First of all, a few notes on the app itself. It’s a bit temperamental on my iPhone 3GS. Now, I don’t know if this is a problem with the app itself or whether it’s pushing the capabilities of the phone - it’s a big old app, weighing in at not too far off 500MB. Is this a factor? I’ve no idea, but a few times now I’ve opened it and it’s frozen, the only way I’ve found to unlock it is to delete and re-synch, although to be honest I haven’t tried resetting the phone...
I like the idea of app books, cheaper than the hard copy version and you can carry it around with you. Not so sure that I’d ever want it to replace the printed version, but that portability is nice. In the case of this book, it also makes it affordable - £6 instead of circa $1000! On the downside, the screen is a little on the small size and the feel of the images will be different through the addition of backlighting, but I’m still pretty keen on the whole idea. As I might of mentioned in my blog/log for YoP, it’s something I was looking at but subsequently gave up on due to the technicalities involved.
Anyway, Homma’s work in Tokyo Suburbia creates a strange disquiet that, looking back over some of my recent work, has been hugely influential for me. Ok, this may not have been directly through this app, but it does come through from Tokyo, which features work from this collection and others. In my previous post, I drew a comparison with Stephen Shore, then altered that. With the benefit of 18 months looking at other artists I would wager there is some significant influence drawn by Homma from the New Topographics photographers, and this again ties in with some of my work. A melancholy feel from the absence (in general terms at least) of any signs of life.
Ignoring the photographs of children for the moment, and the occasional photograph with cars and distant people (the Disney car parks for example). Homma has photographed scenes of housing where it appears that their very purpose is removed. There are no people visible for the houses to “home”, they’re but empty shells and it is this that creates the slight sense of uneasiness. Clinical, objective and very matter of fact, but also with a sense of Japanese zen, or is that something I’m bringing to the photographs? A desire to see that feeling through my love of the country and of things Japanese? I only want to see positives when, as a matter of fact, Japanese photography can be quite bleak and negative. Not always, but sometimes. Maybe that’s just what I’m drawn to through my own character as well.
In general, these are not traditionally beautiful subjects. They’re interesting to me, and I find them to be beautiful photographs, but I would understand why they wouldn’t be sought after for hanging on the walls of people’s homes - well, they might be sought after by a certain subset of people who collect photographic art, but not by the general public. I’ll be considering this work more over the coming weeks whilst I’m preparing my Japanese photography essay, and may even use it as the subject for a critical review...
Just loaded the app on to an iPad, and it looks even more impressive. I’m thinking that this type of thing might take off, certainly with the bigger screen, which is great for looking at photographs on in general...
Homma, T (2011) Tokyo Suburbia [iPhone App] Between the books
What followed was a documentary about street art and the film maker, Thierry Guetta - maybe “film maker” is a bit rich here, he was a compulsive videographer with apparently no “film-making” experience or, indeed, skill. What he did was immerse himself in the street art scene, starting with his cousin “Space Invader”, then moving on to Shepard Fairey (of the Obama poster fame) and again moving on to Banksy.
I’m a bit of a Banksy luddite, so I actually found the footage of the LA show fascinating, and now wish I’d taken the opportunity to visit the exhibition in Bristol a couple of years ago. There’s an energy and freshness with this art that seems lacking from other pomo art that I’ve seen. Maybe it’s because of the video presentation rather than photographs seen in magazines/online? Maybe it is actually less pretentious - it’s low culture that does not particularly aspire to be high culture, rather it was commoditised by the art world rather than by the artist. Or at least that is how it came across.
Guetta aka Mr Brainwash comes across as a bit of a character: part maniac - part genius. It sounds like he’s the conceptual brains rather than the actual creator of the art, and he relies on a team of artists much like the impression I get of Koons. Does this mean he is an artist or not? I think it just reflects the scale of his operation, and the pomo aesthetic to be honest, it’s just different to the work of the Old Masters, etc. who may have worked to a grand scale but taken a long time to finish - Guetta produces work that is sometimes, by it’s very nature, transitory and with speed being important, so a team of assistants is necessary. And lets not overlook the fact that it was not unknown for the traditional painters to have assistants too.
On reflection, I really enjoyed the film. I know the work will not be to everyone’s liking, and it wasn’t all to my liking either, but there’s no denying the energy that is evident when watching these street artists at work, or the irony and humour in some of that work. OK, there’s an argument against it in terms of vandalism, but as could be seen in the video, as soon as the graffiti was recognised as having value, it was either protected or cut out of the wall for sale. Standards and opinions quickly change when there’s a positive value attached, rather than a negative one.
One thing that does need to be asked is whether the film is a “spoof” documentary to promote the artists, or a true documentary of this genre of visual culture. I could imagine it being either, but that is a reflection of the current times and of the post-modern. Just because we see it on television does not mean to say it is real, that it’s not a piece of pop art in its own right, rather than the documentary in the traditional style that it presents itself as.... There’s also a comment made during the film along the lines that real power is taken from assumed power, does this then equate to this being a real documentary because it is assumed to be such - does it become the truth, but in fact it is just simulacra?
On a negative note, Rhys Ifans is a poor narrator.
Banksy (2010) Exit through the gift shop [DVD] Revolver Entertainment
As part of the Manchester International Festival, there’s the large scale video screen in Brazennose Street showing the work of John Gerrard - Infinite Freedom Exercise. The screen takes up a good portion of the street, and stands maybe 5m high - a pretty impressive installation!
The content shows a computer generated figure wearing generic fatigues reacting to explosions and the like which cannot be seen (reading the blurb, the actions are based on the movements of US soldiers reacting to mortars). As with much of the work I’ve been looking at recently (the Constellations show at Cornerhouse, for example), this is about change - the figures actions are constantly evolving. It’s also pomo - the figure is simulated, and is described as somewhere between documentary and fiction - the actions are motion captured in real time, but the sequence enacted by the virtual figure is apparently random, or at least based upon some algorithm.
Interesting to see something like this in the street - it brings the art to the people so that it is seen by those that would normally never dream of going into a gallery. Similar I suppose to some of the street photography on display in Derby earlier this year. It gives you something to talk about whilst doing your shopping...