petak, 15. veljače 2019.

Chou Ching-Hui - Animal Farm

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Da, ljudski život je bonsai.

Zoo is a space full of imagination and conflict. It symbolizes joy (for visitors), yet it also symbolizes confinement and segregation (for animals). It symbolizes the convenience and marvels of modern life (a collection of rare animals from all over the world), and it also suggests a hint of the apocalyptic salvation of Noah’s Ark (protecting species on the verge of extinction). 
Animal Farm is full of fancy and realistic theater scenes, includes a lot of symbols, matching a familiar interior space with a artificial environment of the zoo, describes “the society is as a cage, where we are jeering at the people living in there”. Animal Farm was shoot by a full-focus camera allowing the audience to clearly see things happening in every corner of the photos and gaining the same feeling with Chou. Animal Farm includes 3 different themes: Body Existence, Life Boundary, and Social Environmental Frame. These themes let the audience rethink the situation, which we are living in.
Invested with a great amount of resources, Chou and his teammates spent for 5 years to plan and do the project, Animal Farm. The shooting of project took place in Hsinchu Zoo and Shou Shan Zoo in Taiwan, which has a very intimate relationship with the idea of the project.

With Taiwan in mind we head for Taipei’s Chini Gallery stand at Art Stage to meet artist Ching-hui Chou and gallerist Audrey Tu. Working initially as a photo journalist Ching-hui Chou soon began to develop and fund his own creative projects which included Frozen in Time, Images of a Leper Colony (exhibited 1995 Taipei Fine Arts Museum and 1997 National Ching-Hua University Arts Center in Hsinchu); Vanishing Breed, images of Workers (exhibited 2002 Taipei Fine Arts Museum and 2004 Quanta Building Hall, Taipei); Wild Aspirations, the Yellow Sheep River Project (exhibited 2009 Taipei Fine Arts Museum and 2010 Istituto degli Innocenti, Florence). The Yellow Sheep River Project was published as a limited edition photography book.
Not surprisingly given the dazzling quality and complexity of his work, Ching-hui Chou is the recipient of numerous awards including for The Yellow Sheep River Project the Golden Butterfly Award, the Red Dot Design Award, and the iF Communication Design Award.
We are especially here to view Ching-hui Chou Animal Farm series first exhibited at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The series of works named after George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm.

The series of complex tableaus were created over a period of five years. Two zoological gardens were used for the locations, Hsinchu Zoo and Shoushan Zoo, which were visited by the production crew on numerous occasions. The complex task of organising the shoots, working with the zoos, gaining permissions to use the sites, care taken not to disturb the animals, creating intricate sets, gathering together and casting the actors and organising the technicians required to complete the project was an immense task. The images were taken at dawn and dusk to create the required atmosphere.
The Animal Farm series is composed of 36 works, the complex tableaus and intimate portraits. The large works are just under two meters wide, the portraits just over a metre wide. So all the works are large in scale.
The complex and fable like tableaus are much more than just replacing the animals in the zoo with humans in the zoo. Chi-Ming Lin, Professor and Chairman Department of Arts and Design, National Taipei University of Education, describes the body of works being presented in three different stages of major social structures that modern humans have not been able to escape and are not realising this fact. The stages are, firstly the structure of body consciousness; secondly the structure of survival consciousness and thirdly the structure of collective behaviour and consciousness.

A Bonsai pine tree features in the works and it has a symbolic meaning and purpose. It is both the artist’s signature, a mark of identity but it also represents the need to adjust to obstacles in life, the bindings representing the tangible and intangible constraints that capture and distort people’s lives.

The work called Animal Farm No 1 was photographed at Hsinchu Zoo in the cage where the Brown Lemurs were kept. In the symmetrical archways Ching-hui Chou captures two sets of young couples working out. The image also includes a painting of classics beauties and a poster of contemporary stars.  Here the artist is telling us that the motive for the exercise has more to do with body image than improving one’s health. The couples are self absorbed, ignoring others while enjoying themselves, a reference to modern fitness centres, and the audience, as if watching animals in the zoo, the audience is guided to examine the contemporary trend of seeking beauty, so much part of contemporary fashion.

