Archive for the ‘General art and visual culture’ Category
Local art concern, Artesan Gallery + Studio, has gleaming, pristine new digs at the Raffles Hotel.
And I do mean gleaming.
Not that their Bukit Timah home was lacking — if anything, the space was both charming and cozy — but in a sense the present move really marks an arrival of sorts.
The inaugural show is a solo presentation of Filipino artist Roldan “Manok” Ventura‘s latest work.
Bruce Davidson‘s been on the mind lately.
Was revisiting his Subway book for a short project I’m currently working on with a friend (apropos of the SKL0 affair). The images are justifiably admired: graceful, single-minded, beguilingly insalubrious snapshots of a New York City I thought I was going to discover when I moved there in the early 2000s — only to find, of course, that that world of urban decay, of dirt and graffiti and muggings and CBGB and Bernhard Goetz, had long given way to what, by then, statistics proved was the safest large city in the country. (A fact corroborated by the number of Starbucks cafes and D’agostino’s supermarkets I found on every block. Both phenomena thanks in large part to Giuliani-driven gentrification.)
But that’s not the point here.
Another pal and I were having drinks at a rooftop bar a couple of nights ago: a cool, balmy evening, with a slight breeze and a couple of beers (and the high of seeing one’s name on a wall) and talk for some reason turned to our adolescent days — misspent adolescence, in my case.
Of playing hooky, of screwing up the ‘O’s, of hiding out in the bathrooms to smoke during P.E. lessons …
Fast-forward two decades later, and sometimes I’d dream of some amateur photog out there who’s amassed an unseen stash of images capturing the subculture of ’90s ‘kids’: the doc marts and Birkenstocks, the Guess berms, the Hunting World tees, the black JPG wallets and the Sonia Rykiel quilted bags, the tea dances at Fire and hanging out at the McDonald’s outlet at Centrepoint … You know, the way Carol Jerrems did for the Sharpie movement in Melbourne, or Gavin Watson’s punks and skinheads.
The pal and I soon moved on to other topics, but the exchange, however brief, dredged up out of the cold-freeze of consciousness a younger self I haven’t seen around in a while. A younger, hungrier, more starry-eyed self. And, oddly enough, he’s been missed.
The images here are from another iconic Bruce Davidson project, his Brooklyn Gang series, which preceded the work of Jerrems and Watson. According to one commentator, it “stands as one of the first in-depth photographic records of rebellious postwar youth culture”:
In 1959, there were about 1,000 gang members in New York City, mainly teenage males from ethnically-defined neighbourhoods in the outer boroughs. In the spring of that year, Bruce Davidson read a newspaper article about outbreaks of street fighting in Prospect Park and travelled across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan in search of a gang to photograph.
“I met a group of teenagers called the Jokers,” he wrote in the afterword to his seminal book of insider reportage, Brooklyn Gang. “I was 25 and they were about 16. I could easily have been taken for one of them.”
…… For several months Davidson followed the Jokers on their endless wanderings around their Brooklyn turf and beyond. He captured them hanging out in Prospect Park, where outdoor dances were held on weekend summer nights, and lounging on the beach at Coney Island. He snapped the young men as they killed time in a neighbourhood diner called Helen’s Candy Store. In his photographs, the Jokers look both tough and innocent, uncertain adolescent kids caught in that hinterland between childhood and – this being New York – premature adulthood.
(Read the full Guardian article here.)
More pictures from the series below. The opening image at the top of the post, though, pretty much encapsulates my sentiments about vanished selves and halycon springs: a seemingly perfect moment fixed in monochrome, a taxidermic impression of a street corner, reckless hijinks, an endless stretch of street, and the splintered corona of a late-afternoon sunbeam scintillating out of an open sky — the Peter Pan-nish promise of the eternal good vibe.
The mythology of memory ……
Here’s perhaps the perfect counterpoint (culled from one of the most famous novels of prodigal youth):
I don’t even know what I was running for — I guess I just felt like it. After I got across the road, I felt like I was sort of disappearing. It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like disappearing every time you crossed a road.
So apparently she got picked up by the cops yesterday.
Who ? The “Press until shiok” sticker lady. Don’t know who that is ? See this abbreviated ST article.
The guerrilla art scene in Singapore gets slapped in the face.
