Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Michael Jennings on Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
Maria Adams on Amusing cats versus important people
Brian Micklethwait on Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
6000 on Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
Simon Gibbs on Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
6000 on Painted people
Michael Jennings on Painted people
6000 on Painted people
Michael Jennings on The Mayor and the towers
Michael Jennings on T20 fun and games
Most recent entries
- Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
- Photographing while on a skateboard
- National Theatre Boo
- Red arrow?
- James II dressed as a Roman
- Ten years ago today
- Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
- Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
- VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
- Vauxhall bus station now – and when it was being constructed
- Painted people
- A slightly foreign part of London
- Spot the owl
- Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
- Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Art
In Germany. Done just with paint. Excellent, I think. Found here (scrolling down is highly recommended). Which I found because 6k recently linked to the same site, concerning something else, also very entertaining.
Only this here today, but that is mostly because I have finally ended my dry spell at Samizdata, with a posting that I started writing only with this little place in mind.
The thing that most pleases me about this latest effort is that I finally managed to pin down exactly what it was that I so liked about those Gormley Men, whom I photographed in 2007 and finally got around to blogging about here in 2011.
Here is part of what I just put at Samizdata:
I still remember fondly the time in London, in the summer of 2007, when the dreary concrete of London’s South Bank Arts district and nearby parts was invaded by a small army of naked metallic Gormleys. The many identical Gormleys were not, in themselves, especially inspiring. But look on the bright side. Nor were these Gormleys bent-out-of-shape semi-abstract grotesques, mid-twentieth-century style.
Bingo. Not heroic, but at least not villainously anti-human.
And although in themselves ordinary, the Gormleys were often standing in very interesting and inspirational places, high above the streets, up on the roofs of tall buildings:
A photo there, of a Gormley on the top of the Hayward Gallery.
Stick anyone on a pedestal – in general, look up at them – and they look more impressive. They look like they deserve to be looked up to. This positioning of all those South Bank Gormleys suggested (yes yes, to me – I admit that all this is very personal) ordinary men at least looking, very admirably, towards less ordinary and more inspiring far horizons. Some of the Gormleys were looking downwards, but most were looking out ahead. What all these Gormleys were not doing was just standing in Art galleries, staring miserably at their own feet, with signs next to them full of demoralising Art-Speak drivel. They raised the spirits of of almost all of those who gazed up at them.
I included in the above paragraph a link to this earlier Samizdata posting, about the difference between how the same sculpture looks, depending on the angle you look at it from.
A great deal of creative thinking consists of putting two things that you have already thought about next to each other, which previously you had only been thinking about in different parts of your brain.
The Gormley Men were ordinary, neither heroic nor villainous. But when looked at from below they looked more heroic than they really are. So to speak.
One of the rules I have developed for my own photographic activities is to try always to take pictures, in among all the merely nice pictures, which tell me where I was and what these nice pictures were of.
I do not always follow this rule. Rules are like that. The ones you follow all the time, automatically, don’t have to be rules. It’s the rules you often break which are nevertheless good which have to be rules, to persuade you to follow them more than you would otherwise.
Here, for instance, is a fun snap:
That was taken on June 29th 2007, 5.38pm (plus 30 seconds), a fact which I now know because my camera automatically recorded it. I called the photo ArtHasItsUses, as this young guy is demonstrating. But, where are we? I have two other snaps of the same scene, but none of them include any information about exactly where we are, like a street name. Nor did I photo the plaque at the bottom of the sculpture, as I often do. This would likewise have given me some useful words to google, and offered me the opportunity to supply a link to other works by the same artist. But I did neither of these sensible things.
I tried following the phone number that you can see behind the Thing, but before anything would tell me anything about that (maybe) then the anythings in question demanded to know all kinds of things about me, and I gave up.
I understand that many cameras nowadays automatically record exact place of shot along with exact time of shot. Mine is not such a camera.
A vague clue is that, judging by other photos taken somewhat earlier, I appear to have been in the general vicinity of Islington, North London. But where? And what is this rather agreeable Thing? Who did it? Anybody?
Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures. He chooses his favourite. I choose this one:
One of the speculations I offered in my recent talk about the impact of digital photography was that digital photography has greatly encouraged this kind of temporary art.
Recently I heard tell of some kind of performance art event where cameras were forbidden. My googling skills did not enable me to track down any report of such an event, but I am guessing that one of their motives was to avoid the creation of an object, which someone might later buy, and then (perhaps for a great deal more money) sell. And I further guess that the “artists” in question were being deliberately contrary, as artists typically like to be these days, and chose to do the daft, counter-intuitive thing. The obvious response to temporary art is to take pictures of it, to make it permanent. So, said the artists, let’s forbid that, and be different.
But most people who do something “creative” want some kind of record or product of their efforts, something to show for it. Literally, some thing, to show. And the fact that it is now so totally easy to create such things, such records, and communicate them far and wide to friends and family, real and virtual, must surely increase the attraction of doing such temporary art. Art, that is to say, that in the past would have been temporary, but which can now be made permanent. See also: painting, sand castles, ice sculptures.
As to what these particular people are communicating with their body assemblages, what it speaks to me of is the futility of life in the world now, for young people, educated, unemployable, unneeded, probably in debt.