The work called Animal Farm No 2 was photographed in what used to be the living area for Muller’s Bornean Gibbons in Hsinchu Zoo. In the spatial setting of the main work, several elements were juxtaposed to compare and contrast the background from the foreground. At the farthest point are real woods spanning across the image, then, concrete buildings painted with jungle images that used to be a resting place for animals, and the temporary settings that mimicked supermarket and living spaces constructed by Ching-hui Chou. The foreground, which is meant to be a living space as well as a display space for the animals, is transformed into a diverse theatre of a modern consumer society and including domestic life. Humans perform a pantomime of daily life in this farm converted from a zoo. The scene appears poetic, beauteous Eden on Earth, seemingly satisfying and worry-free, quiet and peaceful, however, at the same time, the scene reflects the idea that humans are trapped in this continual tableau without being able to break free from their confinement.

The work called Animal Farm No 3 was photographed using a birdcage in the Shoushan Zoo. Ching-hui Chou constructed two spaces on left and right of the image which present a contrast of circumstances. On the left, the indoor space is fully equipped with domestic objects and filled with symbols of safety, peace, good fortune and longevity, such as the bodhisattva statue, an old pine tree, and a crane. However, the old man is sitting on the sofa like a patient as time passes by. To the right of the image is a contrasting balcony space where an old lady on a wheel chair is quietly appreciating the harmonious and glorious sunset. Aging is the inevitable fate that human beings must face, it is just like the net cast over the birdcage which allows no escape. Nonetheless, how one spends their twilight years all depends on attitude of mind and decision in life.

The work called Animal Farm No 4 was photographed at the Chimpanzee cage at Shoushan Zoo. Here Ching-hui Chou built two symmetrical rooms. The room to the right of the image shows an empty study where the work has paused. The distorted portrait of Francis Bacon and the staring animals suggest create an atmosphere of stress in the study. To the left is a bedroom, here the painting is of a holy mother who is breastfeeding a child. The husband watches his wife inject Progesterone. In this orderly space the idea of having a child adds content to their lives. These juxtaposed rooms speak of the dilemma. Particularly regarding the pressures in Asia, of being able to sustain the pressures of having a family and career at the same time.

In Animal Farm No 5 Ching-hui Chou transforms the Barbary Sheep enclosure in Shoushan Zoo into a silent theatre of “art of the market.” In the image, in addition to the gold and silver coins spilled all over the ground, the artist follows the terrain and arranges four painters to perform and display their works. Obviously, this is a world of art as well as a world of money. Taking a closer look, these four artists also represented different artistic preferences. The artist on the top right corner gazes into a modern architectural model in the birdcage, but the painting on his easel is something very different. The second painter in the lower left hand corner of the image is pondering about a sculpture, on his easel is an image of a documentary report revealing war and famine. The third painter in the middle of the scene uses a model, huddled up as if sleeping on the street. Nevertheless, the subject of his painting is a naked woman lying down at her ease. The fourth painter on the lower left hand corner of the image is not using any physical references; he simply composes his work with head portraits from the banknotes of different countries. However, the amount of coins around and under his feet, which represents market value and monetary gains for a work, outperformed all the other artists.

The work called Animal Farm No 6 was photographed at the viewing area for the Celebes Crested Macaque at Shoushan Zoo. The construction of a fashionable and contemporary domestic scene includes a patient like women, pale faced and wearing a robe. In the middle distance the woman appears again this time wearing an elegant blue cheongsam and stretched out on a clinic’s chaise lounge chair. In the front of the work our patient suggests that even the well off cannot eliminate their psychological struggles. A psychotherapist sits maintaining a similar stare, listening and jotting down notes, without interacting with the patient. The wire mesh can be looked through but the high wall at the back of the image excludes the outside view, enforcing a mood of frustration, the powerless psychotherapist and the helpless patient.