Happy birthday, Keith Haring !
He would have turned 54 today. (A fact that Google is celebrating with one of their always-entertaining doodles.)
Singaporeans who frequent the Bras Basah neighbourhood may have noticed the Haring-esque mural on the low wall of the walkway leading up to the foodcourt – the work of a local public art enterprise, Social Creatives. The similarities are a little too, ahem, salient to be overlooked.
We’ll consider it a tribute — one especially apt here.
Happy Int’l Workers’ Day !
Image of the day: Frida Kahlo’s El Marxismo Dará Salud a los Enfermos (Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick), a late work from 1954, on display at the Museo Frida Kahlo (better known as The Blue House, or La Casa Azul) in Mexico City.
I’m not generally a fan of her work, but workers everywhere deserve the consolations of Marxism: “But capital has one single life impulse, the tendency to create value and surplus-value, to make its constant factor, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour. Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Chap. 10.)
A shoutout also to the pioneers of the labour movement, especially those good folk whose sacrifice bequeathed us the eight-hour workday. (“Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.”)
The May 1, 1977 celebrations in Istanbul, which resulted in the Taksim Square massacre.
This is one of those randomly topical posts.
Image of the day: photog Franco Rubartelli’s iconic image of ’60s supermodel Veruschka, swaddled in fawn-hued fur and leather straps.
The humidity ’round here has been out of control this past week. (The April-May season is a killer. Killer.) We denizens of the tropics, though, have at least the comforts of casual wear and flip-flops … for this spread for the July ’68 edition of Vogue, shot under the searing sun of Arizona’s Painted Desert, stylist Giorgio di Sant’Angelo (yes, the designer started out as a lowly stylist) swathed Veruschka in a full-body, fur-lined wrap, held together with asphyxiating tightness by bands of brown leather. Rubartelli’s photograph of his then-squeeze made fashion history – it remains one of the most famous images of her – but the combination of sizzling heat and winter wear proved too much: she simply “tipped over like a tree.” (“Lummbeerrrrr !”)
Read an account of the episode here.
Hey, don’t get me wrong, the sun’s been great for getting the brown on, but just looking at this image (and the ones below) is making me slightly dizzy …
Like the good people of PETA, I want to say “NO TO FUR” — but that hardly seems necessary in Singapore’s context.
Image from youthquakers.
Image of the day: an advertisement for Malaccan artist Charles Cham’s t-shirt enterprise, The Orangutan House.
Local Sing-Malaysian vernacular is all about the “lah” apparently, nevermind the entire plethora of other er, verbal add-ons.
Life’s like that lor.
Image of the day: American painter Wayne Gonzales’ Seated Crowd, which depicts a movie audience. Gonzales, a native of New Orleans (one of my favourite places in the world, which is saying a lot), recently returned to the city of his birth to stage his first major solo exhibition in the country.
It’s a topical choice.
The following piece appeared in today’s edition of my paper - apparently the proliferation of CCTVs across public space in Singapore has now reached movie theatres as well, with anti-piracy measures being cited as the chief reason behind the move.
In other words, the watchers are now being watched, the subjects of the gaze simultaneously its objects.
Surveillance, in the Foucault-ian sense, has taken interesting new turns.
CCTVS TO KEEP TABS ON FILM PIRATES
By Tong Jia Han. Published: Apr 16, 2012.
Moviegoers, take note: Don’t be surprised to see an announcement flashed on the silver screen just before movies are screened, to inform you that you are being watched.
Cinema operators told my paper that they have begun installing closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras not just in the common spaces of their cineplexes, but in movie halls as well, citing security and movie piracy as reasons for doing so.
Over the last two years, film distributor and movie-theatre chain Shaw Theatres has installed CCTV cameras in all its newly established and renovated multiplexes, such as JCube and Lido.
Lido, located in Shaw House in Orchard Road, re-opened after renovation works in May last year while JCube, a mall in Jurong East where the Cineplex is located, opened on April 5.
Mr Terence ong,Hong, vice-president of media for Shaw Theatres, said that the CCTV cameras are meant mainly for anti-piracy purposes.
“However, we also realized that they allow us to trouble-shoot (in the event of) any disputes involving cinema operators or customers,” he said.
