What is the value of art?

In his latest article Marco Bohr comments on the recent sale of a Francis Bacon painting for $142 million dollars.  The article follows the line that art at this level is now bought as an investment rather than for the value of the work.  Further, the article explores the 1:99 ratio (super rich: the rest of humanity) postulated by the Occupy Movement and how it relates to the purchase of art.

The 99% are the masses – who have become the target, work force and consumers who produce riches for the 1% mega-rich elite in our straightened economic climate of ‘later capitalism’ and the post economic-crisis world.

Bohr contrasts the art market of the super rich, with a new art which talks to its viewers, and is often free to all via the internet.  The new art comments on he crisis of mega-capitalism, where small business and the individual are subsumed by ever-more-greedy corporations and monopolies.

‘The value of this art – an art that depicts late capitalism in crisis – cannot be measured by financial means, but rather, it must be measured in its ability to freely communicate and establish new perspectives on a quickly shifting social and economic condition.’ Marco Bohr.

One wonders then, how modern living artists who are creating because they have something to say, will survive financially in such a world.  Academia is a possible income source for some.  Most others are forced to take other employment in order to eke out a living so as to continue to create.

I am one artist whose work is part of a group show coming up next week.  Here the works will be priced in the hundreds, not multi-millions, of dollars and sold to people who appreciate them for their message and aesthetics.  This art speaks to its audience, it is not a mere entry in an accountants spreadsheet.


To shoot or not to shoot?

“Take nothing but [fill in the blank]” on Seascripts: Cavalier at Sea:115 days circumnavigating the Atlantic Ocean aboard the MV Explorer website, retrieved 29th October, 2013, http://bookofash.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/take-nothing-but-fill-in-the-blank/

When we shoot photographs are we missing out?

This article commenting on a trip to Ghana where photography is not allowed, makes the point that, by always being on the lookout for photographic angles, we may miss out on the whole experience.

The MV Explorer is a university ship, run by the University of Virginia, where students spend a semester at sea studying and touring.  The writer of the article is a graduate teaching assistant on the study tour, teaching Marine Biology and Global Music.

The premise of the article is that, by filming and taking photographs, we focus only on the sense of sight (and, in the case of movies, sight and sound).  We discount the other senses of smell, taste and touch – which are vital for creating the whole experience.

Further, in seeking for the perfectly framed shot on our digital camera screen, we lessen the ability to record the whole experience as a memory.

It can be argued that, while recording of experiences and ideas outside of the mind allows for a greater analysis and greater complexity and development of ideas, the use of such recordings lessens our ability to use our memories.  Is our use of records as an aid to memory actually contributing to the loss of memory that seems inevitable as we age?

The author of this article suggests that the stricture found in Ghana banning photography led to a heightening of the experience and, perhaps, a better memory of those experiences over time.  She comments that, indeed, it is the sense of smell that most triggers memory. (Toffolo, Smeets & van den Hout 2012)

Especially when on holidays, or travelling abroad, we are often so intent on framing our next photo to share, we strip our whole experience of all other senses but vision.  ‘… in transferring our memories to the screen, we all too often forget to transfer the screen to our memories.’

This lessening of the importance of mind memory occurs when we use other recording devices also.  When we write something down, we take less care to remember it.  We can listen to recorded music over and over again, but it will never be the same experience as a live performance with all its memory triggers – the lighting and sense of place, the hard or comfortable seating, the smells of place and people and the extra sound dimension of acoustics of place and the wrap around sounds of the whole experience.

The author comments that the sign below would better reading, ‘Take nothing but memories.’

take nothing but photographs kakum ghana

In our haste to record our lives, we need to remember to live them, savour the experiences good and bad and drink in those memories.

Toffolo, MBJ, Smeets, MAM & van den Hout, MA 2012, ‘Proust revisited: Odours as triggers of aversive memories’, Cognition & Emotion, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 83-92.

Austerity and Visual Propaganda: blowing the whistle on Murdoch press’s fight against the poor

Marco Bohr’s latest article, Austerity and Visual Propoganda highlights yet another campaign by the highly successful sculptor of public opinion – the Murdoch press.  mum-682_1138433aWe got 60-inch telly on benefits, The Sun, October 2010

Marco Bohr analyses some sensationalist articles in Murdoch’s right-wing British tabloid The Sun which aim to present welfare recipients as culpable and unworthy of any support from taxpayers.  In particular, the photographs on which the articles comment show whole families (often with large numbers of children) photographed in their own homes.  The images tend to show some of the trappings of wealth like large modern television sets and new furniture.  The impression intended is ‘You (i.e. the ‘hard-working working and lower-middle class) can’t afford this, but these people are spending your taxes to get it.’  All the photographs are shot looking down – belittling the subjects and making the viewer/voyeur feel superior and judgmental.

