Dial Emma

Jonathan's Art Dilemma No. 17: What are exhibitions for?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Performance Talk

Though I will never ever be able to observe it, except in the background to some pictures, apparently my way of taking a photograph is quite stylised. I don’t know how this has come about. Previously I used a small, shoot and snap camera, I had a very mannered stance. Feet flat anchored to the ground, the regulation distance apart, legs straight, bum shoved out, the top half of my body leaning forwards at about twenty degrees, the angle changing as I framed the shot. A glorified tripod, bent awkwardly to strange angles. In the manner of Jacques Tati, petit camera, large man, there was no chance that I could take discreet snaps. People gathered round and laughed. There was I thinking photography was akin to spying.
With digital and camera phones the process has become quicker, but I still have a very distinctive ballet posture. I try to relax. Get fluid. Take pictures on the sly, but always end up making a performance out of it.
Watching Pradip Malde’s talk ‘Haiti: Blind Architect’ and also the Al Pitcher Picture Show on successive days of the Photobiennial has made me realize what a public performance photography is. In all it’s aspects.
Both gentleman stood directly in front of an audience and used photography to illustrate and animate their points. Pitcher to promote his comedy routine, Malde to highlight desperate poverty and the effect on the mental health of an already weakened population.
During their shows both elaborately mimed taking, and in Pitchers case actually took photographs Both used powerpoint type projection to illustrate what they had to say. Performance input, and performance output.
Malde, a professor of fine art photography, told how his pictures had been printed using a platinum/palladium process on a specific paper, and that he was in the process of securing a book deal and writing the commentary himself. Same old, same old routine for documentary photography. One based on being published and academic advancement. The cupboards are clogged full of these books. The slide show presentation was a stop gap until that came to pass. However this performance to a small audience was astute, subjective, and emotive. Right on the button. The news from Haiti over the past few days will be reverberated a lot clearer and with higher energy by those six people who were at the talk.
Slide shows may feel naff, office bound and not as grand as a bound copy or a chi chi exhibition but as a means of communicating, and even as entertainment they can be the most environmentally crisp and sleek route available. Quick in. Quick out. Big fallout. Little detritus.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Al Pitchers Picture Show

Brighton is festival/biennial addicted. The city centre is awash with dueling festivals. One week it’s sacred music, the next an urban film festival. More often than not there is an overlap. This weekend was the turn of the Brighton Comedy Festival. Not my thing comedy routines. I’d heard about Al Pitcher from a photographer friend but not experienced a show.
Al arrives in a town in the morning, wanders around, snaps photographs of what he thinks is visually awkward, will raise a smile or create a conversation. In the evening he presents his slide show to a local audience asking them to explain, using their particular knowledge, what is going on in a photo. Sharing the absurdity of a street name, or a kitsch juxtaposition. Pitcher highlights titbits of the everyday, pointing out the obvious, he eggs the audience into taking responsibility for cringe making accidents, then rips the shit out of them. 
No hecklers, everyone was arguing, laughing and becoming involved; trying to explain the pictures or a local custom to an innocent outsider. A fine conceit. It was anthropology in action.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Brighton PhotoBiennial 2010

At the openings of the Photo Biennial one thing stayed with me. Not a memorable photograph, nor event or conversation but little shards of golden glitter. As a way of introduction one of the photographers threw handfuls of it everywhere. For the past week people have been coming up to me a trying to brush specks off my face. It is in my underwear, socks, pyjamas. My friends have had it passed on to them, contact high. It seeps into everything. In an era of XFactor sincerity and viral marketing it is the ultimate calling card. Unfortunately I have forgotten the photographers name. 

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Critical Run. Liverpool Biennial 2010

Thierry Geoffroy
Thierry Geoffroy organizes Critical Run. Art debates for people who are jogging, or perhaps jogging for those whose mission is sitting around theorizing on art. Sadly I was the only other person to turn up for the discussion ‘Is It OKay to Use Artists As Vacuum Cleaners’. 
Too early Sunday morning. Liverpool. Chucking it down with rain. I had been drinking most of the night. Years of goalkeeping have ravaged my knees, causing problems walking at the best of times. Whilst I was explaining this Thierry kept hitting me on the arm, in a pally but provoking manner. Jiggling around on the spot, waiting for me to change my mind, he wasn’t willing to discuss the motion there in the shop, I wasn’t capable of running. Deadlock. He jogged off. Farewell Monsieur Courbet.
Thierry Geoffroy places Criticial Runs in large international exhibitions and biennials, they are to tone and develop the Awareness Muscle. He also franchises Emergency Rooms. Temporary sites, usually built within galleries where artists can create and exhibit contemporary art about current events. Work is replaced in a ceremony (The Passage) at 12.30pm daily. Ex-contemporary art is stored in the Delay Museum, to give people chance to look at this archive. A succinct solution that recognizes that the gallery system, and funding, take too much time, and that this delay diffuses the potency and potential of much art endeavor. Crucially, it is important energy lost. 
Every part of every town should have an Emergency Room. www.emergencyrooms.org