“Only authorised personnel have access to the CCTVs and their footage,” he added.
Mr Heng said there are plans to have CCTV cameras installed at all seven of Shaw’s multiplexes in due course.
The CCTV cameras have also helped in police investigations into one case so far, he said, without providing details.
A spokesman for leisure and entertainment group Cathay Organisation Holdings said that CCTV cameras are installed on their premises, especially at entrances, exits and in projection rooms.
The spokesman added that night-vision binoculars are also used to monitor piracy activities.
The Motion Picture Association (MPA) reported that about 90 per cent of newly released movies that are pirated can be traced to thieves who use digital recording devices in cinemas.
Mr Edward Neubronner, vice-president and regional operations officer of MPA Asia Pacific, said: “Despite measures to inform moviegoers that the use of recording devices is prohibited in cinemas, we still see cases involving students or foreign nationals caught using their mobile phones to record.
“It is of paramount importance to the local film industry that measures to deter illegal camcording remain a priority.”
Some cinema patrons are uneasy over the move.
School teacher Chue Weng Fai, 32, said: “It seems like an invasion of privacy and feels strange knowing that there are cameras watching your every move.”
Secretary Philicia Mok, 38, felt that the use of CCTV cameras to curb piracy would have limited success.
She said: “There are many ways to skin a cat. people will still find a way to steal content if they want to.”
Image from Shaw Online.
Ok, I know I’ve taken the piss out of the ArtScience Museum on the pages of this blog before, but the travelling Warhol retrospective which opened there over the weekend, 15 Minutes Eternal, is a coherent, well-put together effort. (The gallery design got a bit cheesy in bits though …)
Generally I find ASM “exhibitions” to be dismal affairs – too many damned replicas – but this one’s worth the 15 bucks for the price of admission. Or 13, if you’re a Singapore resident.
No photography allowed though, boo, so here’s a little-known bit of Warholalia: a letter from the Campbell Soup Company to the artist (above), gushing about how much they admire his work and offering him a couple of cases of his favourite tomato flavour.
Here’s a lesson for all aspiring artists: start painting Volvos, or luxurious condominium developments, or De Beers diamonds – and keep yer fingers crossed.
Image of the day: Carl Van Vechten’s 1935 portrait of Mai-mai Sze (above), the subject poised against a backdrop of concentric squares, the wavy, undulating shapes seeming to emanate in a dance of geometric distortion from her head …
Sze, or 施美美, as her Chinese name goes, was the daughter of one of Republican China’s most important political dynasties. She was born to Alfred S.K. Sze, who represented the fledgling republic at the League of Nations and the Court of St. James; he later became the country’s first ambassador to the U.S.A. (According to his Wiki entry, he was also the first Chinese student to graduate from Cornell.) Mai-mai’s maternal uncle was Tang Shaoyi, the first Prime Minister – albeit briefly – of post-Qing China.
Sze was a woman of many talents, it seems. Painter, writer, activist, sometime Broadway actress. However, to me, at least, the name is recognizable primarily for her translation of the famous Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual, or 芥子園畫傳 – still the version most commonly used today. Art lovers may also be interested in this little factoid: her grand-niece is American artist Sarah Sze, who has a solo show on right now at the Asia Society in New York, Infinite Line.
Ms. Mai-mai was a little-known pioneer in one other respect: long before the era of the equality movement and identity politics, she was a gay woman of colour. (Born in Peking, she was educated at Wellesley, and lived out her life in the U.S.) Her longtime companion was costume designer and 5-time Oscar recipient, Irene Sharaff, who was honoured for her work on cinematic classics such as The King and I, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and West Side Story. Late in life, the couple donated money towards the building of the Music and Meditation Pavilion of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge University, on the grounds of which they are buried today.
Daughter, niece, aunt, lover – and seldom the star of her own life. Yet it’s clear that Mai-mai Sze was an individual possessed of intellect and creativity, a fact which Van Vechten’s image of her alludes to in wittily elegant fashion.
The photograph is in the collection of Yale’s Beinecke Library.
Below is another striking portrait of Sze, this one by George Platt Lynes. Dressed in a slender, streamlined sliver of silken fabric from Fortuny, balanced between a blank expanse of wall and an abstract object, she resembles nothing so much as a Brancusi sculpture.