The work called Animal Farm No 7 was photographed in the area where the Black Panthers are kept at Shoushan Zoo. The image includes three distinct elements, a night sky with trees, symbolising natural surroundings; a concrete fortress symbolising and animal cage and a central area enclosed by metal bars that signifies a zone of civilisation. The most inner space is a jail with a jail, a cage within a cage. The woman is self absorbed and melancholy and she examines her bleeding nose. The stiches around her waist tell the viewer that the woman has recently undergone liposuction. She is surrounded by designer bags, high-heeled shoes, jewellery, couture clothing, cosmetics and Barbie dolls. Here Ching-hui Chou is telling us that the pursuit of beauty through only physical appearance and consumer fashion items is out of control and here it is compared to religious zealousness.

In Animal Farm No 8 Ching-hui Chou utilises the Orang-utan enclosure in Hsinchu Zoo. This is a natural setting, which merges real and virtual elements. Here the artist places six child actors in different places, four are connected to each other with hoses and seek out one another using flashlights, one girl is sending out communication signals via balloons, as the other girl sits on a platform calmly observing the on-going events. Today smart phones have become more powerful and the mass media continues to develop. New means of communication and Internet communities have replaced face-to-face interpersonal exchanges in a fast-paced and unbounded way. The visual presentation of this work provides strong evidence for “being able to be connected on-line but still feeling all alone.” This is a new social phenomenon felt by more and more people in an era where Internet communities can be formed easily through social media.

Animal Farm No 9 features the Hippo enclosure in the Shoushan Zoo, the image a wedding scene as well as a riddling drama. In the foreground, a male figure in a white wedding dress, is either entering the location or exiting it and is urinating into the pond. In the middle distance, a bride is calmly stepping towards a waterfall, the back of her dress is stained with blood, and the audience cannot tell whether she does not notice or simply does not care. Twins, hard to tell if they are male or female, hold flowers in their hands and are there to witness the ceremony. The Chinese antique chair at the back of the scene is empty, signaling the absence or disapproval of the elders. The artist employs the existing concrete wall and pond to form a third site that embodies “the private joys.” The inflatable doll, the lift ring and the float together create a scene of the lost paradise, representing the surfacing of lust from the subconscious.

Robert Macfarlane and Adam Scovell - Holloway

Pastoralni pred-horror.

Further exploration of Dorset’s sunken pathways by Robert Macfarlane and film-maker Adam Scovell:
In 1971 Derek Jarman made a ten-minute silent short called Journey To Avebury, documenting a summer walk through the chalklands of southern England. The film seems, at first, more pastoral home-movie than avant-garde: sheep graze, footpaths dwindle into the long distance. Gradually, though, an eeriness builds. Where are the people? Who is holding the camera? The landscape feels emptied, rather than empty. Clouds glower and loom. A psychic weather communicates itself to the viewer: close, clammy, threatening. Vital to this atmosphere is the Super-8 film on which Jarman shot the work. Super-8 flickers and blebs. It bleeds. Colours lustre and thicken within it. Its scratchy textures suggest another set of frames underneath, showing through here and there; other stories trying to pry their ways out.
Early last year, I began a collaboration with a talented young film-maker called Adam Scovell. Inspired in part by Jarman, and by the possibilities of Super-8 as a medium that was also a form, we set out to make a short film about the sunken lanes in South Dorset that are known as holloways. I had become fascinated by these strange folds of land: by the manner in which history seemed to repeat – re-pleat – itself within and around them, across centuries, and by the patterns of echo and loop that I perceived the holloways as somehow generating. Super-8 – Adam’s preferred stock – seemed the perfect film on which to shoot this subject, given its palimpsestic surface and its shivery rhythms. I wrote a text to be spoken as voiceover, which I tried to ingrain with doublings and reversals (of image, word, sound). We wanted to make a film that cast a brief strong spell.
Adam spent two days filming in Dorset. He took his 1970s Canon camera, and three 3 ½-minute rolls of Kodak. That was all. No room for error on a nine-minute film. None of the digital luxuries of firing off test-bursts, or letting the camera run. I admired his parsimony and control; wished I could acquire some as a writer. He hit winter days of white light, rain, sun flares and water flooding the bellies of the holloways like mercury.
Then Adam edited. On and off for seven months – getting on for a month per minute. I admired his patience and commitment; wished I could acquire some as a writer. He layered in wildtrack of the holloways, recorded by the artist and composer James Bulley. He underlaid the Super-8 here and there with Stanley Donwood’s artwork: spectral pencil underworld to the celluloid upperworld.
still 1
At last there was a near-final edit. At that point we approached the musician and poet Richard Skelton to see if he would score the film. He agreed, and wrote original music for it. So it came together. Hommage to Jarman and the holloways. A layered film about a layered place; a film of folds about a folded place.
The Super-8 had a last surprise for us, though. Embedded in Adam’s footage were several dark forms, human-ish in outline, unidentifiable but unmistakable, visible within the leaves or the shadows. ‘What the hell is that thing at 2.02?’, I e-mailed Adam. ‘I’m glad you can see it too,’ he replied. ‘My dad thinks I’ve gone mad…’.