Marco Bohr contrasts these images with an image of Lewis Hine, Spinners and doffers in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Dozens of them in this mill, 1908, in which poor children are seen standing in front of the factory machinery on which they work.  The photographer shoots the subjects from eye level – as equals, who have great dignity and deserve empathy and respect.  Lewis Hine - Spinners and doffers in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Dozens of them in this mill, 1908

This article once again brings to the fore the ease with which mass media can polarise issues.

One very close to home issue came to the fore again this week in another Murdoch paper – the Geelong Advertiser.

At the weekend a huge cycling event Around the Bay in A Day, passed through Geelong.  There were around 14,000 participants, at least 10,000 of whom cycled through Geelong city and then either to Melbourne or Queenscliff.  For any other mass recreational activity of this size the Geelong Advertiser would publish at least one eight page supplement of photographs, names and articles.

However, the Geelong Advertiser‘s  angle was a photograph and derogatory article about some of the participants who were seen to break road rules.  There was no positive comment that this was only a tiny proportion of the whole group, and certainly no eight page positive spread of images.  The Advertiser invited readers to make comments on its web page, which would then be published in the paper.  To cap this off, the editorial was a diatribe against the event and against cyclists breaking the law.

On Tuesday, some of these comments were printed in the paper.  All those printed were negative: some were close to inciting violence against cyclists.  Yet at least one positive comment about the cyclists and cycling was not accepted and certainly not printed.

This is not the first time that the Geelong Advertiser has targeted cyclists, and encouraged a confrontational ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach to cycling.

Add this to the fact that, at a national level in Australia, the Murdoch press controls the largest circulation papers in all the major cities.  The ongoing negativity of the Murdoch press to any social reforms, refugees, and any left of centre political movements, and deliberate destabilising and demonising of left of centre political leaders was, in my opinion, a major factor in the result of the recent federal election.

This points up the need for us to become visually literate and sceptical of what we read and hear in the mass media.  We need to educate ourselves and our children to read images effectively, to understand that while the lens shows what is put in front of it, the image we see may have been willfully manipulated.  The camera doesn’t lie, but the photographer certainly does.

Nowadays, at least in the Murdoch press, there is often little distinction between news and editorial commentary.  It is a frighteningly effectively propaganda machine.

Photographs from Visual Culture Blog.  

A new way to photograph the body – The art of Emma Hack

Emma Hack is a body artist.  She makes amazing images with body painting – from camouflaged works to her latest body sculptured images for The Mercury Project with the West Australian Ballet.emma-hack-2

Image from the Frances Broadhurst wallpaper series.  Image source: http://www.australianedge.net/cities/adelaide/photographer-artist-emma-hack/ .

Emma Hack gained fame when she was commissioned to do the body art for singer Gotye’s film clip Somebody I used to Know

I first saw her work at Seaview Gallery in Queenscliff several years ago.  At that time, the work that really impressed me was the Birds of Prey series.  Models were posed and painted become hidden in the background of Florence Broadhurst wallpaper, and then photographed holding birds of prey.  The painstaking work takes many hours to complete, taking a physical toll on both artist and model.

For her early work, Emma Hack employed photographers to photograph her work.  However, she now does her own photography for her gallery pieces.  These are produced as limited edition high quality prints.

From the early, more decorative work, Emma Hack has moved on to produce work with emotional depth and showing a great understanding of the body.  Her collaboration with a troupe of acrobats, working in the Gawler Ranges and Ceduna areas of South Australia produced an amazing set of images titled Panoramic Bodies. 

Emma Hack - Panoramic Bodies V web

The Prayer, 270x135cm & 150x75cm

The body sculpture in the foreground mimics the form of the dead tree.

This series, and other series like Cowscape, which highlights the plight of South Australian farmers faced with losing their stock in drought, her work Bodycrash (highlighting road trauma) for the South Australia Transport Accident Commission https://i1.wp.com/resources3.news.com.au/images/2012/10/23/1226501/761247-emma-hack.jpgand her more humourous comic-style series Pop! it isn’t surprising that Emma Hack was chosen when the West Australian Ballet wanted some eye-catching publicity material for its latest season. 

The National Gallery of Victoria – St Kilda Road

Yesterday was the opening of the NGV’s latest photography exhibition Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion .  The photography is stunning, and the fashion, slinky, exclusive and beautiful.  131019 NGV st K road001 web

So is the wonderful St Kilda Road building – designed by Melbourne architect Roy Grounds, and opened, as the first stage of the new Melbourne Arts Centre, in 1968.  At that time, there was considerable controversy over the stark bluestone building, with inner courtyard and Great Hall, with stained glass ceiling by artist Leonard French.  (I was lucky enough to take part in one of the very first events in the Great Hall – the acoustics were stunning.)

Light in an important part of any art gallery.  In walkways and corridors, the bright sunlight creates beautiful shadow pictures.