Monday, 2 December 2013

The resurrection series #4


One of the latest photographers to come from the streets, Matthew Schnickens is also a regular contributor to Better Never Than Late, a blog revelling street culture, menswear, going out and generally being sick. He conjures his lens into capturing the magic of urban landscapes - the tower blocks capture and radiate sunlight, which outshines their clichéd desolate texture and highlights the autonomy and buoyancy of living in urban neighbourhoods. Matthew emphasises that every aspect of our surroundings is of equal importance and each contributes to the atmosphere rather than pollute it, conceivably a metaphor for taking pride in and appreciating your social and cultural background.







Saturday, 30 November 2013

The resurrection series #3


Josh Cole is the notorious gangster amongst contemporary street photographers. His foolhardy involvement in somewhat illicit activities in his buoyant post-school years have shaped the narrative of his work, yet swapping his swag for a Kodak unchained him from the criminal past. As a student, aged 23, Josh took to capturing his vibrant array of friends accessorised with rastacaps and American Bulldogs, living it up in their urban neighbourhoods, all dilapidated by the unpoliced energy. Having stacked enough ps, he boarded a plane and moved onto members of street gangs from the most poverous countries around the world. The photographs exult vigour and expose the beauty of truth - Josh sees life for what it is - and the images capture it in all it's shapes and colours, all of which unite to give greater depth and dimension. Josh befriends all of his subjects and welcomes them into his lens to ease and liberate their emotions. The outcome illustrates how each individual fits into the world and what they contribute to make it so multihued. More of Josh's work can be found on www.joshcole.co.uk/






Thursday, 28 November 2013

Communication for the nation


It is the year 1990 and Tim Berners-Lee is set on a seraphic journey to the manger where his computer rests to gave birth to the world wide web - one which arguably rivalled that of Jesus himself. That very nativity opened the gate into heaven of alternative new communication between human and machine that has been fluctuating ever since. Today, practically every single one of our everyday objects can listen, change, manoeuvre and interact with us by means of sensors and the internet. However the synergy from human to human has also reformed into an expansive, ever-evolving entity - researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco at the University of Washington claim to have developed a brain-to-brain interface which allows one person to transmit his thoughts through a rubber helmet covered in sensors (which somewhat resembles the inside of an octopus' tentacle) to the other individual's helmet which then jolts particular motor receptor, causing a corresponding muscle to move. As demand for efficiency grows and our spare time decreases, the future of communication will be dictated by our generation's current and future needs.

I therefore questioned members of our sprightly younger generation on how they prefer to interact today and what other mind boggling (and brain interfering) inventions we may have to look forward to. Fear not - the future may not be as dark, cold and detached as one may have predicted. Even though some of the more cynical suggest we might have a 'neuro-scanner' or 'chips implanted in our brains to create a synthetic telekinesis' and robots joining the party to take over daily tasks 'as the entire human race is becoming lazier and lazier'. Surprisingly, a lot of responses celebrate raw, natural communication - today it seems 'visual imagery is very effective' and 'good old body language and a smile. Possibly scent as it's an unconscious one'. 'Heightened level of body language' is certainly the desired imminent synergy, guess there's some emotions hiding behind the 'duck face' profile pics after all. Even though the opportunity for communication is enabled through technology, 'to build or develop and to sustain you need more than just an opportunity – you need a core. And the core of pretty much everything is based on relationships'.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The resurrection series: #2


This week the series introduces 'Dumplinggirl' whose lens captures her globe-trotting journey from Massachusetts. Her Flickr photo stream narrates a life brimming with adventure and warrants that everyone has their own colourful story to share, be they a professional photographer or not. Each photo speaks with its own personality and could be mistaken for a still from a romantic 70s film. What's more, she has a knack for capturing her friends at perfect moments to put across their individuality and temperament, rendering the work that much more relatable. Take a look at the rest of her images on http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainjrops/








Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Italian Stallion(ette)

'Family Portrait'


'Many people are saying my work looks feminist' blurts out the London-adopted Italian illustrator in her native animated fashion. Who could've expected a boisterous voice of that magnitude to fit into such a slight frame, 'most of my subjects are women - I wouldn't consider myself a feminist. My work is a statement of my personality. I link my creative process to personal satisfaction, creating something that I consider beautiful.' Certainly she must be satisfied with the spirited collages that appear to reminisce old film stills, renovated by those of current news reports - all intertwined into a moving story which converses a poetic portrayal of the mundane subject of politics.