It feels odd to finally be able to say that Holloway is finished.  This oddness derives not just from the fact that it has been the longest planned film that I’ve produced so far (starting all the way back from Robert Macfarlane’s first email to me in February 2014) but because the subject of the film itself is never-ending.  The holloways of Dorset do not end because really they fail to leave the minds of those who walk upon their paths.  Technically though, the film is finished and though I have mentioned variously the planning and the process of filming it in several articles, there’s still a few elements that I feel round off the film and project as a whole.
In Robert’s main chapter of writing on the holloways in The Wild Places, he suggests both the process and what could even be termed the genre-like form that I wish the film to sit within:
An artistic tradition has long existed in England concerning the idea of the ‘unseen landscape’, the small-scale wild place.  Artists who have hallowed the detail of landscape and found it hallowing in return, who have often found the boundless in the bounded, and seen visions in ditches. (2007, p.227).
Holloway is immersed in this unseen landscape, aiming to create textures from it in order to provide the very real sense of diving into the underworld that walking these paths actually spawns.  As is refreshing when finally escaping out of these paths and back into vast plains of landscape, it is often contrasted with visuals of the more open aspects of this area; a rural equivalent of Orwell’s “coming up for air” so to speak.
If you managed to catch Robert’s fantastic Guardian article on the “English Eerie” a few months back, you may also be aware of the chief influence on this film; an influence I don’t mind acknowledging as the differences between the work is vast enough to avoid accusations of copy.  In the article Robert mentions that “… the contemporary eerie feeds off its earlier counterparts, as with Millar off Blackwood, Fisher off James and Scovell off Jarman.” having earlier explained that he’s been working alongside with me “…to adapt a co-written book called Holloway into a nine minute Super-8 short, inspired in part by Derek Jarman’s early silent film, Journey To Avebury (1971).” (Guardian, 11/04/2015).  Jarman’s film presents a form that arguably also ties into the phenomenological conception of Robert’s unseen landscape artists and it is the same sense of discovery, of being lost (in time as well as in space) and the sheer power of landscape on grain that we both wish for Holloway as a film to convey.  Hopefully this comes across in earnest and in the best spirit of a very polite but subtle tipping of the Super-8 hat to the alchemical sage.
Perhaps the final aspect to mention is the difference that music makes and the presence Richard Skelton‘s work in the film.  Skelton came to the project late on for a number of reasons.  I was only introduced to his music in the last few months (ironically whilst in the midst of editing the film visually) and it was not until the connection was made between the music a friend had been recommending and the musician to whom Robert devotes a whole chapter of his latest book, Landmarks, that the choice of who to score the film became completely obvious.  It goes without saying that his textural drones and occasional On Land-esque melodies add wonderfully to the film’s undercurrents of eeriness.
I can only end with offering my deepest thanks to all who helped make the project possible.  My thanks to Richard for his brilliant music, to Stanley Donwood for kindly letting me use his stunning artwork, to James Bulley and Giles Stogden for their fantastic soundscape, to Dan Richards for his support (and for sending me a copy of his latest book which is superb), to Jeff Barrett for getting it out there and publishing it on Caught By The River and to Hell Barn Cottages in Dorset for giving me a cheap rate in their haunted barn.  And finally, thanks to Robert who has given me more creative support over the last year or so than just about anyone else I know.  Here’s to the next one.
A campaign to save one of the Dorset Holloways can be found here.
edited-14 Digital-Holloway-4 Digital-Holloway-6 Digital-Holloway-8

