Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Discussion forum #6: Ruins and Other Broken Structures

Hi All, the long awaited update of the forum discussion by Ho Hui May & Jason Wee is finally up! Still in the process of compiling notes for the forum, so please bear with the fragments yet to be completed.

Hui May:
Hi all, I’m Hui May, I’ll be showing a few images and discussing works from a few photographers today, the first photographer I’ll be speaking about will be Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer.

On Edward Burtynsky:




Images with courtesy from http://www.edwardburtynsky.com

This is a series of works titled Shipbreaking by Edward Burtynsky, who has traveled from Canada to points in the U.S., Europe, India, Bangladesh and China to document shipbreaking, a process of dismantling decommissioned vessels to salvage materials for reuse and recycling. He artfully documents the entire working process, starting from the arrival of the ships till the physical breaking down of the ship’s structure, which were conducted on the beaches of Bangladesh.

During the monthly high tide, the ships are taken 50 kilometers (31 miles) offshore where they are driven directly towards land at full speed. After the ships are lodged on the effluvial flats of the Ganges River, the receding tides give the workers ready access to them. These images are all taken with large format cameras.

I’m interested in how photographers go about doing their projects. Burtynsky carried out extensive research to approaching his subjects, trying to find a time of year when the atmospherics would be good for the shoot.... He even asked a guide to make him a map and draw a line where the sun comes up and goes down, so that he would know where the ships were and how the sun was going to play on the lights and shadows.

On Robert Polidori:
The next photographer I’m going to show is Robert Polidori from the book titled “After The Flood”, taken during four extended visits after Hurricane Katrina between September 2005 and April 2006 in New Orleans. These photographs show widespread destruction resulting from significant event in global warming as well as systematic failure in government response. So I’m going to show quite a few images, which I think are very powerful.



In an interview, Robert Polidori said that he was interested in portraying psychology loss and fatal, so we can ask ourselves what do we feel when we encounter images like this.

The interiors of the house are how individuals externalize their internal values. Just like what we hang on our walls, what kind of furniture we have, reveals what kind of person we are. They are a materialization of interior lives.

On Sophie Ristelhueber:
Next photographer I’m showing is Sophie Ristelheuber, one of my favorite photographers. She photographs what she calls, the details of the world. They are the details of conflicts, details of traces of history. Details of the world are like dust on the body, wounds that are not healed. She has photographed war-torn places such as Iraq, Kuwait and Bosnia.

These are from an exhibition I saw of hers, I think it was held 2002 at the Museum of Fine arts in Boston. La Campagne (1997). The title translated as both countryside and military campaign, the images, seemingly picturesque countryside landscapes, reveals disquieting evidences of conflict upon closer inspection. These images are mounted on aluminum sheets without frames and some of them were just stacked up against the wall like that, she gave very little contextualizing information, everything is fragmented which leaves possibilities of multiple readings and open-ended. She also had some pictures that were free standing which she did not hang, they were just standing upright.

I am going to show some images of my past works.
This is a series I did in Boston. They are taken during my 1st year in Boston, after 911. Like most people who don’t live in New York, we experience the events through television and images, images that are mulitated. I found a site in Chinatown in Boston, which I went back repeatedly to photograph, through the course of 3 months. I was interested in traces of history and the people left behind the kind of garbage that was thrown. I was also playing with light, colours, shapes and lines.

When I was shooting this, uh… alright, this is a personal story: my mum had a stroke when I was 20, she was in a coma when she was in the IDU. I think she was really very bad at the time and the doctor told us: “Your mum’s body is like a broken pipe”, it can never be mended. Haha… as you know doctors should all have training in how to relate to patients in a more sensitive manner. He made me look at how objects can be symbols or metaphors for the human body.

I printed the images in 2 pieces. Don’t really know why, they reference my feelings about 911, a particular plight in Boston, and they reference my mum’s death, but they are also just images. I think by having a slit in the middle brings the viewer back into the materiality of the photographs. So it starts to encompass all these different histories and different time. Till today, I’m not sure if they’re successful, it was just something that I needed to do at a particular time. I also have a very strong interest in painting, like the abstract painting as you can see some of my photographs, are referenced from painters and gestures of painting. They were shot in a space of about 6 days.

On Michael Light:

The last photographer that I’m showing will be Michael Light, a San Francisco based photographer. This image is from his show called “A Hundred Suns”. They are images of nuclear testing, by scientists. The images are from the archives in Los Alamos National Laboratory and the US National Archives in Maryland. Between 1945 and 1992, the United States detonated 1149 nuclear test explosions, an astonishing number. Until 1962, the tests were conducted in the atmosphere and in oceans. 216 nuclear tests were exploded 63 miles from Las Vegas, in the desert areas. The remaining tests were detonated in the Pacific Ocean. Till today, the immediate and lasting consequences of the nuclear tests are still unknown.