The move to England two years ago opened a door for her insight into the smoke-filled room polluting our lungs, which materialises within most of her pieces: 'I like my work to be engaged in the surrounding political and social scenes'. Ceci, as she likes to be called, bellowed her gallant take on the subject loud enough to be heard and duly featured by the ICP magazine which tracks current developments within global international relations. The harsh reality of the political impact in Britain today is impossible to ignore and Cecilia's take is that 'most of the conservatives' choices don't mean a positive change for the nation - they are aggravating the social gap between the working and the ruling classes, making the price of life generally higher.'

The hierarchy of politics and it's adverse consequences ignite her creative drive. 'The political scenery is not so much about left or right. It's much more about the effectiveness of the political choices and it's closeness to people. If everyone had a critical consciousness of what is happening around us then maybe they'd take care of the choices that create damage to the world we live in.' She herself crusaded to raise the said consciousness by joining in protests against cuts to education funding and impelled the public to take action, after all 'loud tone and Italian accent can be a winning combination.'

'All these issues are connected and derived from individual choices so to change the world from the basis, I'd change the system of information that we have in order to defeat the general ignorance diffused in society.' - let's hope that the future will be as rosy as David Cameron's soon-to-be blushing cheeks.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The resurrection series


Amidst fashion's totalitarian regime reproducing an army of clone models, all marching to the same beat, faces either lifeless or furious, scanning the parameter for their next target, projects such as All Walks Beyond the Catwalk are raising awareness about age, race and size to help expand, diversify and multi-tone the industry. In the last couple of decades, LVMH's dictatorship, has crushed the 60s evolution of personal styles screaming out individuality and self-expression, with it's polished campaigns of a bland, utopian world where money grows on trees. Mournful for the death of free-spirited attitude, I attempt to salvage what is left by digging up a vigorous hybrid of contemporary editorials and photographers as well as delving into the past to resurrect examples of individuals who embody that liberated, self-assured lifestyle.

Gavin Watson kickstarts the series with his editorial for the french magazine, Wad in 2011. As a skinhead growing up high in High Wycombe, he explored and documented his world and the people around him, namely his revered brother Neville  - a perfect fit to embody the council-estate culture.









Image sources: http://www.thecoolhour.com/2012/02/jack-wright-racquel-smith-by-gavin-watson-for-wad/
http://www.shootgroup.com/2011/10/gavin-watson-fashion-for-wad-magazine-paris-50-floors-issue/
http://www.thecoolhour.com/2012/02/jack-wright-racquel-smith-by-gavin-watson-for-wad/

Friday, 8 November 2013

Blame game


Venturing out to see what the contemporary art world has to offer, I made my way to the Sluice and The Other Art fairs. Sluice's erratic, attic-like layout resembled a chaotic aftermath of children's play (an ambiance further facilitated by the number of children present). Yet it's playful and experimental edge grabbed the show and like play-doh, moulded it into a relaxed and engaging occasion.

The Other Art Fair, however, took on the role of the materialistic, money-grabbing, mother in a suburbia-approved cardigan. The damp, concrete stairs took me up and pulled me back, screaming and shouting, to an A-Level end of year exhibition. All the students stood proudly next to their carefully-crafted pieces, longing for that elusive A*. The alleys of portraits and landscapes with as much imagination as Conor Maynard's lyrics, were nothing but a gentrified version of a middle-eastern market. 

Yet a glimpse of wide, architectural photographs arrested me with their careful, geometric recounts of chaotic, derelict areas such as the Heygate estate, which conjured questions about their history and significance to the artist. I sparked up a conversation with the man behind the lens, Nicholas Gentilli and asked about 'Chimney People', a dimension-warping, surrealist photograph. The process, he explained, involved reconstructing the Tate Modern chimney then overlaying it with images of passers by. Opening my mouth to ask about his creative drive, he hurriedly cut in front of me - 'Are you gonna treat yourself?' narrowing his eyes to scan my modest attire - 'You don't look like you're gonna treat yourself'. With my question answered, I bowed my head and trudged on under the looks down noses that would snort the rolled note before anything else.

Low in spirits (of both varieties) and about to scale up the dismal stairs, a corner alive with bright yellows, reds, greens and a chorus of every other tone magnetised me. The name at the top of the board spelled out 'Panos Antonopoulos' and the work below cried out a sea of energy. It's creator approached me shyly from his position - eyes reserved, yet glinting with colourful history and vigour to explore the realms of creativity, which he went on to divulge.