Author Robert Macfarlane and film-maker Adam Scovell have put together a wonderfully eerie short film adaptation of the best-selling Faber book, Holloway. In July 2005, Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin – author of Wildwood – travelled to explore the holloways of South Dorset’s sandstone. They found their way into a landscape of shadows, spectres & great strangeness. Six years later, after Roger Deakin’s early death, Robert Macfarlane returned to the holloway with the artist Stanley Donwood and writer Dan Richards. The book – now a bestseller – is about those journeys and that landscape.

Moving in the spaces between social history, psychogeography and travel writing, Holloway is a beautiful and haunted work of art – so much so, that it lends itself perfectly to the medium of film. Macfarlane’s collaboration with film-maker Adam Scovell is a haunting further exploration of Dorset’s sunken pathways.

“I had become fascinated by these strange folds of land: by the manner in which history seemed to repeat – re-pleat – itself within and around them, across centuries, and by the patterns of echo and loop that I perceived the holloways as somehow generating. Super-8 – Adam’s preferred stock – seemed the perfect film on which to shoot this subject, given its palimpsestic surface and its shivery rhythms. I wrote a text to be spoken as voiceover, which I tried to ingrain with doublings and reversals (of image, word, sound). We wanted to make a film that cast a brief strong spell.”

petak, 1. veljače 2019.

Werner Tübke (1929-2004) - Meesterschilder tussen Oost en West

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Vječni srednji vijek.

Step right up into the world of Werner Tubke! The painter and illustrator from Leipzig created fantastical imagery, replete with virtuosity and a love of storytelling. In the style of the old masters, he transformed the everyday and the political into something that transcends time, and in that way developed his own distinct, anachronistic viewpoint. As a co-founder of the Leipziger Schule, Tubke paved the way for a figurative art, which has earned him international recognition since the 1970s. Reiner E. Moritz met with the GDR's extravagant prince of painting in his studio and accompanied him at work on his showpiece, the German Peasants' War panorama in Bad Frankenhausen.