Michael Light is a photographer whose works draws a lot on the politics of environment and American cultural and social relationship with the environment. So he got access to these photos through the archive in which he either scanned or rephotographed them. The colours that we see are its original colours.

These are images about power and violence, questioning how we deal with beauty in the face of horror.
(For further readings, pls go to http://www.michaellight.net/100suns)





Jason Wee:
Hi all, I’m Jason. Uh, I didn’t bring many of my past works along, so probably I’ll just show you a few of it. As you can see here, I shot in both colour and b/w which are two different sets, looking at the same theme of lost spaces. The b/w images seen here were shot with medium format, traditional b/w. These anonymous spaces are real spaces, but you are just unable to tell where they are. The colour ones are images I’ve taken of places that don’t exist. I’m going to read you some thoughts I have about developing this work, referencing from an Encyclopedia in New York...

(as the texts were too long, we are unable to post it. Do request a copy of Jason's notes through email at gallery@kayngeetanarchitects.com)

What I did was I took 15th and 16th century maps, which started with maps from Southeast Asia. The explorers who constructed the 15th and 16th century maps had little but incomplete idea of how Asia look, like knowing that China has coastline, but has no knowledge of how long or wide the arc is. They knew that some islands exist after China, so they just drew islands randomly in the straits map. After a while, they thought Indonesia was a bunch of islands, so in the more updated map, south of China there were just clutters of dots, but these conclusions were all flawed. I was thinking why the explorers thought this was an accurate map of Asia, this is the most cutting edge document of our time that could get to this day. I was thinking what if he had a camera, what did he think he would see looking at the map if the map was accurate?
So what I did was I took these coastlines I want to call them fake but it’s not fake, they’re real but not real, they can represent Japan for example. But it’s not accurate as all the borders are lost, in the map Japan connects up to Russia. they have no idea how far the island goes.

The Chinese maps are funnier, funny is that the conventions are written more similar to us. They just draw a dotted line and indicate the distance and state the inlets to watch out for on coasts. They don’t draw us accurate of what we thought is accurate.

I rendered the map of Japan through four different seasons. I rendered it on computer and using a virtual camera I took a picture of it.
So recently I was framing the finished images for the show, the framer kept asking, “Wah. You take one uh? Where you go uh? All four different seasons uh?”

As these maps don’t provide alleviation so I have to come up with my own. And then, I figured that for Japan was not fixed. *laughs Yup… so it’s not accurate anyway.
So I was using a gaming software, incidentally a guy uses it whose book is published by Aperture. But the technology is behind, with some limitations. For video games, you can design a local landscape but meaning you can still render a country but cannot render a map, now that with better technology you can render a landscape with the entire plan. Still, the engine was re-serviced where it was actually used in the Jessica Biel movie called “Stealth” about the fighter airplane. They used it in the scene where they send something to Mars, they used it to render Mars, to give the idea of what Mars looks like.

For my case, I was trying to base on referring to something real but not quite. On the day of the show, I’ll bring a copy of the map over. The first step I did was based on three different maps, the one for this shot is just taken on one. Well, the first three I thought like I didn’t explore the richness of these maps enough. So I thought of trying out a different map. I wanted to take on Asia, so I went all the way north and sort of downwards. So I thought I’ll just work on the whole set on Japan.

Currently doing a series on Australia, as I just worked before on Cheng Ho. Got inspired by this playwright, Guo1 Bao3 Kun1 who wrote Descendents of the Eunuch Admiral which had this really wonderful scene in it, in this Bao3 Fang2 (Treasure Room). This treasure room is really strange where the castrated bits of the eunuchs were kept, most talked about but no one has ever seen it. The record number of eunuchs was more than five thousand, so imagine the number of bits that’ll be in that room. These have to be returned to the owner when they died, as Chinese has the belief in buried whole. But no one has ever seen them, no right? So can you imagining how frustrated you’ll be if you’re eunuch? You don’t have any idea if your bit is still there, you don’t feel whole, and you’re held like someone’s controlling you. Because Bao Kun is so interested in hierarchy and genders, so he created a scenario where it’s like a huge archive, the eunuchs’ bits go up when they’re promoted and when they’re demoted the bits go down. So during promotion day, you see the bits going up and down.

(to be continued)

4 comments:

Alfred said...

glad to see you back in town :) would be nice to have seen more of your works online...

cheers
red alf

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