'Super-human'

The London-based artist is no ordinary Greek. Rising from the ashes of the ongoing 6 year-long economic downturn in his home country, he walks amongst the dampening spirits of the nation, using his paint brush as a weapon to call out the lack of hope and opportunities. Yet along the way he came to believe the ridiculous, egocentric hierarchy of politics is as much to blame as the idleness of the people themselves.

At first trained as an engineer, he felt tied down by the monotony of the work. Deciding on an art pathway came naturally as he began to disentangle from the net of his past and finally found an outlet for his vibrant views. 'I started to experiment myself to find something that can satisfy my ego and apparently I found it through art.' Moving to London again in 2013 (he has been in and out of the city for a few years) alternated his view on the modern social establishment 'London has influenced my view on society in issues like consumerism and a completely uncontrollable financial situation in terms of products and services, under the umbrella of liberalism.'

'What Is Contemporary Art?'

Each one of his artworks is a unique rendition of the governing cartel's callous greed. All bold and contrasting for he proclaims 'everything can be an inspiration. A political event, a poster on the street or another artist. Each work is a different concept, expressed in a different way'. He cites Marcel Duchamp as an inspiration and 'a rebellion of modern art'. Yet Panos himself takes on a defiant stance within today's art sphere, counteracting the bland mainstream mentality: 'art has become quite commercial during the last decades, which was the initial inspiration for my painting' he speaks of 'What Is Contemporary Art?' which questions the infinite translations of art's ambiguous creations and the materialism which has dimmed some of his contemporaries' fiery imagination. 'A very simple artwork can be much more powerful than a complex one. A lot of new elements entered the art game, like technology and art is transforming. Real contemporary art has to do more with the concept and less with the technique. If I start creating art similar to Monet's landscapes or Picasso's cubist paintings in 2013, then I have nothing to offer to the art scene. Those guys did that 100 years ago. It can only satisfy people who just want to put something nice on their walls.'

'Experiment in Berlin'

'I believe that we should be able to challenge and criticise everything that is against us.' 'The Ego and His Own' fabricates this notion by raising the individual 'above the religion, country, family or any kind of society'. Unsurprisingly, the rough and dishonest civic climate both in his home country and the world is a driving creative force. Yet it's the individuals' reactions to these which inhabit the narrative of most pieces: 'I believe that the problem is not primarily financial but cultural. It is the general way of thinking. It is very easy to blame anyone but ourselves. I think that Greece is a fucked up situation, mainly because the majority of people are not willing to take any responsibility for anything and this is why parties like the Golden Dawn or Independent Greeks have such voting percentages.' 

However recently Greece began to take baby steps in a promising direction by absorbing the EU structural funds and generating neoteric schemes to rebuild it's economy brick by fractured brick, 'there is some hope, mainly from young people who are not so 'polluted' like the previous generations and they need to get far away from that.' Panos' art is as frank, loud and liberal as the energy of the youth today, shouting out for us to take initiative and stand up for our rights and against 'the culture of fear'.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Cartrain: from the street to conceit


'Mr Trainwash'

Is he a car? Is he a train? One thing the East London spray-canister assailant knows for sure is that he quite frankly, really doesn't like capitalism. Starting off at Leytonstone, he made his way centrewards to Shoreditch and even the Houses of Parliament in the hope the tourist-begot foot traffic will generate the attention he's after. His path is marked with stencils of well-known consumer products, characters and logos against those of political leaders stressing on the gluttonous, consumerism-driven society and the government's exploitation of it.

With works selling for hundreds of pounds, Cartrain gained his notoriety through the skull/pencil scandal with Damien Hirst's ego. After being sued for using Damien's diamond scull in his 'For the Love Of God' collage, he fought back and called him out on being nothing but a commercial money-making machine by taking hostage his cherished £500,000 pencils residing in Tate Britain. That was not the first time this Robin Hood of street art brought to light profiteering laziness masked by the widely-accepted ambiguity of modern art - he put up a cardboard box at Tate Modern in 2008 and superglued a 'Nike' plate in the British Museum in 2006, both of which went unnoticed for hours. And after all that, this year he finally got the chance to host his own exhibition at the Graffik gallery in May. 

