Sunday, 27 October 2013

Paper Fashions with Patssi Valdez

Last week I saw the American artist Patssi Valdez speak at the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery about her 'papers fashion' project. The evening culminated in a short fashion show featuring four quite amazing outfits, predominantly made from paper.

Valdez was part of Asco, a Chicano art collective in LA which was active in the 70s and 80s. Their work was primarily performance-based and was underpinned by the racial politics facing the Mexican community in the USA. In her time with the group Valdez fabricated increasingly complex and exuberant outfits as a reaction to the 'Vogue' high-end fashion culture unattainable to poor immigrants. She and her companions performed in public and staged site-specific works which challenged the social and racial structures into which their community had settled.

Valdez' outfits exhibit the cheerful colours of Central American pop art and, like the religious art of the region, re-appropriate cheap ephemera into playful decoration. For the Contemporary exhibition Valdez has created a selection of new costumes. They have an incredible graphic quality, with their hard lines and rigid structures. The photos below show the models against a projected cyclorama (itself a design rendered in India ink).

While the conversation with the artist provided a window into Veldez' emotional and social approach to her art, her political motivations were less evident. A question which might be interesting to pose is the connection between Asco's works and the Vogueing dance style which evolved in the Black and immigrant community in Harlem in the 80s. Both groups of people faced broadly similar challenges and, in the face of exclusion from high-end culture, reappropriated facets of it using cheap materials.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Virtual photography in GTA V

Last month Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian about the phenomena of GTA V players taking photos in-game and then uploading them to flickr. He notes that these virtual photographers are, more often than not, taking shots of the sublime landscapes and vistas the game offers, rather than the violent spectacles one might have anticipated. However, he goes on to assert that these virtual-landscape photographs are nothing more than reflections of the images the game designers wanted us to see and spent so much time constructing and composing. Thus the praise should be lorded onto the coders and artists, and not the snap-happy players.

I can't help thinking that Jones is doing the phenomena of in-game photography a disservice and is neglecting the value of re-appropriation. I don't deny the skill and intent of the game's designers for one moment, but by re-contextualising these images on a platform as established as flickr I think the photographers are giving rise to a valuable cultural asset. The fact that a pool has been created, Landscape Photographers of Los Santos and Blaine County, is another sign of an emerging cultural phenomena of some worth.

While coders might be responsible for the hues of the skies, shapes of terrain and deliberate 'eyecandy' spots facing particularly pleasing vistas, perhaps it's the gamers who will be responsible for the minutia of exactly when to click the 'shutter'. They will therefore choose, on a micro scale, exactly what's in shot. It is they who will be logging their collections and legitimising the worldbuilding that Rockstar's artists who have put so much work into.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

NSFW The varied life of Carlo Mollino

The randomiser that is tumblr recently put me onto the work of Carlo Mollino, the 20th century Italian architect and designer. It took me a moment or two to work out that he was also in his later life, the pornographic equivalent of a Sunday Painter.

Mollino was a flamboyant designer who had many interests ranging from race cars to skiing to the occult. He is often quoted as saying, "Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic." and this sentiment sums up much of his professional work. His furniture has a whimsical quality and nowhere is this more apparent than with his tables. They often utilise glass tops which negate the functional surface and reveal the flowing lines of his beautifully organic supporting structures. These table legs remind me of the delicate, elongated bones of birds, or the slightly more sprawling legs of stick insects. They all possess an overt femininity with their sweeping curves, or hourglass shapes. This leads us to his photography...

Mollino kept an appartment in Turin dubbed the ‘warrior’s house of rest’. He reputedly never spent a night there, but with the aid of a housekeeper kept it in immaculate condition. Purportedly the space was for him a kind of tomb inspired by the funerary culture of the ancient Egyptians. It was into this beautiful 'mausoleum' that he invited models and later prostitutes to pose for photographs. He initially shot them on Leica cameras, but later moved to Polaroid and after he died in 1973 over a thousand Polaroids were discovered in the flat. These erotically charged images show his models in poses ranging from the Classical to the mundane to the pornographic. He claimed that the contents of his apartment, including his boat-shaped bed and his Polaroids, were intended to accompany him after death into the afterlife, much in the way that an Egyptian pharaoh or Chinese Emperor would enjoy his material wealth if he were buried with it.

Disignboom has an excellent set of images featuring Mollino's Polaroids and images of his exquisite flat.

Dennis Cooper has more fantastic photos of Mollino's apartment and more Polaroids.