To the right of this image is to be found the following verbiage:
The reasons for why East London has seen the flowering of street art are manifold. The post-industrial legacy of Shoreditch’s crumbling low-rise warehouses, not only provides an environment in which the artists and designers can do their work, but East London’s proximity to the City of London provides an economic source of support for the artists and designers; and finally Shoreditch with its building sites, old dilapidated warehouses provides a canvas upon which those artists can display their work and increase their commercial value.
Mostly revolutionary chic to pay the rent, I’d say. Which, on balance, I quite like, because it gets up the noses of the real revolutionaries.
Plus it gets up the noses of the Art Twats by being understandable and entertaining without them having to explain what it means.
More East End street art here. In fact, lots more, if you scroll back through the archives there.
Definitely my favourite recent photography related photo:
Pity about the car.
That talk I gave at Christian Michel’s was really just a ragbag of different thoughts I have had over the last few years about digital photography and its effects and uses. One of the effects I speculated about - having already done so beforehand, here was that digital photography has encouraged temporary art, such as graffiti, ice sculpture, and the like, by rewarding it with a permanence and swankableness that would, pre digital photography, have been hard to contrive.
Yesterday, following one of David Thompson’s Friday Ephemera links to some bizarre hyper-realistic painted wood sculptures, I came across yet another variant on the theme of artistic temporariness, in the form of some particularly fine sandcastles, done by someone called Calvin Seibert:
I chose a sandcastle picture that included the sea in it, to emphasise the fact that this wonderful creation will very soon be swallowed up and turned back into beach. In King Canute’s time, that would have been that, but we now live in the post-Canute age. Waves can be stilled, and sandcastles can stand on beaches for ever.
Incoming from Simon Gibbs:
Near the mayors blob
And there was a photograph attached to this message, “sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone”:
On the left there, as we look at it, is the Mayor’s Blob that Simon mentions, near the Shard, and a building I am very familiar with, at any rate from the outside. In the middle, something new, which Simon knew I might be keen to check out. So, he photos it, and sends it to me.
Neither Simon nor I are asking anyone to think that this is a good photograph, in the technical sense. Don’t click on it, because it is quite big enough as is. Simon is probably a bit appalled that I am even showing it to anyone, even in the almost total privacy that is BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. But the photo suffices for its purpose, which is not to delight attenders at an art gallery (real or virtual), merely to provide me with information, should I be interested. (Although actually, this is the kind of thing you often do see in an art gallery nowadays, put there by an artist trying, as most artists must these days, to be contrary. “Good” photos are so twentieth century, my dears. Imagine the blurb, as written by this guy.)
I show this casual snap because it illustrates a typical use of digital photography, which is the communication of information, potentially in real time. Me being so hopelessly twentieth century in my uses of twenty-first century tech, I don’t know when he took this photo. It duly arrived on my desk, via my clunky old twentieth century desktop computer. Was it taken only seconds before Simon sent it to me? Perhaps he can tell us. But my point here is that he could have. And like him, I could have been as much on the move as he clearly was, while still as connected to the world as he was.
Here we see photography not as the nineteenth and then twentieth century mechanisation of oil painting, but as a twenty first century amplification of conversation. “Ooh, Brian might like to see that, snap. Hi Brian. Take a look at this.” Try doing that with a twentieth century phone. You could, in this case, after a fashion, but it wouldn’t be nearly so quick, definite and easy.
I am giving a talk on Monday evening at Christian Michel’s about The Impact of Digital Photography, and this is the kind of thing I will be talking about.
Digital photography was, or so I recall reading recently, invented by NASA, not so much to take photos, as to communicate photos, of other planets from robot cameras on space-ships, back to planet earth. Yes.
The logical mid-to-late twentieth century end-point of episodes like this, after you have thrown in a big dash of this sort of stuff, is (see above): telepathy.
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Owl at Canning Town railway station
Edwin is a bad person
Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Hong Kong housing that looks like abstract art
A mannequin in Tachbrook Street sheds light on the nature of perception
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Wandering about afterwards
Art without Artists
Cheap hippos are hard to find
An afternoon in Croydon
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Photographers at Eros and Art in the tube
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
Hockey Stick art
A pill that turns sweat into perfume
Release Ai Weiwei
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Quota photo by someone else
Tiny Cardboard Box People Appear All Over Singapore
Spray can girl in Leake Street
A good bit about the future of art galleries and how to rescue good bits
Large areas the same colour on the first first day of spring
The right to photograph
Abstract satellite expressionism
The Min-Kyu Choi folding three point plug
Cat blogging and Gormley blogging
The Wheel through some Art
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
More random links
A little drunk blogging
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
If it’s not Art it can be rather fun
An abstract view of Kings Place
Lump art and dinner in sky
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
Two adverts in the tube
Photos are better
Art is always a value judgement
Classic car thinness
Sounding like a different country
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
There’s a crack in the cracks at Tate Modern
Three proper photos … and three Billion Monkeys!!!
Photography is not dead
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
It only takes two idiots
Man may not sit on Art bed and be photoed by Billion Monkey lady friend!
Venus by the river
Tate Modern Extension
Wichita line (and colour) man
Skill and Post-Skill
The Million Dollar Homepage