Today, he himself capitalises on recognised logos covering his prints that are at once bold and simple, as if they were generated by a graphic designer. The works intend to uncover the hidden cracks within the social order, how we witlessly flock to follow the mainstream and the fact the conglomerates' marketing strings us along like puppets to spend more and more money. Why is it that the poor are working to fill the pockets the rich and are rewarded with horse meat in their burgers and chicken heads in happy meals? These questions raised within his work have been twisted with irony by his move away from producing free public street art to canvas prints the price of which reaches a modest £750. All the pieces sell out instantly - seems that people never got his message of consumerism after all. Cartrain is surely on the road (or tracks) to generating more revenue thanks to the capitalist society he so despises.

 'Warhol Fries Chicken'


Image sources: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mhodgins/7889081070/
http://www.artofthestate.co.uk/blog2/index.php/tag/cartrain/
https://scontent-b-lhr.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/77128_360629407390938_580782733_n.jpg

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Space-age clubbing (outside of Cyberdog)






M&C Saatchi recently asked Neon House, Daero Ra and Adrian Law to create an installation for the House of Peroni and the outcome was a new-age DJ booth which opened the door to a neoteric form of interaction between the DJ and his audience. The booth was home to resident DJ Alessio Natalizia who threw his beats out from within the steel cube frame wrapped by two kilometres of fluorescent nylon string. The neon glow of the string rocketed the booth into a 'space-age' feel, coinciding with it's futuristic, innovative concept which combines sound and movement into one. The structure is reminiscent of modern pop-up, open-space architecture which encourages interaction by reducing walls and boundaries and bestowing the visitor with power to control their environment. The relationship between the DJ and his audience has grown and developed from the all-night dance parties to Jack Your Body and Strings of Life to the M25 congregations where ravers took over and blasted their electronic sounds over quiet suburban towns and to today's dark, undiscerning underground maze that is Fabric where the location of the tap water man is the only thing anyone's really sure of. Music for the DJ is a tool to converse with his audience, to set the mood and to provoke a reaction which usually materialises itself in uncontrolled shuffling and arm-jerking. However, the booth in question lets the listener touch the outside strings which in effect create a melody, playing alongside that of the DJ. Is this be the future of clubbing? Will we soon be the ones dictating the music through our own movement and feelings rather than the other way around? I spoke to the duo behind the installation to find out.


____________________________________________

HOW DID THE IDEA COME ABOUT?
DAERO RA: An interaction booth was needed for the House of Peroni's marketing event. There was a plan to make the DJ booth interactive and communicate with the audience in real time.
ADRIAN LAW: The event lasted for the better part of June over at Portland Place. What started out as a neon string structure to simply house an Italian DJ manifested into making the entire installation interactive, which is when we were brought into the mix.

DO YOU CLUB A LOT? WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THE CLUB SCENE TODAY?
DR: To be honest I don't enjoy loud or noisy places. However, a DJ playing music is a great idea! In a club, the DJ leads the atmosphere.
AL: Well yes frequently as I believe it's an expression of how we live our lives in contemporary times. The actual premise behind this was to create a unique connection between the DJ, the structure, the music, and the audience - this truly was the heart of this interactive art installation, and because of that the magnitude of its impact was quite unprecedented.

DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A PARTITION BETWEEN THE DJ AND THE CROWD? CAN THE INTERACTION BE PUSHED FURTHER?
DR: If there are interactive ways to communicate between the DJ or environment and the people, it must be more exciting and interesting!
AL: The clubbing scene, I would consider to be a venue, or rather a canvas in which this sort of artwork can take place. To that end I think that the interaction between the DJ and the Crowd is being experimented even now, and the partition between them is challenged. I recall going to a Silent Disco event at the Royal Festival Hall, and what was equally great to the strange yet fun sensation to be dancing in a silent room with headphones on, was that you were listening to awesome music you liked in the same manner that the DJ was with his on! The fact that Jonathan Ross was the DJ made the connection and experience all the more personal. But unconventional events such as Silent Disco and VJ performances are happening, and have been since the dawn of partying, it is just continually evolving, quietly in the background.

