NEW BOOKS BLOG

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Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 6 March 2015

Art

                 The Petrified Forest National Park in Northeast Arizona protects one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Despite stern warnings, visitors remove several tons of petrified wood from the park each year, often returning these rocks by mail (sometimes years later), accompanied by a "conscience letter." These letters often include stories of misfortune attributed directly to their theft: car troubles, cats with cancer, deaths of family members, etc. Some writers hope that by returning these stolen rocks, good fortune will return to their lives, while others simply apologize or ask forgiveness. "They are beautiful," reads one letter, "but I can't enjoy them. They weigh like a ton of bricks on my conscience. Sorry…" Bad Luck, Hot Rocks documents this ongoing phenomenon, combining a series of original photographs of these otherworldly "bad luck rocks" with dozens of facsimiles of intimate, oddly entertaining letters from the Park's archives.

 

Design

                It is not easy to translate into English the Italian word autoprogettazione. Literally it means auto = self and progettazione = design. But the term ‘self-design’ is misleading since the word ‘design’ to the general public now signifies a series of superficially decorative objects. By the word autoprogettazione Mari means an exercise to be carried out individually to improve one’s personal understanding of the sincerity behind the project. To make this possible you are guided through an archetypal and very simple technique. Therefore the end product, although usable, is only important because of its educational value. A project for making easy-to-assemble furniture using rough boards and nails. An elementary technique to teach anyone to look at present production with a critical eye. The first edition of the book was compiled by the Duchamp Centre and printe for the exhibition at the Galleria Milano in 1974.

 

Photography

                Tones of Dirt and Bone: Mike Brodie. The images in Tones of Dirt and Bone were made between 2004 and 2006, with a Polaroid camera and Time Zero film. Brodie used the characteristics and limitations inherent to this type of camera and film to his advantage. The portraits he made are further enhanced by the peculiar colour palette of the film. Due to the restriction of manual focus and expensive film, that came only ten sheets to a box, each image feels deliberate and precious.

                Photographer Friso Spoelstra has visited numerous traditional folk festivals in sixteen different European countries during the past ten years and recorded the traditions in his photos. Devils & Angels brings these stories together and shows individuality as well as surprising similarities between the various different cultures of ever-growing Europe.

                Three iconic series of photographs by Juergen Teller. Woo (2013) was made after the exhibition of the same name at the ICA, London, in 2013. Debunking the status of both art and fashion photography, the works were all placed on the same level, assembled to form wallpaper covering o ne room of the art centre. This combination of images was like a pin board of family pics, a tangled retrospective of his work as fashion photographer and artist. For this series, Teller has isolated certain parts of this wallpaper, once again changing the way we look at the images: the representation of a representation of a representation. Another series, Masculin (2013), has never been shown before. It was made after Teller visited the exhibition Masculin/Masculin at the Musée d'Orsay (2013), which featured one of his self-portraits. The images answer each other, with each photo from the Orsay exhibition being echoed by a Teller self-portrait. The latter show the artist in a gym, dressed in shorts and trainers and doing exercise, hefting barbells and sweating profusely in poses that evoke nudes in classical painting and sculpture, humorously and self-mockingly recalling all the effort—and grotesqueness—that lies behind attainment of those ideal muscular bodies. The last series of photographs, Irene im Wald (2012), is undoubtedly the most intimate and personal of the three. These small-format photos follow Irene, Juergen's mother, on a walk through the forest of Erlangen, a place familiar to him since childhood. Evoking the balmy mood of an afternoon with the family, each image expresses the photographer's tender vision of his mother, seen in the forest on a sunny winter's day. The words accompanying the images are like voice-overs, the voice of the photographer and also the walker, as the rhythm of walking engenders an introspective mood.

               

Theory

                  The Shape of Evidence examines the role and use of visual documents in contemporary art, looking at artworks in which the document is valued not only as a source of information but also as a distinctive visual and critical form. It contends that for artists who use film, photography or written sources, adopting formats derived from specific professional, industrial, scientific of or commercial contexts, the document offers a way to develop a critical reflection around issues of representation, knowledge production, art and its history. The book invites viewers to reflect upon the production and interpretation of seemingly straightforward images, and proposes that some artists can show us through their practice how to turn these deceptively simple images inside out. It addresses several issues that are key both in art and in general culture today: the role of the museum and the archive, the role of documents and the trust that is placed in them, the circulation of such images and the historical genealogies that can be drawn in relation to images. Its uniqueness, however, also derives from its method: it is based on a close reading of a select number of works of art (e.g. Christopher Williams, Fiona Tan, Jean-Luc Moulène), which makes it approachable and engaging with the reader (the book will be illustrated). It is through looking at a select number of artworks that the reader is led to consider greater issues concerning visual documents. Moreover, the book is unique in its interdisciplinary approach: while being about contemporary art it discusses objects and ideas drawn from a wide spectrum of areas including literature, history, photography history, scientific representation, surrealism, conceptual art, commercial photography and so forth. Ultimately the book invites viewers to reflect upon the production and interpretation of seemingly straightforward images, and proposes that some artists can show us through their practice how to turn these deceptively simple images inside out.

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