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The immense panorama by Werner Tübke (1929-2004) in Bad Frankenhausen is sometimes referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the North.  Tübke painted the panorama between 1976 and 1987. The subject is the German Peasants' War of 1524-1526; the people's revolt against the powers that be in the south of the German speaking area, which the GDR saw as a precursor for the People's Republic. Tübke is seen as the most important painter of the GDR. He was certainly no superficial propagandist . His virtuoso, theatrical and sometimes bizarre work retained its aesthetic significance, even after the fall of the wall in 1989. Museum de Fundatie will present the first retrospective exhibition of Tübke’s paintings outside Germany next spring. This will include the 15 meters long preliminary study (scale 1:10) of his panorama from the Berlin National Gallery’s collection.
Werner Tübke painted a number of large scale state assignments. In addition to the panorama, he painted an allegory of The working class and intelligentsia for the Karl-Marx-Universität in Leipzig (1970) and a multi-panel on Man – the measure of all things for the Palast der Republik in Berlin (1974). Tübke studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig at the end of the nineteen forties. At the beginning of the nineteen fifties he continued his education at the Caspar-David-Friedrich-Institut in Greifswald, where he also studied art history. He made his first study trip to Italy in the early seventies. Initially, Tübke came under fire as his work refused to conform to the socialist realism demanded at the time, however the GDR government later embraced him as the ultimate interpreter of the communist ideal.
As an artist, Tübke’s prominent position in the GDR has always been a source of controversy, despite his exquisite mastery. His traditional style and working approach also saw the avant-garde dismiss him as non-modern and therefore of little interest. Upon closer inspection however, his work reveals a very original artist indeed. An artist who within the context of an assignment chose to plough his own furrow. An artist fully autonomous in both his art and his social opinions. His depiction of the German Peasants' War for example is no political pamphlet. Tübke painted a universal human drama; the disillusioned end to a utopia. If there is one striking lesson from history Tübke presents us with, it is that nothing ever appears to be learned.
The core theme in Tübke's paintings is the 'condition humaine'. They depict man resplendent with bells and frills, however these are a decorative order tending towards the grotesque. The jester makes a regular appearance in Tübke's work, as do the marionette and the harlequin. The paintings seem to announce that all is vanity and the world a mere stage. Tübke saw himself as link in a centuries-old tradition chain which he considered of such essence and scale that he refused to be disturbed by the fleeting and transient experiments demanded by modernism. The art of a wide and impressive range of predecessors, including Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, Caspar David Friedrich and Otto Dix, produce a natural and convincing resonance in his work. The anti-traditionalist front which characterises western art from after 1945 is as good as absent in the art of the GDR. This left open fertile ground for traditional painting to flourish towards new heights.
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German painter, born in Schönebeck, one of the best-known but also one of the most controversial figures in the art of the Communist DDR. He joined the Artists' Union in 1952 as well as the East German Communist Party. His relations with the authorities could be problematic. In 1959 he was criticized for ‘concessions to modernist views of art’. His style drew on medieval and Renaissance sources and was far closer to the Magic Realism of Western Europe in the interwar period than to Socialist Realism. In early paintings he combined religious imagery with state-approved political subjects. The Portrait of the Cattle Breeder Brigadier Bodlenko (1962, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig), an equestrian portrait in the style of a medieval knight but sporting a modern wristwatch, was attacked as ‘a ghostly, bizarrely estranged relationship to life in a country that is engaged in building a communist society’.
In 1965 he produced a cycle of paintings entitled Die Lebenserinnerungen des Dr. jur. Schulze (Nationalgalerie, Berlin). Although not a commissioned work, it followed official ideology in depicting continuity between the Nazi regime and the present-day politics of West Germany. The principal figure is a judge who, having perverted the judicial system during the Third Reich, remains a lawyer in the Federal Republic. The jumble of images has been compared by Richard Pettit to the apocalyptic scenes of Bosch and Bruegel. Tübke was vehemently criticized for ‘idealism’ and especially for proximity to Surrealism. By the 1970s the complexity of such work had become sanctioned by official criticism under the category of Simultanbild (Painting of Simultaneous Images) or ‘dialogical pictures’, which depended upon an intellectual dialogue with the spectator. The acceptance of Tübke's art was one manifestation of a change in official cultural policy in which artists of the past such as Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach were celebrated. In this context, Tübke, by then one of the leading figures in East German art, was commissioned in 1976 to paint a gigantic panorama entitled Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany. It depicts the Battle of Frankenhausen (1525), which led to the defeat of the peasants, and is housed in a specially constructed building in Bad Frankenhausen. Tübke's ambition was to link the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Peasants' War. The work was completed in 1987. Although he trained his own team of assistants, most were unable to cope with the demands of the project, the largest painting in Germany according to the Guinness Book of Records, and Tübke executed approximately two thirds of the work himself. His leading critical supporter in West Germany, Edward Beaucamp, wrote in 1993 that in the panorama ‘the artist in the end triumphs over the sponsor’ and that he ‘transformed the state monument into a pure art monument’.
By the time Germany was unified in 1989, Tübke already had a substantial reputation in the West. As early as 1972, West German curators had surreptitiously tried to persuade him to defect. His relationship to the Old Masters was very much in accord with the vogue for Postmodern quotation in the 1980s. Nonetheless, his most important post-Communist work, a three-winged altarpiece for the church of St Salvatoris in Clausthal-Zellerfeld (1997), was attacked by the critic Peter Iden as ‘devotional kitsch’. Alongside Fritz Cremer, Wolfgang Mattheuer, and others, Tübke exemplifies the problems of making simple distinctions between conformists and nonconformists among the artists of the DDR, let alone of making moral judgements on their conduct.