DO YOU THINK PROJECTS LIKE NEON HOUSE CAN SHIFT AND LESSEN THE POWER OF THE DJ IN THE FUTURE?
DR: I do think so. Currently, the DJ always watches the audience's responses - these are untouchable. If there is a more clear way to communicate with the audience, it must be more dramatic not only for the DJ but also for the audience because the above is a two-way communication.
AL: Well, arguably DJs are having to evolve to become VJs so that they can still maintain the rhythm and vibe of the nightclub. So I'd say no, it wouldn't because it doesn't seem to have been happening with other interactive projects. Or in other words projects that do weaken the role of the DJ are bad projects for doing so.

MUSIC BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER AND EVOKES A PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL RESPONSE FROM THE LISTENER. THE PROJECT HOWEVER EMPOWERS THE LISTENER TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE MUSIC - HOW DO YOU THINK THIS WOULD CHANGE THE INTERACTION IN A CLUB ENVIRONMENT? WOULD THERE BE A SENSE OF COMPETITION AND LESS UNITY AND COHESION?
DR: The interaction system should be well designed to avoid interrupting each other.
In the House of Peroni's case, I allocated different channels of each sound from each input from stimulus.
AL: This was a principal issue that was brought up during the collaboration - architects whose priority was on their structure - DJ Alessio, who was concerned about contending with such discourse, and us who were worried that we were being brought in to practically make all the magic happen! That's why I would say that by design we were responsible for giving the audience the power of participation, rather than a power to gain control. I had to negotiate between the sound and the structure, so that while the audience was able to interact, the sounds were carefully chosen by Alessio.

WE ARE CONSTANTLY DEVELOPING NEW MEANS OF COMMUNICATION, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR HOW WE INTERACT WITH ONE ANOTHER?
DR: I believe technologies can bring more plentiful and intuitional human communication with human or digital devices. Current interfaces are limited to screens, monitors, and sound interface. Technology will, however, allow more physical and trifling communication with extended, spatial censoring systems.
AL: Participation is definitely our frontier with regards to the future and new methods of communication. Our world has changed with technology, smart phones, social network, blogging etc. - the audience is no longer a passive entity and is more engaged and interactive. The future will definitely involve experimenting with new technology and engaging the artist's audience - the partition between the artist and the audience is shrinking, and that is an exciting and terrifying revelation.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO EXPERIMENT WITH INTERACTIVE ARCHITECTURE FURTHER? WHERE DO YOU SEE THE JOURNEY TAKING YOU?
DR: I will test a new type of Tangible User Interface with a more organic and kinetic design for a particular environment. If devices can save and reload human emotion or feeling and also feel the same feeling in real time, it must be a true communication. My role is to find applicable existing technology and design interactive and touchable interface.
AL: I've been in touch with both Alessio and Neon with the prospects of doing a version 2.0, since all the parties involved were so invigorated with what we had created. Daero and myself are working on a collaboration with Eccleston Square Hotel to produce a collection of interactive sound and light sculptures following in the same spirit. The individual is no longer passive and the world and our way of living is becoming more and more dynamic.


More of Daero Ra's work on http://neodro.blogspot.co.uk/
More of Adrian Law's work on www.adrianlaw.co.uk

Image sources: http://www.seeneon.com/projects/house-of-peroni/?dm_i=F44,1VAB4,4YA29Y,6PKK4,1


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Between the front lines



A visit to the Photographer's Gallery some months ago imbedded an impression (on both brain and retina) so great it still burns to this day - Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin's War Primer 2 stopped everyone at their tracks as they walked past the scattered glass boxes containing some of the 100 published books. It came as no surprise that the London-based duo won the Deutsche Börse photography prize this year: the series of overlaid photographs dug up from the latent realms of the internet relate starkly with the Second World War newspaper clippings. The four line poems that accompany each set of images bond them together and profoundly highlight the lack of progress we've made since the terrorising war years. Each one of the 69 images is a window into a frame of alternative truth masked by today's media - it airs out aspects of prevailing military action which are no more sincere and humane than they were then. Bertolt Brecht’s 1955 original collated clippings of mainstream photojournalism and peeled back their many possible connotations to reveal the Marxist truth through the four line photo-epigrams. The title itself depicts children's schoolbooks which taught them to read - Brecht taught the public to read between the lines of the 'capitalist' photography of the mass media and debunked the cruelty of narcissistic warfare. Broomberg and Chanarin impart Brecht's work to today's 'War On Terror' (aka Bush's capricious game of toy soldiers which many are yet to cease playing) - each image, copiously searched, selected, cut out and stuck in by hand coalesces parts of history together and cries out for the need for progress and change.