Reassembling life

Bruce Lacey, Boy oh boy. Am I living?, 1964

The Bruce Lacey Experience at Camden Arts Centre is by turns funny, moving, charming and even a little bit irritating. The exhibition, co-curated by art historian Professor David Alan Mellor and artist Jeremy Deller, offers a comprehensive view of Lacey’s inextricably linked life and work. Bruce Lacey, a performance artist before the term was in use, has hung on to his inner child – and exhorts us to do the same – and used it to make work that is, well, more bonkers than most art. But in a good way.

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They do things differently there

Eve Arnold, One of four girls who shares a flat in Knightsbridge, 1961

The premise of Tate Britain’s exhibition Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930–1980 is an interesting one. How does London look to those who arrive here from elsewhere? These are pictures made by people who were either visitors to London or who had adopted it as their home. The answer is that it looks both familiar and strange but, in the main, I think perhaps the strangeness comes less from the viewpoint being that of a non-Londoner than from the pictures coming from the foreign country that is the past.

The earlier pictures are interesting as history pieces – it’s always fascinating to see that mix of familiar places playing host to people from a different time and there is something great about London fog on film – but it’s the images from the 1960s and ’70s that interested me more. This is the London in was born in and the city of my childhood making the pictures are a stark reminder of quite how much life has changed, and not just in London. In places it feels like the exhibition might just as well be called Another Planet.

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London on display

The World in London (Park House, Oxford Street), 2012

The World in London, which I wrote about in the previous post, is unusually in that the exhibition is being shown at the same time in two venues in the same city (although the Oxford Street installation will stay on display after the Olympics close on 12 August). Although the design of the two installations is recognisably the same in terms of its graphic identity – which is kept very simple, and although my preference would generally be to see images on white the black background does work reasonably well here – the way the work is shown is rather different and offers two different readings of the collection of photographs.

On Oxford Street, the images are displayed as a grid, albeit an uneven one with some images larger than others, in part because of the range of formats used by the photographers but occasionally determined by the architectural grid of the building. Exhibiting photographs in a grid is a strategy used by Bernd and Hilla Becher who grouped their pictures of industrial buildings together by type and it’s hard not to read grids of photographs as typologies.

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London lives

Max Hamilton, Laka Enke Bayr, Mongolia, 2010

Londoners come from anywhere and everywhere. Once you move here, you become a Londoner whether you came here from Surrey or Sudan. With the world coming to London for the Olympic games, The Photographers’ Gallery decided to commission a series of portraits of Londoners for a public art exhibition called The World in London. The aim was to find and photograph a Londoner from each of the 204 countries sending a team to the Olympics. They almost managed it; there are two or three places from which no Londoners have yet been found: American Samoa is one, Nauru another (there may be more that I’ve forgotten about), but the exhibition lives up to its title.

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A crisp lack of clarity

Christopher Williams, Bläsing G 2000, Bläsing GmbH, Essen Model: Christoph Boland, November 15th 2010, 2010

Christopher Williams’s pictures in the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition might well be really interesting were there enough of them on show to offer some sort of clue as to the artist’s intention. Sadly though the sharpness and objectivity of the images isn’t matched by a clarity of non-visual communication and I was left idly wondering what Williams wanted to say but without any determination to go out of my way to find out. Given that I actively like conceptual art, I probably fall into the section of the audience Williams has the most hope of winning round, although I do admit that once the ‘I really can’t be bothered with this’ feeling takes hold I do tend to given in to it with indecent haste and often quite bad grace.

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Life, illuminated and remixed

Rinko Kawauchi, from Illuminance, 2011

The pictures that make up Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance, the book for which she was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, are individually beautiful and collectively fascinating and at times baffling. Some feel like stolen moments, some deliberately constructed, all share an understanding of how the camera sees light and its ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The pictures in the series have been made over a period of about fifteen years for various reasons – including both commissions and personal work – and brought together to form a cohesive body of work.

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The cost of change

Pieter Hugo, Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009

In a way at the opposite end of the scale to John Stezaker’s use of existing pictures, Pieter Hugo’s Permanent Error is a documentary project that clearly shows the very real human cost of technological change and the rush to replace anything we perceive as slightly out of date. I’m sure many of us are guilty of replacing computers that still work because there are newer and faster models around. This body of work is a reminder that we need to learn to deal responsibly with the equipment we cast aside. Hugo has photographed the landscape of a site in Ghana where obsolete technology is dumped and the young people who make a living of sorts salvaging the metals that have a scrap value.

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