photography of the Imagination', to 'Of Emotion', 'Of Memory', 'Of Association', 'Of Sensation', and recognises that sharp-eyed vision has to be the driving force of perception. The manually created landscapes of Sonja Braas indicate a commitment to the German romantic tradition, but she explores contemporary yet timeless nature further towards a climatic doom. Marine Hugonnier depicts horizons sublimely. The female portrait image, is a recurrent subject of contemporary photographers. Dirk Braeckman produces a haunting but expressionless kiss. Ruud Van Empel succeeds in creating a supremely innocent doll out of a seven-year-old girl. And Zbigniew Libera shows a curious retake of the famous image of a Vietnamese girl running down a road in distress; Yet this time, there is a similar posture, but the more mature girl is laughing along with her companions.
The depiction of void, in various formats, seems to emerge as a repeating theme for photographers, whether intentionally or not. Such a device can be achieved as evinced in this book through the work of numerous artists, or else denied meaning. Usually the photographer intrudes, his or her recognition, of whatever meaning has not been drained away. What Bianchi describes as the typology of places can yield emotionally charged backgrounds such as Dutch marshlands or Japanese cherry trees. The work of Tacita Dean undoubtedly stands out: she is a theorist able to back up her ideas with her own images. Her image of a great tree is resonant with time and ecology, yet curiously human.
Throughout this book, the qualities of human vulnerability and surviving innocence seem to enhance the possibilities for survival from global catastrophe. A work such as this, replete with human detritus and natural beauty serves to encourage artists towards a realistic future. It helps us to recognise that the art of the photographer, or the photograph as medium, have never been as central and as important to culture as they are today.
Outside In: 55th Venice Biennale
In the alleyways of Venice, street vendors are touting a new product – a globule of goo, which when thrown at the pavement splatters into a seemingly irreconcilable fried egg shape, but over the course of five seconds, reforms itself into a perfect sphere. It’s something of a metaphor for the force of descent on the city of a mass of art every two years.
Anish Kapoor: Artist of Smoke, Air and Space
Anish Kapoor is the man behind one of the most expensive public sculptures in the world - the US$23 million, 33-feet high, 110-ton polished stainless steel curved plate called 'Cloud Gate' (2004), which is located in AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park, Chicago.
A festival for our time: dOCUMENTA 13
Faces press against the glass wall of a rotunda in one of the world’s oldest museums: the Neo-Classical Fridericianum. This is the heart of Documenta (13) in Kassel: outside the 'Brain', the nerve centre of this serious contemporary art festival, where its many threads of thought converge into one. It is where visitors stop, look and think about what strange historical objects and artefacts mean.
The Enlightenments. Edinburgh International Festival 2009
The 2009 Festival is promoted this year, as taking its inspiration from the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment so the Visual Arts Programme entitled The Enlightenments, has grouped together nine individual contemporary projects, commissions and installations across the City of Edinburgh.